Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Random sights around L.A. in September...

September has been a busy month, so I thought I'd use this opportunity to feature some sights that I haven't been able to so far.

A good friend treated us to a visit earlier in the month and not only did we get a chance to show her around Los Angeles (and not just the tourist attractions), but we also ventured further up along the coast to San Francisco.

Astronomers Monument at Griffith Observatory
Astronomers monument at Griffith Observatory
The first thing we did after we'd picked her up at LAX was drive her up to the Griffith Observatory so she could fight the jet-lag and get a sense of the majesty of sprawling L.A.

Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory at evening
She also got to experience L.A.'s varying air quality and the view wasn't as clear as we'd hoped.
Misty LA mountains at sunset
But never fear, there were other days when we were greeted with clear skies and fantastic views.

View of Downtown L.A. from
Hollywood Bowl Overlook
Downtown LA view at 5pm on a clear day
We even made it to Universal Studios for the morning and I even got a chance to enjoy a day at Disneyland later in the month.

Universal City Overlook on Mulholland Drive
Universal City Overlook view of San Fernando Valley
Our travels took us to the coast and the sights of Venice Beach...
Endangered Species mural Venice Beach
and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica...

The Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica
Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica
We had glorious weather to enjoy a visit to The Getty Center and its gardens...
Getty Center beautiful flowers
sculptures and spectacular views...

The Getty Center south view
The Getty's South view
Closer to home we headed to the Hollywood & Highland Center to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame and we even glimpsed the behind-the-scenes set up for the All About Steve Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Hollywood & Highland Center
Hollywood & Highland Center
We also introduced her to the delights of the Hollywood Bowl to see the legendary Liza Minnelli before heading off up California's West Coast on our adventures.

G-Force Experience
at Hollywood & Highland Center
G-Force Experience
We discovered the eclectic world of Hearst Castle and tasted wines in Carmel Valley, before heading to the City by the Bay.

El Capitan cinema
El Capitan cinema
In addition to checking out Alcatraz and the art on the streets of San Francisco, we were also able to catch up with some old friends living there.

Urban Light at LACMA
Urban Light LACMA
But our travels didn't stop when we returned to L.A., as we also took our first trip out into the desert to Palm Springs.

Urban Light art installation
of 202 vintage street-lamps at LACMA
Urban Light at LACMA
Our lovable yellow labrdaor, Cooper, perfected his diving technique in September and we enjoyed our first visit to the Greek Theatre to see the fantastic Pet Shop Boys in concert.

So you can see it's been a fun-filled month. I wonder if October can live up to this action-packed legacy. Let's wait and see...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surrogates may be sci-fi, but it falls short of being sci-fab...

Yes, Surrogates may be a sci-fi film, but it falls way short of being sci-fabulous! Don't get me wrong it's not a total stinker of a film, but maybe because I like the futuristic genre so much I was a bit underwhelmed by the whole experience.
Surrogates film hot male model billboard
Firstly it's quite an obvious plot, you seem to know exactly what is going to happen next and there are very few real surprises. I suppose it's missing any 'wow factor'.

Set in a future where people use synthetic robots to live their lives for them, Bruce Willis and his FBI partner, played by Rahda Mitchell, investigate the destruction of two 'surrogates' and the deaths of their human operators.

In a world where crime has been reduced by 99% and harm, let alone death, from using a surrogate is supposedly impossible, it makes you wonder why the world still needs the FBI and the police.
Surrogates movie billboard
I had a few problems with the morality and logistics of this future world, but was willing to suspend my disbelief in order to give the movie room to breath.

There are some good action sequences and Bruce Willis as a younger looking, blond haired surrogate is almost worth the ticket price alone, but overall too many things annoyed me about the movie.
Bruce Willis Surrogates movie poster
Even though the film has this central surrogate concept which required make-up or computer wizardry for pretty much all of the cast, including extras, it still looks a bit cheap at times and is not a consistent futuristic world.

Mostly it looks like it was filmed on studio sets and could just be an expensive pilot episode of a sci-fi TV series.
Surrogates movie female model billboard
And although I enjoyed the chemistry between Bruce Willis and his wife, played by Rosamund Pike in the movie, does the motivation of every futuristic law enforcer need to be the death of a child (Minority Report anyone)?
Surrogates film billboard
Whilst I liked some of the actors, another piece of casting I question is James Cromwell. Not that I don't think he's a brilliant actor, just totally overused these days on TV and in the movies, and I would have liked to see someone else playing the elderly inventor of the surrogate technology.

I was expecting so much more, so only give Surrogates three *** stars.

Let's hope the next film on my list, the Fame re-make, doesn't disappoint as much...

Monday, September 28, 2009

A weekend visit to Palm Springs...

This weekend we were fortunate enough to be invited to Palm Springs for the first time.
Palm Springs Wind Turbines
It took us about two hours to drive from West Hollywood and we were mesmerized by this array of wind-turbines as we approached Palm Springs, it was like some alien landscape from a sci-fi movie.
Wind turbines in Palm Springs
People have always told me how hot it gets in Palm Springs and having lived in L.A. you think you are acclimatised to the weather, but the desert heat is a whole other thing.
Wind Turbines Palm Springs
Our hosts told us that it was unseasonably hot for this time of year, around 102 degrees fahrenheit, so we spent most of our time relaxing in the pool and enjoying the stunning mountainous views.
Palm Springs mountain view
We did venture out to explore the local neighbourhood and take in some of the local sights, like the celebrity homes belonging to Liz Taylor, Barry Manilow, Barbara Striesand, Drew Barrymore and many more.

Liberace's House
Liberace House Palm Springs
We drove by the former (and distinctive) home of flambouyant American pianist and entertainer, Liberace, and saw the infamous Kaufmann House designed Richard Neutra in 1946.

Kaufmann Desert House
Kauffman House Palm Springs
The house is considered one of the most important examples of modern architectural style in the United States and was made famous by photos taken in 1947 by American architectural photographer Julius Shulman.

Beyond that we just enjoyed the weather and our wonderful surroundings and marveled at how dining outside is a way of life in California compared to the brief instances you can do it in the UK.
Downtown LA sunset
We drove back on Sunday evening as the sun was setting over Downtown L.A. and enjoyed the wonderful colours in the sky as we drove home.

I'm glad to say that the temperature in L.A. today is far more bearable...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Pet Shop Boys go Greek...

To the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park, that is.
Greek Theatre Pet Shop Boys billboard
On Thursday 24th September we saw the fabulously quirky Pet Shop Boys: Pandemonium on Tour concert.

Neil Tennant sings at Greek Theatre concert
Pet Shop Boys Hearbeat Greek Theatre
Pet Shop Boys concert Heartbeat Greek Theatre
It was a balmy evening and after an hour with a warmup guest DJ, the dynamic British duo took to the stage to perform a mixture of material from their latest album (which I think is one of their most 'pop' for some time) and solid favourites from their extensive career.

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe on stage in L.A.
Pet Shop Boys Live at Greek Theatre
Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys performs in LA
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre 24 Sep 09Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre concert LA
It was almost a Greatest Hits concert and a real crowd pleaser (which is not surprising considering the thousands of gay men in the audience).

Go West
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre LA
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre Go West
I've never seen the Pet Shop Boys in concert before and never been to the Greek Theatre, so it was a doubly special evening.
Pet Shop Boys Pandemonium on Tour
Pet Shop Boys on stage Sep 09
Pet Shop Boys on stage in LA
Pet Shop Boys LA concert Sep 09
The Greek Theatre is another open air theatre like the magnificent Hollywood Bowl, but smaller and with less of an incline which means it's not as great when people sit down in front of you for one as short as me, so I spent most of the show on my feet.
Pet Shop Boys concert at Greek Theatre LA
Pet Shop Boys 24 Sep 09
But because it is smaller you are naturally closer to the stage and we had great seats.
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre Sep 2009Pet Shop Boys show Sep 09
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre lightshow
The concert was amazing. It was quirky, innovative,polished and fun. It seemed like a 'bigger' production than it actually was considering there's just the two of the Pet Shop Boys (who don't really move that much, especially Chris Lowe who stays behind his DJ station for most of the show) and four dancers.
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre

Pet Shop Boys perform in Los Angeles
Greek Theatre concert with Neil Tennant
The stage design was excellent and they had these versatile building blocks which allowed the dancers to climb over them, break through them or have them spectacularly burst apart towards the end of the concert.

New York City Boy
Pet Shop Boys Pandemonium concert LAPet Shop Boys Pandemonium concert
The dazzling lightshow and mix of audio visual elements also added to the exciting performance.
Neil Tennant performs Greek Theatre Sep 09
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre LA 09
King Tennant Pet Shop Boys
It was such an entertaining concert, from the music to the fantastic dancers and the cheering crowd.
Pet Shop Boys Pandemonium LA concert
Pet Shop Boys Concert dancers

Pet Shop Boys Concert finale
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre concert finale
It was certainly the best concert of the year so far (as Kylie is to come in October).

Pet Shop Boys Concert encore - West End Girls
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre encore
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre dancing
Pet Shop Boys Greek Theatre West End Girls
I hope you enjoy these photos of the concert and you can see what a spectacular night it was...