Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two West Hollywood eateries close their doors...

Sad news for West Hollywood folk as two great local haunts have recently closed their doors.

Two of my favourite restaurants in L.A. are no more - Dolce on Melrose Avenue and Mark's on La Cienega Blvd.
Dolce restaurant on Melrose has closed
Dolce may have closed yesterday, but it was well known for being Ashton Kutcher's venture into the restaurant business. 

I remember dining there at the start of our Route 1 vacation (from L.A. to San Francisco) five or so years ago with our friends, so it holds a special place in my heart. It also had an impressive flaming fireplace behind the bar which was the focal point of the stylish dimly lit interior.
Dolce Restaurant on Melrose Avenue now closed
On the other hand Mark's has been a local gay dining institution for around twenty years, but as their lease was up for renewal the owners decided to call it quits in WEHO and merge with the established Vermont restaurant in Los Feliz instead. 
Mark's restaurant now closed on LA Cienega Blvd
The place holds fond memories for me, being one of the nightspots that friends took us to on our first ever trip to L.A. and it's since become one of our local haunts this past year. Plus Mark's was the location of my celebrity sighting of Naveen Andrews (Sayid from LOST), as he celebrated a friend's birthday at an Upright Cabaret Madonna Tribute evening (Friday 8th August 2008).
Mark's Restaurant closing night cocktails
I shall miss the fabulous beetroot and goats cheese salad starter most, which was simply delicious and almost like eating a savoury dessert. We made sure we turned up for closing night for some farewell cocktails on Monday 1st June 2009.

All this tells me we obviously need to eat out more to support our local restaurants in these tough economic conditions (well at least when the detox is over), plus it's time to find some new favourites...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sleeping angel...

I talk a lot about my quest for angels around L.A., but sometimes I forget how I have my very own adorable angel at home already.

Enjoy this short clip of our fourteen month old Labrador Cooper in one of his quieter moments passed out on the sofa.

Later it's off to the animal hospital for a check-up to make sure his ear infection has cleared up (which has meant no beach trips of late for pup). 

It's a hard life looking this angelic...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The stars come out for Aretha Franklin at the Hollywood Bowl...

Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Reverend Jesse Jackson and Billy Dee Williams were among the audience with us last night at the Hollywood Bowl to see the 'Queen of Soul' Aretha Franklin in concert.
Aretha Franklin taking the stage at The Hollywood Bowl
Returning to the Hollywood Bowl for the first time in 35 years, the 67 year old big lady belted out her classic hits Respect, Freeway, Chain of Fools and more with her trademark big voice. 
Aretha Franklin at The Hollywood Bowl 26 June 2009
What a way for us to start our Hollywood Bowl season this year amongst all these A-List actors and celebrities and we were lucky enough to have box seats near the front of the outdoor amphitheater. 
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl concert
We had Oscar Winner Halle Berry (who received the 2002 Best Actress Academy Award for Monster's Ball with an emotional speech and is also known for portraying 'Storm' in the X-Men movies and sexy spy 'Jinx' in the 20th Bond movie 'Die Another Day') a couple of box rows behind us and renowned actress Angela Bassett (most recently of E.R.'s final season fame and movies 'How Stella got her groove back' and 'Waiting to exhale') in front and to our left.
Soul Queen Aretha Franklin at Hollywood Bowl
Speaking of stars, I even glimpsed a shooting star falling to the earth in the sky above the open air Bowl, making the evening even more special.
Aretha Franklin performs at Hollywood Bowl
How lucky were we to be surrounded by such glittering stars. Of course they'd all come to watch this 'soul legend' and accomplished singer, songwriter and pianist. 
Soul Diva Aretha Franklin at Hollywood Bowl
Aretha Franklin is one of the most successful artists of our time at the Grammy Awards, and has been awarded 20 Grammys to date, including the Living Legend Grammy and Lifetime Achievement Grammy.
 Soul idol Aretha Franklin at The Hollywood Bowl June 2009
She also has the honour of being the first female artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
Singing legend Aretha Franklin at The Hollywood Bowl
And as Michael Jackson's untimely death reminds us, you have to take these opportunities to see these 'musical legends' whilst you still can. 
Aretha Franklin sings at The Hollywood Bowl
Aretha and the audience honoured the 'King of Pop' with a silent tribute, which was especially eerie in the 17,000 capacity amphitheater, and praised his 'genius', saying that he always gave 150% as a performer.
Aretha Franklin on stage at The Hollywood Bowl
Like a real diva, Aretha Franklin took to the stage twenty minutes late, but gave a great performance, especially for someone getting on in her years.

Intermission Mardis Gras Carnival dancers 
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl Mardis Gras Carnival dancer
The shorter and livelier first half was certainly my favourite part of the evening and was followed by a slightly jarring Mardi Gras Carnival troupe dancing their way through the audience. 
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl intermission Carnival dancer
Although entertaining they seemed out of place with Aretha's soul music, but I suppose they were there to liven up the audience for the second act between costume changes.
 Aretha Franklin dazzles at The Hollywood Bowl
As always I was totally in awe of the Hollywood Bowl's light show and just love the design of the stage, it's so iconic.

The Hollywood Bowl's dazzling lightshow
Aretha Franklin concert at Hollywood Bowl
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl stage lighting
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl colourful stageshow
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl colourful lightshow
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl 26 June 2009
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl concert June 2009
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl performs 26 Jun 09
In the fashion stakes, the 'Soul Queen' followed a voluptuous apricot-cream fur-trimmed ensemble with a sparkling sequined black dress and white fur coat, to combat the cool L.A. evening air. 
Soul legend Aretha Franklin at The Hollywood Bowl
She also wore a much better hat for her closing numbers than the one she wore on Obama's Inauguration Day and sung infinitely better too.
Singer Aretha Franklin at The Hollywood Bowl
For the second half of the concert to slow things down and catch her breath she name-checked the famous celebrities in the audience starting with American Civil Rights activist and Baptist Minister Jesse Jackson, who she said was in town to comfort the family of Michael Jackson.
Aretha Franklin with gospel choir at Hollywood Bowl Jun 09
Next up in the spotlight (I think) was the actor 'Billy Dee' Williams (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back).
Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl Madris Gras finale
She also called Halle Berry up on stage who bowed in deference to the 'Queen of Soul'. 

Halle Berry on stage with Aretha Franklin 
at The Hollywood Bowl 26th June 2009
Halle Berry at Hollywood Bowl 26 Jun 09
Halle Berry bows to Aretha Franklin at Hollywood Bowl Jun 09
After Halle left the stage, Franklin then asked the crowd who they'd rather see play her in a movie biopic of her life, Halle Berry or Jennifer Hudson
Halle Berry on stage with Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl Jun 09
Unfortunately for Halle the loudest cheer was for Hudson.
Halle Berry and Aretha Franklin Hollywood Bowl June 09
And after that she made Angela Bassett get up off her box seat and wave her arms for all to see.

Angela Bassett waves to Aretha Franklin 
on stage at The Hollywood Bowl
I know it's not the best photograph (Angela was wearing an orange dress and black top to keep the chill air at bay), but it all added to the excitement of the fabulous evening.
Aretha Franklin concert at Hollywood Bowl 26 June 09
Can you believe I even experienced all this sober (as I'm on a detox at the moment which doesn't allow alcohol, which is no fun at all), but like I said it was a great way to kick off our Hollywood Bowl season this year.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie costumes and Autobot vehicles on display...

My main criticisms of the first live-action Transformers movie (aside from the weak plot), was that you couldn't really see much the detail of the Transformers 'transformingas it all happened so fast and apart from Optimus Prime and Bumblebee in robot form you just couldn't clearly distinguish who was who when it came to the individual Autobots and Decepticons.

Original Transformers 2 movie costumes 
displayed at ArcLight Hollywood cinema
Original Transformers 2 movie costumes at ArcLight Hollywood
I'm sad to say that none of that has changed in the sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, although I have to admit that there is some semblance of a stronger story in there this time around.
Transformers Revenge of the Fallen teaser movie poster
After taking pictures of the actual Autobot cars and trucks from the movie outside ArcLight Hollywood cinema on Tuesday I went again today to watch the film and see the vehicles in action.
Transformers 2 Revenge of the Fallen film poster
In addition to Optimus Prime and his Autobot friends to photograph in the courtyard area, inside the cinema foyer they also had a fantastic display of original movie costumes from Transformers 2.

Original Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie costumes
Original Transformers 2 movie costumes
Sadly no Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky) costumes were on show, but not only did they have NEST soldier uniforms that were worn in the movie...

NEST soldier uniforms from Transformers 2
Transformers 2 movie costumes NEST uniforms
but also the actual outfits worn by Ramon Rodriguez as Leo Spitz (Sam's fellow freshman college roommate) and I think Megan Fox, as Sam's love interest Mikaela Banes.

Actors Ramon Rodriguez and Megan Fox 
Transformers 2 movie costumes
Original Transformers 2 Ramon Rodriguez and Megan movie costumes
It's always so cool to see original costumes and props from big Hollywood movies on display at the ArcLight and it just adds to your overall enjoyment of the cinematic experience. 
Actual Transformers 2 movie costumes
I have to say I did find Ramon Rodriguez's character to be highly annoying and not the best addition to the franchise.
Actual movie costumes from Transformers 2
Anyway, getting back to the film, the movie costumes in the foyer put me into a good mood and for all my criticisms I actually enjoyed the movie. It's just big action Summer blockbuster fluff, but every once in a while you need a bit of senseless escapism.

Autobot 'Ironhide' TopKick pickup truck
Transformers 2 Autobot truck Ironhide
Sideswipe is a sleek and sexy new Autobot addition in his Corvette Stingray Concept car mode, but only really appears in action at the beginning of the movie.

Autobot 'Sideswipe' Corvette Stingray Concept car
Transformers 2 Sideswipe Corvette Stingray Concept carTransformers 2 Autobot Sideswipe Corvette Stingray Concept car
Since the sunshine wasn't really lighting the car very well last time, I used this opportunity to take more pictures of this fantastically cool silver sports car featured in the movie.
Transformers 2 Autobot Sideswipe Corvette Stingray Concept car
Transformers 2 Autobot Sideswipe Corvette Stingray Concept car
I won't spoil all the fun, but Optimus Prime is a pivotal player again in this movie, even if he doesn't spend all that much time in truck mode.

Autobot leader Optimus Prime - Peterbilt Model-379 truck
Transformers 2 Autobot leader Optimus Prime truck
Transformers 2 Optimus Prime billboard
In addition to Optimus Prime returning, Sam's mum and dad (played wonderfully by Julie White and Kevin Dunn) feature more prominently in the sequel and provide the comic relief and heart of the movie. 
Transformers 2 Autobot leader Optimus Prime truck side view
Bumblebee's distinctive yellow Camaro has been revamped and toughened up from the first movie, but he also provides some sweet comedy moments with Sam.

Autobots Bumblebee's Camaro muscle car 
and Sideswipe's sleek silver Corvette. 
Actual Bumblebee and Sideswipe Autobot cars from Transformers 2
There's no denying that Transformers 2 is all big action, loud explosions, juvenile humour, comedy characters and CGI wizardry, but I was pleasantly surprised by a few elements of the movie. 
Optimus Prime Transformers 2 movie billboard
The deeper backstory, unanticipated reveals like the Decepticon at Sam's University campus, the humour and even Shia LaBeouf's convincing acting (making it all seem believable amidst all the CGI nonsense). I also got a buzz to see the Decepticon Constructicon's merge into the gigantic Devastator.
Transformers Revenge of the Fallen movie poster
From my point of view, the things they could jettison for the next movie are Josh Duhamel as Major Lennox (what does he actually do?), a change of location from sandy deserts (the final showdown looked a bit like the same set from the start of the first movie) and some of the annoying comedy characters like the Autobot twins, Skids and Mudflap and ex-Agent Simmons ('RoboWarrior'), although more of Sam's parents would be a joy.

Some of the other problems include how they have essentially neutered Megatron by making him someone else's lap dog and so in the next film they are going to need a much bigger threat (than a machine that destroys suns), more menacing foe.  

Overall Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a vast improvement on the first movie, but still leaves you feeling a little dissatisfied. I give the movie three *** stars.

I hope you enjoy the photos and videos from the Transformers 2 cars and costumes at ArcLight Hollywood and come back soon...