Views on pop culture through my eyes

Spring Reviews 2018

Spring is in the air! So as the weather is warming up, what am I watching and listening to? Read on for my take on movies, TV shows, CDs and DVDs.

Movies

Love, Simon
A gay coming of age tale that is also a romantic comedy. Simon is a typical teenager who is hiding the fact that he is gay. He starts an online friendship with another guy who is also going through the same thing. After an acquaintance outs him online, he must rush to tell those he loves about his truth and reclaim his life. It was refreshing to see a story where being gay is seen as just another fact of life. His family and friends don’t need to fix him. Great supporting cast including a couple of alums from “13 Reasons Why”. Plus a fun fantasy sequence set to a Whitney Houston song. I enjoyed it. Grade: B

Ready Player One
From director Steven Spielberg comes the movie adaption of the best-selling book: Ready Player One. In the future, most people live for life in “the Oasis.” This is a virtual reality playground, where you can be who you want to be. When the creator of the Oasis dies, he sets off a contest where gamers compete to find 3 keys and become the solo heir to the Oasis. There are great special effects and fun references to tons of movie and pop culture moments: everything from Saturday Night Fever to Alien to King Kong. I enjoyed it. It is a pleasant diversion. Grade: B

Blockers
A raunchy teen comedy that flips the script on traditional movie roles. This time the girls are out to hook up on prom night, while their parents try to stop it from happening. John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholt play the 3 parents — and a lot of the funniest parts happen in their scenes. The movie gets wrapped up in a sweet way, and the parents and kids have more in common than they thought. I had fun. Grade: B

Isle of Dogs
Director Wes Anderson’s latest is his 2nd animated movie after “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” In a dystopian future, there is an outbreak of dog flu in Japan. All dogs have been banished to Trash Island. The dogs all speak English, while the people all talk in their native languages (Japanese, or through an English translator). Atari is a young boy who flies a plane to the Isle to find his missing dog, Spots. There, he is assisted by a team of alpha dogs who help him on his journey. Definitely quirky and strange like you would expect. I found myself liking the story of the dogs more than the human stories. And the quirk factor overwhelms at times for me… he could have dialed it back. Likable, but “Mr. Fox” was better. Features an all-star voice cast including Edward Norton and Jeff Goldblum. Grade: B-

Beirut
Jon Hamm leads the cast as an American diplomat in this thriller set in the title city. The movie starts off in the 70’s, but is mostly set in the 1980’s. After an incident at his home in Beirut, Hamm returns to civilian life in the states. He gets roped into going back to Beirut to help out a former colleague who has been kidnapped. Rosemund Pike co-stars as a CIA agent, helping Hamm navigate the now-reality of a war-torn country. There are twists and turns as they race to save their friend. I enjoyed it. Grade: A-

 

DVDs

American Made
Tom Cruise stars in this movie based on a true story. It tells the tale of Barry Seal, who was an airline pilot, but ended up working for the CIA. He flies to Central and South America mostly and meets with some of the most notorious politicians and drug kingpins. He ends up running guns and drugs, and ends up embroiled in what becomes known as the Iran-Contra affair. Cruise is winning in this role, but I do feel we don’t fully understand what would make a family man risk it all to do what he did. So it was lacking for me in that respect. It is still a solid and enjoyable movie. Grade: B

Marshall
Chadwick Boseman stars as the title character, NAACP attorney (and future Supreme Court justice) Thurgood Marshall. Marshall takes on the cases of black people accused of crimes they did not commit. In this case, a black man is accused of raping a white socialite in Connecticut. The court refuses to acknowledge Marshall as an attorney and has to have a white lawyer (Josh Gad) be the primary council in the case. This was a fascinating true story about one of America’s great minds. Though the events occurred over 70 years ago, it still has relevance today with the state of race relations and the #metoo movement. Grade: A-

The Salesman
Ashgar Farhadi’s latest won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language movie in 2017. After a couple is forced to leave their apartment in a crumbling building, they find a new place in another building. But this apartment comes with a past, the women was a prostitute and left behind some possessions. When the wife is assaulted in the home, her husband sets out on a journey to find the perpetrator. Scenes from a production of “Death of the Salesman” (That the couple have roles in) are interspersed in the movie. Not as strong as Farhadi’s other movies, but still good overall. Grade: B+

Girls Trip
Four female friends reunite for a girls trip to the Essence Festival in New Orleans. The strong ensemble (Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish) are game for anything. There are lots of raunchy jokes about getting laid and getting wasted. It is basically a female version of “The Hangover.” I got some good laughs, but overall I was just OK on it. Grade: C+

Beyoncé — Live at Roseland
This concert was filmed at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC in 2011. It features Beyoncé’s greatest hits, as well as the full album “4” performed live. The greatest hits portion is pretty similar to the concert she did at the Wynn Las Vegas. “4” underwhelmed sales wise when it came out, but the songs are pretty great as far as I am concerned. There is a deluxe version also available with 7 music videos. Grade: B+

Shakira — Oral Fixation Tour
This DVD was filmed in Florida and comes with a bonus CD of 6 songs. It is the tour behind the 2-volume “Oral Fixation” albums (One in Spanish and one in English). The tour is mostly in Spanish: songs and the dialog too. But she is an exciting live performer who mixes Latin, pop, rock and world music textures in her music. Plus she can definitely move her hips. I enjoyed it. Grade: A-

Madonna — The Girlie Show: Live Down Under
Madonna was on the outs in the US when this was recorded. This show was filmed in Australia as part of her Girlie Show world tour. She was experiencing a backlash due to the Erotica album and Sex book. This is a great show, and I am disappointed that it didn’t come to Los Angeles — in fact, the tour was mostly out of the US. This show has great music, inventive staging and exciting choreography. It is a must for Madonna fanatics. Grade: A

 

CDs

Kenny Chesney — Live in No Shoes Nation
Kenny Chesney celebrates all of the success he’s had on the road with this generous collection. It gathers live versions of his biggest hits including some special guests too like Eric Church and Taylor Swift. I wish it was from 1 concert instead of it being from multiple shows. And I also find it a bit strange that the live versions fade out instead of coming to an end like they would in reality. It’s still a decent collection for fans. Grade: B

Shakira — Shakira.
Shakira doesn’t mess with her formula too much here. She has a mix of Latin pop, reggae, dance, rock and ballads. The album includes special guests Rihanna, Black Shelton and MAGIC!. There are 2 Spanish songs at the end, but it mostly in English. It is a solid effort. Grade: B+

Miranda Lambert — Four the Record
Miranda’s 4th album is one of her best. Trademark up-tempo songs and heart breaking ballads make for a winning combination. This album includes a few songs featuring Blake Shelton who was her mate at that time. Highlights include: “Safe,” “Baggage Claim” and “Better in the Long Run.” Grade: A-

“The Greatest Showman” Soundtrack
OK, so I was just alright on the movie. The music was good, but the story was a bit lacking for me. The soundtrack is excellent. Freed from the confines of the movie, the songs soar on their own. You will be singing along with them after a few listens. They are very uplifting and catchy as can be. I highly recommend it. Includes the award-winning song “This is Me” as all as many other fun tunes. Grade: A

Kylie Minogue — Kylie (Live in New York)
World superstar Kylie has never had the success she has had elsewhere in the states. That is why it is rare that she even toured the U.S. This recording was recorded in 2009 on her “For You, For Me” Tour. She sounds great, and it is obvious she was having a good time. Here’s hoping she comes to the US again. Grade: B+

LeAnn Rimes — Spitfire
LeAnn is past the days of making hit songs. Now she just wants to make music that she wants to. Which in this case — is a blues-rock-inflected country album. It includes special guests Rob Thomas, Alison Kraus and Jeff Beck. Plus she co-wrote most of the tunes too. Worth a listen. Grade: B

 

TV

Rise
This drama is from the people who brought you “Friday Night Lights” and “Hamilton.” A high school English teacher becomes the drama director. He decides to put on a production of “Spring Awakening.” Of course, we see the trials and tribulations in the students and teachers lives too. So far, there is not much music. And it is not holding my attention. Grade: C+

American Idol
Welcome to American Idol 2.0. So far the show doesn’t seem much different. It’s on a new network and a new date and time, but the format is the same. Yes, there are new judges: Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. I still find myself getting caught up with this show. It is a winning formula and should have never gone off to begin with. I really hope they find a superstar and show up “The Voice” like I know they can. Grade: B

Station 19
The latest entry on ABC’s TGIT night. The world of “Grey’s Anatomy” explodes on “Station 19” — according to the promos. So yes, this is a spin-off — but is set in a fire station versus a hospital. It is the most like Grey’s of any of Shonda Rhimes’ shows. It features a strong female lead (Jaina Lee Ortiz), multiracial cast, with good dollops of interpersonal and work drama. I am hooked and invested in it already. Grade: A-

Jesus Christ Superstar
Airing live on Easter Sunday, this NBC special stars John Legend as Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were the creators of the original concept album and musical. This version was a combination musical/rock concert. The staging, choreography, costumes were all great and made for an exciting show. The cast was fantastic: John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper and some talented people from Broadway in the supporting roles. I definitely enjoyed it. Grade: A-

That’s all for this time. Please sound off in the comments if you agree or disagree with my thoughts. Thanks for reading.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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Comments on: "Spring Reviews 2018" (2)

  1. guy.hubbard@att.net said:

    Hi Dan, As usual, an interesting and informative blog. The nice thing about Love, Simon is that it is a gay film that is mainstream and no big deal is made about it. Progress! It’s as ordinary and accepted as a Corliss Archer, Andy Hardy or Gidget movie. Times have changed. I think “The Greatest Showman” is going to wind up as a Broadway production at some point. Another film to stage story. I’ve never been a Beyonce fan since she became a soloist. She’s talented, to be sure, but doesn’t appeal to me, at least not yet. However, you’ve piqued my interest with this review. You make me want to check out “Live At Roseland.” I did watch some of the YouTube coverage of her recent concert at the Coachella Music Festival. It was impressive, very professional. The story about Madonna and The Girlie Show is mostly news to me. I didn’t know much of that. I remember the book and the album but didn’t know the reaction was that severe. Intriguing! I did not watch any of your tv subjects. That whole section was all news to me. Thanks.

    Guy

    >

    • Thanks for your reply. Beyonce is an amazing artist. I love her solo stuff more than the Destiny’s Child material — especially Beyonce’s last 2 albums. I did not see any of the Coachella set, but heard it was impressive.

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