Friday, November 19, 2021

PBA Launching 3x3 BASKETBALL Tournament SATURDAY


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

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

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

Pool A

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

Pool B

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

Pool C

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

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

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

Image courtesy of

Thursday, November 18, 2021



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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Showtimes

Wednesday, November 17, 2021



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

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

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

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

Image from Top Gear PH



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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

MTRCB Discussing Possible Assumption of REGULATORY Powers Over STREAMING Content


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

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

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

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

Image from Philippine Entertainment Portal

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

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


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

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


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


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

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

Image courtesy of Geekfeed

Friday, November 12, 2021



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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Bleeding Cool

Thursday, November 11, 2021



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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of CNet

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

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

Image: Variety



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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Pledge Times

Friday, November 5, 2021



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

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

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

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

Image from Variety

Thursday, November 4, 2021



There is no denying that Jollibee is fast becoming a name increasingly known by people around the world. And that goes beyond just having branches of the Philippine fast-food chain in so many foreign countries. As a company Jollibee Foods Corporation is already one of the biggest in Asia, thanks to having acquired most of its local competing chains and, more recently, purchasing or gaining controlling stakes in foreign brands. While the COVID pandemic hit JFC hard along with every other business out there, they have bounced back enough that the company has resumed its key franchise acquisitions, such as this latest one from Taiwan.

CNN Philippines reports that Jollibee Foods Corp. announced plans to acquire a majority stake in Milkshop International Co. Ltd., better known as Milksha, a bubble tea brand headquartered in Taiwan. This Thursday, November 4, JFC revealed that it is negotiating anywhere up to $12.8 million in purchasing 51% ownership of Milksha, thus making its official entry into the popular bubble tea market. And Milksha is a formidable brand with 250 outlets, nearly 20 of them being located overseas in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and Canada.

One notable reason Jollibee Foods provided for its new acquisition bid is their observation of how bubble tea brands managed to keep a brisk business even during the pandemic period. In the case of Milkshop, back in 2020 their system-wide sales reached $74.7 million. Initially, dealings between JFC and Milkshop as far back as this past June consisted of a licensing agreement. This would lead to Milksha products becoming available for customer purchase in Chowking fast-food restaurants, although JFC declined to date when this would take effect. Getting a controlling stake in Milkshop simply seemed like the natural course. Jollibee plans to disclose the negotiated transaction when it is finalized.

Jollibee Foods Corporation boasts a growing international brand portfolio, ranging from China’s fast-food chains Yonghe King and Hongzhuangyuan, to America’s Panda Express and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It also has a joint venture with Japan’s Yoshinoya fast-food brand.

Image from – Business

Second TRAILER for “MORBIUS” Starring JARED LETO Out; Premiering NEXT YEAR


Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures may have come to an arrangement with Marvel Studios regarding sharing film rights of Spider-Man to allow the character to appear in the MCU, but they were also smart enough to begin building their own movie-verse featuring Spider-Man-related Marvel characters. This started in 2018 with “Venom” starring Tom Hardy, which would earn enough to warrant a sequel. Their next character adaptation is “Morbius,” starring Jared Leto as a doctor with a blood disease whose unorthodox cure turns him into a “living vampire.” After its 2020 release date was delayed by COVID, the film is now due to premiere next year, and got a new trailer.

As told by the Los Angeles Times, a second trailer has been released by Sony Pictures for “Morbius,” now their third installment in the “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe” (SSU) following “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” with came out last month. The original teaser went up in January 2020 when the film was expected to premiere later that July. Due to the pandemic, Sony now puts “Morbius” in an early 2022 slot, making this new preview welcome. Lead star Jared Leto now gets to showcase his Marvel antihero portrayal with new featured scenes showcasing Michael Morbius’ abilities.

The trailer does a minor recap from its predecessor, with Dr. Morbius (Leto) setting up his medical apparatus in a jungle cave filled with vampire bats, his big gamble to cure his lifelong blood ailment. Two months later he resurfaces in a cargo ship, seemingly the lone survivor in a gory onboard massacre. As he explains to his fiancée/coworker Martine (Adria Arjona), his “cure” also gave him superhuman abilities such as enhanced sight and hearing, a “bat-sense” echolocation, and flight. It also leaves him with vampire-like blood thirst, and is now being hunted for questioning by the FBI led by Agent Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson).

Delays in release caused by the pandemic apparently gave Sony-Columbia plenty of time to add references to not just fellow SSU entry “Venom” but also to the MCU. Michael Keaton’s appearance in the first trailer is now seemingly confirmed as Adrian Toomes/Vulture from “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” while the FBI compares Morbius to “somebody” in San Francisco, where “Venom” and its sequel take place. Furthermore, the post-credits scene of “Let There Be Carnage” implies that Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock/Venom has been “transported” to the MCU, and now Morbius even mentions Venom directly.

“Morbius,” directed by Daniel Espinosa, also stars Matt Smith, Jared Harris and Al Madrigal. The film arrives in cinemas this coming January 28 of 2022.

Image courtesy of Collider

Wednesday, November 3, 2021



It is said that the quest for justice, law and order never ends. So it is then that ABS-CBN’s teleserye adaptation of one Fernando Poe Jr. movie, “Ang Probinsyano,” has been going non-stop since premiering on the original Kapamilya network in 2015. Not even ABS-CBN’s channel shutdown in 2020 has stopped the show from telling its nonstop storyline of country-cop Cardo (Coco Martin) surviving and toppling one overarching villain after another. “Ang Probinsyano” was also cited by the entertainment industry as a potential comeback vehicle for actors without any projects for years. And as the show comes closer to its milestone 1,500th episode, the production teases a possible “Mega” addition.

According to, there is a strong possibility that Megastar Sharon Cuneta will be reactivating her Kapamilya cast status by joining “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” in the near future. It started with Dreamscape Entertainment dropping a heavy hint on their social media page for a new cast member joining in well into the teleserye’s 6th anniversary (as of September 2021). To be perfectly blunt, Dreamscape’s Tuesday November 2 Twitter post, promises loyal “Probinsyano” viewers that their primetime evenings are “Mega-ganda pa.”

In hindsight, this tease does not exactly come out of nowhere. Back in August, an Instagram post by Sharon already stirred speculation of her possible involvement in “Ang Probinsyano.” Her post contained a photo of star Coco Martin and actress Julia Montes, who was joining the series as the latest love interest for crusading cop (with badge or otherwise) Cardo Dalisay. Kapamilya loyalists highly anticipate the Megastar for what is technically her first teleserye role. Cuneta has thus far only served as host for ABS-CBN variety and reality shows over the decades. Her first TV series was the comedy-drama “Madam Chairman” on TV5 in 2013-14.

Following the broadcast halt of ABS-CBN in 2020, “FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano” soldiered on with other shows from the network in the pay-cable Kapamilya Channel. It returned to mainstream TV audiences after TV5 scored a simulcast deal to show several ABS-CBN programming in their block timeslots. The teleserye is now on its ninth season and fifth “book” storyline, with Cardo and his fellow special police task force disgraced and hiding from the suborned authorities controlled by First Lady/drug queen Lily Cortez-Hidalgo. November 8 will mark 1,500 episodes of “Ang Probinsyano,” with the determined possibility of going on for many more years.

Image: Dreamscape Twitter page



When COVID-19 spread from its original stomping grounds in China across the world, countries buckled down in hope that any infections would soon pass. When the outbreak became a global pandemic and cases began to skyrocket, humanity went into enforced isolation to stem the tide. In some corners of the mind however, there have been fears that the virus would overwhelm all safety protocols and the death toll would surpass any damage control, like a zombie apocalypse but without zombies. That worst-case scenario thankfully never happened, but one wonders how life might have changed otherwise. Now an HBO Max miniseries adapting a 2014 novel might give streaming viewers a glimpse.

Entertainment Weekly has it that HBO Max has released their first teaser for “Station Eleven,” a limited series based on a book by Emily St. John Mandel. The story follows the viewpoints of several characters over the span of two decades after human civilization is laid low by a super-flu pandemic. If that is not eerily similar to the current COVID pandemic, but with a worse outcome for the world, then nothing is. One of this miniseries’ several executive producers and episode directors is Hiro Murai, who worked on the 2016 FX comedy-drama series “Atlanta.”

The teaser starts with a scenario immortalized in the early stages of the real-life COVID pandemic, a person engaged in panic-buying of plentiful foodstuffs and supplies from a department store. Unlike with COVID, the reaction to the “Georgia Flu” pandemic in this show is more subdued. As a result, the effects are more devastating, with communities being cut off from the outside world. In this post-pandemic setting, various characters – some of whom were too young to remember a “time before” – try to survive in a world where few people remain.

“Station Eleven” stars Himesh Patel as Jeevan, a journalist-turned paramedic, who encounters relatives and friends of film and stage actor Arthur Leander, whose super-flu death he witnesses. Among these people is Leander’s child costar in a production of “King Lear,” Kirsten, with whom Jeevan does the panic-buying scene at the trailer (Matilda Lawler). Kirsten also appears as an adult (Mackenzie Davis), whose viewpoint is set in the decades after the start of the pandemic, living with a community of survivors. Other “Station Eleven” cast members include David Wilmot, Nabhaan Rizwan, Lori Petty and Daniel Zovatto.

The limited series is due to premiere on HBO Max streaming next month, December 16. For some viewers living in a COVID world, this show might come across as “too soon,” but it still promises to be an engaging story, as written years before the current pandemic became a reality.

Image courtesy of

Tuesday, November 2, 2021



The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic can be described as a roller-coaster with hills and plunges that has been going on since early 2020. The start saw low figures in infection due to the highest, strictest quarantine lockdowns. Mid-2020 saw a surge in cases when some restrictions were lifted. It got to the point when medical personnel were overtaxed and begging for a break. Word of vaccines becoming available made the infection rate stabilize, but when vaccination commenced this year, mid-2021 saw record rises anew. But recently the numbers have dialed down again, and as the Holiday season approaches the lowered alert levels are coming across as a good thing.

According to The Manila Bulletin, both the number of active COVID cases and average daily attack rate for the pandemic continue to see a gradual decline. This was reported this Tuesday, November 2 by Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. The improvement in this situation has been so palpable that Roque outright told listening Filipinos that there is a good chance for a better 2021 Holidays. As a result, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) which has monitored the pandemic nationwide since last year will now be discussing the possibility of holiday parties and family gatherings, within reason.

“We are at the low risk now,” notes Roque. “The alert level can still be lowered and that means there will be more businesses to reopen for our economy to be more vibrant and more people can work and enjoy Noche Buena.” He does however stress that, even as community alert levels continue to de-escalate, Filipinos must continue to observe all standing health and safety protocols plus restrictions, so as to keep the attack rate and infection on its downward slide and not risk a new spike as 2021 ends.

Currently, alert level 3 in the new pandemic alert system allows for social gatherings with some limited numbers (50% of max capacity in public venues), as in the NCR and nearby provinces. For alert level 2, children will already be allowed in malls and other indoor areas outside their homes. Spokesperson Roque cites the Department of Health in saying further than only when Metro Manila’s average daily attack rate drops to 7.7 will the IATF consider lowering alert level from 3 to 2. Should the case numbers visibly increase however, quarantine restrictions will again be applied. So Roque calls on the country to exercise caution even as December approaches, for more social liberties to come.

Image courtesy of

After “SUPER MARIO,” CHRIS PRATT Voicing “GARFIELD” in Animated Film


Actor Chris Pratt has established himself as a go-to star for big-budget action-adventure films, from galactic defender in 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” to raptor wrangler in 2015’s “Jurassic World” to cowboy in the 2016 “Magnificent Seven” remake. That’s not bad for starting out as a memorable slacker character in NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” He has also made waves as a voice actor for animated movies. He as Emmet Brickowski made everything in “The Lego Movie” (2014) awesome. Recently he was even tapped to voice Super Mario in an upcoming animated adaptation of the Nintendo character. Now, he might even be the latest to voice comic strips’ most famous cat.

That may have been a big giveaway for comic-strip readers. Yes, Comic Book Resources tells us Chris Pratt is being courted for the voice role of Garfield the cat in a planned animated film. The project has some heavyweight creative people who have worked on Disney animation, such as writer David Reynolds (“Finding Nemo”) and director Mark Dindal (“Chicken Little”). Production will be handled by Alcon Entertainment, which acquired the film rights from “Garfield” creator Jim Davis, while Sony Pictures will distribute the movie worldwide (excluding China). Animation will be done by DNEG Studios, which worked on “Ron’s Gone Wrong” by now-closed Blue Sky Studios.

Aside from the creative team and the possible lead voice actor in Pratt, there are no further details on this new big-screen take on “Garfield.” The first cinematic-release adaptation was from 20th Century Fox in 2004, a live-action film featuring Garfield as a CGI-animated feline actor, voiced by Bill Murray. After the sequel “A Tale of Two Kitties” in 2006, further movies were 3D-animated and direct-to-video. Alcon gained the movie rights from Davis in 2016, but development has stalled until word of Pratt’s possible casting.

Chris Pratt is well-known particularly to young audiences for his wide variety of characters: Owen Grady the raptor wrangler, Star-Lord, and Emmet for starters. While he featured in only one film each in 2020 (“Onward”) and this 2021 (“Tomorrow War”), for 2022 he will be in no less than three blockbuster movies. Pratt will reprise Star-Lord in Marvel Studio’s MCU installment “Thor: Love and Thunder,” starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman. Next, he will be back as Owen Grady for “Jurassic World: Dominion.” Finally, the “Super Mario” animated movie will also premiere next year. As for “Garfield,” no release year has been given for it.

Image from The Hollywood Reporter