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Who is Going to Win American Idol 2019?

This is one of my all-time favorite reality shows. Will this season produce a superstar like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood? Highly doubtful. But Idol is still a great vehicle to get your name and your music out there to the public. So who is going to win Season 17? Read on:

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  1. Laci Kaye Booth (Age 23; Hometown: Livingston, TX)
    This girl has a very distinctive vocal style. Which can read as quirky and compared to the other contestant’s she comes off as the weak link. She is not consistent enough to go far.

 

  1. Dimitrius Graham (Age 27; Hometown: Baltimore, MD)
    A soulful young man, with some face tattoos. Can he find the right material he needs to connect with the audience? I am not sure I know what ty7pe of artist he wants to be.

 

  1. Uché (Age 24: Hometown: Sugarland, TX)
    He wants to be Prince/Terence Trent D’Arby. He is neither. He is more an entertainer than a singer. In the old days, Simon would have called him a theme park singer.

 

  1. Alyssa Raghu (Age 16; Hometown: Orlando, FL)
    She wants to be a pop star; and has put in some time getting live performance experience. I think her personality is still not showing through. She has the pipes though.

 

  1. Wade Cota (27; Hometown: Phoenix, AZ)
    He also has a very distinctive scratchy vocal. Plus he is large man, which I think will be held against him. But he is picking the right songs, which is important.

 

  1. Laine Hardy (Age 18; Hometown: Livingston, LA)
    A good-looking county-rock guy; he’s aiming for an already crowded field. He is definitely improved from the previous season — where he also placed.

 

  1. Alejandro Aranda (Age 25; Hometown: Pomona, CA)
    This guy is a bit of a trip. His guitar playing is out of this world; his vocals are good too. Image though needs some help.

 

  1. Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon (Age 26; Hometown: Catonville, MD)
    This gay preacher’s kid has shown that he has the talent to go far and rise above. Just stay true to yourself! He has echos of Elton John and Freddie Mercury.

 

  1. Madison VanDenburg (Age 17; Hometown: Cohoes, NY)
    Another big voiced full-figured girl, that reminds me of Kelly Clarkson. She can sing anything. But she needs to not reach too far either.

 

  1. Walker Burroughs (Age 20; Hometown: Birmingham, AL)
    A ginger Harry Potter, with echoes of Billy Joel and Jason Mraz. Plus he is from the South, which has done very well on Idol over the years. He has been very smart with his song choices, and he knows his voice. And he’s a sexy nerd too. I think he can win it all.

 

Those are my predictions. Did I pick your favorite to win? As always, comments are kindly welcomed. 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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Spring Reviews 2019

Temperatures are warming up and so are our entertainment options! So what have I been watching and listening to in recent months? Read on for my reviews of movies, TV shows, CDs, and DVDs.

 

Movies

Cold War
This drama is up for 3 awards at the Oscars this year (Director, Foreign Language Film and Cinematography). It is a tragic love story between a peasant girl who is a singer, and a conductor. The movie is set in post-WW II Poland, but also goes to Berlin and Paris too. The lovers are shown over 15 years, as they try to connect — only to keep missing each other — through timing, commitments, politics and more. The best thing about it was the main actress: Joanna Kulig (who reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence). Overall, I did not care for this movie. I found it rather strange and depressing. Skip it. Grade: C-

Isn’t It Romantic
Rebel Wilson leads the cast in this fun, feel-good romantic comedy. She stars as Natalie — a woman who ends up in a romantic comedy alternate universe after hitting her head. The movie sends up all the rom-com cliques, while also embracing them. The supporting cast includes Liam Hemsworth and Adam Devine (Her co-star from the ‘Pitch Perfect’ movies). Some good laughs and fun musical numbers too. It will leave you in a great mood. Grade: B+

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Time for more adventures with Emmett and Lucy in Bricksburg. This time everything is not awesome. An alien race has decimated the town lead by an evil, shape-shifting queen voiced by Tiffany Haddish. There are some cute musical numbers, including one called “Catchy Song” that will stick in your head. What I thought took away from the story was the breaking the wall bit (which they did about 3 times) in the movie. I still liked it, just not as good as the first Lego movie. Grade: B-

Five Feet Apart
This romantic drama stars Cole Sprouse (Riverdale) and Haley Lu Richardson as cystic-fibrosis patients. As the two battle this life-threatening lung disease in the hospital, they begin a relationship — despite the fact that they must stay 5 feet apart from each other as to not cross contaminate each other. What if you couldn’t touch the one you love? There is so much we take for granted when we are healthy. I totally bought into the story and the actors really sold their parts. Definitely a tear jerker. I really loved it. Grade: A-

Captain Marvel
Academy-award winner Brie Larson leads the cast of the first female-led Marvel movie. She plays Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. The movie follows the successful formula of the Marvel movies — mixing an interesting back story, action sequences and humor into a satisfying final product. The movie is set in the 90’s and features Samuel Jackson as an earlier version of Nick Fury. I also liked the friendship that Carol had with another Air Force pilot. Worth a look. Grade: B

Dumbo
Tim Burton directs the live-action remake of 1941’s animated movie, Dumbo. It stars Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton. Set in the early 1900’s, Dumbo is seen as a freak with his large ears, until he shows the ability to fly. Then he becomes the star of the struggling circus run by Danny DeVito. Michael Keaton is a enterprenuer who buys out Devito and is determined to exploit Dumbo as his star performer. Dumbo himself is adorable, and when he flies — it is thrilling to see. The child actors who play Farrell’s kids are also good. They even add in more modern messages about ecology and animal rights. I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

 

TV

Good Trouble
This is the spin-off to the Freeform series “The Fosters.” It follows the characters of Callie and Mariana as they are working in their careers in Los Angeles. The most interesting element for me is the supporting character who is a sexy bisexual male — something we haven’t seen before. The series deals with issues like “The Fosters” did before it. I just wish the characters acted a bit more mature at this point. Grade: B-

American Soul
This limited series on BET chronicles the early days of Soul Train, and it’s creator Don Cornelius. The drama unfolds mostly behind the scenes with Don trying to get the show off the ground as well as a glimpse into some of the dancers’ lives too. Plus there are arcs to the story with some real performers like Gladys Knight and Diana Ross (both played by ex-Destiny’s Child members). The more I watch it, I am not liking this show. It is too all over the place with the story lines (dancers, host, mob, celebs, etc). Grade: C

CDs

Billy Currington — We Are Tonight
At the Sam Hunt concert a few years ago, I learned that he wrote the title track “We Are Tonight”. That is one of the highlights on here that also includes “Hey Girl” and “Wingman.” He also does a duet with Willie Nelson that is very nice also. Grade: B

“Mary Poppins Returns” Soundtrack
This is the soundtrack to the hit Disney sequel of the same name. The first half includes all the vocal songs, and the second half is all instrumentals. I especially like “Can You Imagine That?,” “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “No Where to Go But Up”. The songs are really sticking with me. I find myself humming and singing them to myself. Grade: A-

Dua Lipa — Dua Lipa (Complete Edition)
Recently named the Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards this year, this is the ultra deluxe edition of her debut album. It contains 25 songs — I only new “New Rules” and “One Kiss” (with Calvin Harris) when I bought it. But I love it! She is exactly what I want in a pop star in 2019! It is very reminiscent of 90’s dance music. I look forward to more from this talented lady! Grade: A

Beyoncé — Beyoncé (More Only)
These are the extras for Beyonce’s self-titled album. So you get 3 remixes, plus 3 new songs, and a few music videos too. Kayne West adds a very filthy verse to the remix of “Drunk in Love.” Overall, I like it, but the extras are nothing spectactular. Grade: B-

Sugarland — Love on the Inside (Deluxe Fan Edition)
Country duo Sugarland plays it safe here with their mix of ballads and uptempo numbers. Contains 2 extra live cover songs from their tour. Grade: B

Brantley Gilbert — Halfway to Heaven (Deluxe)
If you like your country rocked up, this one is from you. Sonically he reminds me a bit of Big & Rich, but without the humor. He’s a country rebel outlaw, who loves his mama and his grandpa (who the album is dedicated to.) Highlights include: Grade: B-

Tim McGraw — Number One Hits
One of the more definite collections from country superstar Tim McGraw. There are 2 albums full of hits, 24 songs in all. Includes such classics as: “Something Like That,” “Real Good Man” and “Live Like You Were Dying.” This is a great overview of a country superstar. Grade: A-

Dan + Shay — Dan + Shay
Country duo (and recent Grammy winners) Dan and Shay are here with their self-titled 2nd album. I saw them a few years ago when they opened for Blake Shelton. They still remind me of Rascal Flatts — which is a compliment in my opinion. Great vocals and beautiful harmonies, plus some catchy songs too. Worth checking out. Includes the hit ‘Tequila” and more. Grade: A-

Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
This album was recently named “Album of the Year” at this year’s Grammys. It lives up to it’s hype. Kacey has created a dreamy soundscape of beautifully written and engaging songs. From the disco-pop of “High Horse” to the lovely and gentle “Rainbow,” her artistry shines through. Grade: A

LeAnn Rimes — Remnants
LeAnn continues to amaze on this album. She has gathered a great batch of songs for this album. And she is making the album she wants, without regards to trends or country radio. The results combine rock, country, soul, blues and more. She still sounds fantastic. Stand-outs include: “Outrageous Love” and “Long Live Love.” Grade: A

Maren Morris — GIRL
Grammy winner Maren Morris returns with her 2nd album — GIRL. Sonically, it is similar to her debut album rather than the big pop-hit of last year “The Middle” (with Zedd and Grey). She dips into R&B some on this album on “RSVP” and “Make Out with Me.” I am not feeling it much compared to the first album. And the guest stars are OK (Brothers Osborne and Brandi Carlile) — I can’t say they add much. My 2 favorites so far are “Flavor” and “Gold Love.” I like her, just wish the album was stronger. It is growing on me though. Grade: B-

Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
A concept-album about love and sex — this is an album to get you dancing and grooving. Easily influenced by Prince, she blends elements of hip-hop into this R&B funk fest — for an entertaining and enticing album. It also addresses equality and diversity in today’s society. I loved it. Grade: A

 

DVDs

Deadpool 2
Ryan Reynolds is back as the wise-cracking, foul-mouthed superhero — Deadpool. If you liked the first one, you will like this too. Probably not as much unfortunately. I am getting a bit tired with the breaking the 4th dimension. And the over-the-top violence. Grade: B-

Ocean’s 8
This is an attempt to extend the “Ocean’s 11” franchise with a mostly female cast. Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Anne Hathaway. The ladies conspire to rip off some jewels from the Met Gala Ball in NYC. I found this movie to be very weak, and a waste of the talented cast. Hopefully there won’t be more. Grade: D

Whitney
This worts-and-all documentary of Whitney Houston is a great glimpse into an incredible singer and performer. The director provides a few new insights into her life, as well as interviews with those that were close to her. He also had access to rarely-seen footage of her — on and off the stage. Grade: A-

The Wife
Glenn Close stars as the title-character in her Oscar-nominated role. She plays the wife of a famous author played by Johnathan Pryce — who is about to win a Nobel Prize for literature. Her support for her husband starts to unravel after a journalist starts investigating for a book. It is a bit soapy, but I still liked the leads. Grade: B

Eighth Grade
Elsie Fisher stars as an introverted teenage girl who is trying to navigate being in eighth grade. Despite being shy, she has her own youtube channel and instagram handle, and offers helpful advice to others. This movie was so close to reality, you would think it was a documentary. You feel what the girl is going through, and can relate to her. Grade: A-

Game of Thrones (Season 4)
HBO’s hit drama shows no signs of slowing down in season 4. There is more drama, action and happenings to the people of Westros. Still impressed with the great production values on this show. I am really digging it. Grade: A-

Janet Jackson — Live in Hawaii
This is the final concert from her “All for You” tour — filmed on location in Hawaii. Includes all of her biggest hits, as well as album cuts too. It’s a high-energy show, from start to finish. My biggest complaint is that she invites the crowd to sing a lot on this show. And I’d rather hear her. But I still love her. Grade: B

That’s it for this time. Please sound off in the comments if you disagree or agree with my views. 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.

Music Shows I’d Bring Back

 

These days TV shows are never really dead. If they are not on the air anymore, it is just a matter of time before someone reboots them. This blog is specifically dedicated to music TV shows. A future blog will look at scripted series that I want to reboot. Here is my list of music-themed shows that I would like to see come back (in no particular order):

American Bandstand (1952-1989)
Sure Dick Clark is gone; but Ryan Seacrest is basically the new Dick Clark. He could be the host; and wouldn’t it be cool to see kids dancing on TV. He could have established artists as well as up and comers too.

Making the Band (2000-2009)
The first seasons centered around a boy band (O-Town) created by Lou Pearlman; the rest were overseen by Diddy where he created various groups and acts. I would go back to the beginning and create a new boy band again. They tried with a show called “Boy Band” last year. But I don’t think that was very successful. Plus, a lot of the drama comes after they become a group as we know from past seasons.

Gone Country (2008-2009)
John Rich of Big & Rich oversaw this competition show. The idea was to take singers from other genres and push them into the country field. So you had Sebastian Bach, Sheila E., George Clinton and more trying to make inroads in the country music industry. It was a bit of a train wreck, with the contestants (basically has-beens) living in John’s house. I could see it being given another go.

Popstars (2 seasons in 2001)
This show created a couple of pop groups in the years that it was on. This was during the teen pop explosion of the early 2000’s. The one group had future Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger as one of it’s members.

Solid Gold (1980-1988)
Fans of the 1980’s will remember this one. Hosted by Marilyn McCoo (and Dionne Warwick). They would have musical guests as well as the Solid Gold dancers — who did dance routines to the top hits of the day. They were dressed in a lot of gold and spandex. They were definitely a kitsch appeal to it.

Dance Fever (1979-1987)
More a dance show than a music show, it showcased couples that had come from various discos across the county to compete on the show. It was hosted by Deney Terrio and Fever (2 female dancers).

Opening Act (2012)
This one only lasted one season. It was from Nigel Lythgoe who was involved with Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. The basic premise was to take an unknown artist (often from YouTube) and groom them in a week for an upcoming performance as an opening act for an established star. Headliners included Rod Stewart and Nicki Minaj. I definitely thought this one had promise.

Soul Train (1971-2006)
Catering to fans of Soul & R&B, this show was geared to an African American audience. Similar format to American Bandstand, but the dancing was more prominent — with the whole concept of the Soul Train line dance. If it catered to the hip hop crowd, I could see it being a hit again.

Surreal Life (2003-2006)
Take some D-list celebrities and have them live in a house for a week. Jane Weidlin and Vanilla Ice were among the celebrities they got to do this show previously. They weren’t all music stars, but included people from movies, sports and TV shows too.

Glee (2009-2015)
Now that Ryan Murphy is going to Netflix, I could see this show being rebooted. Bring back Mr. Shu, and then have a whole new crop of kids at the same high school. Other alumni could make guest appearances as fellow teachers or previous glee club members stopping by to mentor them on making it to regionals etc. I could see it.

That’s my list. Did I mention your favorite or did I forget something? I would love to hear your thoughts. Comments are kindly welcomed. 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.

 

 

 

Kelly Clarkson Live — 2019

Kelly Clarkson in Concert
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Staples Center

Meaning of Life Tour

Special guests: Brynn Cartelli, Kelsea Ballerini

Merchandise purchased: T-Shirt

Songs performed: Peter Pan, Dibs (With elements of I Like Me Better), Legends, Yeah Boy, Get Over Yourself, I Hate Love Songs, Cowboy Take Me Away/The First Cut Is The Deepest/Oops!… I Did It Again, Love Me Like You Mean It, Miss Me More, This Feeling (Kelsea Ballerini); A Moment Like This, Meaning of Life, Walk Away, Love So Soft, Whole Lotta Woman, Behind These Hazel Eyes, Breakaway, Piece by Piece, Because of You/Just Missed the Train/Beautiful Disaster/Sober/Good Goes the Bye/Would You Call That Love, A Minute and a Glass of Wine, Run Run Run (with John Legend), Move You, My Life Would Suck Without You, Heat, Heartbeat Song, Miss Independent (with Brynn Cartelli and Kelsea Ballerini), It’s Quiet Uptown, Never Enough, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You), Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)

Comments: Kelly Clarkson made a triumphant return to Southern California on her Meaning of Life Tour. The tour is behind her most recent album — also called Meaning of Life — released in October 2017. The album is her first R&B record, after years of pop ones.

The show started very dramatically — with Kelly in a ballgown — singing her first hit — “A Moment Like This” — a capella. She was at the end of the walkway that stretched out into the audience. This was a great reminder that this was not going to be an ordinary diva concert — the woman can actually sing live. She doesn’t need a bunch of dancers and costume changes to put on a great show.

From that she launched into the title track —“Meaning of Life” — with her full band including 4 excellent backup singers who were given a prominent role during the night. The stage was very clean — with the walkway into the audience (shaped like a microphone) plus small walkways off to the side. There was a large video screen backdrop, as well as smaller screens on the sides too. She had the “party in the pit” general admission tickets nearest the stage. I heard it even had a bar in there.

What’s cool about Kelly is how relatable and likable she is. With all the success she’s had, she still seems like the girl next door. I love the fact that she touched on all of her albums. Plus, she did some songs that were album cuts and fan favorites too (“Just Missed the Train” and “Beautiful Disaster” among others).

She sang 6 songs off of the new album. She has a segment during the show called “A Minute and a Glass of Wine.” This is the part where she has a glass of wine, and goes live on Facebook. For the show I was at, she brought out John Legend to sing “Run, Run, Run” from her “Piece by Piece” album. He is joining her on “The Voice” this season as one of the coaches. It was the first time that the song had been performed live.

She turned “Miss Independent” into a girl power anthem. She brought out her opening acts (Kelsea Ballerini and Brynn Cartelli) to sing the song with her. I loved that she was willing to share the song with them. The songs ended and the trio disappeared into the trap door at the end of the walkway.

When she came back, she had changed outfits and appeared on a pedestal in a blue dress. She celebrated her love of musical theater with 2 songs in the final section by performing “It’s Quiet Uptown” from “Hamilton” and “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman.” She had recorded that one for the “The Greatest Showman Reimagined” album.

She saved her biggest anthems for the finale: “Stronger” and “Since U Been Gone.” The crowd was dancing and singing along to them both. It was a fitting ending to another fantastic show from Kelly.

Brynn Cartelli, one of Kelly’s contestants from “The Voice” (whom she coached to a win) opened the show. She’s a singer-songwriter type who had a nice voice. She played the keyboards in addition to singing. Next up was Kelsea Ballerini. I first saw her on tour with Lady Antebellum. She’s put out another album since then, and continued to have more hits on the charts. She is vying for the country-pop lane that Taylor Swift has vacated. She paid tribute to those artists that inspired her including the Dixie Chicks, Sheryl Crow and Britney Spears. She ended her set with her collaboration with the Chainsmokers’ “This Feeling.”

Thanks to Kelly, Kelsea and Brynn for a great night of music. I loved the show!

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 2019

As a huge movie fan, one of my favorite things it to predict who will win at the Academy Awards. I do look at the oddsmakers, and who has won what during the awards season. Sometimes I just go with my gut too. Here are my predictions for the 6 top categories (to be awarded on Sunday, February 24, 2019):

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Best Actor
(Christian Bale; Vice; Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen, Green Book)
Dafoe’s movie is too small. Cooper has been consistently good, but has never won. Malek is good, but the movie is flawed. Viggo is lucky that his co-star got a supporting actor nomination, instead of a lead. Bale is the only previous winner here — but it was for a supporting role. But considering his transformation into Dick Cheney (weight gain, accent), I have giving him the edge. Final pick: Christian Bale

Best Actress
(Yalitza Aparicio, Roma; Glenn Close, The Wife; Olivia Colman, The Favourite; Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born; Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
You have a few first time nominees: GaGa, Aparico and Colman. McCarthy has been nominated before in the supporting category. GaGa is more likely to win in the song category than here. There were basically 3 female leads in “The Favourite”, so you can’t really single out Colman. Glenn Close has been nominated 7 times, but has never won. She is due. But her movie is quite small. I am picking Close, but GaGa could upset her. Final pick: Glenn Close

Best Supporting Actor
(Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born; Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Sam Rockwell, Vice)
There are 3 first-time nominees (Driver, Elliott and Grant) and 2 former winners (Ali and Rockwell). John David Washington should have gotten a best actor nomination for BlacKkKlansman. To award a white guy for that movie just seems wrong. Elliott and Grant are both part of good ensembles in their movies, and both are getting older. But Mahershala has the heat, even if the movie has been criticized. Final choice: Mahershala Ali

Best Supporting Actress
(Amy Adams, Vice; Marina de Tavira, Roma; Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk; Emma Stone, The Favourite; Rachel Weisz, The Favourite)
There are 2 former winners (Stone and Weisz) and they are likely to cancel each other out. Tavira is a newcomer to American cinema. Amy Adams has had a few nominations but has never won. King is a respected actor who has a great big showy scene in “IF Beale Street Could Talk”. Final choice: Regina King

Best Director
(Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Paweł Pawlikowski, Cold War; Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite; Alfonso Cuarón ,Roma; Adam McKay, Vice)
One former winner here: Alfonso Cuaron. Plus Adam McKay has won too, for adapted screenplay. Lanthimos is lucky to be here, same for Pawlikowski. I would love to see Spike win finally. He has an honorary Oscar, but has never been nominated in competition before. Cuarón is looking for his 2nd win — for his most personal film. Final choice: Alfonso Cuarón

Best Picture
(Black Panther; BlacKkKlansman; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Favourite; Green Book; Roma; A Star Is Born; Vice)
Black Panther has been a phenomenom… so it will not win here — it is too successful. Bohemian Rhapsody was a crowd pleaser but is still a flawed movie, whose director was fired. Roma is too small and slight to win here. It will have to settle for Best Foreign Language movie. The Favourite is basically a chick flick, so it won’t win. Green Book has the makings of a winner (historical theme that resonates with today). A Star is Born was a hit and it’s stars are well liked. Vice was not as well liked as a movie, even if the actors are liked. It is a toss-up between Green Book and A Star is Born for me. But in our troubled and divisive times, awarding a movie like Green Book would say a lot. Final choice: Green Book

Those are my predictions. Please sound off in the comments, if you feel differently or if you agree. And let me know if you won big in an Oscar pool too. 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-Winter Reviews 2019

So what have I been enjoying in entertainment for the past few months? Read on for my reviews of movies, DVDs, TV shows and CDs that I have watched or listened to recently.

Movies

Widows
This movie is directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and stars Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder). Davis is one of 4 women, who are involved with some gangsters. After a job goes wrong, they end up being widowed. The women come together to pull off one last job, to pay off a debt that the husband’s left them. This movie has many levels, and there is a lot in it. It covers female enpowerment, political corruption, income inequality, gentrification of cities, police brutality and more. The supporting cast is good and includes: Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Michelle Rodriguez and Liam Neeson. Not a perfect movie (as it tries to do too much), but overall I liked it. Grade: B-

Dr. Suess’ The Grinch
File this one under unnecessary remake. This latest take on Dr. Suess’ The Grinch comes from Illumination Studios (Minions, Secret Life of Pets). Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch. The story really feels padded at 90 minutes — so you get more of the Grinch’s back story, plus more Whoville kids and a few cute animals too. I loved the billboards around town for this movie, more than the movie. It was just OK to me. Wait for video. Grade: C

Green Book
This fact based movie tells of the unlikely friendship that develops between a black jazz musician and the white man he hires to be his driver/bodyguard during the early 1960’s. The black man in question is Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali). He is playing with his trio at series of concert dates in the Deep South. Viggo Mortensen plays Tony Lip — the tough hired to drive him to the gig. They both come to the relationship with prejudicial feelings — but they come to see the humanity in each other. Along with how much they have in common. There is a good mix of laughs and drama. This movie is sure to be remembered come awards time. Grade: A-

Creed II
Adonis Creed is back — this time he is fighting Viktor Drago (the son of Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV”). Michael B. Jordan stars as Creed. Sylvester Stallone is back as his trainer Rocky Balboa. Creed feels he has to take the fight with younger Drago, as the elder Drago was responsible for his father’s death (Apollo Creed). Who better to help Creed than Rocky who famously beat Ivan in Rocky IV? Creed’s relationship with his girlfriend (played by Tessa Thompson) is given a lot of screen time too — and contributes to the heart of the movie. I enjoyed it. Grade: B

Ralph Breaks the Internet
This is the sequel to Disney’s 2012 movie — Wreck-It Ralph. This time Ralph and Vanellope leave their home in the video game world, and go out into the internet. This was a fun movie, that works on a few levels like a lot of Disney movies. It’s a story about friendship — about growing up and self-empowerment. There are lots of nods to the real world in the internet world… including Ebay and BuzzTube (a YouTube like website). One of the most fun sequences is when they go into the Disney area, and there is a room full of all the Disney princesses. I enjoyed myself. Grade: A-

Mary Poppins Returns
The sequel to 1964’s Mary Poppins stars Emily Blunt as the title character. Not having aged, Mary is back to help the Banks family again. Michael Banks is about to lose his house unless he can find proof that his Dad left him some bank shares. Mary Poppins comes in on a kite, and walks back into the Banks’ life. Lin-Manual Miranda plays her friend Jack, a lamp lighter. You get some great songs and dance numbers including “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and “Nowhere to Go But Up.” This crowd-pleasing movie, will definitely put a smile on your face. Grade: A-

The Favourite
This costume comedy-drama has 2 women fighting and scheming to be the right hand of Queen Anne. It stars Academy-Award winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz along with Olivia Colman as the Queen. The acting is strong, the script and direction were not. And the soundtrack is just plain annoying. The movie wants to be something better than it actually is. It was not my thing. Grade: C

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
This movie has a whole new spin on the Spider-Man tale. In this movie, Miles Morales (a black-latino teenager) is bit by a radioactive spider and gains super powers. Miles finds out that he is part of a bigger spider-verse that including Peter Parker, a few woman, and even a pig. The movie is very hip-hop inspired and looks unlike any other animated movie out there. I thought it was missing some heart though. Likeable, but not really my thing. Grade: B-

Mary Queen of Scots
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) star in this costume drama that details the rivalry between Queen Elizabeth of England and Mary Queen of Scots. They are powerful women and cousins — who both respect and fear each other. Each has problems with their courts — where men have conspired to escalate the tension between the two. Multi-racial casting adds a contemporary flair to the movie. I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

Roma
Alfonso Cuarón directs this movie set in 1970’s Mexico. It follows the story of Cleo — the nanny/housekeeper for a middle-class family. We see all that she does for the family — from cleaning up after the dog to waking the kids in the morning. The movie is beautifully shot in black and white. Cleo has drama in her personal life, and gets pregnant by a guy who wants nothing to do with her after the news. It is a nice portrait of a working-class woman trying to make it in world. Compared to some other contenders, this movie is very slight — and not something I would expect to do well in the bigger categories. Maybe best foreign language movie or cinematography at best. Grade: B-

Vice
From director-writer Adam McKay comes Vice. It’s the story of Dick Cheney — from his early days as a drunk college student to becoming Vice President under George W. Bush. He cleaned up his act enough to get into politics starting with the Nixon administration. And with each Republican president, his career advanced — ultimately landing him in the VP spot. This is one of the best movies of the year — and sure to be recognized at Oscar time. Christian Bale is great as Cheney, and the strong supporting cast includes Amy Adams, Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell. Like “The Big Short”, McKay mixes comedy and drama to tell a compelling story. Grade: A

Second Act
Jennifer Lopez stars in this heart-warming, feel-good movie. She plays Maya, a middle-aged woman who receives a second chance in life after her resumé gets faked by a friend. Leah Remini, Vanessa Hudgens and Treat Williams round out the supporting cast. If you like J Lo, you’ll like the movie. It’s predictable, but there are a few solid laughs. And everyone can identify with the idea of rising above your circumstances, and making the most of your life. Grade: B-

The Mule
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this movie about a senior citizen who becomes a drug mule for the Mexican cartel. It was inspired by a true story. Eastwood gives a good performance, and the supporting cast is strong too (Dianne Wiest, Bradley Cooper and Laurence Fishburne among them). Some could say this movie is a commentary about life today… about how seniors have a hard time making ends meet in retirement, and the high cost of living in general. Grade: B

On the Basis of Sex
This is the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and one of the important early cases in her career. The movie follows her from her Harvard days to winning a case with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Felicity Jones stars as RBG, with Armie Hammer playing her husband. This movie follows on the heels of the documentary “RGB” from earlier this year which was a better movie. But this one has a lot going for it still and is worth watching to see a powerful women come into her own. Grade: B+

Aquaman
This is the latest movie in the DC Extended Universe — starring Jason Momoa as the title character, and directed by James Wan (Furious 7). I wasn’t expecting much given the history of the DC films, but I was pleasantly surprised. It is basically an origin story, but it’s not one we have heard before. Momoa proves he is a star — he has the right amount of humor and command in his role. Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard and Willem Dafoe are in the supporting cast. The movie is easily too long by about 30 minutes, and it does end up in FX overload like a lot of these movies. But it is filled with enough action, humor and spectacle to keep the story moving along. Hopefully the sequel will be better. Grade: B-

If Beale Street Could Talk
From director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), comes the adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. The movie is about the relationship between Tish and Fonny — a young African-American couple. Fonny ends up in jail accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Tish meanwhile is having his baby. It’s another small, sad movie from Mr. Jenkins. It reminded me of the documentary “13th” about the prison industrial complex. Though the film is set in the 70’s, there are definitely parallels to what is happening today (racism, inequality). The leads have great chemistry and the film is beautifully shot. Worth watching. Grade: B

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
This is the latest movie from the Cohen brothers — now streaming on Netflix. It is similiar thematically to Seth McFarlane’s “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” The movie is made up of a bunch of short films, that all involve death in the Old West. Some are more comedic — others ironic. None of them are more than 20 minutes long, some as short as 5-10. Liam Neeson, James Franco and Tyne Daly are part of the big ensemble. Overall, I liked it — but it is not one of their best. Grade: B-

Bird Box
Now streaming on Netflix, this post-apocalyptic thriller stars Oscar winner Sandra Bullock. There is a force (or a creature) that is causing people to kill themselves when they see it. Bullock’s character is a pregnant woman who ends up in a house with a bunch of people trying to survive. The movie alternates between the now and 5 years in the future. I was pleasantly surprised with this movie, and it kept me entertained. It is definitely worth watching. Grade: B+

DVDs

Unsane
This movie from director Steven Soderbergh was filmed entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus. It stars Clare Foy (The Crown) as a woman who may or may not be going insane. She checks herself into a mental hospital, and while there she is convinced that she is being followed by a stalker who terrorized her years before. Not a perfect movie, but definitely worth a look. Grade: B-

Pitch Perfect 3
The final movie in the saga of the Barton Bellas (acapella singing group). So you get you favorite characters back for one last hurrah — this time playing on a USO tour, with a competition for the best against some regular musicians. I liked the singing — the story is lame and ludicrous. It has a pseudo spy story as a subplot. Definitely the worst of the 3 movies. Grade: C

Downsizing
Matt Damon stars in a movie directed by Alexander Payne. The concept is that the Earth is too crowded, and technology has advanced such that they can shrink you to just inches tall. He was promised a paradise, but it turns out there is just as many problems when he is shrunk as when he was regular size. The previews made it seem as if it was a light-funny concept; while it gets pretty heavy with social issues in the second half. Nice idea, but he couldn’t follow it through as far as I am concerned. Grade: D

Masters of Sex (Season 3)
The third season of the Showtime drama follows the lives of Masters and Johnson and their study of sexuality. Now their book has finally been published in a changing world. Their personal relationship continues with a few bumps along the road. And there are issues with their spouses and children too. Grade: B

TV Shows

The Crown (Season 1 and 2)
This Netflix series has already won some major Emmy and Golden Globe awards. It follows the rise of Queen Elizabeth in England. So you have appearances from Winston Churchill, her sister, Margaret, and her husband, Phillip. It feels like a documentary as times — a costume drama with personal insights into the Queen as well as matters of state too. I found it fascinating, and very entertaining. Grade: A

Murphy Brown
Candice Bergen returns as the title character after 20 years away. She becomes the anchor of a morning news program, along with a few regulars from the old series. While it is good to have them back, the show itself feels old and creaky. And I don’t like the focus being her hate for the Trump administration. I doubt this reboot will last more than the current season. Grade: C

The Connors
This is otherwise known as the Roseanne show without Roseanne. I gave it 2 episodes, and was not impressed. It is missing it’s star and it shows. Hopefully, this will die a quick death. Grade: C

American Horror Story: Apocalypse
The latest in this anthology series brings back characters from “Murder House” and “Coven.” Cody Fern plays a character who may be the anti-Christ. A lot of the regular performers are back like Kathy Bates, Sarah Paulson and Even Peters. The story itself is all over the place. It started with people in a bunker escaping the Apocalypse, then it turned into lets bring back the old characters, and then a fight against witches and warlocks. More comedy than previous seasons. But not one of my favorite seasons. Better luck next time. Grade: C

CDs

Imagine Dragons — Origins
This is the 4th studio album from the band fronted by Dan Reynolds. It includes the hits “Natural” and “Zero” (from “Ralph Breaks the Internet”). I have become a fan of this band over the course of this year — my favorite album being the last one “Evolve.” This one is not clicking with me so far. I like it just OK. They have been better. Grade: C+

John Legend — A Legendary Christmas
John lends his voice to both traditional and new songs for his first Christmas album. The result is sort of a soulful jazz holiday album. Nothing groundbreaking, but nice. Grade: B

Eric Church — A Desperate Man
This country-rock rebel continues to impress. This is his 6th studio album. He knows what works for him, and he brings it every time. Highlights include: “Hangin’ Around” and the title track. Grade: A-

Pentatonix — Christmas Is Here!
On their 4th Christmas album, Pentatonix continues to amaze. You get some traditional songs in inventive arraignments, plus a few lesser-known songs too done equally well. Plus great vocal guest stars in Kelly Clarkson and Maren Morris. I loved it! Grade: A

Brett Eldredge — Glow (Deluxe)
This is the deluxe edition of 2017’s “Glow.” It includes 7 new songs, all traditional favorites including “O Holy Night” — which also has an acapella version. Done in a big-band, rat-pack style, his voice shines through. Grade: B

The Greatest Showman Reimagined
Last year’s hit soundtrack album to the Hugh Jackman movie about PT Barnum, gets a reimagining by some of today’s hitmakers including Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Kesha and more. I was just OK on the movie, but the soundtrack was great. So are the reworked versions — which make them all sound like they would fit on today’s pop radio. Grade: A-

New Kids on the Block — Thankful (Unwrapped)
This is the deluxe edition of the “Thankful” EP, with 4 added Christmas songs. Special guest is DMX on one of the songs. They are all original songs. I wish there was more. Grade B-

Jason Mraz — Know.
Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz sticks pretty close to his formula on his latest. Highlights include “Have It All” and “Might as Well Dance.” Grade: B

That’s all for now. What have you been watching and listening to? 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.

Concerts I am Looking Forward to in 2019

As a live music fan, one of my favorite activities of the New Year, is planning all the concerts that I would like to go to. How many of my old favorites will be on the road? What about new favorites or just artists I have never had the chance to see before? Read on for my list of those artists I would like to see in 2019:

Carrie Underwood
She will be heading out on the Cry Pretty 360 tour named after her recent 6th album of the same name. Opening acts include: Maddie & Tae and Runaway Jane. Before then, she will be having her 2nd child, and then hitting the road on May 1. I did see her as an opening act for Kenny Chesney, after she was on Idol. But I have yet to see her as a headliner. It would be great to see her as the superstar she is.

Shawn Mendes
This sexy singer-songwriter will be hitting the road in support of his 3rd album the self-titled “Shawn Mendes.” So far the album is not doing much for me. I liked the “Illuminate” album much more. But he is talented guy, and I am sure he puts on a great show.

Kelly Clarkson
My favorite American Idol is hitting the road in support of 2017’s “Meaning of Life” album. Like Carrie, she is having all-female opening acts: Kelsea Ballerini and Brynn Cartelli. This will be my 5th time seeing Kelly. The last time I was privileged to be there in Los Angeles when she told the crowd that she was pregnant with her 2nd child. The album is one of my favorites from her — and I can’t wait to hear the new songs live including “Heat” and “Whole Lotta Woman.”

Cher
After performing a few farewell tours, Cher is back on the road in support of her ABBA covers album — “Dancing Queen.” She is calling this tour: Here We Go Again. Nile Rodgers and Chic will be the opening act for her. It is sure to be a crowd-pleasing show for all.

Backstreet Boys
Backstreet’s back —alright! The boys will be embarking on their biggest tour in years in support of their new album “DNA” which featured the hit song “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” There will be lots of screaming for these middle-aged guys I am sure. Plus some fun dance moves too.

New Kids on the Block
They are still hangin’ tough! The guys are heading out on the Mixtape Tour with special guests: Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty by Nature. NKOTB are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their breakthrough album “Hangin’ Tough.” It should be a fun night. They are stopping locally at the Hollywood Bowl.

Ariana Grande
Heading out on the Sweetner Tour is diva in the making — Ariana Grande. Her recent album may not have been my favorite of hers, but she is still riding high on the charts. Normani from Fifth Harmony is one of the opening acts.

Queen & Adam Lambert
Coming on the heels of the hit motion picture “Bohemian Rhapsody” — comes the latest tour from the legendary rock group and American Idol runner-up. It is sure to be a trip down memory lane for new and old fans. And they are charging pretty high prices too.

Kenny Chesney
Kenny is touring behind his 2018 album “Songs for the Saints”. The album was more mellow and introspective than a lot of his song catalog — but I am sure there will be plenty of crowd-pleasers in the set.

Eric Church
Eric’s latest tour is called the “Double Down Tour.” He will be playing 2 nights in every city he visits — with a different show each night as promised. And he does very long shows from what I read too — like 3 hours. Not surprising really —considering that Bruce Springsteen is one of his heroes (and has been known to have long shows himself).

Hugh Jackman
It is being billed as “The Man. The Music. The Show.” He will be singing songs from “Le Miserables” and “The Greatest Showman” along with other songs. It should be an interesting evening — maybe he will call on some of his costars to show up on stage. Calling Zac Efron!

Madonna
A new album is in the works for this year. Can a new tour be far behind? She has had some remarkable extravaganzas over the years. But I would be fine with her strumming guitar and doing an unplugged type show too. We’ll see if she comes in concert this year.

Pink
This was my favorite concert from last year. She keeps extending the Beautiful Trauma tour — because she can and she is selling out shows still! Catch it while you can.

That’s it! Did I mention your favorite artist? Which shows are you looking forward to this year? 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.

 

 

 

KiltMan’s Year-End Top Tens for 2018

Here is my list of my favorite movies, TV shows, albums, singles, DVDs and concerts from the past year. I will not bore you with descriptions. As always, comments are kindly welcomed at the end. Thanks for reading.

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Top Movies

  1. The Hate U Give
  2. Vice
  3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  4. Green Book
  5. Boy Erased
  6. BlackKKlansman
  7. Black Panther
  8. Incredibles 2
  9. Mission: Impossible — Fallout
  10. A Star is Born

Top Songs

  1. Meant to Be — Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line
  2. Youngblood — 5 Seconds of Summer
  3. New Rules — Dua Lipa
  4. One Kiss — Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
  5. The Middle — Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey
  6. Don’t Go Breaking My Heart — Backstreet Boys
  7. Perfect Duet — Ed Sheeran and Beyonce
  8. Wolves — Selena Gomez & Marshmellow
  9. What Ifs — Kane Brown featuring Lauren Alaina
  10. No Tears Left to Cry — Ariana Grande

Top Albums

  1. The Mountain — Dierks Bentley
  2. Graffiti U — Keith Urban
  3. Now — Shania Twain
  4. Maroon 5 — Red Pill Blues
  5. Imagine Dragons — Evolve
  6. “The Greatest Showman” Soundtrack
  7. Josh Groban — Bridges
  8. “A Star is Born” Soundtrack
  9. Cher — Dancing Queen
  10. Basia — Butterflies

Top TV Shows

  1. The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
  2. Pose
  3. Grey’s Anatomy
  4. Riverdale
  5. How to Get Away with Murder
  6. Will & Grace
  7. Bob’s Burgers
  8. World of Dance
  9. The Crown
  10. The Handmaid’s Tale

DVDs

  1. The Florida Project
  2. Loving Vincent
  3. Victoria & Abdul
  4. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
  5. Marshall
  6. The Big Sick
  7. Baby Driver
  8. Stronger
  9. All the Money in the World
  10. Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Concerts

  1. Pink — Beautiful Trauma Tour
  2. Jennifer Hudson
  3. Ed Sheeran — Divide Tour
  4. Josh Groban — Bridges Tour
  5. Dierks Bentley — Mountain High Tour
  6. Charlie Wilson/the O-Jay’s
  7. The Go-Go’s
  8. Michael McDonald/Kenny Loggins/Christopher Cross
  9. Smooth Summer Jazz: Boney James, Third World, Norman Brown & Bobby Caldwell — Love & Soul, Pieces of a Dream and Avery*Sunshine
  10. DSB — A Tribute to Journey

Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments if you agree or disagree with my selections.

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-Winter Reviews 2018

So what have I been enjoying as far as entertainment the last few months? Read on for my reviews of CDs, TV shows, movies and DVDs.

 

CDs

Boney James — Honestly
I recently saw him as part of a Smooth Jazz line-up at the Hollywood Bowl. This collection shows why he is he the star he is. It is pleasant collection for a Sunday afternoon. Grade: B

GLEE — The Music — The Quarterback
This is the music that accompanied the episode that dealt with the death of cast member, Cory Monteith. As such, it is batch of sad songs including “Seasons of Love” from RENT and “I’ll Stand by You” from the Pretenders. As usual, the cast does a great job on the songs. Grade: B-

Ariana Grande — Sweetner
After 2 hit-packed albums, Ariana takes a bit of a left turn for me. I have enjoyed the first single “No Tears Left to Cry” but the rest of the album is just fair. Her vocals are great, the songs not so much. Pretty forgettable as far as I am concerned. The only other song I like is “Borderline.” Grade: C

Carrie Underwood — Cry Pretty
Carrie’s latest is being called her most personal album yet. She helped pen almost all of the tracks, but it doesn’t sound much different than most of her albums. She’s got a winning formula and she is sticking to it. Country pop, country rock, some ballads, even a few sort-of message songs like “The Bullet” and “Love Wins.” Grade: B+

Idina Menzel — idina.
Idina, best known for “Frozen”, “Rent” and “Wicked” — shows that she is an artist to be taken seriously. She sounds fantastic and the selection of songs she picked for the project are tailor made to her strengths. She sings about self-empowerment, love and loss, and family. I am impressed with her. Grade: A-

Josh Groban — Bridges
After his last album of Broadway songs, Josh returns to fine form on his latest collection. All the songs have lavish orchestral arrangements. He sings songs in English, French and Spanish. Special guests include Sarah McLachlan and . It also includes a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Highlights include: Granted, River and Won’t Look Back. Grade: A-

Imagine Dragons — Smoke + Mirrors
This is their 2nd album that includes the semi-hit “I Bet My Life.” I wsn’t that impressed with that song — But their first and third albums made me want to check out this one. There are definitely a lot of songs, as the super deluxe version has 21 songs on it. Stand outs for me are “Friction” and “It Comes Back to You.” Grade: B

Blondie — Pollinator
I am a long-time fan of this group, but it took me awhile to get into this album. Special guests include: Joan Jett and Sia. Favorite tracks include: “Fun” and “Gravity.” Ultimately it is likable, but forgettable. They have done better. Grade: C+

Cher — Dancing Queen
Following on the heels of her performance in “Mamma Mia 2” comes this ABBA covers album. Cher is in fine form covering ABBA’s greatest hits. Her versions are just as fun as the originals. I could see this being the start of a series for her — covering dance era classics or diva classics in her own style. I am enjoying this! Grade: A-

Josh Groban — Stages Live
This is the live version of Josh’s “Stages” album — in which he covered his favorite songs from Broadway musicals. The arrangements are not that different than the studio versions. It is still nice to hear a real singer with real musicians. Kelly Clarkson and Audra McDonald (separately) duet with him on 2 songs. Grade: B

“A Star is Born” Soundtrack
Lady GaGa and Bradley Cooper share the mic on the soundtrack to the hit motion picture. Cooper has a decent voice on his blues-rock tunes. It includes snippets of dialogue that I could have done without (And that you want to skip on repeated listenings). GaGa is the one who shines most on this collection though. Her voice sounds amazing, and she really sells the emotion with the songs. Grade: A-

Basia — Butterflies
No one does what Basia does. She is definitely in her own lane. Her latest is another solid collection of latin jazz pop numbers. It will take you back to her earlier albums — and that is good thing. Grade: B

Josh Groban — Noel (Deluxe)
There are 6 new tracks added on to Josh’s 2007 Christmas album. It includes a duet with Tony Bennett. More holiday classics and “Believe” from the movie “Polar Express.” Grade: B

Gwen Stefani — You Make It Feel Like Christmas (Deluxe)
Gwen adds 5 new songs to her Christmas album from last year. She co-wrote 2 of the new songs. Grade: B

Miley Cyrus — Can’t Be Tamed
This album bombed for her when it came out. I am finally getting around to hearing it. It is all dance pop with lots of autotune. She also includes a remake of Poison’s “Every Rose Has a Thorn.” One songs even sounds like a Kesha rip-off. Some of the songs are growing on me. But she has definitely done better. Grade: C+

TV Shows

The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1)
This show based on the book of the same name — definitely lived up to it’s hype. In a not-so-distant future, most women are barren and must have others carry their children. The society is male dominated, and the leaders wives watch their husbands have sex with the handmaid’s while the wife holds them down. Starring Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men. It was a very engrossing drama. Grade: A

Movies

BlackKKlansman
The latest from director Spike Lee is the fascinating true story of a black police officer who infiltrates the KKK in Colorado during the 1970’s. John David Washington (Denzel’s son) stars as Ron Stallworth. Adam Driver is his fellow detective who he sends in his place in face-to-face meetings. Spike ties the events that happened into what is happening today with the current political situation. Painful to watch at times, but very poignant, it is definitely a movie that needs to be discussed. Grade: A-

Crazy Rich Asians
Based on the best-selling book, this movie tells the story of Nick and Rachel. Nick takes Rachel to Singapore to meet his family — little does she know what she is getting into. They are one of the richest families in Asia. There is some comedic moments, but it was more of a family drama to me. It reminded me of an Asian “Dynasty”. There are lots of interesting characters to develop. I can see how it is a trilogy. I liked it, but wasn’t wowed by it. We’ll see how the story progresses. Grade: B-

A Simple Favor
If you like twisty thrillers like “Gone Girl”, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” or “Single White Female” this one if for you. Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, an aspiring mommy vlogger who starts a friendship with Emily (Blake Lively), another mom from the school. Emily is everything Stephanie isn’t — she’s glamorous, sexy and seems to have it all (money, looks, hot husband and beautiful house). Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favor — to pick her son up after school. Emily goes missing, and this is what sets the rest of the story into motion. There are lots of twists and turns and the actresses seem like they are having a great time. I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

First Man
This is the story of Neil Armstrong — the first man to set foot on the moon. This is the latest movie from Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle and reunites him with his La La Land star — Ryan Gosling (who plays Armstrong). Claire Foy plays his wife Janet. It details the struggles with the space program and their defeats before the historic Apollo 11 mission. It also delves into the Armstrong’s personal lives including the death of their daughter at age 2. The space flight scenes are shown being very claustrophobic and scary. It was an interesting portrait into the man behind the myth. Grade: B+

The Hate U Give
Based on the best-selling book of the same name, this movie should be required viewing for everyone. It’s story, though fiction, is ripped from the headlines of today. A young woman named Starr is the sole witness when her friend Khalil is brutally murdered at the hands of a white police officer. Starr is living in 2 worlds, she goes to school at a private school that is mostly white, while living in a neighborhood that is mostly black. Amandla Stenberg gives a fantastic performance as Starr. And the supporting cast including Regina Hall and Common are also terrific. There are so many levels to this movie — the importance of family, community, dealing with daily life struggles and having a voice when society says you shouldn’t have one. I cannot recommend it enough! GO SEE IT! Grade: A

Beautiful Boy
Steve Carell and Timothée Chamalet star as father and son in this fact-based movie. It deals with the son’s descent into drug addiction, specifically crystal meth. There are stints in rehab, followed by glimmers of hope, followed by relapses. How does a kid from a good family get into such a mess? And how do you help someone who can’t help themselves? The movie shows the havoc that addiction causes on the individual and those in their family too. Both leads give great performances. Grade: A-

The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Based on the characters from the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” books, this movie wants to extend the franchise. It stars Claire Foy (Netflix’s The Crown) as Lisbeth Salander. Unfortunately, she is stuck in a convoluted story involving her long-long sister, and a plot to gain control of some doomsday technology. This movie is one huge disappointment. There are a few nice action sequences, but they gave them all away in the trailer. I didn’t like it at all. Skip it! Grade: C-

DVDs

Paddington 2
This cute sequel offers more misadventures of Paddington the Bear. Hugh Grant stars as his nemesis — a has-been actor that frames the bear for a robbery —sending Paddington to jail. I liked it. Grade; B

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
This movie tells the true story of Oscar-winner Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and her much younger lover, Peter (Jamie Bell). Gloria is a washed up has-been when she meets and falls for an up and coming actor named Peter. This movie follows their on and off-again romance over the course of 2 years — from England to NYC and LA too. It was an interesting story, and one I wasn’t familiar with. Check it out. Grade: A-

Game of Thrones (Season 3)
Season 3 has the family Stark spread out and fighting to regain the throne. As always, great production design and exotic locations. Not to mention all the interesting characters — even if it is hard to keep them straight at times. Grade: A-

Tom of Finland
This biopic tells the story of famed gay illustrator Tom of Finland. He survived fighting in WW II, and then tried to find his place in society — despite feeling different (like a lot of gay people). His success ultimately happened because of people in California — And he was able to see it with his own eyes upon his visits to the country. Grade: B-

That’s’ all for now. What have you been enjoying as far as entertainment? I would love to hear from you. Please sound off in the comments below. 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.

Dierks Bentley: Live & in Concert

Dierks Bentley in Concert
October 13, 2018
Hollywood Bowl

Special guests: Hot Country Knights, Lanco, Brothers Osborne

Mountain High Tour

Merchandise purchased: T-shirt

Songs performed: The Mountain, I Hold On, Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go), Somewhere on a Beach, Woman Amen, Black, Burning Man, Up on the Ridge, 5-1-5-0, Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident), Riser, Different for Girls, Am I the Only One, Come a Little Closer, Say You Do, Thousand Miles From Nowhere (with Dwight Yoakam), Fast as You (with Dwight Yoakam), Living, What Was I Thinkin’, Sideways, Drunk on a Plane

Comments: Dierks Bentley closed his Mountain High tour out at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a triumphant end to his latest trek behind his 9th studio album “The Mountain.” The album was written and recorded in Colorado, and that locale helped to inspire him with the songwriting on it.

This was the 4th time that I had seen Dierks. Last time I saw him I was a bit underwhelmed with him. He wasn’t up to snuff for me. I felt he was going through the motions. But his albums have been consistently good as far as I am concerned. So once I heard the new album, I knew I had to be there.

He’s upped his game with his production. The stage had a raised part on the back and sides, plus a huge video screen behind also. Plus the lighting was good, and helped with the overall enjoyment of the show. There was only 1 guest star that night: Dwight Yoakam. This is someone who inspired him, and one of his first concerts her went to. He sang 2 songs with him. Plus the guys from Lanco and Brothers Osborne also sang with Dierks too.

I was happy that he sang “Up on the Ridge” — the title cut from his bluegrass album of the same name. That is one of his best albums. And he sang a few of his inspirational songs too like “Riser” and “I Hold On”. “Riser” was dedicated to one of his fans who was battling cancer.

Deirks even made his way to small stage about a third of the way up. This is the same stage that I have seen other stars use over the years (Shania Twain and Michael Bolton to name a few). He drank a beer with one guy from the audience, plus played a couple of songs there.

He has a couple of songs that are about drinking and getting laid (Somewhere on a Beach, Drunk on a Plane), but he has added a few songs showing some sensitivity to women (Woman Amen and Different for Girls). I was hoping that Elle King would have joined him on the 2nd one, but it wasn’t to be.

For the finale, Dierks appeared on top of the lights in a flight captain outfit. Then the lights moved up and down to simulate that he was riding an airplane that was flying. It was a cool effect.

The first opening act for the night was Hot Country Knights. This was supposedly the best 90’s country cover band around. They came out with their mullets and hair spray. It was king of jokey and phony…. The music was just OK, and the jokes were sort of lame. It turns out that Dierks was in the group, as he pulled off his disguise as they were exiting the stage.

Next up was Lanco — who released their debut album earlier this year. They were a decent country rock group. And last on the opening ticket were the Brothers Osborne — 2 brothers whose music is reminiscent of country rock rebels like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. They even had a song that celebrated marijuana.

Thanks to Dierks and his band for bringing the songs and the spectacle. Keep up the great work.

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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