Sunday, January 31, 2016

Movie Review: The Big Short

Just brilliant! You see, understanding the financial collapse that happened in 2007 was frustratingly difficult - especially for those without any background - and yet, The Big Short miraculously found a way to creatively explain what happened during those times complete with high finance concepts and jargon in a very engaging and immensely hilarious way. The energy was absorbing, it was gloriously self-conscious, it interestingly broke the fourth wall, and the depth of each lead character strangely made me root for them but within limits since they're not exactly the "hero" of the plot - although no one was. Of course, the performances were great and I don't think I need to further elaborate given the talent that surrounded the movie. The Big Short would've been one huge convoluted mess if handled by a less competent director and had a relatively more straightforward narrative. It didn't and that made this possibly one of the most riveting films I have seen in a while. 9.5

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Movie Review: The 5th Wave

I will not say that The 5th Wave measured up with its contemporaries - far from it actually - but I also can't deny the fact that it was thoroughly entertaining. Yes, there was obviously a lot that was borrowed from the earlier young adult book adaptations and oddly there were more questions raised here than answered, but it had it's fair share of redeeming qualities. The acting was fairly good especially Chloë Grace Moretz, who I thought carried the narrative really well, the sparse action sequences were engrossing, and the production value was consistent. Some scenes struck me as though they were hastily thrown in by the writers out of obligation, and the pacing was annoyingly uneven, but I digress. The 5th Wave may be generic - the romance element felt like I was watching Twilight all over again - but if you can allow yourself to dumb down enough to appreciate the general atmosphere of the movie, you may get something out of it. As much as I know I should hate it, I just don't. 6.5

DAM NATION: All-Time Best American Idol Auditions

The final audition episode on American Idol EVER was aired a couple of days ago, and I'm still here in denial that this is, indeed, the end of the road for my beloved reality singing show. 

So, I decided to put up a list moving forward - random or related to the current show - to celebrate the fifteen years of American Idol. Why not relive then the Best 'Idol' Auditions EVER! To some, sure, this is possibly the less exciting part of the competition because more often than not, the show tends to focus on the awful and embarrassing auditions during the earlier seasons of the series and currently the annoying antics of the judges. But I have to say, there's always a good mix of good, undiscovered talents somewhere. Seriously.

Now, this list is biased, which is usual, and my methods aren't scientific, but I do take things like voice, personality and how memorable the actual audition was. Ha! Extra points were also given arbitrarily, based on things like song choices and other things. So, forgive me if you believe my reasons are trivial.

Who's on your list?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Movie Review: Our Brand Is Crisis

Quite frankly, there's nothing much to say about Our Brand Is Crisis other than the fact that I was consistently frustrated while watching a film with a caliber cast fall short of my expectations. No, it wasn't terrible, but it was hardly memorable. I thought the film lacked focus - some scenes could've been edited out and will not matter one bit - I found the story incredibly predictable, and the sudden change of tone towards the end was a bit jarring. It wasn't even brave enough to bite into the political satire I was hoping it would be. Good thing, the performances were as solid as one would expect. Sandra Bullock was effortless as she brought enough charm and dimension to her character and narrative as a whole. Billy Bob Thornton, on the other hand, was a fine actor, but didn't have much material to work on. Our Brand Is Crisis wasn't bad - given the good production and acting ensemble - but the story just gave me nothing to care about. Sadly. 6

Saturday, January 23, 2016

American Idol 15: Auditions Part 6


A couple of weeks ago, I whined that I still wasn't ready and now, we're done with the audition round?! It flew by so fast that I had no time to process it all. But yes, Season 15 is turning out to be a good one. I'm praying that the producers will not mess it up this time as we have some pretty talented crop for the farewell season.

Again, it's been a blast covering the auditions since Season 8 in this blog and I got a bit emotional watching the final minutes of this episode - those editors were harsh! Haha. I bet I'd have some more moments like this in the next coming rounds. Sigh.

On with the show!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

American Idol 15: Auditions Part 5

For a one-hour show, there were shockingly a lot of strong singers tonight. I admit, I wasn't expecting much given how last week's Wednesday show sucked hard, but this gave me hope again. I saw a couple of strong contenders tonight and I felt like we're off to a good start.

That said, I'm pretty sure that I'll be a mess tomorrow as soon as the auditions are over. I mean, that's the last audition episode EVER! I know. I know. We're three (3) weeks in and I'm still in denial. Ugh. But I digress.

On with the show!

DAM NATION: January 2016 Playlist

New year. New cover. New playlist. Yes, we're doing it again this year. So, here's a 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. Oh, and a couple of them are carry overs from last year, so there's that.


1 Hands To Myself Selena Gomez
2 Hide Away Daya
3 My House Flo Rida
4 Me, Myself and I G-Easzy (ft. Bebe Rexha)
5 Drink You Away Justin Timberlake
6 Ghost Ellie Drennan
7 Simple Things Miguel (ft. Chris Brown & Future)
8 Slow Down Time Us The Duo
9 Secret Love Song Little Mix (ft. Jason Derulo)
10 Boys Like You Who Is Fancy (ft. Meghan & Ariana)
11 Wake Up The Vamps
12 Out of the Woods Taylor Swift
13 In The Night The Weeknd
14 Wild Troye Sivan
15 Electric Love BØRNS

Password: Who ranked first in the DAM NATION: Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Movie Review: #WalangForever

I love myself some good Filipino rom-com, but nothing really prepared me for what #WalangForever had to offer. I admit, I was thrown off with the hashtag in the title - I swear, if someone uses a hashtag on a movie title again I won't be held responsible for my actions. Haha - and the trailer that looked so typical, but the film actually turned out to be something emotionally deep and resonant. Thanks mostly to the superb acting performances of the leads - Jennylyn Mercado played her role convincingly and was balanced to perfection by Jericho Rosales' sensitive portrayal of his character. They had this dead on chemistry that made the film work so well. The abrupt shift to something a lot more serious during the final act was incredibly jarring though that it almost felt disjointed, but I digress. #WalangForever was a pleasant surprise and worthy addition to the already bulky rom-com films in the country. It was far from perfect, but for a film that quickly became depressing and yet still managed to be uplifting and hopeful was quite the accomplishment. 8

American Idol 15: Auditions Part 4

While this was a lot better than the lackluster Wednesday episode, I found this one pretty disjointed. Yes, there were some pretty interesting artists featured here and some I could see going deep into the competition, but a lot of them seemed talented, but not American Idol Winner material. I don't know if it was just me, but that's my entire sentiment about the past two episodes.

Next week, we're on to the LAST TWO AUDITION EPISODES EVER! :(

For now, enjoy what they had to offer.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

American Idol 15: Auditions Part 3

Just when I thought we're off to a good start - given the strong two pilot episodes - they saddled us with a weak audition episode. Now that they're back to their usual one (1) hour episodes, why did they decide to feature a couple of lame singers? It almost felt like I wasted a good hour of my life that I will never get back. Haha.

If not only for the fact that this was the final season, I'd probably ranted a little more, but.. I will stop here.

On with the show!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

American Idol 15: Auditions Part 2

GOOD LORD! How did this happen? This has to be one of the strongest audition episodes on American Idol EVER! Sure, there were a couple of head scratchers, but for the most part, the auditions were SOLID. Did you just notice how I overused the all caps? Haha.

Hopefully, things will build up from here because if American Idol is about to go out, I want them to end on a high. Thank you very much.

On with the show!

Friday, January 8, 2016

American Idol 15: Auditions Part 1


Today is the beginning of the end, and watching this episode was incredibly bittersweet. Quite frankly, I initially figured that it's about time to put American Idol to rest while the legacy of the show is still (sort of) strong, but this made me realize that I'm still in utter denial that my beloved reality competition show will end this year.

Good thing, the episode felt joyous and the pacing was on point with some awesomely placed nostalgic moments. It was really nice to see Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Taylor Hicks, Ruben Studdard, and Clay Aiken taking a part of the audition process and those short clips scattered throughout the show was a nice touch.

As for the judges, they were mostly fine and coherent, but Harry Connick Jr, this early, completely annoyed the hell out of me. Why can't he just shut up and just listen. His antics ranged from hysterical to downright stupid silly. I will not let him ruin the moment though.

Not going to take things for granted this season as I cherish this final chapter of American Idol.

Here we go folks, for the last time EVER.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

American Idol 15: The Farewell Season

When the news broke last May that American Idol will end by Season 15, I just had to stop and gather my thoughts and emotions and, essentially, myself together. It's the end of an era, at least, to me and up to this point, it has not sunk in yet.

You see, I've been watching this cheese fest for fourteen long years. It's become a part of my life in such a way that worries and concerns me. Haha. I literally spend close to half of a year around a karaoke competition highly invested in the long term survival and possibly a lifetime career of a boy or girl I've NEVER met. I'm a 29-year-old man who is blogging about American Idol since Season 6 with such veracity and fury that I spend time actually defending myself to total strangers on this blog. 

If you really stop and think about it, that's some sad stuff right there, but American Idol has become an essential part of me and clearly, DAM NATION wouldn't even exist if not for this show. 

American Idol is the craziest spectacle to ever grace my television screen and it has always been a great piece of entertainment that prided itself on it's inherent cheese factor, which I totally love, and mostly for the fact that the show allows the viewers to become part of the contestants' lives (and vice versa) and be thoroughly invested in a way that The Voice will never be able to do. Oh yes, I went there.

The show, admittedly, lost its luster along the way, but American Idol has quite a history and those emotional moments where you feel cheated when Kris Allen won over Adam Lambert or betrayed when America eliminated Jennifer Hudson or vindicated when Carrie Underwood sold a lot of records, should be celebrated and not denigrated. 

Last year, we all saw the birth of the 14th American Idol, Nick Fradiani, and in a couple of days, we begin our search for that Final Idol. 

I'm a self-confessed fan boy, and things will be ugly emotional. Bet on that. 

Watch this nostalgic documentary about American Idol.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

DAM NATION Year-End List: 10 Worst Movies of 2015

Now that we've looked at the Best Films of 2015, we like to turn the spotlight on the worst. This year has had its fair share of films that fizzled faster than we expected and it's time to look back at the movies that didn't just disappoint, but caused us the most pain. Haha.

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,  so you may not find some of the garbage here.

Read on to see what made the shortlists and let us know in the comments what made yours.

DAM NATION Year-End List: 20 Best Movies of 2015

As in any year, plenty of movies inspired boredom, disgust, annoyance, anger, and irritation, but there was also lots to enjoy. Can I be honest though? It was unusually hard coming up with the list this year. Not because there were too many, but because there weren't enough. 

I was hoping to expand the list to 25 just to align it with the rest of the blog's year-end lists, but I just couldn't get myself to include movies that weren't THAT great just to fill the rest of the list. No, I didn't have enough time (or money) to see every movie released every year - so maybe I left out some of the fantastic ones - but from what I saw, it was a tough one. 

That said, there were some spectacular films in 2015 and with 2016 upon us, it's a good time to look back on the movies that this year has brought us. 

As always, the usual caveats apply: I’m willing to concede that these may all simply be movies that happened to land in front of my eyeballs on the day I needed them to. So yes, I wasn’t able to see every movie this year, so absence from the list may suggest one I missed.

Also, the particular order of the list changed several times over the course of its writing, and will doubtless continue changing in my head long after publication. Let's get to it.

Read on to see what made the shortlists and let us know in the comments what made yours. 

DAM NATION Year-End List: 25 Songs of 2015 From Reality Singing Shows

This is something new for the year-end list this year. You see, DAM NATION thrived because of reality singing shows - in general - and I figured that it's terribly fine to recognize a few songs from different alumni of different shows that go unnoticed for 2015. Well, not everyone since some of the songs in this list were big commercial successes, but you know what I mean.

For a big fan of these shows, it's just interesting to see them survive the tough world of music and push themselves out of obscurity. Of course, there's Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and One Direction in the mix, but you'd be surprised who else are in the list. 


DAM NATION Year-End List: 25 Songs of 2015

In 2015, we were cheerleaders, we vouched that we're worth it, and we Marvin Gaye'd. We said hello, we confessed that we really really really like them, and then we said sorry even if it's too late. We cursed at that bitch who had our money, we got bad blood, we can't feel our face for a time, and we just got sick of that same old love. What do I mean? Shut up and dance with me! Ha. Yes, that's probably the best way to sum up another spectacular year for mainstream pop music, so let's have the songs do it for us instead.

Just like every year, these are my picks for the 25 Songs of 2015: endless songs about love (as usual), a tribute for a departed friend, and even ditties with a lot of questions. These are the songs that I've shared on this blog at some point over the past 12 months.

Of course, this is admittedly a subjective list based on my personal judgments and preferences, but this list should also be a great conversation starter and feel free to agree or disagree. Either way there is a lot of great mainstream music - again, take note, MAINSTREAM MUSIC - to be found here.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #1 Jealous - Cyrus Villanueva / X Factor Australia 7

Cyrus Villanueva
X Factor Australia 7

Look at that! I didn't think there was a clear winner and figured that it will be a too-close to call victory given the outstanding performances across different editions from different countries, but looking at how the voting went, it was pretty clear that Cyrus Villanueva easily won the year with Jealous as the best reality singing show performance of 2015. 

There's something to be said about how he managed to capture the emotional drama of the lyrics and the plaintive flow of the melody. Yes, there were a couple of notes that got compromised by his emotions, but that kind of slip-up was better than a note-perfect number void of authentic feeling. Just glorious! The was his last performance on his season, which ended up being the best one for X Factor Australia, and now, for the Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015. 

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #2 Let It Go - Louisa Johnson / X Factor UK 12

Louisa Johnson
X Factor UK 12

How she made Let It Go a song bigger than it actually was was really impressive and she managed to pack the performance with raw and intoxicating feeling that made the vocal acrobatics seem authentic, rather than contrived. The way she navigated her way into the quiet moments of the song and then bursts with enough power towards the end was downright masterful. Four [4] of the jury voted this as the best performance of the year, and while it fell slightly short of that title, ranking second best was still a pretty impressive feat.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #3 House of The Rising Sun - Kimberly Nichole / The Voice US 8

Kimberly Nichole
The Voice US 8

"I'm not worthy. Oh. My. God." Yes, that's what I wrote when I saw this performance a couple of months back and had to post a review afterwards. Clearly, the rest of the jury, to some degree, felt the same thing as House of the Rising Sun landed to a fantastic spot in the list. Kimberly Nichole will go down as, arguably, one of the best vocalists this year and this explosive performance will be the clear proof.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #4 Make It Rain - Koryn Hawthorne / The Voice US 8

Koryn Hawthorne
The Voice US 8

Let me quote a jury, Đăng Hải Trần, with his spot on metaphor, "It's definitely a light rain gradually changing into a heavy one." Seriously. This was superb beyond words. The vocal dynamics were exceptional, her rich tone was front and center, the emotional connection was palpable, and everything was just flat out awesome.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #5 We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off - Calum Scott / Britain's Got Talent 9

Calum Scott
Britain's Got Talent 9

Some complained that the performance wasn't memorable enough or that this was underwhelming compared to his audition - the fantastic Dancing On My Own - but the majority says otherwise. For starters, the arrangement was genius. It highlighted Calum's unique tone and it gave him the opportunity to caress each phrase and each word tenderly. He allowed himself the vulnerability to back off a note or two, allow a few vocal cracks, and create an honesty that's all too rare.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #6 The Blower's Daughter - Joe Moore / The Voice Australia 4

Joe Moore
The Voice Australia 4

Sublime. The opening two-thirds with sparse arrangement was heartfelt and perfectly in tune, and when the chorus hit, Joe's voice was just downright glorious. His tone sounded deliciously appealing, there's emotional deft into the performance, and one can't deny the charisma he exuded throughout the number. 

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #7 Sunday Morning - Clark Beckham / American Idol 14

Clark Beckham
American Idol 14

Sunday Morning was not only a perfect song choice for Clark, but the tender, stripped down version of the tune was matched perfectly with the visuals of him sitting on a stool with his guitar. Clark took the song that could have just been a throwaway performance, and turned it into something important. The subtle changes, the nuances, and the interesting tone were made all the more powerful by the amazing dynamics of his voice. It was vulnerable and passionate and the strength of it was compelling.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #8 Wicked Game - Cyrus Villanueva / X Factor Australia 7

Cyrus Villanueva
X Factor Australia 7

GORGEOUS. It's true. Cyrus on piano is a deadly combination. The staging was brilliant, the arrangement worked perfectly well to his advantage, his vocals were sublime, and those transitions and falsettos were impeccable. Also, his lower register were interestingly well-supported, which made this a sensational vocal performance. Max, a panelist, said it right, he owned the stage with this. 

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #9 It's A Man's Man's Man's World - Clark Beckham / American Idol 14

Clark Beckham
American Idol 14

.. and it's Clark Beckham again! Some enjoyed Louisa's version of the song more than Clark's, but in the end, this one prevailed over the other. The reason? Although the song choice was annoyingly overdone, he took some subtle liberties to the melody to distinguish his version from the rest. His effortlessly unique tone, though not for everyone, was front and center, one jury mentioned that the rasp and grit of his voice was on full swing, and his powerhouse vocals were spot on. 

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #10 The Trouble With Love Is - Clark Beckham / American Idol 14

Clark Beckham
American Idol 14

Was this really Clark's most polarizing performance? The jury members were divided with The Trouble With Love Is posting the second highest standard deviation this year. Ten [10] people put him, at the very least, in the Top 10 - three [3] of which ranked him second - and the rest just dropped the performance at the lower tier of the lot. Not sure if it was the obscure song choice from Kelly Clarkson catalog, but for what it's worth, this was probably one of the more riveting performances of the season especially when he opened up towards the end. The passion and intensity was just seeping through his vocals.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #11 White Flag - Jax / American Idol 14

American Idol 14

Clean. Simple. Honest. This was one of Jax's finest moments on American Idol and this was all about showing everyone that she's indeed a star. Most of the jury felt like no one has ever captured the pure and haunting feeling of the song like Jax. The connection to the lyrics, the phrasing, the interpretation were all spot on that created a much deserved moment on that Idol stage. 

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #12 Fancy - Joey Cook / American Idol 14

Joey Cook
American Idol 14

Fancy got that unique distinction of topping the list from one jury member and, at the same time, ranking the lowest from another. Main culprit? Arrangement. While some found it a tad self-indulgent, most panelists thought the arrangement to be totally brilliant. She leaned pretty heavily on her creativity and musicality, took a huge leap, was in no way playing the safe card, and hit a home run. The vocals were incredibly strong and the performance was exactly what she needed to do to stand out.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #13 It's A Man's Man's Man's World - Louisa Johnson / X Factor UK 12

Louisa Johnson
X Factor UK 12

Although some find Louisa's take on this classic song a tad similar to Christina Aguilera's version - giving this performance a higher standard deviation than expected - a lot of them was still enamored by the sheer raw emotional power and pitch perfection she showcased in this performance. The vocals were just spot on and her tone sounded like it's just ready to pierce through anyone's heart.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #14 Earned It - Cyrus Villanueva / X Factor Australia 7

Cyrus Villanueva
X Factor Australia 7

Earned It was a proof positive that he could actually exist in the real music world right this second - and outsing the Justin Biebers of the world. This was slick, modern and very well-sung. It would've made perfect sense though if he donned some suit to back up the awesome production, but maybe he didn't want to come off as too obvious? As one jury mentioned, this looked like a Grammy Awards production. Awesome.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #15 Do You Remember - Jess & Matt / X Factor Australia 7

Jess & Matt
X Factor Australia 7

From the blocking to the staging to the arrangement down to their harmonies. There was something gorgeously raw about this performance that one genuinely couldn't look away. It was pure magic and that reflected in the ranking posting the second lowest standard deviation of any performances that made the list. What does that mean? The consensus was basically more of the same. No obvious outliers and it's a well-loved performance across the board.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #16 Earth Song - India Carney / The Voice US 8

India Carney
The Voice US 8

Earth Song, you say? She clearly had something in mind. As what one jury, Pao Maulanin, said, this was visually stunning and no one came close to outstanding staging and production of this performance. The interpretation had that over-the-top awesomeness from her exceptional vocals to her battle with wind machine down to the fierceness and attitude she infused in delivering this Michael Jackson hit. She completely nailed it.

Olympics of Reality Singing Shows 2015: #17 Chandelier - Anne Sila / The Voice France 4

Anne Sila
The Voice France 4

The impression from the jury may be a bit mixed and varied, but there's something about the almost sparse arrangement of the first half of the song that's quite lovely. She sounded sublime with great control and technique and as one jury said, commanded the stage in a way that uplifted the performance. She lost her way a bit towards the end, but I digress. This was an electrifying performance as per one panel member.

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