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West Side Story

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West Side Story

Image credit: West Side Story, 1961

I have a very important question for all you Cinema Sips readers- are you Team Jet or Team Shark? Personally, I’m Team Jet, due to my not-so-secret crush on Russ Tamblyn. But no matter which side you’re on, I think we can all agree that West Side Story (DVD/Download) is one of the most delightfully jazzy discourses on immigration and gang warfare that cinema has to offer.

Based on the Broadway hit with music by Leonard Bernstein and choreography by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Instead of the Montagues and Capulets, it’s the Jets and the Sharks- Polish vs. Puerto Rican on the mean streets of New York. Jet Tony falls for Shark Maria, and we pretty much know these star-crossed lovers are doomed from the get-go. I adore the production design- one big Technicolor feast for the eyes. Even the songs are catchy, and this coming from someone who is emphatically Anti-Sondheim. Maybe it’s the beautiful Bernstein score that rescues his lyrics. This is one of those rare musicals that’s never going to seem dated, mainly because the story of Romeo and Juliet is so timeless. Plus, what girl hasn’t twirled around the bedroom singing “I Feel Pretty”? Just me? Really? Well okay then.

One of my favorite songs in the film is “America”, Rita Moreno’s snappy ode to her adopted home. However, her native territory of Puerto Rico is no slouch either. It’s got some great things going for it, such as the eggnog-esque cocktail Coquito. Sweet, boozy, flavorful- it’s the perfect pairing for this film. While watching West Side Story, I recommend drinking Coquito.


2 cans coconut cream

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups rum

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a blender, mixing well until frothy. Refrigerate overnight, then serve chilled over ice.


I like to think that if every American could just watch this incredible film, there would be no talk of a wall or fights about Dreamers. Every immigrant, no matter how they got here or where they came from, deserves a chance at a better life. That’s America. Quick- how can we orchestrate a Turner Classic Movies takeover of Fox News?? Cheers!


Hell or High Water

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Hell or High Water

Image credit: Hell or High Water, 2016

While I was prepping my Top Five Films of 2017 list this year, I took a look back at the 2016 list to see which of those films had the most staying power. I’m definitely guilty of getting swept up in awards season hype, lauding a film then forgetting all about it a month later (cough *Argo* cough). Of any pick from that 2016 list, the one with the best legs is definitely Hell or High Water (DVD/Download). I have watched this movie with a salty Navy vet, several times with my husband, once with my cat-loving mother-in-law, and yet again with my dad (semi-professional “shoot em up” connoisseur). Five stars from everyone, and I’m still not sick of it. I think this one is here to stay.

Hell or High Water is one of those rare films that spans multiple genres, but does it so well that it doesn’t get pigeonholed into any one of them. It could be considered a Western, or a heist film, or even an art-house drama. The story of two brothers robbing small West Texas banks to save the family farm sounds very simplistic, but Taylor Sheridan’s clever script turns this into a complex masterpiece with not a single loose thread left hanging. Chris Pine (sporting the best mustache since Clark Gable swept Vivienne Leigh off her feet) is a revelation as the quiet, thoughtful brother trying to atone for past sins and pull his family out of poverty, and Ben Foster turns in some of his best work as the reckless ex-con who you know right away is too wild to walk away from this unscathed. Jeff Bridges elevates the stereotypical “I’m too old for this shit” Texas Ranger character into an homage to Western cinema heroes- his hotel blanket draped around his shoulders like a serape cape fit for a superhero.

I could get fancy with a Texas-inspired cocktail, but that’s not what this film is about. It’s about average folks and the lengths they’ll go to protect what’s theirs. It’s a movie about sipping a beer on a ramshackle porch, wondering if there’s even such a thing as right and wrong anymore. While watching Hell or High Water, I recommend getting a Shiner Family Reunion 6-pack, maybe a shot of whiskey, and kicking back with a damn good movie.

Shiner beer

I tend to love films about sympathetic criminals because I think there’s a little part of all of us that can relate to good people doing bad things. Like Tom Ripley, I want the Howard brothers to get away with it. Or at the very least, go out in a blaze of glory. The great thing about Hell or High Water is that we get both, but it still leaves you guessing until the very end. Cheers!

Top Five Films of 2017

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Was it just me, or were movies REALLY good this year?  Maybe filmmakers are finally realizing that people want to watch unconventional love stories, fabulous 1950’s clothes, and exotic locations.  Maybe writers are realizing that everybody’s mad, and it’s time to say something about it.  Whatever happened in Hollywood to make such an incredible year of pictures, I say keep it up.  As hard as it was to narrow down my list of favorites, I’m finally able to settle on my Top Five Films of 2017.  Cheers!

  1.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Image credit: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017.

Take all the rage I feel about social injustice/violence against women/police misconduct, bottle it up, and give it to Frances McDormand to turn into a Molotov cocktail of a film. This is the movie I desperately needed this year.

2.  Call Me By Your Name

Call me by your name

Image credit: Call Me By Your Name, 2017.

Is there anything more beautiful than summer in Italy? Maybe this love story.

3.  Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

Image credit: Phantom Thread, 2017.

1950’s couture gowns, Daniel Day Lewis, and the sexiest breakfast order ever.

4.  The Shape of Water

Shape of Water

Image credit: The Shape of Water, 2017.

I didn’t expect to fall for a slimy underwater creature, but damn it Guillermo Del Toro- you got me. More Douglas Sirk-inspired romances and six-pack abs please!!!

5.  The Florida Project

The Florida Project

Image credit: The Florida Project, 2017.

This film still haunts me, months later. If you’re not angry about the state of poverty and child welfare in America, you obviously haven’t seen tiny masterpiece yet.

*Honorable Mentions: Dunkirk (sound editing like WHOA), Good Time (um, hello Robert Pattinson, can you please be in all the movies now?), and Baby Driver (that soundtrack!!).

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

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Dr Strangelove

Image credit: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964.

If you’re like me, when the daily news becomes too depressing, and reality is just a little too real, you retreat into fiction. With this in mind, I recently re-watched the classic Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove (DVD/Download).  Despite the fact that the world may now be on the brink of actual nuclear war, and Russians are still being Russians, somehow Peter Sellers manages make me laugh about all of it.  Better than crying right?

This political satire about a lunatic rogue General setting off a chain reaction of nuclear warfare doesn’t sound like my normal cup of tea. But great writing is something I can always appreciate, and this script zings with double entendres, madcap conspiracy theories, and what I fear is frightfully accurate military defense strategy. The film hinges on the brilliant performances by Peter Sellers (in 3 impressive roles), Slim Pickens as the Texan bomb pilot, and George C. Scott as the bumbling military commander. The way Sellers transforms himself into characters is like nothing I’ve seen before or since his time in pictures (sorry Eddie Murphy). Also, keep an eye out for the scenes onboard the plane carrying the nuclear warhead- I spy some Wes Anderson-esque camera work, AND James Earl Jones.

In a toast to the German Dr. Strangelove, ex-Nazi and all around scary creep, I’ll be drinking a spirit I’ve shied away from for many years, Jägermeister. I’ve heard nothing but horror stories of hangovers and blackouts, but like Major King Kong, I’m gonna strap myself to that bomb and go for it. While watching Dr. Strangelove, I recommend drinking a Jägerbomb.


1 shot of Jägermeister

1 can of Red Bull energy drink

Pour can of Red Bull into a glass, and drop the Jagermeister into it. Drink quickly before the doomsday device ends us all!


The final scene of atomic bomb detonations set to the tune of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” is both funny and frightening. After spending the last 90 minutes giggling at Jack D. Ripper’s antics and his rants about precious bodily fluids, my eyes see the bombs, my ears hear the music, and I start to laugh at the irony. But then the screen goes dark, and a grim thought seeps in- maybe Kubrick was right, about all of it. Maybe we’ll meet the bomb again, some sunny day. All I have to say is: drink up while you can. Cheers!


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Image credit: Footloose, 1984

I recently got an email from a Cinema Sips reader who politely pointed out that I have zero Kevin Bacon films on this website. I thought surely this can’t be true (six degrees, and all) but she was right! All these years I’ve been ignoring this hunky staple of American cinema and drunken party games. Of all the films in Bacon’s canon, nothing says party quite like Footloose (DVD/Download). After all, the ending is basically one big glitter bomb. Of course it needs a cocktail!

I’ll confess, Footloose has never been one of my favorites. Is it a musical? A teen comedy? A discourse on censorship and the rise of evangelicalism in our country? After watching it again, I’m still not sure what this movie is trying to be. However, Kevin Bacon is a joy to watch in just about anything, and his scenes with Chris Penn always make me smile. As the new kid in town, Bacon’s city-slicker character Ren could have gone the tortured artist route, never connecting with anyone. But immediately, he gets his posse together, and they unite under the goal of overturning the dance ban in backwards, rural Bomont. I couldn’t believe there would ever be a ban on dancing anywhere in America, but research tells me that this was once an actual thing in Oklahoma. Remind me never to go to the midwest Bible Belt- when Beyonce comes on the radio I can’t be held accountable for my actions.

Although the kids in this film are more interested in dancing than drinking, I personally think a little party punch can’t hurt.  While watching Footloose I recommend drinking a Ginger Pop Punch.

Ginger Pop Punch

2 cups apple cider

2 cups ginger beer

2 cups pomegranate juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup vodka

2 cups Prosecco

Fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl with ice. Garnish with fresh cranberries.

Ginger Punch

Footloose is such a celebration of music and dance that despite its shortcomings, it’s easy to see why this film (and its soundtrack) became so iconic. John Lithgow’s conflicted preacher does his best to drag down the entertainment level, but you just can’t stop that music. I know it makes me want to cut loose. Cheers!


The Bodyguard

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The Bodyguard

Image credit: The Bodyguard, 1992

With awards season ramping up, I can’t help but feel a little “can’t care” about the whole dog-and-pony show. Viewership of the Oscar telecast has steadily declined over the years, likely due to its Groundhog Day-level of sameness. If only award shows could be as exciting as they are in the movies. If only they could be like The Bodyguard (DVD/Download).

If you’re a fan of film noir, you might be disappointed with this loose contribution to the genre.  If you’re a fan of cheesy romance (like I am), prepare to be thoroughly entertained. Although Whitney Houston’s mega-pop star has limited chemistry with her strong, silent bodyguard played by Kevin Costner, that doesn’t stop me from cheering when he picks her up in his arms, rescuing her from wild, handsy fans. Or when he jumps in front of her, literally taking a bullet at the Academy Awards as Debbie Reynolds probably swoons from all the excitement backstage. Or during that ending, which is without a doubt one of the best Hollywood endings a viewer could ask for.   Take all the frustration you’ve ever felt when Audrey Hepburn lets Gregory Peck walk away in Roman Holiday, wrap it up, and toss it out in favor of the planeside kiss between Houston and Costner. THAT’S how you do romance.

Because Costner’s Frank Farmer is almost always on duty, he never gets to let his guard down and have a drink. The man imbibes so much plain orange juice, he’s single-handedly keeping the Florida citrus industry in business. This makes me want to drink a cocktail, if only because he can’t. While watching The Bodyguard, I recommend drinking a Screwdriver. Strong and uncomplicated- kind of like Frank.


1.5 oz Vodka

3 oz Orange Juice

2-3 dashes Grapefruit bitters

Orange Twist


Build drink over crushed ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

I’ve never been one for remakes, but I’m just going to throw this out there: Beyonce + Solange + Kevin Costner (yes, the age-defying Costner should ALWAYS play The Bodyguard).  Let’s make this happen.   After all, isn’t it time for a new Queen of the Night? No offense, Whitney- I will always love you. Cheers!

The Lord of the Rings

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Lord of the Rings

Image Credit: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003

A recent reader request prompted this week’s pick, and not only was I happy to hear from a Cinema Sips fan, but I was equally excited for an excuse to lay on the couch and take a trip back to Middle Earth. Although I’m typically not a fan of the fantasy genre, I have to admit that the Lord of the Rings trilogy (DVD/Download) is certainly one of the best (and LONGEST!) examples in cinema history.

While I tend to zone out a bit during The Hobbit films (really, was it necessary to show THAT many orc battles??) LOTR has enough intersecting plotlines to keep me engaged. My favorite characters are the hobbits, for not only are they cute and pint-sized, but they also live in adorable houses. Those uppity elves are a little too sterile for my taste, and way too pretty. I’m not going to go into plot specifics here because there’s just too much to unpack. The trilogy is based on the J.R.R. Tolkien books about creatures on an epic quest to destroy a powerful ring before an evil overlord can get his hands on it. There are battles and magic and romance, and even a little comedy from the resident dwarf.  Basically, something for everyone.

This is a great movie trilogy to watch with a drink because A) those Hobbits like to party, and B) you’ll need a little something extra to keep the energy level steady through 11 hours of Middle Earth shenanigans. While watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I recommend drinking a Ginger-Mead Collins.

Ginger-Mead Collins

3 oz Mead (I used Jinja Dragon by Crafted Artisan Meadery)

1 ½ oz Ginger Beer

1 oz Lemon Juice

Topo Chico

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. 

Ginger Mead collins

As I’ve said, I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy films because personally I think humans are weird and interesting enough already- why make up mythical creatures? But this trilogy makes me understand the appeal of the genre. There’s an opportunity to make a controversial statement about our human reality when hobbits and elves are saying the words. It’s safer somehow; easier to digest. And when the real world starts to seem bleak, and you wonder if neighbor-helping-neighbor is a thing of the past, The Lord of the Rings shows us what amazing things can happen when a guy gets a little help from his friends. Cheers!