Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Single Man worthy of an Oscar...

With this year's Academy Awards fast approaching, yesterday we ventured to the Sunset 5 cinema to see Oscar-nominated Best Actor Colin Firth in Tom Ford's directorial debut, A Single Man.
A Single Man film billboard
I've seen most of this year's nominees so wanted to check this movie adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's novel off my Oscar watch list and I'm so glad that I got to see the film on the big screen.

I'm surprised that A Single Man only received one Oscar nod for Colin Firth, as it really is deserving of more. The art direction is stunning, the recreation of 60's L.A. totally convincing, the pacing spot on and the script is amazingly powerful. It's also a very perceptive and honest movie.

Having said that, Colin Firth is truly remarkable as George Falconer, a middle aged English Professor mourning the death of his gay partner of sixteen years whose life has been shattered and contemplates suicide.
Sunset 5 cinema
Friends of mine who had seen the movie had mentioned they'd found it quite a tough movie to watch, a little depressing even, but I thought it was a wonderful celebratory movie. Yes, he was planning his own suicide throughout the film, but through flashbacks we see a truly loving relationship that he shared with his boyfriend, Jim (played fabulously by Matthew Goode).

As a gay man, it's refreshing to see the depiction of a loving same-sex relationship that isn't scandalous, seedy or self-destructive. It just seemed like a touching, sweet love story.

The moment with the couple sitting together, reading with their dog at their feet listening to records, is perfect and when 'George' sniffs the strangers smooth-coated fox terrier evoking memories, Colin Firth is able to convey so much emotion in that moment.
A Single Man film poster
And finally a movie with mainstream male actors not afraid to kiss on screen, something that Valentine's Day failed to do. It wasn't a passionate, steamy, sordid kiss, it just seemed loving and totally natural.

Julianne Moore as his lush of a friend 'Charley' is also an Oscar-worthy performance, so it's criminal that she didn't get acknowledged and Nicholas Hoult as his student 'Kenny' is mesmerizing at times, especially with the close up of his eyes.

In fact, you can see Tom Ford's fashion editorial influence and photographer's eye throughout the movie. My one criticism would be that at times some scenes do feel a little too staged and a bit like a beauty advertisement, the close up focus on someone's eye or lips.
A Single Man movie poster
But overall it's a marvelous piece of cinema from the style of the movie to the soundtrack and the phenomenal acting. It really is true what they say about Colin Firth acting against type, no sign of a 'Mr Darcy' here, which is really refreshing to know he has this range.

A Single Man deserves four **** stars and Colin Firth deserves to win the Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role.

It's not on wide release, but if you get the chance to see the movie on the big screen you must and if not the DVD will be essential viewing...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cool film, TV and funky billboards around L.A. in February 2010...

February continues to be a great month for exciting new billboards gracing L.A.'s skyline.

Not only are there new movie releases at the cinema, but the imminent Oscars have led to more film billboards around town, plus new television seasons, mini-series and launches have added some variety to the skies. Here are just a selection of the movie, TV, fashion, health and other media billboards for this past month.

Movie billboards
The Wolfman movie billboard
Even though The Wolfman movie seems to have been a bit of a disappointment, I love this striking billboard for the horror film.
31 Days of Oscar TCM billboard
On Sunday 7th March the 82nd Annual Academy Awards will announce the best movies of 2009, whilst this billboard for the Turner Classic Movie channel celebrates 31 days of Oscar history.
Tron Legacy film teaser billboard
I love this teaser billboard for Tron Legacy, the Disney sequel which has taken 28 years to make it back onto the big screen. I can't wait to see how it shapes up to a world of iPod's, laptops and Playstations, compared to 1982's world of videogame arcades and massive computers.
The Hurt Locker film billboard
It'll be interesting to see whether Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker can beat off blockbuster competition from her ex-husband James Cameron's sci-fi sensation, Avatar, at this year's Oscars.
Cop Out movie billboard
Bruce Willis and 30 Rock's Tracy Morgan star in this new buddy cop comedy, Cop Out, which opened here in the U.S.A. yesterday. I'm not one for going to see too many comedies at the cinema, but this billboard did make me smile when I saw it.
Green Zone movie billboard
Matt Damon reunites with Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum movies, for Green Zone about a rogue U.S. Army officer hunting Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Next up is a collection of colourful billboards for Tim Burton's new Alice in Wonderland movie in cinemas from 5th March 2010.
Alice in Wonderland movie teaser billboard
Alice in Wonderland movie billboard
Alice in Wonderland tea party film billboard
Mad Hatter Alice in Wonderland billboard
Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter design looks suitably Tim Burton-esque, so it'll be interesting to see how broad an appeal their re-interpretation of Lewis Caroll's fantasy world will have, as their distinctive collaborations often can be quite polarising with audiences - you either love or hate their style.

Fashion billboards
Calvin Klein white wash jeans billboard
Another month and another Calvin Klein billboard, this time for white wash jeans. They are obviously not done with their Eva Mendes and Jamie Dornan campaign quite yet.
Guess fashion billboard
This billboard for Guess Jeans has great stand-out factor along Sunset Boulevard.

TV billboards
How to make it in America TV billboard
'How to Make it in America', HBO's new comedy series about making it in the competitive fashion business in New York City - "If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere".
The Pacific TV mini series billboard
Another HBO series, this one slightly more serious. The billboard for The Pacific, a World War II mini-series, really catches your eye as you pass by.
RuPaul's Drag Race TV billboard
I'm still loving RuPaul's Drag Race reality show contest to find America's next top drag superstar and this fabulous billboard still brightens my day whenever I see it.
Parenthood knock first TV billboard
Finally for TV, there's a whole series of fun billboards dotting L.A.'s streets for a new drama, Parenthood, inspired by the movie of the same name. This is just one of them reminding parents to knock first before they charge into their teenager's room to avoid embarrassment.

Media billboards
Los Angeles Times police line billboard
I think this L.A. Times crime billboard is visually arresting and is framed perfectly by that blue Californian sky and the El Capitan cinema sign in the background.

Health billboards
Free HIV Test billboard
I love billboards that break the standard format and dimensions, so even though this is quite a simple creative execution for HIV testing, it still catches your eye and gets its message across effectively.

And that's it for February's eclectic collection of billboards around L.A. If you're a fan of billboard advertising, be sure to check out Daily Billboard for a fantastic new billboard every day.

The countdown to the Oscars starts tomorrow at Daily Billboard...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shutter Island is a place of intrigue, suspense and disappointment...

Shutter Island is a suspenseful world of mystery and intrigue, but ultimately for me, a disappointment too.

It's hard to tell you much about the story without giving the game away, but it's a well made film, very atmospheric and engaging, but when you pull back the curtains and the twist is revealed, it all seems a bit predictable.
Shutter Island film billboard
In Martin Scorcese's thriller set in 1954, U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) ventures to the remote Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a criminally insane patient from a psychiatric facility shrouded in mystery.

From the beginning of the movie, the soundtrack is used to great effect to add drama and an impending sense of doom, even though at times it does come across a bit heavy-handed.

There are also a few surprises during the course of the investigation and the flashbacks to Nazi concentration camps and the scenes with his dead wife are especially visually interesting.

The trailer had me expecting a much more gruesome and gory affair, with a much quicker pace, but I have to say the movie dragged a bit for me and the action and threat never lived up to the promise of the preview.
Shutter Island movie poster
At times I also thought that Leonardo DiCaprio was trying to 'act' too hard, but essentially this movie revolves around him, so he's carrying the whole story which can't be easy.

Overall I give Shutter Island three *** stars, but by it's very nature, it's not a film that I need to see again in a hurry.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming Oscars, but I'm also looking forward to moving past them so there will be a whole new slew of movies to watch too...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Latest movie costumes on display around L.A...

My travels around L.A. take me far and wide, but living so close to Hollywoodland there are places I visit regularly to check out the latest movie costumes and props on display.
Universal Studios Hollywood movie costumes
Most recently I returned to Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and checked out its fantastic NBC Universal Experience exhibit.

In the past they have featured actual costumes, props and models from movies like The Mummy, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Psycho, Gladiator, Mamma Mia, E.T. and more.

At the moment you can find new displays from feature films like Milk, Frost/Nixon, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Apollo 13, Hellboy II: The Golden Age and even TV shows like Battlestar Galactica. There's something for everyone to enjoy.
Authentic Universal Studios movie costumes
I also regularly find new costume exhibits at the fantastic ArcLight cinemas in L.A. Recently there were costume accessories and props from Avatar, James Cameron's latest box office juggernaut, on display in the cinema foyer of the infamous Cinerama Dome.
Avatar Jake Sully movie accessories
Just before the New Year you could see fabulous costumes worn by Kate Hudson in the musical movie Nine at the ArcLight Sherman Oaks.
Musical movie Nine costumes
Not only can you see the newest movie costumes, but once in a while you get to see outfits from classic movies like Casablanca, worn by the film's stars and Hollywood legends, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

They were on display at ArcLight Sherman Oaks during February to accompanying screening of the film and to celebrate the History of Warner Bros. Studios, along with other costumes worn by James Dean, Paul Newman and Al Jolson.
Authentic Casablanca movie costumes
If you love movies and enjoying see more behind-the-scenes of your favourite films like I do, be sure to check out my other blog where I feature all my latest discoveries, Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props.

But that doesn't mean you should forget Jason in Hollywood for the latest celebrity sightings, Labrador Cooper's misadventures, movie reviews, funky L.A. billboards and much more...

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Lightning Thief steals Harry Potter's thunder...

It seems that every Hollywood studio wants to discover the next 'cash cow' movie franchise and follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter.
Percy Jackson The Lightning Thief movie billboard
Even though Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief doesn't share the same worldwide iconic popularity the Harry Potter phenomenon enjoys (or Twilight to a lesser extent), after seeing this fast-paced movie I'm more than ready to pay to see a few more Percy Jackson installments.

The basic synopsis of the story is that troubled teenager, Percy Jackson, discovers he's the demi-god son of Poseidon when someone tries to frame him for stealing his uncle Zeus' thunderbolt.
Percy Jackson The Lightning Thief teaser poster
Accompanied by his friend and undercover satyr protector, Grover, and Annabeth, the daughter of Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, he sets out on a quest to save his mother from the depths of the stygian underworld and from his other uncle, Hades, and finally convince the Olympian gods of his innocence. Nice family, huh?

And if you're thinking, does the name Percy Jackson have any significance, the answer is yes, as mythical hero 'Perseus' was responsible for slaying Medusa.
Percy Jackson The Lightning Thief film poster
But you may feel a film about a boy with a troubled home life, weird powers, magical creatures and a destiny to save the world, even sharing the same director as the first Harry Potter movie, Chris Columbus, may be familiar territory right? Well think again.

It's a much better cinematic first outing than the 'Philosopher's (Sorcerer's in the U.S.A.) Stone' film (with shades of Narnia thrown in for good measure), boasting better CGI effects, more action, far less exposition and scene-setting and 100% better acting.
Percy Jackson poster
There is more of an emphasis on action and less on mystery or problem solving, it's all easily laid out for Percy and his friends, with no real investigation as such, but it's still highly enjoyable stuff and just a great fantasy romp.

Having said that it is slightly schizophrenic in its approach. Is it an adult story trying to appeal to kids or a kids story trying to appeal to adults. There are a lot more adult themes (the basic premise involves ancient gods coming to Earth to mate with mere mortals), there's sexual innuendo, scary monster imagery, writhing realistic snakes and real blood.
Annabeth Percy Jackson poster
Well this 35 year old liked it anyway (but I'm still a big kid at heart), after all there's a lot to like.

I've always been intrigued by the Greek Pantheon of gods, compared to say Norse mythology, so the background context appeals to me. The movie has brilliant teen leads in Logan Lerman as the titular 'Percy', Alexandra Daddario as the gutsy 'Annabeth' and comedic relief from Brandon T. Jackson as 'Grover' the satyr, all likable characters and actors.
Grover Percy Jackson poster
I've never read Rick Riordan's fantasy series that Percy's adventures are based on, but I like that it's fairly easy to get up to speed on his universe.

My criticisms from early in the movie are that Percy's reaction to his mother's seeming death is fairly unemotional and he takes it far too simply in his stride, plus his casual acceptance of the existence of gods, satyrs, minotaurs, furies, hydras and gorgons was a tad unrealistic.
Chiron Pierce Brosnan Percy Jackson poster
Most of the adult roles are well cast, Pierce Brosnan makes for a likable centaur training camp instructor, Sean Bean a believable 'Zeus' and Kevin McKidd a great 'Poseidon' (the tunic still suits him from his 'Rome' days), but Uma Thurman steals the show as a sexy Medusa, even with her hair wreathed in squirming convincing snakes.
Uma Thurman Medusa Percy Jackson poster
The worst casting has to be Steve Coogan as Hades. His demonic winged CGI depiction is fantastic, but the British funny man as an aging rock star lord of the underworld just doesn't work for me.

Finally I have to say the production values are great, from the forest training camp, to the mythical creature interpretations and special effects. I also loved that the doorway to Hell was located under the Hollywood Sign.
Hades Percy Jackson poster
Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief deserves four **** stars and even though I've no desire to read the books, I look forward to seeing the demi-gods in action again in the future. It may not do the same box office as Harry Potter, but it's just as entertaining and worth seeing on the big screen.

Let's see whether the forthcoming mythical movie, Clash of the Titans, can improve on this heroic offering...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

L.A. angst...

Oh no, my cosmo glass is empty! What sunglasses I should wear today? Do I have time for a massage? I'm late for my personal trainer!

Life in L.A. is just hell.
LA angst
I saw this faux-retro poster last week at Universal CityWalk and I couldn't help but smile.

Just another crazy day in LA-LA land...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine's Day love in Los Angeles...

Valentine's Day is a sweet and sentimental romantic comedy, but even with an all-star cast it doesn't have the same heart as Love Actually.
Valentine's Day movie billboard
For me the movie was a real treat as having lived in Los Angeles for almost two years now, I recognised so many of the local sights from restaurants in Studio City to Malibu beaches and views of Downtown L.A. It also reminded me a bit of Steve Martin's L.A. Story, with its nods to streets full of gardeners' trucks and bad drivers.

Beside the personal significance, the interweaving story is watchable enough with some likable stars including Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Topher Grace, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx and even new flavours of the month, Taylor Lautner and Bradley Cooper.

With all those Hollywood 'stars' it's strange then that the main actor holding all the plot-lines together is Ashton Kutcher, as the busy florist store owner. It really is his movie.

After watching the trailer for the movie I'd bemoaned that there appeared to be no gay relationships in the movie (so much for equality right?), but I was glad to eat my words with the inclusion of quite a simple coming-out story, although would it have hurt for the two of them to kiss?

I did like the movie and it was entertaining enough, but you felt that you never really knew any of the characters that well or even scratched below the surface of their lives. Maybe that's just their L.A. lifestyles, or maybe the film could have done with a few less actors and romantic cliches. What exactly was Kathy Bates (who I love as an actress) doing in the movie, apart from having another name to include in the advertising?
Valentine's Day movie poster
Finally I'm not sure how much I believe that Julia Roberts could be a Captain in the U.S. Army, but she did have the most touching moment in the film and so she's well worth the doubtless millions they paid her for the movie.

I'd give Valentine's Day three *** stars, but if I had to recommend a multi-strand ensemble romantic comedy to anyone my money would have to be on Love Actually for plot, character, acting and overall feel-good factor.

But that's just my opinion, let me know what you thought of the movie...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Labrador love is in the air...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
Valentine's yellow Labrador Cooper
As you can see Cooper is getting in the mood for love. I even think he can smell it in the air.
Labrador love is in the air
Whatever romantic plans you may have, enjoy and 'Cooper kisses' to you all...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Plans to Save the Peak where the Hollywood Sign lives...

This is a sight you don't ordinarily see in L.A., a cry for help to 'Save the Peak', resting atop Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills.
Save the Peak Hollywood Sign protest
Usually the infamous Hollywood Sign can be seen from miles around, but apparently plans to purchase the land surrounding the legendary 'filmland' sign and turn it into luxury housing has caused the 'Trust for Public Land' to take drastic action.
The Hollywood Sign
They have sponsored this 'Save the Peak' temporary makeover of Los Angeles' most famous landmark in an effort to publicise the plight of this world famous tourist attraction and to help raise $12.5 million by 14th April 2010 to buy the surrounding 138-acres of land and add it to Griffith Park.
Save the Peak Hollywood protest stand
They started covering the Hollywood Sign on Thursday 11th February and plan to keep it covered until Tuesday after the Presidents' Day holiday.
Hollywood Sign Save the Peak protest
I can't imagine why the Californian state government could allow a development to happen so close to one its most iconic landmarks, but I suppose with so much money at stake, they would be willing to allow anything.
Save the Peak Sign Hollywood Hills
I hope that people will come out in support of this preservation project and the Hollywood Sign will continue to be the only star in the spotlight at the top of the peak...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Alexander McQueen West Hollywood tributes...

I was just as shocked as everyone else to hear that iconic British fashion designer Alexander McQueen had died.
Alexander McQueen Melrose Avenue store
Here are just a few images of the floral tributes and messages he's received from West Hollywood residents and fans of his work.
Alexander McQueen West Hollywood fan tributes
Only on Tuesday this week, a day before he allegedly committed suicide in his London home on the morning of Wednesday 11th February 2010, I'd walked down to the corner of Melrose and Orlando Avenues to take a photograph of the amazing new fashion billboard, featuring a model writhing in colourful snakes, above his flagship L.A. store.
Melrose Avenue Alexander McQueen store
At the time I'd noticed that they were posting new skull imagery for his eyewear range in the boutique's windows and on reflection they seem oddly eerie after the shocking news of his death.
Alexander McQueen West Hollywood empty store widows
Today the store's windows were clear of any merchandise, with only a statement from his family on display asking for privacy in order to come to terms with the terrible news.
Lee Alexander McQueen was only 40 and had already been named 'British Designer of the Year' four times between 1996 and 2003 and he was also a recipient of a CBE (Commander - Order of the British Empire).
Alexander McQueen West Hollywood tributes
In addition to the flowers and candles left in his honour, messages written on the store's glass doors included:

"The only true 'artist in fashion'. We love you".

"The best designer".

"Love you forever".
Alexander McQueen Melrose Avenue store tributes
I even saw a mother and daughter walking away in tears after they'd paid their respects. So you can see the news has had an impact on both sides of the Atlantic, and I'm sure with his admirers all over the world.
Alexander McQueen West Hollywood floral tributes
I know it sounds strange, but I've walked past the Alexander McQueen Melrose Avenue store for almost two years now on regular walks with our Labrador Cooper, and admired the men's fashion through the window, so on a personal level it was sad to hear the news.

It's always upsetting when someone dies, no matter who they are, but it's such a shame when someone so talented dies who has been able to shine a spotlight on British fashion.

Rest in peace...