Not every entertainment venture is fraught with dire peril. Here’s what industry handicappers say are among 1998’s surest bets….
NEW ARTISTS, NEWER ALBUMS Does lightning strike twice? Yes, if you’re Jewel, Alanis Morissette, and the Wallflowers, all expected to release new CDs by year-end. Details are sketchy on Jakob Dylan & Co.’s return to the studio, but Jewel’s newest may be a disc already in the can that was delayed after Pieces of You struck a chord. Perhaps the most anticipated is Morissette’s follow-up to Jagged Little Pill, which her devoted flock will have no trouble swallowing.
A BUG’S LIFE Pixar takes computer animation out of the toy chest and into the backyard with this Toy Story successor filled with warring ants and grasshoppers. Bug’s could suck the family-market blood out of its November rival, DreamWorks’ Prince of Egypt.
DEAN KOONTZ’S FEAR NOTHING Bantam Books reportedly paid a fortune to lure the thriller king away from Knopf, so it’ll be hyper-promoting his newest, Fear Nothing, out Jan. 14, about a genetically afflicted man who can’t endure daylight. With Koontz’s sales figures (more than 250 million tomes sold), Bantam truly has nothing to fear.
GODZILLA On the strength of the hottest trailers since Independence Day, this beastie will devour the movie audience this summer.
THE GREASE RERELEASE For the record, it won’t do Star Wars trilogy-size business. (In the summer of ‘78, Grease was upstaged by the opening weekend of a one-year-anniversary Star Wars reissue.) But retooled with a digitally mixed soundtrack, Grease’s ’50s-meets-’70s nostalgia trip should make it the one audiences want come March 27.
MARIO PUZO’S THE LAST DON II So what if half the cast got wiped out in Don part I? It was CBS’ best-rated first installment of a miniseries since 1994’s Scarlett, so the chance to do another go-around in April was an offer the network couldn’t, well, you know. Danny Aiello and Joe Mantegna will reprise their roles (the latter as a spectre in his son’s dreams!), and Kirstie Alley returns as the don’s nutty daughter.
THE NATHAN LANE SHOW That may not be the title, but by any other name, it’ll make the Mouse Hunt star a big cheese in the sitcom universe. NBC has made a 13-episode commitment for the fall series, in which Lane will play a retired opera singer gone home to the Napa Valley to run a family vineyard. What better vintners could Lane ask for than the dry, wry creators of Frasier?
THE STREET LAWYER John Grisham’s February novel is about a yuppie attorney taken hostage by a homeless man. Whether it’s good or bad, readers will no doubt soon be begging for it at every Barnes & Noble and Borders in the land.
THE WEDDING SINGER Adam Sandler plus Drew Barrymore plus goofy shtick plus a February opening (the slot that worked for Sandler’s Happy Gilmore, not to mention Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) equals major dowry.
THE WINTER OLYMPICS Every other network will be downhill-racing in the ratings as CBS trains its cameras on the icy doings in Nagano. Now hot in the evening-news wars, Dan Rather will bring his beady-eyed intensity to the opening ceremonies. The network will take the sweeps-period gold handily.