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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

New “AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER” GRAPHIC NOVELS Coming from Dark Horse Comics


In 2005 children’s cable network Nickelodeon introduced an animated series that became a modern classic of television for all ages. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” became a phenomenal critical and ratings sensation on the small screen, delighting many with its story of a world where special people can “bend” (control) one of four elements, with the young Avatar Aang being able to manipulate them all in his quest to save the world from an imperialistic nation. Even with Avatar ending in 2008, its characters remained relevant in a 2012 sequel animated series as well as graphic novels detailing Aang’s further adventures.
According to Entertainment Weekly, two new graphic novels based on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” will soon be gracing the shelves and racks of comic stores courtesy of the franchise’s longtime publisher, Dark Horse Comics. One will be a brand new story with a new creative team, taking place sometime after the end of the animated series (and the other graphic novels that came before). The other is an anthology, featuring short comic stories each with a different writers and artists. In a way, this can be considered a 10th anniversary commemoration of the end of Avatar’s 4-season run on Nickelodeon.
Faith Erin Hicks of “The Nameless City” and artist Peter Wolfman will be in charge of “Avatar: The Last Airbender –Imbalance” the first part of a three-volume series. They will be taking the reins for the franchise’s graphic novels from longtime collaborators Gene Luen Yang and the Japanese art team Studio Gurihiru. The plot of “Imbalance” centers on Avatar Aang and his allies Katara and Sokka trying to mediate in a conflict between benders and non-benders set in an industrializing town. It seems to mirror the first season of “Avatar: The Legend of Korra”, and might even have world-building connections.
Meanwhile, the anthology volume “Team Avatar Tales” collects one-shot stories from various creators with themes ranging from straight adventure to in-depth character introspections. Both Hicks and Yang are contributors to the collection, and they are joined by writers Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), Ron Koertge, Dave Scheidt, and Sara Goetter. “Team Avatar Tales” promises to have a story for everybody. This and “Imbalance” are done in collaboration with Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, co-creators of the “Avatar” franchise including “Legend of Korra” which follows the adventures of the next avatar following Aang’s lifetime, in a more modern and dangerous world.
“Team Avatar Tales” from Dark Horse Comics will go on sale on September 5. “Avatar: The Last Airbender –Imbalance (Part 1)” will follow up on October 10.
Photo courtesy of Dark Horse Digital

First MISS MULTINATIONAL Pageant Winner is Filipina SOPHIA SONORON


The thing about international beauty pageants lately is that there’s been so many of them popping out now. Once, the major competitions in that vein could be counted on one hand. There was Miss World, the oldest still active today. Then there was Miss Universe (1952), starting one year after the inaugural Miss World. Miss International followed in 1960; and with Miss Earth from 2001 they formed the so-called “Big Four” international pageants for beauty. After that however came competitions like Miss Asia Pacific World and Miss Supranational. There have been so many beauty crowns for Filipinas to compete in; now here’s another one claimed.
CNN Philippines reports that a new beauty pageant crown – as in being contested for the first time – had its first ever winner being one from the Philippines. Sophia Sonoron has set a record in international beauty pageant history by being crowned Miss Multinational in Gugugram, part of the National Capital Region in India where this particular modeling-oriented competition is based. The inaugural pageant had only 35 contestant models from around the world including Sonoron, who was accompanied by Arnold Vegafria, her talent manager and national director for Miss Multinational Philippines, which contested the Philippines’ representative.
With Sonoron clinching the Miss Multinational crown, Saskia Kuban of Germany came in First Runner-Up, with India’s own bet Shefali Sharma as Second Runner-Up. Vegafria blew the good news wide open on Instagram, where he uploaded images of himself crowning Sonoron at the pageant venue of the Kingdom of Dreams theatre. This was a unique honor, with the Miss Multinational organizers calling on the national director of the winning country to crown their champion. A photo taken earlier in the pageant proper also showed the Filipina contestant in her national costume, alongside later post-crowning photos together with Sharma and Kuban.
The first Miss Multinational beauty pageant was held in Guguram over a period of ten days this month, from February 16 to the coronation night last Monday, February 26. Its contestants are drawn from the modeling communities of the participant nations, and the focus is in the “bringing out the best” from the candidates as well as showcasing to the world and all peoples the sort of positive change  beauty queens can help bring about for them. Sophia Sonora’s win is another feather in the Philippines’ cap of beauty pageant victories, putting it on the same level as “rival” Venezuela.
Photo courtesy of Instagram/@arnold_vegafria

Monday, February 26, 2018

Spa Haven and Honeymoon Destination: The HANGING GARDENS OF BALI


To the international resort tourism community, Bali is pretty much the first place to go in Indonesia when it comes to quality and luxurious tropical destinations in the country. It seems to have everything one could possibly want in a vacation spot so close to the equator. From multiple exotic traditional cultures, to a vibrantly alive sea with a wide variety of marine life to make underwater divers wonder, to lush forest and jungle vegetation that surprisingly has remained despite the large scale development of the island for tourism. And in that forested interior, one might find a Bali paradise.
First conceptualized in 2003, the Hanging Gardens of Bali was opened to the public only two years later. Nestled in the rising hill slopes of Payangan village just north of Ubud town, the Hanging Gardens commands a majestically scenic view of the Ayung, the longest river on the island of Bali, as well as the Balinese temple of Pura Dalem Segara Madhu. It is surrounded by coconuts and other trees characteristic of a tropical rainforest, making for a sanctuary from the bustle of the outside world, yet so supremely appointed in facilities and service to earn a 7-star hotel rating.


You can make no mistake that the Hanging Gardens are geared towards privacy for its guests. Its accommodations are distinctly individual villas, 44 in all, uniquely positioned in the complex to provide different moods and settings. The most affordable options here are Riverside Villas that are the closest in location to the naturally musical sounds of the Ayung River with its several cascades, and the Garden Suites that are more attuned to the surrounding forest, with a view of the resort’s celebrated pool. These and the other, larger accommodations are furnished in a Balinese style, reminding guests where they are.
The designers of the Hanging Gardens of Bali were thorough in building the resort buildings according to auspicious Feng Shui structural principles, the better to ensure a “stabilizing energy” for its guests, being situated on a 45-degree angled slope. And in the spiritual “heart” of the resort hotel is its pride and joy: a multi-tiered infinity pool that seemingly merges with the rainforest all around. It is not for no reason that travellers to the Hanging Gardens have taken so many pictures here, making it among the world’s most photographed swimming pools, and named “World’s Best” by Condé Nast Traveller.


But this 7-star hotel has only just begun to show its many wonders for tourists. Beyond the natural surroundings, the heavenly villa accommodations, and that magnificent pool, the Hanging Gardens also offers sublime dining experiences across several choices with impressive menus. First and foremost among them are the Garden Restaurant and Garden Bar, both situated at the resort’s best viewpoint, combining infinity pool with river and temple below. The restaurant primarily offers healthy organic vegetable and fruit-based meals, sourced from their own garden and Bedugul Farms. But their Australia meat and Jimbaran Bay menus are nothing to sneeze at either.
One of the best personal services ever tendered by Bali for tourist is their traditional spa and massage treatments. The Hanging Gardens are no slouch in this department, offering no less than two premiere spa venues located close to the Ayung, the Royal Spa Suite and River Bale. Their other pampering options include The Spa Collection, a Hair and Beauty Salon, and a Reflexology area for tired and weary feet. They even have a café exclusively serving natural salads and juice to guests at the River Bale and Spa Collection.
Another beauty in staying at the Hanging Gardens of Bali is the many variations of how you can spend your stay. Sure, you could just while the time away with a good book at the hotel Library (where they also serve gourmet coffee and snacks), but you can also get to do much more, and even better with a companion. How about a dining experience with your partner inside your villa, or even at the Dalem Segara Balinese temple itself? Aspiring chefs will enjoy a chance at Balinese cooking lessons. Alternatively, guests exhausted from the daily rat race can avail of a Balinese Blessing, or Yoga lessons to re-center themselves.


These and many other remarkable experiences are yours to partake in when you come to the Hanging Gardens of Bali, where you can feel that even in such superb solitude you are at the very center of it all. You may check out their many available package offers for guests at their official website on hanginggardensofbali.com, especially if you are a newlywed couple with enough finances for a honeymoon to remember. But everybody is welcome here at this 7-star hotel that is all the rave with dependable travel recommenders TripAdvisor and Condé Nast Traveller. You will certainly agree with them.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

ATLANTA Airport Helps Promote “BLACK PANTHER” with Fun TWITTER Photo


When a blockbuster movie gets big from premiere, and has the potential to get even bigger, as with Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther”, there will be many businesses that would try to find a way to hitch a ride to that success. It could range from a licensing partnership, like with the LEGO tie-in brick sets and minifigures. Or it could be something as simple and inexpensive (or free) as a viral post on social media that would net significant attention. How would you feel if an international airport suddenly started listing flights to a fictional nation from an epic movie?
CNN got quite a good look at the viral hubbub raised on social media when Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), longtime record-holder as the busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, posted a manipulated photo on Twitter showing a flight announcement board. At first glance there does not seem to be anything out of the ordinary, until one saw the destination: Wakanda, fictional home nation of African superhero and monarch King T’Challa aka the Black Panther. Said country is the primary setting of the latest installment in the decade-long Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.
The tweet was first put up Monday, February 19; and since then it has gotten over 30,000 likes and half that number in re-tweets. The over 500 replies to ATL’s Twitter post have been mostly some game comments and questions from everyday people, almost all of which got cheeky in-universe replies from the ATL Twitter account. “Inquiries” ranged from whether the ATL flights to Wakanda have onboard Wi-Fi (yes), the frequency of flights (daily at 7:30), and whether the airport also had flights to Zamunda from the 1988 comedy movie “Coming to America” (they answered that Wakanda’s own international airport had direct trips to there).
Even celebrities have gotten into the fun with Hartsfield–Jackson’s little social media buzz. Actress Lupita Nyong’o, who plays Nakia in “Black Panther”, posted her own inquiry on the possible in-flight movie choices, with plenty of puns regarding names of the film’s characters (“Killmonger Bill”?) The best part is that ATL may have facts to back up their claim, in a way. The Marvel Studios movie shot scenes in several locations across Atlanta from August 2016 to November 2017, and over 3,000 people in the State of Georgia’s film industry had work during the production.
“Black Panther” has proven its chops in breaking box office records, from its biggest opening for a film by an African-American director, plus the largest earnings for a long weekend including President’s Day. The film is still on its first week in cinemas.
Visit twitter.com/ATLairport/status/965736386618904581 to view the tweet.
Photo courtesy Twitter Atlanta Airport

First TRAILER of “LOST IN SPACE” NETFLIX Remake Now Revealed


Netflix, the first name in online streaming services, is on an intensified sci-fi kick starting from the premiere of the TV adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s book “Altered Carbon”, this February 2. Now they are digging for material a little bit older, in the form of a reboot for one classic sci-fi show from 1965, the CBS series “Lost in Space”. The show, itself a space-bound take on the classic adventure tale “Swiss Family Robinson”, originally starred Guy Williams and June Lockhart as the parents of a family lost in space during a colonization mission, accompanied by a suspicious stowaway.
As Entertainment Weekly tells it, Netflix and Legendary Pictures are collaborating on a remake of “Lost in Space”, with an initial season of 10 episodes planned. The cast of characters include Toby Stephens from “Black Sails” portraying colony mission commander and family man John Robinson, Molly Parker (“Deadwood”) as Commander Robinson’s engineer wife Maureen, and Parker Posey as the enigmatic saboteur Dr. Smith, in an interesting gender-flip of the original male character from the 60’s version. A trailer of the series was also uploaded to YouTube, showing the Robinson Family boarding their spaceship, and the accident that got them lost.
The official description of the Netflix series puts the story only 30 years into the future, where the colonization of distant planets is made reality. The Robinsons were selected to journey to an Earth-like world to begin a new colony, only for an apparent malfunction in their ship to throw them far off-course, leading to two strangers joining their expedition for different, and possibly malevolent intentions. One is the space smuggler Don West (Ignacio Serricchio), the other is the outwardly approachable yet manipulative Dr. Smith (Posey), who may know more about their getting lost in space than she lets on.
Aside from this new series on Netflix, the “Lost in Space” series was already adapted into a 1998 feature film by New Line Cinema, starring William Hurt as Prof. John Robinson, Mimi Rogers as Maureen Robinson, Matt LeBlanc as Don West and Gary Oldman as Dr. Smith. Also part of the cast was Dick Tufeld, providing the voice of the expedition’s Robot as he did back in the CBS show. The Robot character was immortalized by its catchphrase when babysitting the youngest member of the Robinsons: “Danger, Will Robinson!” The new “Lost in Space” series starts April 13 on Netflix.
Photo courtesy of radiotimes.com

SNAPCHAT Responds to User COMPLAINTS About App REVAMP with New Update Patch


Ever since it was launched in 2011, the multimedia image messaging mobile app Snapchat has operated almost unchanged, barring a few additions to its social media features over the years. Starting November 2017, the app’s parent company Snap Inc. has started work on a major revamp of the way its control scheme works. When it became available for update this February however, Snapchat users were turned off by the new user interface and confusing presentation of posts. Following a massive social media backlash, Snap Inc. announced that they have heard the complaints and released a new Snapchat update addressing them.
CNN reports that Snap Inc. on Tuesday, February 20, released a follow-up patch to their Snapchat redesign update that has been anything but welcome to longtime app users. The new fix tries to resolve the navigation difficulties encountered in the revamp, which had disgruntled Snapchatters signing a petition on Change.org urging the parent company to remove the major updates. Over a million complainants have since signed the petition. The newly-released patch hopes to better organize the layout of Snapchat posts received by a user from either his personal friends or celebrities.
On a statement sent to the Change.org petition, a Snap Inc. spokesperson replied, “We hear you, and appreciate that you took the time to let us know how you feel. We completely understand the new Snapchat has felt uncomfortable for many.” To that end, the emergency patch adds tabs to better indicate specific Snapchat Stories, the photos and videos shared on the platform by a user’s contacts that disappear permanently after 24 hours. Following the revamp that divided posts from friends and publishers/celebrities into separate pages, users found themselves unable to find stories from friends they do not interact with regularly, causing them to be buried under regular contacts.
The app revamp that started the mess was at the initiation of Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel. And while the backlash to the changes caught them off-guard, Spiegel notes that many of the complaints from the update were actually validations of his reason why the app’s navigation interface needed changing. In a way, Snap Inc.’s quick action from their user base’s feedback is something of a positive compared to Facebook, which did a major revamp of their social media platform in 2008 and kept it since in spite of loud complaints. The tab update for Snapchat was initially made available for iOS, with an Android patch following in the coming weeks.
Photo courtesy of thesun.co.uk

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

“FLASH” Stars Grant Gustin and Tom Cavanagh Headline Short Film “TOM AND GRANT”


Premiering in 2014 and now on its fourth season, “The Flash” on The CW is one of the most popular superhero TV series today, especially on the Warner Bros. and DC side. A great deal of its appeal could lie in its cast, particularly lead star Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/Flash and recurring actor Tom Cavanagh, who initially portrayed season 1 bad guy Reverse Flash, and various incarnations of said villain’s cover identity Harrison Wells as the show went on. It is no wonder the two have gotten along swimmingly beyond “The Flash”, as evidenced by their upcoming short film.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Tom Cavanagh and Grant Gustin have come together to collaborate on a quirky short comedy film called “Tom and Grant”, starring the two of them using their real names as character names, and with Cavanagh both writing and directing. The plot is pure wackiness in the making, about a duo of brave but intellectually-challenged small-time crooks looking to rob a bank. But there’s a problem or several where they’re concerned: they have no plan, they have no weapons for intimidation, and they have no idea what they’re even doing. Absurd hilarity and near-slapstick hijinks then ensue.
Cavanagh had this to say regarding the purposely thin storyline. “Part of the subtext to all of this thing that I wrote and directed is political, about the political times that we’re living in,” he said. “But the presentation is completely comic; it’s dark comic.” And dark comic is an apt way to put “Tom and Grant” according to the 40-second teaser that Gustin and Cavanagh have put up. One scene had them in a car, on the road, engaging in a conversation involving exaggerated shouting at each other. Did I mention they were headed towards a stationary car too?
The appeal being pushed by Cavanagh in the short film is the conceit of characters that see themselves as smart but are actually too dumb to both live long and die like they should. It is no wonder then that “Tom and Grant” is gunning for an R rating and family-unfriendly comic violence. It’s got blood and gun-play and heists and car chases,” expounds Cavanagh as he describes the action sequences. “And I think that it’s something that both Grant and I are phenomenally excited about putting before the public.”
“Tom and Grant” is currently under production, but is due to release sometime this year because of its length. More information can be found at tomandgrant.com, the film’s official website.
Photo courtesy of pinterest

Educational DLC for ASSASSINS CREED ORIGINS Enables Free Exploration of ANCIENT EGYPT


Released in October 27, 2017 by Ubisoft following a development period of four years, the action-adventure videogame “Assassin’s Creed Origins” was released to favorable reviews. Whether it was the storyline due it being the earliest chronological title in the “Assassin’s Creed” series, the superb voice talent and soundtrack, the improved gameplay or the superb masterwork of creating an open-world environment replicating Ptolemaic-era Ancient Egypt, there was a lot to love about “Origins”. Now, to cater to a portion of “AC” fans who would like to explore the game-world without being pestered by the game plot, Ubisoft made a special DLC.
As Gamespot tells it, Ubisoft has put together a neat DLC package to go with “Assassin’s Creed Origins” called “Discovery Tour”, released this Tuesday, February 20. What it does is add a new “game mode” to the basic “AC: Origins”, wherein the storyline, side-quests, time limits and even the hostile enemies are removed. What’s left then is the game environment of Egypt in the times of the famous Queen Cleopatra, replicated as accurately as possible by Ubisoft with some academic assistance. And the player is now free to either explore the land at his leisure, or take a guide tour.
Starting the Discovery tour on the game will greet the player with this message from the developers:
“With content curated by Egyptologists and hundreds of images sourced from museums and libraries around the world, we hope to share with you the passion that inhabited us for the four years it took to develop Assassin’s Creed Origins.”
And that’s no idle boast. The player can now roam the Egyptian city of ancient Alexandria to see the sights without worrying about soldiers trying to kill his character. The guided tour option can point out places of interest, which when approached will activate a documentary blurb describing the spot and its historical significance.
One more quirk in the Discovery Tour is the ability of the player to choose his avatar with which to explore the world. That mean they can choose from either the main Assassin characters Bayek and Aya, or the historical personages Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, who appear in the “Origins” plot as supporting characters. After taking in Alexandria, the player can then sail a boat up or down the mighty Nile River to observe epic monuments like the Pyramids of Giza, or even travel to them for a closer look.
Ubisoft describes the Discovery Tour DLC for “Assassin’s Creed Origins” as a “unique experience at the intersection of entertainment and learning” that could even be used as a teaching aid for History Class. The DLC is free for the game’s console versions, while PC owners on Steam or the Ubisoft Uplay store must pay $20 to download it.
Photo courtesy of gamingcentral.in

Last PYEONGCHANG RP Olympian ASA MILLER 70th in GIANT SLALOM


Four years ago in Sochi, Russia, the Philippines made sports history by becoming the first Southeast Asian and tropical nation to send an athletic delegation to the Winter Olympic Games. The country only had one contender, 17-year-old Michael Christian Martinez, competing in the men’s singles figure skating event. Though he did not medal, his performance was promising enough to have the Philippines support him for the 2018 Winter Games at Pyeongchang, this time with a companion, Fil-American Asa Miller in the giant slalom skiing event. Martinez bowed out of contention last Friday, and now Miller too fell short on Sunday.
ESPN-5 reports that the Philippines’ second outing in the Winter Olympics came to another medal-less end when Asa Miller failed to place high enough in the men’s giant slalom. The event, contested at Pyeongchang’s Yongping Alpine Centre February 18, pitted 110 competitors for a shot at Olympic glory on the slopes. Miller, age 17, got to run the giant slalom twice. The first time, he clocked a time of 1:27.52, about 19.25 seconds behind the fastest skier when he had his turn. For the first round he landed at 81st place, but that was enough to reach the medal round.
Only 85 of the 110 qualified to run the giant slalom a second time for the Gold, Silver and Bronze. While Miller did his best, improving from his first time with 1:22.43, the combined total of 2:49.95 with a 31.91 difference only managed to get him 70th place, out of the 75 skiers who managed to complete their giant slalom run for the medals. Ultimately the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics men’s giant slalom Gold went to Austria’s Marcel Hirscher with his combined time of 2:18.04. Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway (2:19.31) won the Silver medal while Frenchman Alexis Pinturault took Bronze (2:19.35).
Asa Miller, born in Portland, Oregon in 2000, is a Filipino citizen through his mother, a native of Santa Cruz, Manila. An early-bird skier since he was 1½ years old, Miller was competing since he was eight. His dual citizenship enables him to compete as an athlete representing the Philippines, and as early as 2016 Miller realized that he could be an Olympian in the 2018 Winter Games. He qualified for Pyeongchang by participating in multiple races to accumulate points set down by the International Ski Federation (FIS), and like Michael Martinez, he was sponsored by the Philippine Olympic Committee.
During the Parade of Nations in the Olympics opening ceremony, Miller carried the Philippine flag. While his teammate Martinez may be hanging up his skates for good after Pyeongchang, the Fil-American teen looks set to come back and represent the country in the next Winter Games at the very least.
Photo courtesy of Asa Miller’s GoFundMe page

Swimming, Golfing and Dining at BINTAN LAGOON RESORT


Planning to take a tropical holiday vacation in Indonesia but feel that Bali is a bit too far away for you? Perhaps you might want to consider something more to the north and west of the archipelago country. It’s remarkably accessible via a ferry ride from Singapore, itself a major destination for international tourism. After sightseeing at the Merlion nation, what better way to unwind than a trip to Bintan Island and its cozy getaway enclave of Bintan Resorts? And among the members of BR, your best bet for the freshest stay is none other than Bintan Lagoon Resort (BLR).
All the vacation destinations in Bintan Resorts are designed and constructed around a “green building” philosophy, the better to make themselves as one with the lush natural environment of northern Bintan Island and its lush seaside heading out into the South China Sea. But Bintan Lagoon is on another level in that it was the first Southeast Asian resort to receive an international certification for its green environmental development plan, part of its major 2009 refurbishment that has helped it maintain its edge as a frequently-patronized component of the BR area. Look for no further proof than their guest arrivals.

It’s not for nothing that BLR has its own dedicated arrival pier for the Singapore ferry, that is open for visitors coming to the resort outside of the monsoon season (during the monsoon starting January, the ferry from Tanah Merah must dock at the shared terminal at Bandar Bintan Telani for safety reasons). While Singapore tourists make up a sizeable portion of guests that come to stay at the Bintan Lagoon, know that they are a truly international resort and ready to treat everyone that comes to stay with a memorable Indonesian-themed hospitality.
The primary attraction of BLR is their pristine white-sand beach, stretching a goodly long distance just in front of the Nelayan seaside restaurant, the water sports center and, further inland, the resort’s selection of guest villas. The water feels very much alive, changing from calm at some parts of the day to being vibrant with waves at other times. For guests who prefer a more tranquil environment to swim in, there are two pools to lounge about at, one of them furnished with water slides and the other being a sweet infinity pool that, from one viewpoint, seems to blend in with the sea a stone’s throw away; it’s perfect for photos. If you’re lucky, you can float around the pool in time to see passenger aircraft passing by overhead on a sunny day.
If land activities with view of the ocean are more your thing, Bintan Lagoon has it covered too. They offer quad-bike ATV guided tours along the beach and the woodland areas farther in from the shore. And BLR is also a golfer’s paradise with no less than two full 18-hole courses with contrasting environments. The Jack Nicklaus course hews closer to the main resort buildings and the sea for magnificent vistas, while the Ian Baker Finch course wends into the forested environs surrounding the resort, with picturesque ponds frequented by exotic waterfowl along with the occasional squirrel and Komodo dragon sightings. After a day out in the links, golf enthusiasts can retire to the clubhouse and chow down at Haskell’s restaurant.

Of course, no major international resort is complete without superb service, especially in the line of dining. Bintan Lagoon offers a wide range of cuisine choices with their various in-resort establishments. The Nelayan boasts an Indonesian and international seafood menu. The infinity pool is serviced by Ripples, a cocktail and snack shack that serves light dishes either to swimmers at the water-level bar, or hand-delivers beverages to customers at the poolside lounge chairs. Vegetarians can get their healthy cravings fixed at Veradah, the restaurant serving the water slide pool.
More food options can be had at the main resort building. Miyako offers an indoor Japanese and pan-Asian eating experience; alternatively, guests can go for Chinese at the Chop Chop, Bintan’s Chinatown dining spot. Sports buffs can gather round in the Terreace Sports Bar to watch the latest sporting events while nursing the drink of their choice. Caffeine fiends can count on Mojo Café to serve up fresh brews and light snacks to go with them. As for dessert, the Mangia! Pizzeria specializes not just in Italiano, but pastries too. But all these choices and more are gathered together all day at Fiesta, the buffet centerpiece in the middle of them all, offering guaranteed Good Mood Food selections from all of these, for breakfast, lunch and dinner too.
There is so much more to see and experience in BLR than what I’ve listed up here. It’ll take more than a 2D1N overnight stay with them in their well-furnished and comfy deluxe rooms to explore everything that Bintan Lagoon has to offer. But even at such a short time, you’re bound to fall in love with the place, enough to make it an annual pilgrimage if you can get away with it. That’s the Bintan Lagoon guarantee; you will want to return, and they will remember you too, looking forward to make your future visits even more memorable than the last. Make it a point to visit BLR’s official website at http://www.bintanlagoon.com to read up for yourself what more you can get to experience with them. I am willing to bet you will be inspired to save up for it.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Revolution in Marvel Movies: The Power of “BLACK PANTHER”


Some would say that no other movie ever released has been saddled with the same level of hype – and responsibility to live up to that hype – like the first Marvel Cinematic Universe movie of 2018 released by Disney and Marvel Studios.  It chronicles the solo adventure of a character from Marvel Comics that first appeared in the MCU during the events of 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War”; a character that initially was perceived as potentially having difficulty headlining a major motion picture for the fact that he, his supporting characters and narrative corner in the universal setting has been perceived on film as a so-called “minority”. Well, “Black Panther” has begun premiering all over the world through the middle of last week and, having seen it over the weekend, I can chime in with so many online who would proudly say “The King is Here” and “Long Live the King”.
It’s no hyperbole to say that there have been astronomically high and very specific expectations going into the production of “Black Panther”, based on a superhero from Africa. Naturally the character would be portrayed on Hollywood by an African-American actor, the cast is predominantly black of several countries of origin, and even the director is African-American. Ryan Coogler has been on the helm of seven films, only three of which are feature-length. But his 2015 work “Creed” was a critical and box office darling with some major film award nominations. “Black Panther” is his third film, and it has now become the biggest box-office debut for an African-American director. But more on the movie he was on the helm of.
Marvel Studios’ MCU has been one of the most astounding developments of contemporary cinema: a series of interconnected movies (and TV series) following a general stable of characters in a carefully laid-out universe. More recent installments of which have been really selling the woven overall plot (in preparation for the next “Avengers” film later this May, but more on that later). What makes “Black Panther” refreshing is that, while the titular character made its MCU debut as part of an ensemble cast, his solo outing here (not strictly an “origin story” like the first films in the verse, more like “Spider-Man: Homecoming” last year) dials down on the greater plot points from past installments, providing a self-contained narrative that while springing from its predecessors manages to stay coherent by itself.
In “Captain America: Civil War” T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Prince of the isolated African kingdom of Wakanda, becomes King following the death of his father T’Chaka (John Kani). But already he carries the mantle of the Black Panther, the Wakandan hero-figure and protector, whose title is usually held by the king and passed down to his heir. After his brief involvement in the Superhero Registration Civil War, T’Challa returns to his homeland to be crowned, and here the true wonder of Wakanda is revealed to the MCU audience.
Far from its outside appearance as a Third World nation, Wakanda is actually a highly-advanced hidden power, whose entire tech development and infrastructure runs on Vibranium, a wonder-mineral metal mined from a meteorite that crashed into their land millions of years ago. The presence of vibranium under the soil has enhanced the vegetation and animals of Wakanda, such as the “heart-shaped herb” that is the source of the Black Panther’s superhuman physical abilities. The country of Wakanda itself is a showcase of Afrofuturism, in that while its civilization is high-tech, the people still hold to tribal allegiances and traditional cultural mores. T’Challa for instance must first face challengers to his ascension in ritual combat before affirming his kingship, like he does with dissident chieftain M’Baku (Winston Duke).
Anyway, once his rule is secured, T’Challa’s next concern is the mercenary Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who has long ago stolen samples of vibranium in Wakanda without ever being caught. Hoping to bring him to his nation’s justice, T’Challa pursues him to South Korea with the help of a surprising ensemble of powerful and fully-realized female characters. There’s Okoye (Danai Gurira), head of the all-women royal guard the Dora Milaje; Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a Wakandan “war-dog” or spy in the outside world (and T’Challa’s “ex”), plus the King’s own little sister, the teen super-genius Shuri (Letitia Wright) who develops her brother’s equipment and makes his “swag” vibranium-mesh costumes.
But Klaue’s schemes may be more complex that it initially seems. From information provided by T’Challa’s reluctant ally CIA Agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), it is revealed that a former US special-forces operator is also involved: Erik Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) alias “Killmonger”. But behind Erik’s “angry black dude” demeanor is a connection to Wakanda that takes T’Challa by surprise, and a plan that’s rooted in some relevant social issues pertaining to the African diaspora that’s going on to this day.
Producer Nate Moore gave a simple description of the plot of “Black Panther” as “The Godfather” meets the James Bond movie franchise. That does quite capture the gist of it, with the leader of a family with authority over a secret group hidden from the mundane world, facing the upheaval wrought by somebody coming in with new ideas on how things must be done. Ryan Coogler must be given a lot of respect for his deft hand at controlling how the themes in his movie are treated. There are so many shout-outs to the perceptions regarding the place of a “black man” in the world, but it never gets preachy, nor does it feel like a socio-political agenda being pushed.
Another element of the movie that is something of a stamp for the MCU as a whole is the humor. Detractors of the franchise have decried the “executively mandated” insistence of putting funny scenes in an otherwise serious movie about superheroes, and individual MCU directors have to decide how much laughs each movie really needs. Thankfully, producer Moore was proven right in his other statement that any comedy in “Black Panther” will be less blatant than can be found in, say, “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Thor: Ragnarok”. The reined-in take works.
Finally, there’s much to be said about the film’s soundtrack. Playing on the multi-diversity angle, “Plack Panther” features background music rooted in African tribal song and dance one moment then shifting to some cool tunes from the African-American music scene. All this can be credited to composer Ludwig Göransson, who handled the instrumental score, and Kendrick Lamar, who curated the songs which then went into the official “Black Panther” soundtrack with music “from and inspired by” the film. Serving as the key lyrical song of the soundtrack is “All the Stars” by Lamar and SZA.
In closing, “Black Panther” may, under a critical and unbiased eye, may not have completely embodied the ideals that were put forth about it before its premiere; some of the CGI effects came off as less polished compared to its MCU fellows for instance. But in a way, no other movie really could have handled the pressure this movie, its cast and its director have been through in order to resonate with the global audience. Not only did “Black Panther” deliver, it delivered beyond everybody’s expectations. It’s great. Wakanda Forever.
Photo courtesy of marvel.com

First TEASER for YOUTUBE RED’s “KARATE KID” SEQUEL Series “COBRA KAI” Released


Go back to the most famous film franchises of the 1980s, and you will most likely run into the “Karate Kid” series by Columbia Pictures. It made to do something different in the then-wave of sports-themed movies by having it about an Asian martial art. It gave the meme community “wax on, wax off” and is credited with making karate popular in the US (after the Kung Fu craze in the 70s). The first film in 1984 led to two sequels, a spinoff, a 2010 remake, and a web-series on YouTube Red featuring the original main character and his rival.
The Verge reports that YouTube Red, the paid subscription streaming service of video-sharing giant YouTube, has just released the first teaser of “Cobra Kai”, a drama-comedy series serving as a distant story sequel of the first three “Karate Kid” films. YTR had first announced that it has ordered the show from Overbrook Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television (for which Columbia is now a subsidiary). “Cobra Kai” has been set for an inaugural season of 10 half-hour episodes, starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their respective characters of Daniel Larusso and Johnny Lawrence, some 30 years after the first film.
Running at under a minute long, the first teaser for “Cobra Kai” takes a nostalgia approach to introducing the old-made-new setting, with an aerial view of the San Fernando Valley and shots of the stadium where the All-Valley Karate Tournaments of the original and third films took place. There are even framed newspaper clippings of Mister Miyagi and the young Daniel-san shown in close-up. From there the timeframe moves to the present day, with Johnny, described in YouTube Red’s blurbs to be down on his luck, deciding to reopen the Cobra Kai Karate dojo, and everything that comes with it.
Anybody who has watched the old “Karate Kid” films know just how over-the-top in meanness the Cobra Kai dojo is, with their conditioning of students to be active bullies. Another snippet from the trailer reinforces that notion. While Johnny appears to have made peace with Daniel after their championship fight, still hangs on the aggressive message of his style of karate even with his quest to better himself.
In the meantime, Daniel has become the successful sensei of his own dojo, but is apparently feeling adrift now that his sensei has passed away. When a former bully seeking redemption meets a master on the verge of losing his way, it is as the tagline of “Cobra Kai” says: Some rivalries never end.
“Cobra Kai” also stars Courtney Henggeler, Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, and Tanner Buchanan. The series is created by Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald, but no premiere date on YouTube Red has been given as of now, other than that it will release this year.
Photo courtesy of Youtube

MICHAEL CHRISTIAN MARTINEZ FAILS to Advance in PYEONGCHANG 2018 Men’s Skate Prelim


The Philippines couldn’t help but cheer for Michael Christian Martinez when he became the first Filipino to be an Olympian in a Winter Games. That was the Olympics held in Sochi, Russia back in 2014. The sole athlete representing our country, he fearlessly challenged other international athletes in men’s figure skating, passing the short program before finishing below the cutoff during the free skate. Since then Martinez has trained diligently and honed his skill in more competitions for four years, in order to return to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang 2018. Unfortunately, his second outing ended quicker than the last.
ABS-CBN News reports that Martinez, 21, was eliminated during the short program phase of the figure skating – men’s singles event that was contested on Friday, February 16. Despite what has been described by observers as a graceful performance, Martinez’ score did not manage to break through to the Top 24 of the competition, which would have at least allowed him to participate in the free skate phase. He was the sixth performer in the qualifying round, and was knocked out of ranking with only three more skaters left to take their turn. As stated, he did better back in Sochi.
For his short program in the men’s singles, Michael Martinez decided to momentarily eschew the new freedom accorded to Olympic figure skaters, that of performing to lyrical music, a ruling that most of Pyeongchang’s Olympians took to wholeheartedly. Rather, he skated to the instrumental tune of “Emerald Tiger” by violinist Vanessa-Mae. With a component score of 29.52 and technical score of 26.04, Martinez racked up 55.56 points, finishing 28th place out of 30 competitors. He would have been able to perform to lyrical song “El Tango de Roxanne” from “Moulin Rouge!” had he at least made it to free skate.
It was a dramatic turn of events for Martinez considering he was not supposed to make it to Pyeongchang after not making the cut at the last Winter Olympic qualifier, the 2017 CS Nebelhorn Trophy. It was only when qualifying country Sweden withdrew that he, as first alternate, was given a chance to compete, leaving him with not as much time to train and prepare as his competition. Martinez had in fact been making plans to retire from figure skating by that point and transition to body building, forcing him to take a crash diet to return to skating form.
Despite the results, Team Philippines chef de mission Tom Carasco assures the Filipino people that, given his condition and circumstances Michael Martinez gave his best performance possible, according to his coach Slava Zagor. Japan was on top of the men’s singles short program, with defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu (111.68).
AP Photo/David J. Phillip

SPACEX Close to Starting Their SATELLITE BROADBAND NETWORK in SPACE


Whenever SpaceX gets brought up, the first thing in mind would most likely be their being a proponent for the development of recyclable launch rockets. This was a dream they have achieved with their Falcon-series delivery system, the rockets of which have been stars on online videos depicting them touching down vertically, bottom-first, after successfully getting their capsules, usually filled with supplies and cargo, headed for the International Space Station (ISS). More recently they introduced their Falcon Heavy rocket, demonstrating its lifting power by sending a Tesla roadster space-borne. But they’ve gotten even more projects left to launch, like this.
As USA Today tells it, the revolutionary aerospace developer and private space transport service provider is seeing a condition on the verge of being cleared towards one of their other dream objectives: the launch of a network of satellites that would provide broadband internet connection all across the United States. This Wednesday, February 14, Chairman Ajit Pai of the Federal Communications Commission sent a proposal to his fellow commissioners to push for giving the green light to SpaceX in order to get their planned satellite broadband network up and running. And the launches involved in this project are certainly notable.
If SpaceX, founded by visionary CEO Elon Musk, will be allowed to proceed, then in 2019 they will start launching mini-satellites into low Earth orbit. The number of broadband satellites is an astounding 4,420. As expected from that figure alone, SpaceX is going to be taking years in implementing their proposed broadband network, with full deployment estimated to be sometime in 2024. From their low-Earth orbit, the mini-satellites will be able to deliver broadband internet signals on almost every reachable corner of the US, with speeds matching conventional net service providers. All this was laid out in SpaceX’s company testimony to the US Senate about their project last May 2017.
The benefits of having internet service reaching remote areas due to not being affected by terrain have been calculated as invaluable. FCC Chairman Pai notes in a statement he made Wednesday, “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach.” Initial projections by SpaceX have it that their satellite broadband can service 40 million subscribers, many of them in rural areas, with $30 billion in revenue by the time the service is fully implemented in 2025.
Said revenue from SpaceX’s proposed satellite broadband internet access will go to further R&D and funding for the first serious space missions to planet Mars and, ultimately, kick off the beginnings of a permanent human habitation on the Red planet.
Photo courtesy of autoblog.com