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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.

Movie Franchises

I am a big movie fan. There have been some great movie franchises, and some terrible ones too. The studios are much more likely to green light a sequel or reboot these days than an original idea. So I got to thinking, what exactly are the good, fair and bad movie series out there? Here goes my list:Movies

Good Movie Series

  • Star Wars (6 movies, more on the way)
  • James Bond (23 movies, more on the way)
  • Indiana Jones (4 movies)
  • Harry Potter (8 movies)
  • Lord of the Rings/Hobbit (5 movies, 1 more on the way)
  • Austin Powers (3 movies)
  • Iron Man (3 movies)
  • Spiderman (3 movies, 1 reboot, more on the way)
  • Toy Story (3 movies)

In-Between Movie Series

(There are some great ones in the series, but quality was up and down overall)

  • Terminator (4 movies)
  • Alien (5 movies)
  • Fast and the Furious (6 movies, more on the way)
  • Superman (4 movies, plus 2 separate reboots, more on the way)
  • Batman (4 movies, plus 3 in the reboot)
  • Step Up (4 movies, another on the way)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (4 movies)
  • Die Hard (5 movies)
  • Rocky (6 movies)
  • Scary Movie (5 movies)

Bad Movie Series

  • Twilight (4 movies)
  • Friday the 13th (12 movies)
  • Home Alone (4 movies)
  • Transformers (3 movies, more on the way)
  • Saw (6 movies)

What movies should be reboot and which movies are due for sequels? Read on to read my picks:

Re-Boot

  • The Naked Gun (3 movies)
  • Airplane (2 movies)
  • Sex and the City (2 movies)
  • Flash Gordon (1 movie)
  • Wonder Woman (no movies)
  • Baywatch (no movies)
  • Romancing the Stone (2 movies)
  • Indiana Jones (4 movies) What happened to the idea of having Shia LaBeouf take over for Harrison Ford? Maybe not him now… but still like the idea of bringing back this type of movie.
  • Blade (3 movies)

Sequel

  • Austin Powers (3 movies)
  • Moulin Rouge: (1 movie) How about Ewan McGregor and Leonardo DiCaprio competing for Anne Hathaway since Nicole Kidman died in the original.
  • Sex and the City (2 movies)
  • The Devil Wears Prada (1 movie)
  • Safety Not Guaranteed (1 movie) Such a cute romantic indie… I would love to see what happened next.
  • Mamma Mia (1 movie)
  • Tom Hanks (The DaVinci Code) (2 movies)
  • Mission Impossible (4 movies)
  • Pitch Perfect (1 movie) (Definitely happening)
  • Planet of the Apes (2011) (1 movie) (Definitely happening)

So that’s my list! What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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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