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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

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

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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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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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