We’re back! It was a long vacation, but I thought of all of you quite often as I basked in the Florida sunshine… no, I didn’t. I’m totally lying.
I would like to give you the highlights in CultureGeek news while I was away, but I hear the voice of Inigo in my head: “No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” So here’s the Inigo version:
• Happy 62nd Birthday Disneyland! I was in the Florida version when this happened, but it’s still nifty. Disney Avenue has images from Disneyland’s opening day; if I remember childhood stories correctly, my father was there.
• I now get to name-drop my friend and fellow author Bryan Smith, whose star is on the rise as the grindhouse-pulp film 68 Kill based on his novel gains traction. Check out the trailer here on IFC Midnight, as it hits select theaters and On Demand Aug. 4.
• RIP to Martin Landau, best known to me from his amazing, Oscar-winning performance as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood; and, of course, to George Romero, father of the zombie subgenre, whom I had the good fortune to meet briefly in my own book tours.
And of course RIP to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, who apparently committed suicide this week.
• Brian Keene’s The Rising is probably the most influential zombie novel of the modern era, kickstarting reinvestment in the subgenre from its publication in 2003. What, you’ve read it? No, you haven’t. Because the author’s preferred edition includes about 30,000 words of additional scenes cut out of the original, now restored and can be yours for 99c. Limited time only. No, I’m not paid for the plug; I don’t even get a cut if you click through since I haven’t figured out how to make that work yet. It’s just that good. Be prepared to need a quick purchase of the sequel approximately 0.5 seconds after you finish the first one.
• Speaking of zombies, Robert Kirkman has decided to work toward the final chapter for the Grimes Gang - at least for the Walking Dead comic, if not the series. No one knows how Rick’s gonna die - I mean, how it’s all going to end.
• The Emmy noms were announced, with big traction for The Handmaid’s Tale: I Keep Meaning To Watch That. Other noms went to The Crown, Stranger Things, House of Cards, This is Us, Westworld, Black-ish, Atlanta, and of course Saturday Night Live. I have been instructed that I am required to watch Westworld posthaste, but alas, it is on HBO and I’m just a poor working blogger.
• After decades playing Kermit the Frog, Muppeteer Steve Whitmire was fired by Muppets Studio. Plenty of folks immediately leaped on “principled artist crushed by evil Disney megacorp,” and at first both sides were being cagey about the reasons. Finally, Whitmire wrote on his personal blog that he was “the last samurai” keeping the Henson legacy afloat. According to others, he apparently has been demanding pay increases, first-class flights to and from home in Atlanta, a salary for his wife, etc. Brian Henson himself said he is in favor of handing the green felt over to new Muppeteer Matt Vogel. Read this bit from io9; it has some rough info about Whitmire blackballing young puppeteers and some harsh criticism from the Henson family. At the same time, fans feel like Disney both saved the Muppets by buying them, but without turning out quality entertainment - mostly repackaging and merchandising classic Muppets. (We shall not speak of the TV show that died under the weight of its own absurd premise.)
• D23 was last weekend, and while this might once have been a convention just for devout wearers of mouse ears, now it foretells everything from the MCU to Star Wars, so people pay attention. Slashfilm has a good rundown of what’s coming from the Mouse, including Pixar films Coco, Incredibles 2, Toy Story 4; Disney animated films Wreck-it Ralph 2 and Frozen 2/Olaf’s Frozen Adventure; live-action films like Lion King, Aladdin, Mary Poppins Returns, A Wrinkle in Time, Dumbo, Nutcracker and the Four Realms; and yeah, a little sci-fi sequel called Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With bonus Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther… yeah. They’re busy.
Meanwhile, the theme parks will see some major changes. I could write a whole column about what’s good and bad in the upcoming alterations for Disney World and Disneyland, and since I was just there, I may as well write it. Tune in later. Extra notice for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (yay!) and the demise of the Great Movie Ride (boo!)
• New trailer for Blade Runner 2049, now with even more weird visuals and even less plot. Just like the original! Don’t hate, I plan to watch it again before th new one and see if somehow I missed what makes everyone love it in my first three viewings.
• New trailer for Wind River, the thriller with Elizabeth Olsen as a rookie FBI agent teaming up with rugged Jeremy Renner to investigate a murder on a Native American reservation.
• New, more action-y trailer for The Dark Tower. Confession: I read the first DT book when I was younger, and found it deadly dull. But everyone loves the series so much that I keep meaning to go back and try again. The trailers for this movie are definitely pushing me in that direction.
Didn’t more stuff happen? Yes. It was a long vacation. And SDCC is rolling in California, so be prepared for lots of nonsense on Monday. Stay cool!