Friday, December 14, 2018

“AQUAMAN” Shows Just How AWESOME an UNDERWATER Superhero Can Be

Long before the advent of the major film studios’ various big-budget superhero movie franchises in the 21st Century we’ve already had some great stuff coming out about these larger-than life characters outside of their respective comic book pages. For DC Comics, now a part of the Warner Bros. umbrella, there have been other movies, as well as TV shows and animated cartoons featuring the “Super Friends” of Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman…and Aquaman. I recall the old “Aquaman” cartoon that had him riding a giant seahorse, attack with balls of water, and talk to fish. A less comic-book-savvy viewer might shake his head at a hero with powers like those, but Aquaman has been more than that ever since.
And no more is that fact obvious than with the “Aquaman” film from Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films, the latest installment of the much-troubled but still-going Extended Universe franchise. This also the first following the awaited, but lacking, big superhero team movie “Justice League”, and serves as a standalone movie of sorts for Aquaman, with “origin story” scenes inserted via flashback. This is an uncommon twist to the convention of a film introducing a superhero for the first time.
In fact, setting up the story of how the fast-swimming fish-talking superhero came to be is rather involved, as rather than get or make super-powers as a grownup, the burly muscle-bound stranger played by Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa, became who he is because of love. That means he is the half-human half-Atlantean child of a lighthouse keeper and the would-be Queen of Atlantis (Temuera Morrison and Nicole Kidman respectively), raised in the surface world even after his mother’s return to her home, and only learning of his heritage from an Atlantean warrior sent to tutor him on his unique abilities.
To pin the timeline down, the “Aquaman” movie takes place about a year after “Justice League” (as in real-world time). In his routine of travelling the world’s seas saving those in trouble he swims across of, Aquaman – real name Arthur Curry – encounters some high-tech ocean pirates jacking a Russian sub. He foils the crew and makes an enemy of one of its members. It turns out he was stealing the sub for an unusual client: the ruler of Atlantis, Orm (Patrick Wilson). Orm plots to stage an incident that would incite the various underwater realms to unite as an army to destroy the surface world.
But not all Atlanteans are of the same mind as Orm, who would become Ocean Master if he unites the realms of the sea in his vendetta. These secret dissidents include Orm’s own betrothed Mera of Xebel (Amber Heard) and the Atlantean vizier Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who trained Arthur as a boy. Mera for her part knows of Arthur from stories by his mother, alongside her brief involvement during the battle against Steppenwolf in “Justice League”. The only way they know to stop Orm’s ambition is to convince Arthur to claim his birthright as Atlanna’s son and become King. Too bad he is not interested.
So begins a quest – like there always is – for Arthur and Mera to find the one artifact that could convince the sea-worlders to heed him: the trident of the first king of Atlantis, hidden somewhere in the world. What follows is a fantastic voyage filled with Atlantean warriors, savage humanoid sea creatures, and a certain vengeful modern pirate called the Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).
The surprisingly bright and high-adventure atmosphere of “Aquaman” is notable when one considers its director, James Wan. Who would expect the filmmaker who brought audiences horror blockbusters like “Saw” and “The Conjuring” to be able to produce a straight superhero adventure? Apparently he even accepted the assignment for Warner-DC with the intent to make “Aquaman” into something completely different from his usual fare. And he has succeeded, able to sell menacing yet understandable villains, wondrous underwater civilizations, cool fight and action choreography of both the practical and CGI-laden sort, and make the entire package look utterly sensible even if fantastic.
“Aquaman” starts off with something of a slow burn to its plot, gradually building up tension and conflict in an exponential rate until reaching an explosively intense final stretch that has to be seen in order to believe. And it works on the audio end too thanks to scoring by Rupert Gregson-Williams. And when everything is concluded one can enjoy the theme, Grey and Elliott Taylor’s “Everything I Need” sung by Skylar Grey, something that could rival “All the Stars” from Marvel’s own “Black Panther”.
From one who has seen “Justice League” and felt a degree of disappointment, “Aquaman” as a follow-up is just what the film franchise doctor ordered, a worthy adaptation of DC’s underwater superhero, one to build up his general rep with the non-comics movie-going fan crowd.
Image courtesy of Heroic Hollywood

Motorcycle Ride-Hailer ANGKAS Gets OPERATIONS SHUT Again by SC Order

In this day and age, commuters trying to cope with often impossible traffic conditions in the Philippines, particularly the metropolitan areas, are increasingly turning to a development from overseas, the ride-hailing service. With the use of a mobile phone app, they can contact a service company to send over a vehicle driven by private owners who are part of that service. Despite protests from taxi operators and transport regulators, many such companies continue on, from Uber to Lyft to Asian-based Grab Taxi. But not all of them are that resilient, as in the case of Filipino motorcycle ride-sharing service Angkas.
CNN Philippines reports that the Supreme Court of the Philippines has granted on Wednesday, October 12, the temporary restraining order asked for by petition from both the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), that would halt an earlier court ruling made in August that allowed Angkas, a ride-hailing service using motorcycles and scooters, to operate without further regulatory hurdles from the government. That decision, a preliminary injunction from Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court Branch 213, in turn was made after an earlier shutdown of the Angkas service by the agencies involved back in November 2017.

The prevailing reasoning by the LTFRB and DOTr to stop pedestrians from using the Angkas service app was due to the company lacking business permits, as well as their interpretation of Republic Act 4136 in that Angkas ride-hail motorcycles are not authorized to conduct business and offer public transport. They have issued a joint statement praising the new SC ruling, which would allow them to arrest Angkas riders taking on passengers via the app. It added that their actions despite any discomfort it may cause to pedestrians only serves to keep the riding public safe and secure via the proper implementation of relevant transport laws.
Angkas employs riders on motorcycles and scooters to offer transport to pedestrians using its mobile phone app, similar to other ride-hailing services that use cars. Patrons of Angkas have valued the motorcycles’ ability to wend its way through traffic jams en route to their destinations.
For their part, Angkas bemoaned the fact that the DOTr and LTFRB managed to make their TRO stick on their operations especially in the middle of the Holiday season, when vehicular traffic volume tends to be even greater than usual. They cite 25,000 biker-partners of theirs who are left without livelihoods so close to Christmas, and express hope that the Supreme would see their efforts to maximize safety on their rides, therefore eventually ruling for both riders and the commuters. Angkas must now file a response to the two government agencies’ petitions, and their hard-won preliminary injunction to be re-implemented.
Images: Vulcan Post and Wikipedia

Monday, December 10, 2018

JAPAN CROWN PRINCESS Anxious, But Resolved for 2019 Abdication of AKIHITO and Coronation of Husband

It is said that Japan is the last country in the world with a royal head of state using the title of Emperor, and their dynasty is officially described in the country as being unbroken since ancient times. Now the current Japanese Emperor, Akihito, has prevailed upon the government in the past several years to allow him to abdicate the Chrysanthemum Throne, citing advanced age and declining health, and pass it to his son and heir Crown Prince Naruhito, by next year. While this step is a one-off measure accommodating Akihito alone, and no problems are foreseen in the abdication, one party is voicing reservations.
The BBC reports that with the impending abdication of her father-in-law, and the subsequent ascension of her husband Crown Prince Naruhito as Emperor of Japan in 2019, Crown Princess Masako has made known how she is feeling daunted by the grand honor and duty that will be given to her once she becomes Empress. She made this comment in a statement made available in the occasion of her 55th birthday Sunday, December 9. Nevertheless, she remarks that she is resolved to do right by the Japanese people and their country.
Born to a Japanese diplomat, the once-Masako Owada was educated overseas, eventually graduating magna cum laude in Economics from Harvard/Radcliffe in 1985. A prospective career in the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs was cut short when she was courted by Prince Naruhito in 1986 (when Emperor Hirohito still lived). They were married in 1993; and since then Princess Masako has been, in her husband’s words, been beset by the Imperial Household Agency, the government organ that oversees the activities of the Imperial Family, particularly in her failure to bear a son and direct heir for Crown Prince Naruhito. The Prince noted that Masako’s disappearance from public functions was born of complete exhaustion and anxiety, for which he blames Palace officials.
“Giving thought to the days ahead, I sometimes feel insecure about the extent to which I will be able to be of service to people,” the Crown Princess’ statement read. “But I will strive to do my best so that I can contribute to their happiness.” She also noted that she has been recovering from her emotional collapse in past years, enough to perform some, if not many official duties.
Akihito became Emperor of Japan in 1989 following the death of his father Hirohito. The name of his reign era is Heisei (“peace everywhere”), which will end on April 30, to be replaced by a new era name under his son Naruhito, who will be aged 58 upon becoming Emperor. As his only child is Princess Aiko, and women cannot become Emperor under Japanese law, Naruhito’s heir-apparent is his younger brother Fumihito, Prince Akishino. He has a son, Prince Hisahito.
Image from The Japan Times