Friday, April 30, 2021

“DEXTER” REVIVAL on SHOWTIME Teases Second Trailer Featuring Dexter “At Work”

 


Showtime still has not given it an exact date, merely a premiere window of this coming fall. But they are certainly old hands at getting the fandom to celebrate the return of the murderer-hunting serial killer “Dexter” in a 10-episode limited series. The character may have debuted in a book by Jeff Lindsay, the plot of which was loosely adapted into the first season back in 2006, but Dexter Morgan as portrayed by Morgan C. Hall is a distinct persona from how he was in the rest of Lindsay’s books. One example of his fan-magnet personality was showcased in a new teaser released on Thursday.

Indeed, there was another mini-trailer for the return of “Dexter” on Showtime that came out April 29 according to Screen Rant. In a way it is a continuation from the first teaser last week, April 22. The snowy setting is the same, as are the axe on a tree stump and the nearby fire pit. Then week get to the meat of this teaser. The previous one had Morgan C. Hall narrating as Dexter in voiceover. It turns out he was viewing the axe and fire from not far away.

This teaser then cuts to the inside of a house, with a familiar man watching the earlier scene through a glass window: Dexter Morgan himself. There is no voiceover this time, just the BGM of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (1964) by Nina Simone. Well, like the lyrics say Dexter is a soul (with a Dark Passenger) whose intentions are good (killing confirmed killers who have escaped conventional law enforcement). Then, reflected in the mirrors glass is a struggling shape on what appears to be a bed. Dexter turns away from the window, looks at the trussed-up figure (and the audience, indirectly), then smiles creepily.

“Dexter” will have ten episodes on its limited series revival, following Dexter Morgan, or whatever name he uses now, in a snowy town where he might have moved following the finale of his original series (after his assumed death). The mayor, played by Clancy Brown, is set up to be Dexter’s latest opponent in his secret killings, while Jamie Chung, as a true-crime podcaster, could potentially ruin his secret if he does not act on her. The series will also star David Magidoff, Julia Jones, Alano Miller and Jack Alcott.

Image from The Verge

DISNEY SHUTTING DOWN DISNEY CHANNEL and 17 Others in SOUTHEAST ASIA

 


Even before Disney+ launched and began taking the streaming-service universe by storm, it was not as if the world was lacking for platforms where Disney can show its original content. Children and kids-at-heart have been very appreciative of Disney Channel and Disney Junior, while documentary watchers could tune into Nat Geo. After the Fox Media acquisition, the same could be said for FOX, FX, Fox Action Movies and Fox Sports. In Southeast Asia, that also includes music-playing Channel V and more from Star. But even as Disney+ continues to spread across the world, its presence also means the departure of these classic Disney and affiliated channels from many cable/satellite networks.

That is some shocking news as told by IGN for subscribers on cable and satellite TV in Southeast Asia with access to Disney Channel and many more. Disney announced in a conference in Singapore way back in Tuesday, August 27, that 18 channels from Disney and its media subsidiaries will go away on October 1 this year. Many of these Channels like Disney Channel, Nat Geo, the Fox channels and Star TV channels have been available to SEA viewers on cable/satellite for around 20 years or even more. And soon they will all be gone.

The reason Disney gives for this step is rather pragmatic and business-oriented. They are moving away from packaging their networks in cable or satellite TV and instead want to focus on direct-to-consumer avenues. That means platforms like digital streaming like Netflix does; or rather, what their exclusive service Disney+ does. Since launching in November 2019 the platform already has 100 million regular subscribers around the world or rather in parts of the world where Disney+ is already available. In Southeast Asia, only Indonesia and Singapore can now catch Disney+ online. Malaysia and more could be next, but with Disney Channel etc. disappearing as the cost.

The 18 Disney channels and affiliates that are going to be unplugged on October 1, 2021 are: Disney Channel. Disney Junior, FOX, FX, Fox Crime, Fox Life, Fox Movies (plus Action and Family), the three Fox Sports channels, Nat Geo People, Star Movies China, SCM Legend, the two Star Sports channels, and Channel V. Meanwhile the National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild, Star Chinese Channel and Star Chinese Movies meanwhile will become streaming. The majority Disney content will fold into Disney+ when it launches in the rest of SEA eventually.

Image courtesy of AnimationXpress

SB19 Nominated for TOP SOCIAL ARTIST in 2021 BILLBOARD MUSIC AWARDS; Facing ARIANA, BLACKPINK and BTS

 


There seems to be just no stopping what potential heights that one particular source of musical Pinoy Pride in this day and age could reach. SB19, that plucky quintet of Filipino youths given K-Pop training by a top South Korean agency, and now a prominent face of the new P-Pop sub-genre of OPM, continue to shine with their songs despite the difficulties of the COVID pandemic. Not even being quarantined for suspected exposure this past March stopped the debut of their latest single “What?” And now, no less than Billboard is giving them their biggest push yet via nomination for Top Social Artist for 2021.

Inquirer.net reports that the 2021 Billboard Music Awards has tapped SB19 as one its nominees for Top Social Artist, one of two categories in the awards that is decided by online fan vote. The five-man group of Pablo, Josh, Kell, Ken and Justin will find themselves among esteemed company in this category. The other four acts on the running one American diva and three South Korean K-Pop groups. Those would be Ariana Grande, Blackpink, Seventeen and – yes, they went there – the global K-Pop juggernaut that is BTS. SB19 will have a tough popularity fight to get this Billboard Music Award.

As expected, the official SB19 Twitter page crowed the success of the group late Thursday, April 29. Happily greeting the “A’Tin” fan-base, the band expressed gratitude to them for helping make their name a notable idol buzzword online. “We are so grateful for your love and support,” the tweet read. “We wouldn't have come this far without all of you. A'TIN 'TO! Iwawagayway ang WATAWAT!” While the realistic chances of SB19 being named Top Social Artist is slim, with BTS having won that accolade the last four years, just being there is a triumphant step forward, ensuring that SB19’s star will not fade too soon.

Of course, the online A’Tin fandom will help SB19 fight tooth and nail for winning Top Social Artist in this year’s Billboard Music Awards. Social media activity on that end has intensified to get fan voting done. It also helps that Billboard’s LyricFind Global chart has seven SB19 songs at the top ranking alrady. Meanwhile, nothing less than the US Embassy in the Philippines has congratulated the boys on their nomination. Fans can see how this all pans out at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, May 24 (Philippine Time). The event will be hosted by Nick Jonas, viewable on NBC.

Image courtesy of Preen.ph

Thursday, April 29, 2021

MICROSOFT STORE to Take ONLY 12 PERCENT Revenue Share from Listed PC Games Starting AUGUST

 


Nowadays, a lot of games for PC can simply be downloaded and paid for from a wide choice of online stores. This model is convenient due to particular advantages such as being able to get additional or downloadable content fast. These online storefronts, from the Microsoft Store to Steam by Valve or the Epic Games Store, welcome game developers to make their titles available on their platforms while taking a percentage cut of revenue from every online purchase made. Enticing developers to their platforms is an intense competition between these companies, with one tactic being to offer smaller store cuts.

And this, according to Venture Beat, is the reason for Microsoft’s announcement regarding games available on their online Microsoft Store. Xbox Games Studios boss Matt Booty announced in a blog post Thursday, April 29, that beginning this coming August 1 Microsoft Store will now take only 12 percent of revenue from purchases of games available on their platform. Booty explains that Microsoft wants game developers to be successful on their platforms, and describes the lesser revenue cut as a “clear, no-strings attached share” to the company for hosting their titles. Then again, it only applies to PC games on Microsoft Store and not Xbox titles.

This is a significant step down from the old revenue share of 30 percent that Microsoft Store took out of a PC game’s purchase on their storefront. It was noted that Epic Games Store was the first to do so, and by following their lead Microsoft has put some major pressure on Valve for their Steam platform. Both it and Microsoft Store had the 30 percent cut which made them sort of equal; although Valve does ease up on any game title that has passed a sales milestone by reducing the share to 20 percent.

It would appear that Microsoft is positioning its online storefront to developers as a platform where they could get more revenue in by putting their games up there (12 percent cut for Microsoft means 88 percent share to them). That could pose as a serious challenge to Valve and their Steam platform, if not for Valve having built Steam up on a solid reputation for PC gamers over the years. It might take some time before Microsoft can determine if their move has paid off.

Other steps being taken to improve the Microsoft Store experience include removing some apps developed on Universal Windows Platform (UWP), plus making available mods for certain games that have them.

Image courtesy of The Verge

The End Comes for “CASTLEVANIA” on “NETFLIX” with S-4 TRAILER

 


When Netflix first revealed in 2017 that they were adapting “Castlevania,” a classic Japanese videogame franchise into an anime-style series (western studio), the reception was a bit of confusion. There was some interest when it was revealed that veteran comic-book writer and novelist Warren Ellis was going to be the show-runner, but the inaugural season of four episodes left expectant fans hanging. Then “Castlevania” season 2 blew the audience’s minds while the following third made for an okay enough post-arc breather moment. Netflix however is ready to drive the story home with its fourth and final season, a trailer of which has just been released.

As Comic Book Resources tells us, streaming giant Netflix has just dropped the trailer for the fourth and concluding season of their “Castlevania” animated series. The recent news that the show was ending with this release had been a surprise, but with what has just been showcased in this near two-and-a-half minutes of sneak peek is an assurance that this swan song with go out with a nice big bang. While there are only a few tidbits brought up from the finale of season 3, there is enough interesting developments to look forward to here.

The trailer begins with vampire hunting duo Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage) and Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) ng to the doomed city of Wallachia where the human wife of slain vampire lord Dracula was burned as a witch. They quickly encounter a new threat: vampires and other fanatics using dark rituals and other means to resurrect Dracula. Elsewhere, Dracula’s son Alucard (James Callis) finds himself drawn to battle again, with his trust for humans having taken a blow previously. Carmilla (Jaime Murray) and her sister vampires have succeeded in enslaving Dracula’s forgemaster Hector (Theo James) to create a monster army for them. And Dracula loyalist Isaac (Adetokumboh M'Cormack) is ready to carry out his own human genocide.

Netflix says it best in the trailer description that the end times have come for the world of “Castlevania.” Meta-wise it is also an apt explanation for ending the series at season 4, when certain inappropriate conduct allegations regarding show-runner Warren Ellis led to his being let go by the studio. He had finished his work in the season at that time, and Netflix initially announced that follow-ups merely will not have his involvement. Now it seems decided to just have the series end there.

“Castlevania” season 4 will premiere on Netflix this May 13. Series developer Adi Shankar teased back in 2018 that he hopes to adapt another videogame franchise, perhaps even having it share a universe with “Castlevania,” but no word has come on whether this still holds.

Image from What’s on Netflix

JULIA BARRETTO Achieves 1 MILLION SUBSCRIBERS Milestone for YOUTUBE Channel

 


It goes without saying that a lot of showbiz personalities would maintain online presence, as in having social media accounts. Some go further and produce media for public consumption, from podcasts to videos. The latter would lead to some celebrities opening their own YouTube channels. One such YouTuber personality is actress Julia Barretto, who started her channel in 2019. Her subscriber count grew gradually until in mid-2020 she was presented a Silver Play Button for surpassing 100,000 subs. By the time she revealed that, her subscribers numbered over 300,000. This week, Julia hit another YouTube milestone, which she shared with her followers: 1 million plus.

The Manila Bulletin has it that the official Julia Barretto YouTube channel has amassed more than 1 million subscribers, a sure sign that her uploaded videos have a strong and regular following. The Kapamilya star announced her record sub count on Instagram this past Wednesday, April 28. That is certainly not bad for a self-confessed YouTube rookie whose channel is under two years old. Her first video was that of her personal preparations for the 2019 ABS-CBN ball, and her content followed that theme, showing peeks at her home life and time spent with family.

“We hit a milestone reaching 1 million subscribers on YouTube!” Barretto writes on her IG post, which depicted her first YT vid again, where she introduced herself as “#JustJulia.” The ABS-CBN stalwart remarked on how it has been a journey for her channel, and somewhat implied, her life, and that that she has a lot of reasons to feel gratitude for the moment. “And one of them is being given the chance to let you get to know me better,” she continues. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you!”

Image courtesy of Push – ABS-CBN

“HANDMAID’S TALE” Releases THREE S-4 Episodes on HULU A DAY EARLY

 


Streaming service Hulu is well aware of how many of their subscribers sorely missed their cash cow series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The dystopian series about a woman’s struggle to survive in a totalitarian patriarchy that has condemned all women to specific roles, especially fertile females as slave baby-makers, has been one of Hulu’s critical successes and awards magnets. Its three-season run was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing back the release of season 4 by nearly two years. A trailer revealed the delayed season to have status-breaking plot developments, building anticipation for its April 28 release to fever pitch. Then Hulu premiered a day early.

Indeed, as told by Variety Hulu has dropped a sweet surprise for their subscribers who are hooked on “The Handmaid’s Tale” by releasing not just the season 4 premiere, but the first three episodes, this past Tuesday, April 27 instead of the 28th as originally billed. And what better way for the streaming service to deliver the good news on social media than to rope the show’s principal cast members into doing so? The “Handmaid” cast, led by Elizabeth Moss and featuring Joseph Fiennes, Alexei Bledel, Sam Jaeger and more, featured in a Hulu Twitter post announcing the early premiere.

As it stands, the initial three episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” entitled “Pigs,” “Nightshade,” and “Crossing” are now available for streaming on Hulu. This three-episode release has been done in the first and third seasons as well, while season 2 started with two. The rest of the episodes in this ten-part run will premiere on Hulu weekly. Season 4 picks up from the events of the third where Handmaid Offred aka June Osborne (Elizabeth Moss) begins openly defying the establishment of Gilead, even as Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) is set up to be one of her greatest opponents in the coming battle for everyone’s freedom. But will June survive it? More importantly, will her humanity?

Image from Hollywood Reporter

NETFLIX Introduces VTUBER N-KO as ANIME AMBASSADOR, Promoter on YOUTUBE

 


In 2010, a Japanese visual novel developer hit upon advertising their games on YouTube by having an anime character promote their products in 3D-animated sequences. Other Japanese companies followed suit on this breakthrough. But it was not until 2016 when another character, Kizuna AI, debuted and popularized the phrase “Virtual YouTuber” or “VTuber.” Kizuna’s YouTube videos where she covers songs, plays videogames and discusses with her audience via web-chat pushed the phenomenon to the point that at present there are over 10,000 VTubers. And now the streaming giant Netflix is entering the fad, fashionably late, with its own virtual character to promote their anime content.

The Verge tells us that Netflix has launched a Virtual YouTube character to play the role of the streaming platform’s “Anime Ambassador.” Teased since last week, the VTuber debuted Tuesday, April 27 in a video sequence that is familiar to fans of the VTuber corner on YouTube. The character’s name is N-ko Mei Kurono, and she is a silver-haired anime girl in a black dress with the Netflix N logo and sheep horns on her head. That is because she, like many other VTubers, is a half-animal hybrid; in her case, a “sheep-human from California.”

N-ko (short for “Netflix-child” in Japanese) is created much like Virtual YouTubers in general. Her form is a 3D digital avatar animated on computers, which is then animated by a live actor wearing a motion-capture suit whose movements the avatar follows, while a voice actress provides the voice. In-character, N-ko describes herself as the Netflix Anime Club manager, tasked to promote the service’s anime library of series and films, some of which are Netflix-exclusive, on their official YouTube channel. Besides shilling Netflix anime, N-ko will also feature videos of herself doing other stuff VTubers are popular for, to generate fan buzz for herself as well.

The introduction of N-Ko Mei Kurono as a VTuber Netflix anime ambassador can only come at the right time for the streaming juggernaut. Netflix has already announced no less than 40 individual anime titles being added to their library this 2021. They range from new seasons of existing anime shows, an anime spinoff for “The Terminator,” and the “Sailor Moon Eternal” anime films that released in Japan earlier this year. There is speculation on whether or not N-ko might collaborate with existing VTubers, many of which have large YouTube fan-bases.

Image from official Netflix website

PH Grandmaster, CHESS HALL OF FAMER EUGENE TORRE Discusses Future Plans

 


In old elementary school subjects of “Sibika” (Civics) from the 1980s on, when discussing famous Filipino athletes there might be a mention, among track stars like Lydia de Vega or basketball giants like Robert Jaworski, the name of Eugene Torre. His sport, chess, is not physically demanding or visually exciting; but for chess aficionados Torre was a true pillar for the Filipinos. He was the first Filipino Grandmaster. He once defeated World Champion Anatoly Karpov of the Soviet Union, and was a close personal friend of another chess legend, the American Bobby Fischer. Recently he represented Filipinos and Asians as the first of both in the Chess Hall of Fame.

It was on April 20 that the World Chess Federation (FIDE), which oversees the Chess Hall of Fame, approved the inclusion of Filipino chess grandmaster Eugene Torre to its ranks, one of three inductees for 2021. After this supreme honor in his sport, which puts his name next to friend Bobby Fischer and one-time opponent Gary Karpov, what is coming next for the now-aged 69 grand old man of chess in the Philippines? According to CNN Philippines, that would be searching for the next Filipino chess champion, in hope he wins honor for the country.

“There is no doubt that Filipinos are very talented in chess," Torre tells the news network. He gives one example in a young Filipino-Chinese genius of the board, Wesley So. Born 1993 in Bacoor, So quickly became a chess elite since 2005. With his family moving to Canada, Wesley transferred his FIDE nationality to the US in 2014, and resided there since. His current world ranking is 9th, but at one point was ranked 2nd.

While Eugene Torre tends to be remembered in Filipino general trivia as a chess player, he also wants those who take up the sport, especially from the country’s youth, to be able to grow beyond just chess. In fact, Torre muses that lessons from chess can be applied in everyday life too. “Translate the good moves in life, that is what I like,” says Torre of this view. “But of course, the best is for you to be champion in chess and champion in life."

Highlights in Torre’s chess career are his 1974 stint at a Chess Olympiad in Nice, France, where he was awarded the highest title of Grandmaster for his silver medal win. Another is the Marlboro-Loyola Kings Challenge tournament in Manila, 1976, where he met the Soviet world champion Anatoly Karpov and defeated him. His friendship with Bobby Fischer was memorable; the latter lived with Torre at Baguio from 2000 to 2002.

Image from Philippine Star

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

HBO MAX Introducing AD-SUPPORTED SUBSCRIPTION at $9.99 Monthly, Come JUNE

 


After an initial period where the outcome might be decided by a coin toss, now HBO Max, the streaming service of WarnerMedia, has firmly established its presence in the exclusive streaming market and will not buckle any time soon. How could it, when its 2021 first quarter saw an impressive growth in subscribers that numbers up to multiple millions. Having the service become an alternative release platform for blockbuster films with limited theatrical release options was a big boost. Now there is another perk coming, as HBO Max prepares to launch a new subscription tier supported by advertising, and therefore more accessible to new viewers.

CNBC has it that AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia is getting ready to introduce its ad-supported subscription rate for HBO Max that will be available starting this June. For $9.99 a month and ads attached to HBO Max exclusives, lots of cool content will soon be available for those who think HBO Max’s initial ad-free rate of $14.99 is a tad steep. For North American viewers still okay with pay TV, $9.99 is the same asking price for adding HBO Premium to one’s channel bundle, and that was only thanks to push-back from said pay TV distributors.

The year before, WarnerMedia had contemplated pegging the ad-supported sub tier price at $4.99, only for pay TV distributors to cry foul, as their price for customers to get HBO’s premium bundle costs $5 more. That would have driven more viewers to online streaming. And the decision to restrict advertising only on HBO Max exclusive content, as explained by WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, was to keep the experience relatively clean and not have the service come across as an ad-hog.

With this new arrangement in place, distributors are now more amenable to taking HBO Max on, with the possibility of offering them to subscribers who have not added HBO to their channels, or customers who have broadband connections only. Carriage deals have also somehow been worked out between Amazon and Roku, although the ad-supported tier was a major point of contention in negotiations. Should the $9.99 rate pan out, as June 2021 goes by HBO Max subscription numbers could see another surge, now that they have 44.2 million in the US alone, better placing them as a serious competition for old guard like Netflix and rival exclusive platforms like Disney+.

Image courtesy of Review Geek

APOLLO 11 Astronaut MICHAEL COLLINS; 90

 


On April 20, 1969, a defining moment in human history was made. Apollo 11, a manned mission sent by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), succeeded in landing the Lunar Module Eagle on the Moon. Hours later, the first two men on the moon stepped onto the lunar surface: NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. While the televised landing was praised worldwide, a third astronaut sat in the Command Module Columbia, which carried Eagle and the astronauts from Earth. While he is not celebrated like Armstrong and Aldrin, Michael Collins’ role as the rocket pilot was vital. And now, he has passed away.

CBS News tells us that Michael Collins, the sometimes-nicknamed “Forgotten Astronaut” of the Apollo 11 moon mission, has died this past Wednesday, April 28, at the age of 90. A statement by his family revealed that Collins succumbed to cancer at his home in Naples, Florida, and described how his graceful and humble facing of his condition was the same attitude with which he faced the challenges of his life. "We will miss him terribly,” continues the family statement. “Yet we also know how lucky Mike felt to have lived the life he did. We will honor his wish for us to celebrate, not mourn, that life."

Much like most of the early NASA astronaut corps, Collins was recruited from his test piloting duties in the US Air Force. As Command Module pilot of Apollo 11, he maneuvered the rocket that carried the crew and the Lunar Module to lunar orbit. Collins stayed aboard CM Columbia while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed, losing contact with mission control at Houston every time Columbia circled the far side of the moon. After his astronaut days, Collins became Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum director, and more recently maintained a social media presence, noted there for his witty humor.

The death of Michael Collins leaves Buzz Aldrin as the last survivor of the Apollo 11 trio, with Neil Armstrong – first man on the moon – having died in 2012. Aldrin would write a touching tribute to his fellow Apollo astronaut on Twitter, praising him for carrying them to new heights and the future. Other condolences arrived from other astronauts, NASA, the National Air and Space Museum and President Joseph Biden.

Image courtesy of NASA

SANYA LOPEZ Talks Shifting from Romantic “YAYA” to Action Girl for GMA7’s “AGIMAT NG AGILA”

 


The weekday run of Monday to Friday for TV dramas has been so ingrained in viewers here in the Philippines that when a series premieres on Saturday and Sunday, with weekly airings, they tend to grab attention. Such is the case with GMA7’s upcoming series, premiering this weekend. Even better, rather than the limited-run anthologies that usually populate the Sat-Sun primetime slots, this is a regular series like its weekday brethren. Third, it is a fantasy drama, now a rare presence in Pinoy TV. And lastly, its leading lady is the current Kapuso primetime face: “First Yaya” star Sanya Lopez.

According to GMA News, Sanya Lopez is ready to take on a new persona outside the Presidential Family nanny of “First Yaya” as her newest Kapuso series, “Agimat ng Agila,” gets set to premiere next month. Starring opposite veteran action legend of Philippine cinema Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Lopez will portray Maya Lagman, a “tough and independent” woman that is as far apart from the actress’ current lead role as the bright and cheery Yaya Melody, something Sanya sees as a challenge to keep the characterizations apart from one another.

Lopez says as much during an online press interview by GMA News Online held this past Tuesday, April 27 regarding her new GMA7 show. “’First Yaya’ is a rom-com, then this is action and fantasy so I still ask for help,” says Sanya about her experience working on the set of “Agimat ng Agila.” By asking for help, she means having an acting coach within easy online reach via Zoom. How does the Kapuso star who gets the perky Yaya Melody act down pat transition into a character in another show that has choreographed combat sequences? Thankfully Lopez has the leading man himself to help.

“Even in my fight scenes, he’s the one guiding me to deliver the right punches and how to properly avoid them,” remarks Sanya about Revilla, adding that she also prepared for her more physically-intense role by watching action films and taking notes on how staged combat and stunts are pulled off. And it is not as if she is completely out of her league. Lopez did play Sangre Danaya in the 2016 reboot of “Encantadia.”

All the same, Sanya Lopez is going to need some action refresher course as “Agimat ng Agila” arrives on GMA7 this May 1 on primetime, replacing “Catch Me Out Philippines.” The new fantasy drama also stars Benjie Paras, Elizabeth Oropesa, Michelle Dee and Roi Vinzon.

Image from Philippine Entertainment Portal

MARVEL STUDIOS Gets CHINAKA HODGE as HEAD WRITER for DISNEY+’s “IRONHEART”

 


With exclusive streaming service Disney+, Disney subsidiary Marvel Studios found a ready platform in which to expand their Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) through streaming limited series, similar to an earlier deal between Marvel Television and Netflix in the 2010s. While some of the series already released and being planned focus on characters already introduced in MCU films, other shows will debut popular characters from contemporary Marvel Comics, like teen super-heroines Ms. Marvel and Ironheart. The latter has taken a significant step forward in its development towards production, now that is has gotten a head writer.

Variety tells us that screenwriter Chinaka Hodge has been tapped by Marvel Studios to write for their in-development MCU series on Disney+, “Ironheart.” Her selection is highly appropriate, being an African-American screenwriter who will adapt the story of a young African-American genius inventor-turned-hero. Hodge’s previous TV work includes writing for the 2020 revival of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” anthology on Apple TV+, as well as the series adaptation of the 2013 post-apocalyptic dystopian film “Snowpiercer” on TNT. She is also a member of The Getback, a hip-hop collective which counts among its members TV and stage actor Daveed Diggs, one of the leads for “Snowpiercer.”

“Ironheart” is a Marvel character and comic-book title that is connected to “Iron Man.” Debuting in 2016, Riri Williams is a teenaged prodigy student at MIT who somehow manages to build a working derivative of Tony Stark’s Iron Man armor. Her activities while wearing the armor catch the attention of Stark, who becomes her mentor figure and even lets her take the Iron Man mantle during a moment of incapacity. Riri eventually crafts her own heroic identity of Ironheart, having adventures with other young heroes in the Marvel universe. The character was created by comic-book writer Brian Michael Bendis, with initial design by Mike Deodato.

Neither Chinaka Hodge’s representatives nor Marvel Studios have commented on the former’s coming on board the “Ironheart” creative team for Disney+. There is a possibility that this MCU series could tie into another show in development, “Armor Wars” which will star Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, another Iron Man ally. Dominique Thorne (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) has been cast to play Riri Williams.

Image from Screen Rant

1941 “CITIZEN KANE” Review Drops ROTTEN TOMATOES Score to 99%

 


When a classic movie from time periods such as the Golden Age of Cinema in the early 20th Century are listed in review aggregator sites like Rotten Tomatoes, then it is almost certain to have a 100% average review score. The reasons range from the aggregators taking into consideration contemporary reviews written at the time of the film’s original release, or the nostalgic lens tended to be worn by more modern reviewers, who see the legendary stars or filmmakers involved. The 1941 movie from RKO Pictures, “Citizen Kane” starring and directed by Orson Welles, used to have a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, until recently.

Why? Because as told by The Hollywood Reporter, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has added a contemporary newspaper review of “Citizen Kane” to their total reviews of the classic movie. Unfortunately that review was negative, and now the average percentage has gone down to 99% after some time with a perfect average. Unchanged is RT’s critical consensus statement which reads: "Orson Welles's epic tale of a publishing tycoon's rise and fall is entertaining, poignant, and inventive in its storytelling, earning its reputation as a landmark achievement in film." But the 100% rating is now gone forever.

Rotten Tomatoes has been performing an Archival project wherein they try to include reviews of films dated from their respective original release years. This added to their 116 reviews for “Citizen Kane” a piece published in the Chicago Tribune from 1941, written by reviewer Mae TinΓ©e. A scan of the printed review was added to RT in March, and that 80-year-old piece marred the RKO classic’s perfect record. Online speculation is running on the idea that Mae TinΓ©e (probably an alias) was a fan of newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst, supposedly the basis for Orson Welles’ lead character Charles Foster Kane. Hearst tried to smear the film during its run.

“Citizen Kane” is in the spotlight regarding entertainment discussion due to it being a major element of Netflix film “Mank,” a biopic starring Gary Oldman as Herman J. “Mank” Mankiewicz, who co-wrote the screenplay with Welles. “Mank” got the most nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards held this past Sunday, but only won Best Cinematography.

Image courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

NAIA REHAB and PRIVATIZATION Plans at STANDSTILL According to DOTr Sec

 


As the primary air transport hub and therefore gateway to the Philippines, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila is expected to be held to certain standards, especially considering the usual traffic it gets in arrivals and departures. Unfortunately that has not been the case in recent years, well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Several steps have been taken to address these problems, from a rehabilitation plan amounting to about P100 billion, and even a move to privatize the airport operations and infrastructure development. But this past Monday, signs of progress in improving NAIA were revealed to have stalled.

Inquirer.net reports that the NAIA rehabilitation and privatization project has been delayed indefinitely due to multiple extenuating factors. This was revealed by Sec. Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on April 26, in an online briefing that is part of the pre-State of the Nation Address preparations. Because of strict requirements from the government, the opposition of some other elected officials, and the difficulties of doing any large-scale work during a pandemic and quarantine lockdowns, most private partners in the rehab plan for the airport have exited, and the national government must shoulder all upgrade expenditures by itself.

To give an example, one of the bidders for the NAIA rehab plan was Megawide Construction Corp. and Mactan Cebu International Airport contractor GMR Infrastructure. In 25 years their proposal would have expanded passenger and flight capacity for all terminals, plus linked all these with an elevated railway system. Members of Congress led opposition to the bid, which was thrown out December last year by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA). Other proposals for the NAIA improvement have been presented by San Miguel Corp. and Philippine Air Ground Support Solutions Inc., but Sec. Tugade declined to elaborate on their status.

Serious action to rehabilitate NAIA was discussed as far back as 2018 when a group of companies formed the NAIA Consortium with a rehab proposal submitted to MIAA. No deal was finalized until 2020 when the consortium simply withdrew their bet in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Now, with the other proposal from Megawide-GMR rejected, the air gateway to the Philippines continues to face an uncertain future, especially with a rising sentiment to have NAIA closed down as soon as the under-construction New Manila International Airport complex in Bulacan is officially opened in 2026.

Image courtesy of Rappler

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

NETFLIX to Stream “SAILOR MOON ETERNAL” Anime Movies Worldwide in JUNE

 


Ask a child of the 1990s, preferably a girl, about anime, and one of the most likely titles they will give out would be “Sailor Moon.” This manga-anime masterpiece by Naoko Takeuchi and Toei technically codified the “magical girl” genre of Japanese pop media, and was one of their first big exports to the West. North American audiences put up with the “forcibly hip” 90s English dub of the original series then thrilled to get a new Viz Media dub for said anime and the “Crystal” remake. Speaking of which, most “Sailor Moon” anime could be found in Hulu, save for the recent “Sailor Moon Eternal” films, which go elsewhere.

IGN has it that streaming giant Netflix somehow got the digital rights for the two-part anime movie “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal,” and will premiere it on their platform in the middle of this year. Netflix announced this coup on a new teaser trailer released online late this past Tuesday, April 27. While the films originally premiered in Japanese cinemas this past January (part 1) and February (part 2) after a COVID-related delay, it will be Netflix that will be handling its streaming distribution to the rest of the world.

“Sailor Moon Eternal” is a direct sequel to the three-season “Sailor Moon Crystal” anime series from Toei, which were a remake of their 1990s adaptation of Naoko Takeuchi’s manga (“Sailor Moon, R and S”). The two-part film adapts the Dream manga arc, itself made by Toei into the 1995-96 “Sailor Moon SuperS” season. Here, Usagi/Sailor Moon is looking forward to starting her high school years with her friends/fellow Guardians, plus her boyfriend/destined one and their future daughter Chibiusa. But a total eclipse brings forth the Dead Moon Circus, which hunts a magical creature named Pegasus, who has taken refuge in Chibiusa’s dreams and holds the key to even greater powers.

The fact that Netflix has gotten streaming rights for “Eternal” was big news, considering that the earlier “Crystal” series and the original 90s anime are carried by rival streaming platform Hulu, as well as the official website of English dubber Viz Media. Interestingly, the Viz Media “Sailor Moon” dubbing cast did do their parts for the films, joining dubs of other languages as teased in the trailer. “Sailor Moon Eternal” parts 1 and 2 will premiere on Netflix June 3.

Image courtesy of Vulture

TIME-TRAVELLING ALIENS, ANIMATED EPISODE Teased in “LEGENDS OF TOMORROW” S6 TRAILER

 


When The CW’s DC TV universe was kick-started by “Arrow,” the overall atmosphere of the franchise was serious, with occasional moments of humor. Then “Legends of Tomorrow” was premiered in 2016. This “Arrow-verse” series made the novel step of assembling characters from the other shows – “Arrow,” “Flash” and so on – and have them become a team that fights threats to the time-stream. What really makes legends stand out is that humor is a prominent component, even going into outright comedy as the seasons go on. With its sixth season premiering next month, The CW has released a “Legends” trailer that goes beyond funny to…just weird.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that The CW has just dropped their long trailer for the upcoming season 6 of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” and if you have already seen it and thought it “weird” then you have every right to say so. While the production team for this portion of the “Arrow-verse” has established the show as the strange corner thanks to time-travel shenanigans, the teaser for what comes next in the series really pushes the envelope on what to expect. From alien cocoons to alien burger patties to alien reality shows to…rip-off Disney animation, the Legends are going through the craziest adventures yet undertaken.

Right from the retro Warner Bros. Television logo and the grainy effects of old CRT TVs, one can tell that this trailer is out-strange-ing “Stranger Things.” A faux narration talks over sinister threats like aliens bursting from egg sacs to prey on people. Then it cuts to “Da Throne,” where an alien synthesizes “500,000 of Earth’s greatest vocalists” for a battle royal contest that does include “battle.” And then there is Big Bang Burger, a fast-food joint that serves alien meat in the patties that turn the customers into voracious burger-eating zombies, no joke there.

Underneath these often-incomprehensible scenes is an underlying storyline of the Legends team led by Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan) searching for Sara Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), who was abducted by time-travelling aliens in the season 5 finale. And somehow in the course of their journey some of the characters are turned into animated cartoons. The Disney styling is deliberate as told by show-runner Phil Klemmer, who says the production hired some retired 90s-era Disney animators for that episode in question. And that, apparently is merely the beginning as to where things will go with the Legends.

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” will premiere its season 6 on The CW this May 2. Already the network has renewed the series for season 7.

Image from Screen Rant

PH Bet and MISS ECO INTERNATIONAL 1st RUNNERUP Back in MANILA

 


It had been quite the misadventure for some of the beauty queens that participated in the recent edition of Miss Eco International in Egypt. Days after the coronation night on April 4, several of the contestants were tested positive for COVID-19 and were thus unable to fly home to their respective countries. Among the stricken was Miss Eco Philippines Kelley Day, who was First Runner-up on that momentous evening. Her timetable towards returning was also stymied by the then-recent declaration of the NCR Plus bubble status. Just as the month of April was winding down, Day finally got back home.

According to GMA News, Miss Eco International 2021 First Runner-Up Kelley Day has finally returned to the Philippines after nearly three weeks stuck in Egypt post-pageant due to having tested COVID-positive. Her flight arrived in Manila on the afternoon of Monday April 26, but later in the evening Day went on social media to update her status and location, thanking all her fans and well-wishers even as she prepares to undergo the local procedures for arrivals with COVID results. Her Instagram video noted that she is currently checked into a hotel to undergo mandatory isolation.

“I’ve received so many well-wishes, and I want you all to know I arrived in Manila this afternoon,” Kelley added on a text caption accompanying her video entry. “Thank you, everyone, for all the lovely messages and prayers. I can’t express enough gratitude to my closest friends and family who have been just a call (or calls) away — thank you.” That said, Day is now set to stay cooped up in her mandatory isolation hotel room for a period of seven days, plus a negative follow-up test, before she can regain freedom of movement, or as much as can be possible in quarantined NCR Plus. Day has stated no further plans beyond her isolation period.

Image from Manila Bulletin

TIGER WOODS Posts FIRST PHOTO of Himself Since FEBRUARY CAR CRASH

 


On February 23, the golf world was floored by sudden news of the sport’s most recognizable face getting into an accident. That morning outside Los Angeles, Tiger Woods was driving a courtesy SUV at Rancho Palos Verdes when it went off the road and rolled over. Responding emergency personnel were able to remove Woods from the vehicle, where it was later revealed that he suffered compound fractures in his legs that required surgery in the hospital. The public said their well-wishes to Tiger, but there had been scant word on his condition since then, until the golf legend himself gave his followers a visual update.

ESPN has it that Tiger Woods assured fans of his improving condition some two months after his car accident by posting a photograph of his recovering self on social media Friday last week. On his official Instaram page dated April 23, Tiger uploaded a picture of himself on crutches and a cast on his right foot and ankle, accompanied by his dog on his backyard practice course at Jupiter, Florida. He also has a big smile on his face, pretty much downplaying how much his injury might be bothering him.

"My course is coming along faster than I am,” Woods wrote on the photo caption. “But it's nice to have a faithful rehab partner, man's best friend." Hearing the facts straight from the man himself is a relief for fans of the 15-time golf major champion, whose last social media update had been in the middle of March, where he reported that he has been discharged after a one-month hospital stay and has returned to his Florida home. The course he mentioned in his backyard was a practice area he had designed and landscaped, consisting of three holes. While still under construction, Tiger quipped that it was closer to finishing than his leg injury healing.

The California accident that landed the 45-year-old Tiger Woods in the hospital and rehab occurred when his Genesis SUV hit a road sign while negotiating a curve, causing it to head to the shoulder of the road, tipping over and skidding to a stop on the driver’s side. A police report released earlier this month by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva attributed the crash to the SUV’s speed and trouble on Woods’ part while trying to make the turn.

Image courtesy of CNN

“HOUSE OF THE DRAGON” Begins PRODUCTION; New CAST MEMBERS Revealed

 


At times, the pace in which HBO is moving to produce their planned spinoffs to their eight-season cash cow fantasy series “Game of Thrones,” can seem as similar to the wait for fans of the show’s source book series written by George R.R. Martin, who has yet to finish the last two volumes. Furthest along in conceptualization is “House of the Dragon,” a prequel series set around two centuries before the start of “GOT.” It already has a principal cast, and the show-runners have filming locations scoped out. Now, after preparations hampered by the pandemic, the production has officially begun.

Entertainment Weekly tells us that “House of the Dragon” has started its production phase, after getting its main cast together for the first time. HBO posted updates on the first day at work for the crew on the upcoming series’ official Twitter page. The highlight was seeing the cast for a table reading on their characters. For health and safety considerations however, each cast member was assigned their own table station with tablet computer, microphone and headset, physically distanced but arranged in a rough oval. Present for the reading are all of the already-announced actors and actresses, plus several more.

Leading the way is English actor Paddy Considine (HBO’s “The Outsider”) as Viserys I Targaryen, King on the Iron Throne during the historically strongest period of the Targaryen Dynasty, who have ruled Westeros since the conquest of its Seven Kingdoms by their ancestor Aegon I the Conqueror and his sister-wives. He is joined by Olivia Cooke (Art3mis in “Ready Player One”) as Alicent Hightower, Viserys’ second wife; Emma D’Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen, Viserys’ daughter from his late first queen; Matt Smith (Prince Philip in “The Crown”) as Daemon Targaryen, Viserys’ younger brother; and Fabien Frankel as Kingsuard knight Criston Cole.

The rest of the table reading stations were filled out by the new additions to the cast of “House of the Dragon.” They are: Rhys Ifans (Curt Connors/Lizard in “The Amazing Spider-Man”) as Otto Hightower, Lord of Oldtown and Viserys’ Hand of the King (chief advisor); Steve Toussaint (Disney’s “Prince of Persia” film) as Daemon’s ally Corlys “Sea Snake” Velaryon; Eve Best (“The Winx Saga”) as Rhaenys Velaryon, a Targaryen and daughter of Visery’s Uncle Aemon; and Sonoya Mizuno (“Crazy Rich Asians”) as Mysaria aka Lady Misery, a foreign dancer and ally to Daemon who later served as Rhaenyra’s spy-mistress.

While “House of the Dragon” has a new team of show-runners in Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan Condal, there is continuity prequel-wise with “Game of Thrones” since its composer Ramin Djawadi is also returning to score. The series will premiere on HBO in 2022 and on HBO Max not long after.

Image courtesy of Gadgets 360

Monday, April 26, 2021

As PH COVID Cases Breach 1-M, DOH SEC Urges OPTIMISM

 


This past Monday, the Philippines inevitably crossed a line that seemed like a distant threat only a year before. As of April 26, with the addition of 8,929 new cases of the dreaded COVID-19 in the country, the Philippines has passed 1 million in total number of COVID cases since the pandemic erupted around the world in early 2020. As it stands, the country is now second in the record number of COVID infections for Southeast Asia, behind the 1.6 million-plus cases of Indonesia. Despite the grim numbers however, the nation’s top health official is asking Filipinos to think positive.

CNN Philippines reports that Secretary Francisco Duque III of the Department of Health (DOH) is encouraging Filipinos to flip the narrative on the over 1 million total cases of COVID-19 for the whole pandemic period. In an interview with the news network this Tuesday, April 27, Sec. Duque says it is better to look at the infection situation through a more optimistic lens as he explains, "The one million cases can be viewed also from a different angle that this will, sooner or later, will bring in a million recoveries."

With the added new cases this past Monday, the milestone count of COVID among Filipinos is about 1,006,428 total cases. Of them, a total of 914,952 cases have gotten better from the disease, after adding Monday’s recoveries of 11,333. Of the rest, 16,853 have died of COVID and related illness aggravated by the virus. What is left, the active cases, are 74,623 people who continue to battle the infection at hospitals and isolation wards. In terms of percentage, 7.4% of the total are active cases, 1.67% are deaths, while a hefty 90.9% cases got better. Even among the active cases, 95.4% have mild symptoms, 1.4% are asymptomatic, 0.87% are moderate, 1.3% have severe symptoms and 1% are in critical condition.

Optimistic viewpoint aside, Sec. Duque does concede that the COVID-19 response in the Philippines could take a step up. "We need to focus, as a nation, how we can further improve our pandemic response,” he remarks. “I’m not saying we are successful. There are opportunities which we grab each time to do things better." Said opportunities might be discussed later on this Tuesday during the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to mull over the next quarantine status for Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, the NCR Plus. It should be made official when President Rodrigo Duterte announces the May quarantine classifications April 28.

Image courtesy of AP News

CHRISTINA RICCI Fave for MORTICIA Role in NETFLIX “ADDAMS FAMILY” Spinoff “WEDNESDAY”

 


In 1991, Paramount Pictures released “The Addams Family,” a feature-length adaptation of the 1964 TV series based on magazine comic characters created by Charles Addams. The film, despite its troubled production at original studio Orion, became a box-office hit that brought the titular loving family with supernatural and macabre tastes back to public consciousness, even getting a direct in 1993. Among the family cast was the then-10-year-old Christina Ricci portraying morbid Goth girl Wednesday Addams, making it one of her most familiar characters, even as she transitioned to grown-up roles. With news of a spinoff series on Netflix followed reports of Ricci’s involvement, not as Wednesday, but as her mother.

According to MovieWeb, there has been a lot of noise regarding casting for the streaming limited series “Wednesday,” spun off from “The Addams Family,” on Netflix, being helmed by filmmaker Tim Burton as his first directorial project for smaller screens. One particular buzz is that there is a push for actress Christina Ricci to be cast as Morticia, the matriarch of the Addamses. While there has been no word that Burton has talked to Ricci about the role, this possibility is one highly endorsed by the fans of the films.

Netflix’s “Wednesday” focuses on the titular Addams Family daughter, now a young adult, as she goes for higher education at the Nevermore Academy. The streaming giant describes the plot as a supernaturally-infused sleuthing mystery, where Wednesday navigates the relationships she builds at Nevermore, while investigating a mass of serial killings in the nearby town, struggles to control her growing psychic powers, and learn a secret involving her parents Gomez and Morticia from 25 years ago. Ricci, now 41, might seem a tad young to play mother to a college student, but then Morticia has always seemed supernaturally ageless in portrayal.

In the original “Addams Family” movies, Morticia Addams was played by Angelica Huston. In character, there is a similarity in looks between her as Morticia and Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, so the latter actress might just pull off portraying the former character if Tim Burton goes for it. Other names being nominated aside from her include Cate Blanchett and Eva Green. Seeing as the series might spend more time with Wednesday in college, the Morticia role might not be too prominent anyway. There is no word yet on when Wednesday releases on Netflix streaming.

Image: Comic Book Resources

VR FPS Game Wins OSCAR Technically Because of DOCUMENTARY Extra Content

 


In December of 2020 Electronic Arts published a spinoff of their long-running first-person shooter videogame series “Medal of Honor,” a VR FPS for PC and Oculus Rift developed by Respawn Entertainment. “Medal of Honor” got by with mediocre reviews upon release, but managed to top game sales on Steam during its first month. It seems ludicrous to think that a videogame would ever become material for winning an Oscar. And yet during the 93rd Academy Awards this past Sunday, April 25, “Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond” technically brought home a golden statuette. The reason: a mini-documentary included in the game was nominated and won.

That is no joke, as The Verge tells it. EA and Respawn Entertainment’s “Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond” included a 24-minute short documentary feature in its Gallery, entitled “Collette.” Directed by Anthony Giacchino and produced by Alice Doyard, this mini-doc is about Collette Marin-Catherine, a real-life fighter in the French Resistance during World War II, the primary setting of the “Medal of Honor” games. The now-aged Collette is convinced by a history student to make a journey to Germany’s Mittelbau-Dora, site of the WWII-era concentration camp where her brother was taken to and died.

While a nifty and emotional extra to an FPS game, “Collette” suddenly generated hype when it won the Big Sky Festival’s Best Short category, which made it eligible for Academy Award nomination. When it was nominated for the 93rd Oscars, Oculus Studios director of production Mike Doran noted that it was already a big honor. The short’s victory at the Best Documentary Short Subject category became a landmark moment. Doran attributes the Academy Award honor to the integrity and strength in the story shared by Collette. “As we see in the film, resistance takes courage, but facing one’s past may take even more,” notes Doran.

The triumph of “Collette,” and “Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond,” makes it three of the four major media awards that the videogame industry has made a mark by winning. The other victory is in the 53rd Grammy Awards (2011), where composer Christopher Tin won Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist/s for “Baba Yetu,” his composition of The Lord’s Prayer translated into Swahili, which was the theme song for the 2005 videogame “Sid Meier’s Civilization IV.”

Image courtesy of Variety