Friday, March 28, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Plain awesome! Superhero genre is a very crowded field, but somehow Marvel managed to produce yet again an engaging spectacle, which had the right mix of humor, bombast, and depth. True, the plot wasn't particularly groundbreaking, but it was a notch above its predecessor. It moved along well enough and there's a stronger emotional depth that balanced out the stylishly created action sequences. Of course, the action on display here was nothing short of spectacular. Most of them were so meticulously crafted and shot that it constantly left me picking my jaw up off the ground. Chris Evans, again, nailed it and the support cast were terrific. Captain America: The Winter Soldier may not be the best film I've seen in years, but it delivered an exhilarating blockbuster entertainment. 9

American Idol 13: Top 9 Studio Versions

Here are the studio versions for this week as the remaining nine (9) finalists tackle songs from a band - or something like that. Of course, most of them sounded great on recording and some even stayed on pitch - I'm looking at you CJ - but their performance on the Overall charts were a bit depressing.

Here's how they ranked against other songs available on iTunes (as of 11:00pm EST).

#269 Hey There Delilah - Sam Woolf
#326 Don't Speak - Alex Preston
#408 Dazed and Confused - Caleb Johnson
#502 Bring Me To Life - Jena Irene
#790 Rhiannon - Jessica Meuse
#1006 If It Hadn't Been For Love - CJ Harris
#1237 The Long and Winding Road - Malaya Watson
#1417 Shake It Out - Majesty Rose

Dexter Roberts is out of Top 1500 songs on iTunes.

Personally, I enjoyed Majesty Rose's studio version and Sam Woolf's. What's yours?

American Idol 13: Top 9 Results Show

Majesty Rose. This is the first week of American Idol Season 13 where I felt wronged. Majesty, from her audition to Hollywood week, looked to be in a strong position capable of moving her into the Top 5 contestants. Then, something happened to her. She stopped thinking like a competitor and began to pick songs that she loved (See, Let It Go) rather than songs that would showcase her lovely tone and not push her vocal range to its limits. Plus, you have to make a connection with America, and she always seemed to have a trouble doing so. So yes, she was living on borrowed time, but not before Dexter Roberts and CJ Harris!

Next week's theme: Audition song. Sigh. I wanted to have a studio version of Majesty's Violet Hill. This makes her elimination a lot painful no?

Results after the jump!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 9

It’s the "I'm With The Band" week - or as they say, sing anything random - at American Idol as the Top 9 took on an array of songs and managed to deliver a relatively solid night where almost all of the contestants were in fine form - ALMOST. Oh, and they had a weird group number at the top of the show, and I somehow wish they focused more on their solo performances.

As for the judges, they were still really good! Again, they managed to stay eerily relevant as they gave a mixture of adequate to great advice and then still show some palpable chemistry between the panel. Good stuff.

On to the rankings!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

I have never read any of the books - I just don't read books in general. Haha - but Divergent surprisingly stood on its own as a nicely executed adventure series that would probably fill the gaping hole that was left by both Harry Potter and Twilight. Sure, as dystopian films go, this was no better or worse than many and it did tend to rip off a couple of concepts from other sources, but it works well with the movie and I genuinely found it quite enjoyable. The premise was dependable, the film was beautifully shot, and the acting was unexpectedly good. Shailene Woodley, in particular, was terrific. She managed to anchor the film with subtlety and there's a good balance of strength and awkwardness in her portrayal that was quite refreshing. Divergent was far from perfect, but it managed to be interesting and riveting enough to merit a sequel. And it's always good to have a heroine you find yourself rooting for no? 7.5

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Movie Review: Need For Speed

Here's the thing: Need For Speed captured the core essence of what it sets out to do - an entertaining holdover for vehicle-based action fans. There were a couple of interesting set pieces that kept the story moving, the action sequences were executed pretty well and the editing was quite snappy. Also, the characters, though stereotypical, were captivating to some extent. But the film was far from perfect. I thought the plot was completely ridiculous and strangely underwhelming, the pacing was shockingly slow, and the writing was too straightforward to a fault. So yes, the film was a mixed bag. It has its flaws, but where it counts, it came across pretty well. Ultimately, if you enjoy fast cars and whatnot, then Need For Speed is for you. If not, then there's really nothing to miss here. 6

Friday, March 21, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 10 Studio Versions

Just when I thought the show's done producing studio versions of the finalists' performances - they didn't release any for the last 3 weeks - here they are in full force. In fact, American Idol has allowed these tracks to rank for the first time on iTunes. The results aren't great maybe because they weren't as advertised as previous seasons, but it's an interesting insight.

Here's how they ranked against other songs available on iTunes (as of 2:30am EST).

#61 Story Of My Life - Alex Preston
#191 We Are Young - Sam Woolf
#351 Pumped Up Kicks - Jessica Meuse
#490 Wake Me Up - Majesty Rose
#623 When I Was Your Man - Malaya Watson
#1028 Clarity - Jena Irene
#1301 Perfect - MK Nobilette
#1316 Edge Of Glory - Caleb Johnson

Others are outside of the Top 1500.

Interesting stuff right? Alex Preston is obviously pulling away from the pack, and yes, his studio recording sounded mighty fine. I also enjoyed Jessica Meuse's Pumped Up Kicks and Majesty Rose's Wake Me Up.

American Idol 13: Top 10 Results Show

MK Nobilette. MK finally made her exit and there was no nail biting as to whether or not she’d be saved by the judges - although they made it seem like they were having a hard time deciding. See, MK is a unique contestant - take it however you like - but she was a unique contestant with very little technical skills. She loves music and that's clear, but she didn’t do herself any favors. She failed to make a connection for several reasons, and the least of which was her lovely but mediocre vocals. Good riddance!

Oh, and Jessica Sanchez, Pia Toscano and Allison Iraheta performed with Jennifer Lopez. They had some killer harmonies at the beginning until Jennifer decided to gyrate and whatnot on stage for her new song, I Luh Ya Papi. Haha. Not kidding. That's the actual title. But as much as it murdered the English language, it's pretty infectious. /Sue me.

Results after the jump!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 10

Hey, are you aware that music still exists after the year 2000? Haha. If you had been watching American Idol for the past few years then you may not have been. We’ve been given theme night after theme night focused squarely on older music, and tonight, we were actually treated with an array of interesting current song choices. Yes, the performances as a whole weren't as strong as last week, but I saw a couple of shining moments. Oh, and do I see a new darkhorse in the competition?

Also, the judging panel this year has been pretty outstanding. I may not agree with some of their critiques, but at least, they have their own opinions about each performance. It's pretty entertaining to watch and I love how they disagree on things. Oddly, that was a thing of beauty. Ha.

On to the rankings!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Voice 6: Battle Rounds Part 2

Ugh. What is happening? They used to give stand out battles, but for two episodes, I've seen duets that were either good or downright boring. The decisions made by the coaches were fine, but then again, I couldn't seem to get excited with any of them. They need to do something about the lackluster performances!

Let's get on with the Battle Rounds!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Voice 6: Battle Rounds Part 1

Hmm. This episode was a bit lackluster. No standout duet compared to previous seasons. I don't know what happened because the talent is there. Song choices maybe? I don't know. Hope they pick it up as this was pretty disappointing. Oh, and there were a couple of weird choices from the judges, but whatever.

Let's get on with the Battle Round!

Monday, March 17, 2014

DAM NATION: March 2014 Playlist

There's just way too many songs this month and so little space for everyone. Truth be told, I had a hard time coming up with this list because there were a couple of good and interesting songs to choose from. In fact, I have more than enough for next month's playlist. Crazy! 

Anyway, here's another list 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 Raging Fire Phillip Phillips
2 Beautiful Mali Music
3 Love Don't Die The Fray
4 Not A Bad Thing Justin Timberlake
5 Classic MKTO
6 LaLaLa Naughty Boy (ft. Sam Smith)
7 The Moon Song Karen O
8 #Selfie The Chainsmokers
9 Calling All Hearts DJ Cassidy (ft. Robin Thicke & Jessie J)
10 Dear No One Tori Kelly
11 Wild Wild Love Pitbull (ft. G.R.L)
12 I Luh Ya Papi Jennifer Lopez (ft. Big Sean)
13 Empire Shakira
14 Hard Out Here Lily Allen
15 Blackbird's Song Lee DeWyze

Password: The score I gave Jena Irene for her rendition of Paramore's Decode.

Friday, March 14, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 11 Results Show

Ben Briley. Poor Ben was shown the door on the most painful week. The “I was so close to touring!” week. Unfortunately, when you turn in a pretty plain performance you don’t excite enough people to pick up the phone and vote. I'm slightly baffled by the result as I didn't think he'd be the first guy to get eliminated, but the way the judges never really got him was a good indication he wouldn't last long. Nevertheless, I wish him luck when he returns to his usual life and hope he uses his current fifteen minutes of fame to build an even more impressive following. I’m glad that Ben didn’t overstay his welcome, because he was very likeable and a whole lot of fun to watch.

Results after the jump!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 11

Tonight was Songs From The Movies or as some contestants figured, Songs Kris Allen covered. Haha. While there were a couple of great performances tonight, I'm still baffled at how underwhelming this season is becoming. I don't think they're the best batch EVER, but they need to be consistent to even make a good impression as a group.

But, I digress. Some of them need to regroup and rethink of their strategy. I'm looking at you, Majesty. It's not enough to keep turning in decent performances. One needs to show momentum on the program, otherwise people wouldn't feel encouraged to vote. My ranking this week wasn't completely about "who sang the best", but who made the best strategic choices and who took the biggest step forward down the road to becoming the next American Idol.

So, without further ado, on with the ranking!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Voice 6: Blind Auditions Part 6

And we're finally done with the Blind Auditions. Was it just me or was this year's Blind Audition dragged a bit compared to previous seasons? I don't know what it was because I seriously enjoyed the coaches this time around, but it somehow seemed like forever. This episode, in particular, was pretty lackluster. I hope they can turn up a good Battle Rounds or this season will be a total snoozefest.

On with the show!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Voice 6: Blind Auditions Part 5

Countdown to the Team Adam slaughter next week! Haha. Tonight wasn't too bad of an episode compared to last week. In fact, quite a few singers tonight stood out.  Finally!

Oh, and poor Shakira! She just couldn't get a break no? It's not good when you have to get an endoresement from the other two coaches and then they still don't pick you. She's like the female Cee Lo Green who just couldn't win against another coach. I lover her though.

Let's get on with the show!

Friday, March 7, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 12 Results Show

Emily Piriz. That's right. We've lost another female today with another all-women Bottom 3 this week. And whether or not that was by coincidence or demographics, the result of having girls booted week on week is a bit disheartening. That's not to say, Emily's boot was shocking. In fact, I actually predicted her exit tonight. Emily suffered from one of the worst weaknesses an Idol finalist can have. She was forgettable. The voice was there and she wasn't vocally the worst last night, but she couldn’t leave a lasting impression on the voters and her mediocre performance got lost in the mix. I'm not sure if Jennifer Lopez should take this as a complement no?

Results after the jump!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 12

It's Top 12 Week and we saw a lot of different things happen in the competition throughout this episode. There were a few who rose to the occasion - or maybe not -, a few who dropped the ball, and then several others who were praised when they simply did not deserve it. But, most importantly, the judges being so hard on these kids. Then again, constructive criticism will always be beneficial to them no?

Oh, and can I just say, despite the lackluster performances of everyone, I'm loving the fact that the song choices are new to American Idol. It didn't all work out well, but I do appreciate that the show expanded the song list this year.

On to the rankings!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Voice 6: Blind Auditions Part 4

As underwhelming as yesterday's episode, this one was actually pretty good. A couple of them were strong vocalists with powerful pipes and two guys who were fantastic as well. Of course, the coaches were still entertaining, but it was nice to see a good balance of that and compelling hopefuls.

On with the show!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Voice 6: Blind Auditions Part 3

Was it so wrong that I enjoyed this episode mostly because of the coaches' banters and not so much the contestants? Look, some singers were good, but collectively, the hopefuls were a bit lackluster. Again, the coaches overshadowed everything else as they completely stole the episode with their outstanding chemistry. So yes, it's a double edge sword no?

On with the show!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Movie Review: Non-Stop

Non-Stop was a straight up action thriller film. No more. No less. This one even had that typical action film set-up complete with a plot that was slightly preposterous, but what worked for the film was the fact that it still managed to build some great action sequences despite the straightforward plot - something that's not exactly a bad thing. I thought the action scenes were brilliantly crafted and flawlessly executed without going overboard and some of the fight choreography were actually pretty good. Liam Neeson was, yet again, terrific but this time as an air marshal. There's an urgency to his performance that never lets up. Taken as a whole, Non-Stop wasn't perfect - the villain had no character whatsoever - but it's the best I could have hoped for. It was solid and punchy at every second. 7

Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks

Mary Poppins is a timeless classic whose charm and wonder has endured for generations, and somehow Saving Mr. Banks captured that to great effect, but in a different way. This was actually more than what I expected. It's rich and nicely crafted and it offered a well edited, weaving of past and present that seamlessly enhanced the movie. It somehow skillfully meshes a few stories together on the same theme, although I found some of the flashbacks slightly bloated and went on for too long. Oh, and Emma Thompson was wonderful on this film. She brought a lot of energy to a character that's strange and emotionally damaged. It was oddly fascinating to watch. Saving Mr. Banks wasn't perfect, but it's so intensely likable that it's hard to imagine someone not smiling at any point in the film. 8

Movie Review: Her

In an age where most films are adaptations or sequels, it's so refreshing to see a film that's quite original. Sure, the underlying story itself wasn't all that rare, but the way it was depicted was absolute perfection that I left my heart overwhelmed with emotion. Everything here works wonderfully well. It was perfectly shot and edited, masterful direction, excellent background score, and well written characters. The acting was also pretty stellar. Joaquin Phoenix, in particular, was alone most of the time, but managed to deliver a fragile and delicate character with an extremely natural charisma. He carried most of the film with ease. I admit, the ending may leave a bad aftertaste and the film dragged in parts, but I digress. Her wasn't exactly an easy story to convey with all the complexity, but they somehow did. I solidly bought into the premise, and stayed with it all the way. 8.5
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