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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.

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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.

Ed Sheeran: Star Rising

Ed Sheeran in concert
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Rose Bowl

North American Stadium Tour 2018

Special guests: Anne-Marie, Snow Patrol

Songs performed: Alarm, 2002, Perfect, Trigger, Rockabye (Clean Bandit cover), FRIENDS (Anne-Marie); Berlin, Crack the Shutters, Open Your Eyes, Empress, Run, Shut Your Eyes, Heal Me, Chasing Cars, Just Say Yes (Snow Patrol); Castle on the Hill, Eraser, The A Team, Don’t / New Man, Dive, Bloodstream, Happier, Tenerife Sea, Galway Girl, Feeling Good / I See Fire, Thinking Out Loud, One / Photograph, Perfect, Nancy Mulligan, Sing, Shape of You, You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

Comments: Ed Sheeran played the Rose Bowl last weekend for a triumphant stop on his world tour. Since his debut in 2011, he has made an amazing ascent — and he is now one of the biggest stars in the world.

What is interesting about Ed is how varied his influences are, and how many genres he is good at. He appeared to be a folk singer when he came out with “The A Team”. Since then, he has shown us he is a balladeer, a dance-pop singer (who could challenge Justin Timberlake), an alt-rocker, and an aspiring hip-hop artist too. All sides of Ed were brought together in this concert. What’s amazing is that he only has 3 studio albums to his credit: + (Plus), x (Multiply) and / (Divide).

Ed started the show off at 9 PM with “Castle on the Hill” — one of 2 songs that served as lead singles off the latest album. I had seen clips of him performing before, and knew to expect that he performs alone with help from a looper (a tool for creating music loops).

The stage itself was pretty great. It looked like a giant carnival/circus backdrop. With small video screens vertically on the stage itself, intermixed with lights. Plus a huge video backdrop and 2 large video screens about 5 stories tall on either side of it too. You have to have something that looks great from far away — when you are playing to a crowd of 70,000.

Ed played various guitars throughout the night — acoustic and electric. Plus he drank tons of bottled water. I am sure it gets hot under the lights.
He is very personable and relatable. He hoped to win over 2 groups that night: the boyfriends (those whose girlfriend’s like Ed’s music but not them) and the super dad (those that brought their kids to the show). He said that his Dad was a super Dad and took him to shows as a kid.

It was interesting to me that their were as many kids in the audience… he comes across as a nice guy. But there are dark sides to his songs — with references to sex, drugs and booze.

I loved the lighting for the show. There were lots of blues and reds used during the night. And then there were some full color and tabloid-like shots used during the song “Galway Girl.”

He combined a couple of songs into mini medleys. One of the highlights for the night was the medley of “Feeling Good” (Nina Simone cover) with his own “I See Fire.”

The crowd had great energy that night and were dancing and singing along all night. It was amazing that he commanded the crowd the way that he did. He was definitely on fire that night. Highlights for the night included “Don’t/New Man”, “Sing”, “Living Out Loud,” “Bloodstream”, “Perfect” and “Shape of You.”

The show was opened by 2 acts. First up was Anne-Marie. She is a dance-pop singer who has written with Ed. I recognized 2 of her songs. She had a decent voice. Next up was Snow Patrol. They had hired Ed as an opening act for one of their tours and he was repaying the favor. They were good, but I only knew the one song “Chasing Cars”.

Thanks to Ed for an amazing concert. I was so happy to finally see you!

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

Summer 2018 Reviews 2

Here are my takes on CDs, movies, TV shows and more from the past few months.

CDs

Shawn Mendes — Shawn Mendes
Shawn is back with his 3rd major release. He won me over with his last album. This one is just fair to me. The first single “In My Blood” has grown on me. This is a more R&B tinged album than the predecessor. I am not sure I like that direction for him. I could hear Nick Jonas on some of the songs, but for me, it is not quite working for Shawn. Maybe it will grow on me. Grade: C

Sugarland — Bigger
Sugarland is back. After a few years apart and various solo projects — the duo of Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles is back with more music. They have some songwriting help from Taylor Swift on one song. I find that this one is on constant repeat for me. Catchy songs and beautiful melodies. I am loving it. Grade: A-

Eric Church — The Outsiders
This is the 2nd album I have from him. The first being “Mr. Misunderstood.” He’s got the country rock rebel thing down. Highlights include the title track as well as “Roller Coaster Ride” and ‘That’s Damn Rock & Roll.” Not sure what to make of the “Prelude: Princess of Darkness” — a long spoken word intro into another song. Grade: B

LeAnn Rimes — Lady & Gentlemen
LeAnn takes on the songs of male artists on her 10th studio album. She covers songs from Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard among others. Her voice sounds great as always. Vince Gill is one of the co-producers on the album. I like it. Grade: A-

Lisa Stansfield — Seven+
This is the remix album for “Seven.” Out of the 16 tracks, there are only 7 songs. So, there are multiple remixes for some of the songs. It is nice collection of silky smooth dance songs. There is a retro-soul feel to the production. And her voice sounds great as always. Lisa is coming to the US this fall, on her first tour in many years. I hope I can go! Grade: B

Toni Braxton & Babyface — Love, Marriage & Divorce
They have collaborated many times over the course of their careers, but this is the first time they have done a duets project. This is a concept album for sure. They are both given space to shine — Babyface has 1 solo song, to Toni’s 2. It is mostly slow to mid-tempo stuff, but there is one all-out dance number “Heart Attack.” I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

Kenny Chesney — Songs for the Saints
Sonically, this is a bit of a sequel to “Just Who I Am: Poets and Pirates” which Kenny released in 2007. He was inspired by the hurricanes that hit the Caribbean islands this past year. It is a thoughtful, introspective collection of songs that celebrates life on the islands. It is more acoustic ,mid-tempo, folksy guitar songs than arena rockers. It does include one sure-fire hit “Get Along” — a feel-good anthem for these divisive times. Special guests include Ziggy Marley and Jimmy Buffett. Grade: A-

Boyz II Men — Collide
Boyz II Men mix things up some on this collection from 2014. It is strange collection of sorts — as the Boyz try their hands at modern pop, reggae, EDM, retro-soul and more on the album. They use Autotune on a few numbers, which I find really strange — they are good live singers and don’t need it. It is definitely eclectic — some of it works, some of it doesn’t. But I appreciate trying something different. Grade: C+

Movies

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
This is the 5th movie in the Jurassic Park franchise. Three years after the events of the last movie, the island is about to be destroyed by a volcano. Should the dinosaurs be rescued? A team comes in to help relocate them to another island. Instead, the dinosaurs are put on the auction blog to the highest bidders. The best I can say is that the movie is just OK at best. We’ve seen a lot of this before. And now I found myself not caring. Better luck next time. Grade: C+

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This documentary about Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rodgers) is sure to be nominated for Best Documentary at next year’s ceremony. It tells how a selfless, caring man, became the star of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” on PBS. He was able to talk to and relate to kids like no one else can. He covered such heavy topics as death, divorce and diversity. I found myself tearing up a few times in the movie. In this day and age, we could use more Mr. Rogers in this world. I cannot recommend it enough! Grade: A

Incredibles 2
Fourteen years after the last movie, we catch up again the Incredible Family. Dad (Mr. Incredible) is a stay-at-home Dad, while his wife Elasti-Girl is out saving the world and trying to rehabilitate the image of superheroes. Baby Jack-Jack is discovering he has super powers and daughter Violet is showing an interest in boys. Samuel Jackson is again the voice of their pal Frozone. I had fun. Grade: A-

Ant-Man and the Wasp
The latest Marvel movie brings back Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. This time he is joined by Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp. There are 2 main story lines: finding Hank Pym’s wife (and Wasp’s Mom) in the Quantum Realm as well as fighting a new baddie named Ghost. Overall, it was just OK for me. There are a few cute moments. But at this point, I am experiencing a bit of superhero overload this year. And the villain was pretty boring too. Better luck next time. Grade: C

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
Ten years after the first one, we get the sequel. It is as much a prequel as a sequel. Sophie is just about to open the hotel that her mother (Donna) was developing. Plus, Sophie finds out she is pregnant. There are flashbacks to her mother (Donna) as she was meeting and romancing the 3 guys who are the baby daddies (Sam, Harry and Bill). Then we get to see the old gang arrive for the hotel opening on the island. This time they go deeper into the ABBA song catalog with tracks like “Angel Eyes” and “I Kissed the Teacher.” Plus, you get some return favorites like “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen” and “Fernando” (sung by Cher and Andy Garcia). Overall, I was just OK on this movie. It is not as fun or inspired as the first one. And (spoiler alert) I hated that they built the movie around the idea that Donna had died in the time that had passed. Lily James is no Meryl Streep, and Meryl’s screen absence from most of the movie is deeply felt. Wait for video. Grade: C

Mission Impossible: Fallout
This is the 6th movie in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible franchise. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is on a new mission to stop the sale of some plutonium cores to some bad guys who want to destroy the world. The globe-hopping story is filled with fantastic action sequences — on the streets, on the tops of buildings and in the skies too. Alec Baldwin, Angela Bassett and Henry Cavill co-star. It is one of the better MI films and definitely something to see on the big screen. I recommend it. Grade: B+

Christopher Robin
Disney offers up this live-action fantasy film about a grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) and the animals from the 100 acre woods (Winnie the Pooh and friends). Christopher Robin has to leave the animals behind to go to boarding school. As an adult who is having struggles at work, the animals come back into his life — and remind him of what is really important in life. I liked the sequences with Pooh, Eyore, Piglet, Rabbit and Kanga the best. The humans not as much. I think the story could have been better. The movie wants to be Paddington, but it is not. Be sure to check out “Goodbye Christopher Robin” from last year — a drama about the creator A.A. Milne. That is a better movie. Grade: B-

DVD (or Streaming)

Loving Vincent
The life and mysterious death of Vincent Van Gogh are explored in this Oscar-nominated experimental animated movie. The whole movie is told through re-creations of some of his most famous paintings. Each of the film’s frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same techniques as Van Gogh. This movie was definitely beautiful to look at. And the story is interesting too of a talented genius who only achieved success after his death. Grade: A-

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
The sequel to 2015’s “The Force Awakens.” Considering how overrated that movie was, it is not surprising that this one is better. Rey is trying to lure Luke Skywalker back into the fight against the Empire. General Leia is trying to lead the Rebels despite a series of setbacks. Great special effects as always, the movie is too long by 30-45 minutes. Parts of it seem like ads for toys to me. I am ready to see a Star Wars without Luke/Leia/Solo. Grade: B-

All the Money in the World
Directed by Ridley Scott, and famous for having re-cast Kevin Spacey’s part with Christopher Plummer. This movie tells the story of the kidnapping and search for J. Paul Getty’s grandson — Paul. Michelle Williams is the boy’s mother and Mark Wahlberg is one of J. Paul’s employees — a negotiator and former CIA guy — who helps with the investigation. Plummer plays J. Paul Getty. An interesting true story that highlights the life of a very rich and complicated man. Grade: A-

The Disaster Artist
This is the true story of the movie — The Room. That movie is considered one of the worst movies of all time. James Franco stars as Tommy Wisseau (the star) and directs himself and his brother (Dave) as Tommy’s friend and co-star, Greg. James Franco goes all-in with his performance — is he retarded, delusional, or just crazy? Tommy was able to finance and produce his passion project — which has become a hit (if not the critical success he wanted) on the midnight screening circuit. You don’t have to have seen “The Room” to like or get this movie. Definitely worth watching. Grade: A-

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
This is the story of the creator of Wonder Woman, William Moulton Marston, and the 2 women who inspired his creation. It starts in the 20’s as he was a psychology professor, with his wife helping him out in the classroom. They hire a beautiful student, named Olive, as a research assistant. The 3 of them end up having a polyamorous relationship. And they continue their relationship through different trials with society. His relationship with the 2 women, plus his experience with creating the lie detector and DISC theory on relationships, helped him in his creation of the now-iconic super hero. It was an interesting story with good performances. Grade: B+

Stronger
This is the true story of Jeff Bauman, who was injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays the working-class man who lost his legs, and becomes a local hero and a face of “Boston Strong” during his rehabilitation process. Tatiana Maslany co-stars as his girlfriend. Jeff has to contend with the physical challenges, as well as the emotional challenges of being a sudden celebrity because of a terrorist attack. Gyllenhall gives another award-worthy performance. This movie speaks to the strength of the human spirit. Grade: A-

TV

13 Reasons Why (Season 2)
The ground-breaking show is back. Season 2 focuses on the trial against the high school brought by Hannah’s parents. There are also many issues and loose ends with Hannah’s classmates. You will learn about them over the course of the season. Hannah herself appears to Clay as a ghost. What I love about the show is it’s daring to talk about tough subjects. It is one of the most of-the-moment shows that I know. And it is a show that you need to talk about. I was skeptical at first too, but I enjoyed season 2 very much. Grade: B+

Queer Eye
This is the reboot of the series from early 2000’s — originally called “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” This Netflix show is basically a feel-good make-over show. The Fab 5 (Antoni, Tan, Karamo, Bobby, Jonathon) head out to make-over selected individuals — mostly guys. They did their first female make-over this season (which is season 2 already). Along the way, they help to break stereotypes and build bridges with the world at large. Worth watching. Grade: B+

The Kissing Booth
Netflix is getting into the romantic-comedy business. This teen movie has been getting a lot of press, so I decided to check it out. A teen girl (Elle) finds out that her crush is really into her. Complicating matters is the fact that the crush (Noah) is the brother of her best friend, Lee. Noah and Elle end up sharing a secret kiss at the kissing booth at the school fundraiser. The movie wants to be a modern take on a John Hughes movie — they even include Molly Ringwald in a supporting role and even play “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” during the prom sequence. It gets by on the likability of the cast (Joey King, Joel Courtney and Jacob Eloridi). I do think that Elle picked the wrong brother. She should have picked Lee. I liked this movie OK, the script definitely could have been better. But parts of it are cute and work — thanks again to the cast. Grade: C+

Books

Everybody Lies (Big Data, New Data and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are) — Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
Stephens-Davidowitz has written a timely book about the data gathered from Google and other big data sources. It covers everything from the 2016 election and unemployment numbers to abortion and sexual habits/preferences to predicting good baseball players. And it ends with ethical questions about how should we use the big data that we have access to. An interesting and informative read for these chaotic times. Grade: A-

That’s it for now. 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.

Charlie Wilson: R&B Icon

Charlie Wilson in Concert
Friday, August 3, 2018
Hollywood Bowl

With the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins, conductor

Special guest: The O’Jays

Songs performed: Ship Ahoy, Time To Get Down, What Am I Waiting For, Livin’ for the Weekend, Forever Mine, Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet, Tender, Love), I Love Music, Back Stabbers, Love Train, Used Ta Be My Girl, For the Love of Money (The O-Jays); Party Train, Early In the Morning, Beautiful, Good Times (Everybody), There Goes My Baby, Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me), Humpin’; Charlie, Last Name Wilson; Chills, Yearning for Your Love, I Wanna Be Your Man, You Are, I’m Blessed, Outstanding (Charlie Wilson)

Comments: Charlie Wilson, formerly of the Gap Band, brought his signature voice and flair for showmanship to the Bowl last weekend for a couple of shows. He showed that you can’t keep a good man down. After a string of hits in the 80’s with his band, he ended up losing it all to drugs and being homeless in the 90’s. Now sober for 26 years, he came out ready-to-party and claim his rightful throne as an R&B icon.

The evening started with the Gap Band’s “Party Train.” His band members were dancing and playing in all black outfits with neon colors for accents. Pus he was joined by 4 female backup dancers too. It was a great way to get the evening started. And he had everyone on their feet dancing to the funk classic.

The evening was a mix of hits from the Gap Band, and his R&B hits from the 2000’s. I knew the Gap Band songs, but his solo stuff I was not so familiar with. Of the solo songs, “There Goes My Baby” and “I’m Blessed” were my favorites for the night.

He definitely looked like he was having a great time on stage, which is always good for the audience. He was grateful to be on stage. At one point, he asked the crowd to stand up if this was their first Charlie Wilson concert, and half the crowd stood up. During the middle of the show, there was a few routines that highlighted the lights on his jacket and pants, as well as on those of the band/dancers. It was a cool effect to see the lights moving around while the rest of the lights were down.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to hear “You Dropped the Bomb on Me” — as the lights came on at the end without him having sung it. I still had a great time and danced more at this show than other recent concerts. I was very impressed with his vocals and his performance.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, the O’Jays, opened the show, with an hour-long set. I was reminded how many great songs they had: Love Train, I Love Music, Used Ta Be My Girl, and For the Love of Money among them. They may be up there in age (there are 2 of the originals left) but they gave it their all and put on a good show. They said they were celebrating 59 years as a band.

Thanks to Uncle Charlie and the O’Jays for a great night of music and dancing.

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.

 

Michael McDonald and Friends — Still Rockin’

Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross in Concert
Friday, July 13, 2018
Hollywood Bowl

Featuring the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins conductor

Songs performed: All Right, Never Be the Same, Sailing, Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do), Ride Like the Wind (Christopher Cross); Danny’s Song, Return to Pooh Corner, This Is It, Celebrate Me Home, Conviction of the Heart, I’m Alright, Danger Zone, Footloose (Kenny Loggins); Sweet Freedom, I Keep Forgettin’, Just Strong Enough, On My Own, I Can Let Go Now, Minute by Minute, What a Fool Believes, Takin’ It to the Streets (Michael McDonald)

Comments: Three stars of so-called Yacht Rock came together for 2 shows at the Hollywood Bowl. This soft-rock (or West Coast sound) draws on pop, soul, smooth jazz and, of course, rock. Common characteristics include high-quality production, clean vocals, and a focus on light, catchy melodies.

I have seen Christopher Cross 3x times over the years at the Colors of Christmas concerts. I have seen Michael McDonald 2x — once at the Colors of Christmas, and once with Hall & Oates. I had never seen Kenny before this show — but I have always liked his songs.

Christopher Cross opened the show with a short, but enjoyable, set. He displayed some nice guitar work on some of the songs. He was joined by Michael McDonald for a rocking version of “Ride Like the Wind.” The Orchestra helped to fill out the sound on this, and other, songs throughout the night.

Next up was Kenny Loggins — aka the King of the 1980’s soundtracks. He started his set with a song from his Loggins & Messina days — “Danny’s Song.” He continued his singer-songwriter vibe with “Return to Pooh Corner”. “Celebrate Me Home” has become an anthem for him — and had the crowd singing along. He brought out Michael McDonald to duet with him on “This Is It” — a Grammy-winning song that they co-wrote together. He closed out his set with 3 of his big soundtrack songs: I’m Alright (from Caddyshack), Danger Zone (from Top Gun) and Footloose (from the movie of the same name). Footloose had the crowd on their feet dancing and singing along. You can’t sit still during that number!

The evening’s closer was Michael McDonald — the soulful singer who started off in the Doobie Brothers. He was the only one who performed a new song that night — Just Strong Enough. It was a bluesy-slow burn of a song — that I ended up liking. More big hits including his own “I Keep Forgettin” plus “On my Own” (his duet with Patti LaBelle, which was performed with his backup singer) followed. Three big songs from the Doobies catalog closed out the night. He brought back Kenny Loggins and Christopher Cross for the last 2 numbers. And they took turns on the lead vocals too. The orchestra left after “What a Fool Believes”, and Michael’s band came back for the encore of “Takin’ It to the Streets.”

Of the 3 vocalists, Michael McDonald had the best vocals of the night. I could see him taking on the Great American Songbook or leaning more in a jazz direction. Kenny is showing his age some (Hey, he’s 70). But I admire their artistry and I appreciated the chance to see them all in the same show.

Thanks to Christopher, Kenny and Michael for an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

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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