Thursday, May 24, 2018

MARAWI One Year Later: The Commemorative CELEBRATIONS and Current SITUATION

May 23 marks one year having passed since the dark surprise that befell a year ago, when Muslim extremists appeared from the shadows to foil the attempt by authorities to arrest a notorious international terrorist in Marawi, capital of the province of Lanao del Sur. Within a day, the insurgents have driven off government forces from the city and did the formerly unthinkable event in recent Philippine history: the establishment of a “wilayat” territory that is part of the Global Caliphate of terror group ISIS. The terrorists were driven off months later; but to this day, not much has changed.
The first anniversary of the start of the Marawi Siege, or Battle of Marawi, took place on Wednesday, May 23. It was commemorated in several ways. For instance, reports that the Philippine Army paid tribute to all its combat dead during the five-month crisis at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig. The ceremony consisted of a wreath-laying on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument, to represent the 168 military personnel and police officers who were killed in action to dislodge the ISIS-aligned terrorists from Marawi, which also resulted in 47 civilians and over 900 insurgents dead.
A pageantry of even that level seems utterly alien compared to the current condition of the city where everything happened in 2017. Marawi remains a ghost town according to ABS-CBN News; its center portion – designated the “Main Affected Area” – remains cordoned off from the public as final sweeping operations to find and detonate unexploded ordinance continues. Afterwards, demolition works will take care of the ruined buildings to make way for reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, plans that may not see completion until the start of the next decade. The Red Cross estimates 230,000 refugees from Marawi, only few given temporary-built shelters nearby.
The Marawi Crisis which briefly established ISIS territory in the Philippines was the brainchild of Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist bandit group, and the Islamist group headed by brothers of the Maute Family. Before the Army and Philippine National Police started its operation to capture Hapilon, he and the Maute group have already formed a plan to seize Marawi as the foundation of ISIS territory in Southeast Asia, with Hapilon as its “Emir”. The battle to eliminate local and foreign ISIS fighters eventually saw the deaths of Hapilon and the Maute brothers when hostilities ended October 2017.
Interestingly, President Rodrigo Duterte, who oversaw military operations during the Marawi Siege, elected not to join anniversary commemorations of the event on Wednesday, according to CNN Philippines. This is because, as Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go states, Pres. Duterte will only celebrate the Marawi liberation on October 23.
Photo courtesy of Inquirer


When it comes to “reality television”, one title can be argued as the one that made the genre a significant presence on US TV. This is “Survivor”, a reality competition produced by Survivor Productions LLC and Castaway Television Productions, and airing on CBS since its first season in 2000. Since then a massive 37 “Survivor” contests were aired, several of them special seasons that brought back past competitors for another chance of winning the million-dollar grand prize. The latest season, “Ghost Island”, ended Thursday with a historical milestone for the show: a final tie vote before the winner was picked.
Entertainment Weekly tells us that “Survivor: Ghost Island” contestant Wendell Holland Jr. won the 37th running of the classic survival reality show following the unforeseen development of a tie vote during the finale, which aired on May 23. It had been a surprised for the Survivors at the contest location in Fiji that, rather than hold the results of the last Jury vote for the winner until the production returned stateside (which happened several times in the past), longtime host Jeff Probst went on to tally the results at once.
The ten-man jury for the Ghost Island contest was left with a choice between three Survivor finalists: Domenick Abbate, Laurel Johnson and Wendell Holland Jr. In the ensuing poll, the jury was split evenly between Holland and Abbate, 5-5. This was the first tie vote ever achieved during the final vote for Ultimate Survivor in the competition’s history. The way it was resolved was also novel: Johnson, who got no votes, was named the eleventh member of the jury, and her vote is guaranteed to give the win to one of the remaining two. This last vote was held in reserve until the live reveal on an LA sound studio.
Said vote remained unread for almost a year after “Ghost Island” was shot, with the episode broadcast starting only this February. Johnson cast her deciding vote for Holland, who had the distinction of almost not making it to the end, with his closest to being eliminated was during the challenges to determine the final four, where he beat out Angela Perkins. He and Abbate were also antagonistic towards one another, with the concluding Tribal Council being a stinging verbal showdown between them. Johnson’s decision may have been influenced by Holland giving her an immunity necklace for the “final five” episode.
At the end of things, the final struggle to win “Survivor: Ghost Island” was considered an exciting finish with two strong finalists being so evenly matched that they got the Jury deadlocked. Ultimately a past kind gesture may have contributed to the choosing of Wendell Holland Jr. as Ultimate Survivor.
Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

NINTENDO Offers Cheaper SWITCH System in Japan by Forgoing “Dock”

Legendary videogame hardware manufacturer and title developer Nintendo has been a pioneer in innovation and advances in the electronic entertainment market. From the NES game console, to the portable Game Boy, to the brilliant control scheme introduced by the Wii they were able to impress many gamers old and new. The Nintendo Switch, introduce March last year, was another stroke of genius with its promise of a hybrid gaming experience ranging from home console to portable handheld. With the first anniversary of the Switch now behind it, Nintendo is ready to propose new developments for the system, like this one.
As The Verge tells it, Nintendo in Japan has begun to market a cheaper variant of the Nintendo Switch system – very affordable indeed. That is because the new package consists only of the tablet-like main unit, plus a pair of Joy-Con controllers with optional strap attachments, doing away with the console-like docking port. This is the “Switch 2nd Unit Set” product, and Nintendo has advertised it as an additional purchase for gamers who already have the original complete Switch system, ostensibly as an extra control system. However buyers have cottoned on that this pared-down Switch makes for a functional handheld.
The Switch dock that the main game unit slots into serves as a port to connect the Switch gaming system to a TV, as well as provide a power cable to a wall socket. Some might wonder how the Switch 2nd Unit Set can operate without the dock to keep the Switch unit charged, but there is actually a USB-C port on the unit itself that can be used with any compatible USB-C charger. Thus, the pricing of the 2nd Unit Set comes down to ¥24,980/$226, which means the bundle is cheaper than the complete Switch system by only ¥5,000/$45.
Note however that the Nintendo Switch 2nd Unit Set is currently available only in Japan, and the company has yet to announce whether this stripped-down bundle will also make the rounds in the international market. There is a possibility that this package was tailor-made for Japanese households that generally do not have multiple TV sets, which the 2ndUnit can address by giving a second player access to a videogame’s action on its own screen. Still, despite the almost negligible price reduction, some players may be encouraged to buy the Switch 2nd Unit Set as a portable gaming system anyway.
Photo courtesy of

TESLA MODEL 3 Still Feels More “LUXURY” than “MASS-MARKET” E-Sedan

Last year, electric car manufacturer Tesla took its great leap towards realizing an ideal: that of an electrically-powered automobile well within the reach of the everyday consumer. Their means to achieve that end was a new car, the Tesla Model 3. With a basic price of $35,000 it was the cheapest an electric automobile has ever gotten. Despite a slow start at its delivery of preordered Model 3’s, Tesla seems to finally be picking up its production pace this year. But a study of all purchased cars thus far is telling a different story: nobody wants a $35K Model 3.
CNN reports that Tesla’s Model 3 electric sedan, far from becoming gradually accepted as a “mass market” vehicle still finds itself with its brother models to be something of a steep luxury item. Despite the still in-effect basic price of $35,000 it seems that those who have order and gotten their own Model 3 actually paid far more than the minimum, all to avail of the numerous additional perks that could be fitted to their vehicles. Not helping now is the fact that Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently announced a hi-spec Model 3 variant worth $78,000, the new sought-after e-car.
Why is nobody bothering with the default $35K Model 3 introduced since July of last year? Apparently Tesla is utterly counting on customers always paying for more add-ons to their new car that would ratchet up the price further. Musk himself mentioned on his Twitter page this week that production output for the Model 3 first needs to hit 5,000 cars a week, and then stay that way 3-6 months, before the company could weather the shipping costs for a baseline unit. In his words, “Shipping [minimum] cost Model 3 right away [would] cause Tesla to lose money & die.”
So there it is. Tesla needs to first bring their Model 3 production line up to full output first, and to do that they need the cash inflow from the feature-added unit sales. Marketing the unmodified Model 3 that costs “only” $35K has fallen to a low priority with the company, and in fact if any customer did take the plunge and order a no-frills Model 3, they might be waiting for their unit to be delivered by year’s end.
Favored additions to the basic Tesla Model 3 that can ramp up prices include a $1,000 repaint job from the default black, $1,500 for high-performance wheels, and $5,000 for Tesla’s “Enhanced Autopilot” which they have been promoting for the car.
Photo courtesy of


Online streaming giant Netflix is not one to shy from producing original content with some off-the-wall themes and concepts. Nowhere is this more evident than with this upcoming Netflix-exclusive movie about perhaps the most unusual occupants of the White House ever conceptualized yet in fiction. Hillary Clinton may have been frustrated in the quest to become the first female US President, but now this new political comedy will explore the idea of a woman sitting in the Oval Office, the first such in the background of the movie’s setting, with the added caveat of being a lesbian with a wife. reports that actress Jennifer Aniston will be starring with comedian Tig Notaro for “First Ladies”, a Netflix Original comedy film that is among several new exclusive features to soon be added to the platform’s expansive streaming library. The movie revolves around the life and administration of the first female President of the United States, portrayed by Aniston, who also happens to be a lesbian whose wife, portrayed by Notaro, serves as her First Lady. The ensuing humor and tensions of the political sort is all on this odd White House couple, both “First Ladies” in one meaning or other.
“First Ladies” is being written by the creative tandem of Tig Notaro and her wife Stephanie Allyne. Both also serve as the film’s produces, accompanied by Jennifer Aniston, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, Jessica Elbaum and Betsy Koch under Gloria Sanchez Productions. In a way, the movie is a second act of sorts for both Aniston and Notaro with Netflix; the former will also star in a more straightforward original comedy with Adam Sandler entitled “Murder Mystery”, while the latter already has her Netflix comedy special “Happy to Be Here” ready to debut on streaming on May 22, Tuesday this week.
There is no word yet on when “First Ladies” will arrive on Netflix, but it has the potential to attract lots of viewers from its quirky premise as conceived by real-life lesbian couple Notaro and Allyne, who have twin children of their own via surrogate. When her character and that of Aniston find themselves in the official residence of the most powerful head of state in the free world, they might just prove a new twist on an old saying that, in this case, “Behind every powerful woman…is another woman”. Chris Henchy will serve as executive producer for “First Ladies”.
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


BLR beach
‘THAT’S MY DAD’ AT BINTAN LAGOON RESORT 1-30 JUNE FROM IDR 4,750,000(S$475*) per family
MAY 2018…..It’s Dad’s turn to get spoilt this June with the ‘That’s my Dad’ Fathers’ Day package at Bintan Lagoon Resort. The Resort is just a 75-minute direct ferry ride from Singapore allowing visitors to disembark on its own beach and clear Customs & Immigration in minutes before checking into the hotel, just a few steps away.
Instead of the boring old tie or cufflinks, treat Dad to an award-winning island getaway with a round of golf on two world class golf courses designed by Ian Baker-Finch and Jack Nicklaus. If golf is not his cup of tea, there are over 50 land & sea activities including ATV rides and jet skis for the adrenalin rush.  There are plenty of recreational opportunities for family bonding. He can also feast to his heart’s content with a choice of 14 food & beverage outlets serving Indonesian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, other Asian and Western fare.
From IDR 4,750,000 (S$475*) for two adults and one child below 12 years or IDR5,500,000(S$550*) for two adults and two children below 12 years, the package includes:
  • 2days/1night stay in a Deluxe Room
  • Two – way ferry service between Singapore and Bintan
  • Two-way return land transfer from ferry terminal to resort OR Bintan Airport to Resort
  • Buffet breakfast at Fiesta
  • 1 Mixology class at The Terrace OR Tee-Shirt Painting session for Dad & kids
  • 1 complimentary buffet dinner with beverage at Fiesta just for Dad
  • 10% off at all F&B Outlets
  • 20% off recreation activities on weekdays and 10% off on weekends
  • Complimentary activities including Billiards, Snooker, Basketball, Beach Soccer, Futsal,   Table Tennis, Mahjong, Darts, Powerhouse Gym and Board Games
  • Free cover charge to SILK Nightclub (Wed to Sat Nights. Adults Only.)
Add-On Options
  • Additional Night: From IDR 1,500,000 (S$150*) per night/family inclusive of buffet breakfast
  • 1 Day Unlimited Golf from IDR 900,000 (S$90*) per golfer including golfing fees, caddie & buggy (twin-share basis), golf bag handling in Bintan and golfer’s insurance
*Terms & Conditions apply. Conversions are approximate.
Bintan Lagoon Resort is collaborating with FOCUS on the Family Singapore, a charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive. ‘That’s My Dad’, is Focus on Family Singapore’s annual Father’s Day campaign, which recognises the integral and unique role that fathers play in the family. This campaign aims to mobilise people of all ages across Singapore to appreciate their dads and to encourage them to be more loving and involved with their family. Get a free ‘Celebrate Dad’ Guide by FOCUS on the Family Singapore with this free guide!

Two CONCERTS, One COMIC-CON with Major CELEBRITIES Later This Year

The Philippines – well, Manila at least – have been graced by the visit of breakout star Cole Sprouse from The CW’s “Riverdale” series last month, but the arrival of overseas celebrities to our shores has only kicked up at this time of the year. As of this time there are at least three separate visits from high-profile stars of song and screen that are expected to come and indulge their fans over the next several months. CNN Philippines has the low-down on three of these events that fans of TV and music across a wide spectrum should mark their calendars for.
First, there will be a return from one of the hottest K-Pop boy bands ever to perform for their Filipino fans. Next month, Super Junior drops by again since their last Philippine concert five years ago. The SM Mall of Asia will be their Manila stop on a new world tour, “SUPER SHOW 7”, and you can expect Leeteuk, Heechul, Yesung, Shindong, Eunhyuk, Siwon, and Donghae to bust out their hit numbers like “Bonamana”, “Sorry Sorry” and more from their album “Play”. Tickets go on sale June 3 at SM Tickets outlets nationwide, with concert date set for June 30.
And then on July, there will be a treat for solid viewers of Netflix and HBO, in particular for the former’s Marvel streaming series and the latter’s medieval fantasy cash cow “Game of Thrones”. The AsiaPop Comicon (APCC) will be at month’s end and they have quite the celebrity guest list lined up. Most prominent is actor Finn Jones – Ser Loras Tyrell in “Game of Thrones” and Danny Rand in Marvel’s “Iron Fist” – who will be joined by co-star Jessica Henwick (Nymeria Sand in “Thrones”, Colleen Wing in “Iron Fist”). APCC happens July 27-29 at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay.
Lastly, an older generation of rock music fans might finally have one of their wishes being fulfilled in 2018, with the first-time concert of one of the most celebrated rock bands in history. This November, Guns N Roses are coming to Manila as part of their “Not in This Lifetime” 2018 tour. They are due to perform at six locations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East throughout that month, with the Philippines being their second stop on the tour. The concert venue will be at the Philippine Arena, and tickets for the event go on sale starting June 9.
Photo courtesy of Geek Culture


The year 2011 was the last internationally notable Royal Wedding held in the world, and it was with the British Royal Family. Prince William of Wales, son and heir to Charles, Prince of Wales who in turn was heir to Queen Elizabeth II, was married to Catherine Middleton, better known as Kate, on April 29 at Westminster Abbey in London. Years later, William’s younger brother Prince Henry, or Harry to the world, was engaged to American actress Meghan Markle. Their own big day took place last Saturday, and it was noted for significant changes from how British Royalty does weddings.
The Guardian reports that the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle went off to a resounding success this May 19, at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. It was the culmination of two years of dating, and a series of preparations undertaken by the couple and the Royal Family since their engagement was announced in November of last year. That Saturday morning Queen Elizabeth II also conferred to her grandson the title of Duke of Sussex, among others, which would apply over to his soon-to-be bride in lieu of not being styled a Princess due her common birth.
As stated, there have been many departures in Royal tradition with the union of Meghan and Harry, part of which is due to the former being biracial, with an African-American mother. In tribute to that side of her parentage, the wedding service included Gospel music, a choral rendition of “Stand by Me”, and a spirited sermon from the Most Reverend Bishop Michael Curry, primate of the Episcopal Church (part of the Anglican Communion with the Church of England) and African American himself, the first to be named Episcopal presiding bishop.
Owing to Markle’s former place in Hollywood, which she had officially retired from to ready herself for her new life with Prince Harry, among the Royal Family (Elizabeth II, Princes Charles and William, etc.) members and nobility present at St. George’s Chapel include a range of celebrities: actor George Clooney and his lawyer wife, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams, and also most of Markle’s co-stars in the USA Network legal drama “Suits”, which she departed after its Season 7 finale. British luminaries were represented by Idris Elba and Tom Hardy, James Corden, Sir Elton John plus David and Victoria Beckham.
At the conclusion of the service, the newlyweds were paraded in a carriage around the town of Windsor, lined by fans and well-wishers, before returning to Windsor Castle for a Royal reception, and a more private one at Frogmore House, before Harry and Meghan returned to London and Kensington Palace. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are not honeymooning immediately.
Photo courtesy of BBC

DEADPOOL 2 More Laughs More Action More Gore More Meta

By the 2010s, there were two film studios producing films featuring superheroes from Marvel Comics. These are 20thCentury Fox, with movies on “Fantastic Four” and the more popular “X-Men”, and Marvel Entertainment’s own Marvel Studios, creator of the multi-film setting the Marvel Cinematic Universe, starring heroes that make up the Avengers and all other that do not fall with the X-Men’s mutants (this includes Spider-Man from Sony-Columbia as of 2017). For a time, it seemed Marvel Studios (under Disney) is driving Fox and its “X-Men” films to the ground box office-wise, until Ryan Reynolds starred in surprise hit “Deadpool”.
The titular Marvel character, a mercenary and ex-special forces operator subjected to a classified superhuman empowering project that gave him a resilient healing factor that both saved him from cancer but also addled his mind, was a smash hit with readers and theater audiences for his 2016 film (where he was played by Reynolds). The conceit of a trigger-happy antihero whose in-universe insanity is manifested by the character’s awareness that he is a fictional person in a fictional narrative made for ridiculous comedy gold; so did the gory injuries he suffers and survives thanks to his near-immortality sort of regeneration.
If the first “Deadpool”, a runaway box-office success especially considering its low budget, was an absolute darling with the fans, then the sequel that premiered on May 18 is all of that and more. Picking up on the status quo from the original movie, but two years later, we see Deadpool, real name Wade Wilson, real-world name Ryan Reynolds, living the successful life as a mercenary whose job takes him around the world to meet (mostly criminal) people…and kill them. Still, he gets off-game days too, and an escaped mobster gets revenge later by murdering Wade’s fiancée Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).
That’s a sudden death for a prominent supporting character throughout the first “Deadpool”, (even the opening “credit” sequence goes Meta on what happened) but it has the intended effect of Wade falling into a terminal depression. His explosive suicide attempt does not take (though it does give him a near-death experience with Vanessa), and he is taken in by Collossus (voice of Stefan Kapičić) and the X-Men (cameos here). They try to steer Wade to a productive direction by having him help intervene in mutant-related situations, and his first outing to do just that is what kicks off the plot.
Deadpool meets angry mutant orphan Russell (Julian Dennison), who wants to kill his orphanage’s headmaster as revenge for abusing him in their custody. When Wade “reacts badly” to this revelation, both he and Russell are arrested and thrown into the “Icebox” mutant prison. Strapped with a power-negating collar that suppresses his healing factor (leaving his terminal cancer unchecked), Wade finds himself in deep doo-doo when the prison is attacked by Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-travelling cyborg soldier from the future who wants to kill Russell in his past (our present) for murdering his (future-time) family. “DC-Universe” dark stuff, complains Deadpool.
From the very start, with all the trailers and previews that were released before the film itself, Reynolds, who also co-wrote and co-produced “Deadpool 2”, was keen to really turn up the meta-fiction, cultural references and fourth-wall breaking up to eleven. Thanks to the directorial skill of David Leitch, everything he envisioned must have been materialized in the movie. Well, there was a Disney joke that was cut on account of ongoing negotiations, but that is beside the point. The point is, this movie is beautifully engineered to squeeze the laughs out of its audience in between the action set-pieces.
Take one of the trailers for example. It foreshadows a future Fox Marvel film called “X-Force”, and its shows a film scene where Wade recruits other mutant mercenaries to help him protect Russell from Cable’s vengeance. His ad hoc team is played by some big action-movie names (Brad Pitt?). Deadpool brands them the X-Force (while “ripping” the “Black Panther” salute) and deploys them to rescue the meaningful mutant kid from a prisoner transport. Long story short, the only X-Force recruit that matters in the movie is the “luck-powered” Domino (Zazie Beetz), who carries her own load of the action scenes.
In closing, there’s just so many things to see and catch in every split-second of every scene in “Deadpool 2”. Things from Wade calling Cable “Thanos” (Brolin actor allusion) to aping the Sharon Stone scene from “Basic Instinct” are par for the course in this near-surreal “super” antihero adventure. The action scenes also steal the show with their time-appropriate tones of exciting and rib-tickling, and there is also the undertone of heartwarming from when Wade (remembering his NDE with Vanessa) feels a familial bond with the angry Russell, and how that affection can change the future where Cable comes from.
Lest we forget, Brianna Hildebrand, who plays breakout “Deadpool” character Negasonic Teenage Warhead, also reprises her role in this sequel, though her airtime is a tad limited and also shared with Japanese-Australian actress Shioli Kutsuna as her girlfriend Yukio (a different sort from the character in 2014’s “The Wolverine”). That said, we encourage those who have plans to watch “Deadpool 2” to consider the MCU production practice, and not to leave their seats for at least the early part of the end credits. You will be treated to some awesome self-depreciative Ryan Reynolds black humor before you leave the theater.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

REBOOT of 90s Fantasy Drama Series “CHARMED” to Premiere on The CW in the Fall

From 1998 to 2006, there was actually one name that may arguably be the equal to “Harry Potter” in terms of popular magic-themed franchises with the general public. That name is “Charmed”, a fantasy drama series that aired on the now-defunct The WB network. Telling the adventures and personal lives of three sisters who are the most powerful witches of their time, “Charmed” drew a cult following that helped build up viewership for the relatively new The WB, and win several nominations and awards. Now, twelve years after the series ended, The WB’s successor The CW is doing a reboot.
E! News Online reports that The CW is looking to renew past glories of its predecessor network by picking up reboots of some popular The WB shows. One of these is “Charmed”, a series about three sisters who awaken as witches and stand watch over the supernatural layer under the modern world. The reboot will star Madeleine Mantock, Melonie Diaz and Sara Jeffery as the Vera sisters, a new and different take on the titular Charmed Ones, a move that has caught the ire not only of fanatics for the original series but certain members of the original cast themselves.
One of the most vocal critics to reviving “Charmed” in a new setting and characters detached from the first series was Holly Marie Combs, who portrayed original-generation Charmed One Piper Halliwell. Her January 2018 Twitter post belittled The CW as owning “Charmed” only as a label, while the franchise belongs to her cast-mates and the fans. Said fans were also dismissive of how The CW has emphasized the new “Charmed” as “fierce, funny, and feminist”, when the old one never needed to point that out. The CW Pedowitz has answered this hostility with an entreaty to “watch the reboot first”.
The CW’s renewal will focus on Macy, Mel and Maggie Vera, residents of the East Coast college community of Hilltowne, who are made aware of a hidden truth about themselves following the mysterious death of their mother. With their mastery of The Power of Three, they face the twofold task of vanquishing supernatural threats and “tearing down the patriarchy”. Two of the Vera sisters retain similar powers to their originals, the Halliwells, with Macy having the power to move and Mel the power to freeze. Maggie however has the power to mind-read. In addition, Mel is in a lesbian relationship.
“Charmed” is set to premiere on The CW this fall, paired with DC superhero series “Supergirl”. Other The WB shows seeing the light of day again include teen sci-fi drama “Roswell”. The CW-era supernatural series “The Vampire Diaries” is also set to get a spinoff.
Photo courtesy of


For most people who lived their “formidable years” in the mid to late 1990s, and were followers of mainstream pop music to boot, then there would be a hardwired list of musical groups from that period that will invariably be considered among the best and most popular of their time. One of those groups would be a “boy band” called the Backstreet Boys, who became an international phenomenon until the turn of the millennium. While they remained active in the 21st Century, their star has not quite recaptured its global shine. But perhaps a new album release might change things.
Backstreet’s back (Again); Alright!
By that, we mean that the Backstreet Boys have just released their first single in quite some time; the last such single, their last album even, was back in 2013, in fact. Billboard tells us that this new single, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, will be the first confirmed song in a forthcoming new album from the long-running vocal group, who at the latest has been performing in a Las Vegas residency since 2017. Furthermore, a music video of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” was also uploaded to VEVO on YouTube early this Thursday, May 17.
This new Backstreet Boys single, and its album, are the fruit of a new deal made by AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell and Nick Carter, with RCA Records. In an interview they talked of how they were impressed by how “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” turned out. Says Kevin, “The minute we heard this song we knew it was special. I geeked out over the piano and synths…Just makes you wanna listen over and over again.” Despite the similar title, the song is a different animal to the duet by Kiki Dee and Elton John from 1976.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” is produced by Stuart Crichton and Jamie Hartman, while its music video was directed by Rich + Tone. The MV showcases that the boys – really more men at this point in time –have not lost their touch in their Backstreet-style performance, singing and dancing at the same time. While they have put their Planet Hollywood residency on hold to work on the album, they plan to resume this engagement by July, after they go on a series of summer tours to promote their new offering. The Backstreet Boys turned 25 as a group in April.
“World Like This” was the last album released by the BSB in 2013 before this upcoming one. You can check out their “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” music video on YouTube here:
Photo courtesy of Billboard

KILAUEA Volcanic Eruption Triggers RED ALERT for BIG ISLAND, Hawaii

The month of May is turning out into a highly extended ordeal of fire for the residents of Hawaii’s Big Island. It began two weeks ago on the 3rd, when Kilauea Volcano began erupting on its eastern Rift Zone. This led to the recurrence now-famous Kilauea lava fountains, at times reaching up to 300 feet in height, accompanied by venting of gases. A strong earthquake the following day resulted in the opening of new fissures where lava began to pour forth. The Big Island’s Puna district was most severely affected by this volcanic episode, and it is only getting worse.
CNN reports that as of Tuesday, May 15, the US Geological Survey has issued a red alert covering the entirety of the Big Island in Hawaii, signaling that a major eruption at Kilauea is close to occurring and the outpour of volcanic ash has become a palpable risk to air traffic. That last was understandable considering the measurement of the largest ash plume from the rampaging volcano has been registered at 12,000 feet. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has projected that material from this and earlier ash plumes could now fall as far away as 12 miles from the summit crater.
Spokesperson Michelle Coombs of the USGS says her colleagues have yet to determine why Kilauea’s ash emissions escalated to such an alarming degree by Tuesday this week, but it was plain that the volcanic episode has made the airspace “very hazardous for aviation”. Aside from warning passenger and other flights off from Big Island, advisories have been issued to residents on the ground to begin evacuating away from the area, especially with the possibility of a violent phreatic eruption at one of the volcano’s top craters. Volcanic emissions are also a concern, with noxious gases from 21 recorded Kilauea-caused fissures.
That last part is a cause for concern with the Civil Defense Agency of Hawaii County, which encompasses all of Big Island. “Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe,” they warned. “This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.” Residents have advised fleeing residents to seek medical attention if they should have breathing difficulties close to the danger zone. Among the deadly gases noted to be emanating from the fissures is the fatal sulfur dioxide. In the meantime, lava flows have ruined residential areas nearby of Kilauea, with more eruptions likely to follow.
Photo courtesy of

SONY Buying Partial Share into “PEANUTS” of Charlie Brown Fame

One of the most internationally recognized syndicated comic strips was born in 1950 from the pen of cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. Over time, now-countless readers everywhere came to like the slice-of-life tales of that good old boy who cannot ever seem to kick the football – Charlie Brown – and the hyper-imaginative adventures of his pet beagle Snoopy. “Peanuts” also went on to expand into TV and film media, as well as become a goldmine for licensed merchandising. After Schulz died in 2000, his work’s brand was majority-acquired by Canadian company DHX Media; but now Sony is apparently making its own bid.
According to USA Today, the musical arm Japanese electronics giant Sony is taking up an offer by Halifax-based DHX Media to sell half their stake in Peanuts Worldwide, the holding company that now cares for the trademarks of the great franchise created by Charles M. Schulz. The deal was made known in Monday, May 14, wherein DHX Media signed off on giving part of their 80% majority share in Peanuts Worldwide to Sony Music Entertainment (SME). Thus, the shared ownership comes to 39% for SME and 41 to DHX Media. The remaining 20% remains under the ownership of Schulz’ family.
Just as they originally reassured American fans of Charlie Brown and friends in May of last year, when they made their “Peanuts” majority acquisition, DHX Media once again moves to assuage fears following the strategic agreement they made with Sony Music, which will pay them upwards of $185 million for their new portion of Peanuts Worldwide. DHX spokesperson Shaun Smith says, “The Peanuts characters, and the brand representation that Americans and other fans around the world love, will remain essentially the same. The Snoopy that Americans love is the same Snoopy that the Japanese love, and Canadians, for that matter.”
DHX Media is a production company specializing in children’s entertainment, with an impressive library of such properties as “Strawberry Shortcake”, the first 15 seasons of Cinar/Cookie Jar’s “Arthur”, and popular retro cartoons from DIC Entertainment. The decision by Sony to acquire a stake on “Peanuts” was due to their seeing the property as “world-class” and a means of growing their overall business. Japan is one of the major international markets for “Peanuts” merchandise, ranging from children’s clothing to accessories like decorated chopsticks. Schulz’ original comic strips have also been translated into Japanese in decades past, to extremely positive reader reception.
The acquisition by Sony of shares in Peanuts Worldwide from DHX Media is expected to become finalized by June 30.
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MARVEL STUDIOS Gets Writing Team for Future MCU Film “ETERNALS”

It has been hyped plenty of times now this year, on the first decade anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Marvel Studios, that there is a great conclusion to take place in this shared superhero setting. “Avengers: Infinity War” was considered to be the beginning of this end, that will come to fruiting with the fourth team film for next year. Many of the actors and actresses who have portrayed these familiar heroes have finally run their contracts through, and there is now the question on what other characters might fill in after them. Marvel Studios gave an answer.
The Hollywood Reporter has it that Marvel Studios has begun taking steps to develop “Eternals”, a new film based on characters from their comic books, and has even taken on the first major players in its production. They are Matthew K. Firpo and his cousin Ryan Firpo, who at present are working on the post-war dramatic thriller “Ruin”, with director Justin Kurzel and possibly starring Gal Gadot. The two are being tasked to script Eternals, based on Marvel comic-universe super-beings created by legendary artist Jack Kirby in 1976. It has yet to be revealed when the movie might be released.
The Eternals in Marvel Comics are prehistoric proto-humans from millions of years ago, who were experimented on by cosmic beings called the Celestials. Two variants of Celestial genetic manipulation resulted: the super-powered, un-aging and nearly immortal Eternals, and the Deviants who are physically altered to hideous forms and are often the basis for mythological monsters in ancient human superstitions. One Eternal-Deviant hybrid being is actually already prominent in the MCU at the latest: none other than the monstrously murderous Thanos, the current big bad of “Avengers: Infinity War” and the upcoming “Avengers 4”, and was portrayed by actor Josh Brolin.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige first broach the possibility of making an “Eternals” movie after the completion of the MCU Phase 3 series of movies, which will also conclude the mythic storyline thus far of all phases starting from the first one. The general aesthetic of the planned movie’s plot is the Eternals and Deviants fighting one another in the shadow of human history throughout the millennia, with supposed similar pseudo-political elements to the HBO series “Game of Thrones”. The proposed focus character is the Eternal Sersi, who in Marvel Comics had even been a member of the Avengers once.
While significant developments on “Eternals” have yet to unfold, the hired writing duo of Matthew and Ryan Firpo continues production of “Ruin”, about a former Nazi officer who hopes to atone for war-crimes by scouring post-WWII Germany, hunting and killing his fellow SS operatives. The film is slated for 2019.
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