Sunday, January 31, 2021


As the year 2021 starts its second month, major sporting events around the world are testing the waters with regards to when and how they will hold their competitions while COVID-19 is still widespread and not everyone has been vaccinated. The question of whether Japan will push through with the Tokyo Summer Olympics this coming July after postponing it last year during the worst of the quarantines is still up in the air. But for the 2021 Australian Open, after a cautionary move from last month to this February the spirits are high, if the unmasked spectators during the pre-tournament exhibition matches is any indication.



It is practically a dream come true for anyone hailing from outside the United States to find themselves being selected as the new front-man to a well-established and long-performing musical group. That was the dream-become-reality for Arnel Pineda, a singer-songwriter and band veteran who in 2007 was chosen to become the lead vocalist of American rock band Journey, following what the man himself called a “nerve-wracking and tense” audition. Close to 15 years since he was called upon by Journey lead guitarist Neal Schon, Arnel will be seeing his life story being adapted into a Hollywood biopic by Warner Bros. Pictures, one that might also (partly) film in the Philippines.

“WANDAVISION” Temporarily Drops SITCOM Setting for CHILLING REVEAL of Reality


Four episodes in and almost halfway through the quirky storyline of MCU series “WandaVision” on Disney+, the questions are slowly being answered regarding how a retro-style sitcom starring Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and the android Vision (Paul Bettany) actually jives with the superhero setting of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Already the hints have pointed to a powerful reality-altering power that is keeping the two Avengers inside the idyllic town of Westview, NJ.

“YASHAHIME: PRINCESS HALF-DEMON” Ep17: Heroines Closer to Fated Encounter with KIRINMARU

It is close to four months now since Japanese anime studio Sunrise unleashed “Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon,” the next-generation sequel series to iconic anime “Inuyasha,” based on the long-running manga by “Ranma ½” creator Rumiko Takahashi. Longtime fans of the franchise have followed the adventures of twin half-demons Towa and Setsuna and their quarter-demon cousin Moroha in Feudal Japan. With the 20-episode mark close, they are also getting closer to answers regarding Setsuna’s lost memories and Moroha’s missing parents (Inuyasha and Kagome). But the hostile forces around enigmatic demon lord Kirinmaru will not let them proceed any further than they have.

The stakes have never been higher than in “Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon” episode 17, “Trap of the Two Perils” which was released Saturday last month, January 30. With only two left among Kirinmaru’s original subordinates the Four Terrors, it seems the trio of Towa, Setsuna and Moroha are unwittingly about to fulfill the prophecy that the demon lord Kirinmaru will die by the hand of “one neither human nor demon.” Kirinmaru’s half-sister Zero believes that pertains to human-demon half-breeds like the aforementioned girls. Having failed to kill Towa and Setsuna, the twins of Sesshoumaru, when they were still children, Zero looks to try again with the remaining Terrors Konton and Totetsu.

Again involved in the complex behind-the-back plotting is the “pirate” Riku, whom as already seen in flashbacks from previous episodes, is remarkably un-aging for a human. He has volunteered to lure the half-demon princesses to Konton’s magical trap using Totetsu as a patsy target for the girls. Meanwhile, Towa and Setsuna are no further to finding Mount Musubi where the dream butterfly that took Setsuna’s memories might be found. The former again grouses at how her amnesiac sister still cares nothing for her missing past. At the same time Moroha is still stuck with trying to clear her unending debt.

While seemingly becoming formula since the episode count went into the 10s, again the trio is suckered into doing coming along with Riku, despite whatever misgivings they have about him. Sure enough, they encounter Totetsu and pursue him into a ravine where the effects of Konton’s magical formation lie in ambush. In effect Towa and Setsuna are separated from Moroha, each grouping trapped in an illusion environment where they seemingly cannot escape. The former two find themselves wandering a field towards a tree that remains out of reach, while Moroha finds herself endless climbing up the walls of the ravine.

Over with Sesshoumaru’s twins, there is again palpable tension with how differently the modern day-raised Towa and the feudal-living Setsuna see things about their environment. Fortunately Towa manages to prove that her 21st Century education is able to figure out how illusions like Konton’s might work. That, plus her and Setsuna’s growing use of their inherited dog-demon traits, enable them to break free of the illusion and confront Konton himself. And as the next-episode preview spoils, Kirinmaru will finally show up on the battlefield along with the twins’ unmet father (and ensemble dark horse from classic “Inuyasha”) Sesshoumaru. How will this “first meeting” play out?

“Yashahime: Princess Half-Demon” airs weekly on NNS in Japan, while international distribution is handled by Viz Media through anime platform Crunchyroll, streaming service Hulu, and Funimation, which has partnered with Viz to produce an official English dub that began releasing last November 2020. Meanwhile, Medialink has rights for airing the series in Southeast Asia, which can be watched via the YouTubechannel of Ani-One Asia, available in that region only.

Image courtesy of OtakuKart

Friday, January 29, 2021

GCQ for METRO MANILA, C.A.R., DAVAO and Other Areas Starting FEBRUARY

Maybe it was because the “super-spreader” event warned about by health officials from the 2020 Holidays only took until now to hit its stride. Maybe the news that vaccines are already coming has made people complacent. Maybe it was the new UK variant strain entering the country, or the fact that reporting on daily cases had recently seen deaths outnumbering recoveries after so long. Whatever the reason, the specter of COVID-19 hovers over the Philippines anew, almost like it had for a solid part of 2020. Perhaps it is understandable then that community quarantine levels nationwide are escalating once more. reports that effective the start of February, several key areas of the country will be placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) for the duration of the entire month. The affected areas were revealed by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque during a televised briefing this Friday, January 29. To wit, from February 1 to 28, GCQ status will apply to Metro Manila, the whole of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), the individual provinces of Batangas, Davao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, and the major cities of Davao, Tacloban and Iligan.

GCQ level of quarantine is mandated on communities with “moderate risk” in healthcare capacity. This means that 60 to 70 percent of an area’s total bed capacity – hospital rooms, isolation wards, intensive care units and ventilators – are being used at any given time. As COVID is a mass spreader, it can send plenty of infected to fill up hospitals and dedicated isolation centers. Almost all named areas have been consistently topping national rankings in new COVID cases daily. Furthermore, the CAR provinces of Benguet and Mountain Provinces have recorded cases of the new, more infectious, COVID variant from the UK.

Other areas of the country that have not been mentioned in Presidential spokesperson Roque’s report will for the most part remain under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), a more relaxed status denoting “safe” levels of bed capacity, 60% or  below. However, the city of Passi in Iloilo province is currently under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) since January 28 until February 11. ECQ covers high risk to critical levels of bed capacity or above 70 percent.

Image courtesy of Rappler



As the first month of the year 2021 comes to an end, major movie studios in Hollywood have begun to decide when, and possibly how, their upcoming big movies are going to premiere. This is important seeing as many of these filmmakers had slates of films for release back in 2020 that got cancelled because of pesky COVID. A number of these studios are taking heart that the start of vaccination drives against the viral pandemic might inspire cinemas to open sometime mid-year. Thus they have decided to strategically position their postponed movies there. Others however, are far more cautious.

By that we mean Warner Bros. Pictures have decided to hold off on premiering their biopic on Rock n Roll King Elvis Presley titled, quite simply, “Elvis,” until the middle of next year. Entertainment Weekly tells us that WB has pushed the film a second time. Its first premiere date had been October 1 this year, then shifted a month later to November 5. Warning signs were detected when Warner did not include “Elvis” in its lineup of films that were being given simultaneous releases on theaters and HBO Max streaming. Now, it is confirmed that the movie will not screen until June 3, 2022.

For the most part, the driving reason for all blockbuster release date shuffles nowadays is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some films are pegged by studios to require a wide release only possible in movie-houses, so until these establishments can confidently open, premiering movies become a guessing game. In addition, this production had a nasty brush with the disease while filming in Australia last March 2020. Among those infected had been actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson. It was not until September last year that work resumed on “Elvis.”

Tom Hanks stars opposite Austin Butler from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” under the direction of Baz Luhrmann (1996’s “Romeo + Juliet”) for “Elvis,” which chronicles 20 years in the life of Elvis Presley, especially while under the management of the controlling Colonel Tom Parker. Butler plays the role of the King of Rock n Roll while Hanks gets another major historical figure in entertainment under his acting belt as Col. Parker. The film also stars Olivia DeJonge, Yola, Gary Clark Jr., Shannon Sanders, Jordan Holland and Alton Mason.

Image from Movies and TV

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Masked Vigilante ZORRO Getting Live-Action SERIES REBOOT from SECUOYA STUDIOS

Johnston McCulley was an American author, but his most enduring literary creation of Zorro, the masked vigilante swordsman of old Spanish California, has since been embraced by the Latin American community as a symbolic pop culture figure. There have been several Mexican films and even a telenovela produced by Telemundo in 2007. Not to mention, Zorro is also internationally known with productions featuring done in Europe and even Asia. While among the more recent big stories about Zorro were the 1998 and 2005 films starring Antonio Banderas (as a legacy character), there are plans to reboot the franchise currently in development, like this particular project.

Variety tells us that a new series based on Zorro is being developed by Secuoya Studios in Los Angeles. Tentatively titled “El Zorro” (literally “The Fox” in Spanish), the project was revealed by Secuoya president James Costos during an online presentation to the studio investors this past Thursday, January 28. To this end, Secuoya is collaborating with John Gertz of Zorro Productions Inc., which controls worldwide copyright and trademarks for the character, as well as Andy Kaplan and Jesus Torres, both formerly executives at Sony. Gertz also served as producer for the Banderas-led “Zorro” films from Sony/Tri-Star and Columbia Pictures.

Secuoya director of fiction David Martinez spoke of the wide appeal of Zorro during the presentation saying, “This is one of the biggest IPs, not only in the Spanish-speaking territories, but the world.” Scripts for the series have been written by Spanish screenwriter Carlos Portela, who worked on the 2017 Spanish comedy-drama streaming series “Velvet Colleccion” for Movistar+. Secuoya will take the lead in producing “El Zorro,” with Kaplan and Torres being joined as executive producers by Sergio Pizzolante, another Secuoya exec working from Miami.

No further details were given on “El Zorro,” such as its cast, or when and where it will premiere. This project by Secuoya is different from another “Zorro” production being developed by CBS Television Studios for NBC. Its executive producers include Robert Rodriguez (original slated director for 1998’s “The Mask of Zorro”), Sofia Vergara and Alfredo Barrios Jr., and will be a legacy series set in the modern day with a female descendant of original Zorro Diego de la Vega.

Image from Comic Book Resources

CANCELLED FIBA ASIA CUP Qualifier Games in PH will be Played in DOHA, QATAR February


It is a testament to the determination of officials for the international basketball league FIBA, and the players particularly of its Asian and Oceania regional contingents, that they would push to complete their qualifying tournaments in time to hold the FIBA Asia Cup this year in Jakarta as planned. That is all impressive considering the restrictions that pop up now and then due to COVID-19. Already there has been has been a hiccup due to the Asia Qualifiers third window that was supposed to be held here in the Philippines, being cancelled on Tuesday because of travel bans. For a time, no country has volunteered to be an alternate host.

The question mark disappeared as of the evening of Thursday according to the Philippine Star. That is because hosting duties for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers third window have been picked up by Qatar, with the venue for the playing bubble being at their capital of Doha. FIBA announced the decision this past January 28, or two days after the Philippines had to turn it down. In fact, several other groups of national teams aiming for qualification to the Asia Cup will be competing for their slots at Doha.

Clark in Pampanga would have been the original bubble site for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers, which includes Philippine squad Gilas Pilipinas. A recent barrage of travel restrictions in light of the entry of a more infectious strain of the COVID-19 virus from the UK however has forced the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to pass on hosting duties. Now that Qatar has accepted the responsibility of getting these games through, Gilas will soon be flying to Doha, where their next matches against Indonesia and South Korea will be played on February 20 and 22 respectively.

It seems the Middle East is getting the lion’s share of 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifier games to process. Back in November 2020 the second window matches were played in Manama, Bahrain. And now, in addition to the Philippines’ Group A (alongside Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand), Groups B and E are also Doha-bound. Other qualifying Groups with unfinished games will continue playing at Manama. The 2021 FIBA Asia Cup itself will be held, barring COVID-related issues, in Jakarta, Indonesia from August 16 to 28.

Image courtesy of Tiebreaker Times

AERION Building New HQ in FLORIDA Ahead of Producing AS2 SUPERSONIC BUSINESS JET by 2023

After advances in technology and aircraft design led to the evolution of planes that could fly faster than the speed of sound, the air passenger service industry of the time thought of the possibilities for introducing supersonic airliners for commercial flights. Only two designs became feasible enough for the work: the Soviet Tupolev Tu-144 and the British-French Concorde. The former served as an airliner for three years (1975-78) before being reduced to cargo and scientific use, while the latter was active from 1976 to 2003. There were issues regarding both planes, ranging from unhealthy sonic booms to fuel emission fallout.

While no aircraft manufacturer has delved seriously into new large-scale supersonic transport ideas since, American company Aerion is scaling down the concept with the intent to create business jets that fly faster than sound. CNN tells us that in order to step up their development of the AS2 supersonic business jet that is the cornerstone of their business, they are starting work on their new global headquarters, Aerian Park located in Melbourne, Florida. Aerion Corporation plans to complete enough of their HQ in time for the start of production for the AS2, slated in 2023.

At more than 110 acres, Aerian Park is a combination campus for research and design, plus manufacturing and interior completion hub. With its close proximity to Orlando Melbourne International Airport, any aircraft rolling out of Aerion’s factory will be ready to fly, and by 2026 the company hopes to provide no less than 675 high-paying jobs at Aerian Park in the local area. Construction costs are estimated at around $300 million, gathered via capital investment.

The crux of Aerion’s existence is the AS2, originating in 2004 as the SBJ (literally “supersonic business jet”) design, before being updated to its current form by 2014. With a capacity of 8-12 passengers, the AS2 can reach supersonic speeds of up to Mach 1.4 (above 1,000 mph). At that speed, it could cross the Atlantic from New York to London in 4 and-a-half hours. Each aircraft has a $120 million price tag, with Aerion already having a production backlog of 300 AS2 orders to be delivered in 10 years.

According to Aerion chairman, president and CEO Tom vice, the hefty asking price for their AS2 supersonic jet will pay itself in terms of time saved in shorter flights plus lower fuel-burn thanks to its highly-efficient General Electric Affinity engines. There will be no environmental damage at the level of Concorde’s operation years ago. Aerion sees the AS2 flying for tests by 2024, with market availability following next by 2026.

Image from Space Coast Daily



When the epic Arrow-verse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths” finally wound down in The CW in January 2020, one of the big takeaways in the restoration of the multiverse and formation of Earth-Prime was that the “Supergirl” version (former Earth-38) of Superman/Clark Kent (played by Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) have become parents. It was like their comic-book counterparts at the time, only the TV versions have two! Unsurprisingly, The CW followed that up with the announcement of “Superman & Lois,” a spinoff about the Kents’ lives and adventures as a Super-family. There was an initial teaser for it last December, but the effect was too abstract.

But this week, as IGN puts it, The CW has decided to give Arrow-verse regulars, particularly the fans of Tyler Hoechlin’s Superman in “Supergirl,” a better look at how he, his wife Lois and their kids will be like in the upcoming series “Superman & Lois.” The teaser image put up by The CW is pure movie poster delight, with big-head visuals of Hoechlin and Elizabeth Tulloch as the world’s greatest superhero and reporter, respectively. To their lower right are (left to right) actors Jordan Elsass as Jonathan Kent and Alexander Garfin as Jordan Kent.

DC fans who also read the comics know that at the time this CW spinoff was announced, the comic-book Superman and Lois were also parents to one son, young Jonathan Kent who has taken up the costumed identity of Superboy (and usually partners with Batman’s son Damian Wayne as Robin). In more recent story arcs, extraordinary circumstances grew Jon from 10 years old to 17. Fittingly that meshes with the older age of the TV Jon and his bro Jordan, with Clark himself getting the grizzled treatment by boasting some prominent stubble on his chin.

Early info by The CW on “Superman & Lois” (not seen much in the December 2020 trailer) puts Clark, Lois, Jon and Jordan Kent back in Smallville, Kansas to settle some family business. Said business involves Clark reuniting with high-school sweetheart Lana Lang (Emmanuelle Chriqui), a loan officer married to Smallville’s fire chief, Kyle Cushing (Erik Valdez). They have a daughter, Sarah (Inde Navarrette), whom the Kent brothers befriend. Clark must balance being a family man with being Superman, being called on by Lois’ father General Sam Lane (Dylan Walsh) for some crisis or other. And the arrival in town of an unknown figure (Wole Parks) brings danger ever closer.

As the poster says, “Superman & Lois” will premiere February 23 on The CW with an hour-and-a-half pilot premiere. In subsequent weeks the extra 30 minutes will be given over to the after-show special “Superman & Lois: Legacy of Hope.”

Images from Comic Book Resources


Even as the long hoped-for vaccines for COVID-19 begin to be distributed around the pandemic-battered world, and even as some countries have already begun surely vaccinating their respective populations against the still-rampaging virus, the Philippines have taken the slow and steady approach. Vaccines for COVID need to be tested and approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be utilized, although getting an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from them could significantly cut down on the waiting time. For the national government, LGUs and private enterprises that have chosen to deal with AstraZeneca, the wait is over.

CNN Philippines would have it that the Philippine Food and Drug Administration had given its second Emergency Use Authorization for vaccines against COVID-19 to the vaccine manufactured by British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. The FDA director-general Eric Domingo announced the news on Thursday, January 28, following a thorough review of AZD1222, the COVID vaccine that AstraZeneca developed in collaboration with Oxford University. It now joins BNT162b2/Comirnaty, the vaccine created by Pfizer and BioNTech, which got its own EUA two weeks ago.

Domingo noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine fulfilled all conditions for allowing a EUA. Local studies found no serious safety concerns with it, therefore minimal risks are outweighed by the benefits, meaning the gained COVID immunity. Adverse effects of its usage, expected of many other vaccines, were also judged as mild, namely pain in the injected area, headaches and fever, much like getting vaccinated against flu. Also helpful are the more manageable requirements for transporting and storing AZD1222, as they do not need to be frozen, only kept at about 2-8°C.

By the terms of the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization, the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 is administered in two doses, spaced anywhere from four to 12 weeks apart. Except for pregnant women, anyone at the age of 18 and above is viable for injection. The efficacy rate against COVID has been determined by the FDA to be a 70% from the first dose then gets even better after the second one.

Between efforts by the national government, 39 LGUs and more than 300 businesses from the private sector, AstraZeneca has earmarked about 17 million doses of the vaccine. Overall, the earliest COVID vaccine shipments to the Philippines will arrive by February, with immunization programs beginning either that month or in March.

Image courtesy of Business World

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

REVAMPED TESLA MODEL S with “PLAID” Powertrain to Start Shipping MARCH

Usually when it comes to models of anything from an electronic device to a vehicle, when a new model comes out and gains wide distribution, the predecessors will eventually be phased out. E-vehicle automaker Tesla introduced its latest electronic sedan, the Model 3, back in 2017. It was touted as the e-car that would make e-vehicles affordable to most buyers yet. And indeed, as of 2020 the Model 3 is supposed to be the all-time best-selling electric car. Normally this should mean that the Model 3’s predecessor, the Tesla Model S from 2012, should be on the way out. But Tesla has more to show with this e-sedan this year.

The Verge has it that Tesla is rolling out the first significant revamp of the Model S sedan since it was introduced in the first half of the 2010s. The changes encompass both its external looks and internal capabilities, with the major update being on the new powertrain options. With these new trims the Model S is now being touted by Tesla as being the fastest production car ever made.

The first revamped Model S variant, “Long Range,” is a dual-motor (engines on each axle) with 412 miles of range and costs $79,990. But the other variants are where the new powertrain shines, featuring a tri-motor setup (front axle, both rear wheels) that can get it from 0 to 60 mph in under 2 seconds. Both trims are named “Plaid” (“Spaceballs” reference), with “basic” Plaid costing $119,000 for a 390-mile range and the Plaid+ having a range of 520 miles, for the price of $139,000. Top speeds are 155 mph for the Long Range and 200 mph for both Plaids.

Other features of the Tesla Model S serves to bring it up to speed aesthetics-wise with later Tesla e-vehicles. The original portrait-oriented touchscreen dashboard panel is now horizontal for a better display. The steering wheel is a sweetly futuristic “butterfly U” shape to accommodate the driver’s personal display; and a secondary screen so that the rear passengers can see too. Top it off with a glass roof and it makes for a nice revision of the Model S sedan. Tesla looks to get the revamped model to ship starting March.

Image courtesy of Bloomberg


J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. have taken steps to expand the Wizarding World beyond just the core narrative of “Harry Potter,” the Boy Who Lived, through spinoff books, a prequel film series that covers magical involvement in World War II, and even a distant sequel stage play. On the more adult-oriented scale of fantasy franchises, George R.R. Martin and WarnerMedia/HBO have been delving into many possibilities regarding expansions to the setting of Westeros and Essos in “Game of Thrones.” Martin has delayed his last two books for side novels and such, after all. There is even the chance that an upcoming production may be animated.

Comic Book Resources tells us that HBO Max has been canvassing writers for ideas to develop yet another spinoff to “Game of Thrones,” the fantasy epic series that gave HBO so much hype for eight seasons from 2011 to 2019. The fact that the supposed series they are conceptualizing may be a mature-audiences animated production is a surprise but not expected, as a number of animated series for grown-ups have been featured in the channel. Executives from HBO are of course conferring with George R.R. Martin on what progress has been made for all spinoffs.

There are of course other “Thrones” productions that already have lots of development. One is “House of the Dragon,” a prequel series on HBO featuring the history of the Targaryen Dynasty, unifiers of the separate Kingdoms of Westeros under the Iron Throne. Material for the storyline is supposed to be taken from Martin’s 2018 book “Fire and Blood,” written as in-universe historical texts about the Targaryen rulers and their dragons. Less fleshed out is “Tales of Dunk and Egg,” also based on a series of novellas chronicling the childhood adventures of the future King Aegon V Targaryen and his bodyguard Ser Duncan the Tall, nine decades before “Game of Thrones.”

The above two are live-action, in contrast to the plans for the latest spinoff to be animated. There is the possibility this new idea could fall through, like another prequel proposal set several millennia before the events of the original HBO series and the books they were based from. HBO axed the concept in 2019.

Image courtesy of MSN


With the advent of cellular networks tying phone numbers to individual subscriber identity module (SIM) cards, came the explosion of mobile numbers to memorize. This was even worse when mobile phone users were on prepaid plans, as that entailed using a mobile number for only as long as the current network’s prepaid plan was maintained by keeping it loaded. If the user got another SIM card, from the same network or another, it was time to inform their phone contacts that they had a new number. For a time, the notion of keeping the same number even when switching networks was floated in legislation. Now that idea could become reality.


In the late 1930s, the increasing bias towards Fascism and Nazism in the then-only international film festival in Venice led to jury members from France, the UK and the US to withdraw from the event. The French government would select the Riviera city of Cannes to host their own bias-free international film festival. The first edition of it in 1939 only got as far as the gala before World War II canceled it. Not until 1946 was the eventual Cannes Film Festival finally inaugurated. In 2020 the film-fest got cancelled again by the COVID pandemic; and even now it is interfering with this year’s edition, causing delay to the summer.


When COVID-19 swept across the world over the course of the year 2020, Hollywood studios were faced with hard choices. They could put off releasing what should have been their money-making blockbusters last year (as theaters were closed) and wait for the pandemic to lighten up so that the cinema sector can reopen; or they could premiere their movies on digital streaming services and hope that online viewer subscriptions could recoup losses. Sony-Columbia Pictures did that with “Bloodshot” following a short March 2020 theater run. Some studios might do both, like with Warner Bros. slating their 2021 premiers with oft-simultaneous HBO Max releases. Others however, want cinema releases or bust.

The Hollywood Reporter tells us that Hollywood at this point is becoming more determined to see their big-budget films, including those supposed to come out last year but delayed, to premiere in cinemas that they hope to see reopening around the world this 2021. This new attitude is being borne from the increasing availability of vaccines for the COVID-19 that has laid the motion picture industry low the year before. It may take yet another calendar shuffle to late 2021, but if that is what it will take then fine.

For instance, Marvel Studio had hoped to kick-start Phase 4 of the MCU last May 2020 with “Black Widow,” an interquel starring Scarlett Johansson as super-spy Avenger Natasha Romanov. It has already been re-scheduled twice, to November last year and current at May this year. While Marvel’s parent company Disney has hedged bets with releasing “Raya and the Last Dragon” on theaters and Disney+ Premium this March, the superhero movie studio is adamant that a major part of the MCU must stay in the theaters.

Paramount is thinking the same with their distant sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” starring Tom Cruise. First slated for July 2020, then to December, they are now betting it all on a July 2021 premiere. So far, the idea of putting the film on their upcoming Paramount+ streaming service, which replaces CBS All Access, is not a go for the studio.

Hoping that cinemas will widely reopen soon as more people get vaccinated against COVID is a gamble for Hollywood. A January survey on US moviegoers by the National Research Group already has 82% of the respondents feeling “comfortable” in watching films in theaters when the vaccines are accessible. It is the hope of filmmakers and production companies that this positive trend only increases in future.

Image from The Projects World


Since 1975, the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) has been the favored arena within which the best filmmakers and major studios would compete for supreme honors in Philippine cinema and rule the country’s box office while foreign movies are shut out. That last part may be troublesome for when major Hollywood blockbusters are supposed to arrive during the Holidays, but any chance for the local movie industry to shine is welcome. It is curious that a film-fest which covers the whole nation remains named after the National Capital Region (NCR) alone. A Fighting Senator has noticed however, and is pushing legislation to make a change. reports that Sen. Manny Pacquiao is moving to have the name of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival be changed. To that end he has filed Senate Bill No. 2017 which would rename the MMFF to the Philippine Film Festival (PFF). The fighting lawmaker explained that having the country’s premier film-fest bear only the name of Manila counted as being too exclusive, insinuating that only the NCR carries the tradition of local film production.

“In order to fully recognize the local movie industry’s goal of over-all developmental effort for the country, it is but suitable to rename the Metro Manila Film Festival into an inclusive 'Philippine Film Festival',” notes Sen. Pacquiao on his speech introducing Senate Bill No. 2017. Despite the initiative however, the Pambansang Kamao assures that he respect how the MMFF has enriched Philippine culture, deepen Filipinos’ awareness of historical heritage and promoted native arts. All that is left now is to push the national character of what the film-fest does, by having it carry the name of the entire country itself.

Interestingly, should the bill to rename the MMFF into the PFF push through, it could have repercussions regarding the organization of the event. The film-fest after all originated in 1975 under the auspices of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). Perhaps the organizing agency could be transferred to a national body if SBN 2017 succeeds. For Sen. Pacquiao, this is only the beginning of the journey for renaming the MMFF.

Image courtesy of

012721 DWAYNE JOHNSON Talks PreROCK Nickname Late Father in Upcoming NBC Sitcom YOUNG ROCK.docx

Biopics and biographical series remain very popular genres in both big and small screens. “Bohemian Rhapsody” from 2018 is unlikely to be forgotten soon, and over in Netflix “Selena: The Series” is offering a more lengthy multi-episode look at the life of Tejano music superstar Selena Quintanilla-Perez similar to the 1997 film that starred Jennifer Lopez. Now-retired WWE Superstar Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, is up next with a sitcom about his life soon to premiere on NBC next month. Said show will reveal some new tidbits about the early days of the would-be pro-wrestling icon and actor, including stuff like another nickname of his.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

“THE LORD OF THE RINGS: GOLLUM” Action-Adventure Game Delayed to 2022

It is often remarked that medieval fantasy settings in literature, tabletop gaming and other media would not have taken off as far as it has without the codification of the genre by author J.R.R. Tolkien and his many books on Middle-Earth, from “The Hobbit” to “The Lord of the Rings” and everything in between. Well after New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson brought the aforementioned books to the big screen in the first two decades since 2000, there have been several attempts to make more Middle-Earth media, from the pseudo-prequel series being developed by Amazon, to an action-adventure videogame featuring Gollum that apparently has been pushed back by a year.

According to IGN the multiplatform game “The Lord of the Rings: Gollum” from German developer Deadalic Entertainment and French publisher Nacon will now be releasing in 2022 instead. Nacon revealed the development in a post on their official Twitter page, dated January 27. This puts the kibosh on the original release window of this year, as initially announced back in August 2020. Initial information on the videogame would have it as a fusion of “Prince of Persia,” which featured massive environments traversed by vertical acrobatics, and “Metal Gear Solid” with portions of stealth around enemies.

“The Lord of the Rings: Gollum” is notable for putting players in control of the titular Gollum, a sometimes-antagonistic yet tragic character in both “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings,” having once been a “Stoor” Hobbit named Smeagol who was corrupted by possession of the malevolent One Ring of Sauron. Teaser images from last year show that in addition to action adventure, players will see Gollum having internal dialogue and arguments between his current monstrous self and his gentle former persona as Smeagol. This translates into allowing players to make decisions regarding Gollum’s actions, something Daedalic says will affect the game storyline in passing.

Daedalic and Nacon are giving “Lord of the Rings: Gollum” a wide release on Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X/S, and finally on PC.

Image courtesy of TechRaptor


The struggles to keep sporting events going in various countries and regions around the world even in the face of pandemic can range from inspiring to disappointing. A number of major professional sports leagues managed to salvage some 2020 season play by utilizing bubble environments for players and officials. On the other hand, amateur competitions find themselves either being put off like the Tokyo Olympics, or being just cancelled out of hand. It has been hoped that the COVID situation can stabilize enough so that the Philippines can fulfill its hosting duties for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers this year.

DISNEY’s “RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON” Latest TRAILER Shines Spotlight on SISU, with HUMAN Form

While traditionally, Disney has dipped into fairy tales and the occasional book to adapt into the many entries of their Animated Canon, every now and then they have come up with original stories to tell. Some of their most successful ventures in this end include “Lilo & Stitch,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Moana.” Disney Animation Studios’ latest original story is “Raya and the Last Dragon,” a fantasy adventure in a Southeast Asian setting. COVID has bumped its original 2020 release date to early this year, plus a stint on streaming, but that gives time to show a new trailer that shines the spotlight on the dragon.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that the January 26 trailer for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon” finally gives a good few seconds of visuals on the second main character of the upcoming animated film as named in the title itself. This comes after previous trailers put the spotlight on Raya, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran, an adventurer princess leading a band of colorful lowlifes in the search for Sisu, the foretold last dragon who could save their war-torn land of Kumandra from the return of ancient monsters called the Druun.

And the wait was worth it to see Sisu, voiced by Awkwafina, as she finally appears in full view of viewers. Similar to Mushu in the original animated “Mulan” from 1998, Sisu is the primary oriental dragon design given a friendly, lively makeover, complete with a pop culture-savvy attitude seen in the Genie (both versions) of Disney’s “Aladdin.” That was certainly a surprise following Raya’s ornate ritual to summon her as seen in the preview, plus her initially deferential tone in conversation. But the kicker would have to be when Sisu takes on human form. The effect is like if Disney artists drew a (dark-eyed) Targaryen from “Game of Thrones.”

But Sisu is not the only highlight of this “Raya and the Last Dragon” trailer. There is also the appearance of Noi (voice of Thalia Tran), a baby girl who is already a skilled con artist and criminal, aided by several animal accomplices. It certain adds a diverse and wackily colorful dynamic to Raya’s questing group until Sisu the last dragon joins their party. Gemma Chan portraying the intensely determined antagonist Namaari also gives this sneak peek the needed tension.

All in all, things are looking great for “Raya and the Last Dragon,” set to premiere cinematically on March 5, as well as digitally for Premier Access subscribers of Disney+.

Image from Keith Loves Movies


Going into the 21st Century, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez decided that after establishing himself as an adult-oriented creator of action films like “El Mariachi” and “From Dusk Till Dawn,” he needed a change of pace by developing a movie that his children can watch. In 2001 his brainchild “Spy Kids,” which he described as a fusion of James Bond and Willy Wonka, was released, demonstrating that Rodriguez could channel his filmmaking mastery into all-ages and family-friendly fare. That film would birth a modest franchise with three sequels and even a Netflix animated spinoff. “Spy Kids” actually remains viable enough that a production company is interested in a possible reboot of it.

Deadline tells us that Skydance Media has optioned the rights for a fresh new start on the “Spy Kids” film series in collaboration with original creator Robert Rodriguez and current franchise holder, Spyglass Media Group. In this arrangement, Skydance will be the primary production studio for a conceptualized reboot depicting a multicultural family with spies for parents and children getting into adventures as they are introduced into the world of espionage, but in a general-patronage way. The treatment will again be written by Rodriguez, who is also up to direct.

While Skydance already has a strong slate of upcoming movies done in concert with Paramount Pictures, namely two Tom Cruise starrers in “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Mission: Impossible 7,” plus “G.I. Joe: Snake-Eyes,” they have been interested in diversifying their cinema portfolio by getting to produce an established all-ages film. In this they will be getting help from Spyglass Media in ensuring a “Spy Kids” authenticity will be given their project, thanks to executive producers Peter Oillataguerre and Gary Barber.

“Spy Kids” as originally conceived by Robert Rodriguez chronicles the adventures of the Cortez Family. When their parents disappear, children Carmen and Juni learn that their mom and dad were retired spies. With the help of their estranged uncle and lots of cool special effects-laden gadgets and vehicles, they set out to find the elder Cortezes. The follow-up movies show the Cortez siblings as full-fledged (young) spies, helping to thwart masterminds with off-the-wall terror plots.

Of course, this “Spy Kids” reboot is still a ways off, with no dates or timetables yet revealed. Rodriguez as of late is in the spotlight for directing “The Tragedy,” episode 6 of season 2 for “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian,” currently streaming on Disney+.

Image courtesy of Games Radar+

WWE NETWORK Streaming Content Folding into NBCUNIVERSAL PEACOCK Starting MARCH

None can doubt at how big a brand World Wrestling Entertainment has become. From its beginnings as merely one of many professional wrestling promotions across the US, the WWE would grow beyond the spectacle to emerge as a multimedia franchise, with licensed toys and eventually videogames to help make the company and its top-class talent widely known. Since 2014 it has also operated its own digital television and streaming service, the aptly-named WWE Network. But while launched stateside, this platform will soon become part of a larger umbrella, as NBCUniversal adds WWE content to its own exclusive streaming service, Peacock.

According to Variety, the WWE and NBCUniversal have signed a multiyear contract making the latter’s Peacock streaming platform the US-exclusive online distributor for the WWE Network. In a statement given Monday, January 25, World Wrestling Entertainment announced that their service will now be folded into Peacock effective March 18 of this year. From that point on, current and future WWE Network content will be made available within Peacock’s Premium and ad-free Premium Plus subscription, with no additional charges to their subscribers. This will include the existing 1.1 million stateside subscribers of the WWE Network, which will be folded with Peacock’s.

As with its current platform, when Peacock launches WWE Network within its Premium and Premium Plus services, related content will be available in both a 24-hour channel as well as an on-demand library that boasts over 17,000 hours of past and present WWE programming, from weekly shows like “Raw” and “SmackDown” to annual events like “Survivor Series” and “WrestleMania.” In fact, the March launch will be ahead of WrestleMania 37 which will be the first to be streamed on the new arrangement with Peacock, although these specials will still be available outside of the platform via the traditional pay-per-view format.

Existing WWE Network subscribers will probably heave a sigh of relief at having their current $9.99 monthly rates being reduced to $4.99 once they are merged with Peacock (at Prime plans), a half-price cut with added non-WWE content to boot. Premium Plus, which removes ads, remains at $9.99 for now. But these changes are only for WWE Network subscribers in the US. Overseas, the service remains available as a standalone platform, while in Japan it is an actual TV network.

Image from Wrestling News Resource

JOLLIBEE Opening New Branches of VIETNAMESE Chain PHO24 This Year

When the COVID-19 outbreak intensified into a pandemic last year, worldwide economies were battered by the reduction in commerce. One such sector that was left reeling by lesser numbers of customers was the food service industry. Safety protocols discouraged dining in, so some restaurants and fast-food establishments were left only with takeout pickup and delivery. Local fast-food giant Jollibee Foods is no exception to the belt-tightening, and far from reducing numbers, it is actually adding to them. One particular extra item JFC has is a Vietnamese fast-food chain specializing in Pho, or rice noodle soup.

The Philippine Star reports that this 2021 Jollibee Foods Corp. is planning to open at least three new branches of PHO24, a noodle fast-food chain originating from Vietnam. The country’s biggest fast-food company made the announcement Monday, January 25, and elaborates that those three PHO24 stores will be the first of a planned 100 that will be built and opened across the Philippines. The earliest to open among these upcoming PHO24 branches will be in Pasig City by next month. The Vietnamese chain was acquired in 2018 by Jollibee Foods subsidiary Fresh N’ Famous Foods Inc. In a way it is similar to another familiar FNFFI franchise since 2011: Chowking.

JFC Business Group head Joseph Tanbuntiong notes that the expansion of the PHO24 chain in the Philippines figures into long-term strategic growth plans for the fast-food giant, one that not even the pandemic can foil. Growing their footprint is necessary, seeing as during Q3 of 2020 Jollibee has been hit with a P1.58 billion net loss, all but wiping out the gains of P1.67 billion they made in net income for the same period in 2019. Year-to-date losses are at a staggering P13.54 billion, no thanks to COVID-19 scaring customers. Offering something new in the form of PHO24 might hopefully mitigate these losses thus far.

Image: Asian Banking & Finance

Monday, January 25, 2021


From 1997 to 2007 they were the coolest fantasy books not just for young and teen readers but also for a surprising outside demographic. From 2001 to 2011 the big-budget blockbuster adaptations of these same books were box-office juggernauts the whole world over. Suffice to say that J.K. Rowling’s books about Harry Potter and the films made of them by Warner Bros. were one of the cornerstones of late 20th and early 21st Century pop culture. While the main story about the Boy Who Lived has ended (with only spinoff books and in-universe prequels afterwards), there is no harm in dreaming of more, of Harry Potter on the small screen.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that there has been a buzz in recent trading reports which would imply that HBO Max streaming service of WarnerMedia and AT&T are bouncing around ideas for a TV series spinoff of “Harry Potter” in the near future. Dorman Potter-heads should not be holding their breaths yet however. At the moment, Warner Bros. and HBO Max are still in the “extremely early stages” that precede even initial development. At most, they have only contacted writers to discuss story ideas, nothing more.

Having a small-screen expansion of Harry’s Wizarding World universe seems to be a natural decision for Warner to make, considering their traditional rival Disney seems to be coasting on success with “The Mandalorian,” a spinoff of the “Star Wars” franchise taking place between the original and sequel trilogies. About the only significant obstacle to further development of this idea is the sentiments of the original creator, author J.K. Rowling herself. Her screenwriting foray with the “Fantastic Beasts” prequel movies seems to have hit a snag with the lackluster reception of “The Crimes of Grindelwald.” Outside of Potter however, Rowling has recently lost significant numbers of support after expressing criticism on some trans-rights issues last year.

In addition to “Harry Potter,” HBO Max has been discussing further spinoffs for “Game of Thrones,” the hit HBO fantasy epic based on the books by George R.R. Martin. Despite mixed reviews for the second film, the third as-yet un-subtitled “Fantastic Beasts” film is in production for a 2022 release. The story delves into the imminent involvement of the Wizarding World in World War II, as orchestrated by Dark Wizard Gellert Grindelwald, now played by Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp.

Image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter


On January 26, 2020 the NBA and the rest of the basketball world was devastated by an epic and tragic loss. On that day, then-retired LA Laker and renowned “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in California. He was 41, and his daughter Gianna, a fellow casualty, was only 13. It was an abrupt end to a living legend of the sport and one of his children who possessed the potential to carry on the Bryant name as a basketball legacy. As the Philippines reached January 26, 2021 first, the country counts among the early commemorators of Kobe Bryant, with tributes in real life and online.

According to The Manila Bulletin, Filipinos true to their basketball fandom have poured out on social media to pay respects at the first year anniversary of the passing of Kobe Bryant. And some of these are live in the real world, or as much as can be allowed given health and safety protocols in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. One prominent spot is at the Tenement in Taguig, the central basketball court of which has been given over to a mural of Black Mamba and his daughter Gianna last year.

Said mural, the brainchild of Tenement Visual Artists (TVA), has seen new work with the latest art being rendered in traditional Lakers colors compared to the black-and-white from 2020. Public viewing was allowed by the TVA for Tuesday, from 8AM to 10PM according to their Facebook page, but with time extensions possible.

Our TENEMENT Famous Court will be open to the public from January 26, 2021 til further notice from 8am to 10 pm, to give...

Posted by Tenement Visual Artists on Monday, January 25, 2021

But as co-founder Jennifer Corpin says, all viewers must bring facemask and face-shield, alcohol or hand sanitizers and ID. They will be subject to temperature checks before being allowed onto the Tenement basketball court, strictly in batches of 10 at a time. And nobody under age 17 and over 60 will be allowed. Photo-shoots can only be done at courtside, but designated photographers can be asked to shoot aerial shots of the mural via visitor cameras or smartphones.

Elsewhere, Valenzuela 2nd District Rep. Eric Martinez will be headlining a tribute program the same day at the Karuhatan covered court, nicknamed the House of Kobe. The event will commemorate the placing of Black Mamba markers, an art exhibit, and the opening of “Gigi’s Crib” in honor of Gianna Bryant.

See u Tuesday, 2 days to go....Kobe❤🏀

Posted by Eric Martinez on Saturday, January 23, 2021
Image from Metro News Central


Gamers who have been enjoying videogames since the 1980s might know enough regarding the story about Japanese developer Konami. In the age of Nintendo’s Famicom/NES they shot to prominence with some memorable game franchises: “Contra,” “Castlevania,” and “Metal Gear” for instance. As videogame consoles evolved their offerings evolved similarly: “Suikoden” and “Dance Dance Revolution” are prime examples of their next-gen works. But going into the 2010s Konami’s gaming division has grown increasingly quiet, its former franchises either being repurposed for mobile gaming or quietly canceled. By the time the company turned 50 in 2019 they were non-entities in electronic entertainment. Then a Monday announcement seemed to close that chapter permanently.

At least that would be the initial reading of Konami Holdings Co. and its statement to investors on January 25 regarding an internal restructuring of its company that will “close” its videogame production divisions effective February 1. But as gaming news site IGN would have it that is not really the end of Konami as a game-maker. A company representative issued a clarification on the announcement, explaining that Konami’s “Production Divisions 1-3” are being consolidated (after dissolution). Said course of action was decided by higher-ups as a response to rapid shifts in the videogame market.

Doom-and-gloom interpretations of Konami’s gaming-related decisions have been the trend, especially as the fact remains that they are not releasing lots of new game titles anymore. But even that perception is not quite accurate. Their “Pro Evolution Soccer” sports franchise is still on, with the latest entry, “eFootball PES 2020” releasing in 2019 with a “PES 2021” season update following just last year. Then of course it has its dancing arcade games and its “Yu-Gi-Oh!” card game franchise. Furthermore, the heads of the soon-to-close Production Divisions are moving to departmental leadership in Konami’s general production.

If there is any indication that Konami has not thrown the towel yet in making videogames, that would be the 2020 establishment of a third-party publishing division in the West. Also last year, they released their dedicated home-console revival of NEC’s game system the TurboGraphx-16 Mini (PC Engine Mini in Japan) during the COVID outbreak. And they are also known to be working on “PES 2022” for next-gen consoles, which will employ the Unreal Engine for graphics. So Konami is still here, for the moment.

Image courtesy of CG Magazine


Disney has been getting ideas for its cinematic productions from everywhere. One favorite source has been adapting rides and attractions from their amusement parks into films. Sometimes they become blockbuster franchises like “Pirates of the Caribbean” had been. Other times they fade into obscurity like “The Haunted Mansion” from 2003. Regardless of success, some elements from the movie versions tend to trickle back into the rides that inspired them. Again, “Pirates of the Caribbean” is a prime example, thanks to Johnny Depp’s character Jack Sparrow. Now, Disney’s upcoming “Jungle Cruise” film is already making important changes to its source attraction, even before the cinematic premiere.

The Los Angeles Times reports that, ahead of Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” movie coming out in theaters later this year, the House of Mouse has announced some alterations to the original riverboat attraction at Disneyland Park, and its “sisters” in Florida, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Disney announced the move this past Monday, January 25, along with an explanation on just what changes will be done. To wit, certain cultural elements of the cruise that are now incorrect in terms of racial sensitivity will be removed. Where indigenous peoples once “attacked” the riverboat with thrown spears, wild animals are taking their places.

Considering the first Jungle Cruise was opened in Disneyland back in 1955, it is understandable that some culture depictions are now suspect by current scholarly standards, like the aforementioned hostile river tribesmen. Disney Imagineering creative development and inclusion strategies executive Carmen Smith noted the need for updating when she said, “As Imagineers, it is our responsibility to ensure experiences we create and stories we share reflect the voices and perspectives of the world around us.” Similar actions were done several years ago for “Pirates of the Caribbean” where a “wench auction” animatronic sequence was revamped with said auctioned woman being recast as a lady pirate.

Meanwhile, the “Jungle Cruise” movie looks set to be released this coming July 30. This was after two premiere changes: originally it was scheduled for October 2019, then for July 24 last year. The COVID pandemic pushed the release to the current date. Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt star as a riverboat captain-scientist duo on a race against a rival German expedition up the jungles of the Amazon River to find a rumored Tree of Life with powerful healing qualities.

Image courtesy of Orlando Sentinel


Two certain media came out last year, even as the country and the world was swept up (and locked up) in the global COVID pandemic. One is The IdeaFirst Company’s YouTube web series “Gameboys,” the first significant foray into the contemporary boys’ love genre by a Philippine production. The other is “Get in the Zone,” the first full album of South Korean-developed P-Pop boy band SB19, who recently worked on a new ad jingle for Lazada. While seemingly separate, the web series and a song from that SB19 album came together recently in a surprisingly fitting combo, according to fans.

By that, we mean The IdeaFirst Company’s first trailer for season 2 of “Gameboys” which they released last Friday, January 22. Said teaser for the next part of the unexpected love story between online gamers Cairo and Gavreel got a rather appropriate background track towards the end according to The Philippine Star. It is none other than “Hanggang sa Huli,” a ballad courtesy of SB19 from their debut album. As the last week of January began the YouTube video has scored over 381,000 views, not to mention some 41,000 likes and close to 8,000 comments.

In true boys’ love fashion, the “Gameboys” trailer for season 2 dials the “Tastes like Diabetes” feeling up to eleven, with Cairo and Gavreel cuddling on a whim at the dining table, before they fall to the ground in mutual tickle attacks. Then as other scenes from the new episodes plus cast credits are rapidly intercut, SB19’s “Hanggang sa Huli,” with its heavy-with-meaning lyrics blares out at full blast. Could the song hint at how the titular Gameboy’ growing relationship will develop, and be tested?

Fans on the comments sure think so, when they are not going into figurative sugar shock at how Elijah Canlas and Kokoy de Santos are selling their characters’ dynamics. Having SB19 drop the song towards the end is being considered a masterstroke. And yes, the P-Pop group is mentioned in the final credits listing at the trailer’s end. What is not listed is the premiere date of “Gameboys” season 2. Fans will have to watch the space at The IdeaFirst Company’s YouTube page for updates.

Image courtesy of POP!

LARRY KING: Talk Show Legend, CNN Pillar, Dead at 87


He actually had a storied career in radio and television even before he became known worldwide with his talk show on cable network CNN, but it was on that talk show which carried his name, that Larry King became a household word around the globe. His then-uncommon interview style made all of his guests comfortable enough to talk without the least concern of having their opinions challenged. Thus, King got to talk with such a wide variety of people, from celebrities to politicians and even convicted killers, an incomparable feat. It is thus a sad day for mass media that this particular giant finally fell. has it that legendary TV and radio personality Larry King passed away this January 23, at the age of 87. The sad news was broken by his son Chance on the morning of Saturday, as well as on his authenticated Facebook page. The latter carried an official statement revealing that King died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. No cause of death had been announced, but it was publicized only this January 2 that King was hospitalized at that hospital in December of last year due to COVID-19.

The Larry King “method” of interviewing was ably demonstrated by the man himself on “Larry King Live” in the over 25 years that it had been part of the CNN programming lineup. While he followed the standard Q&A format, King made a point of letting those he interviewed speak their piece without interruption from him. He was non-confrontational; his questions were open-ended; he rarely read up on his guests’ works; and he put them at ease by the way he leaned forward to listen intently to what they say. The total number of King’s CNN interviews was a staggering 30,000, all divided into 6,000 episodes of his show before he officially retired back in 2010.

Colleagues particularly on CNN were devastated at Larry King’s passing. Network founder Ted Turner said he felt the announcement like a “punch in the gut.” CNN President Jeff Zucker hailed King as one of the factors that made the pioneering news channel a staple on cable TV. From the Dalai Lama to Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, from Yasser Arafat to all US Presidents starting from Gerald Ford, King helped CNN audiences learn more from them at the same time he did. The world of news media is lesser now that he is gone.

Image courtesy of CBS News

Sunday, January 24, 2021


In 2019, the Walt Disney Company launched its exclusive digital streaming service, pointedly named Disney+. After pulling out almost all of its library of digital content from other “general” platforms like Netflix, the House of Mouse put all of them into Disney+ and sweetened the deal with some sweet original programming across its primary “labels” of Disney, Marvel (Cinematic Universe) and LucasFilm’s “Star Wars.” Unfortunately, the services was initially available only on North America, Europe and Australia, with months and then years crawling by before South America, North Africa, India, Japan and Indonesia got it. The rest of the world either withered on the vine or resorted to using VPNs.

But for certain, unspecified parts of Southeast Asia, the Disney+ drought may soon be coming to an end. IGN reports that binge watchers in the region may soon be able to legit watch “The Mandalorian,” “WandaVision,” and “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” (yes, that is real) among many others, courtesy of a Disney+-merged streaming service that is reasonably near. That would be Hotstar, one of the top media platforms from India owned and run by now-Disney subsidiary Star India. Hotstar is already established in Indonesia, and is expanding to Malaysia and Singapore and, hopefully, the rest of SEA.

Hotstar usually carries sports content and domestic programming from India (particularly of Star India), but ever since its integration with Disney+ back in early 2020, there is now a dedicated content tab on the Hotstar home page for all the hottest stuff courtesy of Disney+. Recall that the main streaming platform carries not just Disney films, animations and TV series, but also Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. And they all could be had in Southeast Asia sooner or later, as a post from the new official Hotstar Malaysia Instagram account teases so teasingly.

Disney+ Hotstar was available in India for a yearly subscription worth about US$14. The platform’s rates and subscription duration in its new SEA stomping grounds are not yet known; there are concerns that the price may spike, but that is just speculation. For now, the best Southeast Asians outside of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore can do is wait and hope.

Image courtesy of Soya Cincau