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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Scott Adsit sounds off on ‘Big Hero 6′

Generally, it’s easy to recognize the celebrity hired to provide a voice for an animated movie. Was there any question as soon as you heard Buzz Lightyear that Tim Allen was the guy talking for the space toy?

That’s why producers spend the extra money to get a known actor rather than turning to the people who do voice work for a living. They bank on those who are fans of the famous actors to show up to hear their work.

No matter how good your ear is when it comes to picking out actors doing voices, there’s no way you could have guessed who does the talking for Baymax in “Big Hero 6” unless you stayed to read the closing credits.

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Fresno family wins ABC ‘Light Fight’ holiday decoration competition

The Alexanders, who live on Fresno’s Christmas Tree Lane, were the big winner in Monday night’s telecast of the ABC competition series, “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” They picked up a trophy and $50,000 for their holiday decorations.

Each of the six episodes (airing back to back for three weeks) looks at four families competing to transform their homes for the holidays. A winner of the $50,000 grand prize will be selected in each episode. The Alexanders were determined to be the winner by judge Sabrina Soto from “Extreme Home Makeover: Home Edition.”

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Martin singing praises of job

One of the big hits from the fall season, “The Flash,” is hiding a secret. If there is ever a musical showdown with other TV programs, the cast would be able to put together an all-star team.

Series star Grant Gustin has an extensive musical theater background but the heavyweight musical member of the group is Jesse L. Martin. You might not be aware of his singing credentials as Martin has been playing TV detectives – first on “Law & Order” and now on “The Flash.”

He showed a little of that skill with his guest starring role on “Smash.”

But, his breakthrough came in Jonathan Larson’s Broadway musical “Rent” in 2005. He reprised the role in the feature film version of the musical.

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Elisabeth Harnois dives into death duties

There are some actors who just look like they are always having fun. That’s the feeling I get watching Elisabeth Harnois on “CSI.” Even when her character, Morgan Brody, is digging through disgusting remains of a crime scene, it always looks like the actress is enjoying the job.

“That’s because I am,” Harnois tells me at a CBS/CW/Showtime party. “Part of that is because I have a little bit of a morbid side. I’ve always loved horror.”

She got to explore that side after being cast. Many of the “CSI” actors have gone to a real morgue to observe an autopsy and Harnois wanted that experience.

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‘The Game’s’ afoot in cable spy series

There are some people who miss the Cold War – TV producers.

It was easy to come up with tales of good vs. evil when the Russians were such a continuous threat. That changed and now the makers of TV shows have to either come up with new super powers to be the bad guys or do what the makers of “The Americans” did – turn back the clock.

That’s what the makers of the BBC America series, “The Game” have done. It’s based in the high stakes world of covert espionage during the early 70s.

There’s a deadly Soviet plot called Operation Glass that will be devestating for Britian. Game begins – a stylish, character-driven spy drama that explores the lives and lies of the invisible soldiers fighting a secret war.

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Next Bond film will be ‘Spectre’

Director Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig announced that the 24th James Bond movie will be called “Spectre.” It’s scheduled to be released Nov. 6.

This takes the 007 films back to the basics that Ian Fleming set down. He created a global terrorist group known as SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence,Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion (SPECTRE) in the Bond novels.

Along with Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris and Rory Kinnear will be back for the film written by John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Joining the cast are Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, David Bautista and Andrew Scott.

The official James Bond Web site reveals that a cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. 

It’s Miller time for ‘Big Hero 6′

One of the big surprises of what’s turning out to be a very mundane Christmas film season is “Big Hero 6.” The animated Disney film has already taken in more than $170 million at the box office in the United States and another $60 million around the world.

The film’s worthy of such attention from its stunning visuals to a strong voice cast that includes Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Jamie Chung, Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter and T.J. Miller.

It’s interesting Miller plays the most laid back member of the team as he brings the most energy to the interview to discuss the movie. If the Denver native – whose past work includes “How to Train Your Dragon,” “She’s Out of My League” and “Silicon Valley” – was any more excited about being part of the film, he would have needed to be sedated.

He says this kind of energy is necessary with a movie like “Big Hero 6.”

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New network shows continue to fall

Six new programs for the 2014-2015 network TV season have been canceled and several more are in trouble. The latest casualty is the FOX series, “Red Band Society,” that will end with 13 episodes.

It joins the previously canceled “Selfie” and “Manhattan Love Story” on ABC; “Utopia” on FOX; and “A to Z” and “Bad Judge” on NBC. Although it has not been officially axed, production on NBC’s “Constantine” has been halted with 13 episodes. Its full fate won’t be known until the 2015-2016 schedule is announced.

This goes along with the plug being pulled on the CBS comedy “The Millers.”

If you are making bets on which shows will go next, the leading contender is “Mulaney” on FOX where the season order was cut to 13.

It’s important for the networks to cultivate new shows because a lot of long-running series will end this year including “Glee,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Parenthood” and “The Mentalist.” Things are looking a little rocky when it comes to “CSI” as its season has been cut to 18 episodes.

The loss of these veteran shows will create a lot of holes in the 2015-2016 schedule.

Fresno not getting ‘Star Wars’ tease

The Force is not strong with this city.

An 88-second tease for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will be shown in 30 theaters across the United States beginning Nov. 28. The latest movie in the “Star Wars” series is scheduled to open in December 2015.

The bad news is that Fresno isn’t on the list. The only cities in California that will show the trailer are Los Angeles, Irvine, San Francisco and San Diego.

Some of you may have seen a “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer on the Web. It’s very good but a fake. Look for the real one to pop up somewhere on the Internet after the Nov. 28 debut in theaters.

UPDATE: You can win ‘Mockingjay – Part 1′ tickets

nights

The winners randomly have been selected for the tickets to see the early screening of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.” Those winners include: Mark, Kathy, Dora, Ernie, Wes, DubTee, Mitch y, Dan, D. Bray, Julita, Sarah, Donna and Lisa.

Thank you to everyone who participated. Keep checking out the Beehive for future giveaways.

ORIGINAL POST: One of the biggest films of the holiday season is going to be “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1.” The film officially opens late Nov. 20 but true fans want to see the movie before the general public.

The Beehive, in connection with Lionsgate, wants to make that happen.

There have been 26 seats secured for a special advance screening in Fresno to be held at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 – two days before anyone else will get to see it. The Beehive will be giving away 13 pairs (one pair for each District) through a random drawing of those who leave a comment below.

That means each winner and a friend will get to go to the head of the line at the advance screening. And, there’s a good chance of a special additional prize.

All you have to do is leave a comment stating which District for which you would be best suited. All comments must be made by 8 a.m. Nov. 17. The 13 winners will be notified by noon on Nov. 17.

If you can not use the tickets, they can not be transferred.

Good luck. Full rules follow.

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Woodard offers new political view

When the producers of the new Katherine Heigl political series, “State of Affairs,” were putting the show together they could have gone the easy route and had the President be played by a white male. They could be creative and either have the President be a woman or a different ethnicity.

They elected to do both casting the talented Alfre Woodard as the President. She has both a professional connection to Heigl’s character who is a high level CIA analyst and through her son.

Woodard loves that the role wasn’t cast in a safe way.

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TV comedies no laughing matter

Five network shows launched for the 2014-2015 season have already been canceled.

 It was no surprise that “Utopia” was the first new series to get the ax. The idea of putting a group of strangers in a remote location and letting them build a society was neither original nor interesting. It was a joke.

And speaking of jokes, the other four canceled shows were comedies (or at least described themselves as comedies).

ABC ended “Selfie” and “Manhattan Love Story” while NBC pulled the plug on “Bad Judge” and “A to Z.” Of the four, “Bad Judge” had the most potential but not enough to survive.

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Animated shorts are a real ‘Feast’

When I was younger (and yes, there was a time when I was younger), one of the best parts of going to the movies was seeing the animated shorts. There weren’t a trillion TV channels where cartoons could be watched all the time. That made any animated short at the theaters a real treat.

That trend went away for a long time. It’s been exciting to watch the Walt Disney Studios revive the practice. The latest animated short offering from the company can be seen with the new feature film, “Big Hero 6.”

“The Feast” is the story of a scrappy dog who will eat anything put in front of him. The real story is the relationship he has with his master over the years. It’s a sweet story of love and loyalty.

Kristina Reed, producer of “The Feast,” was working on “Big Hero 6” when she got moved over to riding herd over the animated short. The biggest challenge she faced was that while Disney has been making shorts for a few years – including the Oscar winning “Paperman” – it’s a company built around making feature length movies.

“Your challenge as a short producer is you’re just running along, like this person’s free for two weeks? Great, come on to my show and do this. There’s a little animation team that has four weeks available? Come on to my show and do this,” Reed says. “You’re trying to sort of thread through and make consistent progress with random resources becoming available at random moments in time.

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‘Sons of Anarchy’ ending with a bang

Fans of the FX series “Sons of Anarchy” are getting to see the direction the show is taking toward the series finale set for Dec. 9.

Series creator, Kurt Sutter. was working on the middle of the final season when he talked with TV critics at their summer press event. He had an idea how the show would end but was leaving himself plenty of wiggle room.

“I say this all the time. I always had a sense of where I wanted it to go. And I come in each season with a blueprint of what I want to do with the big sort of arcs and mile markers. And I’ve learned that, over seven seasons now, the looser I grip that idea, the better the seasons are,” Sutter says. “And this season really isn’t any different. I came in with how I wanted the season to end, which will be obviously the end of the series, and we’re heading in that direction.

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‘Utopia’ failed FOX experiment

If you ever have the opportunity to make a wager with Simon Andreae, executive vice president of Fox’s alternative programming, take it. There’s no way to lose.

During the summer, when FOX unveiled it’s new reality series, “Utopia,” to TV critics, Andreae was confident the year-long program would be a hit. He was wrong by 10 months as the network finally canceled the series that was DOA.

Only Andreae seemed to not be able to see what everyone else saw: the show was a stinker from the start.

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Disney animated short real ‘Feast’

 In recent years, the Disney Studios have gone back to an art form that was once very popular – the animated short film. The company had great success with the 2012 short, “Paperman,” that earned an Academy Awards.

The latest animated short, “Feast,” will be shown with the feature film “Big Hero 6.” It’s the story of a dog and his master who share a food bond.

Executive producer, Kristina Reed, says that despite the success Disney has had with short films, they aren’t easy to get made because the company’s focus is making feature films. Often artists are only available for a short time because of their commitment to the feature film productions.

“You’re trying to sort of thread through and make a consistent, consistent progress with random resources becoming available at random moments in time. That’s a challenging way for a director to work on the short, but your job as a producer is to try and make that as smooth for the director as possible,” Reed says.

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‘Interstellar’ perfect fit for Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway’s teaming with Christopher Nolan has resulted in her wearing a wide range of outfits. When she played Catwoman in Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” Hathaway got to slip into a body-hugging black outfit and towering heels.

Her costume for Nolan’s latest production, “Interstellar,” is far less form fitting as she spends a major part of the film inside a spacesuit. Between the two, Hathaway loves the bulkier costume.

“The first time I put it on, I made up my mind that it’s my favorite costume I’ve ever worn. Thanks to Christopher Nolan, I have gotten to wear some pretty spectacular costumes but this one was the closest one to feeling like a little kid at Halloween. I love that feeling,” Hathaway says during an interview to talk about “Interstellar.”

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Hard work behind Mark Harmon’s success

Mark Harmon is proof that all an actor needs is one role that resonates with the viewing public and life is very good.  Even with a successful program, Harmon’s not letting up.

The star of “NCIS” has been working in television for more than 41 years. You can see some of his early work as “Emergency!” and “Adam 12” repeats continue to air. He found some success with “St. Elsewhere” and “Chicago Hope” but nothing has impacted his career like his current CBS drama.

Not only is the series the top-rated drama in its 12th season, Harmon’s an executive producer of the new spinoff series, “NCIS: New Orleans.” The Louisiana-based series starring Scott Bakula is one of the bigger hits of the fall season.

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‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ trailer released

Even the mighty Avengers can’t stop the power of the Internet. The plan was for the trailer for next year’s Avengers movie, “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” to be released during next week’s episode of the ABC series “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

The second-year drama could have used the ratings bumpas it is lagging behind last year’s numbers.

But, the trailer was unexpectedly released early. Too bad for the TV show but the best part is that it gives fans an even earlier glimpse at what will unfold in May -  including the big screen debut of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armor.

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Rene Russo very touching interview

If everyone aged as beautifully as Rene Russo, getting older wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The 60-year-old actress looks exactly like she did in the ‘90s when she was starring in “Get Shorty,” “Lethal Weapon 3” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.

After taking a break from acting, Russo returned to the big screen in 2013 in “Thor: The Dark World.” Her next movie, “Nightcrawler,” was written and directed by her husband, Dan Gilroy.

During an interview to talk about “Nightcrawler,” Russo starts telling me about a very intense scene where her character gets into a verbal battle with the character played by Jake Gyllenhaal. He already had told me that the scene was difficult because he had all of the great lines and it was obvious that Russo’s character was not going to win the war of words.

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Rosemarie DeWitt takes role very seriously

The first thing Rosemarie DeWitt does after walking into the small room at the Beverly Hills Hilton is introduce herself. That’s really not necessary as she’s built up a long resume of work that includes the cable series “The United States of Tara” and “Mad Men.”

I also had just seen her in “Kill the Messenger,” the movie that has brought together the actress and the press.

“I just wanted to make sure that you didn’t mistake me for Jeremy Renner,” DeWitt jokes. Renner is her co-star in “Messenger” and he’s also at the Hilton to meet with the press. “He’s got that whole sexy, bad-ass thing but I think I’m a lot cuter.”

 She’s right. But, DeWitt has also show in past work she can play a bad ass when necessary.

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Judy Greer, Natasha Lyonne cast in “Fresno”

Several web sites, including Variety, are reporting that director Jamie Babbit’s next movie will be “Fresno.” The film will be written by Karey Dornetto whose past work includes writing for the TV series “Community” and “Portlandia.”

Natasha Lyonne (“Orange is the New Black”) and Judy Greer (“Arrested Development”) will play sisters in the dark comedy. Their characters will be working at a Fresno hotel cleaning rooms. Things go very bad when they accidentally kill one of the guests.

There’s no word yet on where the movie will be filmed. It’s currently scheduled to be released in 2015.

Babbit previously directed Lyonne in the 1999 feature “But I’m a Cheerleader.” The director’s “Itty Bitty Titty Committee” was one of the films screened at the 18th annual Reel Pride Film Festival in 2007. At the 2002 Reel Pride, Babbit was on a filmmakers’ forum discussion panel that also included Q. Allan Brocka, Glenn Gaylord, Lee Friedlander, Gerald McCullouch and Christine J. Russo.

Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Ron Livingston and Jessica St. Clair are also in the cast of “Fresno.”

The last time Fresno served as the backdrop for a production was the 1986 mini-series, “Fresno,” starring Carol Burnett and Dabney Coleman.

Kristen Vangsness passionate about acting

Kirsten Vangsness has entered her 10th season playing Penelope Garcia on the CBS procedural drama “Criminal Minds.” When the 10th season kicked off Oct. 1, it was the continuation of more than 200 episodes for the former Porterville resident to get to portray the character that executive producer Ed Bernero calls the magical member of the group of FBI agents who profile the most vicious killers.

Between seasons, Vangsness got as far away from criminal investigations as possible.

“A lot of people on their hiatus have auditions for movies. Sometimes I do,” Vangsness shouts over the music being played at the party to celebrate the fall season shows on CBS and the CW. “Before I had this job, I was a theater actress in Los Angeles. I did a lot of community theater.

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Jesse L. Martin joins series in a ‘Flash’

If things get boring on the set of “The Flash,” the cast could always break into a few musical numbers. Grant Gustin, who plays the scarlet speedster on the new CW Network series, has a long background in musical theater. But, his credits pale to the time co-star Jesse L. Martin has spent on stage — including starring in the original Broadway production of “Rent.”

Martin moves into the expanding universe of TV shows inspired by super hero comics with “The Flash.” He understands the rabid following comics have because he saw a similar passion by the fans of “Rent.”

“It did sort of feel like you were a super hero,” Martin tells me. “It was more of a singing, dancing lower East Side kind of super hero who had no powers other than emotional and use of voice.”

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Hotel holds vivid memories for Steve Carell

As I have said before, the best place to spot celebrities when you are in Los Angeles is on an elevator at the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s rare to get on one of the three lifts and not bump into someone from TV or film.

The most recent celebrity spotting is Steve Carell. It’s no surprise to see him at the Los Angles hotel because I have just completed interviews with Carell, Jennifer Garner and several other cast and crew members of the upcoming Disney movie “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

While we’re waiting for the elevator, I pass on a compliment director Miguel Arteta had given Carell. After talking about Dick Van Dyke making cameo appearance in the movie, Arteta compares Van Dyke and Carell. He says it’s very hard to be a “nice guy” comedian and get a lot of laughs. It’s easier for the comics who go to a darker place.

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