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Now Playing: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

In case you didn’t notice, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now in theaters. It’s the much-anticipated sequel to the groundbreaking MCU film Black Panther in 2018.

People were looking forward to this movie for many reasons. Chief among them, how will it handle the passing of lead star Chadwick Boseman. Boseman is played T’Challa/Black Panther but passed away in 2020 after silently battling cancer. The film also has the unenviable task of closing the chapter on Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which many feel has been underwhelming.

Here, two of our team members discuss the film with some spoilers so this is your OFFICIAL SPOILER WARNING. If you haven’t seen the film, we suggest you just bookmark this for now and come back after watching it.

Initial thoughts on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Wakanda Forever

Levi: Disappointment might have filled Marvel fans throughout Phase 4, with one underwhelming film after the other. It was only fitting that the MCU capped this phase with a masterpiece. One that sets up everyone for Phases 5 and 6 while reigniting their excitement for what’s about to unfold.

Rodneil: Hmm… not quite sure I share the “disappointment” but I do recognize. I honestly feel like the MCU has become what Iron Man is to that universe. Harking back to what Happy told Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home, “Not even Tony could live up to, Tony.”

I acknowledge that not every show or movie has been strong, but I am personally not as disappointed as the general sentiment is. And Black Panther: Wakanda Forever closes Phase 4 in the most appropriate way which is bittersweet. 

Thoughts on Namor?

Wakanda Forever

Levi: It had all the elements of a cinematic marvel (pun intended), from how Ryan Coogler chose to pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman by having the Wakandans offer a ceremonial burial to his titular role. At the same time, the ending also struck as what traditional critics call as an “unending” type. Again, quite fitting as there is just more to come from the MCU in the immediate future. 

I am just relieved that Namor and his people are here to stay for what is possibly a mega-collaboration with Wakanda. It was alarming considering MCU’s sometimes penchant for expendable villains (See: Kilmonger). That kind of threw me back to the events of Avengers: Infinity War in terms of how vital the role Wakanda played, so it is intriguing what this partnership will have for the eventual Secret Wars phase, as teased towards the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. 

Rodneil: Agreed. There was a moment in the film when I genuinely thought he was gonna be a one-off character. But I knew in the back of my head that they weren’t gonna get rid of him just like that. 

But hold on, aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves? What did you think of Namor as the primary antagonist? 

A nuanced character

Levi: I was about to get there! I think Namor adds another layer to the movie as he acts more of an anti-hero, where he is neither the protagonist nor antagonist. Obviously, one can only speculate based on comics as to what he will really be, but as we all know, the MCU is a different animal. That’s a treatment we will definitely wait for, given how this film has set up the existing timeline.

Rodneil: I think he was very much the antagonist of the film. In the comics, he flips-flops between hero and villain. But his motivations have always been clear. He does everything he does for the sake of protecting his people. And that much is true for this film. He fights alongside whoever his motivations align with the most. Namor is refreshing because he is a very nuanced character, and that’s something we need to see more of in mainstream films, especially the MCU. 

The backstory that the film gives him, as well as that sequence in the middle of the film he spent with Shuri perfectly solidified what kind of character he is. Now that we’ve spoken about the antagonist. Let’s switch to the other side, what did you think of Shuri?

Shuri and her character’s journey

Wakanda Forever

Levi: Before I get to Shuri, yes, that is one great way of putting it. He operates on his own terms, which will again be crucial once we get to the latter stages of the MCU and the gigantic war that is brewing. In the first place, this movie also refreshingly brought us back to the surface – which we are just scratching – after spending time in multiverses the second Doctor Strange film as well as Spider-Man: No Way Home and across different dimensions – to align things looking ahead.

Anyway, Shuri was tremendous in leading Wakanda in the aftermath of T’Challa’s death. It was all worthy successor vibes for me. Obviously, if you have been following Marvel closely, it was only a matter of time before she finally dawned that Black Panther suit. But then again, it’s like she channeled her smarts in the lab to being representative of the entire Wakandan race through combat, doing so in such an emotional yet powerful manner which was just as energizing for all of us as she led everyone in the next chapter of her nation.

War and its consequences

Wakanda Forever

Rodneil: Funny how you said it “brought us back to the surface.” Because, indeed, we have been dealing with the multiverse, magic, and cosmic things that tackling the very real feud between nations feels a lot more grounded despite the stakes still being really high. That’s actually one theme that I liked – how war isn’t romanticized. It’s portrayed as this horrifying thing where no one actually wins. And we need more of that idea being spread in as many media as possible. 

Shuri was solid in this film. I loved her character arc. It all felt very real, especially all that rage. She was dealing with loss, pain, grief, and anger all at the same time and it dictated a lot of her actions. It was very compelling and was presented expertly all the way from when Namor finally attacked Wakanda up to the third act battle. 

Levi: Speaking of wars, part of me initially thought there would be three players to the party with America threatening to wage war with Wakanda after their Vibranium detector got destroyed. I’m glad the overall direction of the movie focused on Namor and his Atlanteans, pinned against Black Panther and Wakanda.

What’s next for the MCU?

Wakanda Forever

Levi: As mentioned earlier, it was terrific that they were able to introduce a new character who is not one and done, and an entire race to go along with it. And its aftermath with the two sides basically calling a truce to focus on an even more important matter in the future is kind of how you expected the MCU to close this chapter. We can’t get ahead of ourselves that much, but depending on how the first few movies in Phase 5 fair, we are probably getting a promising build up for Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars.

Rodneil: Oh that whole America thing and Valentina being there is most certainly a set-up for the announced and upcoming film Thunderbolts. But I’ll save that discussion for another time. 

Speaking of build-up, while Phase 4 does feel clunky and disconnected at first, I still very much think everything is leading up to somewhere. It just wasn’t as apparent as Thanos and the Infinity stones. There were just more characters, more universes, and more elements to introduce. As someone who’s familiar with how convoluted the comic books can get, we’re still getting only a mild dose. 

On that note, this is getting a bit long, so let’s jump right into your final overarching thoughts on Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. 

Final thoughts on Wakanda Forever

Levi: You are definitely the more immersed Marvel guy between us two, but perhaps from a casual’s perspective, it was Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s ability to connect them back to the overall scheme of things MCU-wise that made it such a refresher, again, owing to the perceived “disconnect” from some of the other films in Phase 4 that perhaps at one point made them go “What is going on?”. That said, again, what a way to punctuate this phase and set us all up for the next two. Excited is an understatement. Also, we have Disney+ in the Philippines now to get us reacquainted with the storylines, so there’s that.

Rodneil: We’re just pretty much echoing each other at this point, but I agree, this is the best way to close a phase. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a brilliant story. As a film, it had such a big responsibility. It had to deal with the passing of Chadwick Boseman all while moving the plot forward for the MCU. At the same time, it still felt like a self-contained movie instead of just another forgettable chapter. 

There are so many themes and emotions tackled here. There’s pain, loss, the cost of war, the consequence of revenge, and many more. All of it was handled and presented expertly. It’s easily the best film Phase 4 and gives us hope of better things to come for the MCU. 

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Netflix Southeast Asia movies to watch

Homegrown Southeast Asian titles for your holiday must-watch

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Netflix Southeast Asia

Looking for Netflix shows to binge-watch throughout the holidays? The streaming app features a rich collection of localized content across all genres for viewers to give a try.

Here are some of the best titles from Southeast Asia and beyond for subscribers to enjoy.

The Lost Lotteries (Thailand)

This comedy features five unlucky strangers meeting each other for a common goal of fighting a mafia boss who have stolen their winning lottery tickets worth millions.

Hurts Like Hell (Thailand)

World-renowned sport Muay Thai traces its roots to Thailand, and this mini-series will give fans an even more in-depth look into this industry.

The Trapped 13: How We Survived The Thai Cave, Thai Cave Rescue (Thailand)

If you’re interested in real-life stories, then these documentaries are for you. Both feature the 12 young Thai footballers who were trapped in a flooded cave complex for 17 days back in 2018.

The Trapped 13: How We Survived The Thai Cave in particular reflects the perspectives of the survivors while showcasing the intricate details of the dangerous rescue mission and how they managed to survive the event.

Thai Cave Rescue, on the other hand, is a drama series which took real-life elements from the boys’ stories.

The Big 4 (Indonesia)

Abimana Aryasatya, Putri Marino, Arie Kriting, Lutesha, and Kristo Immanuel star in a mix of action and comedy from Indonesian director Timo Tjahjanto. The Big 4 sees four retired assassins joining forces to track down an elusive murderer.

A Perfect Fit (Indonesia)

What if fate comes a little too late? In this whirlwind romance, an already engaged fashion blogger finds herself going down an unexpected path during a life-changing trip to Bali, where she meets a gifted shoemaker.

Doll House (Philippines)

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ very own Baron Geisler stars in Doll House, which is ought to give viewers a good cry.

The heart-warming tale portrays the complexities of father-daughter relationships. It comes with a sentimental plot toward the end that will touch the hearts of everyone.

Chinese language picks

Warriors of Future (Hong Kong)

A suicide squad is assigned to save humanity from the threat of extinction after a meteor carrying a destructive plant hit the world. In the process, they will have to defeat alien creatures in a post-apocalyptic setting to succeed.

Shards of Her (Taiwan)

This Taiwanese mystery thriller stars Hsu Wei-Ning, Toby Lee and Wen Chen-Ling. After a coma leaves her with amnesia, an accomplished career woman finds herself navigating a warped reality where she is forced to revisit her painful past.

Mom, Don’t Do That! (Taiwan)

When a 60-year-old widow decides to fall in love again, her two daughters get both happy and annoyed. This Taiwanese drama-comedy that is filled with hilarious moments will teach everyone heartfelt lessons too.

Do you have your own Southeast Asia movies or TV shows recommendations?

SEE ALSO: Inside Netflix’s dubbing process

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IN PHOTOS: Dubbing with Netflix, HIT Productions

Plus a quick glimpse of the Netflix PH office

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Netflix HIT

Have you ever been curious about how the whole dubbing process works? Netflix, along with HIT Productions, was kind enough to give us a quick tour showing how our favorite Netflix shows are dubbed in Filipino. 

HIT Productions prides itself as “The Philippines’ top audio post production house and recording studio for advertising.” And they have the clientele to back up the claim. Other than Netflix, they’ve also worked with plenty of notable brands. These include but are not limited to Jollibee, Mitsubishi, Coca Cola, and many more. 

They’ve partnered with Netflix on many shows and movies. For this particular tour, they showed us how they dubbed Season 4 of Stranger Things.

Different rooms for the talents and director

Dubbing Director Cheska Aguiluz

Heading in, I was fully expecting a Sound Booth like setup – you know, the ones we normally see in TV shows and movies. HIT has a different setup. They have the director in one room and the voice talents in another. The rooms are situated right across each other with sound engineers manning both rooms. 

The communication between the director and talents still happens real time, and they see each other through an iPad.

Each room has a monitor that displays the scene that’s being dubbed. The talents’ audio goes straight into a computer that’s in the same room as the director. 

Netflix HIT

Multiple talents will be in the same room at one time. This depends entirely on the scene that needs to be dubbed. They take turns dubbing with sound engineers adjusting the height of the mic each time to make sure it’s optimized for each talent. 

Although, they did mention this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, there will be scheduling challenges, but they’re able to work through it.

Netflix HIT

The actual dubbing back and forth is fascinating. They go through each line meticulously, making sure the cadence, the breaths, the tone, and the emotion matches that of the original actors. 

Recording a single episode will take days. And that’s just the recording. The next part is just as tedious.

Painstaking editing

Netflix HIT

The level of precision applied in the voice acting and directing extends to the cutting floor when the recordings go through post production. 

Here, sound engineers go through each scene, switching between the original scene and the dubbed recordings to make sure they match. This includes how loud or soft the voice is as well as adding effects to mimic the room environment sound of each sound. 

What makes the whole process tricky is a lot of it is guess work. I asked if they are given a cheat sheet of the effects used by the original production. They said that rarely happens. That means they rely both on their sharp ears and years of experience to make sure everything matches.

After post production, an entire episode goes through a quality check. If anything sounds off, it’s back to post processing again. 

HIT says in a month, they’re able to finish roughly around three to four episodes. Of course, that depends also on the length of the episode. Stranger Things Season 4, for instance, typically lasts over an hour. With some episodes even running as long as feature length films.

Trying out dubbing

Netflix HIT

Head of Localization Rudolf Baldonado

After a look at the voice acting and post production process, HIT took us to a room where some members of the media got to try dubbing. Here, Head of Localization Rudolf Baldonado, led the way. 

Baldonado explained that the most important part of the whole process is the script. Localization, as you may have surmised, is no easy task. There are so many things to consider: What words to use to match the movement of the lips, the general direction for each line, and making sure all the lines make sense when delivered together.

A couple of voice talents showed us the ropes first, recording a scene from the Don’t Look Up film. Baldonado, who also helmed localization for Trese, noted that mimicking the original actor’s voice is less important than delivering the right tone and emotion for the line and the scene. 

Netflix HIT

During the recording, he also noted that dubbing is more about voice acting than actual voice quality. How well you convey the right emotion is more important than whether or not you sound pleasant or not. 

Sit down with the voice talents

Netflix HIT

To wrap up the tour of the HIT Productions office, we sat down with the voice talents and the rest of the team that worked on the Stranger Things Season 4 dub. Here’s everyone who joined us: 

  • Christian Velarde (MIKE)
  • Albert Silos (WILL)
  • Steve Bontogon (DUSTIN)
  • JM Canlas (LUCAS)
  • Steffi Bontogon (MAX)
  • JM Torres (VECNA)
  • Nelieza Magauay (ROBIN)
  • Ericka Peralejo (SUZIE)
  • Cheska Aguiluze (Dubbing Director)
  • Rudolf Baldonado (Head of Localization)

Many of them shared their experiences and lessons learned while working as voice actors. 

A lot of the echo the same thing that Baldonado mentioned earlier. That the ability to understand the character’s emotion and act it out through your voice is the most important skill in the craft.

Netflix HIT

What stood out to me the most though, is how each of them seemed like colorful characters on their own. And they deserve just as much recognition as TV and movie actors. 

Quick Netflix PH HQ Tour

After the session at HIT Productions, we were taken to the headquarters of Netflix Philippines. Some interesting things to note: 

  • The meeting rooms are named after Netflix’s shows and films
  • There are areas designated for quiet time 
  • The place is spacious with many areas for quick, breakout meeting sessions
  • It’s filled with books and other ornaments that have to do with Netflix shows
  • Free-flowing drinks! 
  • This writer would like to spend a work day or two in the area (Thanks in advance, Netflix!) 

Here’s a photo dump:

Netflix

Netflix

Photo c/o Netflix

Netflix

Squid Game meeting room | Photo c/o Netflix

Photo c/o Netflix

Photo c/o Netflix

Beverages | Photo c/o Netflix

Pantry | Photo c/o Netflix

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Tao Tsuchiya spills deets about Alice in Borderland S2

Coming This December

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Tao Tsuchiya

It’s been almost two years since the first season premiere of popular Netflix series Alice in Borderland. Based on a manga of the same name, the story revolves around two people who found themselves in a dystopian version of Tokyo, and with a twist — they play real-life “games” in order to survive.

Season 1 ended with a very intriguing cliffhanger, and fans are left with more puzzle pieces to solve. 

Good news: the waiting game won’t be much longer because season 2 is finally coming this month! As special treat to fans, we got the chance to interview Tao Tsuchiya who plays Usagi in the series.

I personally love her badass, athletic physique in this live action adaptation. But compared to her character, she is actually kawaii in real life. It was a short but fun chat with her.

Without major spoilers, here’s what Tsuchiya revealed for the next season:

A more emotional and (possibly) romantic Usagi

In season 1, Usagi was introduced as an athletic, competent girl with a sad past. She competed in the games independently until she meets Arisu, played by actor Kento Yamazaki, who eventually becomes her ally.

During our interview, Tao Tsuchiya briefly mentioned about her character development, even experiencing the feeling of first love.

“Usagi, basically, has this feeling of disappointment towards society [in season 1], so she’s pretty much aloof. But in season 2 and by meeting Arisu, she cares about other people and then she has this feeling of first love. Usagi was in solitude, or she was alone, [but now], her scars starts to open up and she shows her vulnerability and anxiety and her doubts.”

Is the Arisu x Usagi ship finally sailing this time?

Big visual upgrade

Season 1 was a visual treat for the viewers. The overall effects were well thought of and brilliantly presented. As someone who’s been to Tokyo, I found it fascinating how they made the big city really look and feel like a true-to-life gaming arena.

Tsuchiya promises Season 2 will be more enjoyable because “the scales, technology and CGI are bigger. We created a world that we can’t imagine before, so the whole thing is a whole upgrade.”  Sounds exciting!

New games will be a balance between mind and physical

When asked about the nature of games in the upcoming season, Tsuchiya teases that half of the games will be about the mind, and half will be physical. According to her, there will be different portrayals in the mind games. The cast and crew enjoyed the back-and-forth participation to both kinds of games. 

She also teased about a game that will make her character understand the value of life. We wonder what it is about.

They try to be faithful to the manga version

Tao Tsuchiya and Kento Yamazaki

Tao Tsuchiya and Kento Yamazaki

For new fans, Alice in Borderland is based on a shōnen manga series written by Haro Aso, and the first season covered around the first 31 chapters. 

According to Tsuchiya, they try to be as faithful as possible to the manga. However, some elements have to be tweaked for better live action experience, most especially the facial expressions. 

With the manga having 64 chapters in total, season 2 is expected to cover the remaining 33.

They filmed season 2 will a calmer perspective

Alice and Borderland Season 1 was filmed during the onset of the pandemic, and Tsuchiya described it as quite stressful because of the uncertainties.

While season 2 is also filmed during the pandemic, protocols are eased up and the cast are more chill when filming this new season.

She also shared a few filming moments that had us smiling during the interview:

“There was a time where we were on the tallest building in Shibuya at five o’clock in the morning and the crew were obviously very sleepy at that time. But we actors were dressed in rags and were basically in a situation, or we looked like we were about to die any minute. But then at that moment, for whatever reason we burst out laughing and I’m sure the crew members didn’t understand why we were laughing that hard. There was a moment because you know it’s such a tough world that we are trying to portray. Maybe because of that, we just kind of thought it was inexplicable but that was the moment that we remember.”

Well, how fun was that!

Alice in Borderland Season 2 will be out on Netflix this December 22.

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