Friday, August 31, 2018


For those who still dedicatedly follow the music releases of rap idol Marshall “Eminem” Mathers, they are sure to still be playing out his album “Revival”, which came out for the 2017 Holidays. Polarized critic reviews and backlash from old-school fans aside, nothing stopped “Revival” from number 1 debuts on five countries including the US. Collaborations with luminaries such as BeyoncĂ© and Ed Sheeran on some of its featured songs were a major popularity factor. But from right out of nowhere this week, Eminem suddenly took the music world by surprise by his follow-up album, only 8 months after “Revival”.
Rolling Stone has it that Eminem announced a new album, “Kamikaze”, midnight of Thursday, August 30, with the release following the very next day. A whopping 13 songs are in this full album package, which was a big shocker that it was in the works so soon after the 19-track “Revival” that rolled out December of last year. One particular song of note that will get attention in “Kamikaze” is also included in the soundtrack for Sony Pictures’ Marvel superhero movie “Venom” starring Tom Hardy. Eminem even teased a snippet from that track on Twitter, just before the album announcement.
Just like with “Revival”, the hip hop superstar also worked with a number of guest performers on some of the songs. These comprise two track collaborations with Jessie Reyes, one with Joyner Lucas and one with Royce 5’9”, Eminem’s partner in the Bad Meets Evil performing duo. This was a reciprocal team-up following Mathers’ own guest appearance in the music video for Royce’s song “Caterpillar”. Album art for “Kamikaze” was also revealed, with observers pointing out similarities to the cover of 1986 Beastie Boys album “License to Ill”; it depicts a fighter plane rear end with the tail number FU-2.
Subject that Eminem raps to on this album, his 10th on a studio, include the usual suspects: President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the media, even the Grammys. Mathers even assured audiences in his tweet of the album art that he was not “overthinking” on the tracks’ themes.
Eminem and Dr. Dre are co-executive producers for “Kamikaze”, and are joined in producing credits by Mike Will Made It (“Greatest” and “Fall”), Illadaproducer, Ronny J, Jeremy “Backpack” Miller, Boi-1da & Jahaan Sweet, Tay Keith, Tim Suby, Fred Ball and S1. The album is out now on digital platforms, such as Apple Music and iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and other providers.
Image courtesy of Variety

SARAH GERONIMO Does It Again with Prime Acting and Singing Performance in VIVA’s “MISS GRANNY”

It is one of those mysterious supernaturally-rooted plots that require two stars, one older and the other younger, sharing a single role: an older person via magical means being rejuvenated into the prime of his youth, and all the potential things he can do with his “new” life. Matthew Perry and Zac Efron did that in 2009 with “17 Again”. In 2014 Korean studio CJ Entertainment released their take on the concept with a female main character: “Susanghan Geunyeo”, literally “Suspicious Girl” but given the alternate English title “Miss Granny”. It was a great regional hit that the Philippines decided to try their hand on producing our very own remake.
Those who were lucky enough to see the original Korean version would notice that its storyline was for the most part transplanted effectively into a Filipino setting. “Miss Granny” starts with Fely, a 70-something grandma who feels she has nothing left to do in life after raising her son as a widowed mother, into a successful professional with his own family whom she lives with.
Actress Nova Villa, whom I remember best in the comedy genre, shows her drama chops by portraying a listless senior citizen who vents her personal frustrations by snarking at everybody around her: her fellow employee at a cafeteria for a senior citizens’ home who has nursed a crush on her for so long; an affluent granny in the home who gets on her nerves, her daughter-in-law who is on the verge of a breakdown; everyone.
Fely stumbles onto a second chance to live life freely in the form of a mysterious photo studio that catches her eye for displaying a portrait of her fave international actress Audrey Hepburn. The equally enigmatic photographer accepts her request for a photo, and the next time Fely looks into a reflective surface she is shocked to discover that she is young again: the spitting image of Sarah Geronimo, even.
And now we get to the primary star of “Miss Granny”. Sarah G is wonderfully awesome taking the role of a rejuvenated Fely as portrayed by Nova Villa. Having seen Nova in sitcoms while growing up in the nineties, I would consider myself quite familiar with her acting quirks and body language, and Sarah takes on all of them with a natural ease; you would believe she is the elder character made young. So we have Fely deciding to take advantage of her newfound freedom, assuming the identity of “Odrey” (after Hepburn) and getting the star’s famous “Roman Holiday” haircut.
But there is no getting away from interacting with the people around her of course. Fely-as-Odrey becomes a tenant on the apartment run by her old cafeteria workmate Bert (Boboy Garovillo), who learns her secret and finally confesses his devotion (which naturally looks weird to observers due to the physical age difference). When Odrey decides to sing at the cafeteria on a whim, she also catches the simultaneous attention of her grandson, aspiring band artist Jeboy (James Reid) and TV music producer Lorenz (Xian Lim).
Reid is full-throttle charming young heartthrob as the semi-slacker teen who is sweet on his grandma Fely, but is attracted talent-wise to the mysterious Odrey. He talks her into being the vocalist for his band, and in turn she steers him away from his metal fare towards more “wholesome” songs. This is a film starring Sarah G after all, so we get plenty of music numbers so she can perform. Again she proves herself to be the Sharon Cuneta of this generation, with equal and complementary mastery of singing and acting. Being able to make oldie songs sound like contemporary listening music is a gift. The “Miss Granny” Official Soundtrack boats five songs, four by Sarah and one by “Voice Kids” alumna Ataska Mercado, who is also in the film as Jeboy’s apathetic younger sister.
Of course, it would make for a boring story if there are no obstacles to Odrey’s fun. She herself is feeling conflicted over how her son and his wife (Nonie Buencamino and Lotlot De Leon) seem to be overly concern for her disappearance as Fely, when before she was all but told to move out due to health concerns with the stressed mother’s chafing under her way of doing things. Odrey also tries to handle how much her grandson Jeboy and their band’s new producer Lorenz are into her, before it escalates into an unwanted triangle. And then there is the sudden discovery that her newfound youth can be undone if she bleeds or loses blood. When an accident visits the family, Odrey/Fely would have to make an important choice.
A Korean watching “Miss Granny”, directed by Joyce Bernal for Viva Films, might judge it to be a faithful adaptation of their original movie. That is good, but what is even better is how much our Filipino version stands on its own, to the point that newcomers would be surprised to learn that it is a remake of a foreign film. That, in my view, is a major positive characteristic of a good adaptation, and with the highly-practiced hand of Miss Bernal on all things, it came out beautifully with just the right amounts of humor, drama and beautiful music. Sarah Geronimo fans will see it as a matter of course, but Filipino moviegoers looking for a great film will be very pleased with this. Rating 5/5

GROWING and EVOLVING with KATHNIEL in “THE HOWS OF US”; Rakes P35M on First Day!

A lot of popular love teams in Philippine Showbiz tend to start when the stars involved are in their teens, the better to mine interest and adoration from that massive chunk of Filipino media fandom. Sometimes that is as far as the team-up will go. But if the pairing is good then it will last for years, with the tandem getting to evolve their dynamics from teeny roles and projects to something meatier and mature. That is what the latest cinematic outing by Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla is gunning for, as seen in Star Cinema’s “The Hows of Us”.

Cathy Garcia-Molina is on her sophomore project in directing the massively influential Kathniel love team since they first worked together on 2014’s “She’s Dating the Gangster”, though needless to say I have followed the successful showbiz journey of Kathryn and Daniel for much longer than that. Still, taking “Gangster” into consideration helps to highlight the amount of growth has already transpired in four years; the lead stars are still undoubtedly Kathniel to fans, but are now older and wiser as performers, in a manner of speaking. The fact that they play a pair of exes meeting again after a period of separation – prior to which, they have cohabited without marrying under one roof – underlines this.
This time around our Kathniel duo are George (short for Georgina) and Primo, who meet again after a bitter parting of ways in the same house they lived in until everything fell apart. Their story is told in flashback. Initially meeting in high school (a sendup to their earlier roles), the two form a surprisingly close relationship, helped along by George’s “Tita Lola” (Susan Africa) giving them her home to reside in while they plan for their future: Primo to lead his band to stardom and George to finish medical school and become a doctor.
But the course of love does not run smooth. As the years pass the same qualities that attracted George to Primo turn out to hold him – and her – down. Primo’s frustrated musical journey hobbles George’s medical studies. Lack of prospects and funds lead George to do part-time work. It is a slice of reality in action. But when George unleashes her pent-up anger one bad evening, Primo walks out of her life. And that is when the plot really begins.
In the present time, George is making ready to sell her late Lola Tita’s house to fund an eye operation for her younger brother. But Primo returns from a sojourn with his DH family in Italy to try and set things right. Friction ensues between the two; so do a lot of delightful rom-com hijinks. This is the best time to see just how far the Kathniel love team has come in their portrayal of the dynamics of two people in a relationship (or formerly). Kathryn has never looked as good in film as this, retaining her trademark petite Asian charm but also showing she is a big girl now.
Daniel does not drop the ball in his court either. He is just so good at making you look at him whenever he is on scene, with his out-of-the-box characterization coupled with the Padilla charisma. I may have mentioned in the past how Daniel seems to do his own take on elements of character archetypes played by Father Rommel and Uncle Robin Padilla. Now, his acting is truly his own, and it is as effective as ever if the squeals of girls in my movie viewing audience were any indication. His and Kathryn’s dynamics are a study in acting maturity.
While it is easy to pretend that Kathniel are the only actors in “The Hows of Us”, we need to give credit to their costars too. Aside from Susan Africa, we have veteran actress Jean Garcia and young singing heartthrob Darren Espanto as George’s mom Baby and brother Yohan. Garcia gets plenty of acting done too as a single parent pretending to be a widow to bury the pain of her own separation. Darren is adorable as the diabetic sibling slowly losing his eyesight, but might get a reprieve if the sale of his sister’s home goes off as planned.
Other cast members who did well on this film include Alwyn Uytingco and newbie Juan Miguel Severro as Primo and George’s respective best friends, serving as sounding boards for what the two plans to do with their situation. Odette Khan appears in a minor yet significant role as a prospective buyer of the house, but whose insight might be the ticket for the exes to return to being on the same page.
What is perhaps much better than just fawning over a love team you like would be to be able to see that romantic acting tandem last a long time, and grow old just as you yourself are. “The Hows of Us” does just that with the unbeatable Kathniel combination. This movie did not just make a P35 million first-day box-office draw for only staying “as is”. It evolved with the lead stars, and that is definitely worth your ticket price. Rating 5/5.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

US OPEN 2018 Day 2 Plagued with HEAT-RELATED Player “RETIREMENTS”

On Monday this week, the fourth and final Grand Slam event of tennis for 2018 started its contest at its usual spot at Flushing Meadows, New York City. The US Open of this year is also something of an end to a brief era in Grand Slam history where there are 32 seeded players in the tournament ever since the number was increased in 2001; the number of seeds would return to the original 16 by 2019. But that is not the only thing this US Open is being known for. It is also garnering a harsh rep for forcing players to compete in punishing heat, leading to the inevitable.
BBC has it that on Tuesday, August 28, the summer heat has made the playing courts for the 2018 US Open into health hazards. With recorded temperatures nearing 38°C (100°F) and worsened by a 50% increase in humidity levels, it was understandable that about six US Open competitors were forced to retire from their scheduled matches on account of “dangerous” playing conditions. Of the six, five players bowed out explicitly due to “heat-related” issues: Stefano Travaglia (Italy), Ricardas Berankis (Lithuania), Leonardo Mayer (Argentina), Mikhail Youzhny (Russia) and Filip Krajinovic (Serbia).
“They were lucky they only had retirements,” commented tennis world number 60 Julien Benneteau of France, who managed to win his day 2 match but was of the opinion that all noontime matches should have been postponed for the benefit of the players. He is not alone in this regard; Novak Djokovic, fresh from his Wimbledon triumph, remarked that winning his Men’s Singles 1st Round match against Marton Fucsovics on that hot Tuesday was a chore. He also said that the debilitating physical effect of the extreme temperatures on some of the players for Day 2 was disheartening in severity.
It was the men’s division of the US Open that was adversely affected by player retirements due to the ATP governing body having a discretionary rule policy for deciding when to call off matches on account of the heat. The women’s WTA on the other hand has an extreme heat policy that does take temperature reports into consideration. It was decided by the organizers due to the events of Tuesday that the men’s matches will implement an extreme heat policy as well, a divisional first. This allowed for rest breaks after set 3 in men’s matches if either or both players want; women’s breaks occur between sets 2 and 3.
That comes rather late for Mikhail Youzhny, former tennis world number 8. Following his match retirement in the US Open Tuesday, he will retire permanently from the sport next month.
Image from New York Post


On some social media platforms, there is a system for identity verification that proves to the system, and the followers of one’s account, that they are really who they say they are. Twitter is one of the most famous account-verifying networks. So is Instagram, one of the pioneering image-sharing platforms for mobile that is now a Facebook subsidiary. Despite that, a remarkably few Instagram accounts have been duly verified, as indicated by a blue check mark on a user’s ID image. It seemed so hard and complicated to authenticate on Instagram, but the platform appears to be changing that now.
TechCrunch reports that Instagram is easing up on and increasing the number of means by which a user can verify their identities on the platform. There is now a new method for authenticating accounts on their service that would be made available. It is granted and enabled for celebrity Instagrammers as well as most accounts with large numbers of followers. To check if your own Instagram page is good for verification, you can go to the app’s “Settings” menu which has a new “Request Verification” option. Here they can share their account name, full name and an attached file copy of any legal or business ID they have in possession.
Once the pertinent information and documents are sent (Instagram of course will not share personal info to the public), then the user is left to wait for a notification on their account verification, whether approved or rejected. If it is the latter, then the user must wait again for 30 days after receipt of the notification before they can try to apply for authentication again. Instagram will judge accounts for verification based on authenticity (the personal info is real), unique (user only has one Instagram account), complete (account is public, with filled-out info and at least one post), and finally “notability” (account represents a well-known and highly-searched entity or individual).
It is interesting to note that while there are a lot of celebrities and big brands on Instagram, some of them do not have the check-mark indicator of a verified account on the platform even when they are already prominent to the public. There have even been reports of some Instagrammers who have resorted to black market connections in order to have their accounts verified via dubious and unlawful shortcuts.
In other updates, Instagram is now also offering app support for third-party authentication software. This enables users to securely log onto their accounts by means of a two-factor identity verification process including various authentication apps available on the App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Android. These features have been introduced slowly and will eventually cover the global Instgram user-base over the following weeks.
Image courtesy of


The thing about superhero visual media is that there have been so many retellings of certain stories in the original comics that the TV and movie studios can create multiple versions of one character. In the example of Warner Bros. and DC Comics, there are different takes on Batman villain Raz al-Ghul in The CW’s “Arrow” and Fox TV’s “Gotham”. Next on the duplicate list is the Dark knight’s nemesis Joker. Aside from the DCEU version played by Jared Leto, a new “Joker” movie has Joaquin Phoenix in the role. And he will be joined by another duplicate character soon.
As Variety tells it, actor Alec Baldwin has been tapped by Warner Bros. for their non-Extended Universe DC film “Joker”, about the Clown Prince of Crime. He will be taking the role of Thomas Wayne, Gotham City doctor, philanthropist and (of course) father of Bruce Wayne, whose murder alongside his wife inspired their son to become Batman. Word of the casting was revealed by an undisclosed source that has not been cleared to publicly speak about it until Warner-DC does. Still, alleged plot details from a preliminary “Joker” script apparently hints that Baldwin’s casting is connected to a recent role.
Since the start of the Presidency of Donald Trump, Alec Baldwin has been closely identified with his satirical lampooning of the bombastic business mogul turned statesman on “Saturday Night Live”. The Hollywood Reporter says that the movie script, co-written by Todd Phillips of “The Hangover”, gives an altered portrayal of the dignified and compassionate Dr. Wayne, making him come across as a younger eighties-era Donald Trump, tanned in complexion and cheesy in dialogue. One has to wonder if the casting was due to Baldwin’s comedic portrayal of President Trump, for which he has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.
Thomas Wayne has been a prominent flashback character in Batman-related media. His short film appearances were played by David Baxt (“Batman” 1989), Linus Roache (“Batman Begins” 2005) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” 2016). On TV, he appears in the “Gotham” pilot played by Grayson McCouch.
Co-writing with Todd Phillips is Scott Silver, while Joaquin Phoenix and Alec Baldwin are joined in the announced cast by Zazie Beetz, Marc Maron and Robert De Niro, who portrays a TV talk-show host who apparently is a trigger for the insanity of the man that would become the Joker. Warner Bros. has given a green light to start full production of “Joker” by September, with its initial shooting budget pegged at around $55 billion.
Image courtesy of SuperHeroHype

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: NAIA Shutdown Unwanted ACCIDENT; Response Quick as Possible

Two weeks ago this August was one of the most debilitating periods of operation for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). It began with an aircraft landing mishap that left a Xiamen Airlines flight from China damaged and on the grass next to a runway following a failed landing. Stalled efforts to remove the plane during rainy weather led to an airport closure – extended multiple times over two days – that led to mass flight cancellations before airline time tables were normalized almost a week later. With inquiries ongoing and blame being thrown about, the Transportation Secretary made apologies and explanations.
ABS-CBN News reports that Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) stated that the Xiamen Airlines flight mishap and the resulting NAIA shutdown was an accident. During a Senate hearing held today, August 29, Tudage reiterated that airport authorities did their best to remove the Boeing 737 jetliner of Xiamen from the side of the main runway in the shortest possible time, only to be bogged down by heavy rains. The slow retrieval ruined numerous airport timetables and stranded upwards to ten thousand passengers and more, not just in NAIA but in other major airports in the country.
“I am deeply sorry for the inconveniences caused by the incident,” said Tugade. “I apologize to all our kababayans who were looking forward to a fun holiday. I apologize to our OFWs who missed their flights.” The secretary is aware that many of the affected outgoing passengers were Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) trying to make it back to their employers on allotted dates, and that they now risked being laid off or put in jail for breach of contract. Added Secretary Tugade, “We are not here to justify what happened. We are here to say that these things do happen. It was an accident no one wanted and we responded as fast as we could. We tried to minimize the inconveniences the way we could.”
On the part of Xiamen Airlines, whose aircraft was the cause of the whole mess, the Chinese company has offered its “sincerest apologies” to the Manila International Airport Authority, according to its General Manager Ed Monreal. They have also given the statement of the Chinese pilot of the skidded plane, who also blames the rains at the time for the accident. The Xiamen flight passed on its initial landing attempt at the NAIA main runway due to the inclement weather, and was on its second attempt when the accident occurred.
Image courtesy of Channel NewsAsia

Overzealous FAN Runs After JAY-Z and BEYONCÉ at CONCERT’S End

It has been said that one of the strongest power couples in the music scene is the husband and wife tandem of Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ©. The former is acclaimed as one of the greatest rappers and overall musicians of all time while the latter is no slouch either as a breakout solo act from the R&B girl group Destiny’s Child, and a pillar of contemporary music herself. Their 2008 marriage, without much publicity, was both happy (with three children) and financially successful with their collaborations. And the fans love them. A recent incident even illustrated the levels of fandom obsession.
Entertainment Tonight has it that a weekend concert with BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z had a dramatic and rather chaotic finish due to the sudden appearance of an overzealous fan onstage. The couple was performing Saturday, August 25, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as part of their “On the Run II” tour. Upon the two finishing their last song of the night and walking hand in hand offstage, a man wearing a white athletic jersey abruptly stumbled onto the stage and made a beeline for where BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z exited, even fighting fiercely with security personnel who appeared to detain him.
At first, the backup dancers and musicians on stage were as dumbstruck as the audience at what just transpired. But soon enough the performers streamed towards backstage to help subdue the intruder, who in fact was able to fend off anyone trying to restrain him until he eventually tired and was escorted from the stage. It was not made clear if the mad fan was somehow able to get close enough to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, but his stunt was caught on camera by the audience and shared on social media. Beyoncé rep Yvette Noel-Schure later posted on Instagram that nothing happened to the two and that their follow-up concert at the same venue the next day will happen as planned.

The Atlanta concerts were only another stop in what has been a sold-out international tour by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and wife BeyoncĂ©. One of their earlier stops prior to this incident was at Detroit, where they dedicated the performance to Aretha Franklin following news that she had been put in hospice care. Franklin passed away on August 18, only mere days following that On the Run II concert in Detroit. Further back on the Landover, Maryland stop of the tour, media were quick to notice former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama as part of the cheering, dancing concert crowd while the Carters rocked the stage that night.
Image courtesy of The Inquisitr