Tuesday, November 28, 2017

“OLAF’S FROZEN ADVENTURE”: A Great Mini Story Soured by Unfortunate Scheduling


I promised I’d drop a few words about it in my earlier review of Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” so here it is.
One classic program for movie theaters in olden-time days was to put a short production before a feature-length presentation (usually with an intermission in between). Disney, which came into the industry around that period, followed said format back in the day, and made a one-off revival of the practice when they put the Mickey Mouse animated short “The Prince and the Pauper” before main film “The Rescuers Down Under” in 1990.
Pixar resumed the format in 1999 by playing their first ever animation from 1986 (“Luxo Jr.”) before “Toy Story 2” in 1999. Since then they, and Disney Animation Studios later, have been tacking animation shorts before most of their major feature films. Said shorts tend to be about 5 to ten minutes long, which is why moviegoers that went to watch “Coco” were caught off-guard by the length of its pre-main feature presentation, a near-half-hour musical titled “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” As the name gives away, it’s yet another snippet with the characters of the 2013 film “Frozen,” in another slice of their lives before the planned 2019 sequel hits cinemas.
That would be nice, were it not for the fact that the 20-plus-minute short is now drawing the ire of moviegoers who went to watch “Coco.” In Mexico, where the Pixar movie had an advance premiere, audiences were so mad at “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” that cinemas began cutting it out of the program and showing “Coco” alone. When the quirky Dia de Muertos-themed family film finally showed up stateside, the reactions were much the same. Complaints about “Olaf” ranged from its longer-than-usual running time and the incongruity of pairing a short feature starring white characters with a movie about non-Caucasians.
The backlash regarding “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” is such a shame considering that it actually is quite good in itself separate from “Coco.” The story is about the first Christmas celebration in Arendelle following the iconic events of “Frozen,” where Queen Elsa and Princess Anna oversee their first kingdom-wide Yuletide celebration. Unfortunately, their plans for a grand banquet at the castle are foiled by the Arendellians returning to their homes after the formal ceremony because they have their own Holiday traditions to celebrate with, a fact that pokes at old wounds with Elsa and Anna because, due to their isolation while growing up they never seem to have developed their own traditions to share.
Coming to their rescue however is the lovable animated snowman Olaf, who decides to travel across Arendelle with Sven the reindeer to canvass what the citizens love to do during the holidays, and bring them back to the Royal Sisters. What follows is a showcase of all that is good and nice about this time of year, with even a semi-action-oriented climax. In the end, the “Frozen” short actually hews similar plot points to the Mexican-themed movie that would follow it in the schedule, in that there’s always a tradition to be had with family.
All the major voice talent who made the original “Frozen” the hit it was came back to do it all over again: Idina Menzel (Elsa), Kristin Bell (Anna), Josh Gad as the adorable Olaf and even a small part with Jonathan Groff as Kristoff. There are four main songs in the short compared to the one from the previous “Frozen Fever” that was the opener for 2015’s live-action “Cinderella” and in my opinion these sounded better. The last number is just so incredibly heart-warming, even if none could ever quite reach the memetic status of that one song from the first film.
See, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” was originally planned to be shown as a Holiday TV special on ABC, the 20-something running time ostensibly was to allow commercial breaks for a half-hour timeslot. Disney has yet to give an official explanation as to why they decided to stick the special as a short program ahead of “Coco,” though they ought to be aware by now of how audiences have reacted badly to it and in turn, are biased towards labeling it as garbage. If one can just watch it with a cool head, they can see that it really is a wonderful season-special experience. The damage unfortunately, is done.
So Mexico has banished “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” from their “Coco” screenings, while the UK is instead pairing the special with a re-release of original “Frozen.” But everywhere else, I strongly urge them to reconsider their opinions about Olaf’s musical search for holiday traditions, because it really brings the characters and setting of Arendelle to even more vibrant life, in anticipation for that full sequel. It’s not as bad as its reputation implies.
Photo courtesy of frozen.disney.com

Monday, November 27, 2017

Celebrating Life, Death, Family, and Music with “COCO”


For film viewers with an open mind to experience something new, like a foreign culture, a movie like Disney and Pixar’s “Coco” will be one of the greatest visual spectacles they could ever watch right now. Personally, I think said film actually hits somewhat close to home in a sense; perhaps it’s the common cultural elements both Mexico and the Philippines got from Spain. Anyway, one of the central themes of this film revolves around Dia de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead celebration from October 31 to November 2 of each year. That special occasion is the figurative (and magically literal) bridge by which the story of “Coco” is made possible on-screen.
Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzales) is a 12-year-old boy from a family of shoemakers in the Mexican town of Santa Cecilia. Said family has a near-fanatical hatred of all music, which they deem a curse. All this is rooted in the time of the family scion, Imelda, who was abandoned with her young daughter Coco by her musician husband who left to “perform for the world” and never returned. Coco is the oldest surviving member of the Rivera family and Miguel’s great-grandmother, now going old and senile in her very advanced age.
On that year’s Dia de Muertos, the Rivera clan is wont to stay at home and celebrate their shoemaking forbears, but Miguel has other ideas: he is an abominable anomaly to his relatives in that he is an aspiring musician, inspired by Santa Cecilia’s late 1940s hometown hero Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), the “greatest musician of Mexico.” Miguel has a guitar of his own and actually does have some playing and singing skill, but when his secret hobby is discovered on Dia de Muertos itself, the results are heartbreaking (and guitar-breaking) courtesy of the boy’s loving yet ultra-strict grandma Elena (Renee Victor).
Miguel believes his only chance to pursue his dream is to perform at the town’s Dia de Muertos music festival. But with his guitar gone, his only recourse is to get one. A clue Miguel discovers from the photo of Mama Imelda and Coco on the family’s Dia de Muertos ofrenda seems to insinuate that his great-great-grandfather (a persona non grata to the Rivera family with his face torn off from the picture with his wife and child) is Ernesto de la Cruz himself. This spurs Miguel to break into Ernesto’s mausoleum (killed in a concert accident in 1942) at the local cemetery to “borrow” his enshrined guitar.
His desperate action has some incredible magical consequences: Miguel becomes a ghost to the land of the living, but is now visible to the dead, rendered as animated ghostly skeletons that are allowed to visit their surviving families on the night of Dia de Muertos. The sole exception to this is Dante, a stray Mexican hairless dog that Miguel befriended long before all this. Dante leads Miguel to his “visiting” departed relatives able to cross over because their photos are laid out on the Rivera family ofrenda – except for Mama Imelda (because Miguel took her photo with him upon discovering the hint about her husband, his great-great-grandfather).
To resolve that problem and learn what happened to Miguel, the Rivera ancestors take him with them back to the Land of the Dead, a sprawling and colorful wonderland of the departed like only the visionaries of Pixar can imagine. The “afterlife immigration” officers offer a simple solution: Miguel can easily return to the living through a departed relative’s blessing. And he must return before the night is over or he’ll be stuck in the Land of the Dead forever; already he’s slowly turning into a skeleton himself. But the only relative who’ll give that blessing is Imelda (Alanna Ubach), who started the music ban in her descendants.
None of that for Miguel, though. He assumes his chance to return lies with his assumed great-great-grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz. To find him in the Land of the Dead he gains the reluctant aid of the trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who claims to have known Ernesto in life. In return, Hector wants to entrust Miguel with a photo to bring back to the living world, as only those departed whose images are displayed in memorial can make the crossing, and Hector wants to see his daughter in the hopes that she can still remember him.
Remembrance is important to those who are dead, with a dire fate in store for spirits who are completely forgotten. With that in mind, Miguel and Hector team up to get to the bottom of the Rivera family history. Without spoiling further, some things do not go as planned, and some facts are not as they seem.
It’s amazing to see the amount of research an utter reverence that Disney and Pixar put into creating as accurate a snapshot of Mexican culture as there can be in “Coco,” considering that the initial production phases of the film were mired in controversy over the issues of copyright. We’ll not elaborate on that background as it has no weight in this review, but if this is the manner by which Disney might be apologizing for its missteps and overreach then they did great and then some.
Director Lee Unkrich masterfully converted the touching and emotion screenplay by Matthew Aldrich and Adrian Molina into a wondrous tale that reconciles the often contradictory lessons of “following one’s dreams” and “standing with family.” Such is no mean feat, and the effect is only strengthened by the impressive Latino soundtrack for “Coco” courtesy of Michael Giacchino, enhanced by superb song numbers mostly from the pens of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Yes, the “Frozen” song couple. All I need to mention now is the title of one of their “Coco” songs: “Remember Me.” That’s all I need to say about just how awesome the musical work is here.
“Coco” was preceded in the viewing schedule by a Walt Disney Animation Studio short of almost a half-hour in length, entitled “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” I’d like to talk about that too, but let’s not have this review run for longer than necessary; maybe some other time.
In closing, “Coco” is undoubtedly the latest greatest example of just how well the Disney-Pixar tandem can deal and present themes as varied as family ties, dreams, death and remembrance. The Mexican movie audience would certainly think so, what with them having “Coco” running in their cinemas well ahead of the rest of the world. It’s now the most successful film in the entire history of Mexico’s box office, after all. But now that it’s started showing everywhere else, the rest of the world will soon see that “Coco” is not just a film celebrating Mexican culture for Mexicans, it’s also a tale with underlying themes that relate to all mankind, transcending culture and everything else.
Photo courtesy of gadgets.ndtv.com

Sunday, November 26, 2017

MISS PHILIPPINES Finishes at TOP 10 as MISS SOUTH AFRICA Wins MISS UNIVERSE 2017


The year 2017 is now coming across as not being a year for a Philippine beauty pageant sweep. Aside from Miss Earth 2017, won by Karen Ibasco, the country’s crop of contestants have not quite lucked out in the “original three” global beauty pageants that have had a constant Philippine presence. From Miss International (did not place) to Miss World (Top 40), the story has been the same. Now the frustration extends one further to the recently-concluded Miss Universe 2017 pageant held Sunday evening. The nation’s bet, Filipina-British model Rachel Peters, advanced only two tiers before being outclassed by the competition.
According to ABS-CBN News, the 26-year-old Rachel Peters managed to enter – by wildcard – the Top 16 contestants of the 2017 Miss Universe pageant held November 26 at The AXIS of Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. This enabled Peter, buoyed by sizeable online support, to make a strong showing at the swimsuit round, before passing to the Top 10 and participating in the evening gown competition. Unfortunately, despite good predictions on her chances by pageant experts watching the event, Peters failed to advance further, marking the first time since only 2014 that a Miss Philippines failed to make it to the Top 5, where the two runners-up and the Miss Universe winner are chosen.
Everyone knows of course that in 2015, then-Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach won as Miss Universe (following the mistaken announcement of Steve Harvey, who returns 2017 for his third straight pageant hosting gig). On 2016 in Manila, Philippines, Wurtzbach passed her crown on to Miss France Iris Mittenaire, who on Sunday night crowned her own successor, 22-year-old business management Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa as told by CNN Philippines. Miss Colombia Laura Gonzales was first runner-up while Miss Jamaica Davina Bennett was name second runner-up. Completing the Top Five were Maria Poonlertlarp (Thailand) and Keysi Sayago (Venezuela).
Rachel Peters was born 1991 in Bahrain, to British national Nigel Peters and her Filipina mother Annie Obregon, whose hometown of Canaman, Camarines Sur in the Bicol Region is stated as Rachel’s own for the Miss Universe competition. She was educated in Thailand and Australia, from which she gained her love for the beach and surfing. Peters has also recently opened a cafĂ© in Siargao, the Philippines’ surfing capital, as an extension of her interests.
In addition to Steve Harvey’s three-peat, Ashley Graham also returns as co-presenter from Miss Universe 2016. Pia Wurtzbach also sat as one of the judges for the pageant. There were 92 contestants for Miss Universe 2017 this year, surpassing the previous high record of 89 in both 2011 and 2012. It also included the longest returning nation participant in Miss Iraq Sarah Idan, whose country last competed back in 1972.
Photo courtesy of parade.com

DISNEY-PIXAR’s “COCO” on Its Box Office Premiere Beats Out “JUSTICE LEAGUE” on Its Week 2


Its setting may have been Mexico during the Dia de Muertos celebration of October 31-November 2, but on its US box office opening the day before Thanksgiving, the Disney-Pixar animated feature film “Coco” has, true to form with its cinematic brethren, done nothing less than impress. Both moviegoers and critics are unanimous in just how much they enjoy and recommend watching the musical-fantasy extravaganza, the story empowered as it is with top-notch Pixar animation and trademark Disney musical score and song numbers. There’s no surprise then, that on its first weekend in theaters alone, it has already bounded ahead of “Justice League,” the DC superhero team film from rival studio Warner Bros. Pictures.
As Entertainment Weekly tells it, from the US premiere date of “Coco” on November 22, and the following four days, the latest Disney-Pixar movie’s take is already up to $71.2 million all across 3,987 movie-houses from both stateside and Canada. Of that, a solid $49 million alone was earned in the weekend period of November 25-26. Without adjustments for inflation, that makes “Coco” the fourth-highest Thanksgiving film opening of all time. What’s more, this maintains that the top four of those openings are all solid Disney or Disney-Pixar productions.
“Coco” is a heartwarming and mystical story about Miguel Rivera, a twelve-year-old fan-boy of Mexican singer-film actor Ernesto de la Cruz who wants to follow in the late star’s footsteps. His greatest opposition however is his own music-hating family, whose ban on the medium began when Miguel’s great-great-grandmother reacted badly to being abandoned by her musician husband for his career, leaving her and her daughter Coco – Miguel’s great-grandmother – to fend for themselves by shoemaking.
On Dia de Muertos, Miguel discovers a clue insinuating that his great-great-grandfather may be Ernesto de la Cruz himself. One thing leads to another and Miguel finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where the skeletal spirits of his dead relatives reside. With the help of an unusual street dog and a forgotten skeleton named Hector, Miguel must discover the truth behind his family history to find a way to return to the Living World and pursue his musical dream.
In comparison to “Coco” and its box office take, the earnings of Warner-DC’s “Justice League” for the week amount to $63 million over the same period, with only $40.7 million from Saturday to Sunday. It’s already 57% less than its take from its first week which started in November 17, indicating hard going for what should’ve been to the DC Extended Universe what “The Avengers” was in 2012 to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
While “Coco” only premiered in the US last week, it has already been running in Mexico since October 20, well before the 2017 Dia de Muertos celebration. It’s now the all-time highest-grossing film, domestic or foreign, in that country.
Photo courtesy of variety.com

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Now FACEBOOK is Copying SNAPCHAT’s “Streaks” Feature for MESSENGER App


Mobile messaging apps have been embroiled in a battle of features for quite some time now. Said battle usually involves one app developing a new function for its platform, and the others copying said feature while trying to put their own improvements upon it.
Or to be more plain: Snapchat develops a new thing for their app, and then Facebook copies said feature to be used on any one of the messaging services under their banner: WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger itself. From “ephemeral” posting to imaging “face filters”, what Snapchat does, the others follow. The latest this has happened is with the “Streak” feature, now premiering (copy-wise) in Facebook Messenger.
According to The Verge, Facebook has started a trial implementation on Messenger of a feature that first saw light on Snapchat, the pioneer of ephemeral picture messaging, where image posts last only for a fixed time before they are automatically purged. Now their latest function has been copied by a rival messaging app backed by the most prominent social media platform.
“Streaking” is a feature that comes across as more like a game, wherein the platform encourages a user to send a direct message to a friend, who is then prompted to send a direct message in reply, back and forth, at least once a day for as many days as they can keep it going.
That was how it worked in Snapchat, and that is now how streaking works in Facebook Messenger. The app even does the “changing emoji” status of a currently ongoing message streak, where as a user and one of his friends continue to maintain the exchange of messages, an emoji status updates with different graphics. Thus far the streak feature has only been discussed by one Messenger user or two online, implying that this feature trial is only for a limited number of Facebook accounts.
Streaking has been proving itself a well-used feature in its original platform of Snapchat, as something about the need to pass messages back and forth has something of an appeal to its younger user base. Facebook’s tendency to mimic many of Snapchat’s features has been born of a drive to shed its image of a social network used only by grown-ups by injecting some younger blood.
However, many of its attempts to copy Snapchat functions sometimes end in failure. They even once created a Snapchat clone platform called LifeStage, which crashed and burned after a pitifully short app life due to its minimum user age for registration being 21 years old.
Photo courtesy of techjuice.pk

US Military Cargo Plane CRASHES into PHILIPPINE SEA Before It Could Land on US Navy Carrier


With one of the largest and most powerful navies anywhere in the world, the United States has long practiced long-term power projection by having naval vessels and convoys doing patrols in both allied and international waters from bases the world over. One of these groups is the US Navy 7th Fleet, based out of Okinawa, Japan. Normally the image of a powerful battle group with highly disciplined personnel and state-of-the-art vehicles and equipment, recent incidents in its patrol routes have cast a shadow over their readiness. Add to that the latest mishap for the fleet this week, when one of their aircraft went down in the Philippine Sea this Wednesday afternoon.
CNN Philippines tells us that at 2:45 PM Japan Standard Time of November 22, a C2-A Greyhound transport plane crashed into the ocean southeast of Okinawa, while en route to the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Of its complement of 11 flight crew and passengers, eight have been rescued and taken onto their carrier destination, where they are reported to be in good condition. However, the remaining three from the Greyhound have yet to be found, according to a statement by the US Navy.
Ships and aircraft from both the Navy and the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) continue to search the area where the transport went down. The identities of the 11 American personnel, both the rescued and the still missing, are being withheld from the public until all of their next of kin have been notified of their situation. The C2-A took off from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in the Japanese mainland of Honshu, carrying passengers and cargo for the USS Ronald Reagan, before it went down some 500 nautical miles due SW of Okinawa.
A public affairs officer from the US Navy said that it crashed while on final approach to the carrier, though its exact distance from the destination was not made clear. The exact causes for the transport plane going down into the Philippine Sea has not be determined with finality, though the most likely culprit being suspected was engine trouble, according to a statement by Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera.
The crash of the C2-A Greyhound transport is but the newest incident in a series of troublesome events for the US 7thFleet, whose duties include both natural disaster response in the Asia Pacific region as well as responding to possible conflict scenarios in both the Korean peninsula or between Taiwan and mainland China. Two past incidents of note this 2017 are ship-to-ship collisions involving 7th Fleet destroyers USS John McCain in Singapore and USS Fitzgerald in Japan, wherein a total of 17 US sailors were killed in both events.
Photo courtesy of stripes.com

PIXAR’S JOHN LASSETER Temporarily STEPPING DOWN Due to Investigation of Behavioral “MISSTEPS”


Last month, news outlets began reporting on a number of female complainants who were accusing Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax and The Weinstein Company, of varying instances of sexual misconduct – harassment, assault and rape – over a period of several years. Following this scandal, Weinstein was removed from his own company and fell from grace in Hollywood…and more scandals and allegations involving other high-profile men in positions of power started coming out of the woodwork. One of the latest personalities to be subjected to this scrutiny is John Lasseter, chief creative officer of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.
To that end, as USA Today reports, John Lasseter has announced that he will be taking a leave of absence from his duties for a period of six months. This comes after allegations started coming up regarding what he terms as “missteps” in his behavior to employees in Pixar. The news came down from a letter he addressed to his staff on Tuesday, November 21, where he announced his temporary stepping down following “painful” discussions with the Disney higher-ups.
Lasseter’s memo stated: “It’s never easy to face your missteps, but it’s the only way to learn from them…It’s been brought to my attention that I have made some of you feel disrespected or uncomfortable. That was never my intent.” The memo came out shortly after it was made known that a report on sexual misconduct by Lasseter was being put together by The Hollywood Reporter, though he made no mention about that whatsoever in his letter explaining his half-year sabbatical.
“I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form,” The Pixar-Disney Animation boss continued in his memo, adding that his leave of absence was to give himself the opportunity to “start taking better care of myself, to recharge and be inspired.” The letter ended with his hope that he would surely return after the six-month period was ended,
The Hollywood Reporter cites its sources on John Lasseter’s alleged missteps from insiders in Disney and Pixar who have begged to remain anonymous. These sources have pegged the director of Pixar hits such as the first two films in both the “Toy Story” and “Cars” animated movie series with deviant behaviors such as “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.”
Aside from Lasseter, other prominent names that have been caught in the wave of sexual misconduct allegations include talk show host Charlie Rose, who was booted from both CBS and PBS in the wake of eight women accusing him of harassment.
Photo courtesy of US Extra News

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

True Colours Festival – Asia-Pacific’s first Celebration of Artistes with Disabilities 22-25 March, 2018


Tickets go on sale from 11 January with group and other discounts available – mark the dates in your calendar!
A major festival, the first of its kind in the region, will make its mark as a key highlight on Singapore’s 2018 event calendar.
True Colours Festival will take place from 22-25 March 2018 in Singapore. Up to 20 performing artistes/troupes from Japan, China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore, plus guest artistes from the United Kingdom and Canada, will perform at a multimedia concert experience at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and at the accompanying True Colours Festival Village, a short walk from the concert venue.
This never-before festival will present some of the most talented performing artistes with disabilities in the Asia Pacific region.
Australian singer Tony Dee of the We Are The Superhumans campaign for the Rio 2016 Paralympics (credit Rock This!Photography)

Unique dance style fusing street and contemporary dance from the award-winning dance group DAZZLE of Japan

Apart from the indoor and outdoor activities, True Colours Festival includes a special event and another first, the Arts and Disabilities International Conference 2018. This one-and-a-half day event for professionals and practitioners in the field will feature a slate of talks, workshops and discussions with speakers from the UK, Australia, Canada, Cambodia and more.
Tickets are priced at S$30 with concessions and discounts. For the first time, an inclusive seating arrangement will be introduced to allow wheelchair users to enjoy the concert experience seated together with their family members and friends.
True Colours is presented by UNESCO and The Nippon Foundation, and produced by Very Special Arts Singapore.
TICKET SALES INFORMATION
Price: S$30 per ticket
Ticket sales from 11 January 2018
TRUE COLOURS website: www.truecolours.sg
More details including a confirmed line-up of the artistes will be announced in early January 2018.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Miss Philippines-World LAURA LEHMANN Makes Top 40 but no Further at MISS WORLD 2017


Only four days after Maria Angelica de Leon failed to advance one tier nor win any ancillary award during the Miss International 2017 pageant in Tokyo, the Philippines’ hopes for a major global beauty queen title this year were dashed yet again. While this time, Laura Lehmann actually got picked to advance to the Top 40 level, ultimately she was left in the dust and failed to get any closer to the Miss World 2017 crown. This leaves the country missing two out of three with the major beauty pageants that have been held in 2017, having won Miss Earth 2017 in November 4.
As CNN Philippines tells it, Laura Lehmann, representing the Philippines among the 118 national participants for the Miss World 2017 pageant held Saturday, November 18 in Sanya, China didn’t manage to get into the Top 15 candidates after advancing to the Top 40. Eventually, the crown of Miss World for this year went to Miss India Manushi Chhillar, making her the sixth contestant from India to win the title, finally tying the country to the leading Miss World winner, Venezuela.
The crown was bestowed personally by Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle from Puerto Rico to her successor Chhillar, while the first and second runners-up were Mexico’s Andrea Meza and England’s Stephanie Hill, respectively. As for Lehmann, she did manage to win the “Beauty with a Purpose” special award, given to her and four other contestants.
It wasn’t quite a total loss however, as Miss Philippines did get to experience some of the new contest formats implemented by Miss World for 2017, the Head-to-Head Challenges which selected 20 out of the Top 40 contestants in the pageant. The challenges were designed to enhance contestant interactivity and social media attraction.
Prior to becoming the Philippines’ representative in Miss World this year, Laura Lehmann, age 23, has already built up a recognizable image as a TV personality. For a time she worked as a courtside reporter for the University Athletic Associations of the Philippines (UAAP) televised sports events on ABS-CBN Sports and Action.

Still, this does leave only Miss Earth 2017 Karen Ibasco as the only major Filipina beauty queen for 2017, with the campaigns of Maria Angelica de Leon (Miss International) and Lehmann (Miss World) having fizzled out. The next beauty pageant that the Philippines will be participating in before 2017 ends is the Miss Universe 2017, with Filipina-British model Rachel Peters on the spot against 92 other representatives vying for the crown this coming November 26, at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photo courtesy of news.abs-cbn.com

Monday, November 20, 2017

Expected Winners and Epic Performances Grace 2017 AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS


On Sunday night, the American music scene came out to determine who would be the best of the best this year (and who has achieved legendary status for a lifetime) at the 2017 American Music Awards. The artists that got the awards were mostly those that were indeed expected to win, if one could get past the fact that the number of female nominees across all available categories seems low. Aside from the victories long seen coming, the night was also one of tribute, featuring a well-deserved lifetime achievement award and an anniversary celebration cum tribute to a late idol.
According to People, there was a great deal of attention given on the night of November 19 at the Microsoft Theater in LA, venue for the 45th Annual American Music Awards. A highlight of the featured performances was a touching tribute to singing diva Whitney Houston, who died in 2012. It was also the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the film soundtrack for “The Bodyguard,” which co-starred Houston and Kevin Costner. Christina Aguilera was the featured interpreter of the signature Whitney songs from the album, including “I Have Nothing,” “I’m Every Woman” and – of course – “I Will Always Love You.”
While certain news outlets have interpreted a photo of fellow AMA 2017 entertainer Pink to be a negative reaction to Aguilera’s performance, the singer has rebutted that notion in social media, explaining that she was tearing up in joy instead. Also receiving lots of love from audiences were Pink’s duet of “Everybody Hurts” with Kelly Clarkson, Demi Lovato’s “Sorry Not Sorry,” and K-Pop boy band BTS with their dynamic song “DNA.”
Winners of this year’s AMAs include Artist of the Year Bruno Mars, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” for Collaboration of the Year and Favorite Pop/Rock Song, and Linkin Park as Favorite Artist – Alternative Rock. The band in their acceptance speech took the opportunity during their speech to pay tribute to their own loss, frontman Chester Bennington, who died last July. Other winners were Bruno Mars’s “That’s What I Like” as Video of the Year, BeyoncĂ© as Favorite Female Soul/R&B Artist, and “Moana” for Top Soundtrack.
The other major highlight of the evening was when singer-songwriter Diana Ross was accorded that year’s Lifetime Achievement AMA. The now-age 73 star herself delivered a wondrous medley of all her iconic songs. In the middle of her performance Ross was even joined on stage by some of her grandchildren for a grand family affair. In fact, the lifetime achievement awardee pointed out her family during her acceptance speech, as well as how everything she gave and received was all about love. Her medley was the closing spectacle of the 45th AMAs.
Photo courtesy of theamas.com

“JUSTICE LEAGUE” Sets Most Solid Foundation for Ongoing DC FILM-VERSE


Well, the time has come and gone for Warner Bros. Pictures to show their hand where their shared superhero film universe based on DC Comics is concerned. Following only four previous movies in the so-called DC Extended Universe (DCEU), they have now unleashed their big team-up of their most iconic superheroes (2016’s “Suicide Squad” being nothing like that at all), two of which had gotten proper solo films (back in 2013 and just last June) while the third shares a title in another film from early 2016, and the rest being cameos in that same movie. But back to here and now: “Justice League” has landed, and boy was it good.
While the most recent installment of the DCEU was “Wonder Woman” in the middle of 2017, the events of “Justice League” more directly branch off from March 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” The opening credits sequence hammers the point home, with the world still mourning the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), while at the same time reeling with fear from an escalating international crime rate and intensifying terrorism. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck), both humbled by his poor choices in “Dawn of Justice” and re-inspired by the humanity of Superman’s sacrifice, has been trying to do damage control by investigating the greater threat that seems to hide under the current of everything that’s been happening.
When the greater that Batman’s been searching for finally materializes before him, he contacts his ally Diana Prince/Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), telling her that the time to gather the meta-humans they discovered in the files of businessman-criminal mastermind Lex Luthor has come, in order to have a team to face down that evil when it comes in force. Said evil is the otherworldly being called Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) who has at his command a seemingly infinite army of Parademons, winged creatures that are drawn to the emotion of fear.
Steppenwolf’s forces have attacked Earth in the distant past, according to Diana. He was planning to terra-form the world to something similar to his home world, using three alien power sources called “Mother Boxes,” only to be driven off by an allied army of ancient humans, Amazons, Atlanteans, Greek Gods and friendly aliens powered by rings giving off green light (foreshadowing a future DCEU installment/reboot). As said earlier, Superman’s death has scared humanity enough to draw back Steppenwolf and his Parademons from space, and in some daring and mass-murderous raids he recovers two of the lost Mother Boxes from their hiding places in Themyscira and underwater Atlantis.
Here’s where the team recruitment arc with Bruce and Diana picks up. They’re aware of superhumans named Arthur Curry/”the” Aquaman (Jason Momoa), whom Bruce fails to convince (but joins up anyway after Steppenwolf’s theft of the Atlantean Mother Box from his second home). The Dark Knight’s next recruit is an easier sell: university graduate and slacker Barry Allen/Flash (Ezra Miller), who jumps at the call because he “needs friends” who can keep up with his super-speed (as normal humans seem “too slow” around him). Lastly, Diana makes contact with Victor Stone (Ray Fisher), an academic athlete who was saved from a normally fatal car wreck by his scientist dad only to be converted into a Cyborg.
Stone’s constantly-evolving Cyborg modifications to his body are actually the last piece of the puzzle, as they were done (and powered) by the third Mother Box found by STAR Labs where Silas Stone (Joe Morton) works. While Steppenwolf is busy tracking down this last Mother Box, Bruce gets an idea born of desperation and realization that the world is lacking a larger-than-life inspirational figure: Superman, whose death he still blames himself for. His ad-hoc teammates question the ethics and risks of using the uber-powerful artifact to bring life back to the dead, but with the looming existential threat of Steppenwolf, there might be no choice.
Some critics who have viewed “Justice League” in advance may have derided the storyline as bare-bones and served only to tie one action sequence after another with quiet scenes intercut to break tension. Personally I think that complaint crosses into nitpicking, as the tying together of plot threads and elements from the preceding movies (save “Suicide Squad,” again) comes across as being decent handled, if not completely organic.
True, the rest of the non-superhero cast feel disconnected at times from the main plot, all the same they serve to add more dimensions to the superhero characters when they get to interact. There’re Amy Adams and Diane Lane as Lois Lane and Martha Kent, Jeremy Irons as the Bat-butler Alfred, JK Simmons in a one-scene wonder as Commissioner Gordon, Joe Morton as Victor’s dad Silas, Billy Crudup as the imprisoned Henry Allen, and Connie Nielsen as Queen Hippolyta; their respective appearances are a solid reminder that outside of their team-up in the league, the individual heroes have their own social worlds and circles of friends and family.
“Justice League” has been touted as the biggest film based on DC Comics characters yet, and it definitely shows. One can’t help but be impressed by the overall behind-the-scenes leadership of director Zack Snyder, who sat on the chair for all but one (and a half) of the past films in the DCEU and can thus be considered the film universe’s patron saint. The movie flows with Snyder’s signature style and flair, and it’s amazing that he was able to hold the ship together even in light of a great personal tragedy, finally passing post-production work to Joss Whedon at the end of the main shooting schedule.
The soundtrack of the movie also gets some props with the slick work of Danny Elfman. Such is his cred that he’s had the honor of providing music for the DCEU now, and its MCU rival from Disney-Marvel (“Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015). His set pieces range from foreboding, to emotional, to action-packed as appropriate to the scene, and he’s even demonstrated his appreciation for the classics by sneaking in samples from both his score of the 1989 “Batman” film and John William’s iconic theme from 1978’s “Superman.”
These effectively sell “Justice League” as a bright and brilliant reconstruction of the idealistic mythos for DC superheroes that were broken down back in “Batman v Superman” and even “Man of Steel.” We can certainly appreciate this change of tactics from the grim and gritty take by Snyder on the earlier films of the DCEU. This movie effectively finishes the return to idealism that was started by Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” in June and stands as a promise of sorts for Warner-DC fans that from now on at least, their superheroes would feel like heroes in spite of their frailties and failures. I’m looking forward to see what’s in store next film.
Photo courtesy of weliveentertainment.com

Sunday, November 19, 2017

YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS Now Here in GENSAN


When you spend a great deal of time online as a blogger talking about one new interesting thing after the other, it’s inevitable that you learn more of them as you go on. Like the concept of essential oils. They’re one of the most sought-after healthy-living products around, extracted from an expansive variety of plants and herbs, many of them therapeutic. The chemical compounds of these essential oils provide their original hosts with natural defenses to various ills, and these various resistances can be taken into by the human body when breathed in through a diffused form in the air.
Essential oils have been around even here in GenSan for so long. Now a new player in the market has entered the ring. They’ve even got a freshly engaging name: Young Living. But don’t let the name make you think that they’re some relative rookie in the essential oil business. Actually, Young Living has been on the international scene for over two decades now, and in fact they are the standard by which the purity and potency of essential oil products by various other companies are measured. You can ask for no other indelible mark of quality than this.
And believe me, Young Living are absolute professionals when it comes to ensuring the quality of their essential oil products, and the commitment they put into that promise, which they call “Seed to Seal.” They choose only the best seed species for essential oil-producing plants, cultivating the farmland where these worthy seeds are planted and harvesting only at the ideal moment. Young Living then uses their own distillation facilities to extract those precious essential oils, and use laboratory-grade equipment to verify the top-notch quality of every sample gained, before sealing the finished products and making sure they are delivered across the world to the doors of all eager and interested customers.
These are all important stuff to consider because Young Living only produces 100% pure therapeutic-grade essential oil blends, the number-one topmost of four grades for all essential oil products on the market. That means these oils and their blends have genuine therapy-based medicinal effects once taken into the body. And they can be done in several different ways: aromatically for a sweet fragrant experience, topically for a sweet sensation on your skin, or even internally by mixing a few drops with your beverage of choice.
You know what that means: essential oils of such high grade have so many ways to be put into use, so Young Living is taking the bold step of enabling you to try them all, courtesy of their Premium Starter Kit package. It’s got everything a newcomer to the wonderful world of essential oils needs to get the best first experience out of it. And what a way to go about it too; each kit starts you off with 11 different Grade-1 essential oils in 5ml bottles, each of which has a different but universally beneficial effect on you. Some of these oils can be used in all three methods described above, others can be just two of the three, but all of them are guaranteed to make you feel good as advertised.
From flowers to fruits, herbs to minerals, every source of essential oil in this starter pack provides benefits ranging from immunity boosts, improving blood pressure, relaxes muscles, relieves inflammation, boosts mental acuity and memory, the list goes on and on. Pick your favorite: lemon, lavender, and even holy frankincense; the possibilities are boundless.
One of the methods of essential oil intake is aromatic, so Young Living’s starter kit also includes an electronic diffuser of your choice in design. Adding a drop or two of their oils to the water inside the diffuser makes for a therapeutic aroma that would fill your room or workspace for hours. Or alternatively you can fit the AromaGlide roller attachment to a bottle of your choice for easy topical application on your skin.
It doesn’t stop there. Young Living wants you to try every option they have for getting some good therapeutic stuff in your system. That is why they’ve included two packets of their NingXia Red wolfberry supplements for a down-the-gullet infusion of rich nutrients with a genuinely delicious taste. The pre-added essential oils to the mix are just the icing on this healthy liquid cake.
The rest of your Young Living Premium starter kit is a fun way to share your own experience with others. There are oil sampler sachets and even empty oil sample bottles – 10 of each for both – with which you can pass around to your circle of friends. Who knows, they might enjoy the Young Living experience enough from your demonstrations to try the entire package for themselves. The company’s even gracious enough to provide business cards for easy contact. You can make a start at your own journey of discovery in the wonderful world of essential oils with Young Living by visiting them online at youngliving.com. It could be the best change of your life.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

ASEAN Chairmanship Passes from PHILIPPINES to SINGAPORE


At the conclusion of the 31st Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila earlier this week, President Rodrigo Duterte turned over his chairmanship of the regional intergovernmental association to the next in line, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. This has been the mandated routine of ASEAN, with chairmanship rotating between the incumbent heads of government of the ten member nations every year. This also indicates that the new chairman’s nation will serve as the host country for the next ASEAN Summit, the 32nd since its inception.
As CNN Philippines tells it, President Duterte and Prime Minister Lee underwent the ceremonial handover of chairmanship at the closing phase of the 31st ASEAN Summit last Tuesday, November 14. “As the Philippines’ chairmanship of ASEAN draws to a close,” Duterte noted in his turnover speech, “I reiterate my commitment that my country, as ASEAN Chair, will remain steadfast in upholding the ideals and values we hold dear and in working for the realization of our shared aspirations.” Afterwards he presented the symbolic ASEAN Chairman’s gavel to Lee, who then congratulated the Philippines for their excellent chairmanship of the association and hosting of the recently-concluded summit.
On his own acceptance speech for Singapore’s new leadership role for the coming year, Prime Minister Lee thanked the host nation’s contributions to the three “pillars” of ASEAN that were forged in the summit. These included the finalized Code of Conduct for Parties in the South China Sea, a new ASEAN-Hong Kong trade agreement, and a consensus between the member countries on migrant workers’ rights and protection. For the part of Singapore’s future chairmanship duties, he promised both innovation and resilience and a renewed push for full economic integration, the current ASEAN Holy Grail of agreements.
Also included in the handover ceremony was PM Lee’s announcement of the new ASEAN secretary-general to serve at their Jakarta headquarters, Brunei Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade permanent secretary Lim Jock Hoi. He will succeed Vietnam’s Lee Luong Minh for a three-year term.
The ASEAN chairmanship handover followed other Philippine-hosted gatherings with the association and other world nations such as the commemorative meeting with representatives of the European Union, and the East Asia Summit, both of which took place earlier that day of November 14. Another important summit that Tuesday was the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit, between the ASEAN nations and other major Asia-Pacific countries with interests in the region.
Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin News