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It would be awesome if WONDER WOMAN won, but I’m betting on DUNKIRK.

How Wonder Woman Looks To Be Vying For An Oscar Win

Wonder Woman has been one of the biggest hits of the 2017 summer movie season. Not only has it earned near critical acclaim, but it’s also made over $780 million worldwide and counting making it the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman ever. The movie’s performance has been a big boost for the DC Extended Universe, and Warner Bros has been especially pleased with this. So much so that the studio is reportedly planning to launch a campaign for Wonder Woman to get some Academy Awards attention, specifically in the Best Picture and Best Director categories.

In order to accomplish this, Warner Bros is supposedly planning to drop a lot of money on Wonder Woman advertising, watermarked DVDs, special screenings and sending talent across the globe to remind Academy voters how much work was poured into this movie, especially by director Patty Jenkins. Variety also reported that Warner Bros wants to “reintroduce” Wonder Woman in the fall season, i.e. presumably re-release it in theaters for a limited time. Due to recent Academy membership expansion, which have added more younger members and diversity, Warner Bros evidently believes that it has a good shot of scoring Wonder Woman some Oscars recognition, although the studio will also be dedicating resources to plug Christopher Nolan’s latest movie Dunkirk for the Academy Awards.

When it comes to technical categories like Best Visual Effects, superhero movies have gotten a fair amount of nominations over the years and even a few wins. In fact, Wonder Woman’s DCEU predecessor, Suicide Squad, won the Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. But in the top echelon of categories, these types of blockbusters rarely get any attention. The Dark Knight has arguably been the most successful on this front, walking away with a Best Supporting Actor win thanks to Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker. But even Christopher Nolan’s second Batman movie didn’t get Best Picture and Best Director nominations. More recently, Deadpool was nominated for Best Motion Picture and Best Actor in the Comedy and Musical realm at the Golden Globes, but it received no Oscars nods. With such a track record, Wonder Woman faces an uphill battle, particularly if, as the Variety article noted, if the next DCEU film, Justice League, which includes Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, underperforms the fall/winter.

Nevertheless, given how incredibly successful Wonder Woman has been for nearly two full months, it’s commendable that Warner Bros appears willing to plug it as an Oscars contender. With all the buzz Diana of Themyscira’s standalone movie has received both as an enjoyable blockbuster and as an empowering movie in a genre where there have been few female-led stories, it’s important to ride this wave of positive reception for as long as possible. That doesn’t guarantee that it will win any of the Academy Awards it’s aiming for by any means, but putting in the effort is still important.

Wonder Woman is still playing in theaters, and Diana will return in Justice League on November 17.

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Hurry up September 13th!!

‘South Park’ Season 21 Premiere Date Pushed Back

South Park fans are going to have to wait a little longer than they expected for the new season to premiere.

Originally slated for Aug. 23, season 21 of the popular cartoon will now premiere Sept. 13, according to Comedy Central.

Along with South Park, Broad City was also pushed to that date for its premiere.

Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have insinuated the upcoming season will get back to basics in that episodes will likely be one-offs, closer to how the show ran for numerous seasons.

For the past few seasons, the show has had an overarching plot, which hit a road bump last year when Donald Trump won the presidency, but the show theme had been mostly planned around a Clinton victory.

Parker and Stone have also said they plan on laying off Trump jokes this year.

In addition to the new season, the long-awaited video game South Park: The Fractured But Whole will be released Oct. 17.

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Very sad news. She’s a true legend. May she rest in peace.

Rocky and Bullwinkle voice actor June Foray dead at 99

June Foray, the voice behind dozens of classic cartoon characters, has died in a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 99.

Foray’s niece, Robin Thaler, confirmed the cause of death was cardiac arrest, but said her aunt had been in fragile health since a car accident two years ago.

Dave Nimitz, a close family friend, shared the news in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

Nimitz said Foray was “resting peacefully now with her beloved sister Geri and Sam her brother-in-law.”

He also noted that the loss of June, Geri, and Sam has been difficult.

“I’m going out of my mind with the loss and losing all three of them within the last month-and-a-half,” he said in the post.

Throughout her decades-long career, Foray voiced some of Hollywood’s most memorable characters, including Granny on Sylvester and Tweety, Grandmother Fa in Mulan and Cindy Lou Who on the original animated version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Foray rose to fame as Rocky the flying squirrel in Rocky and Bullwinkle, which premiered in 1959.

Rocky was a hyperactive foil to his partner, Bullwinkle, the slow and steady moose. Together, the pair fought Cold War-type villains Boris and Natasha.

Foray voiced both Rocky and Natasha for the live-action film, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle in 2000.

Voice actor Kari Wahlgren of Rick and Morty and The Fairly Odd Parents tweeted about Foray’s inspirational impact on her.

Off-screen, Foray was a founder of the Annie Awards, which recognizes excellence in animation. The awards now have a category dedicated to the actress herself. The June Foray Award recognizes “individuals who have made a significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation.”

The International Animated Film Association of Hollywood, of which Foray was one of the founders, released a statement today:

“We miss our beloved June already but are content in the knowledge that she will live on in the hundreds of characters she created, the organization and awards she founded and the industry she fought for and cherished. We will never forget her.”

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It might be time to watch The Simpsons Movie again.

The Simpsons Movie: 10 stories on the 10th anniversary

Ten years ago, The Simpsons gave fans something that they had been dreaming about for nearly two decades: The chance to pay to see the show they normally watched for free.

On July 27, 2007, The Simpsons Movie was unleashed into cineplexes across the country, with that very idea taunted to the audience by Homer at the beginning of the film as he watched an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon at the theater. As excited as fans were, producers were doubly anxious, praying to Jeebus they didn’t sully the good name of Fox’s beloved animated comedy-turned-multi-billion dollar franchise. As series creator Matt Groening told EW at the time, ”Nobody wants to be the one that rams the ship into the iceberg.” And as Al Jean tells EW today, “We had something that had been on 17 years and so many people had so much invested in it emotionally, and you felt like the potential for disappointment was huge. I’d seen it in other movies based on TV shows. So what I felt when it came out and still feel is: We at least did pretty well.”

The Simpsons Movie — which was released between the show’s 18th and 19th season — scored more-than-respectable reviews on its way to earning $530 million worldwide at the box office, so, yes, pretty well. And perhaps it was extra impressive, considering that the plot involved poorly disposed-of pig poop: Homer adopts a pet hog, inadequately storing its waste in a leaky silo in his backyard; then, ignoring Marge’s advice, he dumps the feces in the already troubled Lake Springfield. The massive toxic reaction prompts the evil head of the EPA — with the authorization of President Arnold Schwarzenegger — to drop a clear dome over Springfield, which makes the angry town residents to turn on Homer and his family, who escape through a sinkhole and hightail it to Alaska. Marge gives up on Homer after he refuses to join them in returning to rescue Springfield after they learn that it is being turned into the next Grand Canyon, but ultimately Homer has an epiphany, returns to Springfield, and saves the day on a motorcycle with Bart, who — we forgot to mention — skateboards naked through the town earlier in the film.

The transition to the big screen was helped by a team of Simpsons all-stars (John Schwartzwelder, George Meyer, John Vitti, David Mirkin, and Mike Reiss were among the returning scribes, joining producers Groening, Jean, James L. Brooks, and Mike Scully) as well as a director and his squad of animation artists who was always thinking big (screen) picture. “Even from the very first season, certainly by the second season, we were always very cinematically adventurous on the show,” says director David Silverman. “We were certainly helped in no small way by having Brad Bird as a consultant, because he is one of the most intelligent, cinematic directors and really got me thinking hard cinematically about how to approach the show and looking compositionally, so in some respects we already had that going for us. I think we did a really good job of keeping it true to the way it felt on the series — but enriching it for the movie.”

We asked Jean and Silverman to enrich Simpsons fans by cracking open their memory banks and pouring out a few revealing stories from the making of The Simpsons Movie on its 10th anniversary (and the Simpsons’ 30th!).

1. In an early pitch for the movie, it was not Russ Cargill but Steven Spielberg who was planning to blow up Springfield.
The idea of a Simpsons film had been floating around almost as long as the show had existed. (There was fleeting talk of turning an in-the-works-episode titled “Kamp Krusty” into a movie, but it instead remained a season 4 episode.) At another point, there was a never-pursued suggestion of doing an anthology-style “Treehouse of Horror” movie. Once the contracts were finally signed for a movie, ideas were chucked around more seriously (What if Homer and his family realize that their lives are being filmed for a reality show?). The first official brainstorming session for The Simpsons Movie began in late 2003, and Jean recalls that on Day 1, Scully suggested a story in which Oscar-magnet Steven Spielberg, playing himself, was going to shoot a movie with Tom Hanks in Springfield, and “for whatever reason, he would have to blow it up.”

Also in that initial session, inspired by a story about pig-waste management that he’d read in the news, Groening introduced the idea of Homer adopting a pet pig but having nowhere to dispose of the animal’s crap. The producers latched on to the pig idea but absorbed the town-destruction angle from the Spielberg story. “The idea of what would happen to the city in the catastrophic sense would be part of the movie under the pig plot,” says Jean. (And coincidentally, Tom Hanks ended up voicing Tom Hanks in the film, as the spokesman for the “new” Grand Canyon that Springfield would be turned into.)

2. Initially it was not Grampa Simpson but Marge who had that crazy vision in church.
That early sequence in the film, which saw never-quite-all-there Grampa Simpson fall to the ground in a religious-like trance and spew a seemingly nonsense warning about a “twisted tail!” “a thousand eyes!” “trapped forever!” and “eepa!” was originally animated with Marge in that role. “It had some jokes and setups and payoffs but overall it wasn’t entertaining,” recalls Silverman. “You’re sort of waiting for it to be over. Once we put Grampa in there, the scene became funnier and actually made more sense. With Grampa, you already accept it. And what’s stronger is Marge is observing this, and nobody seems to pay [attention] to it. That helped her story even more, than if she experienced it and nobody did anything about it.”

Jean remembers that the original version with Marge required a lot of shouting, which was taxing on Julie Kavner (who voices Marge). “I felt very bad when we didn’t end up using it, but it just took people out of the movie,” he says. “They were too sad that Marge was crazy.”

3. The star-making moment for the pig, a.k.a., Spider-Pig, was born from a scrapped pedicure.
While the idea for Homer to have a pet pig came on Day 1, the swine’s popular alter-ego, Spider-Pig, was not born until much later. Deep into production, the producers were reconsidering a scene with Patty and Selma disparaging Homer to Marge while they all got pedicures. (The punchline involved Groundskeeper Willie, who was also getting a pedicure, complaining about their gossip.) But then Mirkin pitched a conversation between Marge and Lisa (something they didn’t have elsewhere in the film), and it connected to Marge’s story with Homer, and pedicure gave way to pig.

“What was great about the way that David was pitching it was that Lisa was talking about her new possible boyfriend very excitedly and Marge was listening, very pleased with it, and she says, ‘That’s great, the important thing is a man listening to you because there’s nothing better than — how did these pig prints get on the ceiling???’” says Silverman. “And then you see Homer going [mimicks nonsense ‘doo doo doo doo’ singing] with the pig and that made us laugh. And Al Jean said, ‘Yeah, he could be the amazing Spider-Pig!’ and that inspired me to come up with the lyrics to the song off the top of my head: Does whatever a Spider-Pig does/Can he swing from a web?/No, he cant, he’s a pig.”

“The next thing we knew, it was half the ads,” recalls Jean. “That was the one thing that was a very late addition that suddenly took over the whole movie. I wished they hadn’t advertised it quite as much — because it was really just a little joke.” Still, there were a few more parts of the film in which Spider-Pig might have made an appearance, including in Homer’s epiphany dream sequence. “In the background, you had Spider-Pig in a full Spiderman outfit, sans the head, so you could see the pig face because his face was so funny, and he was swinging from web to web, shooting out of his hoofs as he’s going from totem pole to totem pole in the background,” says Silverman. “And Al was like ‘Oh, I think we’re tired of Spider-Pig at this point.’ Yeah, you’re probably right.”

4. A moment between Homer and the pig rubbed a test audience the wrong way.
There was a brief scene where “Homer was less nice to the pig,” reveals Jean, and it didn’t play well at all with a test audience in San Diego. “That was a mistake,” he admits. “We took that out, immediately. It was one little thing, but it made a huge difference. I hate to be numeric about it, but his character likability fell 10 points.”

5. The producers wondered if Bart’s naked skateboarding scene would saddle them with an R rating.
One of the most outrageous moments of the film — and perhaps the film’s most finely orchestrated sight gag — involves Bart taking up Homer on his dare to ride around Springfield naked on his skateboard; as we follow his journey through town, Bart’s private parts are inventively covered up by pointing fingers, a Frisbee, flowers, a remote control car, a dove, a sprinkler, and a fence… before a gap in the fence shows only Bart’s junk while blocking everything else. “Matt said he always wanted to have Bart skateboard naked,” recalls Jean, “and [writer-producer] Mike Scully had the idea that we actually showed his penis for two seconds.”

Silverman, who credits storyboarder Martin Archer with bringing these blocking jokes to life, sums up its cheeky charm like this: “That was a very conscious thing: the amount of space was used to block his privates was the reciprocal space to expose his privates and everything else is covered up. It was like a negative, and also it’s timed just right so the laughs hits and as soon as people are laughing you cover it up.”

The Simpsons folks knew that the gag would get laughs, but wondered if that Bart’s bits would also get the movie slapped with an R-rating. “There was talk back and forth,” remembers Silverman. “We were legitimately nervous of what the MPAA rating would be because we had no idea. We were very happy when we got PG-13; we weren’t going to release an R-rated movie. It was so silly and nonsexual that it got past.” (In the family-friendly version of the movie, there’s a black circle blocking Bart’s privates that reads: “Only available in European versions.”)

Silverman remains proud of the sequence. “That was the thing that nobody would do,” he says. “If you did that in live-action, you’d have a R-rating immediately. A number of films have done [the shielded privates joke]. Austin Powers couldn’t have the button on that joke because it’s live-action. In animation you can get away with it. Although probably not with Homer. Somehow with Bart we can get away with it.”

Oh, and in case you were curious how they determined what size to make Bart’s member… “The idea was to make it of a certain size that seemed funny,” says Silverman. “Not making it colossally large like flapping in the wind — although it was rendered that way as a joke. It’s about the right size that ‘Oh, that looks funny,’ especially as we reveal it like, ‘Oop! There it is!’ People say, ‘What was your yardstick of what size to make it?’ It’s whatever seemed to make us laugh the most.”

6. There was concern about the dome plot after Hurricane Katrina.
Brooks told the writers that any Simpsons movie would need to provide a compelling reason to watch beyond 30 minutes, that “you wanted to find out what was going to happen,” says Jean. “We had the idea for the dome and we thought, ‘Okay, that’s something we’d want to see them get out of.’”

But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in the summer of 2005 — after grim reports surfaced about the conditions inside Superdome, which was sheltering displaced New Orleans residents — the producers became concerned that a dome-based storyline (which came from those late-2003 meetings) would seem insensitive. “At that time, there were a lot of headlines like ‘People trapped under dome,’ and ‘Horrible conditions inside dome,’ so we were worried that people would go, ‘Oh my god, this is tasteless,” recalls Jean. “So [then-studio chairman] Tom Rothman who hadn’t read the script yet, in 2005, read the script, and said, “Two years later, this will be fine. Nobody’s going to make the connection.”

That was true. In fact, the dome-based connection that people would make was a few years later, between 2007’s The Simpsons Movie and Stephen King’s 2009 novel Under the Dome, which unspooled a story about a mysterious dome that falls from the sky and quarantines a town. “Thank god that Under the Dome didn’t come out until after we did that,” says Jean. “I don’t know what we would thought if that come out in 2006.” [Asked about the similarities years ago, King said that it was idea he had been working on as far back as the ‘70s and ‘80s.]

7. The angry mob scene was in search of a punchline.
One of the most visually striking moments in the film is the scene where the citizens of Springfield band together with torches and come after Homer for bringing about the lake/dome calamities. The scene was incredibly intricate to bring to life, requiring up to 3,600 drawings. “I wanted to push all the way through” the crowd,” says Silverman, describing his direction. “It took us the longest time: ‘Well, what happens at the end of this push-in?’ We originally ended up on Lenny and Carl and Moe, and they say some joke. And then they pushed in and we ended with Sideshow Bob saying ‘Kill Bart! Kill Bart!’ ‘No, we’re killing Homer!’ ‘Oh.’ And he walks away disgusted. [We ultimately decided], ‘Oh, we push all the way back and we end up on Homer saying, ‘You idiots are going the wrong way!’ and they stop and turn.’ It sure took us a long time to figure that one out.”

Jean confirms that the search for the perfect punchline for the mob scene was arduous, recalling one in which “they were going ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!” and then you cut to a group that’s the Springfield dyslexics and they were going ‘Llik! Llik! Llik!’ It didn’t work.”

8. The writers had a tough time thinking outside the bubble.
The Simpsons teams spent lots of time writing and rewriting this movie — up to 150 drafts were penned — and one particular area that proved the biggest headache. “The rough part of the script, which we worked on again and again, was between the Simpsons escaping [the dome] and the Simpsons returning to Springfield,” says Jean. “And that I still think is a little rough. I agree with that criticism that there were some funny observations, but it felt like you were just waiting for them to get back. Once Marge does the wedding video and then Homer starts maturing, you feel like there’s a narrative drive again.”

Jean — who notes that the single-most rewritten scene was the one in the hotel room where the family decides to go to Alaska — explains that the writers gravitated toward the Alaskan adventure for multiple reasons. “You can do jokes like, ‘We’re staying in Alaska and we’re never going back to America,’” he explains. “We thought visually that the snow would look cool. You have the jokes with Homer and the dogs, and Homer and the snow.” But many adjustments and cuts were made along the way; a song about Alaska, with music by Dave Stewart of the Eurhythmics, ended up out in the cold.

Several scenes that depicted life in domed Springfield after the Simpsons had left were jettisoned as well. “We thought, ‘People are going to probably want to see, ‘Here’s how everybody’s dealing with things in Springfield,’” says Silverman. “And what we found out in previews is that people didn’t really care what was happening in Springfield. They were more interested in what was happening with the family. People had more empathy and sympathy and interest in how the family was doing and what was their story. It wasn’t as necessary as we thought it was. We were answering questions nobody was asking.”

One scene that pained Silverman to part with featured Krusty the Clown trying to cheer up the kids in Springfield as the town ran out of electricity. “He was doing a live show in the darkened theater and he was going to tell a funny story,” he says. “He shines a flashlight under his face and the kids get really scared by the scary shadow being projected and the scary lighting on his face as he’s trying to go [imitates goofy Krusty laugh]. Then Sideshow Mel runs in with Mr. Teeny on his shoulders, yelling ‘Return to your seats!,’ and his and Mr. Teeny’s shadows about the size of King Kong and the kids all run out screaming. I thought that was pretty funny.”

Speaking of clowns, one other scene that did not make final cut is a scene involving an insult clown named Scuzzo whom the Simpsons worked for as at the circus. (He also went by Scummo in another version.) “I think Matt pitched it,” says Jean. “He remembered this clown who was kind of sleazy and who was always making fun of everybody. He had a long series of jokes taunting people.” (Scummo called passersby everything from “flat-top” to “skinnie-minnie” to “high-pockets.”)

Yet another vestige of that part of the movie found life eventually somewhere else. “The Simpsons were escaping in a King Tut exhibit, and Bart got caught in a coffin and Marge was going to let him out,” says Jean. “And Homer says, ‘That boy has got to get over his fear of coffins.’ We used it in the show.” [See: Season 19’s “Funeral for a Fiend.”]

9. The film’s central villain, Russ Cargill, was less menacing at first look.
Voiced by Albert Brooks, the nefarious EPA chief who hatches the dome plan — followed by Operation Turn Springfield into the Grand Canyon — went through some growing pains. Cargill looked different — more harmless — in his original conception. “He was a pear-shaped potbellied guy with a higher waist and no shoulders and a big nose and receding hairline,” says Silverman, who notes that Cargill was supposed to be introduced in a scene at the Washington correspondents dinner, where he was given a table way in the back, but the scene was cut. “He was more of a design like Kirk Van Houten. Old Cargill looked like ‘Okay, here’s the wimpy guy, here’s the nebbish, downtrodden hardluck case.”

Brooks recorded lots of material in this incarnation of Cargill, but at a test screening in Portland, Oregon, the producers realized that the character was simply talking too slowly and was too depressed. After a trip back to the literal drawing board, he was given the sharper jaw and broad shoulders (“the alpha male type striding in, the take-charge type of guy,” says Silverman), and his demeanor was modeled after former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. “Albert actually brought a pair of glasses to look a little bit like him, and he recorded everything that’s in the movie in about an hour,” says Jean. “We just had him come up and speak much faster, much more upbeat, optimistic character even though he was still a bad guy.”

Silverman marveled at the transformation in Brooks’ performance. “When we had the previous [version], I could sense as we were working with Albert, he just kind of had nothing. He was like, ‘Well, is that what you want?’ He never had that before. Anytime we pitched him a character, he would run with it. Clearly we were in the wrong direction, because Albert can’t mine comedy out of it, and Albert can mine comedy out of a teaspoon of dirt. And then when we came up with this approach to him, he could run with it. That gave us great confidence.”

The original Cargill lives on, though. Because the marketing tie-in products had to ship early, Burger King offered up the meeker version of him.

10. A few songs and celebrities wound up on the outside of the dome looking in.
Two big songs were cut from the film: the aforementioned Alaska song, as well as an opening number, “Springfield Saturday Night,” which was excised after the first test screening. The latter featured “people partying on Saturday night and it ended with them all being hung over on Sunday morning,” recalls Jean. “What it felt like was you’re watching it and you’re going, ‘Well, this isn’t going to amount to anything, it’s not part of the story,’ so nobody wanted to keep it.”

While Hanks and Green Day did make it into film, other famous voices, such as Edward Norton (as the man crushed by the dome), Isla Fisher, Minnie Driver, and Erin Brockovich, weren’t so lucky, as you may have heard over the years. But what were some of these roles? Brockovich appeared in connection with “the environmental disaster and her fight against cancerous chemicals,” says Jean. Driver played a grief counselor who “was lifted into the dome to tell them to talk them out of being sad that they were going to get blown up,” he revealed.

There was also a never-recorded scene where Marge was to appear on The View to tell everyone about what was happening in Springfield. “A lot of things were cut because it seemed to have a great pace for the first half, and then a great finish,” says Jean, “but we just didn’t want anything to slow it down between that.”

In terms of famous non-Earthlings, slobbering aliens and fan favorites Kang and Kodos were also supposed to end the movie by riffing on the small plot holes. “They said something like, ‘How come the bomb blew up the dome but didn’t hurt anybody inside?” says Jean. “And then we thought ‘Well, if you like the movie then it’s kind of saying, ‘Why did you like it?’ So we decided to take it out.”

Will there be a Simpsons Movie 2?
Baby Maggie finally speaks during the end credits of the film, and her first word is one that still hangs in the air: “Sequel?” No official greenlight has been issued for a second Simpsons movie, and Jean and Silverman speak of a follow-up only in the broadest of terms. “I’d love for there to be another one,” says Silverman. “We’re still a ways away from it. We talk about this and that. We’re thinking it over, but nothing’s happening just yet.…. It’s still daunting because it really knocked the stuffing out of us to do the movie and the show at the same time.”

Ideas have been floating around for several years, and the movie has been discussed “just in the vaguest strokes, just in the possibility of it” insists Jean. ”I’d say [it’s in] the very earliest stages.” A few years ago, he revealed that a season 26 episode that featured Homer and his family being taken by Kang and Kodos to Rigel 7 was originally slated to air in season 24 before but it was held back while it was considered as a possible movie idea. Right now, “I certainly am cautious about a couple things,” says Jean. “I wouldn’t want it to be risky in terms of budget, and I would not want it to be anything that we did purely for the money. I would want it to be a really great movie. I personally feel no need for another one unless it’s great.”

In other words, you waited nearly two decades for the first one — you can wait a little longer for the next.

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The show isn’t great, but it’s great fun to watch Mike Myers!!

Mike Myers is the secret star of the summer in The Gong Show

A woman who plays the harmonica with a tarantula in her mouth. A guy performs the piano standing on his head. A couple spit bananas into each other’s mouths.

And that’s just in the first 15 minutes of the premiere of the rebooted The Gong Show. Talent shows are a dime a dozen nowadays, but there was only one uber un-talent show, and it ran on NBC in the 1970s.

The Gong Show was conceived long before YouTube, but the concept’s well suited for the bite-sized, Carpool-Karaoke world of social media.

Much of the current ’70s game-show revival, which includes Battle of the Network Stars and The $100,000 Pyramid, is bland enough to evoke a U.S. president of the era, Gerald Ford.

However, in the case of The Gong ShowThe Gong Show — airing Thursdays on ABC and Citytv — there is some spice: It comes in the form of host Tommy Maitland, who uses the Queen and the Union Jack as backdrops, just in case you don’t grasp that he’s British.

Unlike the manic original show’s host Chuck Barris, Maitland, whose favourite line is “Who’s a cheeky monkey?” is butter smooth. His jokes are all Graham Norton — full of sexual innuendo and saucy side-glances. “I haven’t had this much fun since Dolly Parton showed me how she keeps her guitar picks warm,” he says smugly.

The only similarity to Barris, who died in March, is that on occasion Maitland will wear a hat — in this case that of a matador. Barris wore an endless array of different hats, all pulled so low over his eyes, which became part of the character of the show.

“Turn on your telly and turn off your brain,” Maitland reminds today’s audiences, as he presides over a trio of fellow comic performers who serve as the judges; in the premiere, it was Will Arnett, Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis.

The premise remains simple. Unlike America’s Got Talent or The Voice, or any of the other variety shows that now populate the airwaves, there’s no hunt for future stars here — quite the opposite. The show instead finds amateurs who are truly awful and sees who can complete a performance before someone sounds the gong to put a stop to them.

The winner, or loser if you like, picks up a $2,000 cheque, about equivalent to the $500.32 that Barris offered four decades ago, if you factor in inflation.

So far the new version lacks legendary returning “talent” like Gene Gene The Dancing Machine or Murray Langston, who performed as The Unknown Comic with a bag over his head. In fact, the most remarkable act on The Gong Show is not any of the competitors.

The true talent is Maitland himself, who happens to be the alter ego of a completely unrecognizable Mike Myers.

The show credits give no hint who the host really is, and many viewers likely have no clue. But beneath the prosthetics, which likely take most of the day to put on, is a demonstration of one actor’s impressive, full-on crazy dedication to his craft.

The Canadian comedic star is known for creating characters that become rooted in our culture. Lovable slacker Wayne from Wayne’s World, in a basement modelled after his own in his beloved Scarborough, comes to mind, as do swinging ’60s super secret agent Austin Powers, and the Scots-tinged voice of animated ogre Shrek.

But Tommy Maitland is something else. Myers’ characters typically leap from the screen, — as the purple-trousered Austin Powers would say, “yeah, baby!” But this time he dials back on Maitland, understanding that a game show host is a cipher, not the attraction. In doing so he inhabits the world of a British show host so completely that the character is entirely believable.

The joke is so elaborate that the ABC News release about the show has a fictional biography for the host. It seems that Arnett had become friends with Maitland after meeting him at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Dying to work with the comic, he pitched The Gong Show.

Still, at times it feels like Myers is channelling Mrs. Doubtfire in a tuxedo. And he can’t escape his Myers-isms completely, particularly when he says “it blows” with that cheeky-monkey grin.

Why he decided to host a summer filler of a game show is a head-scratcher. But at this stage in life, Myers has nothing to prove — though he has been away from the spotlight since 2008’s wretched comedy The Love Guru, he certainly doesn’t need another paycheque.

He is playing not for a greater audience, but for his fellow comics. Or mostly himself. And he is likely snickering mightily underneath that prosthetic mask.

It’s unlikely the show will last. So catch it while you can before Myers gets bored. It’s not quite Roger Federer in his twilight years winning Wimbledon, but seeing the gifted performer go full-on Col. Kurtz in this comedic heart of darkness — where is he taking this? — is special, even if he doesn’t always hit the mark.

Not everyone has to be in on the joke. And Mike Myers, it seems, is perfectly fine with that.

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I watched DUNKIRK, and then I went right back in and watched it again. What a tremendous film!!

Box office report: Dunkirk marches past Girls Trip and Valerian

Christopher Nolan is back on top of the box office. The writer-director’s World War II epic Dunkirk earned an estimated $50.5 million in the U.S. and Canada in its first weekend of release, easily outpacing fellow newcomers Girls Trip and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

After heading into the weekend with strong reviews and early Oscar buzz, Dunkirk has resonated with moviegoers as well, garnering an A-minus CinemaScore that bodes well for the film’s long-term prospects. The Warner Bros. film, which cost about $100 million to make, is getting a boost from IMAX screenings, which account for $11.7 million of the domestic opening. Dunkirk is also set to add an estimated $55.4 million overseas this weekend.

Featuring an ensemble cast that includes Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, newcomer Fionn Whitehead, and pop idol Harry Styles, Dunkirk chronicles the desperate evacuation of some 400,000 Allied troops from the titular French seaport. The film’s $50.5 million haul represents the best opening for a WWII movie in several years, surpassing Allied (which debuted to $12.7 million), Unbroken ($30.6 million), and Fury ($23.7 million). For Nolan, Dunkirk is his fourth-biggest opening as a director, behind The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million), The Dark Knight ($158.4), and Inception ($62.8 million).

Coming in second place with a strong showing this weekend is Universal’s Girls Trip with an estimated $30.4 million. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee and made for a reported $19 million, the R-rated film earned an A-plus CinemaScore and looks to be the first bona fide live-action comedy hit of the year, in the wake of underperformers such as Snatched, Baywatch, CHiPs, and Rough Night.

Girls Trip stars Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Queen Latifah as lifelong friends who travel to New Orleans for a wild weekend.

Faring less well at the multiplex is this weekend’s third new release, the sci-fi adventure Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Director Luc Besson’s film lands in fifth place with an estimated $17 million, behind the holdovers Spider-Man: Homecoming and War for the Planet of the Apes.

Based on the French comic series Valérian and Laureline, the movie stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as two space-faring special agents on a mission to save the universe. Though it’s cut from the same colorfully futuristic cloth as Besson’s cult favorite The Fifth Element, Valerian has received mixed reviews, and moviegoers gave it a B-minus CinemaScore.

That’s not great news for the EuropaCorp film (released domestically by STX), which cost about $150 million to produce and is the most expensive French movie ever made. On the other hand, many of Besson’s previous films have performed well overseas, and Valerian could follow suit. (It opens in France on July 26). According to EuropaCorp, 90 percent of Valerian‘s budget was covered with foreign pre-sales, equity financing, and tax subsidies.

Although Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes is on pace to edge out Valerian in its second weekend, its estimated haul of $20.4 million represents a steep 64 percent drop. It’s the latest franchise sequel to experience such a decline, joining movies like Transformers: The Last Knight (down 62 percent its second weekend) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (65 percent).

Outside the weekend top five, Wonder Woman brought in an estimated $4.6 million, pushing its domestic total to $389 million. That would officially make it the highest-grossing movie of the summer, eclipsing Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($387.2 million). With Dunkirk and Wonder Woman‘s weekend tallies, Warner Bros. is also set to cross the $1 billion mark at the domestic box office for 2017, a feat the studio will have pulled off 17 years in a row.

On the specialty front, Gillian Robespierre’s comedy Landline — which reunited the filmmaker with Obvious Child star Jenny Slate — is poised to gross an estimated $52,336 across four locations, for a solid per-theater average of $13,084. The French film The Midwife, starring Catherine Deneuve, is headed for an estimated $20,250 across three locations, for a per-theater average of $6,750.

Per ComScore, overall box office is down .7 percent from the same frame from last year. Check out the July 21-23 figures below.

1. Dunkirk — $50.5 million
2. Girls Trip — $30.4 million
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming — $22 million
4. War for the Planet of the Apes — $20.4
5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets — $17 million
6. Despicable Me 3 — $12.7 million
7. Baby Driver — $6 million
8. The Big Sick — $ 5 million
9. Wonder Woman — $4.6 million
10. Wish Upon — $2.5 million

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I tend to enjoy monkey movies, even ones that aren’t perfect, and War for the Planet of the Apes isn’t perfect.

Box office report: Planet of the Apes wins the war against Spider-Man for No. 1

War for the Planet of the Apes has won the box office this weekend.

The latest in the Planet of the Apes franchise has brought in an estimated $56.5 million in its first weekend of release, while also playing well with fans (an A- on CinemaScore). However, despite coming out on top, War omanaged to beat its closest rival, Spider-Man: Homecoming, by only an estimated $11.3 million. In fact, this weekend’s opening figures hew closer to that of 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($54.8 million) as opposed to its most recent predecessor, 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ($72.6 million). This estimated $16.1 million shortfall is in keeping with a recent trend that sees familiar blockbuster franchises not perform as well as they used to. Internationally, War for the Planet of the Apes has earned $46 million, bringing the movie’s current worldwide earnings to $102.5 million.

The newest Planet of the Apes movie follows Caesar (played once again by Lord of the Rings‘ Andy Serkis) as he embarks on a quest to avenge his fellow apes after their forces are decimated in a deadly battle against an army of humans lead by Woody Harrelson’s ruthless Colonel. As Caesar grapples with his emotions, he finds himself facing off against the Colonel in a fight that will decide the fates of both their species (and the planet a large).

In second place this week is Spider-Man: Homecoming with estimated earning of $45.2 million, bringing the movie’s domestic total to $208.3 million after only 10 days in theaters. Internationally, the Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios production has been performing just as well, bringing in an additional $261 million, bringing the worldwide total for the movie starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, and Zendaya to $469.4 million so far.

However, despite debuting to critical and fan acclaim (an A on CinemaScore), the film’s second week sees a steep 61.4 percent drop in its earnings — not unlike 2007’s Spiderman 3 (61.5 percent) and 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (61.2 percent), though in the case of the former, the movie actually ended up pulling in a higher figure ($58.2 million) in its sophomore frame than Homecoming. In terms of actual earnings, the Tom Holland-led movie seems to be following the 2004’s Spider-Man 2, which also earned $45.2 million in its second week out.

At No. 3 is Illumination and Universal’s Despicable Me 3, with the animated feature film bringing in an estimated $18.9 million this week. This brings the movie’s domestic total to $188 million — which is much lower than predecessors Despicable Me 2 ($276 million) and Minions ($262.4 million) at this point in the movie’s box office run. However, combined with its international earnings of $431.4 million so far, DM3‘s worldwide earning currently sits at $619.4 million, which is more than Despicable Me overall earnings ($543 million) by the end of its run.

In fourth place is Edgar Wright’s critically acclaimed Baby Driver, earning an estimated $8.75 million. With another steady 32.7 percent drop in its domestic haul, this continues to be Wright’s highest earning movie, with a domestic box office total of $73.2 million, and a worldwide one of $96.3 million. By comparison, Wrights’ previous movies Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World’s End, Hot Fuzz, and Shaun of the Dead earned, respectively, $47.7 million, $46.1 million, $80.6 million, and $30 million by the end of their entire runs. The impeccably-scored heist movie stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx.

Cracking the top 5 is none other than the Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan-starring The Big Sick with an estimated $7.6 million. Following its successful opening in limited release, and slowly building buzz, the movie’s current domestic total sits just above $16 million. Silicon Valley‘s Nanjiani and Ruby Sparks‘ Kazan star as a Pakistani comedian and an American grad student who fall in love, but then break up when he can’t tell his conservative Muslim parents that he does not want an arranged marriage. But when Kazan’s Emily falls ill and is put in a coma, Nanjiani’s character starts to bond with her parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.

Elsewhere in the top 10, DC’s Wonder Woman saw a small drop in its earnings (29.9 percent) as it earned an estimated $6.9 million, bringing its domestic total to $380.7 million, cementing its status as, domestically, the highest-grossing DC Extended Universe movie. In terms of its worldwide earnings, WW has brought in $764.9 million, placing it firmly behind Batman v Superman ($873.3 million), in which the titular character actually also appeared.

In seventh place is newcomer Wish Upon with an estimated $5.6 million. The Broad Green-produced horror movie has not played well with critics or fans (a C on CinemaScore), despite starring Ryan Phillippe as Jonathan Shannon, a father who gifts his 17-year-old daughter Clare (Joey King) with a music box that (unbeknownst to him) will grant her seven wishes courtesy of its dark powers. Despite some initial hesitation, Clare begins to use the box’s dark powers to improve her life — only, as she discovers, each one also causes the people close to her to die quite violently. Maze Runner‘s Ki Hong Lee and newly-minted Emmy nominee Shannon Purser also star.

Outside the top 10, and in limited release, Lady Macbeth debuted to an estimated $68,813 opening, with a per theater average of $13,763 from only 5 locations. The movie, which is set in 1865 rural England, tells the story of Katherine, a young woman who is stuck in a loveless marriage with an older man, but then begins an affair with one her own age, leading both to commit murder to preserve their newfound lives.

Elsewhere, Endless Poetry opened in two locations with an estimated $28,000, and a PTA of $14,000. Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, the French-Chilean drama explores his early adulthood and the events which prompted his decision to become a poet.

Per ComScore, overall box office is down 0.4 percent from the same frame last year. Check out the July 14-16 box office figures below.

1 – War for the Planet of the Apes – $56.5 million
2 – Spider-Man: Homecoming – $45.2 million
3 – Despicable Me 3 – $18.9 million
4 – Baby Driver – $8.75 million
5 – The Big Sick – $7.6 million
6 – Wonder Woman – $6.9 million
7 – Wish Upon – $5.6 million
8 – Cars 3 – $3.2 million
9 – Transformers: The Last Knight – $2.8 million
10 – The House – $1.8 million

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He was a true legend. May he rest in peace.

George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead director, dead at 77

George A. Romero, whose classic Night of the Living Dead and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and who saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages, has died. He was 77.

Romero died Sunday following a battle with lung cancer, said his family in a statement provided by his manager Chris Roe. Romero’s family said he died while listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his favourite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter, Tina Romero, by his side.

Romero is credited with reinventing the movie zombie with his directorial debut, the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. The movie set the rules imitators lived by: Zombies move slowly, lust for human flesh and can only be killed when shot in the head. If a zombie bites a human, the person dies and returns as a zombie.

Romero’s zombies, however, were always more than mere cannibals; they were metaphors for conformity, racism, mall culture, militarism, class differences and other social ills.

“The zombies, they could be anything,” Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain. That’s the part of it that I’ve always enjoyed.”

Night of the Living Dead, made for about $100,000 US, featured flesh-hungry ghouls trying to feast on humans holed up in a Pennsylvania house. In 1999, the Library of Congress inducted the black-and-white masterpiece into the National Registry of Films.

Many considered the film to be a critique on racism in America. The sole black character survives the zombies, but he is fatally shot by rescuers.

Ten years after Night of the Living Dead, Romero made Dawn of the Dead, where human survivors take refuge from the undead in a mall and then turn on each other as the zombies stumble around the shopping complex.

Film critic Roger Ebert called it “one of the best horror films ever made — and, as an inescapable result, one of the most horrifying. It is gruesome, sickening, disgusting, violent, brutal and appalling. It is also … brilliantly crafted, funny, droll, and savagely merciless in its satiric view of the American consumer society.”

Romero had a sometimes combative relationship with the genre he helped create. He called The Walking Dead a “soap opera” and said big-budget films like World War Z made modest zombie films impossible. Romero maintained that he wouldn’t make horror films if he couldn’t fill them with political statements.

“People say, ‘You’re trapped in this genre. You’re a horror guy.’ I say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m able to say exactly what I think,” Romero told the AP. “I’m able to talk about, comment about, take snapshots of what’s going on at the time. I don’t feel trapped. I feel this is my way of being able to express myself.”

The third in the Romero’s zombie series, 1985’s Day of the Dead, was a critical and commercial failure. There wouldn’t be another Dead film for two decades.

Land of the Dead in 2005 was the most star-packed of the bunch — the cast included Dennis Hooper, John Leguizamo, Asia Argento and Simon Baker. Two years later came Diary of the Dead, another box-office failure.

There were other movies interspersed with the Dead films, including The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977), Creepshow (1982), Monkey Shines (1988) and The Dark Half (1993). There also was 1981’s Knightriders, Romero’s take on the Arthurian legend featuring motorcycling jousters. Some were moderately successful, others box-office flops.

George Andrew Romero was born on Feb. 4, 1940, in New York City. He grew up in the Bronx, and he was a fan of horror comics and movies in the pre-VCR era.

“I grew up at the Loews American in the Bronx,” he wrote in an issue of the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound magazine in 2002.

His favourite film was Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffman, based on Jacques Offenbach’s opera. It was, he once wrote, “the one movie that made me want to make movies.”

He spoke fondly of travelling to Manhattan to rent a 16mm version of the film from a distribution house. When the film was unavailable, Romero said, it was because another “kid” had rented it — Martin Scorsese.

Romero graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1960. He learned the movie business working on the sets of movies and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which was shot in Pittsburgh.

The city became Romero’s home and many of his films were set in western Pennsylvania. Dawn of the Dead was filmed in suburban Monroeville Mall, which has since become a popular destination for his fans.

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Very sad news. May he rest in peace.

Martin Landau, Oscar-winning actor, dead at 89

Martin Landau, the chameleon-like actor who gained fame as the crafty master of disguise in the 1960s TV show Mission: Impossible, then capped a long and versatile career with an Oscar for his poignant portrayal of aging horror movie star Bela Lugosi in 1994’s Ed Wood, has died. He was 89.

Landau died Saturday of unexpected complications during a short stay at UCLA Medical Center, his publicist Dick Guttman said.

Mission: Impossible, which also starred Landau’s wife, Barbara Bain, became an immediate hit upon its debut in 1966. It remained on the air until 1973, but Landau and Bain left at the end of the show’s third season amid a financial dispute with the producers. They starred in the British-made sci-fi series Space: 1999 from 1975 to 1977.

Landau might have been a superstar but for a role he didn’t play — the pointy-eared starship Enterprise science officer, Mr. Spock. Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry had offered him the half-Vulcan, half-human who attempts to rid his life of all emotion. Landau turned it down.

“A character without emotions would have driven me crazy; I would have had to be lobotomized,” he explained in 2001. Instead, he chose Mission: Impossible, and Leonard Nimoy went on to everlasting fame as Spock.

Ironically, Nimoy replaced Landau on Mission: Impossible.

After a brief but impressive Broadway career, Landau had made an auspicious film debut in the late 1950s, playing a soldier in Pork Chop Hill and a villain in the Alfred Hitchcock classic North By Northwest.

He enjoyed far less success after Mission: Impossible, however, finding he had been typecast as Rollin Hand, the top-secret mission team’s disguise wizard. His film career languished for more than a decade, reaching its nadir with his appearance in the 1981 TV movie The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.

He began to find redemption with a sympathetic role in Tucker: The Man and his Dream, the 1988 Francis Ford Coppola film that garnered Landau his first Oscar nomination.

He was nominated again the next year for his turn as the adulterous husband in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.

His third nomination was for Ed Wood, director Tim Burton’s affectionate tribute to a man widely viewed as the worst Hollywood filmmaker of all time.

“There was a 10-year period when everything I did was bad. I’d like to go back and turn all those films into guitar picks,” Landau said after accepting his Oscar.

In Ed Wood, he portrayed Lugosi during his final years, when the Hungarian-born actor who had become famous as Count Dracula was ill, addicted to drugs and forced to make films with Ed Wood just to pay his bills. A gifted mimic trained in method acting, Landau had thoroughly researched the role.

“I watched about 35 Lugosi movies, including ones that were worse than anything Ed Wood ever made,” he recalled in 2001. “Despite the trash, he had a certain dignity about him, whatever the role.”

So did the New York-born Landau, who had studied drawing at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and worked for a time as a New York Daily News cartoonist before switching careers at age 22.

He had dabbled in acting before the switch, making his stage debut in 1951 at a Maine summer theater in Detective Story and off-Broadway in First Love.

In 1955, he was among hundreds who applied to study at the prestigious Actors Studio and one of only two selected. The other was Steve McQueen.

On Broadway, Landau won praise for his work in Middle of the Night, which starred Edward G. Robinson. He toured with the play until it reached Los Angeles, where he began his film career.

Landau and Bain had two daughters, Susan and Juliet. They divorced in 1993.

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This story is getting worse and worse.

Kermit actor fired for ‘unacceptable business conduct,’ says studio

The Muppets Studio is blaming “unacceptable business conduct” for its dismissal of Steve Whitmire as the longtime performer of Kermit the Frog.

This explanation, issued Monday, follows Whitmire’s emotional blog post last week after his firing was made public. He said he learned last October that the role of Kermit would be recast.

Whitmire had been with the Muppets since 1978, and took over as Kermit after the untimely death of Muppets founder Jim Henson in 1990.

The Muppets Studio did not detail the nature of Whitmire’s “repeated unacceptable business conduct,” but said it spanned “a period of many years,” adding that “he consistently failed to address” his employers’ feedback.

Whitmire could not immediately be reached for comment, but in an interview Monday with The Hollywood Reporter he said the studio felt he had been too outspoken in expressing how the Kermit character should be portrayed on the ABC prime-time Muppets mockumentary series that aired in 2015-16. Whitmire said he had only been trying to help keep the show “on track.”

The studio said veteran Muppets performer Matt Vogel is now taking over as Kermit.