Welcome to the new year! 2019 already kinda sucks because:
IN THIS WEEK’S “In memoriam” story, we have already lost 3 significant figures in entertainment.
Gene Okerlund, a gentlemanly wrestling announcer who went by “Mean Gene” and specialized in interviewing the biggest, loudest and most obnoxious professional grapplers in the business, died Jan. 2 at a hospital in Sarasota, Fla. He was 76.
His death was confirmed by a daughter-in-law, Patricia Okerlund. The cause was not immediately known, but Mr. Okerlund had a history of kidney ailments, his family said.
Short, bald, jowly and with a neatly trimmed mustache, Mr. Okerlund was a study in stark physical contrast to the athletes he interviewed. He became a stalwart of World Wrestling Entertainment as it became a global juggernaut in the 1980s under entrepreneur Vince McMahon.
Mr. Okerlund’s unflappable interviews set the stage for the character development of widely known personalities such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and the Ultimate Warrior.
“Well, let me tell you something, Mean Gene!” Hogan would bark into the microphone, regardless of the question, as Mr. Okerlund remained courteous. His nickname — reportedly bestowed by wrestler Jesse Ventura — was a joking homage to his understated personality on camera.
We also lost Daryl Dragon, one half of popular ’70s duo The Captain & Tennille, died Wednesday, according to his publicist Harlan Boll. He was 76.
Dragon, whose ever-present captain’s hat left no doubt about which half of the duo he was, died of renal failure in Prescott, Arizona, Boll said.
“He was a brilliant musician with many friends who loved him greatly,” Toni Tennille said in a statement. “I was at my most creative in my life when I was with him.”
Tennille was at Dragon’s side when he passed away, Boll said.
The duo’s best-known songs included “Muskrat Love,” “Do That to Me One More Time” and “Love Will Keep Us Together.”
Dragon, a classically trained pianist, was most at home behind the keyboard. One of his early gigs was as a backup musician for the Beach Boys in the mid-’60s.
Dragon and Tennille met in 1971 when she hired him to play piano for a musical called “Mother Earth.” They married in 1975, a year after they signed a deal with A&M Records.
Their first album produced the hit single “Love Will Keep Us Together,” which enjoyed multiple weeks atop the Billboard chart.
Dragon and Tennille separated in 2013 and finalized their divorce in 2014. They remained close friends.
They were ever-present on the radio when I was a kid.
And if that wasn’t enough, we lost the great Bob Einstein, who I knew mostly as the amazing Super Dave Osbourne.
Bob Einstein, the gravelly-voiced comedic actor who delighted viewers by playing inept stuntman Super Dave Osborne and, more recently, by vexing Larry David on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, died on Wednesday at age 76. He was recently diagnosed with cancer.
Einstein’s career in show business spanned more than half a century during which he won two Emmys.
After spending some time in the advertising industry, he began his television career as a writer on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and in 1969 won his first prime time Emmy. He went on to write for the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and the Canadian sketch comedy show, Bizarre. But his second Emmy came in 1977, as a producer for Van Dyke and Company.
Einstein was born in Los Angeles in 1942 and was the middle son of actress Thelma Leeds and comedian Harry Einstein, and the older brother of writer and director Albert Brooks. Einstein had a particularly hilarious knack for creating deadpan yet absurd characters that seemed oblivious of their failings.
His jokes often veered into blue territory and ultimately found an appropriate outlet on cable television and, more recently, on podcasts. Still, he remained a fan favorite on many late night talk shows for decades, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Late Night With David Letterman, and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
I loved his Super Dave bits. He was hilarious.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Weird reboot of the Day” story, Kevin Smith has launched pre-production on his long-promised Jay and Silent Bob reboot with Jay Mewes and producer Jordan Monsanto.
Smith, who first announced the project in August, 2017, made the announcement in Jan. 1 tweet: “Spent the first day of 2019 having a #JayAndSilentBobReboot pre-pre-production meeting.”
Smith and Mewes made their film debut in the 1994 comedy Clerks, funded for $27,000 through Smith maxing out his credit cards. Smith wrote, directed, co-produced, and acted in Clerks, portraying the character Silent Bob as part of the team of Jay and Silent Bob.
Smith’s subsequent films featured Jay and Silent Bob and were mostly set in his home state of New Jersey. Those included Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and 2006’s Clerks 2 — the final film in which the characters appeared. Smith produced the interconnected films through his View Askew Productions, which he co-founded with Scott Mosier.
So, how’s this gonna work, now?
IN THIS WEEK’S “Princess Leia stays” story, Princess Leia Organa will appear in the next Star Wars movie, slated for released in December 2019, some three years after the death of the actress who played her, Carrie Fisher.
Carrie’s brother, Todd Fisher, 60, recently spoke to ABC News about his sister’s inclusion in the film and what fans can expect will come of her legacy within the next few years.
“There’s a lot of minutes of footage. I don’t mean just outtakes,” Todd told the outlet in an interview published last week. “This is unused, new content that could be woven into the storyline. That’s what’s going to give everybody such a great kick. It’s going to look like it was meant to be. Like it was shot yesterday.”
He continued, “We’re not allowed to talk about the details of anything … But we’re thrilled at what’s been done.”
Returning director J.J. Abrams, who co-wrote the script for Episode IX alongside Chris Terrio, said in a statement in July, “We desperately loved Carrie Fisher. Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”
Well, I, for one, am curious to see how they handled it.
IN THIS WEEK’S “More Bruce” story, if you were wondering what our beloved Bruce Campbell was going to do next after the cancellation of Ash VS Evil Dead, well, you may be surprised.
Evil Dead actor Bruce Campbell is set to host a reboot of the durable Ripley’s Believe It or Not format for Travel Channel.
Built around real-life stories from across the globe, each of the 10 hour long episodes will be shot at Ripley Warehouse in Orlando, Fla. Campbell, Brad Bernstein, David Karabinas, Ron Bowman and Daniel A. Schwartz executive producing. The series is slated to premiere in the summer.
“As an actor, I’ve always been drawn toward material that is more ‘fantastic’ in nature, so I was eager and excited to partner with Travel Channel and ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ on this new show,” Campbell said. “And because amazing things happen all around the world, we should have no shortage of unbelievable stories to share with a fresh new audience.”
Ripley’s Believe It or Not has a long history as a TV program dating back to its first iteration for NBC with host Robert Ripley in 1949. Actor Jack Palance hosted a version of the show for ABC from 1982-1986.
“Travel Channel fans have an insatiable curiosity about the world and sharing this wonderful and weird series with the next generation of fans is a thrill,” said Travel Channel general manager Jane Latman. “This entirely new version of Ripley’s is a fresh contemporary approach to the odd and unusual and will be jam-packed with larger-than-life characters, cool facts, history and science.”
Ok then. Groovy.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Danny joins Dwayne” story, Following the news that Awkwafina is joining the returning ensemble, Sony Pictures has now tapped Danny DeVito to join the cast of the sequel to its hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
DeVito will join returning cast members Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan, with Jake Kasdan coming back as director.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a smash hit, hauling $962 million worldwide. It followed a group of four teens transported into the world of Jumanji, where they turn into their adult avatars. The setting is now a video game instead of a board game, on which the book and original 1995 film, starring Robin Williams, were focused.
The plot and DeVito’s character details are being kept under wraps.
Well, he’s always a fun addition.
IN THIS WEEK’s “Will Peter go back to bloody?” story, Peter Jackson is mostly known now for his Lord of the Rings epics, but he launched his career creating ultra-gory horror-comedies that turned him into a kind of cult legend. Jackson hasn’t returned to the horror genre since 1996’s The Frighteners (unless you want to count King Kong as horror) but that doesn’t mean his gross-out days are done. The filmmaker is restoring his early splatter films, which has inspired him to admit he’d love to be “disgusting again.”
Will we ever see a new Peter Jackson horror movie? Maybe! Jackson recently used his Weta Digital VFX studio to restore old World War I footage for the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, and he decided to use the same tech on his early horror films, like Braindead (aka Dead Alive) and Bad Taste.
Dead Alive and Bad Taste are great!
“I’ve decided to go back and do this to my old films,” Jackson says in a new interview with THR. “I’ve done some tests on Braindead, where we took the 16mm negative and put it through our World War I restoration pipeline — and shit, it looks fantastic!” The filmmaker added: “I’m pretty keen to actually just get them back out there again. That’s sort of my plan for now: to do a nice little box set — the early years! The naughty years!”
All this talk of going back to his splatter-punk roots prompted the interviewer to ask Jackson if he might make a new horror movie sometime in the future, and Jackson wasn’t opposed to the idea:
“Oh, I’m very happy to be disgusting again if the right project comes along…It would be interesting to see how disgusting Fran [Walsh] and I could be in our older age compared to our younger years because we’ve learned a few things since then. We know a little bit more about the world than we did then, so maybe our levels of disgusting could go into whole new places!”
Hey, I’m all for Jackson to get back to some humorous horror! But will it happen?
IN THIS WEEK’S ” Will he or won’t he?” story, Kevin Hart was going to host the Oscars, then he wasn’t. NOW, he…might?
Variety now reports that “key parties involved in the annual Oscars telecast are open to the return of Kevin Hart as host” if he wants the job. Our original article from this morning follows.
People have noticed that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have yet to choose a 2019 Oscars host following the exit of their first choice, Kevin Hart. But, according to Ellen DeGeneres, that’s because they’re waiting for him to return.
Hart stepped down from the Oscars hosting gig following outcry over anti-LGBT tweets that were resurfaced following his announcement as host. But following an interview with The Ellen Show host, Hart is apparently reconsidering.
During a lengthy interview on her syndicated talk show, DeGeneres, herself a two-time Oscar host, encouraged Hart to take back the hosting gig. She revealed on the show that she had called The Academy earlier that day to ask whether they would consider reinstating him as host, and apparently received a positive reaction:
“I called them (the Academy). I said, ‘Kevin’s on, I have no idea if he wants to come back and host, but what are your thoughts?’ And they were like, ‘Oh my God, we want him to host. We feel like that maybe he misunderstood or it was handled wrong or maybe we said the wrong thing but we want him to host. Whatever we can do we would be thrilled. And he should host the Oscars.’”
Emboldened by DeGeneres’ support, Hart said that he would reconsider the hosting gig, which he exited a day after the Academy announced him as host, following the criticism that he received over his history of anti-LGBTQ comments and past allegations of domestic abuse:
“Leaving here, I promise you I’m evaluating this conversation. Let me assess, just sit in the space and really think, and you and I will talk before anything else.”
My head hurts.
IN THIS WEEK’S “Batman begins…in November?” story, so the Batman stand alone film being written and directed by Matt Reeves has been out of the new for a while. But there nay be some new info.
Back in August, Reeves revealed that the project would not be an origin story and would not be an adaptation of Frank Miller‘s celebrated Year One comic, but otherwise the approach has remained rather a mystery. We still don’t know if Ben Affleck will reprise his role as Bruce Wayne in any capacity, though reports suggest the script calls for a younger actor and Affleck’s involvement seems less and less likely by the day. But, buried within The Hollywood Reporter‘s rundown of the mystery’s of 2019, comes a brief update: Warner Bros. and DC are eyeing a November start for filming.
Per THR, Reeve’s script is all but finished, though the filmmaker will continue to tweak it with the studios eyeing an end-of-year start for filming. It’s not much to go on, and previous reports suggested a summer start, but it’s yet another stop on the long road to seeing The Batman, and if the studio really is gearing up to finally shoot the damn thing, then we might finally get some concrete details (including the long-awaited news on who will pick up the cape and cowl) in the coming months.
As for what’s already on the docket, DC has an exciting couple of years mapped. Coming on the heels of Aquaman‘s mammoth box office success, fans can look forward to Shazam! and Joker this year, both of which represent interesting swings for the franchise, followed up by Wonder Woman 1984 and Bird of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn) in 2020.
Yep. It’s gonna be a mostly weird year for DC movies.
Hope everyone had a good New Year’s! Here’s to great movies in 2019!