Sunday, February 28, 2021



Over the past few weeks the Philippines, or to be more precise the Department of Health, has been overseeing preparations for the national mass vaccination program against COVID-19, the global pandemic of which has been hurting the country and the world all of 2020. Several major hospitals and health centers held dry-run simulations covering the reception of vaccines arriving by air, transporting to cold-storage facilities, and distribution to vaccination sites for injection. The funny thing is that this was done even while no actual COVID vaccines have reached the country. That sad reality came to an end this past weekend, and this Monday the vaccination drive has begun in earnest.

The Philippine Star reports that the somewhat-delayed anti-COVID-19 vaccination campaign has finally begun in the country, made possible by the arrival of vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech this past Sunday, February 28. Early Monday morning, March 1, refrigerated trucks filled with doses of CoronaVac drove to vaccination centers at Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Philippine National Police General Hospital and Victoriano Luna Medical Center, and the Philippine General Hospital. It was at the PGH that the first officially-administered COVID vaccine was “symbolically” given, to the hospital director Gerardo Legaspi.

That first Filipino being openly vaccinated against COVID sets the trend for the first people in the country to receive this protection from the pandemic. Medical workers and professionals, select government officials, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will get first priority. The doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, numbering 600,000 in all, were donated to the country by the Chinese government. Of those shots, 100,000 have been reserved for AFP recipients while the rest are for the medical community, which have been at the front line for addressing COVID patients for so long.

Even with this shipment of COVID vaccines, called “doses of hope” by the vaccination czar Carlito Galvez Jr., there are still a number of medical and military personnel that are expressing hesitation, or at least deferring until another brand of vaccine arrives in the Philippines. Hanging over their heads are reports from tests in Brazil showing only 50.4% efficacy rate for CoronaVac among health workers who got COVID from patient exposure. Other countries like Indonesia and Turkey have recorded higher efficacies however, but this has not mollified many recipients much.

About the only other expected COVID vaccine arriving in the Philippines soon was from UK and Sweden’s AstraZeneca. Unfortunately, due to a global supply problem the scheduled Monday arrival was pushed back by another week.

Image courtesy of GMA News

"POKEMON" Celebrates 25 YEARS with Retrospective, NEW GAMES, Virtual CONCERT


On the last weekend of February, a Japanese media franchise that began as two videogame titles on Nintendo’s original Gameboy gaming handheld, celebrated its silver anniversary. That was “Pokémon,” a multimedia experience revolving around catching adorable wild creatures with incredible powers in order to battle other trainers in various league competitions to be the very best, like no one ever was. “Pokémon” hit its stride in popularity with the long-running anime series adaptation (1997-present). It then became a social phenomenon in 2016 with the “Pokémon GO” mobile game. Celebrating 25 years of the franchise were not only the gaming community, but some recording artists too.

Quite a number of special events celebrating “Pokémon” in its 25th anniversary were covered by IGN over the weekend. The official Pokémon YouTube channel uploaded a slick 5-minute special that is a retrospective of all things “Pokémon” since the Gameboy games. Getting a rundown on every important milestone of the franchise from its electronic entertainment roots, to its anime juggernaut to its mobile social phenomenon, is very helpful to newbies even now, who want to get just what makes wanting to “Catch ‘Em All” the generation-spanning experience that it is.

But it is not just Nintendo and The Pokémon Company tooting their horns. They got some star power to go as well, thanks to rapper and singer-songwriter Post Malone. He headlined a short virtual concert experience, where he was rendered in 3D graphics similar to the current generation of “Pokémon” videogames. Some of his songs in the concert were remixes that blended in some recognizable “Pokémon” game soundtracks, like his cover of “Only Wanna Be with You” by Hootie and the Blowfish. The concert was born of collaboration between The Pokémon Company and Universal Music Group as part of #Pokémon25, with more surprises still coming.

Said surprise is “Pokémon 25: The Album,” a collection of songs inspired by the 25-year-old franchise from recording artists. Post Malone is being joined here by Katy Perry and J. Balvin, among others. Each song will also get music videos and related Pokémon merchandise pertaining to the respective artists, while the album itself will come out later in the fall. A number of new “Pokémon” games were also announced, ranging from spinoffs to a remake of the Nintendo DS titles “Brilliant Pearl” and “Brilliant Diamond.” All in all, 25 years of “Pokémon” are shaping up to be the very best.

Image: Pokémon Asia YouTube page

DISNEY+ Gives First Look on Character Designs for “THE PROUD FAMILY: LOUDER AND PROUDER” Revival


The thing about Disney+ is that not only is it a prime platform for the House of Mouse and its subsidiary brands to unleash some sweet original content on, it is also shaping up to be where remakes and revivals of their past IPs can find a new home. It could range from films like “The Mighty Ducks” or “High School Musical” being turned into series that either continue from or reimagine in a new format; to series from Disney Channel that could end up with new leases on life. “The Proud Family” (2001-05) is such an example, and after a year without word, the Disney+ revival has new stuff. tells us that streaming service Disney+ has finally revealed some preview visuals for “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder,” a revival of the original animated series from Disney Channel. Anticipation for the return of Penny Proud and her family was quite strong especially for fans of the series, considering that the show’s finale had been a 2005 Disney Channel TV movie. Judging from the first look video the Disney exclusive streaming service put up this past weekend, the production is aware of the fondness and sought only to deliver.

Running just over a minute and a half, show-runners and executive producers Bruce Smith and Ralph Farquhar give a rundown of the “Proud Family” cast, with slightly revamped character designs for their “Louder and Prouder” streaming revival. Penny is still aged 14; her young fraternal twin siblings are still adorable; her mom Trudy is still a successful vet; her dad Oscar has dialed up the overbearingness; her Uncle Bobby is still a funky throwback and remains the favored son of Suga Mama Proud, Penny’s grandma and the family “truth-teller.”

Next, Suga Mama still has Papi Boulevardez wrapped around her finger, while his son and daughter-in-law Felix and Sunset remain buddies with the Proud parents and their daughter LaCienga is content being Penny’s sometimes-friendly rival. Lastly, there are Penny’s circle of friends, smart but shy dancer Zoey and the poisonous companion Dijonay. The streaming revival does have new things to offer, for example a new neighbor kid that Penny befriends: the cornrow-braided ripped-jean-wearing Maya Leibowitz-Jenkins, described by the show-runners as “woke.”

Smith and Farquhar stated that “The Proud: Family: Louder and Prouder” is still in the middle of production, but that they are looking forward to new fans getting to know the characters, as well as returnees wondering what the Prouds have been up to. The original Disney Channel voice cast has been confirmed to return, which would make for a treat to longtime viewers when the revival hits Disney+ streaming.

Image courtesy of The DisInsider

Friday, February 26, 2021



South Korean boy band BTS rules the charts; that much is certain. US fans may have already taken to them before, but their adoration was cemented when the group began releasing English-language singles like “Dynamite.” But one other talent these boys are beloved by their Army for, is their knack for covering songs. Their endearing English pronunciation did not just come from nowhere. And when they appeared on “MTV Unplugged” this past Tuesday, among the numbers they performed were some covers of Western artists. One they did of a hit song from British band Coldplay has sparked social media frenzy.

According to The Manila Bulletin, BTS has caused critical fan hype again during their February 23 (US time, morning of 24 in Philippine time) guesting on “MTV Unplugged.” While acoustic takes on their megahits like, again “Dynamite” were expected and appreciated, it was then they did covers that their hype levels went through the roof. The moment they broke into the poignant lines of “Fix You,” the 2005 hit of rock band Coldplay from the UK, the fans knew that they have scored another keeper that will go into the most-requested playback lists in future.

Just as heartwarming was the boy band’s explanation for why they chose to perform the song, it being something that perked them up when the COVID-19 pandemic kept them indoors for most of 2020. “This song gave us comfort,” says Jimin about “Fix You." “So we wanted to prepare this cover to comfort [our fans] as well.” The performance was some of their best-received yet, and Coldplay themselves gave a big seal of approval for the acoustic cover on “Unplugged.” Their Twitter post linked to the official YouTube video of the performance, captioned with the Korean word for “Beautiful,” and with love from the four Coldplay members (signed in initials).

Also covered during the set was “2U” by Justin Bieber.

Image courtesy of Esquire PH



It is getting close to half a decade now since Hulu premiered “A Handmaid’s Tale,” a TV adaptation and expansion of a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. For three seasons, viewers have followed, sympathized with and supported the character of Offred, portrayed by Elizabeth Moss. A fertile woman enslaved as a baby-maker to an elite family of the religious extremist post-US nation of Gilead, she gradually begins working to undermine the current society, all while seeking to reunite with her husband, an exile in Canada, and her daughter, raised by an elite Gilead family. The end of season 3 in 2019 led to a “Handmaid” drought, which ends this April.

Entertainment Weekly has it that season 4 of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is due to arrive for streaming on Hulu this April 28. That should end over a year and a half of no word on what happened to June Osborne/Offred/Ofjoseph since the daring evacuation of children from Gilead to Canada that ended season 3. While wounded in action, June survives and remains in Gilead to further stoke the fires of revolution, even as the world continues to sanction the nation and the situation grows dire.

A scene from the trailer sees June (Elizabeth Moss) out of her Handmaid garb for once; then it flashes back to her trying to coerce more cooperation among the Handmaids to rise up. “We don’t hide. We fight,” she tells one. Armed guardians increasingly patrol the streets while the Gilead leadership ponders the intensified unrest that the child evacuation has triggered in their country. One prominent voice in labeling June as an existential threat to Gilead is Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd). As the season tagline “Let freedom reign” flashes, a now-civilian-garbed June gives her name and determinedly declares herself to be a United States citizen.

Series show-runner Bruce Miller noted how he deliberately steered Moss’ character of June into becoming more morally compromised towards the end of season 3. Season 4 is stated in the official description to pick up on this thread, as the once-integrity-bound June makes decisions and takes actions that gradually break down her true self from “the time before” and threaten to make her a dangerous stranger to those who know her, including her lost family. But is it worth it in order to end Gilead? Fans of “The Handmaid’s Tale” can start following season 4 when it premieres April 28.

Image courtesy of Digital Spy

Thursday, February 25, 2021



One of the greatest weapons a national sports team has to make their roster formidable in international competition, when there are rules stipulating that only a country’s citizens can join the team, has been their respective government’s ability to naturalize foreigners into citizens. The Philippines capitalized on naturalization to bring in tall and talented players for teams like basketball. For example, American NBA player Andray Blatche was invited to join Gilas Pilipinas for their campaign in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and Congress got to work on legislation to naturalize him as a Filipino. The move was successful then, and Gilas is looking to Congress for a new naturalization prospect.

Eyed to join the Philippine national men’s basketball team is Ateneo UAAP player Angelo Kouame from the Ivory Coast in Africa, and so the process to have him naturalized kicked off in Congress. With the House of Representatives already passing their bill in favor, the Senate is now looking to finish two bills to make Kouame a Filipino according to the Philippine Star. Senate Bills 1892 and 2058 both passed muster with the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights this week. If successful, Kouame could be tapped to take Andray Blatche’s spot in Gilas.

That much was stated by Sen. Sonny Angara, author of Senate Bill 1892. “Andray Blatche has hit the peak of his career,” he said in the committee panel hearing. “We need some fresh blood and Ange Kouame really provides that.” His assessment is echoed by Gilas interim head coach Jong Uichico, described the 6-foot-10 Ivorian Blue Eagle as having the size, athleticism and energy to protect the rim, not to mention being “highly coachable.” Kouame was part of the Ateneo squad when they played in the 2018 William Jones Cup in Taipei, where he helped to secure a fourth-place finish.

While the next big challenge of the Gilas Pilipinas, qualifying for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, remains in stasis with how long the qualifiers have been put off from finishing, that should give more time to wrap up Kouame’s naturalization process to cement his place in the national team. Considering that his basketball experience was primarily defined in the Philippines since playing for Ateneo, he is actually a more appropriate naturalized player compared to Andray Blatche or Marcus Douthit. For now, the Senate is still going into a second reading for the Ivorian’s naturalization bills.

Image courtesy of Tiebreaker Times



Remember when the first teaser for the revival of hit 1990s animated series “Animaniacs” on Hulu went up on social media? That was also the first segment of the first episode of the first season of said revival, and it was an epic sendup to creator-producer Steven Spielberg and his 1993 epic “Jurassic Park.” During the scene, the animated Hulu representative mentions that their streaming platform will make a fortune out of the show, and that confidence was demonstrated in their ordering two “Animaniacs” seasons with them. With the first season released and the second coming soon, Hulu has decided to capitalize with season 3.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that there will be a third season of “Animaniacs” on Hulu, announced by the streaming services this past Thursday, February 25. It was even shared on Twitter in the signature Animaniacs brand of visual humor, with the Warner Bros Yakko and Wakko and their Warner Sister Dot hammering out a number 3 on a green screen (with Pinky and the Brain hanging out on the upper part). Even Craig Erwich, president of ABC Entertainment and Hulu Originals, mentioned the series on his statement regarding upcoming new content for Hulu in 2021.

Perhaps one of the most iconic animated series to come out in the Nineties, “Animaniacs” fortunately managed to recapture old audiences and gain new ones with its revival on Hulu, beginning in November last year. Part of the appeal was easily how the original 1993 main voice cast, veteran VAs Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell and Tress MacNeille, easily slipped back into voicing the Warners (wit Paulsen doing double-duty by voicing Pinky). And of course, Steven Spielberg as executive producer helps keep the “Animaniacs” feel right.

Nearly each episode of “Animaniacs” season 1 on Hulu has three story segments, the second of which almost always features “Pinky and the Brain.” There were 13 episodes on the inaugural season, released in its entirety in late 2020, with the upcoming season 2 having the same count. Details for season 3 state that it will only have 10 episodes, though hopefully that should not mean anything dire about the series’ future on its current home. There is still no precise date on when “Animaniacs” season 2 arrives on Hulu.

Image from Comic Book Resources



Some videogame titles in the history of this type of electronic entertainment can be described as having significantly changed the industry and the player community when they came out. There is no argument that “Final Fantasy VII,” a role-playing game developed by Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) and released in 1997, belongs in this group of game-changers. Its audio-visual and story quality were so mind-blowingly successful that, even though the “FF” franchise produced new entries, “FFVII” continued getting multimedia expansion, with spinoffs in games and even movies. The “Final Fantasy VII Remake” on PS4 last year was a highly-welcomed return, even if the story remained incomplete, pending further sequels in the future.

If “Final Fantasy VII” fans thought a follow-up to the remake will be long in coming, they were pleasantly surprised Thursday when Sony dropped some hype-bombs on their latest PlayStation State of Play virtual presentation. It was here, according to IGN, that the first trailers for the PlayStation 5 version of PS4’s “Final Fantasy VII Remake” were revealed. This version, called “Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade,” will feature crisper graphics, faster loading performance and a new story episode involving a future party member of the original game, ninja Yuffie Kisaragi.

The new story content for “Intergrade” seems to take place during the time main character Cloud Strife was missing following the second Mako reactor bombing mission. Yuffie shows up in Midgar and contacts a separate cell of the Avalanche eco-terrorist group, presenting herself as an agent of a new government in Wutai, a hostile nation to Midgar and the Shinra Company. With the help of that cell’s leader, new original character Sonon, Yuffie investigates Shinra’s upcoming plans separately while encountering the other FFVII characters (Barrett’s Avalanche cell) on several occasions.

“Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade” will arrive for the PS5 in June 10. PlayStation 4 owners with the original “FFVIIR” who upgrade to the PS5 will receive the version for that console free, even carry over save data, provided that their copy is digital, not physical. Furthermore, they have to pay for Yuffie’s scenario to be added as DLC. The standard version of “Intergrade” is priced at $70, while a “digital deluxe” version that already includes the Yuffie episode plus digital art-book and soundtrack, will be made available for $90.

And these are not the only “FFVII” news that Sony revealed in their State of Play event. They also announced two mobile game spinoffs: “Final Fantasy VII Ever Crisis,” a stripped-down compilation of all mainline “FFVII” games that is coming next year, and “Final Fantasy VII: The First SOLDIER,” an FF-themed Battle Royale title that will release sometime this 2021.

Image courtesy of The Verge



More and more countries around the world have begun their programs to vaccinate citizens against COVID-19, using the wide variety of vaccines developed by many different pharmaceutical companies. The one exception so far is the Philippines, having only negotiated deals with the vaccine-makers but no solid timetable on when the vaccines will arrive. This much is true of COVID vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, with world powers getting priority deliveries leading to shortages. The Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac has promised the earliest possible vaccine delivery, despite outside studies pointing out their lower efficacy rate compared to the delayed Pfizer/AstraZeneca shipments.

How early will the Sinovac COVID vaccine get to the Philippines? How about next Sunday? That, CNN Philippines reports, is the confident deadline set by Sinovac Biotech for when the first deliveries of their CoronaVac vaccine in the country, as relayed by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a press briefing this Thursday, February 25. No less than 600,000 doses of CoronaVac are expected. Sinovac originally estimated their arrival last Tuesday, February 23, but are now pegging the date to be no later than Sunday, February 28. “In three days, the vaccine will finally arrive,” says Roque. “We are expecting by this Sunday. That would be Sinovac. We are all excited.”

Sinovac’s Sunday delivery timetable is reinforced by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian. "It is a fine tradition between China and the Philippines to help each other in trying times,” noted Ambassador Huang in his own statement. "The donation of vaccines is another testament to the solidarity as well as profound friendship and partnership between our two peoples and two countries." The CoronaVac shipment will be met by key government officials and, apparently, President Rodrigo Duterte himself, in a gesture of gratitude for China coming through when Western-made COVID vaccines have taken too long.

As already stated in earlier information briefings by the government, the first COVID vaccines will be used on priority personnel such as health workers and even the military. Since the vaccine requires a double dose, it is estimated that the 600,000 initial doses of CoronaVac from Sinovac Biotech will be distributed to about 250,000 health workers and 50,000 soldiers. The latter are mandated by orders to be vaccinated against COVID, but they can choose to defer being injected with Coronavac and wait for other vaccines. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration gave Coronavac its Emergency Use Authorization Monday, February 22.

Image from The Boston Globe



Back in 2005, children’s entertainment network Nickelodeon premiered an animated series that would change the way networks perceive their viewers. “Avatar: The Last Airbender” was a three-season ratings juggernaut that was universally appealing to multiple age demographics. The success was so major that it led to comic-book sequels, a live-action film adaptation, and even a sequel series that further expanded the world that “Avatar” is set in. But after said sequel finished its run, barring some graphic novel releases and “The Last Airbender” coming to Netflix the Avatar universe had been quiet. And then everything changed when Nickelodeon created a new studio for more “Avatar.”

Entertainment Weekly has it that Nickelodeon, or rather its parent company ViacomCBS, just took a major step in blowing up their prize animated franchise “Avatar” into something bigger than ever before. This past Wednesday, February 24, the media company launched Avatar Studios, a division under Nickelodeon that will specialize in developing and producing new animated series or films all set in the “Avatar” universe. The original creators of “The Last Airbender,” Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are on board as the joint chief creative officers of the studio, reporting to Ramsey Naito of Nickelodeon Animation.

"It's hard to believe it's been 19 years since we created ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender,’" DiMartino and Konietzko said in a statement. "But even after all that time, there are still many stories and time periods in Aang's world that we are eager to bring to life.” The two expressed their excitement at having a dedicated studio towards expanding their franchise, with their first project being an animated film that ideally would begin production this year. Any content created by Avatar Studios will either see cinematic release, air on Nickelodeon or be added to digital streaming on Paramount+ or Netflix.

ViacomCBS Kids & Family division president Brian Robbins also has high regards for the award-winning animated series and the rest of its franchise. "Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra have grown at least ten-fold in popularity since their original hit runs on Nickelodeon,” he says, adding that they are happy to have the creators of the epic to steer the universe to more future productions.

Image courtesy of Screen Rant

MCU “SPIDER-MAN 3” Subtitle, For Real Now: “NO WAY HOME”


Because of the COVID pandemic stretching things out for as long as it did, there has been an alteration of schedules as to when entries in Marvel Studios’ MCU franchise will premiere in order. “Black Widow” is no longer the leading chapter of Phase 4, as it seems. Now it is the Disney+ series “WandaVision” that has started things. The films however are staying in their places, with the third “Spider-Man” being the fourth movie in Phase 4, no matter what. Things got muddled when the main cast offered different subtitles for the film just yesterday, but now Marvel and Sony have set things straight.

Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, we now know what “Home” phrase will be the subtitle of Spider-Man’s third headlining foray into the massive setting of the MCU. Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures floated the reveal on social media with a funny video clip. It shows Spidey actor Tom Holland apparently leaving the office of the movie’s director Jon Watts, complaining to costars Zendaya and Jacob Batalon that the production was giving them fake titles to spoil. He wonders why the secrecy, with the other two ribbing him for spoiling “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” Then they pass by a messy whiteboard.

Ladies and gentlemen, look forward to “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” coming to cinemas in December.

The subtitle for 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” had been rather appropriate in that the Marvel character was finally having solo movies tied to the MCU after years with Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures confining him to a separate movie universe. Then Holland revealed in 2018 that the subtitle for the sequel arriving the following year was “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” and a running gag was born. That explains why on February 23 he, Batalon and Zendaya, gave hilarious reveals claiming movie 3 was subtitled “Phone Home,” “Home Wrecker” and “Home Slice.”

With the reveal that some of the villains appearing in “No Way Home” are portrayed by the same actors who played them in the older Sony Pictures “Spider-Man” franchise, there is speculation that Peter Parker’s next MCU adventure will actually involve a multiverse, originally teased in “Far from Home” and then debunked. Also supporting this theory is Benedict Cumberbatch in a supporting role as Doctor Strange, which has his own Phase 4 entry in “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” Just how much trouble is Spidey in for now?

We might know when Marvel and Sony’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” premieres December 17, after the three-MCU-film blitz this 2021 consisting of “Black Widow” (May 7), “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (July 9) and “Eternals” (November 6).

Image courtesy of The Verge

Wednesday, February 24, 2021



The next iteration of the worldwide Miss Universe beauty pageant carries the indicative year of 2020. But it is already 2021, you say? It is no surprise, though. The annual Miss Universe competition, most often held in the last month of the year indicated in its edition, did not happen in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The beauty queens who have secured their national representation for it however, are still on for when the pageant will finally be held, late as it is. In the meantime, the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) is keeping interest alive by having the contestants engaging in online digital events.

As told in the Philippine Star, the Miss Universe Organization had this week invited its contestants for the delayed 2020 pageant to participate in a virtual fashion show they have simply called Fashion Week. Among the beauty queens who were there is Miss Philippines Rabiya Mateo from Iloilo, and she was part of a group of 18 contestants who showed their best ensembles on video. Each contestant took fashion videos of themselves at home, which were submitted to the MUO which stitched them together to create their Fashion Week presentations.

For her part in the Miss Universe 2020 Fashion Week event, Rabiya dressed in a two-piece outfit of different colors. Her top was wine-colored and off the shoulder, with ballooning sleeves and a bare midriff. It went well with her blue tulip skirt that was knee-length but for a daring inverted v-cut up front. The number was complemented with sparkling heels. Mateo shared her fashion limelight with the Miss Universe contestants for Portugal, the Netherlands, Italy, Ecuador, Norway, the Czech Republic, Nepal, Nicaragua, Belgium, Malta, Ireland, Finland, Vietnam, Thailand, South Africa, Romania and finally Australia.

Of course, if this is a fashion show then there must be a roll of the best in fashion. A separate video by pageant coach and one-time beauty queen Dani Walker selected 10 best-dressed candidates for Miss Universe 2020, selecting from the whole field of 67 participating nations. As expected, Rabiya Mateo was one of Walker’s 10 choices, alongside Miss Australia Maria Thatil, Miss Ukraine Elizaveta Yastremskaya, Miss Panama Carmen Jaramillo, Miss Mexico Andrea Meza, Miss Thailand Amanda Obdam , Miss South Africa Natasha Joubert, Miss Romania Bianca Lorena Tirsin, Miss France Clarence Botino, and Miss Vietnam Nguyen Tran Khanh Van whom Walker rated first.

It is hoped that these online events by the MUO will keep audience attention for when the 2020 Miss Universe pageant finally happens this May 16, barring any sudden changes.

Image: Sining Kultura PH YouTube



With the recent reunion of Viacom and CBS as ViacomCBS, it was natural that the latter’s streaming services, CBS All Access, be revamped now that more media content from the former has become available. The result is that next month All Access will be renamed as Paramount+, now bearing the name of Viacom’s film studio. It will boast a vastly expanded streaming library, from old programming to new premieres, newscasts and sporting events, plus its own exclusive original content. What has not been revealed however was how much it will cost to subscribe to Paramount+. This question was finally answered.

Tech Crunch tells us that Paramount+ now has its official subscription rates revealed for public information, ahead of its formal launch on March 4, when it takes the name from the original of CBS Access. In addition to the rebranding and upcoming new content, Paramount+ will also begin expanding from its base service area in the US, Canada and Australia (there called 10 All Access as a collaborative effort with Network 10). Furthermore, the fate of the existing CBS All Access subscribers has been revealed, and luckily they will be included in the brand transition next month via grandfather clause.

The most important fact about Paramount+ as shared by ViacomCBS in their virtual investor event February 24, was the available subscription pricing. For basic access that includes advertising, the platform offers a monthly fee of $4.99 (US ads), but will only launch in June. The subscription tier that will be available on launch day is the premium pack, ad-free for $9.99 monthly, but will also include CBS live news, and the CBS TV channel. The current CBS All Access monthly subscription rate is $5.99, only a dollar more than the Paramount+ with-ads tier, though they will keep this rate upon transitioning to Paramount+, until the $4.99 version arrives in June.

With a combined ViacomCBS content library that is said to include 30,000 individual TV series episodes and around 2,500 films, Paramount+ is not shy about taking on the rising company-exclusive streaming services like Disney+. They are also beginning development on original programming, notably trying to revive some of the more memorable movies from Paramount Pictures in the last few decades. Reboots of “Pet Semetary” and “Flashdance” among others, joining with the biggest collection of “Star Trek” series and films, or the complete episode run of Dora and Spongebob, give Paramount+ its own significant fan following.

Once Paramount+ opens in the US and Canada, ViacomCBS promises to extend the service area to gradually include Latin America, Australia, and even Nordic Europe.

Image courtesy of CBS



There are so many sports films featuring an underdog triumphing against tough odds and tougher opponents that people can have a variety of favorites. For single-athlete sports grownups might remember “Rocky” (boxing) while younger generations in the 1980s will have fond memories of “The Karate Kid.” For team sports, one movie series that is easily recalled is Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks,” about the youth hockey team from Minnesota that could and did. It was a surprise to learn that a distant sequel/soft reboot series has been planned for streaming on Disney+, and with lead star Emilio Estevez reprising his role.

That at least was gleaned from the short teaser put out for “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” weeks ago. But as Rolling Stone reports a longer trailer was released just this Wednesday, February 24, that expands on the story beats already shown. From the look of things, the Mighty Ducks from the 1990s film trilogy by Disney, primarily a youth hockey league team in Minnesota’s Twin cities area, have undergone a full-circle revolution of sorts. That means the former plucky underdogs with a varied ragtag membership and occasional major sponsorship are now an established franchise with certain standards for players.

Yep, the young hockey aspirant accompanied by his mother for a hockey tryout in the teaser was hoping to join the Mighty Ducks. But as the seemingly-arrogant Ducks player put it, he does not make the cut. His supportive mom (Lauren Graham) however is disillusioned by the new attitude carried by the Ducks and encourages her son (Brady Noon) to find companions and form their own team. To qualify for competition however, this team needs a home rink and a coach. They find one rather easily, and the rink’s keeper turns out to be original Ducks coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez), but things have changed.

Where Gordon, as last seen in 1996’s “D3,” had become a major youth hockey official working with the junior division of the now-defunct Goodwill Games, he is reduced once again to menial work at an ice-skating facility. He also appears to have regained animosity for hockey from the original 1992 film, and it takes encouragement from Graham’s Alex, plus the endearing wacky earnestness of her son Evan (Noon) and his ad hoc teammates, to renew his hockey inspiration and take the fight to the now-bullying team he had once coached.

“The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” will run 10 episodes, premiering on Disney+ this March 26.

Image: WDW News Today



It has often been pointed out that some recent movies have been getting the perfectly appropriate blend of talent in front of and behind the camera. This extends to superhero films from the big two studios. Marvel’s Black Panther, a hero and king from a fictional African nation, had an African-American directing his 2018 MCU film. Wonder Woman, quite fittingly, had a woman on the chair for both the original 2017 blockbuster and its 2020 sequel. Back with Warner Bros. and its DC superhero movie-verse, they announced “Blue Beetle” back in 2018, based on the contemporary, Latino version of the character; quite fitting that they tapped a Latino as director.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films have decided on Angel Manuel Soto as their director for the in-development superhero film “Blue Beetle.” Soto is most recently well-known for the 2020 drama “Charm City Kings” from Sony Pictures, which was released digitally on HBO Max. He will be joining writer Gareth Dunnett-Alcocer and executive producer Zev Foreman on the project, which has yet to cast its lead. However, both Soto and Dunnett-Alcocer, who was born in Mexico, are perfect for developing a story about the Blue Beetle, real name Jaime Reyes.

For a quick reference, Blue Beetle is actually three different superheroes sharing a beetle costume motif. The original was created by Fox Feature Syndicate in 1939, and when Charlton Comics gained the rights to the character, they eventually revamped him as a new hero in 1966, changing the mystical scarab origin for a tech-based approach. DC Comic then obtained the Charlton stable, but continued to use the second Blue Beetle until he was killed in 2005. Both these Blue Beetles were Caucasians, with a third DC-created Blue Beetle, Mexican-American Jaime Reyes, being introduced in 2006.

“It is an honor to direct Blue Beetle, the first Latino superhero film for DC,” Soto said in a statement following his selection as director. “I want to sincerely thank everyone at Warner Bros. and DC for trusting me to bring Jaime Reyes to life. I can’t wait to make history together.” This are certainly shaping up to hype the Warner-DC film as the one that will push Latino superheroes to the spotlight in the same way "Wonder Woman" and "Black Panther" have done for women and the African-American community.

The Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle actually had a prior live-action appearance, in season 10 of The WB/The CW series “Smallville.”

Image: Consequences of Sound, Twitter


The Disney+ series “WandaVision,” which is officially acknowledged as an integral part of the MCU franchise in its Phase 4 myth arc, has got to be one of the most media-heavy shows one can watch anywhere. Aside from the various Easter eggs and possible call-forwards its episodes have raised for the MCU, not to mention the well-received supporting cast (returning from past films), there is also the soundtrack to consider. While the primary score is by Christophe Beck, key musical pieces are composed by an Academy Award-winning couple, with episodic soundtracks being released by Marvel Music. The latest, for the February 19 episode, actually came out days earlier than usual.

As The Verge tells us, there was an early release for the official soundtrack of “WandaVision” episode 7 “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” While other episode soundtracks of the Disney+ MCU series would come out on the release date of the following episode (episode 1’s soundtrack would release a week later when episode 2 premiered on streaming), this time the episode 7 soundtrack came out two days early, on Wednesday, February 24. The soundtracks are digital releases and can be found on Apple Music and Spotify.

Much attention was given to “Breaking the Fourth Wall” because of how many answers were revealed there regarding the mysteries behind the Hex field Wanda Maximoff (allegedly) put over the town of Westview, where her android lover Vision (Paul Bettany) is alive and they are married with kids. As it turns out, their nosy neighbor Agnes (Kathryn Hahn) has a greater involvement in the massive displays of reality-warping power usually alleged to be Wanda’s. After all, in this episode she is revealed to be a magic user, and her real name is Agatha Harkness, a Marvel Comics witch who has a story connection with Wanda.

The twists and turns of this episode were encapsulated in the soundtrack, which includes the song “Agatha All Along.” This number was composed by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, best-known for their musical work on Disney animated films such as “Frozen” (“Let It Go”) and “Coco” (“Remember Me”). Another notable selection is “W-V 2000,” the intro music for the episode. Following the series’ convention of aping TV series aesthetics by decade, this time the intro is something of a riff on iconic NBC sitcom “The Office,” set in the 2000s.

But it is “Agatha All Along” that is the central attraction of the “WandaVision” episode 7 soundtrack, with online comments comparing it favorably to “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” a song popularized by Netflix series “The Witcher.” Interested listeners can go to Spotify or Apple Music to check it out, while waiting for the eighth and penultimate episode of “WandaVision,” February 26 on Disney+.

Image courtesy of Decider

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

MOIRA DELA TORRE Teaming Up with American Recording Artist PINK SWEAT$ for Upcoming New Song


One of the biggest masterstrokes a Filipino recording artist can do with his music is to collaborate on a song or more with a foreign act, but still be billed as the primary creator. There is no better way perhaps to highlight talent from this country as being equal to what the world has to offer. Last week, singer-songwriter Moira Dela Torre teased that she is working on a track with a foreign artists, to celebrate three years following her first big concert. While fans speculated, the days went by until Moira finally identified her collaborator on social media Monday. has it that Moira Dela Torre was working on her new song, yet untitled, with the help of American singer-songwriter David Bowden, better known as Pink Sweat$. This was revealed when the Kapamilya artist posted a snippet of the track with her vocals and his on Instagram this past February 22. Apparently her biggest fans may have already cottoned on to her secret collaborator, as she made reference to them guessing right on her post caption. Dela Torre also promised that the completed song will be coming very soon.

Judging from the three lines or so from the attached audio, featuring Moira and Pink Sweat$ vocally harmonizing, the collaboration is sounding very promising. Then again, Bowden does have some memorable hits of his own since his debut in 2018, among them “Honesty,” “At My Worst” and “17.” If Dela Torre is looking to do something bigger than the splash that is “Paubaya,” then a duet with Pink Sweat$ is a pretty good combination for her next big song. One wonders how the music video for it will be done, as it will surely be a tough act to follow the “Paubaya” MV which featured Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto.

Image courtesy of Latest



One name has been the face of professional golf, or at least the sport’s most recognizable face, for quite some time now. Issues with his personal life aside, Eldrick Tont Woods, aka Tiger Woods, has been one of the biggest athletic superstars in the world, particularly for a “quiet” sport that is not as intense as basketball. Woods would help push golf into the forefront of major sports events, though he would also worry golf course owners due to his insane skills, leading to the recourse of “Tiger-proofing” tournaments. Such is Tiger’s star power that when he got into a road accident this Tuesday, it immediately got the world’s attention.

CNN tells us that golf living legend Tiger Woods figured in an automobile crash the morning of February 23 at Rancho Palos Verdes, just outside Los Angeles. Further details were given that same day at a news conference with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. Woods was driving downhill along winding Hawthorne Boulevard in a 2021 Genesis GV80 tournament courtesy car, when he crashed through the curb and rolled over in the roadside brush. He survived the accident but reportedly sustained some serious leg injuries.

LACSD Deputy Carlos Gonzales, first to arrive at the scene, described Woods as being unable to stand on his own on account of his injury, but remained lucid and capable of communicating with emergency personnel. The fact that the only damage so far was to the golfer’s legs was attributed to the Genesis deploying its airbags and Tiger wearing his seatbelt, preventing an otherwise potentially-fatal crash. Investigation of the accident site revealed that there were no skid marks indicating that Woods attempted to hit the brakes when he lost control, meaning that he drove off the road and tumbled the car at “relatively greater” speed.

After being extricated from his vehicle, Tiger Woods was taken by ambulance to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in West Carson. The injuries to his legs were determined to be non-life threatening compound fractures and that he underwent surgery for them, according to the golfer’s agent. As news of the accident got out, the PGA Tour and the larger world of sports began sending well-wishes for Tiger’s speedy recovery. Among the words of encouragement were those from former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the latter having awarded Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom back in 2019.

Image courtesy of LA Times



The MCU superhero franchise is slowly but surely getting their Phase 4 off the ground starting this year, with their tie-in series beginning with “WandaVision” on Disney+ and the long-delayed movies like “Black Widow” finally releasing, somehow. Among the possible MCU Phase 4 entries is the third “Spider-Man” movie co-produced with rights-holder Sony and starring Tom Holland. So far, the MCU Spidey films featured subtitles with the word “Home.” It was also something of a gag that lead star Holland would spoil the subtitle. But now he and his costar seem to be subverting expectations with some confusing subtitle reveals.

According to Comic Book Resources, Tom Holland and his cast-mates have been, possibly, trolling fans of Spider-Man in the MCU by teasing different subtitles for the franchise’s third “Spider-Man” film on social media. The cast seemed busy on Instagram Tuesday evening, February 23, excitedly “sharing” the in-production movie’s subtitle. Holland’s reveal is “Spider-Man: Phone Home,” while Jacob Batalon claims the full title is “Spider-Man: Home Wrecker.” Zendaya however insists it is “Spider-Man: Home Slice.” Whatever the truth, these “spoilers” have got the MCU crowd on Instagram in stitches, especially as the cast including Tony Revolori gave some funny reactions on the comments for these posts.

Keeping the audience in suspense with the Spider-subtitle might seem strange given that Marvel Studios and Sony/Columbia Pictures are pushing the film to premiere in December. But there is actually plenty of time to begin gradually divulging the “what’s what” of “Spider-Man 3” on the MCU. Perhaps the anticipation is due to the dire straits that Holland’s character is left at the end of 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far from Home,” with his secret identity blown and more super-villains crawling out of the woodwork. Will his new mentor in Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) be able to help him navigate his new circumstances?

Tom “Peter Parker/Spidey” Holland, Jacob “Ned Leeds” Batalon, “MJ” Zendaya and Tony “Flash Thompson” Revolori are joined in the third MCU Spider-Man film by Cumberbatch, Marisa Tomei, and past “Spider-Man” movie actors Jamie Foxx and Alfred Molina, under the direction of Jon Watts. The movie will premiere on December 17.

Image courtesy of HypeBeast