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Posts tagged ‘Lady GaGa’

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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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.

Christmas Album Wish List

Are you ready for Christmas music? As a music fan, I enjoy buying new Christmas music every year from my favorite artists. Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of Christmas albums — everything from Amy Grant and Cyndi Lauper to En Vogue and Kenny Chesney. This year brings new seasonal music from Fantasia, Gwen Stefani and Sia. It seems like every artist records a Christmas album (or at least a song) over the course of their career. Here are the artists I hope to hear Christmas music from in the near future:

 

Superstars

  • Madonna. She only did “Santa Baby” on the “A Very Special Christmas” album. Image if she brought her song craft to some Christmas originals. I would love it, but I have serious doubts she will ever do it.
  • Bruce Springsteen. He has a Christmas song too, but no album as of yet. I can’t think of any rock Christmas albums. A mix of old and new would be music to many Boss lovers.
  • Diana Ross. Sure, she did an album with the Supremes, and even a solo Christmas album in 1994 — but it was never released in America. Isn’t time it came out here, or she recorded new takes on Christmas classics. She could call on her children to help her out.
  • Janet Jackson. Wouldn’t you love to hear what Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Janet would do with a batch of holiday tunes? I am sure we would be dancing around the Christmas tree!

 

Current Pop Stars

  • Rihanna. She is one of the most consistent hit-makers of the last decade. She always find ways to surprise her fans with her music. I would love to see this happen.
  • Lady GaGa. Yeah, she isn’t as popular as she used to be — but she can still sing as evidenced by this year’s Super Bowl. She could do an album of very traditional songs with Tony Bennett, or a dance-pop Christmas album. I would be interested in both.

 

Country

  • Dierks Bentley. Hunky county star Dierks could do a bluegrass Christmas album or a modern country pop album. He would shine on the CMA Christmas special I am sure.
  • Carrie Underwood. Vocal powerhouse Carrie Underwood would be sure to be a bestseller, if she ever releases a holiday album. I am sure there would be a few spiritual songs on there. Another one that I could see being a #1 album.
  • Little Big Town. This group, that I describe as a country version of Fleetwood Mac, is known for their trademark vocal harmonies. A good mix of traditional songs plus a few new tunes too would be a winning formula.

 

Divas

  • Taylor Dayne. Taylor has one of the most distinctive voices of the 80-90’s. I could see her putting her own spin on some Christmas favorites. “Tell It to my Heart, Santa” could be a good title for one song.
  • Jill Scott. I heard she was great at the Hollywood Bowl this past summer. A soulful holiday celebration, with a few gospel tinged numbers would be great.
  • Angie Stone. Another big-voiced R&B diva. She has worked with Josh Groban in the past, and Justin Timberlake is a fan too. Imagine a Christmas duets album, that would be something different in the market.
  • Jennifer Lopez. Can you think of a Latin pop Christmas album? Neither can I. Just imagine all the guest stars she could pull in for the accompanying TV special… Pitbull, Enrique, Marc Anthony, Lin-Manual, and more.
  • Britney Spears. She’s only done 1 Christmas song in the past. How about a Christmas album to tie us over till her next all-new pop album? I would love to hear her take on holiday classics, and a few choice new tunes too.

 

80’s

  • The Human League. The ground-breaking new-wave group could bring something new to the table for sure. I would definitely be up for this.
  • Bon Jovi. Jon and the crew would definitely rock the holiday. Again, a mix of new and old songs would be just right. Maybe even call in former duet partner, Jennifer Nettles.
  • Belinda Carlisle. The voice of the 80’s girl band, The Go-Go’s. Plus she had a decent solo career too. Songs about Christmas in L.A., or maybe songs with some hippie-dippy vibes.
  • Duran Duran. Another big 80’s band. They could call in Mark Ronson or Nile Rodgers (both of whom they worked with before) to produce the album for them. I would love to hear them take on some original songs.

 

Boy Bands

  • Backstreet Boys. NSync did a holiday album back in the day, surprisingly BSB did not. It is never too late. Call up Max Martin and get this one going. I am sure it would sell well for them.
  • One Direction. With the members all enjoying varying degrees of solo success, it may be awhile before we get to this album. But they are good singers, and would definitely bring something different to the table.

And that’s my list! Did I miss anyone? Did I leave out one of your favorites? 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.

Winter Reviews 2017

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

DVDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Concerts I Am Looking Forward to in 2017

As a life-long live music fan, I always look forward to which of my favorite music stars will be coming in concert soon. Have I seen them a few times before, or are they someone I will be seeing for the first time? Do they have a long catalog of hits, or are they just starting out? Here’s who I look forward to seeing on stage in 2017:

Ariana Grande
She’s had a few successful years with “My Everything” and “Dangerous Woman.” She has the vocal chops for sure, and her personality is starting to show more. Plus she kills it every time I see her perform on TV.

Lady GaGa
It’s time to get back to her day job. After a few detours (Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett and American Horror Story: Hotel), she is back with her new album “Joanne.” I have seen her first 2 tours, it will be fun to see her again. She is definitely one talented, multi-faceted woman. Plus she is headlining the Super Bowl half-time show this year.

Bruno Mars
After a break of a few years, Bruno is back with “24 K Magic.” So far the single is just OK to me, but he always kills it with his live performances. And he has a decent amount of hits too, so even if the new songs suck, we’ll get “Uptown Funk.”

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Mr. and Mrs. McGraw head back out for a big arena tour in 2017. Tim has continued to record and tour regularly. Faith hasn’t done much since her album “Fireflies” in 2005. Not sure the reason why, but I welcome her back. I saw them on an earlier version of the “Soul to Soul” tour and it was a great show.

Alicia Keys
She will be touring in support of her new album “Here.” I previously saw her on the “Diary of Alicia Keys” and “As I Am” tours. I started to watch “The Voice” again because of her and Miley. She has such a wonderful spirit and I love her energy. And she gives her all to the performance. The album is just OK, but I still love her.

Sting
The veteran artist is back with his first rock album (“57th & 9th”) in a long time. He’s been making the rounds with appearances on everything from “The Voice” to the “American Music Awards.” With more and more singers dying young these days, I say catch him while you can.

Justin Beiber
He is still riding high off his album “Purpose” and it’s string of hit singles. Plus he got some big love in the form of some Grammy nominations this year in major categories. Plus from what I have seen he really puts himself out there in his shows. Catch him on his stadium tour this summer.

New Kids on the Block
Their chart-topping days are long behind them, but they can still fill arenas. They have found a successful formula and are sticking to it. They put themselves as the headliners on a bill with a couple of other retro acts, and the tickets keep selling. This year’s The Total Package Tour includes Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men.

Ed Sheeran
No tour has been announced yet for him, but if there is one I am sure it is going to be huge. He just released two new singles from his upcoming album “Divide” and they both debuted into the Top Ten (one even went to #1). I have seen clips of his concerts online, and he is an amazing performer. I would definitely go to see him.

Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey
The two superstars are teaming up for Lionel’s “All the Hits” Tour. This show is playing on my birthday at the Hollywood Bowl, so I already have my ticket. Mariah needs to redeem herself after the New Year’s Eve fiasco. I haven’t seen Lionel since he opened for Tina Turner on her farewell tour. It should be fun.

So that’s my concert wish list for 2017. Did I mention your favorite? Who do you want to see live and in person at your local concert venue? Sound off in the comments below.

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.

Super Bowl Entertainers

The 50th Super Bowl will take place on February 7, 2016 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are the teams competing this year. Usually I could care less who is playing. What I really want to know is — who is performing at the half-time show? This year it is Coldplay, the British rock band led by Chris Martin, with guests Beyonce and Bruno Mars. Madonna, Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry all had great half-time performances. So who’s going to be the headliner next year? Read on for some possible choices:shutterstock%5F367205408%2Ejpg

Country Hitmakers

Luke Bryan — One of the hottest acts around right now. He is selling a lot of albums and concert tickets. And it has been awhile since a country act has been featured here.

Carrie Underwood — She has across the board appeal. With 5 albums under her belt, plus countless tours and “The Sound of Music: Live” too, she is a consummate entertainer.

Kenny Chesney — He dominates the concert season almost every year with his shows. And he is a natural performing for stadium crowds. Why hasn’t he done it before?

Female Pop Stars

Pink — She has taken a detour with her You+Me project, but if she wants to reestablish her pop-rock cred, there would be no better place to do it. Great entertainer with a powerful voice.

Lady GaGa — She has taken a detour too, with her duets project with Tony Bennett, but if she wants to come back to the pop world, this would be a good launching pad. She is a proven live performer who consistently sells out tours.

Taylor Swift — What a year this woman had in 2015! She has been everywhere with her “1989” album and tour. And is favored for this year’s Grammy Awards. At this point in her career, I think she is too big for the NFL. But if she is launching a new project in 2017, this would be a great way to do it.

Britney Spears — She has the successful shows in Las Vegas; and has never done the Super Bowl by herself. She previous performed with NSync and Aerosmith in 2001.

Latin-Pop Stars

Pitbull — Mister World Wide, aka Pitbull, has sold out concert tours, hosted award shows and amassed a few major hits along the way. This would be a good fit for him. Plus add in some of his featured guest stars (Ne-Yo, J Lo, Christina Aguilera, Kesha) and you would have a half-time to remember.

Jennifer Lopez — American Idol judge, model, actress, singer, and dancer — she can do it all. With her Las Vegas residency recently launched too, this would be a good fit for a global superstar.

Old School

Earth, Wind & Fire — This veteran group is so retro they are cool. They have a great song catalog that will have people dancing in the aisles.

Queen and Adam Lambert — On his own Adam doesn’t have enough hits, but with Queen behind him, he is both contemporary and retro at the same time. Which is a good fit for reaching a huge TV audience.

Billy Joel — Another oldies act who still plays sold out shows across the country. If the Who and Paul McCartney can perform in their later careers, so can Billy.

So that’s my list of possible choices for the next Super Bowl half-time show. I would love to hear your thoughts on my choices.

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 Valentine’s Day for friends, family and loved ones.

 

 

 

 

Concerts I Am Looking Forward to in 2015

As a huge live music fan, going to concerts is one of my favorite things in the whole world. I love the entire experience: you get to see your favorite artists and sing along to their songs. I love the energy of the crowd; the production values — lights, costumes, choreography; the big spectacle of it all. Like Madonna says “Music — makes the people come together”. So what shows am I looking forward to in 2015, read on:

Maroon 5
One of my favorite groups of the last 10 years, surprisingly I have never seen them live before. It’s not that I haven’t tried to get tickets, as I have, but they are always sold out. Yes, their albums have gotten more pop, and commercial since their first album, but I still like them. The group heads out of the “V” tour with special guest, Magic! this coming spring.

Taylor Swift
She is winning me over. When she first came out, I was shocked at how bad her vocals were. But she’s grown up, and gotten better control of her instrument and her range. She will never be Faith Hill, but that’s OK. Plus the whole pop thing fits well with her, she was always more pop than country anyways. Her tour will be in support of her “1989” album. She has quite the song catalog now too.

Little Big Town
This 4-person country vocal group has been one of my favorites since their song “Bring It on Home.” I have described their sound as the country version of Fleetwood Mac, as they trade off between male and female vocals on their songs. I am not so thrilled that their biggest hit “Pontoon” was pretty lame. But they have albums of great songs, so I can overlook that one. Opening acts include: Brett Eldredge and Brothers Osborne.

Bette Midler
The Divine Miss M is headed back on the road to promote her covers CD “It’s the Girls” — a tribute to female groups. She is looking to go “green” on this tour. I have seen some of her shows on video before. It should be a good show as she is a consummate performer.

Kenny Chesney/Jason Aldean
Two of country’s big guns head out for a series of co-headlining shows in stadium across the country. Jason is supporting his CD “Old Boots, New Dirt,” while Kenny is supporting his recent CD ‘The Big Revival.” Country hunk newcomer Brantley Gilbert will be opening for them on select dates.

Lady GaGa/Tony Bennett
2014’s most unlikely collaboration will result in some live shows in 2015. Their CD of standards “Cheek to Cheek” proved to be a success on many levels including a Grammy nomination. It will be interesting to see how much of their own song catalogs they fit into the shows. The tour even includes a stop at the legendary Hollywood Bowl.

Ariana Grande
She was definitely one of the biggest breakthrough acts of 2014 with her string of irresistible sing-along hits (Problem, Break Free, Bang Bang). Now she is heading out on the Honeymoon Tour with boy band Rixton and Cashmere Cat as opening acts. From what I have seen of her on TV, she will definitely be hitting the right notes on stage.

Idina Menzel
Broadway star Indina Menzel helped the “Frozen” soundtrack dominate the charts in 2014. She will be singing songs from Rent, Wicked, IF/Then and more I am sure. Maybe even some songs from “Glee” too. But for me, hearing her sing “Let It Go” live would be worth the price of admission alone.

Lady Antebellum
Country’s top trio head out on their Wheels Up Tour in support of their recent album “747”. Supporting acts include: Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt. Their irresistible vocal harmonies and catchy songs will make for a great concert.

So that’s my list. I hope you have a chance to catch these artists on the road in 2015. Look for me in the cheap seats. And of course, every show I go to I will blog about it too. Let me know who you want to see in 2015.

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.

Covers Albums

It seems like most singers get to a point in their career when they do a covers album. This fall brings new covers albums from Annie Lennox (Nostalgia), Aretha Franklin (Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics), Bette Midler (It’s the Girls) plus Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett (Cheek to Cheek). I can see why artists do these albums. They can pay tribute to songs/artists that they admire; and the pressure is off to come up with some great new songs. The question is are they really bringing anything new to the table with these? Or is it a vanity project with just so-so results? Read on to hear my thoughts on these projects:

 

New

Annie Lennox “Nostalgia” She’s got one of the best voices in pop music, so for me she can sing anything. She chose a collection of songs from the 30’s and 40’s… and it works for me. It has already gone to #1 on the jazz album chart.

 

Aretha Franklin “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics” Aretha is awesome, that being said, I wish she had covered other songs. These were all very big hits, and it is hard to do something better when they were done right the first time.

Bette Midler

 

Bette Midler “It’s the Girls” The Divine Miss M chose to cover songs made popular by girl groups. The most interesting song is a ballad version of TLC’s “Waterfalls.” She sounds great as always, but the end result was just OK to me.
Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett “Cheek to Cheek” I applaud Lady GaGa’s commitment to this project, with the tour and all. She definitely has the voice to sing these songs. But I think I would have liked to hear some different songs, as most have been covered many times before.

 

Barry Manilow “My Dream Duets” Barry duets with a bunch of dead singers on this collection — everyone from Whitney Houston to Jimmy Durante to John Denver. Why oh why…

 

Good

Gloria Estefan “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me” She picked songs that inspired her and that she liked growing up. The result was 2 Top Ten hits for her from this project including ‘Turn the Beat Around”.

 

Annie Lennox “Medusa” For the most part, I wasn’t very familiar with the songs on here. She chose wisely.
Natalie Cole “Unforgettable with Love” The platinum standard for covers/standards albums. Natalie paid tribute to the songs of her father and did a fantastic job. She earned multiple Grammy awards and set sales records too.

 

Boyz II Men “Love” It was nice to hear the Boyz put their spin on songs by the Goo Goo Dolls and Take That.

 

Michael McDonald “Motown” This album reminded people how great a singer he really is. A commercial and critical hit for him.

Wynonna “Sing Chapter 1”
This lady can sing pretty much anything for me. The album is all covers except for the title song.

 

Hall & Oates “Our Kind of Soul” One of my favorite duos, Daryl Hall has a fantastic soulful voice. Nothing new really, but it is well done.

 

Michael Bolton “Timeless — The Classics” His version of the Bee Gee’s ‘To love Somebody” was a hit off of this collection. The rest is nice too.

 

Linda Ronstadt “What’s New” One of her many transformations. With the help of Nelson Riddle conducting, this set of standards reinvigorated her career at that point.

 

Some OK moments

All of the following have some nice moments, but nothing I would rave about.

Kenneth ‘Babyface’ Edmunds “Playlist” Song you would have heard on 70’s radio pretty much. Nice, if a bit boring.

 

Rod Stewart “It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook”; “As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook Volume II”; “Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III”; “Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook Volume VI”; “Still the Same: Great Rock Classics of Our Time”; “Soulbook”; “Fly Me to the Moon: The Great American Songbook Volume V” God knows he has done quite a few covers albums! The Great American Songbook ones were big hits for him… I have heard the songs done better in my opinion. I do like the rock classics and soul covers though.

 

Gloria Estefan “The Standards” Another album of standards from the Great American Songbook. I haven’t heard enough to really get an opinion on it.
Rick Springfield “The Day After Yesterday” Songs that he liked from the 70’s and 80’s.

 

Erasure “ABBA-Esque” This EP updated some of ABBA classics.

 

A-Teens “The ABBA Generation” A teen pop group consisting of 2 guys and 2 girls (like ABBA), whose first album was all ABBA covers.

 

Gretchen Wilson “Under the Covers” She has a great country-rock voice, haven’t heard this though.

 

Dolly Parton “Those Were the Days” Dolly pairs up with various friends for this set of songs. Guest stars include Keith Urban and Cat Stevens.

 

Bad

Cyndi Lauper “At Last” Yes, Cyndi has a nice voice, but I really felt that she lost herself here. Where was the fun?

Duran Duran “Thank You”
Bad song choices, and done badly too. The only halfway decent song was “White Lines”.

Boyz II Men “Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville, USA” This sounded good on paper I am sure, but was just OK in reality. Stick with the originals.

 

Colton Ford “Under the Covers” Former porn star covers everyone from Alicia Keys to Robin S. and more on this collection. He should stick to porn.

 

I am sure there are more that I missed. What are your favorite covers albums? 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.

Ultimate Fantasy Concert

As a big music fan, one of the moments I remember growing up was watching the Live Aid concert special. This is the special that aired in 1985 and showed us footage from shows in London and Philadelphia. It was all to benefit the hunger crisis in Africa. A who’s who of performers and actors were involved that day: Madonna, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Phil Collins, Queen and on and on. Isn’t it about time we had another world musical event like that? I am sure it could be another charity event of some kind for AIDS, global warming, hunger, human rights, etc. So who would I want on the bill for this Ultimate Fantasy Concert?Concert Scene

Superstars
Madonna
Elton John
Bruce Springsteen
Annie Lennox (Eurythmics)
Beyonce
Justin Timberlake
Cher
U2
Janet Jackson
Prince
Celine Dion
Shania Twain
Tina Turner
Pink
Britney Spears
Christina Aguilera

Up and Comers
Rihanna
Katy Perry
Lady GaGa
Taylor Swift
Kelly Clarkson
Maroon 5
Coldplay
Black Eyed Peas
Alicia Keys
Kesha
Pitbull
Ne-Yo
Imagine Dragons
Bruno Mars

Maybe
Backstreet Boys
Mariah Carey
Usher
One Direction
Adele
Kylie Minogue
Jay Z.
Eminem

What location or country would host it? What networks would show it? Would you want to be there live? The closest we have gotten to an event like this these days is the I Heart Radio Festival they have had in Las Vegas the last few years.

Just imagine the pairings you could have with this lineup! How about Annie Lennox leading a chorus of “Sisters Doing It for Themselves” with Madonna, Adele, Pink, Katy Perry and Rihanna? Or how about Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Prince and Bruno Mars doing an old James Brown song? I am sure it would be awesome TV and have us all talking about it years later. I can dream.

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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