Wednesday, December 29, 2021

“PINOY BIG BROTHER: KUMUNITY SEASON 10” FINAL 5 Celebrity Housemates Revealed


It is interesting to observe the evolution of a television program on account of circumstances beyond control. ABS-CBN scored a coup in securing the local production rights for international reality show franchise “Big Brother.” Not even the pandemic and the shutdown of their TV station was enough to keep their most recent seasons going. To point out, “Pinoy Big Brother: Kumunity Season 10” started last October, the second season produced in partnership with local video-share e-commerce social media network Kumu. The initial batch of celebrity housemates has since been whittled down from the initial number of 17, to just five.

As reported by The Manila Bulletin, the last remaining housemates of the celebrity phase of “Pinoy Big Brother: Kumunity Season 10” have been declared as the Celebrity Final 5 this past Monday, December 27. They also represent a nice and broad regional spectrum of representation across the nation, in addition to their celebrity status. Without further ado, the latest PBB Celebrity Final 5: Batangas volleyball queen Alyssa Valdez, Siargao singer Anj Salvacion, CDO comedian Brenda Mage, Cavite viral vlogger Madam Inutz, and Palawan beauty queen Samantha Bernardo. From them, a Celebrity Top 2 will be chosen following a series of tasks given by Big Bro.

Placement in the Final 5 tasks will earn each remaining housemate an amount in Kumu diamonds to determine their ranking. The social media app will also enable viewers to choose their favorites, on top of the traditional PBB voting medium of text voting. Following the last two celebrity evictees recording artist KD Estrada and actress Alexa Ilacad, the only time the Final 5 will depart the Big Brother House regardless of outcome will be on the Big Night in the following year. They will be followed the entry of the first Adult-batch housemates into the House, six of whom were revealed also earlier this week.

Catch the remaining days of the Celebrity phase of “Pinoy Big Brother: Kumunity Season 10” every 5PM weekdays (with 11:30PM replays), as well as 7PM weekends, only on the Kapamilya Channel, A2Z, Kapamilya Online Live, Jeepney TV, TFC and iWantTFC.

Image courtesy of



Not all people who become iconic faces and names in sports are players and athletes. Even the ones who support them can be immortalized themselves if they are the best at what they do. The easiest examples would be the coaches. In the 1950s John Madden, frustrated at injuries prematurely ending his professional football career, turned to coaching. From college football to the NFL, coaching the Oakland Raiders, he became a legend in his own right with a Super Bowl win (XI) to cement it. Madden went on to become a football commentator and even got a game franchise with his name on it. His legend was set by the time that he passed away.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that iconic football coach and sportscaster John Madden died Tuesday, December 28, at his home in Pleasanton, California. He was 85 years old. The sad new was appropriately broken by the National Football League (NFL) via a statement from Commissioner Roger Goodell, who extended condolences to Madden’s widow Virginia, sons Joseph and Michael, and their families. "Nobody loved football more than Coach. He was football,” says Goodell. “There will never be another John Madden, and we will forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today."

Madden was an example of a star sports athlete transitioning to become even better as a coach/trainer. While his player future was ended by a training camp injury with the Philadelphia Eagles, it did steer him into the more-remembered path that he took. His stint as Oakland Raiders head coach led the team to championship over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI of 1977. After retiring the following year he turned to color commentating in 1979, going from CBS to Fox, ABC and NBC in three decades before retiring from football involvement in 2009.

Another avenue where John Madden became a media giant was through videogames, where his name, image, endorsement and sports expertise were lent to the “Madden NFL” franchise by Electronic Arts. Although work on the initial game (for MS-DOS) began in 1984, Madden’s insistence on realism for gameplay mechanics pushed the debut of the franchise until 1988. His involvement in the game series, which spans multiple gaming platform generations, lasted until in 2009, but “Madden NFL” remains an ongoing and popular series. “Madden NFL ‘22” came out months ago in August.

No cause of death was given for Madden. Details for his memorial services will be provided at a future time.

Image courtesy of Variety

Wednesday, December 22, 2021



One of the biggest and most recent challenges in hosting a beauty pageant competition has been, quite obviously, the pandemic that began last year. The only options back in 2020 were to either postpone to this year, or do a virtual competition. For 2021, especially as the year went on, the prospect of a live hosting for a pageant became cautiously good. The 70th Miss Universe pageant went off in Israel two Sundays ago after all. But with the rise of a new strain of the COVID virus, another major competition has decided to err on the side of caution. reports that the 70th Miss World beauty pageant that should have been held in 2020, then scheduled for December 16 last week only to be postponed, will now be done in March next year. This came in the wake of a rash of COVID-19 infections among the contestants and pageant personnel beginning on the 14th of the month. The official Miss World Facebook page announced this December 22 that the pageant will go on in March 16, 2022, still at the same coliseum venue in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Miss World organization president Julia Morley noted that they are now on final planning for the new pageant date next year. “Our team is thrilled that we will show all the wonders that Puerto Rico has to offer as a premier tourism destination to the entire world,” says Morley adding, “We love Puerto Rico.” The organizers assured that all pre-recorded material of the pageant, back when the coronation night date was still December 16, will remain in use for the new March schedule. Also as planned, the pageant night will be given a live broadcast to reach around the world.

Representing the Philippines for Miss World 2021 is Miss World Philippines 2021 winner Tracy Maureen Perez. Prior to the again-delayed coronation finale, Perez has already secured her spot in the Top 30 semifinalists during the Head-to-Head Challenges. She advanced to the second round of a group that included France and host Puerto Rico. For round 2 she bested Mexico. Tracy also won in the Beauty with a Purpose special awards. All in all, is was a good showing to reach the final stretch of Miss World from a Filipina bet who lost her footing twice onstage, the second time after being crowned MWP.

Much hope is being placed on Perez to become the second Filipina Miss World after Megan Young in 2013. Her final push will be seen in the coronation night for the Miss World 2021 pageant, now coming in March 16, 2022 instead.

Image courtesy of Philippine Star



In 2001, Warner Bros. Pictures premiered in cinemas the first chapter of a modern magical fantasy epic. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” based on the book by J.K. Rowling, became a blockbuster success, with an initial-run box office take nearing a billion dollars while catapulting its primary cast of child actors to young stardom. Fans followed Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint as Harry, Ron and Hermione through eight movies’ worth of Wizarding World adventures lasting a decade. And now, a decade after the end of the “Harry Potter” films, the cast and crew reunite in an HBO Max special, the full trailer of which released this week.

Variety tells us that HBO Max put up a trailer for “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” on their official social media pages this past Tuesday, December 21. This is a heavily-anticipated reunion special that brings back many of the cast and creative forces behind the generation-defining “Harry Potter” film franchise. The teaser released earlier only whetted appetites for fans to once again see the now-adult Golden Trio of Daniel Radcliffe and friends as they reminisce about time making the films and what the franchise meant to their lives.

The trailer footage is an absolute nostalgia bomb, being filmed on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in London which preserves the sets used for the “Potter” movies. Seeing Radcliffe stroll down Diagon Alley, and Emma Watson at Platform 9¾ and the Hogwarts Great Hall where she embraces Rupert Grint, one can agree with Watson’s sentiment that both “no time has passed” and “loads of time has passed.” Radcliffe adds that he once felt that the most important part of their lives ended when they completed their last film, “Deathly Hallows Part 2.” He shares the joy of his cast-mates in realizing that it has not.

Aside from Harry, Ron and Hermione, other “Harry Potter” films stars joining the reunion include baddies Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Gary Oldman and more. Even the movie directors Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell and David Yates will get to say their pieces here. Emma also talks of how the movies and overall franchise made life richer when things got dark and times got hard, reinforced by Grint asserting that their time in the Wizarding World is a bond they will always have, as family.

If there is one dim light in “Return to Hogwarts,” it would be the complete absence of original book author J.K. Rowling from the proceedings. Despite still being active in developing the Wizarding World through film, Rowling’s recent personal opinions have caused a split in her fan-base between those appalled at her viewpoints and those accusing the former of “cancelling” her. Nevertheless, HBO Max subscribers can expect to watch “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts” when its streams come New Year’s Day, in 2022.

Image from Icon vs. Icon

Tuesday, December 21, 2021



Late last week and into the weekend, the Philippines faced a meteorological nightmare that has long been familiar, but never gets easier. Typhoon Rai, or Typhoon Odette to PAGASA, struck the country beginning December 16, cutting a path through the Visayas but with a reach affecting southern Luzon and northern Mindanao as well. As with strong typhoons past, Odette unleashed frightening property damage to areas where it made landfall, inflicting casualties and wreaking havoc on public utilities as well as internet access, the latter also affecting Mindanao. With the passing of the storm and reveal of devastation, the Philippines finds itself surrounded by helping hands.

According to the Philippine Star, foreign governments both near and far have simultaneously expressed sympathy to the Philippines for the damage caused by Typhoon Odette, and mobilized what they promise to be the first wave of relief assistance to the affected areas concentrated in the middle of the country. This aid comes in the form of immediate food and relief goods, emergency shelters, and financial assistance to national agencies such as the Philippine Red Cross. Any international political implications from this help takes to the background as immediate intercession for the affected citizens take priority.

Food and relief packs are the immediate response of Philippine neighbors China and Japan. The former, according to Chinese ambassador to the country Huang Xilian, notes 20,000 care packages amounting to P8 million, each with 5 kilos rice, canned goods and noodles, are ready for distribution with help from the Filipino-Chinese community, along with nearly 5 million kilos of donated rice in local ports. His Japanese counterpart emphasizes their relief consisting of shelter commodities such as tents, plastic sheets, sleeping accommodations and sorely-needed electrical generators, given that power remains down in many areas even nearly a week after Odette visited.

The US Embassy notes that their nation is also on the ground immediately to assist, courtesy of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Their first objective is providing shelter assistance to reach around 3,000 typhoon-affected families, with materials such as heavy duty sheeting. Some 10,000 government food packs are also being deployed to Butuan City, one of several Mindanao areas that bore the brunt of Odette. The United Kingdom in turn is pledging £750,000 (P49.58 million) to the Philippine Red Cross via their international governing body the IFRC, according to British Minister of State for Asia Amanda Milling.

Such help is sorely needed. Typhoon Odette was the strongest weather disturbance to strike the Philippines this year. The NDRRMC estimates infrastructural damage at P225 million and agricultural damage of P118 million. Some 375 Filipinos were killed by the storm, and not all power and communication capabilities have been restored.

Image: US Embassy – Philippines, Twitter

“SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME” Premiere Earns RECORD MILLIONS Even in Pandemic


For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what a way to send off the year with one installment of the superhero movie franchise’s current “Phase 4” story arc. And it is one that features a major MCU (and Marvel in general) character to boot: Spider-Man. Following the epic cliffhanger of “Spider-Man: Far from Home” in 2019 (and the close-call breakdown of the Sony-Marvel Studios sharing agreement with the character for films), MCU and Spider-fans have been looking forward to the follow-up in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Even with the ongoing pandemic, its weekend release last Friday was a confident record-breaker.

As told by The Hollywood Reporter, the December 17 premiere of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” has seen box office returns that hearken back to days when theaters were packed without fear of COVID-19 and its variants. That pretty much translates into a global debut worth some $600.8 million dollars, $260 of which comes from US and Canadian moviegoers with the remaining $340.8 from everywhere else around the world, as of figures shared by Sony Pictures this past Monday, December 20. The turnout is in sheer defiance to concerns regarding the new COVID Omicron, as more people worldwide return to cinemas.

Ever since the pandemic struck in early 2020, no major movies that braved a release in the past two years have reached the by-then comfortable $1 billion blockbuster take. But if the current trend of 9 out of every 10 American moviegoers going to watch “No Way Home” continues to hold (according to analytics outfit EntTelligence), then this third part of the MCU Spider-Man trilogy may become the first to hit that peak again during its box office run. By now, the draw in its casting is an open secret that can really spoil Marvel fans yet to watch it.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” stars Tom Holland as embattled young superhero Peter Parker, whose costumed identity as Spider-Man was leaked in the wake of “Far from Home,” making his life and that of his family and friends very uncomfortable. An ill-advised attempt to ask magical ally Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for help results in a multiverse-boundary collapse, causing super-villains from other dimensions that have fought Spider-Man to appear on MCU Earth. The fact that these characters are reprised by actors from previous non-MCU “Spider-Man” movies by Sony-Columbia Pictures hint majorly at the other members of this film’s cast that has got the movie Spider-fans excited.

The film also stars Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, and past Spider-villain veterans Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx among several others. “No Way Home” is already in some theaters worldwide, with some markets having to wait until January 2022 for release.

Image courtesy of Variety

Tuesday, December 14, 2021



After the seven “Harry Potter” books by J.K. Rowling were completely adapted by Warner Bros. into eight movies, fans of the Boy Who Lived felt that the world was finished with cinematic Wizarding World. They were pleased when Rowling wrote the plot for a new film, a prequel chronicling the Wizarding involvement in World War II, starring a wizard magi-zoologist and a young Albus Dumbledore. “Fantastic Beasts” had the feel of a new franchise, with the first film breaking the box office in 2016. Its 2018 follow-up was less than stellar however, making the installment (of five) a must-hit. Thankfully, the first trailer feels hopeful.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that the first trailer for Warner Bros. and Wizarding World’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” is getting positive reception from “Harry Potter” fans. This third of five planned “Fantastic Beasts” films had a longer development-production gap with its predecessor than the one between first and second. While 2018’s “The Crimes of Grindelwald” still had solid box-office earnings, it was the lowest of all Wizarding World-set movies. Audiences were wondering if J.K. Rowling’s debut as a screenwriter had crashed. But as the visuals indicate, the story is back in good form.

Following the events of the second film, anti-Muggle Wizarding sentiments have escalated under the agitation of Dark Wizard Grindelwald (Madds Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp). His only magical equal, Hogwarts professor Dumbledore (Jude Law), is magically bound to be unable to confront him. Thus Dumbledore’s former student Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) serves as his agent. Newt’s Wizarding “Suicide Squad” tasked to defeat Grindelwald includes his No-Maj friend Jacob (Dan Fogler), brother Theseus (Callum Turner), fellow Hogwarts professor Lally Hicks (Jessica Williams), and American love interest Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston).

But Grindelwald is heavily guarded from attack by Tina’s traitor sister/Jacob’s ex-girlfriend Queenie (Alison Sudol) and powerful but mentally disturbed wizard Credence/Aberforth Dumbledore (Ezra Miller). While this secret team struggles to take on the Dark Lord, Grindelwald’s machinations spur the world to the brink of war. This conflict he hopes would exterminate all Muggles/No-Maj for his “Greater Good” of Wizarding folk.

J.K. Rowling has help with “Harry Potter” veterans to steer “Fantastic Beasts” back to fan adoration. She shares screenwriting duties with the Potter-films’ Steve Kloves. David Yates, director of the latter eight “HP” installments and previous “Fantastic Beasts” installments, again takes the helm for “Secrets of Dumbledore,” which will premiere next year, on April 2022.

Image courtesy of Empire Online

Monday, December 13, 2021



To the Philippines, a Filipina winning a major international beauty pageant like Miss Universe is not an impossible dream. After all, Gloria Diaz did so in 1969, followed by Margie Moran four years later in 1973. But the following decades, filled with either swift eliminations or runner-up placements, made the public think for a time that the Miss Universe spark had come and gone, even as other beauties triumphed in other pageants. Then Pia Wurtzbach broke the MU drought in 2015, with Catriona Gray following in 2018. Suddenly pageant fans are hopeful for repeat Miss Universe victories for the Philippines again; but not for 2021.

According to The Philippine Star, Miss Universe Philippines 2021 Beatrice Luigi Gomez only got so far and no further in the recently-concluded 70th Miss Universe pageant. The event, which took place Sunday evening December 12 at the Universe Dome in Eliat, Israel saw 2020 titleholder Miss Mexico Andrea Meza pass the crown onto Miss India 2021 Hamaaz Sandhu. She is the third beauty from India to win Miss Universe. As for Gomez, despite a strong showing she ultimately ended her race in the Top 5, short of a Runner-Up placement.

While unfortunate, it is not all that bad. Beatrice continues the Philippines’ firm grip on the Miss Universe pageant’s positioning, always placing among the Top contestants at the barest minimum for the past 12 years (2009 was the last MU so far where Miss Philippines went unplaced). She is also a significant icon of Philippine representation, being the first openly LGBTQ representative of the country in this competition. On her journey to MU, Gomez has impressed with her background, from her university varsity career while finishing a Mass Communication degree, modeling and community work, and even being a Navy Reservist.

Already Beatrice Gomez has been lauded by Malacañang Palace for her latest achievement. She is not the only Filipina earning high praise locally and internationally at the 2021 Miss Universe pageant. Actress Marian Rivera also got attention and positive reaction as a selection committee member (judge), with some Filipinos nodding with pageant host Steve Harvey mentioning her (minor) recording career. Social media even has footage of Rivera teaching the “Sabay Sabay Tayo” dance routine to fellow judge and Bollywood actress Urvashi Rautela between pageant segments.

Rounding out the Top 5 contestants alongside Miss Universe 2021 Hamaaz Sandhu and Gomez, are 1st Runner-Up Nadia Ferreira (Paraguay), Lalela Mswane (South Africa) and Valeria Ayos (Colombia) who stood beside Beatrice at the end.

Image from The Manila Times

Friday, December 10, 2021

“SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2”: First TRAILER from PARAMOUNT; Premiering April 2022


The journey towards adapting iconic Sega videogame character “Sonic the Hedgehog” into a movie was one that spanned the end of the 20th Century up to this point in the 21st. Things finally got serious when Paramount Pictures picked up the work in 2017, but a negatively-received first trailer in 2019 almost lost audience interest. Thankfully, a delay to redesign the maligned CGI for Sonic led to better-received follow-up previews and a very successful pre-pandemic 2020 release. A sequel was immediately green-lit, which in turn was teased way back in February this year. Now the first trailer is officially out.

Variety would have it that Paramount has dropped the first full trailer for “Sonic the Hedgehog 2,” follow-up to the hit 2020 videogame film. The preview was officially premiered this past Thursday, December 9, at the 2021 Game Awards. Most of the cast from the original return to reprise their roles, led by Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic and Jim Carrey as the maniacal scientist Dr. “Eggman” Robotnik. While the sequel picks up the storyline from its predecessor, it also starts adding more lore and elements from the original Sega videogame franchise, notably the other Genesis console titles.

The “Sonic 2” trailer brings audiences back to Sonic (Schwartz), the super-fast blue anthropomorphic other-dimensional hedgehog, having adjusted to living on Earth. He staves off boredom by using his speed to fight crime, often with violent and destructive consequences, to the chagrin of his guardian Tom Wachowski (James Marsden). Their idyllic days soon end when Dr. Robotnik (Carrey), banished to another world at the end of the first “Sonic” movie, returns with a bigger robot army. And he has an obsessive score to settle with a certain blue hedgehog, as well as a mission to find the Master Emerald that would grant him unlimited power.

To face this newer, viler Eggman, Sonic must rely on a friend who has come from another dimension with orders to aid him, Miles (Colleen O’Shaughnessy) the flying two-tailed fox. But Robotnik has an ally of his own, a red echidna with super-powerful fists named Knuckles (Idris Elba) who himself is looking for the Master Emerald. The stakes have grown beyond just protecting his current home. Can Sonic prevail over this new threat to keep the universe from being destroyed by whoever possesses the Emerald?

“Sonic the Hedgehog 2” also stars Tika Sumpter, Natasha Rothwell, Lee Madjoub, Adam Pally, Tom Butler, and Shemar Moore. The film will be released by Paramount on April 8, 2022 when hopefully the pandemic situation will be even more improved.

Image: Den of Geek

Monday, December 6, 2021



When it comes to K-Pop and the world, only a handful of names of individual performers and groups might be heard on the lips of many international fans. Among these would undoubtedly be BTS, the seven-man performing dynamo that has taken the planet by storm since the latter half of the 2010s. And they established this dominance by being very busy. BTS unleashed their English-language singles “Dynamite,” “Butter” and “Permission to Dance” on the English-speaking parts of the world. They became special ambassadors for their home country of South Korea. BTS even spoke to the UN General Assembly. In short, they have done a lot.

And that, as CNN Philippines reports, is why BTS is due for an “extended period of rest” once their engagements in the US are done. This was revealed by their label Big Hit Music on social media this Monday, December 6. After completing their stateside performances at the “Permission to Dance on Stage – LA” and “2021 Jingle Bell Tour,” the K-Pop juggernaut group will go on holiday break themselves with their families back in South Korea. This is their second officially-mandated mini-hiatus since 2019, and the boys have been extremely non-stop busy since that time.

On their statement, Big Hit Music notes the obvious in that BTS has committed themselves tirelessly with their entertainment activities. The break also happens to fall during the Holidays, and this would be the first time that Namjoon and the crew would be able to spend year-end off-time with their folks since they debuted. Therefore, the rest period will serve to “recharge and re-inspire” BTS to get their creative energy vibrant again. And they are going to need that reinvigorated creativity if they plan to start bouncing ideas for their next album, as well as a Seoul concert in March.

Big Hit ends their announcement with an exhortation to fans that they give BTS some space to celebrate their rest. The group does seem to be gearing for their best output yet, considering they are approaching the time when they must undergo their mandatory South Korean military service. They have deferments for until they are aged 30, but member Kim Seokjin (aka Jin) is already 29, and will hit 30 in December 4, 2022. At least one BTS member will hit 30 over the next four years, so fans have little time until the boy band loses people. For now, best to give BTS rest.

Image courtesy of GMA News



Although Sony Pictures forged an agreement with Marvel Studios to allow Spider-Man, of which the former has the film rights for, to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they are not putting all their eggs in that basket. While Spidey made waves in the MCU as played by Tom Holland, Sony and Columbia Picture started their own films with the Spider-franchise. The first was “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” in 2018, starring Shameik Moore as new-gen Spidey Miles Morales. This animated film was the first superhero movie to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar. A sequel was promised, and now the first teaser for it has excited the Spider-Man fan community.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that Sony Pictures has revealed the first teaser for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” sequel to “Into the Spider-Verse.” That in itself was not much of a surprise, as the follow-up was long telegraphed by writer Phil Lord. What was a major shocker was that the title was appended with “Part One,” meaning that the upcoming film is just part of a whole story, akin to “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame.” At least that was made clear in comparison to the “Dune” remake which premiered this year.

The teaser builds up on the pre- and post-credit scenes from the first “Spider-Verse” movie. In the former, Miles somehow regains contact with the other-dimensional Spider-Woman, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). Now however, it is framed as happening a few years after the film’s main storyline. Gwen entices Miles to join her on a trip across dimensions, and he reluctantly accepts. His journey takes him into a psychedelic 2D-animated acid trip. And in the middle of things he gets into a web-swinging fight with Spider-Man 2099. This version of Spidey from a future (comic-book) timeline was at the post-credits, voiced by Oscar Isaac. Why he is fighting Miles now remains unknown.

Phil Lord and his collaborator/co-producer Chris Miller note that for the “Spider-Verse” sequel, Miles Morales will meet up with old friends and encounter new ones. This tentatively confirms some if not all of the alternate Spiders, such as Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson). As for new Spiders, one confirmed is Spider-Woman Jessica Drew, said to be portrayed by Issa Rae. Also hinted at is Takuya Yamashiro, the live-action Japanese “Supaida-man” from the 1978 Toei tokusatsu series. “Across the Spider-Verse” Part One will release October 2022, with Part Two following 2023.

Image courtesy of

Friday, November 19, 2021

PBA Launching 3x3 BASKETBALL Tournament SATURDAY


While basketball remains one of the top sports for Philippine sporting audiences, they have long been exposed to and enjoy watching variations to the game. One notable variant is 3x3, or half-court three-on-three basketball. A study sponsored by the International Olympic Committee argues that this is the largest urban team sport worldwide. Originally played with loose rules, organized 3x3 basketball 2 with standard rules took off in the late 2000s. It finally made its Olympic debut in Tokyo this past July 2021. The Philippines already has a pro 3x3 league sponsored by Chooks-to-Go, but national league the PBA has been working on its own edition that will launch this weekend.

GMA News reports that the Philippine Basketball Association is set to inaugurate its 3x3 basketball league this coming Saturday, November 20. For its first tournament, the 3x3 tilt will divide the teams into three pools, with placement for knockout depending on wins, head-to-head record, points scored and initial seeding. The initial 13 teams are composed of 10 spinoffs from the official PBA teams (though a few have altered their names), plus three guest squads. Each team will have six players, ensuring a substitute for each man active on the half-court.

Of the three team groupings, Pool A will have five squads while Pools B and C will have four. The teams are classified as thus:

Pool A

  • Limitless Appmasters (Phoenix LPG)
  • Platinum Karaoke (guest squad)
  • Purefoods TJ Titans (Magnolia)
  • TNT Tropang Giga
  • Zamboanga Valientes (guest squad from Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3)

Pool B

  • Barangay Ginebra
  • Meralco Bolts
  • Sista Super Sealers (Rain or Shine)
  • Terrafirma Dyip

Pool C

  • CAVITEX Braves (NLEX Road Warriors)
  • NorthPort Batang Pier
  • Pioneer Pro Tibay (guest squad)
  • San Miguel Beermen

It goes without saying that the debut of the PBA 3x3 basketball tournament was fraught with problems. The original launch season of 2020 never materialized for obvious reasons. Then again, the time lost to the pandemic managed to go into more planning by the league to make their first official 3x3 foray a success. "Basically, we planned this for two years and finally, we're launching it and hopefully, we can make this a regular event," says Alaska Aces governor Dickie Bachmann, who is also serving as 3x3 Chairman.

The inaugural PBA 3x3 basketball tournament will start at 2PM Saturday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig. The first three games will be between Zamboanga Valientes and Platinum Karaoke, followed by Barangay Ginebra against Sista Super Sealers, and finally CAVITEX versus Pioneer Pro Tibay.

Image courtesy of

Thursday, November 18, 2021



This past July, Disney and Pixar tipped their first teaser on an animated film they plan to release early next year. “Turning Red” boasts a highly-skilled creative team (that handled Pixar’s “The Incredibles” and “Inside Out”) under director Domee Shi (Pixar short “Bao”), who also wrote the story inspired by her life growing up as a Chinese-Canadian in Toronto. Of course, magical elements are in play including the main character, Mei, turning into a giant red panda when she stresses out. If this teaser was more like a food photo on a restaurant menu, then prepare for the taste test.

By that we mean that Disney-Pixar just released the first long trailer for their 2022 feature “Turning Red” according to NBC News. This is definitely a treat for Pixar fans whose interests were piqued by the July teaser. A story set in Canada, circa early 2000s, about a Chinese-Canadian girl turning into a big fluffy creature, ticks all the boxes of the Pixar formula but presents everything in a fresh new way. And this time, fans anticipating “Turning Red” will now get an idea on just what the deal is with “poofing” into a red panda that Mei (unfortunately) experiences.

We return to Meilin Lee (Rosalie Chiang), a spunky 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian schoolgirl in Toronto. She is highly disciplined, smart and multi-talented (math geek, fluently multilingual, young student activist) with a devoted circle of friends. Then one night she suffers a nightmare and awakes the following morning as a big red panda. Her mother Ming (Sandra Oh) reveals that their family carries that transforming ability due to their ancestors’ mystical ties to the red panda. Mei is understandably freaked out, but with the support of her friends and her growing accustomed to changing when beset by any strong emotions, Mei decides that she might just get to like her new self.

One element of the story that has fans giddy for is its explicit early 21st Century setting. In the teaser this was punctuated by the Backstreet Boys’ “Larger than Life” as background music. In the trailer *NSYNC steps up with “It’s Gonna be Me” (which sounds like “It’s gonna be Mei”). Mei and her clique are also big fans of fictional boy band 4*Town (to be voiced by the likes of Jordan Fisher, Josh Levi and Finneas O’Connel). One of Mei’s friends, Priya is also voiced by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan from Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever.”

“Turning Red” is due to premiere in March 11 in North America, and the rest of the world (where movie theaters are open) for the rest of spring in 2022.

Image courtesy of Showtimes

Wednesday, November 17, 2021



Ah, surely the memory of one of last week’s big Pinoy showbiz news is still fresh for many. If not, then recall that veteran actor John Lloyd Cruz has finally taken a big and inevitable step towards the spotlight. We are talking of course about his signing up as a talent for GMA7, a major coup for the Kapuso Network. Among the celebrities of his new network to greet Cruz on his new production home is Bea Alonzo, herself a recent Kapuso Artist. But before that she and Lloydy have been constant onscreen partners, a dynamic the two are excited to resume in future projects.

But as those plans are currently in development, John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo have taken baby steps in acting together. As the Philippine Star reports that this week, the two starred in a commercial for a major fast-food chain that was released online earlier this week. Okay, a Jollibee commercial may no longer count as baby steps, considering that the ad was done by Jollibee Studios, which has been making foreign YouTube viewers cry with their many emotional story-driven commercials. True to form, both Lloydy and Bea deliver the acting goods with this commercial.

Said ad is framed as the two movie/TV stars discussing their upcoming project and asking subtle questions about their personal lives. “How’s the heart,” they both ask each other. John Lloyd jokes about his heart gaining abs from working out, while Bea notes hers is still beating even after being crushed. Super-sweet dialogue comes naturally to them even as they chow down on the “Perfect Pair,” aka a Chickenjou-Jolly Spaghetti combo meal. It is kind of like their pairing, would you not agree? It is iconic and perfect, and apparently just the first for the pair and Jollibee regarding commercials.

John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo note how their complementary dynamics were cited by Jollibee as the reason they were tapped for this ad campaign. On their reasons for saying yes, Cruz says, “I couldn’t say no to this project. Jollibee’s Chickenjoy with Jolly Spaghetti are classics for me, and Bea brings out some of my best work. The choice was clear.” As for Bea, she remarks, “Who wouldn’t accept the offer to be the face of a beloved Filipino brand and food, and to work with your best partner at the same time?” Here is hoping the next Jollibee commercials with the two are just as sweet as that.

Image from Top Gear PH



Come Hell, high water or a global pandemic like COVID, Marvel Studios finally unleashed Phase 4 of their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film franchise this year. No less than four movies premiered worldwide in cinemas (where open) and online via Disney+, beginning with “Black Widow” last July, then followed by “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in September and, “Eternals” two Fridays ago. The 2021 Holidays sendoff for big-screen Marvel will be the third MCU “Spider-Man” solo film, subtitled “No Way Home.” With the movie premiering next month and hype building, Marvel Studios has unleashed a new trailer.

Variety tells us that there is a new preview out for “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” building anticipation for how the MCU version of the Friendly Neighborhood Web-head as played by Tom Holland will get out of his latest predicament. Those who watched 2019’s “Far from Home” will recall Peter Parker/Spider-Man having his dual identity exposed. The previous “No Way Home” trailer saw him try a magical solution to return his secret with the help of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), only to mess up the spell and weaken the dimensional boundaries. Now, super-villains with a beef against Spidey (and familiar to fans of previous Spider-movies) are appearing and endangering MCU-Peter’s world.

The new trailer, as seen above, picks up from where its predecessor leaves off. There was the awesome return of Alfred Molina as Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus from 2004’s “Spider-Man 2.” While he menaces Spider-Man in battle, he stops when he sees Holland-Peter as not the Peter from his world. He and Strange later theorize that these villains have fought the Spider-Man of their respective dimensions and got killed. Peter, who sabotaged Strange’s memory spell because it would blanket cause everyone to forget his Spider-identity, finds himself again defying the Doctor’s more pragmatic solution for an alternative more acceptable to himself.

But as the Green Goblin (reprised by Willem Defoe from the original “Spider-Man” film), puts it, Peter Parker struggles to have everything he wants while the reality of his world is forcing him to choose some desires (or just one) over the rest. Hounded by the public inflamed by fiery pundit J. Jonah Jameson (JK Simmons), and his friends Ned (Jacob Batalon) and MJ (Zendaya) in ever-increasing danger, Spider-Man finds himself trapped. Can he still find a third option or will he finally gain only at a loss? Or does he end up losing everything?

“Spider-Man: No Way Home,” co-produced by Marvel Studios and Sony-Columbia Pictures, premieres in theaters this December 17. The MCU also has spinoff series on Disney+, with “Hawkeye” premiering on streaming in December 22, with more in the works next year.

Image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

MTRCB Discussing Possible Assumption of REGULATORY Powers Over STREAMING Content


Towards the end of the 20th Century, and perhaps during most of the first two decades of the 21st, Filipinos accepted that all film and television media in the Philippines, foreign or domestic, fell under the scrutiny of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). They are the ones who have been determining content ratings for cinema releases and TV programming, from safe “G” to “strict” “SPG.” For a time the MTRCB focused only on these traditional AV media (and home video). But with the advent of online streaming, the board has been making initial inroads into policing content streaming Pinoy-side as well.

As The Manila Bulletin puts it, the MTRCB is under increasing fire from Filipino streaming watchers as the national review/classification watchdog flexes with streaming platforms like Netflix to regulate their online content, to their ire. Strictly speaking, the MTRCB has no concrete powers to police streaming media the way they do movies and TV shows in the country. But recently they managed to convince Netflix to disable viewing of two episodes from Australian series “Pine Gap,” due to the political thriller featuring a South China Sea map with China’s “Nine-Dash Line” territorial claim, which is contested by the Philippine government.

In virtual interview, MTRCB executive director II/spokesperson and former Congressman Benjo Benaldo (picture, left) admitted that the board is indeed discussing the possibility of officially extending their regulation powers to streaming content showing within Philippine territory. “We still don’t have an official stand but we aim to come up with one soon,” says Benaldo. “The board will present an official stand in the next few weeks, hopefully.” At present, the MTRCB is transitioning from the chairmanship of Maria Rachel Arenas to Atty. Jeremiah Jaro (picture, right). The outgoing Arenas had been pushing for more streaming regulation powers for the MTRCB, something Jaro has mentioned in recent meetings of the board.

Local streaming viewers have voiced online opposition to an MTRCB proposition that stream services like Netflix adapt their rating system (G-SPG) for content viewable in the country. The recent pulling of “Pine Gap” episodes from Netflix’s Philippine streaming, done by the board to “prevent Filipino youth from contact” with the false Nine-Dash line claim by China, was slammed by netizens as a dangerous overreach. Already, more Pinoys are being drawn to streaming services for providing content more intense than MTRCB-regulated local fare, like hit Korean series “Squid Game” for example.

Image from Philippine Entertainment Portal

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

DISNEY+ Reveals NEW Upcoming FILMS and SERIES Starting Streaming NEXT YEAR


Launched back in 2019, Disney+ became Disney’s exclusive digital streaming platform, with which content from all its many production studios would eventually be housed online. From Disney to Marvel Studios to Lucasfilm, not just the classic films and TV shows but also the latest cinema releases would stream. And then there are the original exclusives, from spinoffs like “The Mandalorian” from “Star Wars” to MCU limited series like “WandaVision,” “Loki” and “What If…?” These spinoffs could also be unexpected story sequels like “The Mighty Ducks: Game-Changers,” and near many of the upcoming productions teased by Disney+ over the previous weekend.

Screen Rant covers all the reveals of what Disney+ is cooking for streaming subscribers starting next year. These were all teased in some manner or other during Disney+ Day, the anniversary of the streaming service last Friday, November 12. It comes across as a borderline thankless job due to the rather uncoordinated manner that the reveals were made on official Disney+ social media, namely Twitter. Teaser images went hand in hand with teaser videos, and there is a lot to unpack considering, again, how many studios are making stuff under the Disney umbrella. Here goes:


  • Disenchanted” – sequel to “Enchanted” (2007); Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey reprise their roles
  • Hocus Pocus 2” – sequel to “Hocus Pocus” (1993); Bette Midler, Kathy Najimi and Sarah Jessica Parker
  • Willow” – sequel to “Willow” (1998); Warwick Davis reprises
  • Ice Age: The Adventures of BuckWild” – spinoff from 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky franchise
  • Cheaper by the Dozen” – reboot of 2003 Disney film, itself a remake of the 1950s original
  • Baymax!” – spinoff of “Big Hero 6” movie and series
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid” – another 20th Century holdover; will get two new animated films
  • The Proud Family: Louder andProuder” – revival of Disney Channel animated series
  • Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers” – movie reboot of 1990s series; Adam Samberg will star
  • Tiana” – planned sequel to “The Princess and the Frog” (2009)
  • Pinocchio” – live-action remake of 1940 classic; to star Tom Hanks and Keegan Michael-Key
  • Sneakerella” – modern live-action adaptation of “Cinderella”
  • Zootopia+” – short-form series spinoff of 2016 animated film
  • Spiderwick Chronicles” – new series based on original books, separate from 2008 Paramount film
  • Better Nate than Never” – original film starring Lisa Kudrow from “Friends”


  • Cars” – new series spinoff from animated films; Owen Wilson reprises role
  • Ciao Alberto” – short film sequel to “Luca,” released this past June
  • Win or Lose” – original animated series about a co-ed softball team

As you can see, this is a long and exhaustive list. We’ll continue later for more Disney+ upcoming reveals, focusing on Marvel and “Star War” as well.

Image courtesy of Geekfeed

Friday, November 12, 2021



The moment The CW began airing multiple DC superhero TV series under the collective “Arrow” verse, the prospect of crossing the shows and casts became a highly anticipated annual tradition. From initial two-series team-ups, the crossovers eventually encompassed all segments of the “Arrow” verse. This includes even The CW DC series set in different universes (Earth-<number>), until the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event of December 2019 to January 2020 mashed all shows involved into Earth-Prime. Then the COVID pandemic foiled crossover plans for 2020. This 2021, The CW will not be denied. “The Flash” star Grant Gustin is looking forward to the “Armageddon” crossover which his home series will kick-start.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that Grant Gustin is excited for the newest The CW crossover of its DC shows, entitled “Armageddon.” The storyline event will commence right with the season 8 premiere of “The Flash” this coming November 16. “Armageddon” will consist of a five-part adventure that begins with Barry Allen/Flash (Gustin) teaming up with Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (Cress Williams), but also involve other “Arrow” verse heroes. The appearance of Williams as Pierce is also rather poignant considering that “Black Lightning” concluded its fourth and final season back in May.

In interview with EW, Gustin spoke of the experience shooting the “Armageddon” crossover, particularly the ease of production due to the storyline being centered on Flash and his home series. He also remarked at three days of filming with Williams as Black Lightning, which he described as both “cool” for both of them and “heavy” for the plot involved. “I'm looking forward to seeing how those turned out,” Gustin says. “I know we had a good time shooting them, and there were a lot of different elements in those scenes.” Williams apparently felt the same, having last worked with Gustin during “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”

The “Armageddon” crossover sees Grant Gustin’s Flash facing the overwhelming threat of an alien conqueror named Despero (Tony Curran). In the comics and other DC media, Despero possessed a third eye that had hypnotic and telekinetic powers, as well as energy blasts, plus his superhuman strength that surpasses the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman. Barry must gather the active “Arrow” verse heroes, from Batwoman (Javicia Leslie), Atom (Brandon Routh), Sentinel (Chyler Leigh), and current Green Arrow Mia Queen (Katherine McNamara). It starts off with the eighth season of “The Flash,” premiering on The CW next week, on November 16.

Image courtesy of Bleeding Cool

Thursday, November 11, 2021



For near on two decades, Valve’s Steam digital distribution platform and storefront has delivered games from their developers and third-party publishers online to players around the world. This came with the expected online perks of digital rights management, social networking, streaming, server hosting and more. It seemed they were well at home in this gaming corner, until they made an announcement last July that sent waves across the industry. They unveiled the Steam Deck, a handheld gaming computer that would enable players to enjoy PC game titles like they would a portable system like the Nintendo Switch. Valve pegged the Steam Deck arriving at year’s end. Unfortunately, it is not.

The Verge reports that the original December release window for the Steam Deck has been scrapped. Valve has announced on their official blog this Thursday, November 11, that problems caused by global supply chain issues have forced them to delay the official launch of Steam Deck. They estimate that the first units will start shipping sometime around February next year, so the new release window is within the first quarter of 2022. If material supply issues persist, even a Q2 release date is quite likely.

“Due to material shortages, components aren’t reaching our manufacturing facilities in time for us to meet our initial launch dates,” stated Valve in their blog post. They are not the only one feeling the crunch of supply chain problems exacerbated by the long-running COVID pandemic. It is one of the contributing factors to the limited numbers of PlayStation 5 units available. Essential tech components like Nvidia graphics cards and touchscreen chips have been increasingly difficult to acquire for manufacturers. Valve relates as much on how lack of materials due to their being shipped late or not at all could be blamed for Steam Deck’s delay.

Valve’s Steam Deck has caught plenty of attention since its unveiling months ago. Its graphics capability is said to be sufficient for eight individual PCs. Three internal storage capabilities could be augmented by room for a microSD card. A 40-watt battery would allow for 7-8 hours of gaming, which can be extended by a Nintendo Switch-like docking port – sold separately – for viewing on screens larger than the 1280x800 7-inch display. Three variants of the Steam Deck dependent on memory capacity are available for preorders on Valve, but buyers will have to wait until next year.

Image courtesy of CNet

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

After Cowboy Bebop, NETFLIX Announces CAST for LIVE-ACTION Take on “ONE PIECE” Anime


Streaming giant Netflix has been building up a divisive reputation for anime fans particularly in the West. While they do maintain a respectable library of major anime series, plus a growing selection of exclusive original productions, it is what they do with certain franchises that rile up fans of a purist mold. The upcoming live-action adaptation of classic 1998 anime “Cowboy Bebop” has been a tough sell, with some critics only softening up due to the Japanese audio dub being done by the original anime voices. Now, Netflix is announcing its next big live-action take on anime, “One Piece,” by revealing its primary cast members.

CNet reports that Netflix has begun promoting their planned live-action adaptation to the manga/anime “One Piece” with the announcement of five main cast members. They will be portraying the initial members of the Straw Hat Pirates, the heroes of the adventure to find the legendary treasure One Piece. Mexican actor Iñaki Godoy will play the main character Monkey D. Luffy. Japanese star Mackenyu (“Rurouni Kenshin: The Final”) stars as Roronoa Zoro. Nami will be played by Emily Rudd (Netflix’s “Fear Street Part Two: 1978”). Jacob Romero Gibson (Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Greenleaf”) will portray Ussop. Finally, the role of Sanji will be played by British actor Taz Skylar (“Boiling Point”, 2021).

Already the casting choices have been raising eyebrows with longtime fans of the long-running manga and anime (1997/1999 and still going). One of their “ammunition” is a manga extra from “One Piece” creator Eiichiro Oda describing the characters’ real-world ethnic equivalents. For example, Luffy was Brazilian, not Mexican like Godoy. Nami was Swedish (Rudd is American) and Sanji was supposed to be French. Oda however, also sits as executive producer of the Netflix series, and apparently had a hand in the casting process as well.

“One Piece” is set in a fantasy world during a great age of piracy. Luffy, a boy granted body stretching and elasticity powers from eating a “devil fruit,” gathers a crew of adventurers to find One Piece, the legendary treasure of the late Pirate King, Gold Roger. Joining his Straw Hat crew are swordsman Zoro, thief and cartographer Nami, marksman Ussop and chef/martial artist Sanji.

Joining Oda as executive producers are Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements, both already involved with “Cowboy Bebop,” which premieres on Netflix streaming this November 19. “One Piece” is slated to have 10 episodes for its inaugural season. No production date has been given, as the original schedule in 2020 was foiled by the COVID pandemic.

Image: Variety



It has been one of the longest ongoing news developments in Philippine showbiz, despite the fact that the celebrity involved was all but completely inactive during that time. The entertainment hiatus that John Lloyd Cruz began in 2017 has lasted for several years now, including a global pandemic that is still ongoing. His only showbiz presence at the time had been in some TV ads and the odd cameo here and there. In May this year Cruz signed with Maja Salvador’s Crown Artist Management. Despite it being an independent agency, there were rumors that this is the start of Lloydy becoming a Kapuso. Only this past Tuesday was that confirmed.

As told by GMA News Online, John Lloyd Cruz has officially signed a contract as talent to GMA Network this November 9. In a signing ceremony attended by some of the top leadership figures for GMA-7, Cruz finally put to ink that he will be a Kapuso in his showbiz comeback. In doing so he made sure his one-off guest appearance on Willie Revillame’s game show “Wowowin” back in June will have a more regular follow-up, namely a new TV show directed by Edgar “Bobot” Mortiz, who was also present at the contract signing Tuesday.

This was an event that was long coming, close to being half a decade since Lloydy abruptly departed in 2017 from his ABS-CBN sitcom “Home Sweetie Home” where he costarred with Toni Gonzaga. Speculation that he was ready to return to acting intensified when TV host Willie Revillame talked him into his “Wowowin” guest appearance for the “Shopee 6.6 Mid-Year Sale” event, during which Cruz sat for a brief interview. A month before that John Lloyd had joined Crown Artist Management of Maja Salvador. And now, he is the newest addition to GMA-7’s celebrity roster.

“It was a big thing that we were able to find a home at GMA,” said John Lloyd Cruz during the contract signing. Just as happy to have him aboard are an ensemble of Kapuso stars who put up welcome messages for him on social media. Among those personalities is Bea Alonzo, who has been a longtime screen partner of Lloydy’s and a recent Kapuso herself. While the one confirmed GMA-7 project for Cruz is his Mortiz-directed show, titled “Happy Together,” Revillame also hinted at a planned sitcom where he will costar with Cruz and Andrea Torres, unless these two shows are actually the same.

Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

2022 PRODUCTION START for "DUNE: PART TWO" Revealed by Producer


Late this past October, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures premiered “Dune,” the latest live-action adaptation of the 1965 sci-fi novel masterpiece by Frank Herbert. This had been one of the most enduring visions of the galaxy in the distant future, before the original “Star Trek” series arrived a year later and “Star Wars” over a decade after. Unfortunately these two franchises overshadowed any treatments of “Dune,” from the first film (1984) to the 2000 miniseries on Sci-Fi (now SyFy). Despite trepidations, this 2021 remake directed by Denis Villeneuve was a box-office hit. The problem was, it ended on a cliffhanger, partway through the novel’s storyline.

It thus became obvious that a sequel to “Dune” will follow. As IGN has it, the estimated start of production and release date for Part 2 has been made known. Mary Parent, one of the movie’s producers, let slip the fact during a special screening of “Dune” for the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA the previous weekend, November 6. According to Parent, barring any delays “Dune: Part II” could start filming as early as July of 2022. This is in line with an earlier announcement that the sequel will be released in October 2023. Denis Villeneuve will return as director, as will most of the main cast.

“Dune” takes place some 22,000 years in the future, when mankind has established a galactic empire. Interstellar travel and human longevity is made possible by “spice,” a rare substance found only on the desert planet Arrakis. The noble Atreides family is tasked by the Padishah Emperor to govern Arrakis in place of the Harkonen family. In reality, the Emperor and Baron Harkonen (Stellan Skarsgard) plan to set up the Atreides to be massacred. Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) must struggle to ensure the survival of his wife Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) and son Paul (Timothee Chalamet).

Despite the unfinished storyline, “Dune” managed to make a killing in the pandemic-era box office, with $41 million on its opening weekend, and $331.1 million total worldwide as of November 7. This is remarkable given outside the US, only 14 countries and territories screened the film, with many theaters worldwide still closed because of COVID. Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”) also notes that there is no extended cut of the movie, and that the cinema release and HBO Max streaming version (simultaneous premiere) are identical.

Image courtesy of Pledge Times

Friday, November 5, 2021



The year 1995 saw the publication of Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked,” a novel that re-envisions the classic L. Frank Baum book “The Wizard of Oz.” The Wicked Witch of the West becomes the magical activist Elphaba, friend of Glinda the Good Witch, while the Wizard becomes an antagonist and Dorothy Gale his unwitting cats-paw. “Wicked” was adapted into a musical that premiered in 2003, and a year later Universal Pictures optioned its film rights. However, development and casting rumors would last over a decade, with a director only being confirmed this past February. Finally though, its lead stars have been cast.

As The Hollywood Reporter would have it, Universal Pictures have gotten hold of their Elphaba and Glinda to star in their movie adaptation of the musical “Wicked.” They are, respectively, none other than British stage veteran Cynthia Erivo, and American singer-actress Ariana Grande. They will be under the direction of Jon M. Chu, who came to Hollywood filmmaking prominence back in 2018 with “Crazy Rich Asians.” Both women shared their reactions to the casting on social media, with Erivo remarking “pink goes with green” (referring to Elphaba’s skin color) and Grande simply expressing thankfulness. Both women’s photos had hands over their faces, overcome with emotion.

Erivo has formidable stage credits, mostly in West End but also Broadway, from “Sister Act” (2011-12) to “The Color Purple” (2015-17). She is no slouch on film either, gaining two nominations in the 2020 Academy Awards for the 2019 biopic “Harriet” (Best Actress and Best Original Song). Grande meanwhile is a multi-platinum recording artist with two Grammy Awards. She has contributed soundtrack songs such as for 2017’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” for Disney (alongside John Legend). She has also made inroads into acting, from Nickelodeon shows to Netflix’s upcoming “Don’t Look Up,” costarring with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence.

The “Wicked” musical is hailed as one of three theatre shows to make up to over $1 billion in ticket sales. The Broadway edition had its book written by Winnie Holzman with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Choice songs from the production include the inspiring “Defying Gravity” which has been featured in musical TV series “Glee.” The film adaptation, which is likely also a musical, will be coming along in the wake of other similar productions like Warner Bros.’ “In the Heights” last July and 20th Century Studios’ “West Side Story” this coming December. Filming for “Wicked” will start in the UK next year.

Image from Variety