Views on pop culture through my eyes

Posts tagged ‘reviews’

Spring Reviews Part 1

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. What have I been listening to and watching recently? Read on.

CDs

Basia “It’s That Girl Again” Back from her 90’s hey day, comes Basia. The only latin pop contemporary jazz artist to come from Poland that I know of! She doesn’t mess with her formula too much, which is a good thing. It was good hear from an old friend again. Grade: B+

Kenny Chesney “Hemingway’s Whiskey” Kenny is a very consistent performer for me. He’s got his successful formula, and he is good at it. So you get the party songs along with some ballads thrown in and some island references too. Includes his duet with Grace Potter on “You and Tequila.” Grade: B

Miranda Lambert “The Weight of These Wings” This is her first project since her public split from Blake Shelton. It is a double album, that is one of her most personal. It doesn’t really have a good radio single from it, but there is still plenty to like. It gets better with each listen. Grade: A-

Kylie Minogue “The Abbey Road Sessions” Basically it is Kylie unplugged. So you get reworked versions of Kylie’s hits and album cuts with all new arrangements. So yes, there are lots of strings on here. I really like this album. Pop artists like Kylie don’t seem to get the respect they deserve. Definitely worth a listen. You can tell she is a good pop singer when you strip away her production. Not something you can say about a lot of today’s pop stars. Grade: B+

Mary J. Blige “My Life II — The Journey Continues (Act I)” Mary J. Blige brings forth a sequel to her “My Life” album. Beyonce, Drake and Nas help out, but it’s her voice and charisma that shine through. She does a remake of “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan. But my favorite is a song called “25/8.” Where she sings about a love she wants more than 24/7. Another consistently good album from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Grade: B

DNCE “Swaay” Another Jonas bother takes flight, this time it’s Joe Jonas. Joe sings lead in this 4-person group. He tried a solo album before, but that never took off. The EP of 4 songs, includes the smash hit single “Cake by the Ocean” as well as the hit “Toothbrush.” Worth a listen. Grade: B

Alex Newell “Power” An alumni of “Glee,” Alex first came to prominence on the “Glee Project” before taking on the role of Unique on the ground-breaking Fox drama. He is channeling 90’s dance divas on his first EP. The songs will get you moving. Grade: B

Bryan Adams “Get Up” The Canadian rocker is back with his latest collection. And it is produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO. You get some rockabilly, some ballads, and a few acoustic versions of some of the new songs. I enjoyed it. Highlights include: “You Belong to Me” and “We Did It All.” Grade: A-

Blake Shelton “Startin’ Fires” One of Blake’s earlier albums. A nice mix of songs including the #1 smash “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” Also includes a duet with Miranda Lambert before they got married on “Bare Skin Rug” that highlights their chemistry. Grade: B

Tim McGraw “Two Lanes of Freedom” One of country’s most consistent performers, Tim delivers another solid collection. Includes the hit “Highway Don’t Care” with Keith Urban and Taylor Swift. Grade: B

Diana Ross “The Definitive Collection” I decided to pick up this collection after seeing Miss Ross in concert last summer. I was reminded of her incredible song catalog at the show, and this is a great collection of her biggest hits including “Endless Love” and “Upside Down.” Grade: A

Ed Sheeran “Divide” Ed is back with his latest album. And he has gone to number one on the singles chart with “Shape of You” as well as number 1 for the album also. He does his white-boy hip-hop on a few songs; plus brings in some celtic textures, latin rhythms and world music on a few numbers too. It is a nice welcome back from one of today’s hottest talents. Grade: A-

Little Big Town “The Breaker” The country vocal quartet is back in the country lane after a detour into pop with last year’s “Wanderlust.” You have their trademark vocal harmonies on a nice collection of songs including “Better Man” (written for them by Taylor Swift). Other highlights include: “Happy People” and “We Went to the Beach.” Grade: A-

Mariah Carey “Me. I Am Mariah. The Elusive Chanteuse” Mariah’s most recent studio album, has a nice mix of ballads and uptempo songs. Plus some special guest appearances including R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige on the deluxe edition. Includes the hit “#Beautiful” with Miguel. Grade: B+

Jason Mraz “Love Is a Four Letter Word” Jason is in love. This is a pleasant album. RB Lite is what I would call it. Includes the hit “I Won’t Give Up.” Grade: B-

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

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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Spring Entertainment Roundup Part 1

It’s that time again… here are my reviews on albums, movies, DVDs and even one play that I have seen/experienced in the last few months. As always comments are kindly welcomed.

 

Albums

Justin Bieber “Purpose” I am a belieber! I never thought I would buy an album from this guy. But he’s been smart and has hooked up with some top producers and song writers to deliver a solid collection of dance-pop songs. Highlights include all the singles “Where Are U Now,” “Sorry,” “What Do You Mean and “Sorry.” Grade: A-

Demi Lovato “Confident” This is someone I should like…. I have liked other Disney girls like Miley, Britney, Christina and Hilary Duff too. I knew her music from the “Camp Rock” movies plus a few of the bigger hits too. Her vocals are strong throughout, the songs not as much for me. Highlights include “Cool for the Summer” and “Confident.” Grade: C+

Bryan Adams “Anthology” This is the most definite collection for Canada’s own Bryan Adams. I have 2 other greatest hits collection from him (See previous blog about complete collections). So you get the hits, album tracks, and a few bonus tracks like live and alternate versions too. With over 30 songs, this is a strong career overview. Grade: A-

Carrie Underwood “Storyteller” The latest from American Idol winner Carrie Underwood is a solid collection of the songs she does best. You have sweet ballads, and you have your songs with attitude too. I didn’t think it was a strong as “Blown Away” when I first got it, but it is growing on me. Highlights include: “Smoke Break,” “Heartbeat” and “Chaser.” Grade: B+

Rihanna “ANTI” There is no being nice here — “ANTI” is awful. I can’t believe we waited 3 years for this. No hits as far as I am concerned… maybe 2-3 OK songs. This is a serious misstep for her. And she is one of the best females of the 2000’s. Still looking forward to the concert… but seriously she has done better than this. Somehow the first single “Work” — actually went to #1. Grade: D

Miranda Lambert “Kerosene” The first album from her. I actually started with her most recent release, “Platinum,” which I loved, so that made me curious about earlier releases. I knew the title track, but that was it. The rest of it doesn’t disappoint. A good mix of uptempo songs and ballads. You could tell she was on her way to greatness. Grade: A-

Wynonna & the Big Noise “Wynonna & the Big Noise” The latest album from Wyonna Judd, and her first since 2009. This time she brought along her band, the Big Noise, in which her husband is a member. She’s not trying to chase any trends here… and I doubt she will be played on the radio with it. But she made the album she wanted, a very blues-rock oriented country record. Definitely worth a listen. Grade: B

 

Movies

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The 7th installment in the Star Wars saga brings back old favorites Harrison Ford and Carrie Fischer, along with a group of newcomers. I guess I am just over Star Wars. It was OK at best… And the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. What I liked when I was 13 is not what I like now. Just a big commercial for the toys and other tie-ins. Grade: D

Spotlight
It is definitely one of the best movies of the year. Excellent writing and acting. It should be a big awards contender. You will be angry and sad at what went down with the sex scandals and the Catholic Church in Boston. Thank you to the journalists who made this story a priority. And may we continue to hold in prayer those who were victims of abuse. Grade: A

The Big Short
The setting is the recent housing crisis, and how some people bet against it knowing that it would fail. They got rich in the process. Featuring an all-star cast including Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. Directed by comedy veteran Adam McKay. You’ll laugh, but it also mad me mad. Grade: B+

The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio (as Hugh Glass) stars in this story of a fur trapper who is attacked by a bear. His comrades believe he will die in the harsh wilderness and leave him for dead. His son is also murdered so as to have no loose ends. Not only does Glass survive — but he makes his way back to try and kill the man who murdered his son. Beautiful locations and great performances… still it’s basically a long revenge movie. I have a hard time believing this can win as best picture. And if Leo finally wins an Oscar for this, it will be for his whole career and not just this movie. Grade: B-

Bridge of Spies
Tom Hanks stars in this movie directed by Steven Spielberg. During the cold war, a Soviet spy is captured in NY. Hanks is hired as the lawyer to defend him. Later on he arranges for a prisoner exchange when the Russians capture one of our guys. An interesting story I had never heard before. Written by the Coen brothers and Matt Charman. Also starring Oscar nominee Mark Rylance. Grade: A-

Room
Brie Larson stars in this movie about a woman who is held captive in a room along with her son for the past 7 years. Jacob Tremblay is amazing as the son. With a supporting cast that includes William H. Macy and Joan Allen. Mother and son do make it out of the room, only to find challenges adapting to the real world. Ms. Larson is definitely someone to watch out for. She was in another great movie called “Short Term 12.” Grade: A

Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan stars a young woman who leaves her native Ireland for the US and a better life. She lands in Brooklyn, and quickly finds herself growing to like it there… the people, her career, and a boyfriend. A tragedy back at home brings her back to Ireland where she is shown an alternate path she could take. Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson star as the love interests. It has some light moments, and was a nice coming of age story. Grade: B

Creed
Ryan Coogler co-wrote and directed the latest movie in the “Rocky” franchise. Sylvester Stallone stars again as Rocky, but the focus is on Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of Rocky’s foe and friend, Apollo Creed. Rocky becomes his trainer and helps Creed move up the ranks all while facing his own health issues. The studio is hoping for a new franchise. It looks like this is the new chapter the saga needed. Stallone even got an Oscar nomination from this performance. Grade: B

Straight Outta Compton
This biopic tells the true story of the rise of the legendary rap group — N.W.A. It is nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Oscars. I resisted this movie because I really don’t like this type of music, but I found myself getting into the storyline. And for something I don’t follow, I knew a lot of what went down in their story. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E were all recognizable names to me. I still don’t like the music but appreciate where they came from, and what they did based on pure drive and ambition. Grade: B-

Play

Armagayddon
The Second City Studio Stage in Hollywood puts on this original musical about one Christian couple’s reaction to the Marriage Equality Supreme Court verdict. They get engaged on the day they meet and move to San Rafael, CA. There they join a group of Christians hell-bent on converting homos from their evil ways. It was cute, and we got a few laughs…. Sort of predictable. It is about an hour long. Now playing through April. Grade: C+

DVDs

Annie
The big-screen remake of the classic Broadway musical Annie, brings together Jamie Foxx (as the father figure) and Quvenhané Wallis as the adorable orphan Annie. The songs from the original musical still hold up (many in slightly different arrangements), the newer songs were just OK. The movie has a good cast and a big heart. Not perfect by far, but still worth a rental. Grade: B-

Begin Again
Keira Knightly stars as a up and coming singer-songwriter. Mark Ruffalo stars as the guy who takes on trying to make her a star. Adam Levine stars as a Keira’s ex, who has become a star after the breakup. Includes the Academy-Award nominated song “Lost Stars.” Not much weight to the movie, but a pleasant diversion. Grade: B

Lady Antebellum “Wheels Up Tour”
Filmed in Irvine, CA on their 2015 tour, this concert captures the country trio at their best. Featuring songs from all 5 of their studio albums, plus some inspired cover songs too. They bring out their openers Sam Hunt and Hunter Hayes for some help also. Almost as good as being there. Grade: A-

That’s it for Part I, look for Part 2 next time. Thanking 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 birthdays, anniversaries and more.

Summer Entertainment Wrap-Up 2013

Here’s my capsule reviews for various movies and CDs that have come out in the last few months. I hope you find the time to seek out quality summer entertainment where ever you are. So for what I did like, and what I didn’t like, read on.Fast and Furious 6

Movies

Fast and Furious 6

Hard to believe this series is 6 movies in. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson lead the latest venture mostly centered in London, plus Spain too. You like the cast of characters and root for them. It has great car chases, fist fights and spectacular stunts. You will definitely be entertained by this over the top piece of movie fluff. Grade: B+

Frances Ha

What a pleasant surprise! I love a good independent movie. Greta Gerwig and Mickey Sumner star as 2 female friends in NYC. They are navigating careers, family, boyfriends and different living situations. Funny and very touching at times. I highly recommend it. Also cool was the use of pop music on the soundtrack. Grade: A-

The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann was the draw for me with this. Great cast (Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire). And the movie looks great. This is my first exposure to this story, having never read the book or seen a previous movie version. But from what I saw on screen, I’m like — what’s the big fuss? And this book is a classic because? There is not much that happens in the movie compared to what happens in a night time soap. Then I wondered too if Tobey’s character is in love with Gatsby, what with the insane asylum backdrop. Overall, an interesting experiment, not sure it really works. Grade: C+

(more…)

Fall TV Season Recap

The fall TV season is upon us. What shows/specials are your tuning into and what are you turning off? Here are some of the shows that interest me:

The X Factor
I was a bit underwhelmed with this show last season. I think Simon hyped it a bit much. The truth is I like a lot of the top 12 acts on here… plus with new energy from Britney Spears and Demi Lovato, it is shaping up to be a good season. “The Voice” is strong early on, and then limps to it’s finish, not so with this show.The X Factor

Revenge
I am trying to pick up this show. I didn’t watch it at all last season, so I am little confused having seen only 3 episodes so far. But with “Desperate Housewives” gone, I am looking for a Sunday night guilty pleasure.

Grey’s Anatomy
I still enjoy this show. The finale saw the doctors in a plane crash, that already claimed the life of Lexi. And others are written out or leaving soon, like Mark and Teddy. So Shonda Rhimes has a chance to remake her show again. I will be watching.

Modern Family
Last season was great, I have been catching up over the summer. Now with Gloria’s surprise pregnancy, there will be another dynamic to all the family fun. I see that they fast –forwarded Gloria’s pregnancy, so the baby will be born during sweeps I am sure.

Gossip Girl
I was thinking of tuning out this year, but when I heard it was the last season I tuned in to see how they wrap it all up. So far, I am liking “90210” more than this show, it is time for it to go.

As for new shows, I am watching:

666 Park Avenue
Vanessa Williams and Terry O’Quinn headline this new supernatural series set in a haunted apartment building. So far it looks promising, the building has a lot of secrets.

The New Normal
Not sure what to think of this show yet. I watched it because of Ryan Murphy. So far I find it very preachy, and not as funny as it should be. Ryan definitely likes to push issues, but c’mon this is supposedly a comedy, at least it has a good cast.

The Mindy Project
Mindy Kaling leads up a new workplace comedy. I like her, and the cast is pretty good. We’ll see if it gets better. She is definitely someone I am rooting for.

Steel Magnolias
OK, so not a series, but a Lifetime TV remake of the Julia Roberts movie from 1989. This one with an all-black cast headlined by Queen Latifah, Jill Scott and Phylicia Rashad. Not as good as the original, but I still found myself crying during the touching moments. Condola Rashad is the weakest part of the cast… but the friendship between the women is what holds this movie together.

Married to Jonas
This show follows Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, as he navigates married life with his wife, Danielle. Plus his in-laws seem to pop in often. I like them together, let’s hope they don’t become another reality TV couple statistic.

Nashville
So far I am digging this show. Hadyen Panetttiere and Connie Britton star as 2 country music stars, one new, one on the decline. The music is very nice, and this feels more real than the trainwreck that was “Country Strong”. The election subplot is the only sore spot for me.

Let me know what you are watching or not watching this season. Remember the spring TV season is just a few months away.

Spice69man is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. The eBook, A View from the Cheap Seats, can be downloaded from LuluAmazon and the iBookstore. It can be read on any computer, smartphone, or tablet.

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