Views on pop culture through my eyes

Posts tagged ‘movies’

Winter Reviews Part 2 2018

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

Movies

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

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

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

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

 

CDs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

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

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Winter Reviews Part 1

It’s that time for some more entertainment reviews. What have I been watching or listening to that I recommend or that you should avoid. Read on for my take on the latest movies, TV shows, DVDs and albums of the last few months.

Movies

Wind River
Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star in this murder mystery from writer-director Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water). Set in the snowy mountains of Wyoming, the movie deals with a murdered woman on an Indian reservation. Jeremy Renner is the Fish and Wildlife guy who finds the body. Olsen plays the FBI agent assigned to the case. Who was this woman? And who could have committed such a horrible crime? Good writing, acting and directing. I recommend it. Grade: B+

Leap!
This animated tale tells the story of an orphan (Felicie) who dreams of a being a ballet dancer. She escapes from the orphanage along with her inventor friend, Victor. They travel to Paris and soon Felicie is impersonating another girl so she can study dance at the Paris Ballet. Of course, she gets found out, but she still has the dream. This is a movie for those of us who believe in pursuing their passions. You should never give up. Grade: B

Logan Lucky
Steven Soderbergh’s latest is a heist comedy with an all-star cast. Channing Tatum is a down on your luck loser who comes from a cursed family. He hatches a plan with his brother, sister and some friends to rip off a NASCAR race in North Carolina. This is definitely a redneck “Oceans 11.” Turns out they may be able to break the family curse after all. I enjoyed myself. Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, and Katie Holmes co-star. Grade: B+

Mother!
Mother is the latest movie from director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan). It stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as husband and wife. What seemed like it was going to be a cool horror movie, turns out to be more of a psychological mind trip. What a weird and strange movie… can’t say I would recommend it at all. I didn’t care for it at all. There are plenty of scenes that make you uncomfortable, as J-Law’s character is under attack for most of the movie. I had to Google what the movie was about. And once I found out, I still didn’t give a damn. A big misstep for all involved. Grade: D

Brad’s Status
Ben Stiller stars in this movie that is written and directed by Mike White. Stiller plays a man experiencing a midlife crisis. His son is going off to college soon. He starts to think about his friends from his college days and how he is the least successful member of the group. Filmed mostly in Boston, this is great movie that I can see being nominated for Best Original Screenplay. There are laughs and thought-provoking moments too. Go see it. Grade: A-

Home Again
Reese Witherspoon makes her return to romantic comedy with this movie. It is written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of Nancy Meyers (one of the top romantic comedy directors). The movie has a good cast: Michael Sheen and Candace Bergen among others. The story has Witherspoon returning to her childhood home after a failed marriage. She starts a flirtation/romance with a young guy at a bar. And the next day, him and his friends are moving into her guest house. See these guys are looking to make it in Hollywood, and she is the daughter of a famous director. All involved try, but in the end it doesn’t add up to much. Forgettable for sure. Grade: C-

Battle of the Sexes
Steve Carrell and Emma Stone star as Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in the tile tennis match that happened in the mid-70’s. Riggs is a male chauvinist pig who wants to keep women in the kitchen. King is the up and comer who is reshaping the world of women’s tennis and discovering her sexuality. Both stars do a great job, but it is Stone who has the juicer role. I expect to see her nominated for a Best Actress Oscar again. Despite having taken place over 40 years ago, the movie still feels very relevant to today. Grade: A-

The Mountain Between Us
Idris Elba and Kate Winslet star in this adventure-romance. After their separate flights to Denver are cancelled, the two join up to rent a charter plane to get to their destination. She is going to her wedding. He is going to a medical conference. The plane crashes in the mountains, and they must join together to survive all of their challenges: extreme weather, hungry wild animals, lack of food and water, and more. The tragedy brings them closer together. Will they make it out alive? And what will life be like if they do? It plays a bit like a Hallmark movie, but I still liked it. Grade: B-

Goodbye Christopher Robin
This true story tells the tale of author AA. Milne — the creator of “Winnie the Pooh.” The book series was inspired by playtime with his young son (Christopher Robin). Mr. Milne served in World War I, and was dealing with PTSD. His son became a celebrity in his own right after the books were published. And it was hard for him to outgrow his father’s shadow. Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie star as the writer and his wife. I would expect to hear of this movie come awards season. Go see it. Grade: A-

Thor: Ragnorok
The third Thor movie has the character stranded on a trash planet, while back on Asgard the planet is being destroyed by Hela (played by Cate Blanchett). Thor is joined by the Hulk as contestants in a gladiator contest. Loki is back also. Will Thor get back to his planet to save it? This is definitely an improvement over Thor 2, but I still feel that the Captain America and Iron Man films are better. It is funny and action packed, but it becomes an overload of F/X by the end. Grade: B-

Justice League
DC tries their hand at the group superhero movie. So you have Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg coming together to fight off the villain known as Steppenwolf. Of course, Superman comes back to life. DC is still getting their movies wrong — this past summer’s “Wonder Woman” being the only exception. I was bored, and ultimately I just didn’t care. Grade: C-

Lady Bird
This movie stars Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and is written and directed by Greta Gerwig. She’s a high school senior who can’t wait to escape her circumstances: living in Sacramento, CA, going to Catholic school and having a demanding mother (Laurie Metcalf). ‘Lady Bird’ refers to the name the girl wants to be known as instead of her boring birth name: Christine. This touching comedy-drama is definitely a must see. Excellent performances as well as writing and directing by indie star Greta Gerwig. Go see it! Grade: A

The Shape of Water
Guillermo Del Toro directs this modern fairy tale set in the 1960’s. It concerns a mute woman who falls in love with an amphibious creature that is being kept at the government facility she works at. The basic story is — I fell in love with the creature from the black lagoon. What was interesting were all the parallels to today… fearing those that are different, white male privilege, sexual harassment, government conspiracies and more. Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon are sure to get nominated for their roles. Also starring Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins. The movie looks great and the director presents some beautiful visuals. Grade: B+

DVDs

Blade Runner
So I had to catch up on this one as I never saw it when it came out, and a sequel is out soon. Harrison Ford stars and Ridley Scott directs. The story has Ford playing a detective tracking down replicants (artificial humans) . What is cool about the movie is the look of it. The story was just OK to me. I know that it bombed at the time, but is considered a sci-fi classic now. Grade: C+

Passengers
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in this action-adventure movie. They are passengers on a space ship traveling to a new colony. Pratt’s character wakes up from the deep sleep he was in. He is alone, and he decides to wake up another person to spend time with — Lawrence’s character. The only “person” that they communicate with is a robot played by Michael Sheen. The stars have decent chemisty, but there is not much to the story for me. Much ado about nothing. Grade: C-

Office Christmas Party
A raunchy office comedy that stars Jennifer Anniston and Jason Bateman. T.J. Miller co-stars as Aniston’s brother — who is running the family business. He gets the idea to throw a wild Christmas party in order to nab a potential client. So there is sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I got some good laughs, it was decent diversion. Grade: B-

Madonna — Rebel Heart Tour
Madonna’s last world tour is finally on home video after premiering on Showtime last December. What you get is another wild and wonderful spectacle from the Queen of Pop. She may have been 58 when it was filmed, but she doesn’t look like she is slowing down. She is still pushing the limits. Includes new songs as well as re-worked favorites too. The DVD also includes a highlights audio CD. A 2-disc full audio version of the show is sold separately. Grade: A

Dixie Chicks — DCX MMXVI Live
This is the DVD from last year’s tour by the Dixie Chicks. It was my #1 tour of last year. This concert was filmed at the Forum in Los Angeles. It was great to see this show again. The crowd is into it and the ladies are in fine form. Includes all their hits plus a few new songs too. They haven’t lost any of their edge. The nice package comes with 2 CDs of the show too. Grade: A

Colossal
Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis star in this comedic drama. The basic plot is that Hathaway returns home after losing her job and boyfriend. In a parallel story, there is a monster that is attacking Seoul, Korea. It turns out that Hathaway is the one who is controlling the monster. Every movement she makes when she is at the park, happens with the monster on the other side of the world. The makers get plus points for trying something different. But ultimately I just thought the movie was sort of weird and just OK. Grade: C-

Split
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie stars James McAvoy as a deranged man who has multiple personality disorder. He kidnaps 3 teenage girls from a mall parking lot and keeps them in a bunker-like location. The personalities range from a little boy to a woman to a violent man. The girls are never quite sure who they are dealing with. Betty Buckley stars as his therapist. The movie is better than I thought it would be. McAvoy does a good job of playing crazy. Grade: B

The Founder
Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the man behind fast-food phenomenon McDonald’s. Kroc was just a milkshake mixer salesmen when he met the McDonald’s brothers in Southern California. Kroc goes into business with them and ultimately steals the company right out from under them. It is an interesting story about greed, ambition and drive. Grade: A-

A United Kingdom
David Oyelowo and Rosemund Pike star in this true story. It tells the story of Seretse Kharma and Ruth Williams. He is the heir to the throne of a kingdom in Africa. She is a English typist who he falls in love with when he is studying in England. Their marriage gains international attention and causes both of them strife and instability. Would his homeland accept him as King with a white wife? I enjoyed it — good acting, writing and directing. Grade: A-

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
This is the sequel to Al Gore’s 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel.” That movie detailed the effects of global warming on the planet. Since then there have been some successes with the movement, but there is still a lot to be worried about. We are getting more extreme weather as well as national catastrophes. Plus we have politicians who are still denying that climate change is real. We need to keep talking til real change gets made. Grade: B+

CDs

Fleetwood Mac — The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac
I decided to get this as I had the “Greatest Hits” from them and felt that they had more to offer. This 2-disc retrospective has all the hits, plus classic album cuts and lost treasures too. It is a great career overview for them. Grade: A-

Thomas Rhett — Life Changes
Rhett’s third album follows his breakthrough “Tangled Up.” There are special appearances by Maren Morris and his Dad, Rhett Atkins. It is an eclectic batch of songs, most of which he co-wrote. So you get some modern country pop, a hillbilly tune with his Dad, and white-boy soul. I don’t think it is as good as “Tangled Up.” His voice sounds great. Maybe it will grow on me. Grade: C+

Miley Cyrus — Younger Now
Miley’s latest album takes a different path from her last major project “Bangerz.” She has made a folk-pop album with touches of country also running through the tracks. What I love about it is — is that she is doing what she wants and not trying to bow to the radio gods. She has help from Dolly Parton on one song. I can really sense her artistry on here. She is maturing as an artist. Go check it out. Grade: B

Glee – The Music — The Graduation Album
The original stars of the Fox musical comedy-drama are graduating from high school during this season musical highlights. The cover songs include songs by fun., Lady GaGa, Jason Mraz, Green Day and more. It was nice to hear my favorites from the show again including Rachel, Finn, Kurt and more. Grade: B-

DNCE — DNCE
First, Nick Jonas had a hit with his solo career. Now brother Joe and his band DNCE are releasing their first full-length album after last year’s EP “Swaay”. This album includes the hits “Cake by the Ocean” and “Toothbrush” as well as a bunch of other catchy, fun songs. I always said the brothers were talented. “Almost” is a nice mid-tempo song about a relationship that almost worked out. I recommend it. Grade: B+

Demi Lovato — Tell Me You Love Me
Former Disney girl Demi is all grown up and loving life. This is definitely better than “Confident” her last album. I love the title track as well as the first single “Sorry Not Sorry.” She’s sassy and sexy and she’s got herself some good songs that are worthy of her vocals. I am enjoying it. Grade: B+

Kelly Clarkson — Meaning of Life
For Kelly’s 8th album, she is going for a more R&B sound than her previous albums. The results are one of her best albums ever. The set includes the first single “Love So Soft” as well as plenty of great hook-filled songs like “Heat,” “Medicine” and “Whole Lotta Woman.” Her backup singers are given prominence during some numbers. She continues to be my favorite Idol winner. Grade: A

Pink — Beautiful Trauma
Pink’s latest album (her 7th) recently debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. It contains the first single “What About Us” as well as the title track “Beautiful Trauma.” Sonically it is a typical Pink album, with some rock, dance, folk and pop leanings on various tracks. Through it all her voice sounds strong. They are some of the best vocals of her career. She walks the line between arena rocker and singer-songwriter for me. And that’s a good place to be. Grade: B+

 

TV

American Horror Story: Cult
The latest season of the horror anthology show takes the last Presidential election as a jumping off point for it’s story. Series regulars Evan Peters and Sara Paulson are the main stars this season. Peters is a right-wing nut, who voted for Trump. Paulson is one half of a lesbian couple that wanted Hilary to win. Peters seems to a be a messiah-like guy who is running for office; and he is amassing people for his cult. Paulson is one who is terrorized by some killer clowns who are part of the cult. I had my reservations after the first episode (about it being too close to reality). And I complained about it to my husband a few times after that…. I have since given up on it, it is too much for me — disgusting and sick. Grade: C-

Dynasty
From the producers of “Gossip Girl” comes the update of the classic 80’s soap “Dynasty.” As a huge fan of the original, I was looking forward to this. Grant Show (Melrose Place) leads the cast as Blake Carrington. So now the show takes place in Atlanta instead of Colorado. And they are in the energy industry not oil. Plus the cast is multi-cultural now too. What was surprising to me, was how closely it followed the story of the original. I was expecting more. The biggest change was changing Sammy Jo to a Latin guy. And that throws everything off, as Sammy Jo came into Steven’s life after Blake killed Steven’s lover. We’ll see where they go with the show. But so far, I am not impressed. I did love the flashback scene to Fallon and Steven’s childhood, with Steven playing the old “Dynasty” theme on the piano. Grade: C

The Mayor
A political newcomer suddenly finds himself elected to office. In this case, it’s an aspiring African-American rapper who becomes the mayor of small town in Northern California. He is aided by his 2 childhood buddies and his chief of staff played Lea Michele (Glee). Brandon Michael Hall stars as mayor Courtney Rose, who still lives at home with his Mama, a local postal worker. Yes, it’s a fish out of water tale in a new setting. It makes a good companion with “Black-ish.” I am rooting for this “Mayor” to succeed. Grade: B

Will & Grace
After 11 years, the ground-breaking Emmy winning series is back on NBC with all of the original cast members. I was skeptical at first, but I have enjoyed the first half of the season. The writing is sharp and funny. After the year we have had in the US, it is time to laugh again. And this is TV comfort food. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon. As always comments are kindly welcomed.

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

Fall Entertainment Roundup Part 1

It’s that time again for my inner critic to come out and make my tastes known. So what movies and DVDs have I been enjoying? Read on for my recommendations or pans. Part 2 will be focusing on CDs and TV shows.

Movies

Barbershop: The Next Cut
Ice Cube resurrects his hit “Barbershop” movie series. This time he’s brought in Nicki Minaj and Common, as well as series regulars Cedric the Entertainer and Deon Cole. The drama centers around gangs infiltrating the neighborhood, and possibly recruiting his son. So the shop, stays open over a weekend and offers free haircuts as a way to bring the neighborhood together. Both funny and topical too — I enjoyed my visit back to the Shop. Grade: B

Captain America: Civil War
Captain America and Tony Stark’s Iron Man face off against each other in Marvel’s latest superhero extravaganza. The rest of the Avengers (minus Thor and Hulk) are forced to choose sides in this battle. Captain thinks the team should not be beholden to any government body, while Tony wants them to sign a document which puts limits on what they can and should do as a group. Inspired turns from Black Panther, Spiderman and even Ant Man help to keep this movie fun and moving swiftly. The action sequences are great as always. You’ll enjoy yourself. Grade: A-

The Jungle Book
Director Jon Favreau has created a live-action version of Disney’s animated classic “The Jungle Book.” Featuring the voice talents of Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray as the animals and plus newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli. This movie is one of the most entertaining movies I have seen this year. You have laughs, you have great action sequences, and you have a few songs too. I was impressed. I would definitely see it again! Grade: A-

Money Monster
Julia Roberts and George Clooney star in this movie directed by Jodie Foster. Clooney plays a TV host who has a show called Money Monster where he gives financial advice. Julia Roberts plays the show’s producer. Jake O’Connell costars as a disgruntled man who takes Clooney and the show hostage over a bad stock pick. I liked this movie, but really felt that they set up a situation that they didn’t know how to resolve. So the first part of the movie was better than the ending. I was expecting some big statement about the 1% or even gun control — but you never get it. They could have pushed it much further. Grade: B-

Purple Rain
Reissued in theaters after Prince’s death, it was good to see this movie again after so long. Prince’s performance, particularly the music sequences, still stand strong. Apollonia, well, not so much. I especially didn’t care for the abusive boyfriend bit considering what we saw in real-life with Chris Brown and Rihanna. Glad to hear that the Revolution will be reuniting, just wishing their leader was still with us. Grade: B-

The Secret Life of Pets
From the same studio that brought you the Minions, comes this new animated feature that imagines a day in the life of household pets. So we get dogs, cats, a bird even a bunny interacting with one another and having an adventure in the big city. I liked it, and had fun, but ultimately it was sort of forgettable. Featuring the voices of Louis CK, Eric Stonestreet and Kevin Hart. Grade: B-

X-Men: Apocalypse
The 6th movie in the X-Men franchise is again directed by Bryan Singer. This one concerns the return of the world’s first mutant — Apocalypse, who has been buried under the temples of Egypt for centuries. He is back and wants to destroy the world. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James MacAvoy. So you have the fan favorites Raven, Magneto and Charlies Xavier. Plus you see the origins of Jean Gray, Storm and Cyclops. The story is a bit all over the place, but I still enjoyed myself. It will be interesting to see where things go from here. Grade: B-

 

DVDs

Two Days, One Night
This subtitled import from France has an interesting premise. A woman finds herself laid off from her job. Her coworkers were given a choice: a bonus or their coworker gets laid off. She takes it upon herself to convince her co-workers to change their vote over the course of a weekend. Marion Cotillard stars as the employee who tries to win over her co-workers to her side. Grade: B

Southpaw
Jake Gyllenhal stars as boxer who has to redeem himself to regain custody of his daughter. This movie is built on a bunch of clichés. Jake does the best with what he is given, but the script lets us down. Grade: C

The Gift
Another interesting small movie that makes you think. Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as a couple who lives are upended after a mysterious man from the husband’s past shows up and won’t go away. Written and directed by Joel Edgerton. It definitely had echoes of “Fatal Attraction” to me, but concerned a scorned friend instead of a lover. Grade: B

Mr. Holmes
Ian McKellen stars as Sherlock Holmes in his senior years as he is facing his own mortality. Laura Linney co-stars as the woman who is taking care of him at his residence. He is trying to hold back his decline and remember the details from his final case. He also starts a friendship with the son of his housekeeper. Despite the good cast, it was just OK to me. Grade: C

 

Plays

In the Heights
From the creator of “Hamilton,” “In the Heights” was the first Broadway hit for creator Lin-Manual Miranda. It concerns a group of citizens, Hispanic immigrants mostly, making their way in the city: Finding love, navigating careers and school, building a better future for yourself and your loved ones. The score is very hip-hop inspired and there are nice solos for a lot of the company. The dancing and choreography were very elaborate too. I really enjoyed myself! Go see it!

Make sure to come back for Part 2 featuring my reviews of CDs and TV shows. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

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

 

Happy 5th Anniversary Kilt Man!

This month marks the 5th anniversary of this blog. There have been 226 blogs written over the last 5 years. That is an incredible accomplishment if I do say so myself! In honor of this momentous occasion I will look back on some of the highlights from the past year.Dan-5Year

I celebrated my love of all things entertainment with quarterly recaps of what I am watching and listening to. See Summer Entertainment Roundup Part 2, Entertainment Roundup 2016 Part 1 and 2, plus Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 1 and 2. Don’t worry, I am already working on one for Summer 2016.

I attended some high-profile concert tours and invited you to experience them through my eyes. See reviews of Madonna, Kelly Clarkson, Janet Jackson, the B-52s and more. Plus check out my Facebook page for A View from the Cheap Seats for more photos and reviews of live music shows through the years.

I voiced my frustrations about not having a TV (Living Without TV), and what songs are played on radio these days (Radio Playlists [Stagnation]). As well as weighed in on gun control too (All Lives Matter). I also complained about the frustrations of collecting all the music of one particular artist (Complete Collections).

I gave my predictions on who would win at the Oscars and on the final season of American Idol. I also celebrated all the fantastic albums/songs by American Idols through the years.

I highlighted the hunky actors and singers that I would to see in kilts in Guys I Want to See in a Kilt Part 3. Surprisingly I didn’t write any more on kilts this year, or on Speedos for that matter. Look for new blogs coming on those topics in the coming months.

Thanks for being a part of my incredible journey on this blog. I look forward to sharing my thoughts, feelings and interests with you for many years to come. Please sound off in the comments if you have any topic suggestions. 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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Guys I Want to See in a Kilt Part 3

 

It is refreshing to see more and more kilt companies popping up in the last few years. They see a market for something different with men’s clothing. And who better to improve visibility for kilts, then to see a celebrity wearing one. I would love to see the following celebrities out and about in a kilt. I am sure they would make some best-dressed lists if they did.

Sam Hunt — This country hunk has made a splash on the music scene in the past year with his album “Montevallo” and it’s singles “Take Your Time” and “House Party.” I can imagine him rocking a utility kilt for sure.

Teddy Sears — Besides being an actor in such shows as “The Flash” and “Masters of Sex,“ this man is an athlete who loves surfing and triathlons. A sport kilt sounds up his alley.

Matt Bomer — He’s been in big box-office hits (Magic Mike) and TV shows too (American Horror Story: Hotel). Plus he’s gay in real life. I could see him wearing a kilt on the red carpet some time.

Ben McKenzie — He’s come a long way since “The OC”. Now starting on Fox’s Batman prequel “Gotham” as Detective James Gordon. He plays a tough guy on TV, but I bet he has a softer side in real life. Plus he has Scottish ancestry too.

Tom Mison — He stars on “Sleepy Hollow,” as a man who is from another time. So he is used to period clothing. What has more tradition and history than wearing a kilt?

Jamie Bell — The boy who was “Billy Elliot” has grown up nicely. He has a background in dance, besides acting in such films as “The Eagle” and “Snowpiercer.” I could see him wearing a hiking kilt on the weekends.

Jason Derulo — Pop/R&B hit-maker Jason Derulo has given us such fun songs as “Talk Dirty” and “Want to Want Me.” Plus, he’s taken on judging on “So You Think You Can Dance” also. He is always very stylish and trendy with his clothes. I could see him rocking a kilt in his concerts.

Corey Stoll — He’s equally at home on screens big (Ant-Man) and small (House of Cards). He’s tall and has big ears… just imagine him wearing a kilt commando.

Jason Statham — Action hunk Jason Statham has definitely kicked some major ass on the big screen in such films as “The Transporter” and “Fast 8.” I can’t imagine anyone taking issue with him when he is wearing a kilt.

Chris O’Donnell — He started in the movies (Batman & Robin), but now makes his home on TV (NCIS: Los Angeles). Plus he has some modeling on his resume. I could see him wearing a kilt relaxing on vacation.

Zac Efron — He came from the Disney Channel (High School Musical), but he’s graduated to big screen roles in “Hairspray and “Neighbors.” He boyish charm, and hot body would make him look great in a kilt.

So, those are my choices for this latest round of kilt fantasy hunks. Did I mention your favorite? Be sure to check out Parts 1 & 2 of this series. Sound off in the comments with your 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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 2

Here’s what I have been listening to and watching over the past few months. As always, comments are kindly welcome.

CDs

Ed Sheeran “X (Wembley Edition) The expanded edition of his hit album “X” with 8 additional songs. So you get the hits like “Sing,” “Thinking Out Loud” and “Photograph” as well as new songs like “Touch and Go” and “Lay It All on Me” (w/ the group Rudimental). Grade: A

Daughtry “Baptized” The fourth album from American Idol alumni Chris Daughtry and his band. Stylistically he hasn’t changed much since his debut, I was hoping he would mix it up some. Highlights include “Waiting for Superman” and “Long Live Rock & Roll” (where he name checks major acts from the 70’s and 80’s). Grade: B

Daughtry “Break the Spell” The third album from American Idol alumni Chris Daughtry and his band. Highlights include “Crawling Back to You,” “Outta my Head” and the title track. Grade: B

Elliott Yamin “Let’s Get to What’s Real” Elliott’s 3rd album is his most R&B album to date. It’s real music played by real musicians. He reminds me of Michael McDonald some, with his white-boy soul. Grade: B

Charles Kelly “The Driver” This is the first solo album from Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum fame. He doesn’t stray too far from the fold. I could imagine most of these on a Lady A album. Guests include: Dierks Bentley, Stevie Nicks and Miranda Lambert. Highlights include the Grammy-nominated title track and the blues-rock ballad ‘The Only One Who Gets Me.” Grade: B-

Dixie Chicks “The Essential Dixie Chicks” The country trio is finally heading back on the road this summer. So I picked up this collection to remind myself of all the great songs they have in their song catalog. It is easy to hear their influence in a lot of the young singers out there. Grade: A

Rihanna “Music of the Sun” The first album from the superstar. I needed to recover from the lousy “ANTI.” It contains the radio hit “Pon de Replay.” Lots of reggae and dancehall touches on this album. It showed she was an artist to watch. Grade: B-

Boyz II Men “Twenty” Celebrating 20 years as a group, this double album has 13 new songs as well as 8 re-recorded Boyz II Men classics. Nothing new really, but still likable. They still have their trademark harmonies. Grade: B

DVDs

The Last Five Years
Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan star in this movie musical about a young couple’s romance and dissolution over the course of the last 5 years. The interesting thing is it has very little dialog, and the story is told through the songs. His story starts at the beginning, and hers starts with the end. I thought it was very well done. Grade: A-

Sicario
Emily Blunt leads an all star cast including Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. She plays an FBI agent who gets involved with the DEA and helping with the war on drugs on the Mexico and American borders. It’s a situation where nobody seems to win. Grade: B+

A Most Violent Year
It’s 1981 in New York City. This drama stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Issac, as a married couple who run a heating oil company in a very competitive environment. She’s the daughter of a mob boss. He is an immigrant who is trying to make his way in a tough business. The title was a little misleading… not very violent in my opinion. But a good character study about striving for the American Dream. Grade: B-

Fifty Shades of Grey
OK, I had to see it to see what the fuss was about. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star. He’s a millionaire with a kink fetish; she’s the naïve student who falls for the wounded millionaire. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t romantic. It was just sort of like, why is this a phenomenon? I did like the music, but that’s about it. I can’t believe there are 2 sequels coming. Grade: D

Cake
Jennifer Aniston stars in this drama that deals with some heavy issues. She plays Claire, who is a pain pill addict who is trying to get by. One of her friends kills herself and she find herself investigating her life, while trying to put hers back together. Claire was in a horrible car wreck, where her child died, and from that she is now in chronic pain. Grade: A-

Movies

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
The sequel to 2013’s Man of Steel, brings back Henry Cavill as Superman going against Ben Affleck as Batman. Bruce Wayne has been watching what has been going on with Superman, and is not sure that he can be trusted. So Batman takes on trying to bring Superman down. But they have to come together to fight a new enemy that has been created by Lex Luther — Doomsday. Plus Wonder Woman shows up too. I hated the previous movie, “Man of Steel.” This is better, but not by much. The actors are all fine… what I have issues with is the direction and writing. Plus, why do these movies have to be so long? In the end, it’s all a big commercial for the Justice League movies. Grade: C+

Deadpool
Ryan Reynolds stars as the title character in the latest Marvel super hero movie. He’s foul mouthed, snarky and mischievous. I was not familiar with this character at all. Overall, I liked it, didn’t love it. I had a problem with the violence, and it wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. There were some similarities to “Guardians of the Galaxy” — offbeat factor, the love of old music — but that was a much better movie in my opinion. I doubt I would see a sequel. Grade: B-

Zootopia
The latest movie from Walt Disney Animation imagines a world where all the animals get along and work at various jobs. Judy Hopps is a bunny who becomes a police officer in the city, and has to work with Nick, the fox, to solve why some of the animals in the city are missing. Featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Shakira (who sings a few songs too). The movie is fun and colorful and like a lot of Disney cartoon works on couple of levels. I enjoyed it. Grade: B+

TV

The Passion Live
The Passion Live is the latest of TV’s live spectacles (The Wiz, Grease). This one was a bit of a mixed bag… not really a musical per se, and not all the way live either. The Passion tells the story of Jesus in the last few hours of his life. It was hosted by Tyler Perry, and filmed in and around New Orleans. The segments not on stage were filmed beforehand, only the action on the stage was filmed live. I found it interesting that they used mostly pop songs, and not religious songs for it. So you got songs from Phillip Phillps, Katy Perry and Tina Turner … sung by a group of artists like Chris Daughtry, Seal, Prince Royce and Trisha Yearwood. Some of the songs worked, others did not. And then when the story wasn’t being told, they showed a large lighted cross being carried through the streets of the city, plus interviews with people along the way. Overall, it was just an OK show. Not something I see as a yearly event like the producers would like it to be. Grade: C

Dead 7
SyFy channel brings together a bunch of has-been boy band singers for a zombie western. So you get Joey and Chris from NSync; Nick, Howie and AJ from Backstreet Boys; Jeff from 98 Degrees and Eric-Michael from O-Town. Plus Latin-pop singer Jon Secada too. I was surprised how straight it was played…. I was hoping for a campy movie like a “Sharknado”… but it played more like a very bad zombie movie that shouldn’t have been made in the first place. Stick to singing guys! At least BSB is working on a new album. Grade: D

That’s all for this time. Please sound off in the comment below. I would love to ehar what you are watching and listening to.

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 birthdays, anniversaries and more.

Entertainment Roundup 2016

I love all kinds of entertainment: movies, TV, music, DVDs and more. Here is my take on the past 6 months of entertainment. Part I will cover movies and DVDs. Part II will cover music and more.

Movies

Jurassic World
The 4th installment in the “Jurassic Park” franchise brings in newly minted action hero Chris Pratt along with Bryce Dallas Howard. The park is finally open, and going well until they decide to mess with Mother Nature, and create a genetically enhanced super dinosaur. Of course, things do not go well. But that’s all part of the fun, because we want to see dinosaurs chomping some people. I enjoyed it for the popcorn movie it was. The first one is still the best. Grade: B

Inside Out
The latest from Disney/Pixar is an original story about the voices inside your head: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. All of these are inside Riley, an 11 year old girl who is dealing with some traumatic times in her life — moving to a new city, new home, new school, having busy and stressed parents, trying to make new friends. I really enjoyed this movie… and it’s take on how we are all complicated individuals and how we deal with the process of growing up. Grade: A-

Ant Man
Paul Rudd stars as the title super hero. The latest from the Marvel universe. This movie brought back the fun that has been missing from some other recent superhero movies. Ant Man is able to shrink to the size of an ant with the help of a special suit. Great cast with Michael Douglas as the hero’s inventor/mentor and Corey Stoll as the villain. Go see it.
Grade: A-

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
This is the fifth movie in the Mission Impossible franchise, starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. Simon Pegg provides comic relief, and newcomer Rebecca Ferguson plays the femme fatale who may or may not be a help to Ethan. Like a lot of summer movies, the story is almost besides the point. These movies are all about the action and on that level it doesn’t disappoint. Grade: B-

Spectre
The 4th James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig. It has some great action sequences, but overall it was not as good as Skyfall for me. I like the fact that there are ties to the previous Bond movies he has been in. The villain, played by Christoph Waltz, was disappointing to me. I kept thinking of the Austin Power movies (Will someone do another one, or reboot it, please?). Overall, a pleasant enough diversion. Grade: B-

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The 4th and final movie in the Hunger Games franchise based on the books of Suzanne Collins. Jennifer Lawrence is back as Katniss, leading us on a journey to the Capitol to kill President Snow and end things once and for all. Peeta is still recovering after being brainwashed. There are a lot of bobby traps set for the rebels as they make their way to the Capitol. This is a thrilling conclusion to the saga. Go see it. Grade: A-

 

DVDs

The Good Lie
Based on true events, this movie tells the story of Sudan’s Lost Boys. Children that were forced out of their country due to war and violence. They traveled thousands of miles to Kenya, where they ended up in refuge camps. Years later some of them were lucky enough to emigrate to America. Reese Witherspoon stars in a supporting role as a job placement specialist in Kansas City, Missouri. Grade: A-

Love is Strange
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina star as same-sex lovers who get married after many years together, only to end up dealing with some unexpected consequences of their actions. Grade: B

Calvary
Brendan Gleeson stars as a priest in Ireland who finds himself in a dilemma when a person threatens to kill him in 1 week (told to him in the confessional). He starts to see all the town’s people as possible suspects of the crime. Grade: A-

I hope you check these movies out on home video. I would love to hear your comments. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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

Spring-Summer Entertainment Roundup

So what movies, DVDs and CDs have I been enjoying during the spring and early summer, read on:

Movies

Cinderella
Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Cate Blanchett as the evil step-mother and Lily James as Cinderella, this is the latest Disney live-action fairy tale reimagining. While I enjoyed it overall, I couldn’t help thinking how dated this story is in 2015. The costumes, sets and fantasy sequences are all top notch. And Richard Madden makes a good love interest as the prince. But unlike “Malificent”, which was a new twist on an old story this one was more straight-forward and stuck to the same story as the animated movie. “Frozen Fever” was a cute new short before the movie… about Elsa planning a birthday party for Anna, and sneezing out little snow men cause she was sick. Includes one new song. Grade: B-

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
This is the sequel to 2011’s surprise hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Again, directed by John Madden, and starring Dev Patel as the hotel owner, and Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith (among other returning stars from the first film). The story concerns Sonny’s attempt to open a 2nd hotel, while he is planning his upcoming wedding. The fun of these movies is the cast. With overlapping and intertwined storylines for all the retirees who are living at the hotel for the “eldery and beautiful.” Richard Gere plays a mysterious newcomer who may be a hotel spy checking in on things before Sonny gets funding for the new location. Grade: B+

Home
The latest movie from DreamWorks Animation is a story of about an cuddly alien named Oh (Jim Parsons) and his friendship with a teen girl named Tip (Rihanna). Oh is one of the alien species — Boovs —who have taken over earth, and displaced all the humans to Australia (except for Tip and her pet cat). There are cute cultural clash scenarios on both sides as Oh helps Tip get back to her mother. It’s basically a mismatched buddy comedy, but it works. Grade: B

Furious Seven
The seventh movie in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. And the last one for Paul Walker who died during filming. The story is sort of beside the point in these movies. You get the outrageous stunts, and yes, they are ridiculous. Jason Statham plays the bad guy. But I enjoyed it for it’s over the topness. I had a good time and we’ve come to know the characters as our own family. Grade: B+

Ex Machina
This modern-day sci-fi movie tackles the challenges with artificial intelligence. Oscar Isaac plays an eccentric Internet billionaire who invites one of his programmers (Domhnall Gleeson) to his house for a week. The guy thinks he won some sort of company contest. In reality, he is there to meet Isaac’s new invention — Ava. She’s a lifelike robot with exposed wires and a sensitive, inquisitive nature. Grade: A-

The Water Diviner
Russell Crowe stars in and makes his directorial debut in this film based on real-life events. It the story of a father looking for his 3 sons who died at the battle of Gallipoli during World War I. Turns out that one son may be alive still. It was an interesting story, the only part I didn’t buy was the love story between Crowe and a Turkish woman. Grade: B-

The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Marvel’s latest super hero extravaganza brings back Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk and Captain America for another adventure. James Spader provides the voice and motion capture for Ultron, a Stark artificial intelligence who wants to exterminate humans. The movie was likable, but forgettable. And the sense of fun that the first one had was missing. Grade: C+

Pitch Perfect 2
You favorite a capella group, the Barden Bellas is back for more fun. Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson lead the cast in a movie directed by Elizabeth Banks. This time the group has to rebound from an unfortunate incident involving Fat Amy during one of their performances. So they decide to compete at the World Acapella Championships to reclaim their glory. They have to compete against some very competitive Germans. Just as much fun as the first one, but lacks the hit song that “Cups” was. Grade: B

Mad Max Fury Road
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron star in this ‘revisiting’ from original Mad Max director George Miller. I enjoyed the crazy stunts and action sequences, but found the story a bit lacking. Were they fighting over oil, milk, water, women — or all of the above? Grade: B

San Andreas
Dwayne Johnson stars in a 21st century version of “Earthquake.” The whole west coast, including LA and San Francisco are destroyed during a series of earthquakes. The Rock plays a LA Fire Department rescue team member, who is able to save his soon-to-be ex-wife (in LA) and daughter (in SF) via a series of vehicles: helicopter, plane, and boat. This was a fun popcorn movie, you will laugh and have a good time. Also, includes a cameo by Kylie Minogue. (Yes, I recognized her!). Grade: B+

Let me know your thoughts on my reviews. I would love to hear from you. Part 2 will cover DVDs and CDs. Til next time…

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 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.

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