Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Film and TV show audiences might tend to raise an eyebrow whenever two actors who have played the part of a couple in those media eventually end up marrying for real. That might go doubly so when the couple portrayed by those stars is anything but visibly in love.  One could say that about Jon Snow and the wildling Ygritte, the star-crossed characters from HBO’s cash cow fantasy series “Game of Thrones”. When Jon’s actor Kit Harrington announced that he was engaged to Ygritte’s actress Rose Leslie in September of last year, fans were caught by surprise at how close they turned out to be. Just as Ygritte relished in telling Jon Snow in the show, we knew nothing, really.

CNN has it that Kit Harrington has officially wed his “Game of Thrones” costar Rose Leslie this Saturday, June 23. The happy occasion was held in Aberdeen, Scotland which is the birthplace and childhood home of the Scottish actress, who was born to a Scottish noble family. That certainly seems a reversal of their roles from the HBO series where Harrington’s Jon Snow, despite being publicly known as a noble bastard out of wedlock, is actually of royal blood while Leslie’s Ygritte is an uncouth and murderous barbarian warrior woman.
The two stars, both 31 years of age, tied the knot at Aberdeenshire’s Rayne Church, with some of Harrington and Leslie’s “Game of Thrones” costars in attendance. It has been confirmed that Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) were among those from the show who were on hand to join the celebration. The wedding reception was moved almost next door to Wardhill Castle, another olden Scottish estate owned by Leslie’s family, which resides at Lickleyhead Castle in Auchleven, Aberdeenshire.
Both Kit Harrington and Rose Leslie hold prominent roles in “Game of Thrones”, adapted from the books of George R.R. Martin. Jon Snow, a bastard of the noble Stark family, enters the order of the Night’s Watch, guardians against barbarian incursions north of the Wall, where Jon meets Ygritte after being separated from his fellow watchmen. He and Ygritte form an attraction while Jon feigns defection to her wildling tribe, but returns to the Watch at the first opportunity, fueling Ygritte’s obsession with destroying the people of the south as vengeance against him.
The two meet for the last time in the fourth season during the wildling attack on the Night’s Watch stronghold, where despite her anger at Jon she hesitates in killing him and is mortally wounded in the fighting, her last words again deriding Jon for his ignorance as was her usual habit.
“Game of Thrones” will return for an eighth and final season next year on HBO. Kit Harrington remains on the primary cast as Jon Snow.
Images courtesy of USA Today and Game of Thrones Wiki

Monday, June 25, 2018


Way back in 2004, Pixar Animation’s movie for that year was of a genre that they have never tried their hand with before: superheroes. And in keeping with it being a family movie, “The Incredibles” starred a nuclear family of superheroes – retired costume crime-fighter mom and dad, their two elder children with emerging powers, and the hyperactive baby – all caught in a frenetic adventure of trying to foil a super-villain while keeping their heads down in a world where super-heroing is a crime. The result was a critical and box office success that was all but asking for a sequel.
It took fourteen years, but that sequel has finally arrived. “Incredibles 2” had been a long time in coming. One needs only to start watching the film in cinemas from the very beginning of the program, which features director Brad Bird and lead voice talents Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter and Samuel L. Jackson apologizing to the audience for the time gap, to understand just how much both the studio and the fans have waited for this day. Now the premiere date has come and gone, and those who watch may find that nothing has changed, in a good way.
Well, that was simplistic. There have been changes after almost a decade and a half since “The Incredibles”, but that lies in the visual and technical aspects. The characters and the world they move in have become so much more detailed, as if toeing the line between lifelike and cartoony. But everything just looks so good from the first; or maybe that was just my 3D viewing of “Incredibles 2”. Anyway, for all the changes in the quality of how it looks, the setting has not quite changed, as the sequel continues from the “fight the new villain” cliffhanger ending.
The ending hook that has the superhuman Parr family taking on the Underminer has been expanded on in a videogame adaptation on the PlayStation 2. That interpretation is no longer canon as we see how the battle plays out; not well. The baddie escapes and the heroes’ efforts to catch him only cause more property damage tarnishing whatever good will they got before. Furthermore, this debacle causes the shutdown of the government agency that facilitated the Super Relocation Act, forcing the Parrs and other supers to stick to their civilian covers permanently.
With their home still gone, Bob/Mr. Incredible (Nelson) and Helen/Elatigirl (Hunter) find their family close to the end of a rope, when hope comes in the form of a telecommunications company bigwig plus superhero fan, Winston Deavor (Bob Odendirk), who has formulated a way to influence public perception on superhero activity and called on the Parr couple plus their fellow hero Frozone (Jackson) to explain it. When it comes to the application of the plan however, Winston selects Elastigirl to be the face of superhero lobbying, even springing things like paying her and providing a home for the family. That means the jobless Bob must take over as the stay-at-home parent. Hilarity ensues.
Those who have seen the trailers know what occupies this portion of the film. Bob struggles to look after his and Helen’s children: Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Huck Milner taking over for Spencer Fox), and baby Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile). That last part is a problem considering Jack-Jack (as teased at the end of “The Incredibles”) is also super-powered, and has multiple abilities at that. Meanwhile his daughter Violet is wondering why her crush is avoiding her after learning her secret identity, while Dash is struggling with Math that makes no sense to Bob at all.
As for Helen, her role in making the public trust superheroes lies in showcasing how they can fight crime without damaging the neighborhood, and her powers aren’t as devastating as her husband’s or Frozone’s. With tech from Deavor’s company DevTech, invented by his sister Evelyn (Catherine Keener), Helen as Elastigirl is able to take video of her actions via costume-cam. And it does work, if the good word of foreign ambassadors (like the one voiced by Isabella Rossellini) and the appearance of other heroes both old and new (like Sophia Bush’s Voyd) were any indication.
Screenslaver 3 Pixar Post
But a greater menace is on the horizon with the Screenslaver, a techie super-villain who can brainwash people with a transmission that can be hacked into any system with a video screen. Said special effects for the brainwashing lights were actually found to have real unpleasant effects on epileptic viewers. It is great that not only advance audiences but theaters and even Disney-Pixar themselves have acknowledged the problem and actually moved quickly to address it. Aside from that, everything else is good as golden; the acting chops of the voice talents were perfection, as if they’d never been gone too long in characterizing the Incredibles.
The same applies for returning music composer Michael Giacchino, who was in charge of the first film’s score and his back for more; he has retained many of the samples from “The Incredibles” that have since become trademark leitmotifs of the world, and expanded on them further. Everything that makes “Incredibles 2” just as its title implies is due to the inspired directing of Brad Bird, who also reprises breakout fan character Edna Mode, costume designer for superheroes. Bird and his crew, and his stars, know full well how much this movie was anticipated by fans. I can tell you now, that “Incredibles 2” is everything they have waited for.
Images courtesy of Forbes, Inverse and Pixar Post

Saturday, June 23, 2018


The 1967 James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” was, despite is not-so-successful run compared to its predecessor movies, staked a small but fond memory for many in Japan, where most of the plot takes place and many of the scenes were shot. One particularly memorable action sequence involves Sean Connery’s Bond flying over a volcanic island in southwest Japan in a heavily armed auto-gyro and then fighting off a squad of helicopters. While the actual aerial battle was shot in Spain, the volcano during the flight was really in Japan. Said volcano, intermittently active, had a sudden eruption recently.
Reuters tells us that Shinmoedaki in Japan’s Kagoshima prefecture had an explosive eruption this Friday, June 22. The volcano, located on the southernmost main Japanese island of Kyushu some 985 kilometers away from Tokyo, had already undergone a brief eruption earlier in April; but this one is being theorized as having a connection to the earthquake measuring 6.1 in magnitude that hit Osaka just this Monday, June18. Shinoedaki’s eruption, which shot smoke and volcanic material into the air which fell as far as 1,100 meters away from the crater, barely lasted all day before quieting down again. As a precaution the Japan Self Defense Force has blocked access to the volcano’s peak, 1,421 meters high.
The Shinmoedaki volcano was featured in “You Only Live Twice”, the fifth official James Bond film produced by Eon Productions and United Artists in 1967, loosely adapted from the original book by Bond creator Ian Fleming. The volcano, which Bond scouted by air in the middle of the story as detailed above, turned out to be the secret rocket launching facility of terrorist organization SPECTRE, led by mastermind Ernst Stavro Bloefeld. Bond later assaults the hidden volcano base alongside ninjas from the Japanese secret service.
Little Nellie in flight
Japan is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an interconnecting series of oceanic trenches and volcanic belts and arcs that are influenced by activity of tectonic plates in the ocean floor near their locations. The country alone already has 110 volcanoes that are officially designated as active, and 47 of these are under constant surveillance for potential eruptions. The worst record of fatalities by volcanic eruption recorded by Japan in almost a century happened in 2014 when Mount Ontake on the main island of Honshu erupted; 63 people were killed by the volcanic activity.
Images from Forbes and James Bond Film Review

US Government Agencies at a Loss on Next Move Regarding FLIP-FLOPPING of PRES. TRUMP on ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION POLICY Causing SEPARATIONS

One of the pillars of policy for the Presidency of Donald Trump in the US is the unbending, unflinching policy of little to zero tolerance for illegal immigration, particularly from places as varied as Mexico to the south, to the nations of the Middle East. The first years of his term have focused on efforts to have a US-Mexico border wall built, to fighting with the courts over executive decisions detailing immigration bans. Recently he has been under fire anew for his immigration policy causing illegal parents getting separated from their children at the border. Now Trump is changing course.
CNN reports that US President Donald Trump has signed a new executive order that dials back on his earlier policy, enacted since May, that had the Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard intensify operations against illegal immigrants crossing the border with Mexico, which ended with the offenders in US custody and their children, if any were brought along, being left behind the line. The practice has caused some heartbreaking stories filtering into news and social media and renewed criticism for Trump’s administration. This time, changes would allow illegal immigrants to stay together with their children while in custody.
However, since the new EO procedures do not apply to the families of illegals that have already been separated, a big question mark hangs over the air regarding their fates. Some 2,300 separated children are currently in government shelters while their parents or relatives are bogged down in immigration proceedings. An administration official remarks that they are still discussing how best to implement the EO reforms to the earlier zero tolerance policy, joining a chorus of often conflicting pronouncements from other officials, such as what would happen to the accompanying immigrant children in the new system, where they are only held with their family for 20 days before being released.
Furthermore, the procedure of keeping illegally crossing families in the care of Homeland Security is being put to question by the Justice Department, originally the agency that confined the illegal adults while their children were separated from them. And President Trump himself is contributing to the confusion on the effectiveness of his EO by implying that it is not universal and some illegal families will still get separated. This part however, he blames on loopholes to the immigration policy thrown up by Democrats in the government and contrary court orders.
In a press conference following the EO signing on June 20, Counselor to the Attorney General Gene Hamilton spoke of an implementation phase for the policy change between Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, but he would give no clarification or further details on that regard.
Image courtesy of Twitter

Friday, June 22, 2018

DISNEY Pushes Back at COMCAST Bid for FOX Media Assets with INCREASE in Initial Bid

It had been the hot topic of the entertainment mass media industry. The Walt Disney Company late last year announced its intentions to acquire some choice media assets from 21st Century Fox. That deal includes TV channels, stakes in British and Indian media networks, and the 20th Century Fox film studio. Though the process was expected to take about a year and a half to finalize, it felt like a done deal. Everything changed when Comcast threw its hat into the ring with a higher, all-cash asking price. The House of Mouse however has counterattacked by upping its own offer.
As The Hollywood Reporter tells us, Disney has answered the challenge of Comcast by increasing its bid for the bundle of media assets from Fox on Wednesday, June 20. After the rival media giant placed $65 billion, all in cash, for the prospective acquisitions, Disney took its initial offer of $54.2 billion in stock, made in December last year, and raised it to $71.3 billion in combined cash and stock. This development came days following the confirmation of a merger between AT&T and WarnerMedia on June 14, following a win by AT&T in having a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit junked.
In an analyst call that same day, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger made assurances that their company had more of an edge over Comcast in terms of getting the nod from regulators for acquiring the Fox assets. “We have a much better opportunity in terms of approval and the timing of that approval than Comcast does in this case,” he said. “We are confident that we have a clear and timely path to approval.” Furthermore, Iger points out, the regulators will be more concerned with Comcast winning its bid, as their top position in the US broadband market would give them an even more unfair advantage than Disney winning.
More importantly, Disney and Fox have already been at the negotiating table for half a year now concerning the acquisition, before Comcast decided to complicate things. Iger elaborated that their new bid of $71.3 billion for the Fox media assets is comprised of $38 per share in either cash or Disney stock. And the House of Mouse will also shoulder $13.8 billion worth of net debt from Fox, meaning it would actually cost $85.1 billion at the end of negotiation.
In detail, aside from 20th Century Fox, Disney stands to gain Fox TV, FX, NatGeo, the Star India network, the 30% Fox stake in Hulu, a 39% stake on UK-based Sky plc, and Endemol Shine.
Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources

XIAOMI Does IPO in HONG KONG; First Day Performance MIXED

By this point in time it is an accepted fact that Chinese electronics manufacturers not only make nice gadgets that can hold its own against more established international brands, but they’re more affordable to a greater number of consumers as well. Case in point, Beijing-based Xiaomi has entrenched itself in the Asian market with their smartphones that are decently powerful at a fraction of global prices. They have even begun making inroads to Europe with their gadgets, and have made their initial public offering on Hong Kong Thursday. Still, first signs of the IPO are that they have fallen short.
ABS-CBN News reports that Xiaomi’s going public at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on June 21 was not quite as big as they have estimated. The Chinese smartphone maker had hoped that their IPO could garner upwards of $10 billion, but as the afternoon set in they have only managed $6.1 billion, just a hop over halfway towards their goal. At present, Xiaomi has some 2.18 billion shares to offer interested investors, each worth around HK$17-HK$22. That only puts the company’s value at $53.9-$69.8 billion. To compare, fellow Chinese tech firm Alibaba made its IPO at Wall Street in 2014 for $25 billion, and got a valuation of $100 billion.
The reasons for Xiaomi’s subpar entry into public trading are various. First, despite being known as an electronic gadget manufacturer, the company’s business model is being interpreted differently on the market, and part of that is Xiaomi’s own misstep. Its CEO Lei Jun describes Xiaomi as an internet service brand, and that its primary profits are from online games and advertising, never mind that their smartphones and other hardware now bring in 70% of their revenues. With the Chinese market a pitched battlefield they have expanded abroad, even opening a flagship store in Paris, France.
Another factor in the lackluster Xiaomi IPO was its being entangled in the delays of setting up Chinese Depository Receipts. The CDR system was implemented by the Chinese government, to have China-based companies simultaneously list on the country’s own stock exchange list as when they list abroad. Xiaomi was supposed to time their Hong Kong IPO with the launch of CDRs, but on Tuesday, June 19, they decided to get the HK IPO done first before listing on the CDR. This cancellation was noted by the China Securities Regulatory Commission.
This 2018, Xiaomi ranked the 4th largest worldwide shipper of smartphones, fourth place behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei. From January to March alone they shipped 28 million to all markets they have established thus far.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

First Poster Up for New “ROCKY” Spinoff Sequel “CREED II”

Almost three years ago in 2015, a film premiered that was never expected but absolutely welcomed all the same: a spinoff sequel of the six-part sports drama epic “Rocky” that was started by Sylvester Stallone. “Creed” meanwhile focuses on Adonis Creed, son of Rocky Balboa’s rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed. Directed by Ryan Coogler, “Creed” was a critical and box office success, spurring clamor from audiences for a sequel. A “Creed II” was planned, only for director Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan to be called to join Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther”. With that done, the two can finally resume Creed’s story.
Entertainment Weekly tells us that MGM and Warner Bros. have finally decided to start the promotional ball rolling for the somewhat delayed but still hotly anticipated sequel to 2015’s “Creed”. This Tuesday, June 19, they released on social media the first poster for “Creed II”, and it was attention-grabbing in all its stark simplicity. Shot only in black and white, the image is of Michael B. Jordan in bare-chested glory as Adonis Creed, geared for a boxing match and wearing the familiar Creed red-and-white striped trunks. The accompanying caption appears to be the upcoming film’s initial tagline: “Know his name”.
While Ryan Coogler is also part of the project, it is no longer as director but as executive producer, with his former duty now filled by Steven Caple Jr. The first preview of “Creed II” also includes a brief blurb on its plot, based on a script written by Sylvester Stallone himself. Following the events of the first film, “Donny” (Jordan) has his life on a holding pattern, trying to balance between personal obligations and preparing for his next big boxing match. Little does he and trainer Rocky Balboa (Stallone) expect that their next challenge is a shadow connected to the past, Rocky’s and Apollo’s.
Said shadow from the past is none other than Ivan Drago, Balboa’s opponent in “Rocky IV” portrayed by Dolph Lundgren, who reprises the role; he is accompanied by his son and heir to his sporting legacy. Drago Jr.’s name has not been revealed but he will be played by real-life pro boxer Florian Munteanu, similar to how British slugger Anthony Bellew was cast as the antagonist boxer in “Creed”. More than just Donny’s next big fight, this confrontation is also a journey to rediscover what it means to be a champion, and confronting the past.
Other than Jordan and Stallone, Tessa Thompson is also coming back as Donny Creed’s love interest Bianca. MGM and Warner Bros. are also announcing the first trailer for the film, to be revealed this Wednesday, January 20. “Creed II” has yet to be given a premiere date as of now.
Image courtesy of Hollywood Life

CHRIS CORNELL’S DAUGHTER Gives Tribute to Dad on FATHER’S DAY with YouTube Upload of their Duet of Song by PRINCE

It is now over a year since the tragic passing of rock star Chris Cornell, lead vocalist of Soundgarden and Audioslave fame. He had been found in his hotel room following a concert performance in Detroit May of 2017, his death ruled as a suicide by hanging. This event caused a ripple effect in that Cornell’s fellow rocker and friend, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, would take his own life two months afterwards, on Cornell’s birthday to boot. His loss was felt deeply by his family that last Sunday his daughter would share a recording of a duet they made as a Father’s Day tribute.
CNN tells us that last Sunday, June 17 – Father’s Day – Chris Cornell’s 13-year-old daughter Toni uploaded a video on her late father’s YouTube channel. It was an audio recording of the two of them singing a duet of “Nothing Compares 2 You” by Prince, although nowadays the more easily remembered version was the cover done by Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor, which made her a breakout star in 1990. Toni Cornell accompanied her video upload with a description reading: “I love you and miss you so much. You were the best father anyone could ask for.”
Writing on, Toni remarked on her relationship with her father Chris, describing it as special, that he had always been around when she needed it, that he gave her courage and believed in her. She concluded the dedication with: “Recording this song with you was a special and amazing experience I wish I could repeat 100 times over and I know you would too. Happy Father’s Day daddy, nothing compares to you.” This is the second Father’s Day dedicatory gesture Toni has done online in the wake of Chris’s death; the first one being a post on his Facebook page.
Interestingly, the original writer-composer of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, Prince, himself passed away in April of 2016. Chris Cornell himself paid his own tribute to the recording star the day after his death, with his solo cover of the song. It was not established when he recorded his duet version with his daughter, only that it was publicly posted Sunday this week. Toni Cornell mentioned how her father introduced her to Prince’s music. Her 2017 Father’s Day Facebook post also mentioned another song, “The Beautiful Ones”, which she first knew about back when she and her dad watched Prince’s 1984 rock musical movie, “Purple Rain”.


By this time of the year many of the major award-giving bodies have handed out their accolades this year to the worthies of the year before, in the various media of film, television and music. On Monday of this week it was the turn of MTV to present their golden popcorn buckets once more. This was the MTV Movie and TV Awards, on numbers the 27th edition of the ceremony and the second in its history to honor the best of what the big and small screens have to offer together.
This 2018 was full of films and TV shows with multiple nominations according to Entertainment Weekly. Hosted by Tiffany Haddish and, with featured performances from the likes of Chloe x Halley and the team-up of DJ Mustard and Nick Jonas, two elements were prominent during the awarding ceremony recorded Saturday at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar, and broadcast on Viacom networks June 18. They were Wakanda and the 1980s, subjects of the most successful movie and TV series, respectively for these awards. Seven award nominations were the common achievement of Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” and Netflix’s “Stranger Things”, and at the conclusion of the evening they both won four apiece.
“Black Panther”, which premiered this February, made a respectable showing for itself at the film front of the MTV Movie and TV Awards for 2018. By itself it won Best Movie (beating fellow MCU installment “Avengers: Infinity War”), while its star Chadwick Boseman got Best Performance in a Movie and Best Hero for his role of T’Challa, followed by Michael B. Jordan as Best Villain for Killmonger. For their part, the 80s-set series “Stranger Things” walked away with Best Show, Best Performance in a Show with Millie Bobby Brown, Most Frightened Performance and Best Musical Moment, for its second season.
Other MTV Movie and TV Awards of note include “Love, Simon” for Best Kiss, the kiddie cast of horror masterpiece “IT” for Best On-Screen Team, host Tiffany Haddish herself for Best Comedic Performance in “Girls Trip”, Madelaine Petsch of “Riverdale” for Scene Stealer in her role as Cheryl Blossom, 2017’s “Wonder Woman” for Best Fight (her vs. German soldiers), “Gaga: Five Foot Two” for Best Music Documentary, and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” for Best Reality Series. Finally, Chris “Star-Lord/Owen Grady” Pratt received the special MTV Generation Award while Lena Waithe (“Ready Player One”) was awarded as MTV Trailblazer to cap off the successful evening.
Images courtesy of Facebook and International Business Times India