Miss Earth Australia 2022: Highlights from the Grand Launch and Fashion Show

If you think fashion is only for adults, think again! With kids’ fashion and children’s wear making waves worldwide, it’s now not unusual to see adorable kids successfully walking the ramp for their fave brands like seasoned models.

Thanks to social media, reality TV shows, mainstream media, and the rapid growth of international brands such as U.S. Polo, Adidas, Nike, and H&M – all of which sell kids’ wear brands; children today are more in tune of fashion trends than ever before.

And by debuting kids’ fashion in Hyatt, Regency, Stargazer Production, a fast-growing organisation dedicated to promoting young emerging talents, has once again gone to great lengths to put the spotlight on Stargazer models and winners and finalists from Miss Little, Junior, and Teen Earth Australia.

Check out the photos below to see highlights from the Miss Earth Australia 2022 Grand Launch and Fashion Show courtesy of Paul Vasquez.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife Review: Relies Too Heavily On Fan Service To Feel Like A Complete Film

Sequels are more often than not derivative stand-ins for the, usually, superior predecessor films; incapable of being surpassed much less properly followed up. “Ghostbusters” is a timeless classic; following a formula no continuing sequel or ill-fated all-female reboot could duplicate successfully. For years, people eagerly awaited the third entry to close out the trilogy but that day and film never came, and eventually; Harold Ramis passed and it seemed like all hope was lost for a proper cap off to such an iconic franchise. Things remained dead and dormant until low and behold; Jason Reitman, son of the original film’s director; Ivan Reitman, took it upon himself to craft the ultimate love letter and cinematic send-off to his father’s flawless work with “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”

Set many years after the dissolvent of the original Ghostbusters team, a mother (Carrie Coon) and her children; Phoebe and Trevor (Mckenna Grace and Finn Wolfhard) lose their home and are forced to move to a dilapidated house; left to them by their deceased grandfather, in the middle of nowhere to try and make a fresh start. While discovering long-forgotten secrets about their family, Phoebe and Trevor inform their teacher (Paul Rudd) about strange goings-on at their house and in town. Soon, an ancient evil from the Ghostbusters’ past becomes unearthed and now a new generation of Ghostbusters must take on the proton streaming mantle and stop this threat before the world is engulfed by the dead rising from the graves once again.

After the awful, disastrous bomb that was Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters,” the story and the legacy desperately needed a fresh start. “Afterlife” is, in many ways, not just a continuation of the original story but a genuine love letter to the actors, the fans, and to the reunion that we all hoped we could see but was sadly denied. This is very much a family story; right down to the lineage connecting the director’s love for his father’s work. There are so many callbacks from signature sounds, signs, dialog, and imagery that lovingly take us back to everything that came before while still crafting a new story with new characters that fit into the narrative without being carbon copies of Spengler or Venkman.

While the nostalgia factor plays high with the ghosts featured here, they’re given new takes and new approaches that keep them from being rehashed golden oldies so old and new fans will definitely appreciate them. I cannot begin to describe how pleased I was to see practical effects returning in this modern-day blockbuster. Watching Paul Rudd wrestling with a terror dog face to face while gawking at miniature Stay Puft Marshmallow men in a Walmart brought me more joy and satisfaction than I ever thought possible. Speaking of joy, kudos and much applause are deserved by Mckenna Grace; easily the best character in the film. She may be young but she carries the film with effortless grace (pun intended); nailing every intentionally bad joke and providing an adorable sense of weirdness that perfectly fits in this kind of framework.

Finn Wolfhard is always a welcomed presence though personally, I felt this film could have used more of him and a more developed role outside of “car guy,” same could be said for his would-be girlfriend who got even less but deserved more. Time management seems to be the biggest problem for Jason Reitman’s nostalgia wave to overcome. It takes a bit too long for the new crew to catch their first ghost (though when they do it’s definitely one of the biggest highlights of the film) and other elements including further exploring Ivo Shandor feel rushed for the sake of time. The film wants you to get a feel and sense of who these characters are and how their family is going to hit you in the feels and funny bones then mix in the ghostbusting and try to make it all work cohesively together. For the most part, it works but not quite all the way.

In a lot of ways, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” relies too heavily on callbacks and fan service to feel like a complete film. This feels like an apologetic reunion to give the fans and Harold Ramis what they always wanted to see happen but spends a bit too much time doing that instead of paving the way for a proper passing of the torch generational send-off. However, while not every new character in the film gets proper in-depth examination, the ones that do excel in personality creativity and genuine comedic spontaneity. Grace and Rudd expand the universe brilliantly with their chemistry and comedy and the stellar ghost hunting sequences are a true spooktacular spectacle to behold when they do occur. There’s room to grow and room for more beyond a fond farewell to Harold Ramis’s legacy and I hope we won’t have to wait another decades-long wait for more.

I give “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” 3 stars out of 4 stars.

Editorial credit: Sarunyu L / Shutterstock.com

Review: Sydney’s First-Ever KitKat Chocolatory Boutique

Chocolate lovers rejoice! Sydney-siders can discover a break like never before, with a premium personalised chocolate experience in the heart of the city.

We were privy to an exclusive private preview of Sydney’s first-ever Kit Kat Chocolatory boutique, by Nestlé — where Head Chocolatier Connie Yuen had us feeling like Charlie with a golden ticket.

We donned our aprons, and with VIP access to the kitchen – settled in to “create our break”: a personalised 8-finger KitKat of our own making. The experience saw us picking from four premium chocolate flavours (milk, dark, white, or Ruby), and then up to three gourmet ingredients from an endless array. For my handcrafted creation, I went with “Ruby” chocolate — a must-try flavour owned and pioneered by Nestlé KitKat — plus rose petals, salted caramel crispearls, and crushed honeycomb. Connie gave us an amazing inside peek at the process for Chocolatiers.

When the KitKat Chocolatory opens in Sydney, ‘Create Your Break’ will offer guests the chance to design their own eight-finger KitKat by ordering from a schmick self-serve screen. Create Your Break offers up to 30,000 possible combinations, with a choice of premium chocolates, and custom package designs and labels. Guests can either watch chocolatiers create their bar, or return to collect it in under 2 hours.

Meanwhile, there’s plenty at the KitKat Chocolatory to keep you entertained. Next, we moved on to the ‘KitKat Tasting Table’, to explore a carefully crafted selection of plated KitKat desserts offering the latest trends in chocolate, yet inspired by the history of the brand.

As if that wasn’t enough to excite our senses – we also sampled specially crafted desserts aboard the (highly instagrammable) ‘KitKat Chocolate Train’. Move over sushi train! Think luscious KitKat selections with fillings like Yuzu Ganache, Peanut Butter & Raspberry, and Wasabi Crème to choose from. These can be selected by guests as they pass by.

The KitKat Chocolatory is the perfect place to pick up a quick and nifty gift. The boutique offers an exclusive ‘Mix Your Break’ range. Twelve individually wrapped creations, such as Cotton Candy, Guava, Churros, Sake, and Matcha give guests the chance to select from a whole variety of delicious flavours. If the little bites are not your bag, the Special Editions collection reimagines favourites from Australia, Brazil, and Japan.

Unique to the Sydney boutique, reservations for up to ten guests for the 90-minute seatings are available through OpenTable, and open Monday 6th July. Quick, make a break for it!

KitKat Chocolatory is in Japan and Malaysia and more recently the UK, Canada, and Brazil. For more information, visit the KitKat Australia Website.

Location

KitKat Chocolatory Mid City Sydney
Shop 54, 197-211 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW 2000

– Jill Antonio

Jill is a Sydney-based journalist who often eats cake for breakfast. Follow her on Instagram.

Photo Credit: Red Havas

The Verdict On Cruella: A Grand Step Into The Right Direction

Maleficent; that was the first thing that came to mind when I heard they were giving Cruella Deville her own live-action prequel/origin story. The unwatchable cinematic butchery that was Angelina Jolie’s “Maleficent” made it impossible for me not to dread what backward, hack story editing job Disney would perform on Cruella’s story in order to make her more likable, relatable, or some other totally inconsistent perception that has never been associated with the cruel fashion designer since her cinematic debut back in 1961. Cruella is an odd choice for an origins story and I never was her biggest fan, to begin with, but the unique setting piece and distinctive style gave this film an intriguing edge that I thought and hoped would work well.

At the young age of 12, Estelle suffers a horrid tragedy as she loses her home, her mother, and her school in one wicked night. After surviving off the streets for 4 years through thievery with her friends Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), a grown-up Estelle (Emma Stone) finds herself stumbling into an opportunity to enter the fashion world and make an honest living working for the Baroness (Emma Thompson) as an up and coming fashion designer. As secrets become revealed, Estelle wishes to remake herself for this new life and get revenge on those who wronged her in the past. Now Estelle is making her big debut and becoming who she was destined to be; despite how many hearts and lives she has to ruin in the process.

Unlike Maleficent who lives in a fantasy world of dragons and magic, “Cruella” transports us to a very believable and, dare I say, understandable existence for the villainess-to-be to inhabit. We see her from the literal beginning all the way to her rise to power and fame. The fashion landscape provides a unique environmental structure to mold our hero/villain into the witch she will one day become, and I have to say, after watching this film I can actually see this young Estelle/Cruella turning into the bony, cackling witch from the original animated film down the line. “Cruella” constantly shifts our perception of the character; showing her violent, aggressive side as well as her lonely, ambitious side to make us neither fully support her but neither do we fully condemn her. In the grand scheme of grand schemers, Cruella’s evil ambitions are considerably smaller compared to the likes of Scar, Hades or Ursula. Therefore, this approach works well with Cruella’s backstory and makes it easier to connect with her.

They say the devil is in the details and there is no greater detailed devil than in the choice to have Emma Stone play the future, Ms. Deville. She is completely immersed in the character; diving fully into her personality, her eccentricities, and her outlandish presence. Stone plays Cruella like a living embodiment of damaged goods; longing to wish for a better life and yet twisting yourself into the deep end of the pool at the risk of drowning in the darkness you once stood against. We see signs of her worst behaviors bubbling to the surface as the film progresses, including towards Horace and Jasper, who become so much more 3 dimensional and personal to her backstory; it makes their inevitable devolution into hired goons in the future all the more tragic. As for our villain’s villain, Emma Thompson steals the show almost as much as Emma Stone does. She’s a perfectly cold, shrewd woman who rivals Cruella imperfectly in every way.

The use of fashion, both as a weapon as and as cinematic eye candy was the most impressive and surprising aspect of the whole film. Cruella’s style is perfectly embodied in the costume designs. They feel like living, flowing works of art; warped into numerous unique styles that even make trails of garbage dangling from a dump truck look fashionable. The few areas of weakness I felt needed enhancing fell with Cruella’s evil nature (this is a Disney film after all so naturally much will be held back) and also the soundtrack. “Cruella” is a 2 hour 60 and 70’s jukebox; blasting oldies from those eras almost every 10 minutes. Unlike “Guardians of the Galax” which used its soundtrack as a part of the film’s narrative, “Cruella” just bombards you with so many songs the movie cannot feel like it can’t breathe on its own. It’s like we get it, we know what era we’re in; just let the movie be and give the natural sounds some breathing room.

Overall, “Cruella” is a considerable improvement after the disastrous approach they took to Sleeping Beauty with “Maleficent.” Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are beyond incredible. Their performances truly break them both into new territories and the unique blending of trauma, adventure, heist themes, and fashion themes work surprisingly well together. The music can be a bit overbearing and I do wish Disney would take a bigger chance on keeping their villains’ roots black as their hearts but this is a grand step in the right direction. “Cruella” isn’t exactly what I thought it would be but it’s definitely something I want more of.

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Walt Disney Studios’ YouTube channel

I give “Cruella” 3 stars out of 4 stars.

“Frozen 2″ Review: A Well-Matured Film That Doesn’t Try To Be Another Kid’s Movie

Rating: 4/5 Stars

I remember seeing “Frozen” for the first time when it first came to theaters. I knew next to nothing about it thanks to very few witnessed advertisements so I went in mostly blind and was very pleased to see how everything played out. It was a beautiful, wonderful, elegantly scored film that felt like a real return to Disney’s classic film quality levels. Imagine my surprise at how quickly the film evolved into a massive phenomenon and then, Disney taking a whopping 6-year gap before finally putting out the sequel. Needless to say, the hype surrounding “Frozen” was obscenely high and left a great deal to live up to for “Frozen 2” to match.

Our story takes us back to Arendelle where Elsa (Idina Menzel) enjoys a peaceful reign as queen until she starts hearing a strange voice calling her to the enchanted forest; outside of the kingdom. Desperate to find answers to the origins of her powers, Elsa ventures into the forest along with her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) and friends Kristoff (Jonathon Gruff) Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven the reindeer. What the group discovers is a new side to the sister’s parents, the king, and queen, and how their ties to the magic world are far more complicated and dangerous than Ana or Elsa ever imagined.

Topping a juggernaut like the original “Frozen” is no easy task for any sequel, thankfully, “Frozen 2” doesn’t just try to merely copy its original formula and instead treats the film’s story just like it treats its characters: allowing them to age. “Frozen 2” has grown up in every aspect compared to its “sister” movie; everything from the themes, morals, drama, music, and conflicts have all escalated into much bigger and more mature elements that I don’t think anyone was expecting. Gone are the catchy, Disney pop-ish musical numbers that can be easily lip-synched on sing-along CD albums and are now deeper, more emotionally meaningful songs that resonate with personal growth and the changes that come with age. Even Olaf, the goofy lovable snowman, sings about how he hopes he will be wiser when he grows older.

This new approach certainly appeals to the older audience members and it helps that most of the story really focuses on the character’s core motivations and developments. This maybe Elsa’s journey but there are so many other pivotal moments and lives involved here, it feels like everyone’s invested in this and the dangers and environments they encounters measure up accordingly with each bigger moment. The new environment expands the world of “Frozen” with new creatures, new mythology, and lore and it’s gorgeously rendered with spellbindingly beautiful computer effects and graphics. The world has never looked so wondrous before.

Kristen Bell and Indina Menzel truly go above and beyond their emotional capacities. Their bond and ties are truly tested here, pushing them to the limits and still managing epic songs that elevate Bell and Menzel’s talents to new heights. Sadly though, the music never becomes memorable or catchy enough that you’d want to say buy the soundtrack and listen to it over and over again like the first film. The songs are beautiful and expertly scored but just doesn’t make it replay value, with the exception, of course, being Kristoff’s song; a hilarious 80’s power ballad tune that is hilarious to watch and even better to listen to. It’s high time Kristoff got a real song this time around.

However, “Frozen 2” suffers from a few flaws; ones that are actually quite identical to the ones afflicting “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” Namely, “Frozen 2” delivers slim to zero new characters. The ones they do introduce are so paper thin and barely on screen, they feel more like cameos than proper roles. Another problem is nothing that new is brought to the table. Much like how “Ralph 2” just explored new levels of the same relationship we knew about before, “Frozen 2” gives us a few new neat tidbits about Elsa and her parents but it’s largely the same old story with just a few lessons about growing up. Kristoff’s relationship with Ana is one of the best new expanded storylines they’ve had but even that was handled fumblingly at times.

Overall, “Frozen 2” is a gorgeous, well-matured film that doesn’t try to be another kid’s movie and be something deeper and richer with heart and depth. The lack of new characters is disappointing and the rehashing of similar relationship problems/cues is unfortunate, but all in all, this is a beautiful movie that does take a few risks and tries something more adult-oriented and it works on many levels even if not all the way through every time.

Image Source: Screenshot from Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube Channel

Encanto Movie Review: Is It Worth Your Money??

With the success of “Moana” and growing need/interest in diversity in their princess line/history, Disney has been trying to pass the cultural test with all possible flying colors by adapting every kind of hero and heroine for their animated feature films. With “Moana,” and “Raya and the last dragon,” it’s clear Disney is trying to put their own iconic magical spin on every possible fairy tale they can weave with new rising stars and storytellers to pave the way for future profits and programming. “Encanto” is a Columbian fantasy tale, scored through the genius musical mind of Lynn-Manual Miranda, who had already delivered substantial musical success for Disney with his work in “Moana” and “Mary Poppins Returns.” One always hopes lightning strikes more than once so let’s see if Disney has conjured up the right kind of magic once again.

In a humble village in Columbia, the centerpiece of the town (and the story) is the Madrigals family: a family blessed with a magical house that is not only alive and vibrantly energetic but also grants each new family member as they come of age with their own, unique mystical power. From super strength, weather manipulation, and shape-shifting, there’s something extra special about every member of the Madrigals family…except for Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). She’s the only one who never received a mystical gift and it has left her feeling disconnected and ignored by her magical-powered relatives. However, when a mysterious danger threatens to eliminate the magic from the Madrigals forever, Mirabel must find out what is causing the magic to disappear and save her family’s gifts before they are lost for all eternity.

The subject of family is no stranger to Disney’s usual go-to story focuses. Certain cultures and families have a greater emphasis on the importance of family and that is no different here. However, the strange thing about “Encanto” is that for as fantastical and family-focused as it is, the film seems to mix its signals on presenting family; often coming off sadder and head scratching than anything whimsical. Almost every plot twist, line of dialog, and the musical number has to revolve around why family is so important and how dedicated this particular family is to one another. And yet, Mirabel not only receives no magical gift she gets shunned and ignored by her family members simply because she is different from them; even from the figurehead of the family.

The prejudice towards Mirabel not only feels hurtful but also unnecessarily aggressive, even if that is the point/source of conflict for the character. The whole plot circles the looming threat of everyone losing their powers and that level of jeopardy feels a bit lacking when everyone is being an obnoxious pill towards Mirabel just because she’s different; even to the point you WANT them to end up powerless so they can see what Mirabel has been going through. The movie kinda spins its wheels around this central plot and doesn’t really leave room for much else outside of enjoying Miradna’s signature soundtrack works of art. The songs range from catchy to forgettable. They are well presented and beautifully packaged, but again, they all dance around the same issue with little variation, and even the tune pitches don’t change enough for me to say I can remember more than one song off top of my head after seeing it.

The catchiest song actually deals with the character of Bruno (voiced by John Leguizamo) who is treated even worse than Mirabel, and the more you find out the worse you feel for this character. I felt bad for him more so than anyone else in the rest of the family. Among all the beautiful colors, stunning visuals, and bouncing tunes; the film seems to mishandle its own message and sends conflicting morals about family connections that were handled far more elegantly and meaningfully in Pixar’s “Coco” then they were here. Even with a Disney film having an expected happily ever after, the cast never becomes likable or memorable enough to feel like the lessons have been learned or expressed in the right way; to us or the cast.

Overall, “Encanto” has a lot to like but not as much to love if you ask me. There’s plenty of flash and colorful music but no staying power, not during the film and certainly not after it. The message about the power of families feels disjointed and poorly arranged in a way that it contradicts itself and ends up painting the Madrigals as glorified jerks rather than a whimsical family to emulate and idolize. Once you get behind it all, there’s not much going on and at the end, the answers all seem so obvious you’re wondering why it took so long to learn the clear-cut message. But hey, at least it’s got great music.

I give “Encanto” 2 stars out of 4 stars.