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Summer Reviews Part 3

It’s that time again for some more entertainment reviews. Part 1 will feature movies and DVDs. Part 2 will feature TV shows and music reviews. Read on for what I have been enjoying (or not) this summer.

Movies

Detroit
The latest movie from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. This movie tells the true story of the incident at the Algiers Hotel in Detroit during the summer of 1967 — a period of racial unrest and rioting. This is sure to be remembered come Oscar time: writing, directing, and acting. It is sad that given the incidents in VA this past weekend that we have not learned anything in 50 years. I urge everyone to see this! Grade: A

Dunkirk
The latest movie from director Christopher Nolan is about the little known battle of Dunkirk. The Germans trapped 400,00 British and French soldiers on the beach in Dunkirk, France. This is the first movie I have seen this year that will be nominated for an Academy Award. It is that good. You are given different point of views as the action unfolds — on the beach, in a boat, in a war plane. It is very intense and shows the horrific events as they are happening. I can’t recommend it enough! Grade: A

Wonder Woman
The DC Universe finally gets it right! Gal Gadot stars as the title character in this origin story OF Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. The movie is set during World War I, and stars Chris Pine as the long interest. It has some parallels to the First Captain America movie (Set in the past, in love with someone who you can’t grow old with). It has exciting action sequences and an interesting storyline. I enjoyed myself! Grade: A-

Cars 3
The latest from Disney/Pixar brings back racing car Lightning McQueen and some of his friends from Radiator Springs. Lightning is feeling his age and starting to lose some races to a younger faster car. So after a crash, he regroups and begins training to reclaim his former glory. He has a personal trainer named Cruz, a female car who never got the chance to be a racer. One of the funniest parts is when Lightning ends up in a crash derby race. The movie is paired with the Pixar short “Lou” which was very cute and has an anti-bullying message. Grade: B

Despicable Me 3
The third (or 4th movie in the franchise if you count “Minions) brings back lovable former-villain Gru and his family. This time he is after a former-child star who has become a super villain named Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). He loves 80’s music, clothes and dancing. Gru finds out he has a twin-brother named Dru, who is still a villain. Gru and Dru team up to get back a diamond stolen by Bratt. The Minions want Gru to go back to evil and quit, only to end up in jail. This movie felt very disjointed to me, there are at least 3 story lines vying for your attention. It all seems to be an excuse for more toys and theme park tie-ins. Grade: C+

Spider-Man: Homecoming
The latest Spider-Man movie has Tom Holland taking over the role last played by Andrew Garfield. The subtitle to me was more “The Teen Years” than “Homecoming” unless they we’re going for homecoming dance. This is probably the most light-hearted take on the web-slinger I have seen. It plays like a teen show on the CW. Imagine being a teenager with incredible powers while navigating your high-school years: classes, dances, debate team, fitting in, selfies and more. Michael Keaton plays the villain, Vulture. And Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) is there as his mentor too. Grade: B+

War for the Planet of the Apes
The third in the latest series of Apes movies and supposedly the last. The movie takes place a few years after the last one; Caesar and his band of intelligent apes are living peacefully in the hills. Woody Harrelson stars as the Colonel — The leader of a military group that is hell bent on getting rid of all the apes. What is interesting about this movie is how serious the subject matter is — the perils of war, living with others (in this case apes) who are different than you. You have overtones of the Holocaust, black lives matter, gun violence, family dynamics and political extremes. This is not a forgettable special effects movie. I definitely recommend it. Grade: B+

 

DVDs

The Magnificent Seven
This remake stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt in this action western. I would file this in the “unnecessary remake” column. While there is a good cast and some decent action, it doesn’t really add up to much for me. Grade: C-

La La Land
The film that almost won the Best Picture Oscar is a movie you will watch again and again on home video. Come for the romance, the fantastic leads (Ryan Goslin, Emma Stone), great songs and dance sequences — in a movie you won’t forget. Plus they make my home city look awesome! There are hints at a sequel when you rewatch it. Grade: A

Inferno
Tom Hanks stars in the third movie based on the books of Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code). Hanks stars as Professor Robert Langdon. Felicity Jones co-stars. I was entertained by this movie. There are enough twists and turns to make it interesting. Grade: B-

The Light Between Oceans
Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander star in this drama based on the book by M.L. Stedman. The story concerns a young couple who live on a deserted island off the coast of Australia. The husband is a lighthouse keeper. After struggling to have child for several years, a boat washes up on the shore with a dead man and a baby. The couple decides to raise the child as their own, only to have their secret unravel as the truth comes out. Grade: A-

Bridget Jones’ Baby
Reneé Zellwegger is back as the title character in this 2nd sequel to Bridget Jones’ Diary. Love interest Colin Firth is back along with new suitor Patrick Dempsey — one of whom is the father of Bridget’s baby. This was a likable movie, and I had a few laughs. Grade: B

Queen of Katwe
This fact-based movie tells the story of Phiona — a young Ugandan girl who becomes a chess champion. Of course there are troubles along the way with her family. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o are the girl’s mentor and mother respectively. I liked this movie, but found it a little dull too. Chess is not that exciting of a game. Grade: B-

Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford directed and wrote the screenplay for this dark and engaging movie. It concerns a woman (Amy Adams) who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). She starts reading the book and gets wrapped up in the story that is told — of a family that experiences a terrifying act of road rage. The husband in the book story is also played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays one of the bad guys in the book story, and Michael Shannon (in his Oscar-nominated role) stars as a police detective in the book story too. This is one of the best movies I have seen in the past year. It is very intense and disturbing at times. It is highly recommended. Grade: A

Celine Dion “Taking Chances World Tour — The Concert”
This is the video for Celine’s last world tour between her 2 Vegas residencies. It is filmed in Boston. It is a good show, but my main criticism of this is the sound mix. You barely hear the crowd in the show and you half-way feel like you are listening to a studio recording when you listen to the CD that comes with it. I am ready for her to retire “My Heart Will Go On.” Grade: B-

Beyoncé “I Am… Yours: An Intimate Performance at the Wynn Las Vegas”
This is Queen Bey at the top of her game. Filmed back in 2009, this up close and personal show, was shown in an edited form on broadcast TV. The first half is her unplugged and the second half is with the full band. She puts on a high-energy show and you feel the excitement in the room when you play it. Includes 2 audio CDs too. I loved it! Grade: A+

Allied
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star is this war-time set movie. The stars play spies from different countries who fall in love and get married. Then the husband gets informed that his wife may be a secret spy for the Germans. I was bored with this movie. The stars try, but the script lets them down. Grade:C-

The Accountant
Ben Affleck stars as an accountant who is also a hitman with OCD. There are some great action sequences, as well as flashbacks to his life growing up (and why he is like he is). But it started to fall apart for me in the last third of the movie. They set up an interesting story but didn’t really know how to resolve it. Grade: B-

Patriot’s Day
Inspired by true events, this movie tells the story of the bombing of the Boston Marathon from a few years ago. Mark Wahlberg stars as a police officer who gets entangled with the events. He was there when it happened and helped the victims as well as helped to bring the brothers down. It includes footage at the end of real survivors from the event. Grade: A-

Stay tuned for the next installment that will feature TV and music reviews. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

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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Summer Reviews Part 2

So what CDs and DVDs am I enjoying this summer? Read on…

Music

Jason Mraz — Yes!
Jason continues to mine the adult contemporary terrain of “I’m Yours.” Honestly, I have heard it about 5 times through, and nothing is sticking to me. What happened to the guy who did fun up-tempo songs like “The Remedy”? Time to mix it up, Jason. Grade: D

Ed Sheeran — + (plus)
I fell in love with him on his second album. So now it is time that I checked out his debut album. You have the hits: The A Team and Lego House. Plus a good collection of tunes that show he is someone to watch out for. Interestingly, radio just played the folk songs, while he has some nice uptempo/hip-hop inspired ones. Grade: B+

Celine Dion — Loved Me Back to Life
Celine’s most recent pop album and her first since “Taking Chances.” It is definitely growing on me. You have pop, uptempo songs, ballads and a few cover songs. Special guests include Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder. She’s been better, but I still like it. Grade: B-

Mary J. Blige — The London Sessions
Mary J. went to London to record this album which pairs her with Sam Smith, Disclosure and more. So you have some dance textures on here. An interesting diversion, but I liked the previous album “My Life II” much more. Grade: B

Pentatonix — PTX, Vol. IV: Classics
The latest EP from the a capella 5-some has them covering songs by Queen, a-ha, Dolly Parton (who guests on here) and more. It is still amazing that they can create such full arrangements with just their voices. Grade: A-

Beauty and the Beast — Soundtrack
The soundtrack to the latest Disney smash movie includes all your favorites from the film including “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” “Gaston” and the title track. Includes bonus songs from Celine Dion, Ariana Grande & John Legend and Josh Groban. Grade: A-

Kelsea Ballerini — The First Time
The debut album from the up and coming country/pop singer. Features the hit songs: “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Peter Pan.” She reminds me a bit of Taylor Swift. She’s definitely someone to watch out for. She is on the road with Lady Antebellum this summer: Grade: A-

Brett Eldredge — Bring You Back
I became a fan of this man on his second album “Illinois.” This is his first one. The vocals are what stand out for me, even if the songs are not as strong as what he has on his second album. I definitely sensed potential, even if it was not all there. Grade: B-

Blondie — Blondie 4(0)Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download
Ground-breaking new-wave group Blondie is back for their 40th anniversary. The first half is re-recorded versions of their biggest hits. The second half is all-new songs. Honestly I wish I just could have bought the 2nd half, since I have several greatest hits collections from them already. The new versions bring nothing new to the equation. The second half has Blondie trying on dance and latin textures. Includes their take on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” Grade: B-

Josh Turner — Deep South
The deep-voiced singer country singer is back with an all-new collection. Highlights include the title track and “All About You.” He has a few beach inspired tunes on this. Not too much different from his other albums. It is a solid collection. Grade: B

Natasha Bedingfield — Strip Me
I was a fan of this singer’s first 2 albums, and am finally getting around to this one. It came out 7 years ago, and it bombed. It shouldn’t have. She has dance, rock, ballads, and alternative music on here. Plus there are some unplugged versions and videos on the deluxe version. Still hoping she comes out with a new album. Grade: A-

Videos

Sing Street
What a pleasant surprise this movie is! A teenage boy falls for an older woman and makes up a lie about being in a band and needing an actress for his music video. This romantic comedy set in Ireland in the 80’s has a great soundtrack, so you get Duran Duran and Hall & Oates. Plus the band that he starts with a few other misfits from school, ends up being pretty good with some catchy songs of their own. You’ll enjoy yourself. Grade: A-

Sully
Ton Hanks stars as the title character “Sully” Sullenberg who landed an airliner on the Hudson river. It is based on Sullenberg’s autobiography and directed by Clint Eastwood. Did he know what he was doing? Did he make the right choice? How did he handle being labeled a hero? Aaron Eckhart costars as the copilot. Grade: B

Southside with You
Otherwise known as the Michelle and Barack Obama date movie. This is the story of the first date between Michelle and Barack Obama in the southside of Chicago. They went to an art museum, and then to a rally at a black church. You could see the sparks flying between them. Grade: B+

Denial
The true story of a Holocaust denier taking a writer to court in England for slander. She was someone who called him out for what he was doing. Yet he had the nerve to try and sue her for slander. Could she prove that the Holocaust really existed? Or would she let the whole Jewish race down? Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. Grade: A-

Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton directs this dark fantasy film based on book by Ransom Riggs. Eva Green stars as the title character. Jake is a teenager who travels to Wales to investigate the school that his grandfather went to. It is the school mentioned in the title. So you have a floating girl, a boy with bees, masked twins, and an invisible boy among others. The movie reminded me of other ones. You take parts of X-Men, Harry Potter and other fantasy films and you have this one. But I still enjoyed myself. Grade: B

Suicide Squad
The 3rd movie in Warner Brother’s DC Universe, brings together a bunch of villians who are tasked with saving the world because no one else can. So you have Dead Shot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and a number of other villians you have never heard of. You have the Joker too, but his story line is pretty much about him getting back with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Again, I think special effects over shadowed the story in this one. It is a pretty forgettable movie. Grade: D

So that’s my take. If you agree or disagree with any of my comments, I would love to hear from you.

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.

Summer Reviews Part 1

Time for some more entertainment reviews. The first part will feature reviews of movies (some now on video and others still in theaters). The second will feature reviews of CDs and DVDs.

Movies

Kong Skull Island
The latest King Kong movie takes a different approach to the story. So you see Kong in his natural habitat on a just-found island — Skull Island. For some reason the filmmakers chose to place the story in the past, around the end of the Vietnam War. Tom Hiddleston stars as a mercenary for hire. Brie Larson is a photographer. Samuel Jackson is one of the generals who is leading the trip to the island. Besides Kong, there are a lot of weird and large creatures on the island. So you get to see plenty of fights between humans and the creatures, as well as the creatures themselves. Overall, I wasn‘t much for this movie. I say to wait for video. It is just a step above a movie on the SyFy channel. Grade: C+

Get Out
Written and directed by Jordan Peele of Key & Peele fame. This movie concerns Chris, a black man, going with his white girlfriend to meet her family at their home. Chris starts to feel that something is off in this town and with the black people in it. Are the townspeople as accepting as they claim to be? Did Chris get hypnotized by his girlfriend’s mother? Honestly I don’t know what to make of this movie. It is in a genre I am not a fan of (horror) and it is deals with racism and classism in today’s world. What statement was Peele trying to make? I feel a bit lost on it. Not sure how to grade it, since it was not something I would normally see. Grade: C

Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s latest reworking of movies from their film catalog is the live-action version of the classic “Beauty and the Beast.” I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you loved the original, and the Broadway show, you will love this one too. Emma Watson is winning as Belle. The whole cast is fantastic. The costumes and production design are both terrific. And who can forget all the excellent songs too. I highly recommend it! Grade: A

Logan
The last and final Wolverine movie, at least starring Hugh Jackman. He’s old and broken down, and so is Professor X too. Logan gets contacted by a woman who wants him to take her daughter to a place called “Eden.” It seems the young girl has some special powers just like he does. A huge improvement over the last stand-alone Wolverine movie. They went for a R rating, and it is very violent at times. Parts of it seem inspired by the last Mad Max movie. I liked it. There are some exciting action sequences. Grade: B

The Fate of the Furious
The latest (8th film) in the long-running franchise brings back all the characters we love including Dom, Letty, Hobbs and more. The story seems besides the point in these movies. The action takes place in Cuba, New York, and Russia. Charlize Theron plays a woman named Cipher who blackmails Dom into doing some of her dirty work. You get computer controlled cars falling from buildings in NYC and a Russian sub sending missiles across an icy frozen lake in Russia. Don’t be worried, the principals will all be back to drive another day. Grade: B-

The Circle
This timely movie stars Emma Watson as a new employee at a company called “The Circle” — sort of an internet giant like Google or Facebook. How much of our lives are we sharing or not sharing? Is life better because we are on there? Has technology brought us closer or torn us apart? Tom Hanks costars as the head of “The Circle.” Has big brother made us all safer? It is good to see an intelligent movie, that raises questions about internet privacy and social media. Grade: B

The Lost City of Z
Charlie Hunnam stars as Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who was determined to find a lost city of Zedd in the Amazonian jungle in the early 20th century. Also starring Robert Pattison (Twilight) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming). This true-life tale details the trials and tribulations that befell the explorer during his multiple trips to the region. Grade: B+

Saturday Night Fever (40th Anniversary Director’s Cut)
Back in selected theaters for it’s 40th anniversary is the movie that made John Travolta a star and cemented the impact of disco during the late 70’s. The soundtrack album featuring music by the Bee Gees as well as others won the Grammy for Album of the Year. It was interesting to see again after all this time. The basic story about Tony growing up and trying to make his way in the world (through his dancing) still holds up. I didn’t remember that it was homophobic, sexist and a bit racist too. The dance sequences are as memorable as you remember them. Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The first movie was a surprise smash. While I like this movie, it was neither as fresh or as fun as the first one. And that’s too bad. Because the Guardians themselves are at their best when they are together, and unfortunately they spend a good deal of time apart in the latest movie. Kurt Russell costars as Star-Lord’s Dad, Ego. Special effects are more important than heart and jokes in this one. Hopefully the ship will be course corrected for the third one. Grade: B-

Alien: Convenant
The latest in the “Alien” franchise brings back director Ridley Scott and is considered a sequel to 2012’s “Prometheus.” Michael Fassbender stars in 2 roles —both as androids. On a journey to a new planet to settle a colony, the crew has to make a side trip to a new found planet to see if it is inhabitable. Everything looks great until some of the crew start getting sick. You get the thrills and chills you want to see. It is the best “Alien” movie since the 3rd one in my opinion. Grade: A-

Baywatch
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in the latest TV show to big screen update for the campy 90’s show “Baywatch.” This is one of the lamest movies I have seen in a long time. I got a couple of laughs, but too many of them just fall flat. The makers have gone for raunchy action comedy, with lots of f-bombs and dirty jokes. I definitely cannot recommend this one. Grade: D

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 2. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

Spring Reviews Part 2

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. Part 1 concentrated on music. Part 2 includes movies, DVDs and TV shows. What have I been watching recently? Read on.

Movies

Hidden Figures
This is the untold story of the women who were behind the NASA astronauts launch into space. It follows 3 African American women who were human computers. They were good at math, and were instrumental in the success of the space program. It is a very inspiring story. Go see it. Grade: A

Elle
Isabelle Huppert plays the title character. She won a Golden Globe for it (plus got nominated for an Oscar). She is good, but the movie itself is not that great. A schlocky tale of a woman who is raped by someone she knows, and acts almost as if nothing happened. Plus trying to figure out who raped her when she isn’t dealing with her job, her family, her ex and current lover. In French, with subtitles. Grade: C+

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Vin Diesel returns as the title character in this action sequel. Xander is a secret agent, who favors extreme sports and unconventional methods of working. The movie has plenty of action: car chases, shoot outs, brawls, even motorcycles on the water. Not much difference between this and the Fast and Furious franchise at this point. So you get a multicultural cast, exotic locales, and sex appeal. I enjoyed it for what it was. A good popcorn movie. Grade: B-

Loving
“Loving” is the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who challenged the laws against interracial marriage in VA. Interesting and moving story with good performances. Grade: A-

Fences
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this film adaptation of the August Wilson play. It concerns a working class garbage man who is married with children. He is not an easy man to love or get along with. He treats those around him at arm’s length. The performances are great, even if at times it feels like a filmed play (which it is). Grade: A-

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson directs and Andrew Garfield stars in this true-life tale of Desmond Doss. He is a conscientious objector during WWII, and serves as a medic during the battle at Hacksaw Ridge. He wants to serve, but will not carry a gun. The first half has Desmond in training and falling in love, the second part is on the battlefield where he saved 75 men. The movie is nominated for best actor, director and picture. It’s an old-fashioned war movie, that reminds us that hero’s come in all types of shapes and sizes. Grade: B+

Jackie
Natalie Portman stars as first lady Jackie Kennedy in this biopic. It follows Jackie during the week after her husband is assassinated. How do you compose yourself after experiencing something so tragic and so public? How do you move forward? I am surprised that this did not get a Best Picture nomination. Her performance may earn her the Best Actress award. Go see it. Grade: A

DVDs

The Purge: Election Year
The third movie in the “Purge” series. It fairs better than the second one, but it is still not as good as the first one. It concerns protecting a presidential candidate who wants to get rid of the annual Purge (the night where all crime including murder is legal). Grade: C+

The Lobster
Colin Farrell stars in this very strange, and at times, disturbing movie. In the not so distant future, everyone must be mated. If you are without a mate, you are turned into an animal. The title comes from the animal that Farrell’s character picks to turn into. At first, he is in some sort of government facility. Then he escapes and ends up in the woods. The first part of the movie I liked, the second half just got very weird and violent. Grade: C

Captain Fantastic
Viggo Mortensen (in his Oscar-nominated performance) stars as a father who is raising his brood of 6 kids off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. The family has to go out into the real world after a family tragedy. This movie raises a number of questions: what constitutes family? What is the best way to raise your kids? There are a few comedic moments in this movie. It becomes a bit of a road trip/fish out of water tale as the family leaves the forest for the city. I enjoyed it. Grade: A-

Ghostbusters
Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig headline the cast of this all-female reboot. The cast is game, too bad they spent more on special effects than they did on jokes. The script and the director definitely let the ladies down. Includes guest appearances from the original stars too. Grade: C

Mechanic Resurrection
Jason Statham returns as the hitman for hire. Jessica Alba costars as his love interest. Jason must get back in the game and perform 3 hits before he can get out of the business and get his life back. Pretty forgettable movie, though I did like the one scene with the pool on the high-rise. Grade: C-

 

TV

Beaches
Another unnecessary remake. I liked it, but the original was better. The original movie has a special place in my heart. It was the movie Rasheed and I saw on our 2nd date. I even have a VHS copy of it. Grade: C+

Riverdale
I enjoyed “Riverdale” on the CW last week. An update of the Archie comics, the show played like a mix of 90210, Gossip Girl and a bit of Twin Peaks. It will be interesting to see how the season progresses. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

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.

Oscar Predictions 2017

 

I am a movie fan — pure and simple. I have even been known to take movie vacations, where I catch up on movies and see one every day. One of my favorite things is predicting who will win at the Academy Awards. It is not just about whether a performance was better than others, but you have to factor in such things as have they won before, are they or the movie too popular, have they been overlooked before, and so on. This is one of the most open fields in years. Here are my picks for the Top Six Awards.8035

Best Actor (Casey Affleck “Manchester by the Sea,” Andrew Garfield “Hacksaw Ridge,” Ryan Gosling “La La Land,” Viggo Mortensen “Captain Fantastic,” Denzel Washington “Fences”) You have one previous nominee (Viggo Mortensen) and one 2-time winner (Denzel Washington). The rest are first-time nominees. Viggo’s movie was not so well seen. “La La Land” may be seen as too light for some. That leaves Casey, Denzel and Andrew. Casey Affleck has the momentum — he is coming into his own. But then again, Denzel is a possibility too. Final choice: Casey Affleck

Best Actress (Isabelle Huppert “Elle,” Ruth Negga “Loving,” Natalie Portman “Jackie,” Emma Stone “La La Land,” Meryl Streep “Florence Foster Jenkins”) You have 2 former Oscar winners: Portman and Streep. Streep is out, she will not win a 4th time. I found “Elle” a bit of a Lifetime movie w/ more sex. Plus it in French. That leaves Negga and Stone. Stone could ride the momentum with “La La Land” and win. Plus, they like ingénues in this category. But Portman is a formidable competitor. Final choice: Emma Stone

Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali “Moonlight,” Jeff Bridges “Hell or High Water,” Lucas Hedges “Manchester by the Sea,” Dev Patel “Lion,” Michael Shannon “Nocturnal Animals”) Only 1 previous winner: Jeff Bridges. Ali has made quite an impression with a small role in an independent film. This is a tough category. Hedges is young, and will have another chance. Shannon has been nominated before, but not won. Final Choice: Mahershala Ali

Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis “Fences,” Naomie Harris “Moonlight,” Nicole Kidman “Lion,” Octavia Spencer “Hidden Figures,” Michelle Williams “Manchester by the Sea”) You have previous winners here: Nicole Kidman and Octavia Spencer. Michelle Williams role is pretty small. I think it is between Viola and Naomie. Viola is higher profile, having lost before when she was supposedly a sure thing for “The Help.” Plus she is on a hit TV show too. Final choice: Viola Davis

Best Director (Damien Chazelle “La La Land,” Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge,” Barry Jenkins “Moonlight,” Kenneth Lonergan “Manchester by the Sea,” Denis Villeneuve “Arrival”) One previous Oscar winner: Mel Gibson. Kenneth has been nominated before but for writing. For me, it is between Kenneth Lonergan and Damien Chazelle. I am picking Chazelle: he’s only had 2 features and both have been critical and commercial hits. Plus extra pointing for bringing the modern musical back. I am sure a lot of actors can’t wait to work for him. Final choice: Damien Chazelle

Best Picture (Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight) What an interesting batch of films! I picked “Hell or High Water” as my personal favorite from last year. Sci-fi doesn’t tend to play well here, so “Arrival” is out. “Fences” is good, but it felt like a filmed play, and it was. “Lion” moved me to tears. “Manchester by the Sea” and “Moonlight” are depressing, but well done. “Hacksaw Ridge” is lucky just to be nominated. “Hidden Figures” is rising at the right time, and it just won the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Best Ensemble. I think it is between “Hidden Figures” and “La La Land.” We need a movie we can all rally behind. Final choice: La La Land

Those are my picks. If you think differently, then please sound off in the comments. And if you win big in an Oscar pool, please let me know too.

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.

 

 

Winter Reviews 2017

So what have I been enjoying this past fall and winter as far as entertainment? Read on to read my latest reviews of DVDs, movies and CDs. AS always comments are kindly welcomed.

DVDs

Kylie Minogue “Kiss Me Once — Live from the Sse Hydro”
This concert movie was filmed on Kylie’s last tour in Scotland. It has all of the hits, plus the costume and set changes we have come to expect from her. Not to mention cute male dancers. Grade: A-

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
A smart and funny teen movie. An outcast forms a unique friendship with a girl dying from cancer. Earl is his best friend that he makes homemade movies with that spoof classic movies. It is very well written and acted. See it! Grade: A-

The Night Before
Seth Rogen stars along with Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Joseph is a widower who hangs out with his 2 buddies on the night before Christmas. They decide that it is going to be the last time. There are some chuckles along the way, but not as funny as you think it would be. Grade: C+

99 Homes
This was a very good movie. It’s about the housing crisis, and it’s effect on one young man and his boss. I preferred this movie over “The Big Short” which was good a bit overrated to me. Michael Shannon is a shrewd real estate man, and Andrew Garfield is the man who gets evicted by him. He ends up working for him, and seeing the other side of things. Grade: A-

Legend
Tom Hardy stars as twin gangsters, Ronald and Reginald Kray. One is straight and the other is gay. They terrorized London in the 1960s. Not as good as I had hoped it would be, but if you are a Tom Hardy fan, worth a look. Grade: B-

Concussion
Will Smith stars in the real life story of Dr. Bennet Omalu. He took on the NFL, after a series of players starting going crazy because of all the concussions they had suffered during their years in the game. Definitely a must see, even if you are not into sports. Grade: A-

Joy
Jennifer Lawrence shines in this story inspired by the inventor of the Miracle Mop. Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper co-star. It shows all the hard work and determination it takes to start a business. Grade: B+

45 Years
This drama stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a couple on the verge of their 45th wedding anniversary celebration. The husband’s former lover’s body is found in the ice, frozen in an accident 50 years before. This is the event that sets the story in motion. Were they meant to be or did the husband really want to marry the girl that died? Good performances, but overall it was sort of dull. Grade: C+

Eye in the Sky
Helen Mirren heads the cast of this timely drama. She plays a military officer who is in charge of a mission to take out some bad guys in Africa. She is in contact with world leaders and military higher-ups in the British and American governments. The question is should they fire on a house, when there is a chance that the blast will kill a little girl who is near by? What loss of life is acceptable? Should the greater good be taken into account? There are no easy answers in the war on terror. Grade: B

Albums

Lady GaGa “Joanne” Lady GaGa returns with her 4th pop album. Lead single “Perfect Illusion” has failed to take off. It is definitely not the album I expected from her. Very uncommercial, and boring in parts. Mark Ronson produced most of it. The one stand out track for me is “Million Reasons” — a country tune if ever I heard one. Other tracks are sort of 70’s rock inspired. I still love her, but she should realize she is dance artist. Grade: C

Barry Gibb “In the Now” Only the 2nd solo album from the last living Bee Gee. Barry is in fine form, and it sounds like he had fun making this album. He had some help from his sons. I prefer this to recent albums from Lady GaGa and Birtney Spears. Grade: A-

Britney Spears “Glory” Britney is back with her 9th album, featuring lead single “Make Me…” (with G-Eazy). Some decent songs, but at 17 songs on the Deluxe Edition, it doesn’t keep my interest. Most of the songs are sort of mid-tempo dance pop. And not exactly top-notch song-writing either. I am missing the high-energy songs of “Circus” and “Femme Fatale.” Grade: C+

Nick Jonas “Last Year Was Complicated” Nick’s 2nd (or 3rd solo album if you count the one with the Administration) follows the same sort of white-boy pop-rock-soul of the last collection. Except this time he doesn’t have a runaway smash like “Jealous.” Overall, I think it is a better album. Includes the Top Twenty hit with Tove Lo — “Close.” Grade: B

Pentatonix “A Pentatonix Christmas” The a Capella group’s third Christmas album features more reworked classics as well as a couple of new tunes too. Manhattan Transfer is one of the guests. Grade: A-

Kenny Chesney “Cosmic Hallelujah” Kenny’s latest album includes the first 2 singles “Noise” as well as his duet with Pink “Setting the World on Fire.” His albums are always solid, and contain songs you will like after only one listen. Nothing ground breaking here for me, but still enjoyable. Grade: B+

Michael Bublé “Nobody But Me” Another consistent performer who is sticking with his formula: some original tunes, some jazz standards, and a few updates of old pop songs also. All of them have his trademark vocals on them. I like it, but am thinking he should try some different next time. Grade: B

“La La Land” Original Soundtrack  This soundtrack to the modern musical that is one of the top Oscar contenders is a fun souvenir for the movie. It is very jazz oriented, gets your toes tapping and you heart strings going too. If you loved the movie, you need to get this too. Grade: A-

“Moana” Original Soundtrack  This soundtrack to Disney’s latest animated hit, contains all the songs sung in the movie, as well as the orchestral compositions too. Plus bonus tracks also, like pop versions of the 2 main character’s theme songs. Grade: B

Eric Church “Mr. Misunderstood” I am late to the party with this guy. I would see him on country award shows and enjoy his performances. He comes across as a bit of a mix of rebel outlaw and everyday working man. Highlights include “Record Year” and “Kill a Word”. Grade: B

Rascal Flatts “The Greatest Gift of All” This is their first full-length Christmas album. They take the songs you know and perform them in new arrangements. I not so sure about the slow version of “Deck the Halls” though. I do like the a capella parts and it is good to hear the other guys’ voices than just the lead singer. Grade: B

Movies

The Girl on the Train
Emily Blunt stars as the title character. She thinks she sees a woman being murdered from her view on the train. Based on the international bestselling novel, this movie wants to be this year’s Gone Girl. So did she really see a murder, or did she do it herself because she was jealous of the woman? I liked it, but didn’t love it. A good lead performance, but not as shocking as it claimed to be. Grade: B-

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
From J.K. Rowling, this is another wizarding world that centers on magic zooligist Newt Scamander. He has a briefcase that contains magical creatures, that get loose in New York City. Eddie Redmayne stars as the main character. Very special effects heavy, I think it misses the heart of the Harry Potter movies. And I am a big fan of those movies and books. I don’t see how this is going to be a 5 movie series. Grade: C+

Moana
From the creators of Frozen and Zootopia, comes Disney’s latest animated movie: Moana. Moana is a Polynesian girl that must team with a demi-god (voiced by Dwight Johnson) to save her island. Great songs, comedy, action. I enjoyed it very much. Lin-Manual Miranda (Hamilton) had a hand in the song-writing. Grade: A

Moonlight
From director Barry Jenkins, comes the tale of Chiron, a black gay man who is growing up in Miami. The film is divided into 3 sections: childhood, teens and adulthood — with different actors taking on the same role as the movie unfolds. The first 2 sections of the movie were moving to me. It’s the third chapter I had a problem with. I wanted more for the character than what I saw on screen. So ultimately I was a bit disappointed. Good performances overall. Grade: B-

Manchester by the Sea
This drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan stars Casey Affleck as a working class guy who has to pick up the pieces once his brother dies suddenly. That includes making funeral arrangements and dealing with his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). His character must also face what went wrong with his own life and marriage. Already a major awards contender, it is a movie that shows the messy challenges in everyday life. Grade: A-

Arrival
Amy Adams plays the main character in this science-fiction drama. It concerns aliens coming to earth, and Amy is the lead person that is helping to communicate with the aliens. Jeremy Renner costars as a fellow scientist. There are parts of this movie I liked, but overall, it was just OK to me. More of a thinking sci-fi movie, than an action one. Grade: C+

Lion
One of the surprises in the awards season for me. This movie is sure to tug at your heartstrings. It concerns an Indian boy that gets lost on a train in India. He is not able to get back to his family. He is adopted by a family from Australia and moves there. As an adult, he takes up the task to find his family that he lost. You will be moved by this tale of family (both biological and adopted). Grade: A

A Monster Calls
This fantasy drama centers on a boy who has an active imagination. He imagines a great tree monster that is voiced by Liam Neeson. This monster is very tall, with arms and legs made of twisting branches. The boy is struggling at school with bullying as well as dealing with his Mom in the hospital, and his grandmother taking over raising him for the time being. The look of the movie is very cool, and has some great fantasy sequences. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Please sound off in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

 

KiltMan’s Year End Top Tens for 2016

What did I enjoy most in 2016, as far as entertainment? There was a lot of good work in all fields of entertainment. I admit, I am not a critic. I am more of a fan. I will not bore you with explanations about my choices. I will tell you, that I saw most of the movies at the theater. I also own all the albums. The singles I chose include those purchased as well as those I heard (but didn’t purchase). As always, comments are kindly welcomed.intro

Albums

  1. This is What the Truth Feels Like — Gwen Stefani
  2. Wanderlust — Little Big Town
  3. Purpose — Justin Beiber
  4. Lemonade — Beyoncé
  5. Illinois — Brett Eldredge
  6. Ripcord — Keith Urban
  7. Storyteller — Carrie Underwood
  8. Dangerous Woman — Ariana Grande
  9. In the Now — Barry Gibb
  10. Cosmic Hallelujah — Kenny Chesney

Singles

  1. Love Yourself — Justin Beiber
  2. I Took a Pill in Ibiza — Mike Posner
  3. Into You — Ariana Grande
  4. Don’t Let Me Down — The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
  5. This Is What You Came For — Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
  6. Cheap Thrills — Sia featuring Sean Paul
  7. Let It Go — James Bay
  8. One of Those Days — Little Big Town
  9. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) — Adele
  10. Setting the World on Fire — Kenny Chesney featuring Pink

TV Shows

  1. Grey’s Anatomy
  2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  3. American Horror Story: Roanoke
  4. Gotham
  5. How to Get Away with Murder
  6. Modern Family
  7. Orange is the New Black
  8. Project Runway
  9. American Idol
  10. Nashville

Movies

  1. Hell or High Water
  2. La La Land
  3. Manchester by the Sea
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. The Jungle Book
  6. The Edge of Seventeen
  7. Moana
  8. Fences
  9. Lion
  10. 13th

DVDs (or Streaming)

  1. 99 Homes
  2. Concussion
  3. Two Days, One Night
  4. Kylie Minogue — Kiss Me Once: Live at Sse Hydro
  5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  6. The Last Five Years
  7. Trumbo
  8. Carol
  9. The Gift
  10. Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids

Concerts

  1. Dixie Chicks — MMXVI Tour
  2. Gwen Stefani — “This is What the Truth Feels Like” Tour
  3. Diana Ross — “In the Name of Love” Tour
  4. Keith Urban — “Ripcord” Tour
  5. Chicago — Tour 2016
  6. Boyz II Men and En Vogue — Tour 2016
  7. Smooth Summer Jazz w/ George Benson and Average White Band
  8. Daryl Hall and John Oates — Tour 2016
  9. Rihanna — “ANTI” Tour
  10. Jason Moran — Fats Waller Dance Party

I hope you enjoyed my year-end Top Tens blog. Please sound off in the comments. I would love to hear from you. 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.

Fall Entertainment Roundup Part 1

It’s that time again for my inner critic to come out and make my tastes known. So what movies and DVDs have I been enjoying? Read on for my recommendations or pans. Part 2 will be focusing on CDs and TV shows.

Movies

Barbershop: The Next Cut
Ice Cube resurrects his hit “Barbershop” movie series. This time he’s brought in Nicki Minaj and Common, as well as series regulars Cedric the Entertainer and Deon Cole. The drama centers around gangs infiltrating the neighborhood, and possibly recruiting his son. So the shop, stays open over a weekend and offers free haircuts as a way to bring the neighborhood together. Both funny and topical too — I enjoyed my visit back to the Shop. Grade: B

Captain America: Civil War
Captain America and Tony Stark’s Iron Man face off against each other in Marvel’s latest superhero extravaganza. The rest of the Avengers (minus Thor and Hulk) are forced to choose sides in this battle. Captain thinks the team should not be beholden to any government body, while Tony wants them to sign a document which puts limits on what they can and should do as a group. Inspired turns from Black Panther, Spiderman and even Ant Man help to keep this movie fun and moving swiftly. The action sequences are great as always. You’ll enjoy yourself. Grade: A-

The Jungle Book
Director Jon Favreau has created a live-action version of Disney’s animated classic “The Jungle Book.” Featuring the voice talents of Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray as the animals and plus newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli. This movie is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen this year. You have laughs, you have great action sequences, and you have a few songs too. I was impressed. I would definitely see it again! Grade: A-

Money Monster
Julia Roberts and George Clooney star in this movie directed by Jodie Foster. Clooney plays a TV host who has a show called Money Monster where he gives financial advice. Julia Roberts plays the show’s producer. Jake O’Connell costars as a disgruntled man who takes Clooney and the show hostage over a bad stock pick. I liked this movie, but really felt that they set up a situation that they didn’t know how to resolve. So the first part of the movie was better than the ending. I was expecting some big statement about the 1% or even gun control — but you never get it. They could have pushed it much further. Grade: B-

Purple Rain
Reissued in theaters after Prince’s death, it was good to see this movie again after so long. Prince’s performance, particularly the music sequences, still stand strong. Apollonia, well, not so much. I especially didn’t care for the abusive boyfriend bit considering what we saw in real-life with Chris Brown and Rihanna. Glad to hear that the Revolution will be reuniting, just wishing their leader was still with us. Grade: B-

The Secret Life of Pets
From the same studio that brought you the Minions, comes this new animated feature that imagines a day in the life of household pets. So we get dogs, cats, a bird even a bunny interacting with one another and having an adventure in the big city. I liked it, and had fun, but ultimately it was sort of forgettable. Featuring the voices of Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart. Grade: B-

X-Men: Apocalypse
The 6th movie in the X-Men franchise is again directed by Bryan Singer. This one concerns the return of the world’s first mutant — Apocalypse, who has been buried under the temples of Egypt for centuries. He is back and wants to destroy the world. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James MacAvoy. So you have the fan favorites Raven, Magneto and Charlies Xavier. Plus you see the origins of Jean Gray, Storm and Cyclops. The story is a bit all over the place, but I still enjoyed myself. It will be interesting to see where things go from here. Grade: B-

 

DVDs

Two Days, One Night
This subtitled import from France has an interesting premise. A woman finds herself laid off from her job. Her coworkers were given a choice: a bonus or their coworker gets laid off. She takes it upon herself to convince her co-workers to change their vote over the course of a weekend. Marion Cotillard stars as the employee who tries to win over her co-workers to her side. Grade: B

Southpaw
Jake Gyllenhal stars as boxer who has to redeem himself to regain custody of his daughter. This movie is built on a bunch of clichés. Jake does the best with what he is given, but the script lets us down. Grade: C

The Gift
Another interesting small movie that makes you think. Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as a couple who lives are upended after a mysterious man from the husband’s past shows up and won’t go away. Written and directed by Joel Edgerton. It definitely had echoes of “Fatal Attraction” to me, but concerned a scorned friend instead of a lover. Grade: B

Mr. Holmes
Ian McKellen stars as Sherlock Holmes in his senior years as he is facing his own mortality. Laura Linney co-stars as the woman who is taking care of him at his residence. He is trying to hold back his decline and remember the details from his final case. He also starts a friendship with the son of his housekeeper. Despite the good cast, it was just OK to me. Grade: C

 

Plays

In the Heights
From the creator of “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” was the first Broadway hit for creator Lin-Manual Miranda. It concerns a group of citizens, Hispanic immigrants mostly, making their way in the city: Finding love, navigating careers and school, building a better future for yourself and your loved ones. The score is very hip-hop inspired and there are nice solos for a lot of the company. The dancing and choreography were very elaborate too. I really enjoyed myself! Go see it!

Make sure to come back for Part 2 featuring my reviews of CDs and TV shows. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

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.

 

Happy 5th Anniversary Kilt Man!

This month marks the 5th anniversary of this blog. There have been 226 blogs written over the last 5 years. That is an incredible accomplishment if I do say so myself! In honor of this momentous occasion I will look back on some of the highlights from the past year.Dan-5Year

I celebrated my love of all things entertainment with quarterly recaps of what I am watching and listening to. See Summer Entertainment Roundup Part 2, Entertainment Roundup 2016 Part 1 and 2, plus Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 1 and 2. Don’t worry, I am already working on one for Summer 2016.

I attended some high-profile concert tours and invited you to experience them through my eyes. See reviews of Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Janet Jackson, the B-52s and more. Plus check out my Facebook page for A View from the Cheap Seats for more photos and reviews of live music shows through the years.

I voiced my frustrations about not having a TV (Living Without TV), and what songs are played on radio these days (Radio Playlists [Stagnation]). As well as weighed in on gun control too (All Lives Matter). I also complained about the frustrations of collecting all the music of one particular artist (Complete Collections).

I gave my predictions on who would win at the Oscars and on the final season of American Idol. I also celebrated all the fantastic albums/songs by American Idols through the years.

I highlighted the hunky actors and singers that I would to see in kilts in Guys I Want to See in a Kilt Part 3. Surprisingly I didn’t write any more on kilts this year, or on Speedos for that matter. Look for new blogs coming on those topics in the coming months.

Thanks for being a part of my incredible journey on this blog. I look forward to sharing my thoughts, feelings and interests with you for many years to come. Please sound off in the comments if you have any topic suggestions. I would love to hear from you.

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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Here’s what I have been listening to and watching over the past few months. As always, comments are kindly welcome.

CDs

Ed Sheeran “X (Wembley Edition) The expanded edition of his hit album “X” with 8 additional songs. So you get the hits like “Sing,” “Thinking Out Loud” and “Photograph” as well as new songs like “Touch and Go” and “Lay It All on Me” (w/ the group Rudimental). Grade: A

Daughtry “Baptized” The fourth album from American Idol alumni Chris Daughtry and his band. Stylistically he hasn’t changed much since his debut, I was hoping he would mix it up some. Highlights include “Waiting for Superman” and “Long Live Rock & Roll” (where he name checks major acts from the 70’s and 80’s). Grade: B

Daughtry “Break the Spell” The third album from American Idol alumni Chris Daughtry and his band. Highlights include “Crawling Back to You,” “Outta my Head” and the title track. Grade: B

Elliott Yamin “Let’s Get to What’s Real” Elliott’s 3rd album is his most R&B album to date. It’s real music played by real musicians. He reminds me of Michael McDonald some, with his white-boy soul. Grade: B

Charles Kelly “The Driver” This is the first solo album from Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum fame. He doesn’t stray too far from the fold. I could imagine most of these on a Lady A album. Guests include: Dierks Bentley, Stevie Nicks and Miranda Lambert. Highlights include the Grammy-nominated title track and the blues-rock ballad ‘The Only One Who Gets Me.” Grade: B-

Dixie Chicks “The Essential Dixie Chicks” The country trio is finally heading back on the road this summer. So I picked up this collection to remind myself of all the great songs they have in their song catalog. It is easy to hear their influence in a lot of the young singers out there. Grade: A

Rihanna “Music of the Sun” The first album from the superstar. I needed to recover from the lousy “ANTI.” It contains the radio hit “Pon de Replay.” Lots of reggae and dancehall touches on this album. It showed she was an artist to watch. Grade: B-

Boyz II Men “Twenty” Celebrating 20 years as a group, this double album has 13 new songs as well as 8 re-recorded Boyz II Men classics. Nothing new really, but still likable. They still have their trademark harmonies. Grade: B

DVDs

The Last Five Years
Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan star in this movie musical about a young couple’s romance and dissolution over the course of the last 5 years. The interesting thing is it has very little dialog, and the story is told through the songs. His story starts at the beginning, and hers starts with the end. I thought it was very well done. Grade: A-

Sicario
Emily Blunt leads an all star cast including Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. She plays an FBI agent who gets involved with the DEA and helping with the war on drugs on the Mexico and American borders. It’s a situation where nobody seems to win. Grade: B+

A Most Violent Year
It’s 1981 in New York City. This drama stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Issac, as a married couple who run a heating oil company in a very competitive environment. She’s the daughter of a mob boss. He is an immigrant who is trying to make his way in a tough business. The title was a little misleading… not very violent in my opinion. But a good character study about striving for the American Dream. Grade: B-

Fifty Shades of Grey
OK, I had to see it to see what the fuss was about. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star. He’s a millionaire with a kink fetish; she’s the naïve student who falls for the wounded millionaire. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t romantic. It was just sort of like, why is this a phenomenon? I did like the music, but that’s about it. I can’t believe there are 2 sequels coming. Grade: D

Cake
Jennifer Aniston stars in this drama that deals with some heavy issues. She plays Claire, who is a pain pill addict who is trying to get by. One of her friends kills herself and she find herself investigating her life, while trying to put hers back together. Claire was in a horrible car wreck, where her child died, and from that she is now in chronic pain. Grade: A-

Movies

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
The sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, brings back Henry Cavill as Superman going against Ben Affleck as Batman. Bruce Wayne has been watching what has been going on with Superman, and is not sure that he can be trusted. So Batman takes on trying to bring Superman down. But they have to come together to fight a new enemy that has been created by Lex Luther — Doomsday. Plus Wonder Woman shows up too. I hated the previous movie, “Man of Steel.” This is better, but not by much. The actors are all fine… what I have issues with is the direction and writing. Plus, why do these movies have to be so long? In the end, it’s all a big commercial for the Justice League movies. Grade: C+

Deadpool
Ryan Reynolds stars as the title character in the latest Marvel super hero movie. He’s foul mouthed, snarky and mischievous. I was not familiar with this character at all. Overall, I liked it, didn’t love it. I had a problem with the violence, and it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. There were some similarities to “Guardians of the Galaxy” — offbeat factor, the love of old music — but that was a much better movie in my opinion. I doubt I would see a sequel. Grade: B-

Zootopia
The latest movie from Walt Disney Animation imagines a world where all the animals get along and work at various jobs. Judy Hopps is a bunny who becomes a police officer in the city, and has to work with Nick, the fox, to solve why some of the animals in the city are missing. Featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Shakira (who sings a few songs too). The movie is fun and colorful and like a lot of Disney cartoon works on couple of levels. I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

TV

The Passion Live
The Passion Live is the latest of TV’s live spectacles (The Wiz, Grease). This one was a bit of a mixed bag… not really a musical per se, and not all the way live either. The Passion tells the story of Jesus in the last few hours of his life. It was hosted by Tyler Perry, and filmed in and around New Orleans. The segments not on stage were filmed beforehand, only the action on the stage was filmed live. I found it interesting that they used mostly pop songs, and not religious songs for it. So you got songs from Phillip Phillps, Katy Perry and Tina Turner … sung by a group of artists like Chris Daughtry, Seal, Prince Royce and Trisha Yearwood. Some of the songs worked, others did not. And then when the story wasn’t being told, they showed a large lighted cross being carried through the streets of the city, plus interviews with people along the way. Overall, it was just an OK show. Not something I see as a yearly event like the producers would like it to be. Grade: C

Dead 7
SyFy channel brings together a bunch of has-been boy band singers for a zombie western. So you get Joey and Chris from NSync; Nick, Howie and AJ from Backstreet Boys; Jeff from 98 Degrees and Eric-Michael from O-Town. Plus Latin-pop singer Jon Secada too. I was surprised how straight it was played…. I was hoping for a campy movie like a “Sharknado”… but it played more like a very bad zombie movie that shouldn’t have been made in the first place. Stick to singing guys! At least BSB is working on a new album. Grade: D

That’s all for this time. Please sound off in the comment below. I would love to ehar what you are watching and listening to.

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 birthdays, anniversaries and more.

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