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The Martian

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the-martian

Image credit: The Martian, 2015

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much over this summer weather. The sun is a relentless flaming ball that scorches me the second I walk outside, and my yard has become a barren wasteland. I’m actually seeing a lot of parallels between Texas weather and life on Mars in this week’s film The Martian (DVD/Download). Those scenes of Matt Damon gasping for breath as his space suit fails and he’s exposed to the atmosphere? Me, on the walk to the car in the morning.

I didn’t expect to like The Martian as much as I did. I thought it would be yet another big budget sci-fi/action film with a ton of special effects and not much real acting. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out that director Ridley Scott made a compelling film about the triumph of the human spirit against terrible odds. In the end, surviving life on Mars isn’t all that different than surviving life on Earth- you just solve one problem at a time. Granted, problems like a lack of water, oxygen, and food are bigger than, say, my Wi-Fi going out, but we all have our struggles. As Matt Damon MacGyver’s his way through farming and rocket engineering on a planet not meant to support human life, it reminds me that if he can do all that, I can handle a power-cycle with a tech support guy from India.

To survive on Mars, you have to get creative with food and beverages. Left with only a limited supply of rations, astronaut Mark Watney is forced to make his own water and grow his own potatoes. If he’d had more time, and if his space station hadn’t blown up, he might have parlayed this into vodka production. I have no doubt he could do it. While watching The Martian, I recommend drinking a Martian Screwdriver.

Martian Screwdriver

4 oz Tang

2 oz Potato Vodka

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine.

martian screwdriver

Although it features a strong supporting cast (um… Kristin Wiig what are you doing in this??), The Martian really is Matt Damon’s tour de force. His performance brings laughs and tears, and the fear on his face as he’s about to lift off into space in an open-air space craft gets me all choked up, every time. All I can say is- welcome back to the world of great actors Mr. Damon. There’s nobody else I’d rather be stranded with. Cheers!

Good Will Hunting

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Image credit: Good Will Hunting, 1997

Image credit: Good Will Hunting, 1997

It FINALLY feels like fall outside, and I’m surrounded by apple spice/pumpkin spice everything. This time of year always makes me nostalgic for crunchy leaves underfoot and college co-eds in sweaters. I can think of no better movie to watch in autumn than Good Will Hunting (DVD/Download). So curl up with a plaid blanket, fix a drink, and prepare to be lulled in by a soothing Danny Elfman score and the timid songs of Elliott Smith. I feel like skipping class all over again!

Good Will Hunting will always be known as the film that made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck famous, as BFFs, actors, and screenwriters. It’s the Hollywood story everyone loves to hear- two childhood best friends write a script, Robin Williams decides he wants to be in it, Harvey Weinstein decides he wants to produce it, the film is made, released, it’s a big success, and the two best friends bask in Oscar glory. Of course, there’s probably a lot more to the story than that, but that PR-approved legend is just as heartwarming as the movie itself. I know this film about a young mathematical prodigy overcoming childhood trauma to find love gets criticized for being too saccharine at times (It’s Not Your Fault) but no one can deny the brilliant performance by Robin Williams as a down-to-earth psychologist, the charming Southie accents of Matt Damon and his crew of friends, or the perfect, weepy Elliott Smith soundtrack. It still kills me that “Miss Misery” lost out on the Oscar to Celine Dion and “My Heart Will Go On”. I demand a recount.

One of the best, and most oft-quoted lines of the film is when Matt Damon’s Will Hunting announces he got the number of a girl in a bar and, well, “how do you like them apples?” I’ve recently fallen in love with Argus Cidery’s Ciderkin hard apple cider, and I’ve been dying to use it in a cocktail. So while watching Good Will Hunting, I suggest drinking Them Apples.

Them Apples

1.5 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon

1 oz butterscotch schnapps

3 oz apple cider

4 oz Argus Cidery Ciderkin

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine.

Them Apples

It’s still fun to watch this movie and see how incredibly young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck look. They’re major blockbuster stars now (in fact I just caught Matt Damon in the stellar film The Martian over the weekend), but back then they were just a couple of kids with some Kevin Smith film credits. And of course, my heart aches for all the Robin Williams performances we’ll never get to see in the future. This one is just so damn good. So bundle up, settle in, and if you need me- sorry guys, I gotta go see about a drink. Cheers!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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Photo Credit:  Miramax 1999

Photo Credit: Miramax 1999

As much of the country is in the death grip of winter cold this week, I felt inspired to watch a movie that features sailboat cruises on the Mediterranean, leisurely cocktail hours, fabulous 1950’s fashions, and a suntanned and shirtless Jude Law. Based on the thrilling novel by Patricia Highsmith and produced during Miramax’s heyday of the late 1990’s, The Talented Mr. Ripley is one delicious Italian travel postcard. It tells the story of Dickie Greenleaf (played by the magnetically charismatic Jude Law), a trust fund ex-pat who spends his days lounging on the Italian Riviera with his girlfriend Marge (played by an enviably tanned and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow). Matt Damon plays the title character Tom Ripley, who travels to Italy at the behest of Dickie’s father in order to lure Dickie back to the US, but instead he ends up befriending him, falling in love with him, and then becoming dangerously obsessed with him.

If you haven’t seen this film before, or if it’s been awhile, I strongly urge you to check it out. Watching it makes you realize why Law, Paltrow, and Damon became the huge stars that they did, and in addition, the fabulous Cate Blanchett turns in a performance as a wealthy American socialite that shows us why she was born to play Kathrine Hepburn in The Aviator. This movie always makes me want to travel back to Italy, and spend my time lounging the days away while moving at a much slower pace than I would ever allow myself to do at home. I want to get tanned, drink martinis, write on a vintage typewriter, travel to underground jazz clubs in Rome, and eat fresh pasta (while still fitting into 1950’s couture dresses). A person can dream can’t they?

For this week’s cocktail pairing, I’m keeping it pretty simple. This is a drink I often serve at parties because it’s easy to make and strong enough that I don’t have to spend all night behind the bar doing refills. When watching The Talented Mr. Ripley, I suggest pairing it with a Limoncello Martini:

Margie’s Limoncello Martini

1 oz Gin

1 oz Limoncello (perhaps you’ve picked up a bottle during your own Italian vacation?)

1 lemon twist

Combine the gin and limoncello with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until very cold (COLD being the key here), and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

limoncello-martini

This drink is perfect for the film because it evokes Italian sunsets and is meant to be sipped slowly. Martini-making abilities are a prized commodity with this set of characters, so I feel as though I’d fit in nicely with the 1950’s ex-pats. With a chilled Limoncello Martini in my hand, and two hours spent doing nothing but enjoying this film, I feel like I’m getting there. So set your martini glass outside a minute in these freezing temps to chill, put on The Talented Mr. Ripley, and pretend that the noise you just heard rattling your window is a warm Mediterranean breeze (not a frigid Arctic blast). Cheers!