Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - a fabulous year in review...

Well it didn't end, according to Mayan prophecies, and lots of other fun things happened in 2012. Here's what crazy misadventures and how this man of leisure has been keeping himself busy this past twelve months.

Looking back on 2012
Road to Hana Maui
In January we kicked off the year just we meant to go on by making the most of living in Southern California and taking Cooper to his favourite off-leash dog beach in Santa Barbara.

Starting the year at Hendry's Beach, Santa Barbara
Hendry's Dog-friendly Beach Santa Barbara
The rest of January was mostly filled with long marathon training runs at the weekend, whilst February saw us jetting off once again to Vancouver in Canada for a couple of days.

Having an A-maze-ing laugh in Vancouver in February
A-maze-ing Laughter sculpture Vancouver
Not only did I enjoy a 20-mile training run around Stanley Park and the rest of Vancouver's scenic seawall, but I also got to see more of its fantastic public art, like this quirky A-maze-ing Laughter installation. Later in the month we also enjoyed watching the Oscars live, which has become a new annual tradition.

Running my second L.A. Marathon in March
Running down Rodeo Drive L.A. Marathon 2012
One of my biggest achievements this year was completing three full marathons and raising around $8,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles in the process.

On March 18th I set a new personal best time at my second L.A. Marathon of 3:47:50 (this time conditions were far dryer than the previous year).

Unfortunately I didn't win the lottery for the New York Marathon in November, but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise after it was cancelled following the devastating Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.

Running the inaugural Hollywood Half Marathon in April
Final sprint Hollywood Half Marathon
Rather than let my legs rest like a sensible person would, at the start of April I ran the first ever Hollywood Half Marathon, which started in Universal Studios Hollywood and ended with a horrible 2-mile hill, which probably contributed to a lot of my knee injury problems this year.

Thor's Chris Hemsworth at The Avenger's World Premiere in April
Chris Hemsworth Avengers World Premier Hollywood
Another real highlight of my year (and of living here in L.A.) was attending the World Premiere of Marvel's Avengers in Hollywood along with the all-star cast of the movie. Not only was it a privilege to see the movie early, but it was awesome and definitely one of my favourite movies of the year too.

Hunting down the best billboards around L.A.
Madagascar 3 special extension movie billboard
People often ask what I do with my time as I'm not able to work, the answer aside from looking after our demanding labrador Cooper, is my blogging empire.

My Daily Billboard blog continues to go from strength to strength and I still love discovering and sharing all the crazy and creative ads that fill L.A.'s skyline.

Time flies as Cooper turned 4 on April 18, 2012
Happy 4th Birthday Labrador Cooper
Speaking of Cooper, our gorgeous, lovable boy turned four in April. He's has another year packed with beach visits, swimming pool play-dates and almost daily walks at Runyon Canyon.

London's preparations for Queen's Diamond Jubilee in May
Queens Diamond Jubilee Union Jack flags London
In May we flew back to the U.K. to see friends and family (and sadly for a funeral), but we also got to see the patriotic preparations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. You could almost feel the excitement and anticipation for that national celebration and the impending Olympic Games taking place in London.

The T.A.R.D.I.S. installed at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay in May
Installing TARDIS Cardiff Dr Who Experience
Whilst visiting my family in Wales we even ventured to Cardiff Bay and caught a glimpse of the space-time traveling T.A.R.D.I.S. being installed at the new Doctor Who Experience exhibit.

Jubilee celebrations on our West Hollywood roof deck in June
Jubilee Labrador Cooper
Upon arriving back in L.A. we were awoken one morning by a drunken Kiefer Sutherland staggering about the street no doubt after a big night out, plus I also got to meet Darby Stanchfield one of actresses from the TV show Scandal at a charity Bingo event at Hamburger Mary's in West Hollywood in May.

Meanwhile at the beginning of June we had our own rooftop Jubilee celebrations in West Hollywood with our friends, some cucumber sandwiches and our own royal hound.

The Levitated Mass sculpture arrives at LACMA
Levitated Mass sculpture LACMA
I still enjoy seeing interesting public outdoor art and I just had to go see LACMA's (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) newest addition, a giant rock which had traveled for miles to get here, The Levitated Mass.

Taking part in the LA. Pride Parade in June
L.A. Pride Parade June 2012
In June I joined my fellow T2: Team to End AIDS running teammates and AIDS Project L.A. clients and supporters in marching in the West Hollywood's annual Pride Parade.

Scissor Sisters play the Hollywood Palladium in June
Scissor Sisters concert Hollywood Palladium
Another highlight in June was the fabulous Scissor Sisters concert at the Hollywood Palladium, where a kiki was had by all. They were truly electric live.

The Oval Office recreated at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum
Oval Office Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Museum
I ventured to Simi Valley in July to visit The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum which not only houses his Air Force One, but a recreation of the 40th President's Oval Office.

My main reason for visiting was to see the fantastic Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives movie exhibit, which had hundreds of original costumes, models, props and memorabilia from the world of Disney on display.

Rooftop installation to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics
West Hollywood Olympics rooftop display
The World went Olympics crazy in July, but as we had terrible Olympics coverage on NBC we lived vicariously through our friends back home attending the games themselves. That didn't stop some locals from joining in on the fun over here though.

Running my first San Francisco Marathon in July
San Francisco Marathon 2012 final dash
Doing my part to win gold I ran all those hills of my first San Francisco Marathon in July, achieving a personal goal of racing across a misty Golden Gate Bridge, and finished under four hours in 3:57:09, which was a real surprise and delight after a tough race.

After the marathon we used the opportunity to catch up with some friends in the City by the Bay and enjoy the wonderful food on offer there.

Charlie & I celebrated 13 years together in August
Labrador Cooper kisses
In August my partner Charlie and I celebrated 13 years together and after some significant wins for gay rights this year we're hopeful that California's Prop 8 will be overturned in 2013 and Federally recognised gay marriage will follow in the future.

Watching Anita Baker sing at the Hollywood Bowl in August
Anita Baker sings Hollywood Bowl
We made it to the Hollywood Bowl three times this Summer season and saw soul jazz singer Anita Baker in August and the legendary Barbra Streisand, still wonderful at 70, in November.

In August we enjoyed a whirlwind trip to New York City and after visiting the High Line Park I ventured to the top of the Rockefeller Center for the first time to enjoy the view.

View from the Top of the Rock in August
View Rockefeller Center New York City
Three of our lovely British girlfriends came to stay this September and made our Summer complete. We had a great time playing tourist guide, eating, drinking and dancing our way around L.A. and Southern California.

Finally went wine-tasting in California wine country in September
Firestone Vineyards California
We enjoyed the delights of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, plus trips to Santa Barbara, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Paradise Cove, The Getty Center and of course The Abbey for the strongest cocktails on Earth and lots of go-go boy fun.

Enjoying a sunset in Santa Barbara with our visiting British girlfriends
Santa Barbara sunset Stearns Wharf
I also got to take one of our friends for her first ever visit to Disneyland which was great fun.

Enjoying the delights of Disneyland in September
Ice cream Disneyland
With our friends safely home in the U.K. it was back to marathon training for me and this time for the Honolulu Marathon.

Surviving the 18-mile Hollywood Sign training run for the Honolulu Marathon
Behind Hollywood Sign
There was lots of hill training this Summer season but nothing was harder or more inspirational than our 18-mile run up to the Hollywood Sign. Great teammates made this another fun and enjoyable season.

Wicked fun at West Hollywood's Annual Halloween Carnaval
West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval costumes 2012
Forget New Year's Eve, in October it's my favourite party of the year, the annual West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval. This year I recycled my Wonder Woman costume, shredded and distressed it in fact, and tried out some zombie makeup for the first time, which I think was a resounding success on the night.

Relief as President Obama was re-elected in November
Pro-Obama Once you go black rooftop display
In November after a scary campaign trail we breathed a huge sigh of relief when President Obama was re-elected. It was nice to see common sense, tolerance and progress win the day instead of hatred, bigotry and greed.

Vancouver's festive Lights of Hope in November
Festive Lights of Hope Vancouver
At the end of November it was back to Vancouver for a short visit just before Thanksgiving and a chance to start getting in the holiday spirit.

Crossing the Honolulu Marathon Finish Line in December
Honolulu Marathon Finish Line 2012
At the beginning of December we traveled to Hawaii for the first time to run my first Honolulu Marathon.

It was great being there with Charlie and my T2 running teammates, but on the day my knee played up and it was a hard, hot and painful race. Fortunately I finished in 3:55:06, achieving my sub-4 hour goal.

Relaxing at the Sheraton Waikiki infinity pool afterwards
Sheraton Waikiki Infinity Pool Honolulu
After the race it was time to relax in Waikiki and then Maui for a few days. In hindsight a few more days to be able to really enjoy the islands would have been nicer, but we made the most of the trip and ventured along the scenic road to Hana to see a bit more of Maui than just poolside at the Ritz-Carlton.

At the base of the 400-foot Waimoku Falls in Kipahulu, Maui in December
Waimoku Falls Maui
After Hawaii it was back to L.A. for the last minute Christmas preparations and a chance to indulge my love of movies with the Gangster Squad exhibit at the Petersen Auto Museum
and more besides at the ArcLight Cinemas.

My love of movie costumes and props continues
Gangster Squad car Emma Stone's gown Petersen Auto Museum
I still love discovering new movie exhibits featuring original costumes, props and even cars, plus all proceeds from my Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props blog goes to fund my marathon training for AIDS Project L.A.

A very Merry Christmas Day
Christmas Day dinner
This year we had another lovely Christmas Day together with our wonderful pup and Santa was very kind to us all.

Christmas Labrador Cooper
Santa Hat Labrador Cooper
Let's hope that 2013 is as eventful and full of excitement and achievements as this past twelve months.

Let's raise a glass to the past and more importantly to a bright, fun and successful future...

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Another 12 miles in the rain, just like old times...

Yesterday I started the training for my third L.A. Marathon and it was just like a trip down memory lane as the heavens opened to drench us just like in the 2011 L.A. Marathon.

Rain-soaked T2 runners after 12 soggy miles
Rain-soaked T2 runners
After a few weeks off to recover from the Honolulu Marathon I'm back training with my T2: Team to End AIDS running mates in Griffith Park and the surrounding area (that's me in the dripping yellow Honolulu Finishers t-shirt), and raising money for AIDS Project L.A.

A very rainy L.A. Marathon 2011
L.A. Marathon 2011 torrential rain
Let's hope that we get all the rain out of the way during training season and that March 17, 2013 will be perfect marathon day conditions...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Five worst movies of 2012...

Of the 26 movies I saw on the big screen this year the following five were not necessarily utter failures, but they were the most disappointing and underwhelming in my humble opinion (so maybe 'worst' movies is a slight exaggeration and least favourite a better description).

Giant John Carter movie billboard
The biggest mistake Disney made in their marketing of John Carter was removing the 'of Mars' from its title. Every piece of advertising showed this to be a sci-fi movie and yet the studio refused to celebrate this fact and failed to clearly communicate what the film was about.

That being said the movie itself held very few surprises and more than once felt like it was borrowing a little too much from Star Wars (it's no wonder Disney has now bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise).

The over-reliance on CGI to create the Martian world and its people, plus the apparent need to create cute sidekick creatures also didn't help endear itself to me.

John Carter is not unwatchable, but I feel like I've seen it all before, which is never a great opinion to leave the cinema with.

Original John Carter movie costumes on display
Original John Carter movie costumes
If you are a fan of the movie, be sure to check out all these fantastic original John Carter costumes and props on display.

Resident Evil Retribution movie billboard
I came late to the Resident Evil movie franchise, but I love a good post-apocalyptic movie with an ass-kicking action heroine as much as the next person.

I really shouldn't be surprised that the fifth installment in franchise turned out so bad, but the previous movie sequels had been improving and had some compelling sci-fi ideas beyond the simple zombie shoot-em-up video game origins.
Resident Evil Retribution movie poster
Resident Evil: Retribution seems to revert to the poor quality and almost 'cheapness' of the original film, with cardboard cut-out characters, very little originality or plot, and absolutely no reason to come back for future installments.

Prometheus movie poster
An Alien prequel seemed to hold such promise, with so many questions to be explored, the ability to leave behind the increasingly convoluted movie sequels and blurring of franchises with the Predator movies, plus the return of the original director Ridley Scott to hopefully create movie magic once again.

Ultimately Prometheus turned out to be such a disappointment. It looked beautiful, had great costume design, effects and art direction, but I couldn't differentiate between characters or frankly care for them at all.

Maybe central to my problem with the movie is, did we really need to know where these 'Space Jockey/Engineers' glimpsed in the original Alien came from? Isn't the mystery surrounding them what keeps them so compelling? Do studios continually need to spell out every single detail of a movie these days, or can't we just leave something to our imagination.

Yes, Michael Fassbender was wonderful as the synthetic human 'David', but on the other end of the scale, how do you run and jump around with apparent ease when you've had an alien parasite ripped from your womb and then had your stomach stapled back together.
The revelations we did receive were slightly underwhelming and predictable at best, and overall the film felt like an homage to the original and not necessarily anything groundbreaking or genre-defining.

Giant Dark Knight Rises movie billboard
Now my next choice may be the biggest controversy of all. I enjoyed the third installment in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, but as a finale it left me feeling a bit empty.

One of my biggest criticisms, not just of Batman but the whole DC Universe, is how 'dark' a place it seems to be (the forthcoming Man of Steel looks worryingly so). Marvel's Avengers proved you could have fun, colourful spandex wearing heroes saving the world without the doom and gloom.

The Dark Knight Rises seemed overly violent and I couldn't help but think of the Aurora theatre shootings whilst watching, which made the violence seem even more exaggerated.

Far too long, with heavy-handed symbolism and a telegraphed ending, it was a bit of a disappointment.

After a huge build up, the final act seemed to falter. In The Avengers there's a whole alien armada to battle, here Batman has to evade three missiles in the skies of Gotham. The spectacle just isn't there and maybe it's a case of timing, if it had come before The Avengers I'm sure I wouldn't have the same problems with the action sequences.

With all that being said, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman was superb and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will no doubt make a worthy successor for the cowl.

Original movie costumes from The Dark Knight Rises on display
Original Dark Knight Rises movie costumes
It was pretty amazing to see these original Batman, Catwoman and Bane costumes from The Dark Knight Rises up close at ArcLight Hollywood though.

Iron Lady movie poster
I know that The Iron Lady earned an Oscar for Meryl Streep's performance as 'Margaret Thatcher', but aside from accompanying fantastic makeup and costumes that made her transformation complete, the film itself was a bit of a let down.

Growing up during the Thatcher years in Britain this felt like a watered down version of her life and times. My main criticism was how her political Opposition, and even the members of her own Cabinet, didn't seem to be portrayed with any real substance and were glossed over, whilst in truth they and the battles she had with them were what actually shaped her and made her into such an 'Iron Lady'.

The London Film Museum did have this fantastic exhibit of costumes and props from The Iron Lady on display in May this year.

Original movie costumes featured in The Iron Lady on display
Iron Lady movie costume exhibit London Film Museum
What do you think, am I mad in my choices? Let me know what you think.

Now that you know what I didn't like so much, be sure to also check out what my five favourite movies of 2012 were.

Be sure to come back soon for my end of year review...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Five best movies of 2012...

This year has been a really enjoyable year for movies and I managed to see around 26 films on the big screen in 2012 (even managing to attend a few Hollywood World Premieres), plus countless others On Demand and on Blu-ray. Here are the top five movies I enjoyed most this year

Giant Avengers movie billboard Sunset Plaza
Marvel's movies had already surprised many in recent years by meeting and in most cases exceeding expectations, but Marvel's The Avengers blew audiences minds with its unadulterated superheroics, alien invasion blockbuster action and a fantastic comedy 'Hulk'.

Joss Whedon did an excellent job of assembling Earth's mightiest heroes, juggling all the egos and heroes with witty dialogue and big screen thrills. It really did set a new standard in superhero movies and it's no wonder it became one of the biggest box office smashes of all time.

I even had the pleasure of attending The Avengers World Premiere in Hollywood which was a real thrill to see the movie's stars and a chance to see the film in advance.

Captain America costume from The Avengers on display
Avengers Captain America movie costume
If you're a comic book fan, be sure to check out all these original Marvel Comics movie costumes, props and vehicles on display.

Amazing Spiderman movie billboard
Another Marvel Comics character, some would say the most iconic, got a makeover this year as Andrew Garfield donned the web-slinging tights of The Amazing Spider-man.

He's not my favourite hero and I was thoroughly prepared to not like this re-imagining, especially since the Tobey Maguire Spider-man trilogy we still fresh in my memory, but I have to say I really enjoyed the new movie.

The biggest success in the movie had to be the chemistry between Garfield and Emma 'Gwen Stacy' Stone, plus the focus on Peter Parker's scientific skills over his Daily Bugle photographic career really gave the film a fresh new feel.
Amazing Spiderman movie billboard
If you like these special extension billboards, be sure to check out all these other billboards for The Amazing Spider-man movie.

Cloud Atlas movie billboard
One of the most underrated films on the big screen this year had to be Cloud Atlas.

I saw the time-spanning sci-fi epic on a rainy day in L.A. and it was one of those movies that really touched me on a very personal level and left me feeling moved and uplifted.

I'm a huge sci-fi fan so loved the daring concepts of the film, plus the future worlds it transported us to. The cast was marvelous and it was fun to see them play so many different parts, helped by amazing makeup and costumes.
Cloud Atlas movie poster
For me Cloud Atlas felt like a true breath of fresh air, something new and complex to enjoy and not just another movie remake that Hollywoodland continue to spew out.

Pitch Perfect movie poster
The film I probably laughed the most at this year had to be Pitch Perfect.

With its very simple premise born out of the success of the predominantly female cast in Bridesmaids, plus TV's musical numbers in Glee, this comedy about an all-girls college a cappella group had me in stitches.

The film had a great ensemble, but the breakout star was Rebel 'Fat Amy' Wilson who effortlessly stole the show.
Pitch Perfect movie poster
Plus special kudos also has to go to Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins for their commentary during the singing competitions which is hysterically funny.

Hunger Games movie billboard
From my film selection you can probably tell I'm a big fantasy and sci-fi fan, but The Hunger Games was another film that really surprised me this year.

I've not read the books (and probably won't now until all the movies are released), but I have seen the Battle Royale and Lord of the Flies movies plus read a plethora of stories with similar premises, but regardless of its unoriginality this movie really did entertain me.

Jennifer Lawrence can seemingly do no wrong (a bit like Emma Stone in my eyes) and made for a wonderfully believable 'Katniss Everdeen', plus I like how un-Hollywood the film felt. It was gritty and brutal at times, and certainly left you wanting more.
Hunger Games bluray billboard
So that's my top five films of the year, what do you think?

Other movies I really enjoyed but didn't feel quite made the grade were Argo (which I thought was brilliantly made, but without one clear stand out performance that elevated the movie), Looper (which had a fantastically realised near-future world, but was overhyped and had a time-travel paradox plot I feel like I've seen a million times before) and Silver Linings Playbook (which had fantastic performances, but was just too intense a viewing experience to be called truly enjoyable).

Next year looks like it may have a number of cool movies to enjoy, but until then stay tuned for my five worst movies of 2012...