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<p>Nicki Minaj in &quot;Freedom&quot;</p>

Nicki Minaj in "Freedom"

Watch: Nicki Minaj's 'Freedom' breaks out of black and white

'The Re-Up' is almost here

Nicki Minaj's does good work repeating her own lyrics back to herself in "Freedom," but in the video she's rocking looks we've never seen before.

The clip starts out in black and white, and transitions into color (get it? Freedom from the confines of black and white? Or something? Anyway) as Minaj poses elegantly against Noah's Arc to mansion banisters to modern sculpture. It's the rapper-singer through the ages, an eternal beauty proudly hocking her wares from Macy's.

One repeating motif in this epic is Minaj's inability to quit touching her hair. Her many wigs are no match for wandering fingertips, but frankly, if I had that many weaves, I'd be poking at 'em too.

Minaj performed a chilly rendition of "Freedom" at last night's American Music Awards, as it's one of the new tracks off of her "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded - The Re-Up." It hit stores today (Nov. 19).

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"The Voice"

Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton perform tonight on "The Voice".

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'The Voice' Monday - Top 10 Perform

The Top 10 help the show deliver the strongest episode of the season.

 

We’re down to ten finalists on “The Voice”, with all contestants singing tonight to avoid being in the bottom two. I’m assuming this pattern will hold until we’re in the Final Four, but it’s also possible that NBC stretches this out until the Super Bowl. But let’s not worry about the show asymptotically approaching the finish line. Let’s see which would-be superstars make their mark this week.
 
As always, I’ll be jotting down my thoughts in running diary format. As always, Christina Aguilera will wear something that will make me question her state of mind. As always, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine will lob adorable insults at each other. And, as always, CeeLo Green will wear something that straddles the line between “fashion statement” and “visual assault”. It’s how we roll in this neck of the musical competition woods.
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<p>Rihanna's &quot;Unapologetic&quot;</p>

Rihanna's "Unapologetic"

Credit: Island/Def Jam

Review: Rihanna's 'Unapologetic'

Chris Brown and Eminem feature on this sorry set

On "Numb," only the third song on "Unapologetic," Rihanna tunelessly repeats precisely what is required of the listener to enjoy her new album: the phrase "I'm going numb" insists the designated effect on both the singer and her public. What is needed to enjoy this, her seventh album, is to turn off.

It's not so hard turning off when dancing, on diversions like "Right Now" featuring David Guetta. She puts on a saucy little number in "Jump," borrowing heavily from Ginuwine's "Pony" and re-purposing it for a dubstep mash-up.

Turning off proves more difficult when the album seems to be catwalking off in a half dozen different directions, starting with infernal headache "Fresh Off the Runway." This album could have kicked off with any other track -- SERIOUSLY, ANY OTHER TRACK -- and made more of an impact than this colorless boaster of explicit lyricism. But to make "Unapologetic" to appear without apologies, there's a slavish tromp through it; the new so-so single "Diamonds"; the aforementioned "Numb" with Eminem; and exasperating non-song "Pour It Up," a Mike WiLL-produced experiment which is far more aimless and depressing than its title implies.

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<p>Naomi Watts in &quot;The Impossible&quot;</p>

Naomi Watts in "The Impossible"

Credit: Summit Entertainment

'The Impossible' star Naomi Watts to be honored by Palm Springs fest

Will she break through in the Best Actress race?

I've been kind of waiting to see how J.A. Bayona's "The Impossible" will fare with Academy and guild voters. The film hit first at Toronto. I saw it just before that and loved it. It felt, to me, like a sure-fire Oscar play. But will it find room in the bait-infested waters of December?

An award for star Naomi Watts will sure give it some higher wattage going into the holidays, and that's just what the Palm Springs International Film Festival has done. Watts will receive the Desert Palm Achievement Award at the 24th annual fest, an award that, in recent years, has gone to Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet and Halle Berry in recent years.

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<p>Jesse Eisenberg heads up a team of stage magicians who use a series of heists to play Robin Hood in 'Now You See Me'</p>

Jesse Eisenberg heads up a team of stage magicians who use a series of heists to play Robin Hood in 'Now You See Me'

Credit: Summit Entertainment

An all-star cast pulls off a magic heist in the first trailer for 'Now You See Me'

Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Woody Harrelson headline a strong ensemble

Are you ready for Hollywood to go crazy about magic?

In June, we saw the first images from the set of "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," which stars Steve Carrell as a Vegas magician who tries to get back together with his former partner Anton Lovecraft (Steve Buscemi) so that they can work together to destroy Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), who seems like a cross between Criss Angel and David Blaine.  That is obviously the big comedy version of doing a film about the world of magic, but since Hollywood can't do one version of something without also doing a ton of similar films at the same time, we can also look forward to the slick stylish heist movie magic film, and if the first trailer's anything to judge by, "Now You See Me" looks like it could pull off a major trick at the box-office.

It has traditionally been very different to do a film about stage magic that works, and part of that is because the thrill of magic comes from seeing it live, with no edits, and still being fooled by what you see.  On film, anything is possible because it's film.  When Christopher Nolan made "The Prestige," he made the entire notion of misdirection and lies part of the thematic structure of the movie, and he shot the magic scenes in a way that made all of it seem possible, even when the film took a turn towards the surreal.  It looks like director Louis Leterrier is going in the exact opposite direction with "Now You See Me," which appears to have gone through a whole lot of hands on its way to the screen.

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<p>Linda Cardellini and John Slattery in &quot;Return.&quot;</p>

Linda Cardellini and John Slattery in "Return."

Credit: Dada Films

Linda Cardellini launches her own Best Actress campaign for 'Return'

She's more concerned with getting attention for the movie than winning an Oscar

In a recent Long Shot column, I wrote about the shabby treatment typically given by awards pundits and voters alike to the Best Actress category, a race routinely described as "weak" due to the scarcity of major female-propelled prestige titles -- despite the abundance of outstanding work on the independent, genre and foreign fringes. One of the names I highlighted as unlikely to receive the attention they deserve was Linda Cardellini, whose measured, quietly aching performance as a returning war vet in Liza Johnson's microbudget debut feature "Return" went largely unseen on its release back in February.

I'm not the only one who believes the film and the actress, still arguably best-known for her TV work in "Freaks and Geeks" and "ER," deserve a second look. Over the weekend, the LA Times reported that Cardellini herself is launching a self-financed awards campaign for herself and for the film, mailing screeners to all 2200 members of the Screen Actors' Guild nominating committee, as well as to the actors', directors' and 'producers' branches of the Academy. More power to her, I say.

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"RuPaul's Drag Race"

 "RuPaul's Drag Race"

Credit: Logo

'RuPaul's Drag Race' returns for season 5 with 14 new contestants

RuPaul jokes Britney and Demi 'will not be joining us as full-time judges'
RuPaul and Logo today announced the names of the 14 lucky contestants who will vie for a $100,000 cash prize, the crown and the coveted title of America's Next Drag Superstar on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The show returns to Logo for a fifth season in January 2013.
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<p>Phillip Phillips' &quot;The World from the Side of the Moon&quot;</p>

Phillip Phillips' "The World from the Side of the Moon"

Credit: 19 Entertainment/Interscope

Review: Phillip Phillips' debut album 'The World from the Side of the Moon'

Can the 'American Idol' winner transcend the guy-with-guitar curse?

Phillip Phillips, the most recent of the crowned "American Idols," has a bar to raise. Previous guys-with-guitars-styled singers like Kris Allen and Lee Dewyze are struggling for their album sales and criticisms to match their FOX show success. What this 22-year-old has going for him on his debut album "The World from the Side of the Moon," besides a title charmingly impossible to remember, is his natural, warm growl and the mixed blessing of always sounding like somebody else.

Namely, Phillips splits time on "The World" between Dave Matthews Band rockers and Mumford & Sons roots numbers. This comes as no surprise to the listener, who would easily mistake his chart-breaking single "Home" for the latter's earnest heartbreaking. As for the inveterate DMB, Phillips picks up where 2001's "Everyday" left off: these are not band-written songs, this collection is shot after shot at the Next Big Single, with a frontman never stepping away from the center. Some melodies will achieve exactly the radio single sound Universal undoubtedly hoped Phillips could achieve. "Gone, Gone, Gone" has enough BPMs to differentiate it from "Home" while still dipping into the same pool. Closer "So Easy" could easily head to Adult Top 40 as "Get Up Get Down" will leave both Matthews and Maroon 5 shaking that they didn't have first dibs.

Phillips is game for all these, but it's not unfair to say he has some serious limitations, too. Dynamically, his vocals remain pleasant, lightly challenged, but rarely changing. Those performances cause tracks like "Drive Me" and country stomper "Cant' Go Wrong" to fall flat. He most emotionally expressive on "Home," still, and abstract "Fool's Dance."

The next challenge is to take Phillips' likeable brand further, without entirely disassociating him from the television show. Some songs are strong enough, and his fans can follow this set pretty easily. Now it's up to the marketing team. Happy holidays, guys.

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<p>Angelina Jolie and Ewan McGregor at last night's screening of &quot;The Impossible&quot; in London.</p>

Angelina Jolie and Ewan McGregor at last night's screening of "The Impossible" in London.

Credit: Jon Furniss

Angelina Jolie bigs up Ewan McGregor with a private screening of 'The Impossible'

She praises the "extraordinary emotional depth" of McGregor's performance

LONDON - You may remember that two years ago, Julia Roberts attracted some attention in awards-watching circles when she held a private industry screening of "Biutiful" in aid of Javier Bardem's Best Actor campaign -- not because she was in any way involved or invested, but simply because she believed the performance was worthy of recognition, and wanted more of her colleagues to see it. We'll never know how much of an influence Roberts' efforts had, but together with the attached publicity, they certainly didn't hurt: Bardem came from behind to score a nomination for a challenging, little-seen foreign film, and in a competitive category to boot.

This trend of peers effectively campaigning for each other looks set to continue, and we had this season's first instance of it last night at London's Soho Hotel, where Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie hosted an intimate reception and screening of "The Impossible" -- chiefly to talk up the performance of her friend Ewan McGregor. (Before you hit IMDb to jog your memory: no, they've never worked together.) I was lucky enough to be in attendance.

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"Oprah's Next Chapter"

 "Oprah's Next Chapter"

Credit: OWN

Justin Bieber gets the Oprah treatment on 'Oprah's Next Chapter'

Watch a preview of one of the singer's most 'in-depth' interviews ever

For true Beliebers, it's been a pretty good month. Justin Bieber may (or may not) have gotten back onto the market following his (maybe on, possibly off again) split with Selena Gomez.  Hey, it's sad, but he might be single! Or not! And now we learn he's done a sit-down with Oprah. Her interview with Bieber will air on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” Sun., Nov. 25 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. Don't worry if you miss it, though. The episode will then air internationally on TLC, Home & Health and Real Time networks starting the same day. 

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' recap: 'Call Me Miss USA'

Porsha and Kendra go head to head at a charity fundraiser

This week, we get to meet our latest housewife, Porsha. It seems fitting that Porsha battles with our other new housewife, Kenya, over an extremely trivial matter, and it all ends in name calling and hurt feelings. This is how our beloved housewives roll, so it's nice to see the new kids picking up the ball so quickly. Of course, they aren't the only housewives on the show, though the other housewives seem too tired and battle-worn to get fired up about much of anything this early in the season. Still, it's nice to check in with them, check their temperatures and make sure they haven't become too Zen and conflict-averse (NeNe, I'm looking at you). Maintaining housewives is like training pitbulls. Once they lose their taste for blood, they might as well become housepets. 

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<p>&quot;Django&nbsp;Unchained&quot;&nbsp;looks to be the last film screened for press this season.</p>

"Django Unchained" looks to be the last film screened for press this season.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Off the Carpet: Four score, er, more to go

A quartet of Oscar-winning filmmakers hold out on the season

I mentioned this on the podcast Friday and in a column recently, I think, but the lull has been considerable this year, it seems. The waiting for late-season contenders, I mean. It's subjective. Maybe I'm just coming from a weird perspective. But enough of it has to do with the four big remaining entries -- "Django Unchained," "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," "Les Misérables" and "Zero Dark Thirty" -- having been watched like a hawk as they race toward completion.

There has been this and that in the interim. Since the New York Film Festival dropped "Flight," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln" onto the season we've gotten "Hitchcock" (which I liked), "This is 40" (Judd Apatow's richest work) and "Promised Land" (which has been shown a few times -- I'm seeing it today). But mostly it's been anticipation for what the aforementioned quartet will have to offer the season.

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