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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

‘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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Judd Hirsch driven to keep acting

Actors — especially those who specialize in character roles — can keep working long after the retirement age for other professions. Look at Judd Hirsch. He’s 79 and has just signed on to be in the new ABC drama “Forever.” He plays the best buddy to the immortal character portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd.

Hirsch jokes that he’s never grown up enough to have to be coaxed into taking a role.

“Every once in a while the intelligence of a show just grabs me. ‘Numb3rs’ was an extremely intelligent show. You had to have really good writers, and the fact it was about somebody who was in that particular business, I graduated that way in my own life. I was a physicist. To go back into something like math, to me, was an invitation. I loved the idea. I would never have said no, but hopefully they would write for it,” Hirsch says.

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Sadie Calvano very happy with ‘Mom’

Sadie Calvano has the fortune — or misfortune — of starring in the CBS comedy “Mom” with two of the best comic actors working today in Emmy-winner Allison Janney and Anna Faris. It’s a chance for the young Southern California native to be on the biggest hit comedy from last year. But, her work often got overshadowed by her co-stars.

Calvano only looks at the positive saying being on a series with two such powerful comic co-stars is a blessing.

“We got really lucky with ‘Mom’ having such an amazing group of people who are so grounded and so smart,” Calvano tells me during a CBS party. “The chemistry on our stage is indescribable.”

Calvano went into the show such a fan of Faris and Janney, it took all of her will power not to become a fanboy the first time she read with them. After the initial shock, “Mom” became a learning experience for the young actress. Before signing on to “Mom,” Calvano had only made guest appearances on TV shows like “Melissa & Joey” and the film “J. Edgar.”

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UPDATE: You can win special ‘Gotham’ poster

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The winners of the “Gotham” posters have been randomly selected. Wes and TjMathew get one of the promotional items for the new FOX series. Thanks to those who participated.

ORIGINAL POST: “Gotham” is shaping up to be one of the big hits for the 2014-2015 network television season. The new series looks at life in Gotham City just after the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. It will focus on the efforts of a young Jim Gordon to clean up the city and the police force.

At the same time, viewers will learn how The Penguin, The Riddler, Catwoman and other villains got their starts.

The series launches Sept. 22 on FOX.

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Debra Messing with cop drama series

Mention Debra Messing’s name and most people will remember her from her long run on “Will & Grace” or her recent series, “Smash.” You’re a real Messing fan if you also remember she was on the ABC cop drama “NYPD Blue.” She didn’t play a police officer but at least she got to see how such procedural shows are put together.

That’s coming in handy now that she’s starring in her own police drama, “The Mysteries of Laura.” Messing’s playing a first-rate police officer who isn’t quite as skilled when it comes to her home life. Cut her some slack. Laura’s two young sons are so bad even Mary Poppins would take off in a huff.

Messing goes into the series having been an avid watcher of televised trials because of her fascination with the judicial system.

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Astro’s career blasts off with ‘Society,’ ‘Walk’

This is turning into a really good year for Brian Bradley — who’s better known as Astro. The former “X-Factor” contestant currently can be seen in the new FOX series “The Red Band Society” playing Dash Hosney, a 16-year-old patient who won’t let his cystic fibrosis stop him from living his life.

He’s also in the new Liam Neeson movie, “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” playing a tee-anger who won’t let his illness keep him from living life on the streets.

Astro also appeared in “Earth to Echo” earlier this year. Everyone makes mistakes.

As for the successes, the reality of how his acting career is taking off hasn’t fully hit him.

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Death hot topic with Alana de la Garza

Each time I chat with Alana de la Garza, the conversation eventually gets around to her work on “CSI: Miami.” She’s gone on to star on other TV shows such as “Law & Order” and “Do No Harm” but its hard to forget how her character of Marisol Delko was written out of the “CSI” series.

She was gunned down after marrying Horatio Caine (David Caruso). Her murder was such a complete surprise the actress continues to have people — like me — talk about it with her.

The bottom line is that while the role on “CSI: Miami” was a big break for her, the departure opened up bigger roles for her in other TV shows. That includes her latest job on the new ABC drama “Forever” as Detective Jo Martinez, one of the youngest officers on the New York Police Department to make homicide detective. She works with Dr. Henry Morgan, the immortal character played by Ioan Gruffudd.

All her work on the different “Law & Ord

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Valerie Bertinelli goes from ‘Cleveland’ to Fresno

Valerie Bertinelli played hooky from her cable TV series, “Hot In Cleveland,” to make an appearance as the keynote speaker at the “27th Annual Central California Women’s Conference.” There’s no need to report her. Bertinelli agreed to make the trip from Los Angeles to Fresno before a decision had been made that there would be another season of the TV Land series. She’ll be back on the set tomorrow.

The show’s loss was the conference’s gain. Bertinelli’s energy and sense of humor is the kind of speaker such events need. She doesn’t See Bee Style to have any answers to how people should nurture themselves (this year’s theme) but she’s an open book when it comes to what she’s gone through in her life.

“I’m a mess. You really picked the wrong person,” Bertinelli jokes about speaking to the group.

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Latest ‘Mockingjay’ trailer released

The new trailer for “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” debuted this morning at TheHungerGamesExclusive.com. In conjunction with the debut, you can check out new images and interviews with Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Natalie Dormer and Mahershala Ali.

This is all designed to keep the interest in the film franchise high as tickets for the third movie in the series can be purchased at 9 a.m. Oct. 29. The film opens Nov. 21.

In the upcoming film, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss fights to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and a nation moved by her courage.

“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” is directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Danny Strong and Peter Craig. The Suzanne Collins novel on which the film is based has sold more that 65 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Smith takes on familiar role in ‘Gotham’

Riddle me this? Which actor will face one of the biggest acting challenges this fall because of the people who have played the same role in the past?

The answer is Cory Michael Smith. He’s both hit the lottery and will face the firing squad as he takes on the role of Edward Nygma — better known as The Riddler to fans of the Batman comics — in the new FOX series “Gotham.” He follows both Frank Gorshin and John Astin who portrayed the mischievous villain in the ‘60s TV series and Jim Carrey who took on the role in the 1995 release “Batman Forever.”

“Though I am a huge Jim Carrey fan, I’ve never seen ‘Batman Forever’ and I have no plan on watching it. And I’ve seen some of Frank Gorshin’s work, but I’ve certainly not watched the entire series or a significant portion of it,” Smith says. “ I personally am just kind of reading the comic books and using that. And also, I have my opinions. You know, psychological, psychiatric development and studies since the ‘60s, I think, have changed greatly.

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Wilson Cruz tackles mature role on ‘Red Band Society’

Wilson Cruz is going through the kind of acting adjustments actors face as they get older. He proves it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I remember talking to him when he landed his first professional acting job playing Rickie Vasquez on the critically acclaimed “My So Called Life.” He was 20 at the time but was still cast as one of the high school students.

Now, he’s surrounded by young actors playing hospital patients in “Red Band Society.” The 40-year-old Cruz portrays Nurse Kenji Gomez-Rejon, who works closely with Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer).

“I’m no longer one of the teenagers on the show. I’m one of the old people,” Cruz says during an interview at the TV Critics meetings.

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Silence is golden with cell phones

At the beginning of every movie shown at a local theater, there is some type of graphic that reminds all patrons to silence their cell phones. It never seemed necessary that the same kind of warning should be at the beginning of an interview.

I was seated across from Pierce Brosnan and his “The November Man” co-star, Bill Smitrovich, at the Four Seasons Hotel. The actors were talking about their roles — Brosnan a retired CIA agent called back to duty and Smitrovich the CIA handler who makes that call.

It was a different kind of call that interrupted the interview.

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Miro Sorvino understands ‘Intruders’

The new BBC America series, “Intruders,” is a chilling paranormal tale set in the Pacific Northwest. What appears to be a series of unrelated incidents slowly come together to reveal a secret society dedicated to the pursuit of immortality. The reason the series is so creepy is that the writer and executive producer is Glen Morgan who’s best know for his work on “The X Files.”

It’s a rather complicated story but Academy Award-winner Mira Sorvino, who plays the mysterious Amy, was ready for all the ins and outs before the cameras started rolling.

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Joan Rivers was comedy pioneer

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Can we talk?

There were times when Joan Rivers aggravated the living daylights out of me when she was working a red carpet. Her lack of knowledge often created awkward moments such as the time she thought Anthony Hopkins was attending the Oscars with his mother but it turned out it was his wife. Or, identifying British actor Jim Broadbent as being from Australia.

Those bobbles aside, the passing of the 81-year-old Rivers means not only the loss of another Hollywood icon but a real comedy pioneer. There are few women who were as influential on comedy as Rivers. If they ever decide to make a Mount Rushmore for female comics, Rivers, Phyllis Diller, Carol Burnett and Moms Mabley would have to be top contenders to be included.

It wasn’t just what we saw on camera but Rivers did a lot in the world of comedy that few people ever got to see. Kathy Griffin constantly seeks out comedy mentors and she found a great one in Rivers.

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New ‘Dancing with the Stars’ cast named

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Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews appeared on “Good Morning America” to announce the lineup for the next round of competition on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars. ” Among the 13 celebrities are the usual batch of actors, athletes and celebrities you thought were dead.

The first performances will be Sept. 15. That’s also when two-time “Mirrorball” champion Julianne Hough joins Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba at the judges’ desk.

Here’s this year’s contestants and my early odds on how they will do:

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Jean Pigozzi real interesting man

Move over Jonathan Goldsmith. The Esquire Network believes they have the “world’s most interesting man” in Jean Pigozzi. In the new series, “Friends Call Me Johnny,” launching at 10 p.m. Sept. 3 on the cable channel, Pigozzi shows that he became famous for being famous long before Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.

The series shows how connected Pigozzi is as he travels the globe to sit down with friends such as Michael Douglas, Martha Stewart and Calvin Klein. Like a real-life Forrest Gump, Pigozzi has partied at Studio 54 and was on hand for the founding of Apple computers.

“I’m not a dentist. I’m not an airplane pilot. I’m not a fisherman. Mainly what I do, I invest in high tech companies. And I spend quite a lot of time in Silicon Valley. I’m interested by the future. So I’ve invested in many companies, like Facebook and Compaq computers.” Pigozzi says. “I’m incredibly old, so I started when they were still making computers out of wood. That’s what I do.”

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Contest tests your ‘Boxtrolls’ abilities

“The Boxtrolls Cardboard Challenge” is asking children to create crafts inspired by the new movie, “The Boxtrolls,” using cardboard boxes as the main resource – just like the Boxtrolls themselves.

Wearing cardboard boxes like turtles wear their shells, the Boxtrolls are kindhearted tinkerers who have used their imagination to build a home and community beneath the cobblestoned streets of the town of Cheesebridge. They are always making unique and creative devices out of found materials, using their imagination. The Boxtrolls include Fish, Shoe, Sparky, Bucket, Oil Can, and Wheels – and an 11-year-old boy named Eggs who thinks he’s a Boxtroll.

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Matthew McConaughey didn’t balk at doing TV

Years ago, I had a discussion with a fellow journalist about whether it was better to write about television or film. TV seemed to be the best way to go because not every TV actor will be in a movie but almost every movie actor will work on some TV project. The most recent example was the casting of Matthew McConaughey in the HBO series “True Detective.”

The work McConaughey and Woody Harrelson did in the cable crime thriller earned them both nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards” to be handed out Aug. 25. McConaughey already has picked up honors at the Television Critics Association Awards and the Critics Choice Television Awards for his performance.

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Seth Meyers ready for Emmy hosting duty

Seth Meyers feels more confident stepping into the role of host for “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards,” airing at 5 p.m. Aug. 25, because he’s been hosting “Late Night” for the past six moths. The late-night NBC program has given him a much broader platform to work on his comic skills than he had during his weekly appearances on “Saturday Night Live.”

“I feel certainly the most ready I’ve ever felt. But I think I’d feel more ready a year from now as well. It’s great to be able to do a monologue every night. That has been so helpful for approaching something like this,” Meyers says. “My skill set is always going to be in the monologue and telling the jokes and the understanding of how much work you have to put into getting a really good monologue to open a show like this.”

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