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Comic-Con programming kicks off with 'The Predator'

Actors Sterling K. Brown, Olivia Munn and Keegan-Michael Key have gotten the first day of programming at San Diego Comic-Con off to a lively start Thursday morning with an intense look at "The Predator" sequel.

Speaking to some 6,500 audience members in the convention's biggest programming room, Hall H, director and co-writer Shane Black describes his film as the "dirty half-dozen" and "leaner and meaner" than the original from 1987.

Black also acted in the first film and isn't the only legacy involved in the new installment. Gary Busey's son Jake Busey also appears in the film. Busey notes that at 46, he is the same age his father was when he was in "Predator 2."

20th Century Fox is releasing "The Predator" in theaters nationwide on Sept. 14.

Sales jump for book by former US ambassador to Russia

A memoir by the former U.S. ambassador whom Russian officials have said they want to interview is in the top 10 on Amazon.com.

Michael McFaul's "From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia" was No. 6 as of midday Thursday. The book was published in May.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested interviews of Americans accused by the Kremlin of unspecified crimes in exchange for Russia's help investigating 12 Russians indicted by the U.S. in the 2016 election probe. President Donald Trump initially called the offer "incredible," but on Thursday the White House said he "disagrees" with it.

Russian officials have singled out McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012-14, and fellow Kremlin critic Bill Browder.

Airman who inspired 'Good Morning, Vietnam' film has died

Adrian Cronauer, the man whose military radio antics inspired a character played by Robin Williams in the film "Good Morning, Vietnam," has died. He was 79.

Mary Muse, the wife of his stepson Michael Muse, said Thursday that Cronauer died Wednesday from an age-related illness. He had lived in Troutville, Virginia, and died at a local nursing home, she said.

During his service as a U.S. Air Force sergeant in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966, Cronauer opened his Armed Forces Radio show with the phrase, "Goooooood morning, Vietnam!"

Williams made the refrain famous in the 1987 film, loosely based on Cronauer's time in Saigon.

The film was a departure from other Vietnam war movies that focused on bloody realism, such as the Academy Award-winning "Platoon." Instead, it was about irreverent youth in the 1960s fighting the military establishment.

"We were the only game in town, and you had to play by our rules," Cronauer told The Associated Press in 1987. "But I wanted to serve the listeners."

The military wanted conservative programming. American youths, however, were "not into drab, sterile announcements" with middle-of-the-road music, Cronauer said, and the battle over the airwaves was joined.

In the film, Williams quickly drops Perry Como and Lawrence Welk from his 6 a.m. playlist in favor of the Dave Clark Five.

Cronauer said he loved the movie but much of it was Hollywood make-believe. Robin Williams' portrayal as a fast- talking, nonconformist, yuk-it-up disc jockey sometimes gave people the wrong impression of the man who inspired the film.

"Yes, I did try to make it sound more like a stateside station," he told The AP in 1989. "Yes, I did have problems with news censorship. Yes, I was in a restaurant shortly before the Viet Cong hit it. And yes, I did start each program by yelling, 'Good Morning, Vietnam!'"

The rest is what he delicately called "good script crafting."

When the film was released, the presidential campaign of Democrat Jesse Jackson called asking if Cronauer would help out. The conversation died quickly after Cronauer asked the caller if she realized he was a Republican.

In 1992, George H. W. Bush's re-election campaign taped a TV ad slamming Bill Clinton's draft record. In the ad, Cronauer accused Clinton of lying.

"In many ways, I'm a very conservative guy," he said. "A lifelong, card-carrying Republican can't be that much of an anti-establishment type."

Cronauer was from Pittsburgh, the son of a steelworker and a schoolteacher. After the military, he worked in radio, television and advertising.

In 1979, Cronauer saw the film "Apocalypse Now" with his friend Ben Moses, who also served in Vietnam and worked at the Saigon radio station.

"We said that's not our story of Vietnam," Moses recalled Thursday. "And we made a deal over a beer that we were going to have a movie called 'Good Morning, Vietnam.'"

It wasn't easy. Hollywood producers were incensed at the idea of a comedy about Vietnam, said Moses, who co-produced the film.

"I said 'It's not a comedy — it's the sugar on top of the medicine," Moses said.

Writer Mitch Markowitz made the film funny, and director Barry Levinson added the tragic-comedy aspect, Moses said. Williams' performance was nominated for an Oscar.

Moses said the film was a pivotal moment in changing the way Americans thought about the Vietnamese and the war.

Muse, the wife of Cronauer's stepson, said the movie "helped open dialogue and discussion that had long been avoided."

"He loved the servicemen and servicewomen all over the world and always made time to personally engage with them," she said.

She added that he was "a loving and devoted husband to his late wife Jeane (as well as a) father, grandfather and great-grandfather."

Cronauer attended the University of Pennsylvania's law school and went into the legal profession, working in communications law and later handling prisoner-of-war issues for the Pentagon.

"I always was a bit of an iconoclast, as Robin (Williams) was in the film," Cronauer told the AP in 1999. "But I was not anti-military, or anti-establishment. I was anti-stupidity. And you certainly do run into a lot of stupidity in the military."

'Brady Bunch' house for sale for nearly $1.9M

The home featured in the opening and closing scenes of "The Brady Bunch" is for sale for $1.885 million.

Records show George and Violet McCallister bought the two-bedroom, three-bathroom split-level home in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1973 for $61,000.

Real estate agent Ernie Carswell tells the Los Angeles Times the house has been updated and upgraded, but the interior layout does not resemble what was featured on the show, which ran from 1969 to 1974. Interior scenes were shot in a studio.

Carswell says a rock-wall fireplace, wood-paneled walls and floral wallpaper are vintage touches of what homes looked like in the 1970s.

The agent says the home attracts 30 to 50 visitors a day.

The owners died, and their children are selling the property.

___

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/

Firefly Music fest sold to Coachella producer AEG Presents

The Firefly Music Festival has been sold to AEG Presents, the producer behind Coachella.

Los Angeles-based AEG announced the acquisition of the Delaware festival in a statement Wednesday. The festival has been held annually at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware, since 2012. It has hosted entertainers such as Chance the Rapper, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty.

In 2014, AEG and subsidiary Goldenvoice, the founder of Coachella, partnered with Chicago-based Red Frog Events to help produce and promote Firefly and became its majority owner. AEG is now acquiring the remaining ownership shares and will expand its role in the festival.

Several members of the team that managed Firefly are joining AEG, including Firefly Director and co-founder Stephanie Mezzano.

Next year's Firefly will be held June 21-23.

CNN chief Jeff Zucker undergoing heart surgery

CNN's top executive, Jeff Zucker, is undergoing heart surgery and will take a six-week leave of absence from running the news network.

CNN said Zucker made the announcement to his staff Thursday following a morning editorial meeting. His top deputy, Michael Bass, will be in charge during his absence.

The network said Zucker's surgery is elective, to address a condition that he has had for a decade. He's already a cancer survivor. Brian Stelter, CNN's media reporter, tweeted that Zucker assured staff members that he is going to be fine.

CNN, and Zucker in particular, have been frequent targets of President Donald Trump's campaign against the media.

Ted Williams' Mexican-American heritage explored in PBS film

Ted Williams is the last major league baseball player to hit over .400. The Boston Red Sox slugger captivated millions with his dazzling swing and towering homers throughout the 1940s and 1950s in competition with New York Yankees hero Joe DiMaggio.

But beneath the smiles and happy trots around the bases sat a man consumed with rage. For years, the baseball legend would shun his ethnic heritage and kept his family's past a secret. Only when he'd begin to speak out on behalf of black players would he begin to slowly reveal his connections to his Mexican-American Southern California family and the experiences that shaped him.

A new PBS "American Masters" documentary explores the life of Williams and his volatile relationships with his family and the press. The upcoming film uses rare footage and family interviews to paint a picture of an entangled figure who hid his past while enjoying the admiration of adoring fans. It includes unreleased color footage of Williams' final game that was shot by a fan.

Williams, often called the "greatest hitter who ever lived," was followed closely by sports writers thanks to his superb slugging skills and John Wayne-like persona as a foul-mouth outdoorsman. But the future Hall of Famer regularly clashed with critical journalists and had public spats with his numerous wives. The slugger also lost prime years because of service in World War II and the Korean War — something that angered him.

"We wanted to know...who was this man, who had such an effect on so many people?" director Nick Davis said. "He was so complicated and so full of contradictions and rages. Where did it all come from?"

The San Diego-born Williams played 19 years as a left fielder for the Boston Red Sox where he won two American League Most Valuable Player Awards and twice took the Triple Crown. He finished his career with a .344 batting average and 521 home runs, both of which rank among the top in baseball history.

While many of Williams' professional accomplishments and personal clashes were widely known, Davis said few knew about Williams' ethnic background until Ben Bradlee, Jr.'s well-researched 2013 book, "The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams."

Davis said Williams kept his Mexican-American heritage a secret at a time when no black players were allowed in the major leagues and the Red Sox were owned by Tom Yawkey, a controversial figure who was the last owner to integrate a major league baseball team.

Williams was born to Samuel Stuart Williams, a white photographer and pickle salesman, and May Venzor, a Mexican-American Salvation Army devotee who often volunteered in Tijuana, Mexico, leaving Williams and his brother to fend for themselves with their alcoholic father, Bradlee said. His Mexican family ended up in San Diego as tension simmered before the Mexican Revolution began in 1910.

It's a past Williams concealed until near the end of his life, said Bradlee. "He was ashamed."

After his sensational 1939 rookie year, Williams returned to San Diego to find around 20 of his Mexican-Americans relatives waiting for him at the train station. Williams took one look at them and fled.

Bradlee, who was among those interviewed for the film and who found some of Williams' cousins, said the family remained proud of his on-the-field achievements.

"But you can see they were a little bit hurt that he had shunned them," Bradlee said.

In the film, daughter Claudia Williams said she would sometimes ask her father about his mother. But he refused to talk about her, or his past, she said.

Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as soon as he became eligible. Williams wanted to use his speech to call for the Hall of Fame to recognize players of the Negro Leagues who had been excluded solely based on their skin color. Friends would say Williams, despite his own ambivalence about his own background, remembered the discrimination Mexican Americans faced in California.

But baseball officials wanted Williams to drop the reference. "You don't tell Ted Williams what he can and cannot do," Claudia Williams said in the film.

Williams gave his Hall of Fame speech his way, and soon after, players of the Negro Leagues were inducted into the Hall of Fame.

American Masters "Ted Williams: 'The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived'" airs on most PBS stations on Monday.

___

Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP's race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

Disney streaming could get boost as Comcast drops Fox bid

Comcast is dropping its bid for Fox's entertainment businesses, paving the way for Disney to boost its upcoming streaming service by buying the studios behind "The Simpsons" and X-Men.

Getting Fox would help the House of Mouse compete with technology companies such as Amazon and Netflix for viewers' attention — and dollars.

Disney needs compelling TV shows and movies to persuade viewers to sign up and pay for yet another streaming service. It already has classic Disney cartoons, "Star Wars," Pixar, the Muppets and some of the Marvel characters. With Fox, Disney could add Marvel's X-Men and Deadpool, along with programs shown on such Fox channels as FX Networks and National Geographic. Fox's productions also include "The Americans," ''This Is Us" and "Modern Family."

The deal would help Disney further control TV shows and movies from start to finish — from creating the programs to distributing them though television channels, movie theaters, streaming services and other ways people watch entertainment. Disney would get valuable data on customers and their entertainment-viewing habits, which it can then use to sell advertising.

For Comcast, dropping the pursuit of Fox lets it focus on getting European pay-TV operator Sky, a deal that would help the Philadelphia-based cable and media company expand beyond the U.S.

Fox shareholders are to vote on the Disney deal on July 27.

Cable and telecom companies have been buying the companies that make TV shows and movies to compete in a changing media landscape. Although internet providers like AT&T and Comcast directly control their customers' access to the internet in a way that Amazon, YouTube and Netflix do not, they still face threats as those streaming services gain in popularity.

AT&T bought Time Warner last month for $81 billion and has already launched its own streaming service, Watch TV, with Time Warner channels such as TBS and TNT, among other networks, for $15 a month.

Expect something similar from Disney after the deal closes. In addition to boosting the Disney streaming service, expected to debut next year, the deal paves the way for Marvel's X-Men and the Avengers to reunite in future movies. Though Disney owns Marvel Studios, some characters including the X-Men had already been licensed to Fox.

Disney would also get a controlling stake in the existing streaming service Hulu.

Separately, Disney said it will release new episodes of the "Star Wars" animated series "The Clone Wars" on its upcoming streaming service. The original "Clone Wars" series ran for six seasons, with the final one as a Netflix exclusive.

Comcast said Thursday that it would not raise its $66 billion offer for Fox. The Walt Disney Co. had topped Comcast's bid by offering $71 billion. The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Disney's bid as long as Disney, which owns the national sports network ESPN, sells Fox's 22 regional sports networks. Disney may still need regulatory approvals outside the U.S.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said he was "extremely pleased" with Comcast's announcement.

"Our focus now is on completing the regulatory process and ultimately moving toward integrating our businesses," he said in a statement.

GBH Insights analyst Daniel Ives called Comcast's move "the final chapter in this soap opera." He said Comcast's focus now is on getting Sky "to build a strong beachhead content strategy in Europe."

Sky operates in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the U.K. It has 22.5 million customers, attracted by offerings such as English Premier League soccer and "Game of Thrones."

Fox has been trying to buy the 61 percent of Sky it doesn't already own. The idea was to sell Sky to Disney as part of the broader deal. Last week, Comcast made a bid that values Sky at $34 billion, compared with $32.5 billion in Fox's offer.

Disney said in a regulatory filing last week that Fox might not raise its bid to compete with Comcast's offer, meaning Comcast is likely to end up with Sky and Disney the rest of Fox that's up for sale. That includes other international properties, including the Star India satellite service. Some Fox businesses, including Fox News Channel and the Fox television network, will remain with media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his family.

Stevie J, Faith Evans married in Las Vegas

Stevie J and Faith Evans reportedly applied for a marriage license in Las Vegas and tied the knot this week.

According to TMZ, The “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” star, born Steven Aaron Jordan, and the singer filed for the license in Clark County Tuesday. A spokesperson for Evans confirmed the news to Billboard Wednesday.

>> Read more trending news 

According to TMZ, they got married in a hotel room Tuesday night. 

The couple took to social media to exchange messages to each other Tuesday afternoon. Stevie J tweeted, “I love you Faith Renee Jordan,” and Evans replied, “I love you back Steven Aaron Jordan.”

The two have discussed their relationship on the reality show “Leave It to Stevie.” While they broke up last year, they still remained friends. 

On July 27, the pair will release a new single called “A Minute.” A music video will accompany its release.

This marriage would be Jordan’s first and Evan’s third. She was previously married to the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. and music executive Todd Russaw. 

New Joker movie starring Joaquin Phoenix gets title, release date

You’ve had Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and Jared Leto, but now Joaquin Phoenix is throwing his card on the pile and will portray the “Clown Prince of Crime”- The Joker.

Warner Bros confirmed the standalone project and has announced the film’s title and release date.

“Joker” is now scheduled to hit the big screen on Oct. 4, 2019, Variety reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The crime boss’ origin story has a budget of $55 million and is expected to not have the traditional of huge action sequences. Instead it will show how the Joker became Batman’s nemesis, NME reported

Warner Bros. said it will be an “exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.”

The idea of a low-budget superhero movie came from Phoenix himself, NME reported.

“Joker” will be directed by Todd Phillips.

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