Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where are all the angels in this City of Angels...?

I'm not talking about well-behaved people or any mythological flying creatures, but rather angel imagery around L.A., as I always thought it would make a great blog entry, or an equally fabulous photographic series to shoot as many angels in their various forms around this affectionately titled, City of Angels.
Angel sculptures at The Grove
So far on my travels though I've only come across this statue of angel sculptures at The Grove, so just where are all the angels hiding in L.A.?
Where are all the Angels in Los Angeles?
The only other thing I've seen around town are the temporary movie billboards advertising the Da Vinci Code sequel, Angels & Demons, starring Tom Hanks and out in May.
Angels & Demons movie billboard
Can anyone help me out here? Come on you Los Angelinos, drop me a line and let me know where there are some interesting angels to capture on camera. 
The Grove Angel statue
If all else fails, maybe I'll have to invest in some angel wings for Cooper's Halloween costume this year...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunshine Cleaning is a bittersweet little film, with a bit of sparkle to it...

Every now and then I like to watch a more independent feel, 'quieter' movie, as an antidote to the Hollywood blockbusters I also enjoy.

Compared to Knowing I saw the other day, which was a sci-fi, thriller and disaster movie rolled into one wrapped up with big CGI special effects, Sunshine Cleaning is the total opposite and more of a character study in the guise of a light hearted and slightly black comedy drama.
Sunshine Cleaning movie poster
The basic premise of the film is that two sisters with very different personalities and outlook on life, go into the lucrative crime scene clean up business. Emily Blunt plays the live-at-home slacker who can't hold down a job, whilst Amy Adams is the determined hard working mum who will do anything to provide the best for her son.
Sunshine Cleaning Amy Adams and Emily Blunt
I think Amy Adams really shines in this movie and proves her versatility as an actress again. This is not your 'Disney Princess' from Enchanted or the mousey noviciate sister from Doubt, just a struggling, but capable single mum who has peaked early in life. She has gone from former popular high school cheerleader to rent-a-maid, who makes do with an affair with a married man and has aspirations of running her own business to prove her worth to her contemporaries.

Both sisters have been emotionally scarred by the suicide of their mother when they were children, but Emily Blunt's character as the younger sister seems more lost than her older sibling.

Filling out their dysfunctional, but loving, family is their dad, Alan Arkin, a hustler whose business scams tend to backfire and Amy Adams' son who is slightly strange and doesn't fit in at school, but provides a lot of the laughs for the film.
Sunshine Cleaning movie cast photo
In addition to some well known stars in the lead roles, it also has Mary Lynn Rajskub who plays Chloe O'Brian in the TV show 24, although I'd like to see her play a happier character one day soon.

It's not essential you see it at the cinema, as it would be equally enjoyable on the small screen, but it is worth watching. Sunshine Cleaning is a slightly sad, but also a quirky and moving film and I give it three *** stars.

Until next time, I'm off to enjoy the last rays of sunshine (no cleaning for me today)...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jason in Hollywood's adventures in a bottle...

No, this blog entry isn't about my battle with alcoholism or having one too many cosmos, it's really about the amazing things you can find online these days. 

I came across the following bits of fun whilst surfing around various blogs and websites. You can design your own packaging for soft drinks, either a bottle or a can, changing colour schemes and fonts, and adding your own individual wording.
Jason in Hollywood bottle
So now you can drink in the 'fabulously refreshing and filled with life' adventures of Jason in Hollywood, or get some of Cooper's exuberance in a can of cola (can you imagine, it would be deadlier than Red Bull).
Cooper cola can
You can find these fantastic widgets and more ideas at www.says-it.com. 

And for providing you with all this fun, if you get a kick out of Jason in Hollywood, you can do me a favour and still vote for my blog in the Blogger's Choice 2009 Awards
Uncle Sam vote for Jason in Hollywood poster
It requires registering with the website, but it would be much appreciated and would help provide some motivation to keep on blogging (especially as 73% of you gave my blog five ***** stars in the recent poll).

Enjoy making your own creations...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cooper wins his first prize in his inaugural photo contest...

Congratulations Cooper! Our Hollywood Hound won his first prize in a photo contest this month. 

The funny thing is I wasn't planning to enter Cooper, but the Admin for The Daily Puppy saw this picture on my blog and asked if she could enter him. 

He was the third place winner out of 37 entrants for 'Bath Time' photo contest on The Daily Puppy.
Here's the winning picture - Soap Sud Pup Cooper. Maybe it was the bubble mohawk that clinched the prize or most probably the look on Cooper's face, which shows he's barely tolerating his dad taking photos of him in the bath.

He wins a half pound bag of yummy treats from bakersdog.com.

Cooper's prize
Cooper's prize
He's such a star and it's the first of many wins I think!

Next stop Crufts...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Who knew the film Knowing would be so creepy and surprising...

Wow, did I actually just watch a Nicholas Cage film and enjoy it? Well let me clarify, I enjoyed the movie, but I wouldn't go as far as saying the same about Nicholas Cage in it, who is horribly miscast
Knowing film billboard
If you're not a fan of the actor, like I'm not (don't even get me started on National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets), don't let that put you off, as Knowing turns out to be a really engrossing, surprising and at times creepy movie.

You always know that in any film that has the imagery of a haunted looking girl standing alone holding a balloon in the first five minutes is a portent of doom and that kind of sets the tone for the movie.
Knowing movie poster
Fifty years ago a time capsule was buried at an elementary school containing drawings from children of what they thought the world of the future would look like. Said scary girl covered her sheet of paper with what appear to be random numbers whilst in a trance like state.

Nicholas Cage plays a college Professor and astrophysicist, called John, who has lost his faith in life since the death of his wife and must now cope with raising his son as a single parent. Right away we have a problem, as Nicholas Cage seems incapable of exhibiting any emotional range beyond a morose and grieving widower, and it gets old really fast.
Knowing movie billboard
The time capsule is unearthed fifty years later at the school John's son, Caleb, attends and when the boy brings the sheet of numbers home, in a drunken state John discovers a pattern to the seemingly random numbers.
The piece of paper documents tragedies and major disasters over the last half century, the numbers signifying the death count, date and the coordinates of where they happened. There are also numbers indicating disasters yet to occur.

Knowing takes such an age to get started, at first it feels like a rather over extended version of an X-Files episode, before it suddenly surprises you with a few twists that propel it into a whole other direction. There are elements of thriller, horror, sci-fi and disaster movie in the film and that's what makes it so intriguing, it has a bit of everything thrown in.
Knowing film poster
Some of the more shocking elements come from the disasters which are shown in brutal detail. What is it with films these days that want to be more and more graphic in the depictions of death and destruction? It can no longer be abstract or implied, but with the aid of CGI and clever film making processes, we're bombarded with images of people being burned alive before our eyes or crushed to death under runaway trains. 

Is it because as a culture we've become so desensitized to death, that filmmakers have to resort to these extreme measures to make us care or react? I'm torn between being amazed by the special effects, but also thinking that there is often other ways to convey a story without being so heavy handed.
Knowing movie billboard at Cinerama Dome
Not to spoil the film too much, but there's a really unsettling dream sequence with a forest burning with all the animals running from it and the horrifying thing is that all the animals are on fire. I think creatively it looked amazing, but I really wasn't expecting this type of imagery from the film.

The special effects looked impressive on the big screen of the Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight Hollywood and a vast improvement on the last film I saw there, the abysmal Max Payne.

It's not until the end of the film that all the pieces fall into place and the slow first half of the movie makes more sense as you discover all the little fragments of plot that were littered along the way like breadcrumbs.
Movie poster for Knowing
Knowing had a surprising and totally fantastical ending which I didn't see coming. It really was a mixed bag of genres, with a real contrast between the realistic disasters - plane crashes and underground derailments, and the more sci-fi and paranormal story elements. 

At times I found the film to be incredibly creepy.  All the usual spooky cues were there, the dark silhouetted strangers in the woods, whispering voices in children's ears, eerie nightmarish visions of the future.

I'm quite pleased about the not-so-happily-ever-after ending though and I shouldn't be surprised by the shocking and unexpected twists from the Director (and writer) of KnowingAlex Proyas (of I, Robot and The Crow fame). You can see his earlier influences reflected in this movie, especially the genuinely creepy and totally under-appreciated sci-fi classic Dark City.

I give Knowing three *** stars and look forward to watching it again in the future and don't let Nicholas Cage discourage you from going to see this intriguing film for yourself...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fifteen top L.A. landmarks to see - Part three...

Los Angeles is not a typical city as it's so sprawling and unlike a conventional metropolis like New York or London, so it's good to be prepared and plan what you'd like to see to make the most of your visit.

You'll definitely need a car to get around as there are hardly any taxis here (you certainly can't rely on hailing a cab in the street) and no real public transport system to speak of.

In this the third installment, here are my final five local landmarks to visit in L.A. and make sure you check out parts one and two for more places to see around Los Angeles.

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier at dusk
The Santa Monica Pier will celebrate it's 100th Anniversary this year on the 9th September 2009, as it has been a local landmark since 1909.
Santa Monica Pier
Admission to the Pier is free all year around and you'll find lots to do there, including restaurants, shops and rides at the Pacific Park fun-fair. Plus there's a Carousel from 1922 to enjoy and an interactive aquarium.
Santa Monica Pacific Park fun fair
Dogs are allowed on leash on the Pier, though not in the businesses or fairground, and also on the surrounding boardwalks (although not on the beach). You can also fish from the Pier without requiring a licence, or just watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.
End of Santa Monica Pier

Walt Disney Concert HallSituated in Downtown L.A. the Walt Disney Concert Hall is an amazing structure to behold.
Walt Disney Concert Hall Downtown LA
The futuristic looking building holds 2,665 people and as well as looking pretty spectacular outside, it has state-of-the-art acoustics inside. 
Walt Disney Concert Hall's amazing design
The stainless steel curved Concert Hall was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, who is also responsible for the equally impressive Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
Walt Disney Concert Hall Downtown Los Angeles

Hollywood Walk of Fame
Walk of Fame Hollywood Boulevard
The Walk of Fame was created in 1958 and you'll find it running along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood. Along the star adorned sidewalk you'll find other highlights like Mann's Chinese Theatre and the Capitol Records Building
Vincent Price Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Along with checking out more than 2,000 stars showcasing celebrities and Hollywood icons from stage and screen, the movies, TV and music, that run along the Walk of Fame you'll also be entertained by hordes of street performers - musicians to listen to and costumed characters to be photographed beside.
Matt Damon Hollywood Walk of Fame Star

Classical music concert at the Hollywood Bowl
This popular venue is one of the cultural highlights of L.A. and well worth an evening out. Seating an audience of around 18,000 in the outdoor amphitheater, the Hollywood Bowl season of concerts typically runs from June until the beginning of October.
Singalong Sound of Music at Hollywood Bowl
One of the great things about the Bowl is that it offers a wide variety of entertainment to suit most tastes, from classical music to pop concerts, musical theatre to singalong movies, plus firework displays to end a perfect evening of music.
Les Miserables Concert at Hollywood Bowl
You are even allowed to take your own food and drink into the Hollywood Bowl, but why not make a day of it and pack a picnic and enjoy it in the nearby parks beforehand.

Homes along the sand at Venice Beach
In addition to being a lovely stretch of sandy beach, this Southern California tourist haven is home to the infamous Muscle Beach and the bustling Promenade Boardwalk where you'll find street entertainers, fortune tellers and people selling their various wares. 
Bustling Venice Beach Boardwalk
The Boardwalk is also a popular place to walk, skate or cycle along the palm tree lined Ocean Front Walk with it's distinctive beach facing houses. There's also a pier to fish from and to get a better view of the Venice Beach shoreline and see up the coast to the Santa Monica Pier and beyond.
Venice beach Pacific Ocean and coastline
And there you have my top fifteen recommendations for what to see whilst you're in L.A. It's not an exhaustive list, it's simply the tip of the iceberg and there are many more things to do and see in the City of Angels. 

Before I go I want to leave you with one more sight that you must see in L.A., or should I say of L.A.  Call it a bonus or a sneaky sixteenth landmark, but it's the view of Downtown Los Angeles skyline which really stands out against the typically low level landscape of L.A.

Downtown Los Angeles skyline
Downtown LA skyline
Being so flat, it's quite hard to get a clear perspective on L.A. at times, but you can get a good view of the Downtown city skyline from up in the Hollywood Hills, from the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park or from our favourite dog walking trail at Runyon Canyon.
Los Angeles Downtown view
The tallest building at the centre of the collection of skyscrapers is the U.S. Bank Tower (also known as the Library Tower), which is the seventh tallest building in the Unites States. It was built in 1989 and stands 310m (1,108ft) tall.
View of Downtown LA from Hollywood HIlls
From a distance it really does give sprawling L.A. a distinctive skyline, and looks impressive by day and by night, that is, if you can see it through the marine layer or smog.

So what are you waiting for, get out there and explore L.A...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fifteen top L.A. landmarks to see - Part two...

Even though I've lived in L.A. for over a year now, there's still so many places that I've only recently visited or not paid much attention to up until now.

Following the delights of The Hollywood Sign, Urban Light sculpture at LACMA, The Griffith Observatory, The Capitol Records Building and The Pacific Design Center yesterday, here's my second installment of L.A.'s fifteen must-see landmarks and places to visit...

Mann's Chinese Theatre
Mann's Chinese Theatre Hollywood Boulevard
Also known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre, you'll find this piece of Hollywood lore, on Hollywood Boulevard, near the Kodak Theatre where the Academy Awards are now held each year (in fact Mann's Theatre acted as the venue for the Oscars from 1944 to 1947).
Mann's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
The exterior of the theatre is meant to resemble a giant red Chinese pagoda and in its forecourt you'll find almost 200 handprints, footprints and autographs from Hollywood movie stars and celebrities, which this Hollywood monument is most famous for.
Mann's Chinese Theatre celebrity footprints
Mann's Chinese Theatre is also reknowned for being where sci-fi classic Star Wars had its premiere on 25th May 1977.
Mann's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles

Cinerama Dome
Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd, Hollywood
You'll find the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. This landmark movie theatre opened on the 7th November 1963 and is now part of my favourite cinema, ArcLight Hollywood, a division of Pacific Theatres.
Cinerama Theatre Dome in Holywood
The impressive Dome is made from 316 mostly hexagonal precast concrete panels and has an 88 foot (26m) side screen inside.

The Cinerama Dome entrance recently featured as a location in the L.A. based movie Frost/Nixon.

The Getty Center Tram Station view
The Getty Center is in Brentwood, just off the 405 Freeway, and its amazing architectural design stands out like a beacon in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.
The Getty Center Museum Courtyard
It's free to visit, although you'll need to pay a $10 parking fee per vehicle if you drive and is closed on Mondays.
The Central Garden at The Getty Center
In addition to the fantastic design of the buildings and the art exhibitions they house, there's also The Central Garden and Cactus Garden to enjoy.
View from The Getty Center Cactus Garden
My favourite part was the Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden near the Tram Station at the entrance, which we almost missed on our way in. Make sure you take the time to wander through it.
Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden at Getty Center

Rodeo Drive Beverly Hills
Whilst you're browsing the exclusive shops of the infamous Rodeo Drive, be sure to make the time to have your photo taken in front of Beverly Hills Sign in the Beverly Gardens Park along Santa Monica Boulevard.
Beverly Hills Sign in Beverly Gardens Park
Personally I don't think you can truly enjoy Rodeo Drive unless you have oodles of cash, but it's nice to wander around the streets, lined with luxury brand names like Chanel, Prada, De Beers, Louis Vuitton and more, in the Californian sunshine.
Rodeo Drive sign in Beverly Hills

You can smell when you've arrived at the La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire Blvd, as the pungent crude oil bubbles away under the scorching sun and taints the air. Kids especially will enjoy to see the replica Mammoths trapped in the sticky tar pool, Lake Pit, in Hancock Park.
Page Museum at La Brea Tar PIts
Take advantage of 'free admission Tuesdays' to take a look around the Page Museum and the many Ice Age fossils it has on display.
La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum Los Angeles
So far that's ten things to visit if you're stuck for ideas or wondering what to see and do in Los Angeles.

Stick around folks, tomorrow it's the final five attractions that I recommend you visit in L.A...

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