Thursday, January 31, 2013

American Idol 12: San Antonio and Long Beach Auditions

Where was all this talent coming from all of a sudden? Haha. I don't usually latch onto anyone at this stage, but with a deep bench of talented people, I'm seriously overwhelmed at how much I'm loving most of them.

It's pretty obvious though that the show wants a girl winner this year as they seemed to be downplaying the potential spoilers as everyone of the guys they've featured were anti WGWG (White Guys With Guitars). Haha.

Oh, and one more thing. Mariah Carey needs STOP finding ways to relate contestant’s personal story or statements back to herself. Come on! Not. About. You.

On with the show!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

IDOLOGY 2013: Week 1 - Report Card for Idol's Week 1 Singers! Plus: Nicki's Side-Eye, Keith's Best Body Part

Michael Slezak ( and Melinda Doolittle (American Idol Season 6) review the first audition episodes of 2013 and rate the new judges. Plus: Which contestants stood out the most so far?
Week 1 of American Idol‘s 12th season was a judge-centric affair, focusing on tension between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, Keith Urban’s bemusement/terror at sitting between the two divas and the virus-like resilience of that fourth guy who likes to refer to himself in the third person.

And that’s exactly why the season premiere of Idology kicks off with a discussion of the best and worst contestants from the Chicago and New York auditions. Hey, somebody’s got to pay attention to the critical battle to inherit Phillip Phillips’ crown and sash.

My cohost Melinda Doolittle and I weigh in on the magic of Kez Ban and the miracle of Lazaro Arbos, but when it comes to who should have their Golden Tickets revoked, the conversation gets a little more contentious. (Yes, it’s just like Mariah vs. Nicki, but without the British accents, rampant imperiousness and aggressive side-eye.) Plus, Melinda weighs in on the Keith Urban body part that impresses her most, we both express outrage over the lack of footage of a certain Season 11 comebacker, and our executive producer Jason Averett spices things up with Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess, a Doctor Who fave and Nicki’s most important quote ever.

I've been a big fan of Michael Slezak's weekly Idology (previously known as Idolatry and Idoloonies) since Season 7, and  I've decided to share them here. I personally think his videos are ALWAYS entertaining! Of course, I don't agree with some of his critiques - although I'm entirely with him most of the time - but that's the best part about American Idol - it's a great conversation starter. Hopefully, I'd be able to do something like this with someone who's as passionate with the show as I am. Haha. For the meantime, I'd give you Michael Slezak and Melinda Doolittle. 

Source: Idology TVLine

Movie Review: The Impossible

A spectacle of chaos! The Impossible had a narrative that was pretty straightforward, but the overwhelming flurry of unsettling sound and images backed with some powerful performances scared the wits out of me. The visuals - particularly the unforgiving tsunami sequence - were devastatingly believable and skillfully done, the atmosphere was absorbing, and the story managed to strike the right nerve that it seriously left me emotionally drained. True, the final act was annoyingly contrived and there were some melodramatic lapses here and there, but I digress. The Impossible was NOT an easy film to watch - in fact, it was mentally exhausting just from the disturbing display of a catastrophe - but this brave attempt was greatly compelling. 8

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

A modern retelling of a classic fairy tale can always go either way, but while Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters didn't break any boundaries in film making, this was actually a good piece of entertainment. No ground was broken, the characters were one dimensional, and the story was typical and full of cliches, but to me, that didn't matter in the slightest way. It should be judged primarily on how well they were able to hold up to the promise of what they're trying to be, and this campy, action packed gore-fest succeeded on that. The cinematography was sweeping, crisp editing, fantastic action sequences, and an indelible sense of coolness. Don't expect for something profound, this isn't Life of Pi. 7.5

Friday, January 25, 2013

American Idol 12: Baton Rouge Auditions

Jesus, this really is Country Idol this year no? Or was it just because the past two cities have been in heavily southern territory? I digress. I thought this was a decent episode with a good amount of talented people.

And yes, two more episodes and we're done with the auditions. Surprisingly, this year's auditions weren't nearly as painful and seemingly never ending as they were last year. I guess, the new entertaining judging panel, plus the editing, made this round more fun this time around.

On with the show!

American Idol 12: Charlotte Auditions

"Please don't fight. That makes us sad." Strangely the most poignant thing I could recall in recent memory from American Idol. While I'm here for the contestants, I can't help but react - yes, I have an opinion about this matter - about the argument that went on in this episode.

Let me start by saying that, with Nicki Minaj putting Randy Jackson in his place, she just became my favorite judge EVER. Haha. I was predisposed to hate her, but she has won me over. She commands the panel with ease and her personality is compelling, fascinating, and ridiculously entertaining. Plus, her argument about pigeonholing contestants from the beginning of the audition rounds was actually valid and on point.

I've never been a fan of this trend of reality show judges - especially on American Idol - trying to railroad contestants into a specific box. Remember Katie Stevens of Season 9?  She was an awesome vocalist, but she NEVER sounded authentic because the judges confused her if she should go country or not. Haley Reinhart got the same criticism early on when she tried to do Alicia Keys one week and then LeAnn Rimes the next. She didn't listen to them, followed her musical instincts, and got her to the Final 3.

And as for Randy Jackson saying "30 years of experience", well, with that I would expect a hell of a lot more than the stupid critiques you repeat over and over year after year. Please remind me again why you are still on the show! Haha.

That said, I still don't buy the supposed hatred between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. They're NOT best friends by any means, but I think they are two big personalities who like to jab at each other, but also have great mutual respect. Most of the time they are barely hiding their giggles or smiles when they bicker.

Whew! That was long. Haha. Shall we go and recap the contestants - a lot of great talent and talented black girls!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty was a meticulously crafted film that's incredibly absorbing and compelling thanks to an impressive mix of superb direction, outstanding performances and an impeccably tight screenplay. Yes, the story seemed a bit labored and slow, but with a steady pace - a triumph also on editing - the plot grew gradually with a riveting intensity. The complete lack of political bias was refreshing and I loved the fact that the fantastic Jessica Chastain had no back story whatsoever. Plus, the last few sequences were handled exceptionally well. Zero Dark Thirty may not be for everyone, but I digress. It was a solid film with a perfect blend of drama and tension. 9

Sunday, January 20, 2013

DAM NATION: January 2013 Playlist

With much excitement, I bring to you the monthly DAM NATION Playlist. After the shutdown incident last April 2012, I've decided to bring it back! Again, it's a set of 15 songs that I (personally) fancy, that are already doing good on it's own and maybe some new singles from different artists that will probably - or maybe not - be hits in the next coming weeks in whatever format.

So, there! Enjoy!

1. I Knew You Were Trouble. Taylor Swift
2. If I Lose Myself OneRepublic
3. Daylight Maroon 5
4. It's Time Imagine Dragons
5. Pour It Up Rihanna
6. Va Va Voom Nicki Minaj
7. What You've Done To Me Samantha Jade
8. C'Mon Ke$ha
9. Hall Of Fame The Script (ft. Will.I.Am)
10. Gone, Gone, Gone Phillip Phillips
11. When I Was Your Man Bruno Mars
12. Thrift Shop Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Wanz)
13. Impossible James Arthur
14. Don't You Worry Child Swedish House Mafia (ft. John Martin)
15. Suit & Tie Justin Timberlake (ft. Jay Z)

Password Clue: DAM NATION's pick for song of the month.

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Although Silver Linings Playbook followed a romantic comedy template - predictable twists and reassuring plot resolutions - it's NOT your typical love story. It's much more complex, emotional and authentic thanks to an extremely well crafted storyline and great direction. Bradley Cooper turned in his best performance to date and Jennifer Lawrence proved, once again, that she's at the top of her game. Together, their chemistry was extremely palpable further enhanced by the film's superb support cast. True, Silver Linings Playbook was foul-mouthed and quite odd, but it's equally charming, moving and deftly thoughtful. 8.5

Movie Review: Les Misérables

If Les Misérables was filmed like a typical musical, I probably would have no interest in it - I admit, the live singing (and maybe the hype) intrigued me. Sure, they could've cast better singers who were vocally up to the task, but the vocal imperfections were justified by the magnificent acting performances from the cast. Anne Hathaway in particular was sensational in all her scenes and the way she turned I Dreamed A Dream into a sincere cry of pain was impressive and emotional. Plus, Eddie Redmayne's Empty Chair at Empty Tables was equally spectacular. The lack of camera movement and the endless close ups were a bit distracting, but that's mostly a nitpick. Under the wrong direction, Les Misérables could have been a disaster, but Tom Hooper did fine and the average film crowd will not even notice the flaws of his work. 8.5

Friday, January 18, 2013

American Idol 12: Chicago Auditions

Welcome back to the second episode of American Idol Season 12. Our next stop is Chicago where we get to see a cluster$%#@ of crazy judges. Seriously. This panel is deliciously ludicrous, I actually love it. Haha. Keith Urban is shockingly funny and I find the whole Mariah-Nicki feud quite entertaining. I could do without any of that nonsense, but I digress.

I think this panel has some palpable chemistry and for me, I saw Mariah and Nicki’s "playful banter" as just that - plain and harmless playful banters. Yes, there maybe a bit of animosity between the two, but I don't think it's something life threatening or what have you.

Of course, I have to see the Charlotte auditions where the actual blowup between the two happened, but for now, I think this panel is oddly appealing and possibly the best mix on American Idol.

As for the contestants, I thought the talent was certainly better than last night - there were a handful of good singers in this mix and the overall episode was entertaining. Oh, and the intro was hysterical and there's a Haley Reinhart (!!!) special participation. Haha.

Let’s see how the contestants did in Austin, shall we?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

American Idol 12: New York Auditions

.. and just like that! I'm back for a new season and it’s time to once again dive down the proverbial rabbit hole in America's quest to find a new recording superstar capable of taking the music industry by storm - or should I say, a young white male who plays the guitar? Haha.

But before we go over the same type of material as I do every year, let me make a statement about the elephant in the room: the new judges! The departure of two useless cheerleaders for two seasons - Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler - left several spots to be cast for this season and Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj came out on top.

So, what did I think of the new team?

In general, they were relatively awesome. I'm not sure how much of that was brought by brilliant editing - remember Steven Tyler when he debuted back in Season 10? - but I will be cautiously optimistic about this panel. I mean, Keith Urban was fabulous as a judge. He was sincere, he gave solid constructive commentaries, and I found his dry humor pretty charming. Nicki Minaj, on the other hand, was fantastic! Some people question her musical talent, but Randy Jackson isn't even a singer to begin with - same with Simon Cowell. Heck, Jennifer Lopez and Paula Abdul weren't better vocalists than The Minajesty. For me, Nicki was particularly insightful, sassy, and tough when she needed to be.

As for THE Mariah Carey, I thought she was fine. She had a softer approach, sensible and doled out some honesty, but it felt like she was bored and didn't seem invested in the proceedings. I could be wrong and I'll give her a few more episodes to form a concrete judgement, but she was very distant and almost coming off as too big for the job. Randy Jackson was, well, Randy Jackson - nothing really to write about him.

Enough of the judges though. So, how did the contestants do?

Let’s go!

American Idol 12: First Look [Preview]

Happy American Idol Day!

I ALWAYS say this every season, but I'm genuinely excited for tonight's premiere - mainly because of Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban. If the reviews of critics who saw an advanced screening of the first episode, I'm pretty hopeful that they'll actually bring something fresh to the show.

I know. I know. I will be ranting about a couple of things about this show soon enough, but after sampling everything from The Voice and The X Factor US, NOTHING beats American Idol. Say what you want, but American Idol still does get the best talent. End of story.

Anyway, watch the preview of the show, which will premiere tonight 8/7c on FOX.

American Idol: Debut Singles Compilation

But aside from the Coronation Singles Compilation, here's a compilation of all debut singles of winners from the past eleven seasons. Enjoy!

1. Miss Independent Kelly Clarkson
2. Sorry 2004 Ruben Studdard
3. Truth Is Fantasia Barrino
4. Jesus, Take The Wheel Carrie Underwood
5. Just To Feel That Way Taylor Hicks
6. Tattoo Jordin Sparks
7. Light On David Cook
8. Live Like We're Dying Kris Allen
9. Sweet Serendipity Lee DeWyze
10. The Trouble With Girls Scotty McCreery
11. Gone, Gone, Gone Phillip Phillips

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American Idol: Coronation Single Compilation

Today, American Idol Season 12 will premiere and yes, that's already more than a decade of American Idol goodness. I myself cannot believe it! So, here's a little treat for everyone. A compilation of all coronation singles from the past eleven seasons. Who will join them? Let's see..

1. A Moment Like This Kelly Clarkson
2. Flying Without Wings Ruben Studdard
3. I Believe Fantasia Barrino
4. Inside Your Heaven Carrie Underwood
5. Do I Make You Proud Taylor Hicks
6. This Is My Now Jordin Sparks
7. The Time Of My Life David Cook
8. No Boundaries Kris Allen
9. Beautiful Day Lee DeWyze
10. I Love You This Big Scott McCreery
11. Home Phillip Phillips

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

American Idol: 30 All-Time Best American Idol Performances

11 Seasons. 11 Winners. Kelly. Ruben. Fantasia. Carrie. Taylor. David. Kris. Lee. Scotty. Phillip. These people may have won the title, but turning in one of the show’s most memorable performances is a different story entirely.

And with American Idol Season 12 premiering tomorrow, I scoured my files and the internet and re-watched dozens of performances to come up with a definitive list of the All-Time Greatest American Idol Performances.

DISCLAIMER: I am no expert, but this is my opinion - to each his own - and yours will be in the comments below! Haha.

Check it out!

Movie Review: Life of Pi

On technical merits alone, Life of Pi was arguably on a different league. It was exceptionally shot, flawlessly rendered and carefully photographed. It was visually gorgeous and I have high praise just for how fantastic the movie looked. The story might have lost a little bit of tension towards the end, mainly because it was told as a recount, but it was still emotionally gripping and thematically inspiring. Life of Pi wasn't perfect by any means, but it was beautiful. Plus, the ambiguous ending surely brought up more questions than answers, which, on my end, felt just right. 9

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Movie Review: Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher was neither original nor particularly groundbreaking, but it had a perfect mix of well-executed action sequences, witty script and a decently written - if slightly absurd and unbelievable - story. The cast was uniformly good and while Tom Cruise might not look like a young action hero anymore, he pulled this one quite impressively. There were a couple of silly moments of near-slapstick humor that seemed out of place, but I digress. Jack Reacher wasn't perfect, but it was made purely to entertain, and it certainly accomplished that mission. 7.5

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

American Idol 12: Top 40 Spoiler!!

It's that time of the year again! Just like last year and the year after that, here's the spoilers for American Idol Season 12 Top 40.

Apparently, the Top 40 will head to Las Vegas this January for the final cut until we get a Top 20 (10 boys and 10 girls) for the semifinals, which the judges will decide who will enter the Final 10. Yes, the judges will have the control over that. Not sure if I'm ok with that, but whatever. I also think a Top 10 is a bit small no?

Anyway, read at your own risk!! I warned you. If you want to be spoiled.. read on! If not.. go away!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

American Idol 12: The Judges Talk About Idol [PROMO]

Since American Idol has been the staple of my TV viewing for over a decade now, DAM NATION's first post is about the show! Here are the extended video interviews of the new judges, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban.

I know I say this every season, but I'm genuinely excited for the season to begin. It looks like the judges are having fun - despite the controversy - and I like that these new panel can all speak their minds when judging. Plus, the emphasis on how American Idol is the gold standard for singing shows is awesome! Haha. From the looks of things, this will be another great season. Can't. Wait.

American Idol Season 12 begins on, Wednesday, January 16, 2012.





.. and just like that 2012 is done! Again, I want to thank everyone who visited my blog this past year. It's been a bit of a challenging year for DAM NATION, but we're still here ready to face 2013. I'm just really glad you've all stuck with me this year even if I've been busy the last few months. Good times. Let's make 2013 even better and more interactive, shall we?

Oh, in a couple of days, I'll be doing this again because DAM NATION is turning THREE! Can't. Wait.
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