Saturday, December 31, 2011

DAM NATION Year End List: 10 Worst Movies of 2011

Of course, we have to have this! Right? It's time to count down the crappiest movies of the year and, yes, no one is spared. These films are some of the most unexpected, unwanted, and most importantly unnecessary films of the year and it’s time to put them on notice..

And just like my "best" list, it’s not physically and financially possible for me to go and watch ALL films that were released this year. Oh, and for the record, I didn't get to write an actual review of some of them. I just didn't have the luxury of time to waste for movies like this - unless if they're incredibly awful.

On my fourth year now, I give to you the 10 Worst Movies of 2011..

10. Hop
Am I so bad to put a kid movie in here? Sure, the character is cute, but this lacked that genuine human feeling compared to the other talking animal films. This just felt too manufactured. Plus, the story is annoying. Sorry.

09. Beastly
A forgettable film that everyone involved should have passed on. Seriously.

08. Little Fockers
Three is usually the charm, but this wasn't the case with this Fockers franchise. Unfunny performances. Juvenile script. Annoying Jessica Alba.

07. Hall Pass
Two words: Jason Sudeikis

06. Sanctum
They could've avoided this disaster if not for the character's stupid decisions - or if they didn't even do this whole movie. No substance. Bad acting. Awful script. Need I say more?

05. Bad Teacher
".. if you have a by-the-numbers plot, annoying performances, and a been-there-done-that tone, then what's the point of making a movie? It's not even THAT entertaining. A lackluster effort which was dumb, disappointing, and decidedly demented."

04. The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin
If not for Vice Ganda - who's humor wasn't all that - this would've easily been the worst film of the year! Enough said. 

03. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
"..there was nothing in this movie that should have warranted it being in 3D. NOTHING! It was just like two gimmicks - Justin Bieber and 3D - rolled into one. Haha."

02. From Prada To Nada
Just from the title alone, you'll know what you're into..

01. Abduction
".. was SO awful, it's actually a lot funnier than Bad Teacher."

DAM NATION Year End List: 20 Best Movies of 2011

For my obligatory year end count. 97 movies in 12 months. Yes, I surpassed my personal record of 65 movies from last year. Yay!

Now, I wouldn't say that it was a lousy year for movies this year, but if I'm being honest - unlike the past year - making this list is particularly hard for lack of stand out films. Yes, there were a handful of good films this year, but only few were incredibly memorable.

Oh, and since I'm not particularly fond of independent films - just my personal preference. Sue me! - so better not bash me for not including most of them in this list. Also, it’s not physically and financially possible for me to go and watch ALL films that were released this year, so just chill. Haha. This is just for fun.

So, without further ado, DAM NATION presents the 20 Best Movies of 2011..

20. Won't Last A Day Without You
".. while the inherent cheesiness and predictability cannot be avoided, I genuinely enjoyed the film. It was a sweet, wonderful and enjoyable romantic flick. Absolutely better than the Philippine's highest grossing local film EVER. Haha."

19. X-Men: First Class
".. the movie was a surprising treat. At the very least, First Class managed to save a series that I had written off. This, to me, would either be the final nail in the coffin or a much needed revival of the franchise. I'm glad it turned out to be the latter."

18. Captain America: The First Avenger
".. exactly what it sets out to be - a solid blockbuster film that was guaranteed to entertain. It's flawed - no question about that - but it was immensely enjoyable. And yes, a good set-up for The Avengers next year."

17. The Adventures Of Tintin
".. a surprisingly good movie with a decent enough story of adventure, a couple of laughs and visual effects that were immeasurably impressive. If only the plot was as tight as the aesthetics, this would've been epic."

16. Limitless
"It did not delve deep into anything nor did it try to achieve something groundbreaking. What Limitless did though was to provide a sharp, polished entertainment complete with a fantastic script, decent direction, wonderful acting and some exceptional editing. Yes, there was a feeling of satisfaction after watching this film."

15. Paranormal Activity 3
".. ended up being possibly my favorite of the franchise. Yes, it didn't have the freshness of the original, but this was easily the creepiest of the three."

14. Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot Si Remington
I didn't expect anything coming into this, but Zombadings was a shockingly hilarious film. From the amazing performances to the tight script and even to the deliciously over-the-top plot, this film - in Remington's tone - was a WINNER! Haha.

13. Kung Fu Panda 2
"With superb animation, interesting characters, not to mention great humor, Kung Fu Panda 2 ranks among the best films Dreamworks has ever done."

12. Hanna
A thoughtful, clever and good character driven action film in the midst of Hollywood's barrage of over the top action set pieces with little to no heart. Simple yet effective.

11. Fast Five
".. wasn't grand cinema - even as far as action movies went. No ground was broken, the schemes were too elaborate and the physics weren't very probable. But movies should be judged primarily on how well they can hold up to the promise of what they try to be. And yes, the movie succeeded on that. A great piece of entertainment."

10. Tangled
"I highly recommend this film. With an outstanding animation and an abundance of heart, Tangled is absolutely what I would wish for in a fairy tale: remarkable, glorious and, of course, magical. It's a movie that's very hard NOT to like."

09. Super 8
".. steadily reminded me of E.T, but still was a unique summer flick on its own. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it's a rather brilliant science fiction thriller. Wonderful cast. Solid storyline. Brilliant writing. Amazing sound effects. Stunning special effects."

08. Thor
"This could've been potentially campy and cheesy, but somehow the people behind it turned it into a powerful and strangely relatable story. Possibly the best film Marvel Studios has produced in recent years. Oh, and I'll even go there - the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight. Sue me."

07. Real Steel
".. it's awfully rare when there's so much smashing of metal against metal to actually find some humanity and a REAL story to go along with it. Guess what? Real Steel did just that to great effect."

06. Crazy Stupid Love
".. a hilarious and deftly thoughtful movie about love. Astonishing performances and sublime writing. It was indeed a thoroughly clever and impressive film that shouldn't be missed. And just like love, it was bittersweet."

05. Source Code
"It was clever, oddly engaging and surprisingly focused. Possibly the first movie this year where I felt so compelled to give my full attention to. I got shockingly hooked and was overly interested in every moment of it. And yes, it actually gave me a good adrenalin rush, which recent action/thriller films failed to do so. One of the craftiest and satisfying thrillers this year by leaps and bounds! Enough said."

04. Drive
A film that packs a bloody punch. I barely knew what I was watching until the film developed into something totally unexpected. Perfectly executed. Compelling characters. Strangely awesome soundtrack. Refreshing. Oh, and Ryan Gosling was so intense, his presence just bounced off the screen - and he hardly said anything the entire movie.

03. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
"I've never been hugely passionate about the Mission: Impossible franchise, but this, I dare say, was one of the finest action films this year. It was immensely enjoyable because unlike many of the films out there, this one got some serious spunk!"

02. Bridesmaids
"I'll go out on a limb and say that Bridesmaids will probably be THE funniest movie of the year - and that's a huge statement. I laughed so hard that I cried. Heck, I even clapped in one of the film's most hysterical scenes. Haha. In an era saturated with unnecessary sequels, I actually left the movie hoping to see these girls again - and  that's a rare feeling these days."

01. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
".. monumental achievement for the Harry Potter franchise. A beautiful farewell for a HUGE series like this. Sweeping cinematography. Immersing score. Amazing acting performances. Compelling story. Yes, it's the best I could have hoped for and more. Goodbye, Harry Potter!"

Friday, December 30, 2011

DAM NATION Year End List: 25 Songs of 2011

2011 definitely had its moments musically - moments of hope and genuinely excellent music - and I've collected 25 of them below. A collection of party starters, pop hits and somber ballads, plus a few that defy any and all definition.

Like last year, I decided to take a look back at 2011 and pick the 25 songs - mostly mainstream Top 40 - that I personally think represented the best music the year had to offer, from the top anthems I personally couldn't escape to the hidden gems I hope you'll seek out. So, let's celebrate the year that was - a year that generally wasn't all that bad.

Now, I'm absolutely sure I left out a few of your favorites. If I did, tell me about it in the comments section. Enjoy!

25.  Coming Home
Diddy-Dirty Money (ft. Skyler Grey)

Despite the hip-hop cred of Diddy, this, to me, is a flat-out pop song with a relaxed, mid-tempo feel - not exactly a bad thing. The tune kicks off with Skyler Grey's haunting and eerie vocals that makes you want to listen to the rest of the track. It also mirrors the chorus that is possibly best with the sedated piano part. Diddy's rap is nothing extraordinary, but the lyrics are above average - almost autobiographical.

24. Rocketeer
Far East Movement (ft. Ryan Tedder)

Compared to their previous hit, Like A G6, this track isn't so techno-heavy. That said, from the odd backbeat to the piano and even to the sweet melody, this one really grabs your ears. Ryan Tedder's soaring voice connects the rap verses with the hook perfectly, which gives it an intoxicating vibe to it. This song is like a hangover cure from the party favor that was Like A G6. Haha.

23. I'm Into You
Jennifer Lopez (ft. Lil Wayne)

Sure, On The Floor was Jennifer Lopez' comeback single, but between that and this less polarizing but equally catchy song, I obviously prefer this. I mean, insipid lyrics notwithstanding, this track has a hook that's compelling - in the same veins as Rihanna's What's Your Name - and the rap verses of Lil Wayne is relatively more focused than his other collaborations. Plus, Jennifer Lopez's vocals pop and bubble with this song. To me, one of my favorite summer songs of the year.

22. What's My Name
Rihanna (ft. Drake)

Some may look at this collaboration as pretty ordinary - given the simple melody - but the effortless tune is actually more than pleasing to the ears. Rihanna's Caribbean accent works well with this midtempo track and Drake's capable rap adds a good amount of dynamics to the whole proceedings. Oh, and there's something undeniably sensual about the song. Seriously. Haha.

21. Last Friday Night (TGIF)
Katy Perry

Fluffy. Amusing. Fun. The song may not be the finest pop song to EVER be produced, but it's a charming track that deserves attention. The strummy guitar gives it a different vibe, and then there's a freakin' saxophone solo. That, paired with the chanting and that infectious hook make the 'epic fail' lyric not only forgivable but actually ok. Haha. The song could jump right out of an 80's movie, which the music video exemplifies brilliantly, or just a tongue in cheek romp celebrating the weekend - contrary to Rebecca Black's infamous Friday. HAHA.

20. Born This Way
Lady Gaga

With the recent surge of self-empowerment songs this year from Kesha's We R Who We R to Pink's Fuckin' Perfect to Katy Perry's Firework, this Lady Gaga ditty is distinctly less modern compared to her competition. But while this song isn't exactly prodigial and some may claim that it's unoriginal - remember the Madonna comparison controversy? - pop is cyclical and the underlying message is praiseworthy. It has a pulsating beat with an almost disco anthem that's retro - in a good way. It's a good pop song and definite grower.

19. Till The World Ends
Britney Spears

I got to admit, this second single off Britney Spear's latest album is generic, but this is the generic I can't get enough of. With thumping beats, stuttering vocals, lo-fi fade in and outs, and brilliant production, what else do you want? It's a definite club banger with an insanely catchy hook - granted that it's just the “whoa oh oh ohs” Haha - that the larger than life sound mixed with an infectious beat takes this track to the heights of her other smash hit singles. Personally, one of her catchiest singles since Toxic.

18. Jar Of Hearts
Christina Perri

I love myself some good sweeping ballads with strings and piano chords. Really. I'm the first one to admit that slow tempo piano ballads about love gone wrong are a dime a dozen, but this beautifully arranged track somehow creates that genuine emotional connection to its listeners. Christina Perri's voice just reaches your core, twists it, and then releases it fully exposed. I guess, no matter what kind of mood you are in and no matter which musical genre you prefer, I bet that you will simply adore this song.

17. Best Thing I Never Had
Beyonce Knowles

Powerful. Reflective. Retrospective. Driven mostly by a piano melody with some slick polished production, this track is like a cousin of her other acoustic guitar-led kiss off, Irreplaceable. I like that it has that self-empowering anthem that's bordering on a classic insult to past relationships. Haha. Beyonce's vocals are divine, her runs have that over-the-top goodness and that vocal range wears a certain emotional weight. I'm a guy, and I think this song is splendid.

16. How To Love
Lil Wayne

Not a fan of Lil Wayne, but this song is just so stirring. Who knew he could actually pull off a gorgeous track like this? At one point, I seriously believed all rappers were just that, a rapper. Lil Wayne, on the other hand, has done what most rappers wouldn't think of doing - sing and play an acoustic guitar. It's a bold move, but it paid off tremendously as he has been able to transcend many types of music in this totally unexpected, stripped down acoustic R&B inflected jam.

15. Don't You Wanna Stay
Jason Aldean (ft. Kelly Clarkson)

In the hands of less talented singers, this pleading romantic ballad could sound less powerful - even hokey.  But thank God for Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, who's beautiful and harmonious voices soar and give justice to this stunning song - a plea about the way a goodbye kiss should be more than just that moment, trying to hold on to that feeling for "a little while".Of course, the impressive production complete with an orchestra helps create an atmosphere of longing and makes the music linger on in your head long after the song has ended. If you're a fan of sweeping, almost epic heartbreak song, which I am, this is the song for you.

14. We Found Love
Rihanna (ft. Calvin Harris)

Rihanna may not be the strongest vocalist out there, but with her relaxed and almost luxurious vocals in this track coupled with euphoric beats and pulsating club rhythms, there's nothing to complain really. Plus, We found love in a hopeless place, while that's all there is to it as a chorus, is definitely one of the most recognizable hooks of the year. Right? Right!

13. Super Bass
Nicki Minaj

An impossibly addictive confection! I'm not a big Nicki Minaj fan, but the girl has got some catchy beats and the effervescence of this track actually won me over. The song in itself has Nicki interspersing the brilliant verses with her trademark rapid-fire rapping that is arguably pristine, and a bubble gum pop chorus that easily morphs the whole number into a total earworm. Believe me, once the "boom badoom" chorus is in your end, it's pretty impossible to remove.

12. If I Die Young
The Band Perry

Sure, the words on this track is a tad depressing, but for such a young band, this actually shows maturity beyond their years. The lyrics are surprisingly poetic, there's a certain authenticity to the song, it's beautifully produced with some nice touches of fiddle and banjo,and the vocals are pretty solid. Kimberly Perry delivers the song brilliantly with just the right amount of restraint and nuances. Her tone adds personality to the tune, as well as the subtle yet prominent harmonies from her brothers.

11. Fuckin' Perfect

In a time where the pressure put on by society is absurd, Pink has a way of sending a message to the world and this is obviously it. In a softer, down-tempo power ballad that has a hefty subject matter, Pink's delivery has a distinct rawness and honesty to it. It's startlingly poignant with her vocals showing an unusual vulnerability. The production is focused, with a surprising progression from a generic melody to an instrumentation that pulsates - thanks to the strings that come in after the second repetition in great effect. The song is confrontational and crude, but it's also comforting at the same time.

10. E.T.
Katy Perry (ft. Kanye West)

Despite the lack of distinct hook and somewhat silly lyrics, this metaphor-driven track is another welcome addition to her repertoire of chart toppers. From the electro-pop laden beats to the interesting layer of instrumentation to chilly bleeps and even to the retro-techno vibe, this formula always works surprisingly well for Katy Perry. Kanye West sort of phoned it in, but just like any other collaborations, his rap adds a bit of variety to the mix.

09. California King Bed

Ironically, out of all her releases this year, the underrated California King Bed is my favorite. It didn't get enough airplay and it's probably Rihanna's least successful single in her Loud album, but this is definitely a nice change of pace from her usual hectic dance beats. The gentle acoustic guitar strumming at the beginning gives the song a sense of familiarity that's almost comforting. Then, when the electric guitar and drums kick in, the sudden shift in dynamics give this track a striking punch. Oh, and let me also mention that it's refreshing to hear a song that's built around her voice and not the other way around. This, to me, is her best vocal performance to date and that's saying something.

08. Someone Like You

Hurts so good!! This piano-driven track is brilliantly heartbreaking. From the simple production to Adele's impeccably nuanced vocal performance down to her impassioned delivery - the way her voice cracked somewhere towards the end is chilling - this song is a glaring testament that there's no need for theatrics or any blinding strobe lights to struck a cord and connect to the listeners. Outstanding lyrics. Incredible Vocals. Stunning melody. Enough said.

07. Pumped Up Kicks
Foster The People

You want a bubble gum pop music with an amazingly messed up lyrics? Pumped Up Kicks is for you then! Haha. Not that I'm glorifying violence - the lyrics are pretty obscene and disturbing - but the underlying irony given the easy listening beat and tone of the whole track is brilliant. The super slick production suggests a fun escapism with hushed vocals and dainty percussion, but the lyrics tell otherwise. Schizo? Maybe, but it's, arguably, an immaculately constructed song! Very nice.

06. Party Rock Anthem

I must admit, it took some time for me to warm up with the song, but when I got into it, this I dare say is one of the catchiest dance tunes to come along in a while. Yes, it lacks a certain amount of depth, but the song is all about having a good time - and this song delivers. It's goofy, it's infectious, an absolute club banger and indeed, everyday I'm shuffling! Haha.

05. Give Me Everything (Tonight)
Pitbull (ft. Ne-yo, Afrojack)

The song that has a European house flare with a perfect blend of Pitbull's sharp rap and Ne-yo's smooth R&B vocals. I like that it has that madly infectious appeal that could transcend to both the club and rap enthusiast. Indeed, a cool little club tune that will surely get the energy moving on the dance floor.

04. Firework
Katy Perry

A straight up anthem of empowerment! It has an instant hook, a driving beat, a simple yet catchy melody, a soaring instrumentation and Katy Perry's vocals that, even though not the strongest, are stretched to positive effect. What else to ask for?

03. Grenade
Bruno Mars

Just when I thought Bruno Mars is just another schmaltzy type of crooner, he released this song and once again, proved me wrong. His song writing remains top notch if a lot edgier than his previous overplayed hit, Just The Way You Are, the transitions are seamless, his vocals are stunning, his phrasing is sublime and the emotions he poured into the song, especially towards the end, is downright exceptional. No glaring flaws with this track.

02. Moves Like Jagger
Maroon 5 (ft. Christina Aguilera)

From the funky guitar lead to the whistle - which, to me, adds an interesting layer of instrumentation to the song - this song is anything but boring. Sure, it's not ground breaking by any means, but it's extremely infectious beat makes this THE perfect ear candy that can make anyone move. Oh, and the vocal chemistry between Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera is a pleasant surprise - with the latter keeping her riffing to a minimum. Haha.

01. Rolling In The Deep

This flawlessly produced and incredibly written track started with an acoustic guitar that suddenly swells into an explosive chorus with bass drums and piano and gives the song an unexpected sense of urgency. Add to that Adele's impeccable vocals with a powerful, barely controlled abandon that makes for this beautiful sound. So yes, I'm not surprised that this is the most covered song of the year - and deservingly so - from the surprisingly stripped down version of Linkin Park to Mike Posner's riveting remix to an almost gospel a capella rearrangement by John Legend to the awesome renditions of American Idol's David Cook and Haley Reinhart - and the song to top my 2011 list.

NEXT: 20 Best Movies of 2011
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