Views on pop culture through my eyes

Posts tagged ‘entertainment’

Can We Be Objective?

Can we really be objective when it comes to art? When we watch a film, listen to an album, stream a TV show, or go to an art gallery — we bring with us our pasts, our prejudices, likes and dislikes into the equation. And they will inform and affect how we react to the current item being experienced.objective

I came up with this topic, after I heard a discussion about Madonna’s appearance on the Grammys in 2015. The people on the podcast were asking “Did you like Madonna’s performance, because it is Madonna” or was it a good performance on it’s own? If you are a fan of her, you have a history with her… your favorite Madonna performances on music video or in her concerts. Would you have liked the performance by another artist?

Since I am a big entertainment fan, I ask myself questions like this all the time. It is hard when you go to a concert, to not compare the performance to the record, and to any previous times you have seen them perform. When you see a movie, you may compare the movie to a better one, or the actors to their previous movies. There have been plenty of times I thought the movie worked because of the actors. That if it was a bunch of nobodies in the film, it wouldn’t be as interesting as having actors you were more familiar with and invested in.

For live shows, they really can’t be compared to their records, especially with dance pop stuff. I would prefer to see the spectacle, with all the set changes, lights, dancers and costumes versus having every note sung perfectly and the singer just standing there. So for me, I can forgive some lip-synching if the performance is there. Adele you want to hear her hit every note, Madonna, well, she’s a great performer not a great singer.

And then think about all the entertainment award shows? It is sort of silly to pit one person against another… especially since art is so subjective, everyone has their own opinion about what makes something great or not. Maybe it would be fair, if you could have 5 different actors doing the exact same role, and then judging one against the other. But that is not going to happen. Same for having 5 different performers singing the same song — not going to happen.

What about Hollywood’s love of remakes or reboots? Is Ben Affleck a better Batman than Michael Keaton or Christian Bale? Is a sequel as good as the previous movie? I am sure you have your opinions, like we all do.

So to answer the Madonna question posed… yes, I enjoyed it because it was Madonna. But if it was Miley Cyrus doing the same performance, I think I would have liked it too. But if it was Selena Gomez, maybe not so much.

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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Winter Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Part 1 dealt with movie releases, part 2 will deal with TV shows, home videos and music releases. What have I been watching and listening to this winter:

Home Video

Enough Said
A cute romantic comedy that was the final movie from James Gandolfini. He stars with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. They played divorced singles looking for love in the modern world. Turns out that he (Gandolfini) is the ex-husband of one of Julia’s clients. Grade: B+

The Maze Runner
The latest movie adapted from a YA novel series. This one is about bunch of young kids trapped in a remote location, that is surrounded by a giant maze. The maze has monsters and traps in it and no one has been able to escape. For me, it was just OK, a bit of a creature feature. Grade: C+

Pride
A true story from Britain about a group of gays and lesbians who help the striking coal miners in England during the early 80’s. Very heartwarming seeing the walls break down with these 2 different groups. Plus some fun 80’s songs on the soundtrack. Grade: A-

The Past
The latest movie from director Asghar Farhadi, this emotional drama tells the story of 2 exes meeting up to dissolve their marriage, so the wife can marry a new man. The ex husband stays with his former wife and new lover, and secrets from the past come out that put their relationships in a new perspective. Subtitled. Grade: A-

How to Train Your Dragon 2
The favorite for this year’s best animated film Oscar (it lost), tells the tale of Hiccup and his dragon as they find new lands and a villain who wants to turn all dragons into soldiers in his dragon army. Of course, there are some great flying sequences and the requisite sad and tragic part too. I am sure it played better on the big screen than on home video. Grade: B-

The Sapphires
Based on a true story of 4 aboriginal girls who form a singing group that tours Vietnam to entertain the soldiers. Chris O’Dowd stars as their manager and love interest for the older sister. A nice “feel-good” movie that has some great soul songs from the 1960’s. It also sheds some light on the racism in Australia at the time. Grade: B+

Call Me Kuchu
A documentary about LGBT life in Uganda. Not an easy movie to sit through. You see how much gay people are going through there, while in the US we are getting more and more rights and visibility all the time. It is very sad and heartbreaking to see and listen to their stories. Grade: A-

CDs

Madonna “Rebel Heart”
Coming soon… on another blog.

Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett “Cheek to Cheek”
Tony and GaGa seem like they are both having a good time. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Yes, you have heard a lot of these songs before (covered by other artists), but there are a few I was not so familiar with. The songs were expertly arranged with the big band. Grade: B+

Kenny Chesney “The Big Revival”
Kenny’s back with more of his brand of country rock. The first single “American Kids” is his best song in years for me. Not much new stylistically, but still dependable. Grade: B+

Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience — 2 of 2”
A definite improvement over the horrible Part 1, Justin brings us a better set of songs this time with guest including Drake and Jay Z. Highlights include the Jackson’s inspired ‘Take Back the Night” and “Not a Bad Thing” — his best song in years, and one that reminds me of his greatness. Still think the songs go on too long. Grade: B

Taylor Swift — “1989”
Her first official pop album, and it is full of hits. I always thought she was more pop than country anyway. I for one, hope she doesn’t go back. Madonna was write in singing her praises as a songwriter. She definitely writes some catchy songs. I find myself listening to this one a lot. Grade: A-

Jason Aldean — “My Kinda Party”
I’m a little late to the party with this guy. But I am interested in seeing his co-headlining tour with Kenny Chesney, so I figured I would give him a listen. Includes his duet with Kelly Clarkson on “Don’t You Wanna Stay” as well as other hits like “Dirt Road Anthem” and the title track too. His music fits with the current bro-country vibe. Grade: B

Sam Smith — “In the Lonely Hour”
He recently won 4 Grammys for this album. As an openly gay soul singer, he is sure making his mark in the world of pop music. He definitely lives up to his hype as the male Adele. Grade: A-

Nick Jonas — “Nick Jonas”
As a long-time fan of the Jonas Brothers, I have loved Nick’s voice for years. I would tell people how great he was. This is his 2nd solo effort if you count his album with the Administration. That one was very much in the vain of a John Mayer. This one he is going for a Justin Timberlake/Robin Thicke vibe. Parts of it work, like the hit first single “Jealous”. Other parts not so much for me… including the cussing. I get that he is trying to break free of the Disney label, but this album is a bit of a transition for him — as he is still finding his sound as an adult. Grade: C+

Kelly Clarkson — “Piece by Piece”
Her first pop album in years, includes the lead single “Heartbeat Song”. I am liking the album after a few listens… she has one of the best voices in the current pop scene. Stand out tracks include “Invincible” cowritten by Sia, “Run Run Run” with John Legend and “Nostalgic” (with it’s 80’s overtones). Grade: B

TV

American Idol
Season 14 is off and running. New to this season was the unveiling of the Top 24 in the first episode with all of them singing in the shadows. There are always so many talented people who try out for this show. Glad that they have cut back on the crazies in the audition episodes. Grade: B

Empire
From Lee Daniels, comes a look at the world of hip-hop music centered on one powerful family. Starring Academy Award nominees Taraji P. Henson and Terence Howard as ex spouses who are fighting for control of the company. They have three sons, and one will be picked as successor to run the company. Enough drama to fill a few shows, plus songs from Timbaland too. What I don’t like about the show is what I thought… the rap songs. And I am a bit concerned about how this show makes blacks look, as far as sterotypes. But the story of the gay son, is a story we haven’t seen before and is very refreshing. Grade: B+

My Husband’s Not Gay
A special that was a potential pilot for a series on the TLC channel. It concerns a bunch of Mormon couples in which the husbands all experience “SSA” or same-sex attraction. They talk about it like it is ADD, and something that can be handled by prayer and communication. I don’t think the guys are gay as much as bisexual. And I don’t get what’s in it for the women. I would rather live my life honestly and openly about myself. It makes organized religion look bad. Grade: C

Marvel’s Agent Carter
I really enjoyed Marvel’s Agent Carter. If you loved Hayley Atwell in “Captain America: The First Avenger” — this limited series expands on her story after WWII. It’s nice to see a sexy crime fighter kicking some butt in high heels. I like a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The pilot was great, but subsequent episodes have just been OK. Grade: B-

The Real World: Skeletons
This latest season of the reality pioneer, adds a twist like the last season did. This time the 7 strangers are in Chicago, and they all have secrets from the past that are going to come and haunt them literally. So every few days, a new “skeleton” or 2 comes to the house and moves in for a few days to wreck havoc on the particular roommate and their fellow roommates. So far, I am not liking it as much as last season when all of their exes moved in at the same time. Grade: C+

So what have you been watching and listening to this winter? 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.

Winter Entertainment Roundup Part 1

Winter is a good time for entertainment. There are usually a number of Oscar worthy movies in the theaters, new shows on TV, and new music releases too. So what movies, TV shows, DVDs and albums do I recommend, read on:

Movies

Top Five
Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson star in the latest movie written and directed by Chris Rock. Better than a lot of his movies, but that is still not saying much. For a comedy, I still found it lacking. I prefer him as a stand-up comic. Grade: C

Into the Woods
A fun musical mashup of various fairy tales including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel with an all-star cast. Meryl Streep was great as always… Emily Blunt and Anna Kendrick also did a great job. Loved the sexy duet with the 2 hunky guys. Grade: A-

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Peter Jackson’s fitting conclusion to The Hobbit trilogy. Lots of spectacle and cool action sequences. Not as memorable as the LOTR trilogy, but still a good movie. Grade: B+

The Imitation Game
It is an important piece of WWII history and LGBT history too. Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley both do a great job. It is about a repressed gay man who helps break the Nazi code during WWII. Grade: A-

Selma
Directed by Ava Duvernary, and starring David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This movie chronicles an important part of his life in the American Civil Rights Movement organizing a march from Selma, AL to Montgomery, AL. This movie had me in tears and was very moving and excellently made. Grade: A

American Sniper
Directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Bradley Cooper as NAVY Seal sniper Chris Kyle. This is one man’s story of the war in Iraq, and his experience as a sniper with the most kills in US history. It was a well-made movie, and I liked it for what it was. He is no way a hero, and was a bit of a nut to me. Grade: B

The Theory of Everything
This is the story of Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane. Their romance starts with them in college, and he is just starting to get ALS. Despite his physical handicaps, he was very charming and they thrived as a couple. This was a story that I was not familiar with at all… everyone knows the story of the guy in the wheelchair with the voice box. This is the prequel to that story. Grade: B+

Wild
Cheryl Strayed’s book comes to the screen. Shattered by the death of her mother, Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) heads out for a solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. She is dealing with her own personal demons, with anonymous sex and reckless behavior. This journey is her chance to start anew and move on with her life. Grade: A-

Kingsman: The Secret Service
A bit of a mess of a movie. The tone of the movie is all over the place… part Kill Bill, part Austin Powers, part James Bond… Colin Firth and Samuel Jackson’s talents are wasted. Wait for video if you want to see it. Grade: D

Still Alice
Julianne Moore gives a great performance in this story of a college professor battling Alzheimer’s disease. Is it her best movie, no. Parts of it played like a Alzheimer’s PSA for me. But I did like her relationship with her husband and children as the whole family dealt with the mother’s illness. Grade: B

Stay tuned for Part 2 next time. Please sound off on the comments below if you think my reviews hit or missed the mark.

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 Entertainment Wrap-up

So what movies and CDs have I enjoyed the last few months? Read on…

Movies

We’re the MillersWe're the Millers
A very funny, raunchy comedy starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. They play the fake parents of 2 kids, who are traveling across the Mexican border into the US with a Winnebago filled with drugs. Echoes of National Lampoon’s Vacation movie for me, and that’s a good thing. Grade: B+

Battle of the Year
Josh Holloway plays an alcoholic has-been picked to coach a hip-hop B-Boy dance troupe as they prepare for battle in the “Battle of the Year” in France. If you like the “Step Up” movies,  and “America’s Best Dance Crew” then this movie is for you. Some great dance sequences, and entertaining personalities from the crew. Grade: B-

Prisoners
Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Melissa Leo lead an all-star cast in this engrossing drama. The story is very much of-this-moment… centering on the kidnapping of 2 little girls and the investigation of the crime. Jackman plays one of the dads who takes the law into his own hands and begins to torture one of the suspects. Grade: A-

Gravity
Sandra Bullock leads the cast for this movie, that centers on a scientist adrift in space and fighting to survive. Faced with incredible hardships, we will fight for our lives. The visuals are stunning, and the movie is definitely award-worthy. George Clooney also stars in a supporting role. Grade: A-

12 Years a Slave
Director Steve McQueen has bought Solomon Northup’s true story to the screen. Solomon was a free black man living in New York, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Very disturbing at times, this is a story I had never heard before. Fantastic performances all around including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mr. Northup. Grade: A

Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks returns to form in the title role. This is the story of a freighter that is highjacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Africa. We know how the story is going to end up, but it is still filled with tension and suspense Grade: A-

Frozen
Disney’s latest animated movie, is based on a story by Hans Christen Anderson. It is the story of 2 sisters of a royal family, one of who is afflicted with special powers that cause her to freeze everything she touches. With the voice talents of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as the sisters, with catchy songs by the husband and wife team of Robert Lopez and Kristen-Anderson Lopez. Grade: A

Thor: The Dark World
This is the first appearance of Thor, since “The Avengers.” A lot of the time is spent on his home planet of Asgard. The movie never really took flight for me. It picks up when Loki arrives, but not much. Grade: C

The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio in the true-life tale of Wall Street stock broker Jordan Belfort. I would subtitle this lifestyles of the rich, decadent and criminal. This guy lived the high life — sex, drugs and money. And he was a god to those he worked with. Grade: B+

CDs

Katy Perry — Prism
Katy’s first CD since ‘Teenage Dream” brings us a more reflective Katy, but without forgetting her knack of creating perfect pop gems. Highlights include: Roar, Dark Horse, and Unconditional Love. Grade: A-

Kelly Clarkson — Wrapped in Red
Kelly’s first holiday CD has something for everyone. New songs as well as Christmas classics. Some of it sounds very retro to me. Highlights include: Run Run Rudolph and My Favorite Things. Grade: B-

Keith Urban — Fuse
Keith’s music has been getting more and more pop as his career has gone on. He still is one of my favorites, even if it doesn’t match his earlier work. Highlights include: Little Bit of Everything, and We Were Us (Duet with Miranda Lambert). Grade: B

The Music of Nashville — Season 2, Vol. 1
Season 2 of the hit show has had it’s share of drama: affairs, shootings and record co. politics. We get the hit songs from the leads as well as a few of the supporting players too. Highlights include: What If I Was Willing and Trouble Is. Grade: B+

So what have you been watching and listening to this winter? I would love to hear from you.

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

Summer Entertainment Wrap-Up Too

I am a bit of an entertainment junky — movies, CDs, DVDs, etc. So what thrilled me, and what bored me this summer? Read on.

Movies

Monsters University
The prequel to Pixar’s Monsters Inc., shows us the college years of Mike and Sully as they deal with classes, tough instructors, and finding a place in the world. Not as good as the original, but I still enjoyed it. Grade: B

Man of Steel
I was hopeful for this movie, and it is an improvement over the boring last Superman movie. But it is still not a good movie. The fun factor is not there for a good superhero movie. And again, overly long. Henry Cavill is hot, but bland as Superman. Better luck next time. Grade: C

The Wolverine
Well, another summer disappointment. It is just getting old for me with this character. We know he looks great with his shirt off, and that the metal claws come out when he’s mad. Some lame story about a guy he saved, and how he wants to repay the favor to Logan.  Grade: C

Lee Daniel’s The Butler
Based on a true story, this movie tells the story of young man who became a butler to the President of the United States. It shows the changes that society went through with the civil rights movement over the years. Great performances from Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey. Grade: B+poster-art-for-lee-daniels-the-butler_event_main_1042

CDs

Little Big Town — Tornado
I have been a fan of this group for years, so it is nice to see them getting the attention they deserved. Great vocals and nice songs overall, but “Pontoon” really? Cute, but forgettable song there. Grade: B

Backstreet Boys — In a World Like This
The boys 20th year brings their latest CD, with original member Kevin Richardson returning to the group. It is one of their most eclectic albums w/ dance, ballads and some acoustic folk numbers too. Those acoustic numbers are my favorites on the CD: Try and Trust Me. They should sound great on tour and show off their vocal chops. Grade: B

DVDs

Defiance
Based on true events, this movie lived up to it’s premise. A manager at a local fast food restaurant is called by someone claiming to be a policeman. They are told that one of her employees has stolen from a customer. How far can things go? You will have to rent to see. Grade: A-

Game Change
Based on the book of the same name about Sarah Palin entering the 2008 Presidential Election as John McCain’s VP Pick. Julianne Moore and Ed Harris star in this movie filmed for HBO. Great acting and story. Grade: A

So what did you like or didn’t like for summer entertainment? 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  Rock the Kilt lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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