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Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Jennifer Hudson: Diva Rising

Jennifer Hudson in Concert
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Hollywood Bowl

With the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins, conductor

Songs performed: Dreamgirls (Theme), Love You I Do, Trouble, We Gon’ Fight, Spotlight, Where You At, Burden Down, Hallelujah, It’s Your World/Uptown Funk, Golden Slumbers, Saving All My Love for You, And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going, Never Enough, Dreamgirls (Theme)

Comments: Oscar- and Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson made her Hollywood Bowl debut last weekend with 2 shows. It was a master class in showmanship and vocal virtuosity. The show was bookended by the main theme from “Dreamgirls” — the award-winning movie musical from 2006 that was her breakthrough. She was joined on onstage by her backing band, 3 backup singers she dubbed the Hudsonettes (including former Idol contestant George Huff), as well as 10 dancers.

Jennifer is one of those artists who doesn’t come in concert very often. I only remember her coming to town once — on a tour with Robin Thicke. So, when I heard she was coming to town, I knew I had to be there. She was one of my favorites on season 3 of American Idol — only to be eliminated in 7th place.

She covered all 3 of her studio albums “Jennifer Hudson,” “I Remember Me” and “J HUD.” Plus she had inspired covers of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You” — one of her biggest inspirations.

Dressed in a shimmery silver dress, Jennifer gave us the full diva concert we were wanting and expecting. She commanded the stage like the star she is. She seemed humbled at the idea of playing the Hollywood Bowl. It was a place she had dreamed about performing — and here she was doing it. She asked for the house lights to be turned on, so she could take it all in. Management seemed to ignore the request, but she asked again later in the show and they obliged.

Besides the dancers, there were also smoke and laser effects that were used throughout the night. I heard someone complain on the way out that she didn’t need such things. I agree — but she is such a force of nature that she deserves a big production. And the production details never let you forget that her voice was the real star of the show.

She showed her versatility — from Broadway to gospel — from dance songs to ballads — she proved she could do it all. And she did it all with style and flair. During “It’s Your World” she came down into the audience. The song added in some bits of “Uptown Funk” — as Jennifer danced her way across the Bowl floor. She wanted to see your best dance moves.

She sang “Golden Slumbers” (a Beatles cover) from the animated movie “Sing”. The Whitney Houston cover led into her big “Dreamgirls” song — “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.” Interestingly, she only sang an abbreviated version of the song. She eliminated the quieter parts of the song and just delivered the meat. Those roof-shattering and glass-breaking high notes that come in the second half. It was an amazing vocal. She really has quite the gift. I was thoroughly impressed!

She ended the show with her take on “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. She was dressed in a long red dress with extremely long train — such that it had to be carried out by 10 people.

The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, under the conduction of Thomas Wilkins, opened the show with a 30-minute set of orchestral tunes, including one Latin dance number. Thanks to all for an amazing concert!

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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Goodbye to The Fosters and Nashville

Two TV shows that I have watched since their debuts are going (or already gone) off the air this year. One I will be sad about and one I will be happy about. Let’s get to the good one first.

Der-Cast-Von-Nashville-In-Der-Sechsten-Staffelfosters-ending-spinoff-freeform“The Fosters” premiered on June 3, 2013 on ABC Family (now Freeform). It was created by Peter Paige (Queer as Folk) and Bradley Bredeweg. It concerned an interracial lesbian couple raising 5 kids, one biological and 4 adopted. The white mom (Stefanie) is a cop who works with her ex-husband (Mike). Her wife is a biracial black woman (Lena) who is an administrator at the school that the kids attend.

This is a family that I fell in love with. Callie and her brother Jude first came to the house as foster kids. Brandon is the oldest son, and biological son of Stephanie and Mike. Mariana and Jesus are the adopted twins that came to the house as young kids.

Over the course of 5 seasons, there was a lot that happened to this family. Callie and Jude came with a lot of baggage; and then there was the drama with trying to adopt the kids. Then Brandon and Callie had a forbidden romance. Jesus had a serious brain injury. Mariana had relationship troubles and was juggling multiple guys. Brandon was going to an exclusive music school until he messed it up. Jude came out as gay and had boy troubles too. The adults had their share of issues too: relationship struggles, struggles with careers and aging parents.

There are so many issues that got covered on this show: LGBT issues (gay marriage, gay teens, transsexual rights); public education (charter schools versus public schools); immigration, teen prostitution; the challenges of the foster care system; cheating (in school and relationships), drug addiction, guns at school, and more!

At the end of it all, this was a family that was always there for each other. I am happy that the story is going to continue with Callie and Mariana in the new show coming in 2019 — Good Trouble. And it looks like most of the family is going to be dropping by from time to time. Be sure to catch up with “The Fosters” on Netflix.

Which brings us to the bad — Nashville. Nashville premiered on October 10, 2012. It ran for 4 seasons on ABC; and 2 seasons on CMT. It was created by Academy Award winner Callie Khouri.

It was centered on the rivalry between a country superstar (Connie Britton) and a young country-pop upstart (Hayden Panettiere). Plus, there were other characters who were adjacent to them who also worked in or were trying to be in the country music business.

I have to admit I am happy this show is going off. It is a train wreck. And I have been hate-watching it this entire last season. I don’t like any of the storylines. The first 3 seasons of this show were good. The show started to have some issues in Season 4, then it was cancelled by ABC. But it was picked up by CMT — but it was never as good as it was on ABC. Then they went and killed off the Connie Britton character. And it was all downhill from there.

The thing that has kept me watching has been my love of the characters and the music. At the end of the day, it was a soap opera. And they definitely played up those elements in Seasons 2-4. There used to be great original music in each episode too. They even sold soundtracks to the show and made a few concert tours and specials too.

I loved the fact that there was a gay country star portrayed on the series (even if he was only one of the supporting characters). And I loved the dynamic between the 2 main females. Their characters ended up becoming friends over the course of the series. And there were some cute guys on the show too. And wonderful songs and performances. Too bad it didn’t last.

Farewell, and good riddance, Nashville — you over-stayed your welcome!

So, what do you think? Are you going to miss The Fosters and Nashville? Sound off in comments. 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.

Go-Go’s Still Got the Beat

Go-Go’s in Concert
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Hollywood Bowl

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular
with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Thomas Wilkins, conductor

Special guest: The U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West

Go-gosSongs performed: This Town, Vacation, How Much More, Tonite, Automatic Rainy Day, Mad About You, Lust to Love, Here You Are, Cool Places, Cool Jerk, Skidmarks on My Heart, Get Up and Go, The Whole World Lost Its Head, Our Lips Are Sealed, Head Over Heels, We Got the Beat

Comments: Celebrating 40 years as a band — The Go-Go’s — headlined a series of shows at the Hollywood Bowl in honor of Independence Day. Two years ago, the band bid farewell to touring with a show at the nearby Greek Theatre. Back then, Kathy Valentine was out of the group. She is now back in the group, but drummer Gina Shock had to sit out the current shows this time due to recent surgery. So, the fans didn’t get the full band as promised by the advertisements.

This was my 10th time seeing the band over the years — starting in 1982 at the same venue. I have seen the band approximately every 3.5 years in those 36 years. So, it is safe to say that I am a big fan.

Besides it being the 40th anniversary of the band, the band’s songs are the basis for a new Broadway musical — “Head Over Heels.” It does not tell the story of the Go-Go’s, but just uses their songs to tell the love story in the show.

Fans got treated to songs from their 4 studio albums, plus 1 song from their “Return to the Valley of the Go-Go’s” collection and 1 solo song each from Belinda Carlisle (Mad About You) and Jane Wiedlin (Cool Places, her duet with Sparks). The band’s sound has settled into a sort-of grungy power-pop —reflecting their early punk roots on the LA music scene.

I appreciate that Jane Wiedlin had a dress that said RESIST across it. The band even changed the lyrics of “The Whole World Lost Its Head” to reflect the challenging times we are living in.

During half of the songs, the Orchestra played along with the band filling out their sound. And there were even a few orchestral break-downs during a couple of the numbers, adding to the fun of the night.

This was not your typical Go-Go’s audience at the shows either. Most times you see them, people are on their feet for the entire show — dancing and singing along. Maybe, it’s because we are all older now, but that was not the case this time. So, there were periods of dancing, mostly with the more popular songs in their song catalog.

Near the end of the show, the band gave us the 1-2 punch of “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Head Over Heels” before leaving the stage for the fireworks. Then the Orchestra took over and gave us the traditional patriotic tunes as the fireworks were set off. The Go-Go’s returned for a rollicking, fully-orchestrated take on “We Got the Beat” that made the crowd go wild.

There was a local marching band that came out and marched around the perimeter of the front section before the band came back out. It looked dramatic — but in reality, they weren’t really used to their full extent.

Belinda was not in her best voice that night (at least for me), but the band played with so much enthusiasm and passion that they more than made up for it. I do hope that they record some more music together (maybe a remix album or a Christmas album). So hopefully in 3 years, I will be seeing the full group on their latest “farewell” tour. Thanks to the ladies and the LA Phil for a great evening. You’ve still got the beat!

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 2018 Vol. 1

So what has been catching my fancy as far as entertainment? Read on for my latest take on movies, DVDs, CDs, TV shows and more.

Movies

Tully
Charlize Theron stars as overwhelmed mom in this comedy-drama from director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody. Theron plays Marlo who is just about to give birth to her third child. She is overworked and overwhelmed like many women are. Her brother suggests they get a night nanny to help them with the baby. In comes Tully, played by Mackenzie Davis. She is a young, free-spirited woman here to help Marlo through the difficult time she is having. Things do get better for awhile… but the movie takes some interesting turns as it comes to its conclusion. It definitely gets a bit weird and strange. Theron is all in — in her performance. Grade: B-

Avengers: Infinity War
The third Avengers movie has the team combating the biggest and most powerful villain yet — Thanos. All of your favorite characters are here: Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Spiderman, Black Panther and more. Plus the Guardians of the Galaxy also are part of the story. Thanos is in search of the Infinity Stones, which are scattered throughout the galaxy. Each stone he gets makes him more powerful. The movie ends on a bit of a sad note, as this is the first of 2 movies. We’ll have to see if everyone survives or not. I enjoyed this more than the last Avengers movie, but the first one, is still my favorite of the 3. Grade: B

RBG
RBG is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice. This is a documentary about her life. It tells of her humble upbringing, and her days as one of the few female law students in school. The movie recounts her pioneering cases in the 70’s that she argued before the Supreme Court — paving the way for women’s rights. Plus her stint on the Supreme Court starting in 1993 under President Clinton. We also find out about her personal life with her husband and children too. It is fascinating look at a woman who fights for what she believes in. Grade: A

Book Club
Four old friends (Jane Fonda, Candace Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Dianne Keaton) in a book club decide to start reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.” This light-hearted romantic comedy shows how it affects the ladies lives and their relationships. There are jokes about getting old and getting laid — not everything hits. But it is still an enjoyable movie. You will want to spend time with these women. Grade: B

DVDs (or streaming)

I am Not Your Negro
This documentary is based on the writings and interviews with James Baldwin. He talks about being a black man in the US and the struggles that come with it. The film also shows all the struggles that we are currently experiencing in this country with race. It is sad how little seems to have changed in the last 50-60 years. Grade: A-

Game of Thrones — Season 2
The Stark family is on a mission to avenge the death of the patriarch in Season 1. Everyone is scattered among the 7 kingdoms, dealing with trying to get by in the age of King Joffery. There are battles and drama a plenty. Plus, we start to see what the dragons are all about too. Grade: A-

It
This is the 2017 version of the Steve King novel. It takes a few cues from “Stranger Things.” You have a bunch of young kids, in the 80’s, this time being hunted by a killer clown versus an alien from the upside down. The kids come together as a bunch of misfits to help rid the town of this menace. There are some nice scares, and special effects. I enjoyed it. Grade: B

Victoria & Abdul
This movie details the extraordinary friendship between Queen Victoria and Abdul, an Indian immigrant who starts as her servant and becomes her mentor as time moves on. Judi Dench plays the Queen. It is an interesting story, with great performances. Grade: B+

Strike a Pose
This documentary catches up with the dancers from Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour — 25 years later. They were also featured in the “Truth or Dare” movie that was a behind the scenes look at the tour. Definitely a must see for Madonna fans. It was interesting to see how they have aged and what they are up to now. And to revisit how big a deal it was to see such openness and honesty with being gay back in the 90’s. Grade: A-

GaGa: Five Foot Two
Lady GaGa gives us a behind the scenes glimpse into her life. It covers the period of her recording the “Joanne” album, it’s promotion, as well as more intimate scenes with her family and her doctor visits. It culminates with her headlining the Super Bowl Halftime show in 2017. We see the real person behind the music — warts and all. I loved the topless chat with her stylists by her pool. The little monsters will love it. Grade: B+

Princess Cyd
This movie tells the story of Cyd — a teenager who goes to live with her aunt for a summer. While there she finds out about her mother, and falls for a local girl that works at a coffee house. What I found refreshing about it was how the aunt just let Cyd find her way, and did not judge her. It also touched on the power of the written word as the aunt was a writer and so were many of her friends. It was a refreshing take on a coming of age story. Grade: A-

Barbra — The Music… The Mem’ries… The Magic!
Available for streaming on Netflix, this video is the last concert tour for Barbra Streisand. It was filmed in December 2016 in Miami. She delivers a set that is strong on memories from her 6 decade career. It includes a duet with Jamie Foxx on “Climb Every Mountain” as well as “Jingle Bells” from her first Christmas album. Her voice is not as strong as it once was, but she is still a compelling performer. Grade: B-

CDs

Tim McGraw — Emotional Traffic
Tim is in fine form on his 11th studio album. He always seems to find a good mix of party tunes and ballads. It includes a duet with his wife on “One Part, Two Part” as well as duet with Ne-Yo. Stand-out tracks include: “Felt Good on My Lips” and “Right Back Atcha Babe.” I do wish he would mix it up sometime — but that doesn’t happen here. It safe, and enjoyable. Grade: B

Pentatonix — PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol. 1
The latest from the a capella group finds them covering a bunch of today’s top hits including “Despecito” (Justin Beiber, Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi), “Perfect” (Ed Sheeran), “New Rules” (Dua Lipa) and more. The arrangements are nice, if not ground-breaking. Likeable, and forgettable at the same time. Grade: C+

Keith Urban — Graffiti U
Keith is continuing to push the boundaries with country and pop on his latest album. It includes the first single and timely anthem, “Female”, as well as his collaboration with Julia Michaels on “Coming Home.” He explores reggae sounds on “My Wave” as well as some EDM sounds on “Drop Top.” I could have done without the little 2 song intros. They don’t add anything to the mix. Same goes for the outro on “Steal My Thunder.” Overall, though, it is a solid effort. Grade: B

Jennifer Hudson — JHUD
This is Jennifer’s third album. This time she mixes it up. It is mostly R&B tinged dance music. Special guest include: TI, Iggy Azalea, Timbaland and R. Kelly. Her voice is amazing as always. I’m not so sure she has found her direction yet with her recording career. Grade: B-

Kylie Minogue — Golden
Kylie’s 14th album has a little bit of a country vibe going on — on several tracks including the first single “Dancing.” But it is still Kylie doing what Kylie does best — which is dance pop. Enjoyable, if not ground-breaking. Grade: B+

Dierks Bentley — The Mountain
This is Dierks’ 9th album. It features duets with Brothers Osbourne (who are touring with him this year) and Brandi Carlile. The sound is a mix of bluegrass and country rock. Thankfully it is a bit of a step forward for him. The last few projects it felt as if he was coasting to me. It includes the first single “Woman, Amen” — a tribute to the woman in his life. Grade: A-

Imagine Dragons — Night Visions
Their third album won me over. So now I am going back and getting some of their older work. This is the first album and features the hits: Radioactive, It’s Time and Demons. This one I would label more alternative than the third one. I got the Deluxe version and at 18 songs, it is a little on the long side. But overall it is a good collection and shows promise. Grade: B

TV

Champions
From Mindy Kaling, comes a new comedy on NBC. It concerns a little Indian boy, who dreams of being a Broadway star. He ends up living with his biological dad and his uncle in New York. So you have the culture clash between white and Indian. Add in the fact that the kid is gay too. And that the brothers work in a gym named “Champions.” I tried the first couple of episodes, and it was just OK at best. I wouldn’t bet on it to last. Grade: C

For the People
This drama from Shonda Rhimes, use her formula of pretty people in the workplace — this time focusing on lawyers. The show is set in NY, and features people both on the defense and the prosecution. So 1-2 stories are told each episode, from both sides of the equation. Racial diverse casting, with mostly newcomers — with some TV vets (Hope Davis, Ben Rappaport) in plum roles. Grade: B

Roseanne
She is back, and so is the rest of the cast too. Say what you want about Roseanne Barr, but Roseanne Connor is very relatable. And the show is still funny too. Struggles with paying bills, healthcare, and raising kids — are all universal themes. And then she is adding in some hot button topics like gender non-conforming kids, and Muslim neighbors too. I am enjoying the reboot. Grade: A- (Editor’s Note: This review was written before the show was cancelled).

Pose
The latest drama from Ryan Murphy details the ball scene of the late 80’s and 90’s in NYC. This is the scene where LGBT people of color came together to compete as “houses” (groups) of dancers. This is the scene where Madonna’s “Vogue” came out of. There are many transgendered performers in the cast. It is interesting to see how these people often came from nothing and made their lights shine once they were in the spotlight. Grade: B

Books

13 Reasons Why (Jay Asher)
I had to check this out, as I really enjoyed the Netflix series. The book is just as good. The story details the 13 reasons why teenager Hannah killed herself. It is told to Clay (a classmate and potential love interest) through a series of cassette tapes that Hannah made. It touches on topics such as self-esteem, rape culture, body shaming and more. It definitely makes you think about your actions. I highly recommend it. Grade: A

Arcade (Drew Nellins Smith)
Mr. Smith writes about growing up gay in the 1990’s. It’s billed as fiction, but it was inspired by his real life. He becomes obsessed with going to an adult arcade on the edge of town. That’s the place you can buy DVDs, sex toys and watch porn movies on monitors in little rooms. He describes the people and situations he encounters there. I liked it at first, but then got tired of it. The man in the story didn’t learn or grow — he was doing the same thing over the course of the entire novel. And it doesn’t really have much of a story structure — just 1-4 page antidotes — for each “chapter.” Grade: C-

Plays

West Side Story
We saw this at a local production on Mother’s Day weekend. The story and songs still hold up. There were a few contemporary touches added to the show: gun violence and migration were touched upon. The male lead was not as strong as the female lead. I can’t complain too much, I enjoyed it. Grade: B

School of Rock
From Andrew Lloyd Webber comes the Broadway adaptation of the Jack Black-starring movie. So you have a lovable loser, who fakes his way into being a teacher at a high-end kid’s school. There he teaches his kids how to rock — with his end game being for them to perform as his back-up band in a battle of the bands. The kids were amazing and played their own instruments as well as sang their own vocals. There were a few stand-out numbers including “Stick it to the Man”. I had fun. Grade: B

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

Pink Brings the Fire

Pink in Concert
Friday, June 1, 2018
The Forum

Beautiful Trauma World Tour

Special Guest: DJ Kid CutUp

Merchandise purchased: T-Shirt

Songs performed: Get the Party Started, Beautiful Trauma, Just Like a Pill, Who Knew, Revenge, Funhouse, Just a Girl, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Secrets, Try, Just Give Me a Reason, I’m Not Dead, Just Like Fire, What About Us, For Now, Barbies, I Am Here, Fuckin’ Perfect, Raise Your Glass, Blow Me (One Last Kiss), So What, Glitter in the Air

Comments: Pink brought her world tour behind her 7th studio album — “Beautiful Trauma” — to Southern California in a series of shows at various venues. I was lucky enough to see her this time. I have been a fan since the beginning — when she was seen as a white single version of Destiny’s Child.

This is the third time that I have seen her in concert. The first was in 2002 for the Party Tour in support of her 2nd album. Then she was the opening act for Justin Timberlake in 2007. She was just starting to do the aerial acrobats that she has now become so famous for.

The evening started with “Get the Party Started” — and that she did as she was swinging from a giant chandelier that was above the stage. The stage was shaped like a heart, with walkways, trap doors and a moving central walkway down the middle. She had the party pit like you see at a lot of shows these days. This is closest area to the stage — that has a group of spectators on both sides.

The dancers were all dressed in pink outfits, and delivered hard-hitting choreography and elaborate aerial stunts. The second song was the title track from “Beautiful Trauma” that she had performed on the side of a hotel in a spectacular performance at the American Music Awards in November 2017. It was the first of 7 songs off the new album that she performed that night. She touched on all of her albums other than the first and third albums.

In the lead-up to “Revenge”, a short video was played called Revenge Land.” It featured clay animation couples that were arguing, and then it ended up with half of the couple being killed. It was sort of dark and twisted. The song was performed with a giant blow-up of Eminem (who is her duet partner on the song). One of the balloon handlers was making the mouth move as needed. The song ended with Pink knocking the balloon off of it’s feet.

As I learned from her first tour, she is not afraid of cover songs. She covered No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” as well as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in this section. Both were delivered in high-energy vocal performances. She also performed the title track from her album “I’m Not Dead” — this was the biggest surprise of the night, as far as her song catalog. The song was not a single, so I was a little surprised she chose it over the other songs that were hits from that album (U & Ur Hand and Stupid Girls).

For “Secrets”, one of the new songs, she did a dramatic aerial act with a bare-chested male acrobat who was dressed in a blue square-cut swimsuit. It was a very well choreographed. For “Just Like Fire,” she had fire coming up from the back of the stage (fireworks would be released from there duding other parts of the show). It was a spectacular visual.

I also enjoyed her stripped down segment in the middle of the show that featured “Barbies” and “I Am Here.” Both are from the new album. She took us to church on “I Am Here” with the crowd clapping and stomping along to the bluegrass/folksy take on the song.

Before “What About Us” she had a video interlude that showed images of diversity and inclusion, as well as images of struggle and oppression. Her rainbow coalition of dancers and backup singers added to the feeling of the song. There was even a sexy black man in a yellow kilt. A huge part of Pink’s appeal is that she is a misfit, and doesn’t fit the standard of beauty of what a woman should look or act like. She is strong and powerful. She is not afraid to speak her mind and to stand up for what she believes in.

Near the end of the show, she replayed her speech from the MTV awards that talked about her daughter and gender identity. She went on to salute those trailblazers who broke the norm as far as masculine and feminine — people like Michael Jackson, Prince, David Bowie, Janis Joplin and George Michael.

“Raise Your Glass” was given the huge production treatment it deserved with all the dancers and lighting. She saved her most spectacular stunt for “So What” — where Pink was seeing flying all over the arena, on a couple of wires. She was tumbling all over the place — and the crowd was going crazy. She even had a few stands that she could land on near the back of the arena.

She closed the evening out with “Glitter in the Air.” It was the close of an incredible performance from a true artiste. She has the vocals and performance skills to keep us enthralled over the course of an evening — all the while coming across as a regular, relatable woman who is just having some fun. I can’t wait till the show comes out on DVD.

DJ Kid CutUp opened the show with a set filled with a lot of 80’s pop and rock songs, mixed in with some of today’s hits. Thanks to all for a fantastic evening!

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 7th Anniversary KiltMan!

This year marks the 7th anniversary since I started this blog in 2011. In that time, I have written 283 blogs — with an average length of 700 words. That comes out to 198,100 words — WOW! For a shy guy like me, I have definitely had some things to say! Let’s re-visit some of the highlights from the last year:

IMG_4570-final

  • Current Events: Last June during Pride month, we had a Pride Protest in Los Angeles instead of the usual LGBT Pride Parade. I thought it was especially fitting in the age of Trump, plus it was the 1-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting. Unfortunately things have gotten worse for LGBT Americans in the past year, so we need to keep on marching and protesting. I also asked the question: What if Your Sexuality Didn’t Matter. I hope we all see the day when who you love doesn’t matter.
  • Concerts: As a live music fan, it was a banner year for going to shows. I was able to see some of my favorites for the first time — including Mary J. Blige and Sam Hunt. They were worth the wait. Also, it was fun to see one of my favorites: Katy Perry. So happy to see her success on American Idol.
  • Kilts: Since this blog is named “KiltMan in SoCal” it was about time I took on that topic. I had to ask the question — Are You a Kilt Guy? I took a stab at writing some fiction with my Kilt of Horrors story. It was thrilling to hear it read on a podcast. And I pondered which celebrities that I wanted to see in a kilt. It is one of my most popular and long-running topics on this blog.
  • Reality TV: I celebrated the return of American Idol. First, by offering my suggestions for the show. And then by predicting the winner for the current season. It is still the best singing competition on the air (Sorry, The Voice and The Four).

This blog has been such a great outlet for me. I have learned so much about myself by writing it. I look forward to many more years of it. Thanks for reading and kilt on!

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.

Who Will Win American Idol 2018?

I said goodbye to this show in 2016, and here I am picking a winner for the new season. As a long-time American Idol fan, I was surprised that it was coming back so fast. The judges are fine — Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. I would have gone with a panel of unknowns (like Bobby Bones) or former contestants for the judges myself. And I am not liking how short this season is. It will be the shortest season of Idol I think. There have been some drastic cuts along the way too. I did like the episode where the contestants sang with stars… even if some of their stars were not very well known (Banners? Bishop Briggs?… never heard of them). One of my favorites, Ada Vox, was eliminated in the lower Top Ten. I guess America wasn’t ready for a drag queen winner. I thought she would make the Top Five — but it wasn’t to be. I am disappointed that the Idols Tour for this year is only having the Top 7. But then again, at least they are having a tour. They didn’t do one on the 15th season. Following are my picks for places 5 to 1:

American-Idol-Top-5-e1525669925745

 

  1. Michael J. Woodard (20, Student, California) He is one of those people that surprises you. Interesting song choices too, but some how he makes them all work: from Broadway to Sia. He has an innocence like Michael Jackson. And the radio friendly vibe of The Weeknd.

 

  1. Maddie Poppe (20, Student, Iowa) The quirkiest girl left in the competition. This girl is a singer-songwriter type who has had some strange, but compelling, song choices. I question how commercial she is. She could fill an arena or a coffeehouse.

 

  1. Cade Foehner (21, Student, Texas) The resident heartthrob of the season — with his long flowing hair. He’s a rocker, who favors classic rock. And he’s a strong guitar player too. He’s definitely good in his genre, but again I question his marketability in today’s market (which isn’t too rock friendly).

 

  1. Gabby Barrett (18, Student, Pennsylvania) Definitely a child of Idol past, with her professed love of Carrie Underwood. She looks like a star, and she knows how to perform for the crowd and the audience at home. Country is probably the most successful genre coming out of Idol. I think she will go toe to toe with my #1 pick:

 

  1. Caleb Lee Hutchinson (19, Musician, Georgia) He can play guitar and slay with his down-home vocals. He looks like a star too. And his voice reminds me of country stars of the past — George Jones and Strait among them. He earns plus points for being from the South, as that has been the most successful region for Idols to come from.

 

Those are my picks. Please sound off in the comments if you agree or disagree with my choices. It’s undetermined if the show will be coming back for the 2019 season, but if it does, I will be watching.

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.

Spring Reviews 2018

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

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

 

DVDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TV

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guys I Want to See in a Kilt 4

As an avid kilt wearer, one of my favorite past-times is making up lists of cute guys that I would love to see in a kilt. These men could be wearing them in character in the movies or TV, or maybe strutting down the red carpet or posting an Instagram pic for their fans. All I know is that they would definitely rock them. Read on for whom I would like to see in a kilt:

Brandon Larracuente (13 Reasons Why) He wasn’t even the lead in this show, but he definitely made an impression on me! His manly good looks would work well for a modern utility kilt — while hanging out with friends at Coachella. I could totally see it!

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Noctural Animals, Kick-Ass) There’s something raw and animalistic about this man. He would look great on the red carpet in a dress kilt at a movie premiere.

Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Wind River) He first came to my attention on “The Walking Dead.” But he has proved to be one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. He would look great in a casual kilt or a dress kilt — I can’t choose!

Russell Tovey (Loving, Quantico) With his big ears and British accent, I find this guy pretty adorable. He plays a spy on Quantico, so maybe he could go undercover in a kilt for some operation.

Luke Evans (Beauty & the Beast) He’s the 2nd out gay celebrity on here (after Russell Tovey). He looks like the guy who would star in a period drama. So let’s have him wear a fancy dress kilt for a fancy party in one scene.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley (singers from Florida Georgia Line) These rule breakers are currently country’s top duo. They came out with the smash “Cruise” with Nelly in 2012, and have been riding high ever since. They love country, pop and hip-hop. Why not break some rules with fashion too?

Adan Canto (Designated Survivor, X-Men: Days of Future Past) He plays one of the President’s closest advisors on the ABC series. Not afraid to show his body, I could see him wearing a Sport Kilt to compete in a Spartan Race.

Charlie Weber (How to Get Away with Murder) He plays a shady lawyer on the hit ABC drama. He’s a man’s man… with a nice trimmed beard. He would look great wearing a kilt to the Emmy awards.

Shawn Mendes (singer “Mercy,” “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back”) The sensitive, and sexy, singer-songwriter has won me over after seeing him on “MTV Unplugged.” He could totally rock a kilt on his globe hopping world tours.

So what do you think of my list? Who did I forget? As always, comments are kindly welcomed. And please check out the past editions of this topic here on my blog. 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.

 

Winter Reviews Part 2 2018

It is time for some more entertainment reviews. Read on for my latest takes on movies, CDs and DVDs.

Movies

Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman give a tour-de-force performance as Winston Churchill in this gripping WW II drama. We see the man behind the masterful speeches — at home with his wife, dictating and editing his speeches and interacting with the British public during the rise of Hitler’s Germany. What is interesting is how this movie intersects with 2 others: The King’s Speech and Dunkirk (As there are overlapping story lines between them). Mr. Oldman is sure to win the Oscar for his performance. Go see it. Grade: A-

Molly’s Game
Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed this movie based on the true story of Molly Bloom. She was once an aspiring Olympic skier, and later became known as the Poker Princess. Jessica Chastain stars as Molly, with Idris Elba as her lawyer and Kevin Costner as her father. Molly falls into running hi-stakes, big money poker games in Los Angeles (and later New York). These games attract celebs, athletes, politicians, mobsters and more. Until she gets caught by the FBI. This is a well-written and -acted true story about one women’s fight for personal redemption. Grade: B+

Black Panther
The latest superhero movie from Marvel brings us the origin story of T’Challa (aka Black Panther). This character was first introduced to most people in “Captain America: Civil War.” Despite the fact that the comic book originally came out in the 60’s. Chadwick Boseman plays the title character, the newly crowned king of Wakanda, the most technically advanced country in the world. What I liked about the movie was that we finally get a movie with a superhero of color. Wakanda is a proud African nation with plenty of powerful and dynamic women. The movie has a great cast including Michael B. Jordan, Angela Bassett and Andy Serkis among others. It lagged a bit for me, as there was a lot of time spent setting up the story. And by the end, it is a bit of an FX overload like most of these movies. I liked it, I didn’t love it. But Black Panther is a refreshing addition to the Marvel universe. And I look forward to what they do with the character. Grade: B+

Annihilation
Natalie Portman leads the action in this sci-fi thriller. It is written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex-Machina). Portman plays a biologist with a military past. Her husband has just returned from Area X. And he is not himself. In Area X, there is this happening called ‘The Shimmer.” Portman leads an all-female crew into the Shimmer, to investigate it and get some answers. There are a few scares and run-in’s with interesting creatures and landscapes that have mutated. It all ends with a cerebral trippy finale that will leave you questioning what exactly is going on in the Shimmer. I enjoyed myself. Grade: B+

 

CDs

Shania Twain “Now” Shania Twain returns with her first new album in 15 years. I was skeptical at first, but I am getting into it now. Her songwriting is still as catchy as ever. Her voice does sound a little different, but hey, so do most singers this far into their careers. Stand outs include “Life’s About to Get Good” and “We Got Something They Don’t”. Grade: B-

Blake Shelton “Texoma Shore” A safe but forgettable set from Blake Shelton. Yes, the guy is a good singer and a nice guy. But after a few listens, I still couldn’t remember one song title on it. No Gwen Stefani duet this time. He can do better and has done better before. It’s time to shake up the formula. Grade: C

Justin Timberlake “Man of the Woods” Justin is back with his latest effort. It is not a groundbreaker or a game changer — but it is a solid pop album. Previews had people wondering if Justin was going country. But, no that is not happening here. It doesn’t suffer from the bloated feeling of the “20/20 Experience”. The first single “Filthy” was just OK, the second single featuring Chris Stapleton is better. Justin in content in his life and his wife and son are featured on the album. Grade: B-

Kelsea Ballerini “Unapologetically” After the success of her debut album, Kelsea is back with her sophomore set. She previewed some of these songs on her tour with Lady Antebellum last year. She is going for the pop-country girl slot that used to be for Taylor Swift and before her Shania Twain. She co-wrote most of the songs on the album. Highlights include: Miss Me More and Legends. Grade: B+

Imagine Dragons “Evolve” They are back. After stumbling a bit on their second album, Imagine Dragons have found success with their latest — by calling on some of today’s top hitmakers including Justin Trantor. Highlights include: Believer, Thunder and Whatever it Takes. The songs sound like hits… but I don’t think they are very rock at all. Grade: A-

Darius Rucker “True Believers” Darius is always solid. This was his 3rd country album and featured the hit single “Wagon Wheel.” He’s not going to win any new fans with this, but those that are already fans will eat it up. Grade: B-
Videos

Blade Runner 2049
This sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner takes place 30 years after the events of the first film. It is directed by Denis Villenueve and stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. Goslign plays K, a new replicant who is a blade runner. He uncovers something after terminating one replicant. It seems there are some bones that indicate that a replicant has given birth. This mystery leads K to seek out Decker (Ford) who is now in hiding. The production design and cinematography are both top-notch. The story is just OK to me, I can’t say I care so much about this version of the future. It is all a bit moody and dull. I liked this one about the same as the first. Grade: C+

Icarus
This Academy-Award nominated documentary starts out telling the story of a man who wants to improve his time in a bike race. So people tell him he should start doping. He then gets in contact with a scientist in Russia to help him do so. The movie switches about half way in, when the scientist comes to the US and seeks asylum. He divulges the truth of how the Russians have been cheating at the Olympics through doping for the past 50 years. It is definitely an eye opener for any Olympics fans. Grade: A-

Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron stars as a secret agent in Berlin during the 1980’s. Set to a soundtrack of 1980’s new-wave hits, the movie asks why can’t a girl be a bad-ass like a Bond or Jason Bourne? I found the story to be a bit convoluted, but I enjoyed the action sequences. Plus there is a lesbian make-out scene too. James McAvoy co-stars as a fellow agent. Grade: B-

Roman J. Israel Esq.
Denzel Washington stars as the title character in this movie — for which he is nominated for Best Actor. Roman is a lawyer working for a firm in downtown Los Angeles. He’s the brains, and his boss who owns the firm is the face. After the owner has a heart attack, he is forced to take a role in the day to day business. You see Roman is a bit of nut, a social misfit with a great mind who is stuck in another era. Colin Farrell is a slick criminal attorney who becomes Roman’s new boss at another firm. Roman finds himself in trouble after trying to negotiate with a public defender. And the story takes some dark turns. Denzel definitely goes all in with his performance. I can see why they nominated him. Grade: B-

Strong Island
This Oscar-nominated documentary tells the story of William Ford. William is a black man who was murdered at the age of 24 — 26 years ago. His story is told by friends and family including his mother, sister and the filmmaker (who is also a sibling). We learn how the tragedy shattered the family and they have never recovered from it. His killer was never charged. There was no justice. This is a heart-breaking film to watch. You will be moved. Grade: A-

The Florida Project
This movie tells the stories of the families living in the budget hotels in Orlando, near Disney World. What is interesting is that the movie is framed around the lives of the kids. Willem Dafoe stars in his Oscar-nominated role as the hotel manager. A lot of the residents are working minimum wage jobs and living in the hotel barely getting by. It is a movie that is very much of our time. I highly recommend it! Grade: A-

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. 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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