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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

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.

You can win special ‘Gotham’ poster

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“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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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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Allison Janney could be double Emmy winner

Unless I’m forgetting someone, the only actor to win two acting Emmy Awards in the same year was Stockard Channing. She did it back in 2002 when she picked up the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role of Abbey Bartlet on “The West Wing” and the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her work in “The Matthew Shepard Story.”

That feat could be matched this year — by one of Channing’s “West Wing” co-stars.

Allison Janney took home the Emmy for a Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her work on “Masters of Sex” during the Television Academy’s “2014 Creative Arts Emmy Awards” held Aug. 16. She can win a second statue when the remainder of the Emmy Awards are handed out Aug. 25. She’s one of the nominees in the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy category for her work in “Mom.”

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Death of Robin Williams true tragedy

Robin WilliamsOscar-winner Robin Williams, 63, died this morning according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office-Coroner Division and his press representative.

I had the honor — and frustration — to interview Robin Williams several times for his film and TV work. The most recent chat was on the set of his CBS comedy, “The Crazy Ones.” It was the return to network television for Williams but that wasn’t enough to keep the comedy on the air past one year.

Every interview with Williams was like trying to ride a bucking bronco being carried through the air on a roller coaster that’s been strapped to a kite without a tail. Sometimes, all you could do was hold on.

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Josh Thomas heart of ‘Please Like Me’

Josh Thomas had some major concerns when he first met with executives from the cable channel Pivot about moving his Australian TV series, “Please Like Me,” to an American market. In a very colorful way he explains that his chief concern was that they might engage him in sexual relations. (Don’t make me spell it out.)

They didn’t.

“They’re just really lovely. They sort of let me do whatever we like. We film it in Australia. They have notes, which we listen to, sometimes. And if I say to them no, I really think this is better, they’re just quite cool about it,” Thomas says. “They’re quite comfortable with the facts that they came into the season six episodes. We’d already made six episodes that they really liked and have never tried to interfere.

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Manish Dayal takes cooking ‘Journey’

Manish Dayal’s not a chef but he plays one in the new feature film “The 100-Foot Journey.” His kitchen skills were pretty limited before being cast in the movie about an Indian family going into direct competition with an established French restaurant in a small town in the south of France.

His cooking skills are still limited. Dayal just has a better understanding of the world where the preparation of food is treated with great passion.

“The nature of a kitchen in France versus the nature of a kitchen in India is very different. And, I think more importantly, what I had to learn was understanding how it works, rather than how to make the food because of course we did both. Understanding how to function in a kitchen is very important,” Dayal says.

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Event celebrates Filipino history

“Magandang Corazon,” an event honoring the historical role of Filipinos during the Farm Labor Movement, will be held from 3-7 p.m. Aug. 9, at the administration building of Fresno City College, 1101 E University Ave. It is free to the public.

Activities will include an educational workshop for those 7-11 years old that will run from 3-5:30 p.m. plus a pot luck meal. Those attending are urged to bring food and non-alcoholic drinks.

There will be screening of “The Delano Manongs,” a new documentary by Emmy-wining director Marissa Aroy. It tells the little known story of a group of Filipino farm workers who started the “Great Grape Strike” in 1965. They joined forces with other ethnic workers to form the United Farm Workers Union (UFW), a union known mostly as a Mexican American union with Cesar Chavez as its leader.

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‘Guardians’ role grows on Vin Diesel

If you hear a lot of people saying “I am Groot” you’ll know they have been to see the new “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. Groot is a tree-like character who can break a few limbs as well as plant the seeds of a lasting friendship. The character is computer generated but it was Vin Diesel who provided the voice.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This is Diesel’s first movie based on a Marvel Comics character, a topic that has been discussed for years through social media. The problem was Diesel’s schedule was so hectic, he could not block out the six months needed to make the big action movie.

He was a little surprised when he was approach to be in “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

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Role sounds right to Charlotte Le Bon

Charlotte Le Bon, who stars in the new feature film “The 100-Foot Journey,” grew up in Quebec. The film takes place in a small town in the south of France where her character works at a sous chef at a well known French restaurant.

The French spoken in Canada and France is not quite the same. She compares it to how Americans and the British both speak English. The basics are the same but there are plenty of differences.

Speaking French the way the French do for the movie was no problem for Le Bon as she’s been living in Paris for five years. During that time, her accent changed. It also helped that when she played Victoire Doutreleau in the film “Yves Saint Laurent,” she had to drop her Quebecois accent, because her character wasn’t Quebecois.

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UPDATE: You can win Fresno Filmworks tickets

The randomly selected winner of the Fresno Filmworks tickets is dave filipczak . Thank you to everyone who responded.

ORIGINAL POST: This month’s presentation by Fresno Filmworks, “Life Itself,” looks at the life of film critic Roger Ebert. Screenings will be at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Tower Theatre, 815 E Olive Ave.

Director Steve James looks at both Ebert’s career and his health battles. It’s based on Ebert’s memoir.

You can win a pair of tickets to see the film.

The winner of the tickets will be determined by a random drawing of all of those who leave comments by noon Aug. 7. The winner will be notified that day. The winner gets one pair of tickets.

Good luck. Contest rules are below.

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Michael Rooker big with ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ fans

Michael Rooker has been a journeyman actor for almost 30 years appearing in a wide variety of TV shows and films. None of that work has brought Rooker a tenth of the attention the 59-year-old actor has been getting since he joined the cast of “The Walking Dead.” That attention will get ramped up even more as he stars in the latest big screen comic book-inspired offering, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

It’s hard to know which group is more rabid: “Dead” fans or comic book movie lovers. Either way, the combination is huge.

As for being part of another big franchise, Rooker smiles and says, “Why not?! Why not?!”

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CBS dealing with late-night, contracts, viewers

Fresno Bee TV critic Rick Bentley is in Los Angeles at the summer TV critics tour. These are his early reports.

Nina Tassler, the Chairman of CBS Entertainment, has some big issues to deal with including changes in both of the network’s late-night programs, the launch of NFL games on Thursday night and a viewership that continues to skew old. It’s easy to face such issues when you are coming off another season as America’s most-watched network. If you are keeping tabs, that’s 11 times in 12 years.

Here’s what Tassler has to say about some of the issues she’s facing with the network:

Why programs like “Friends with Better Lives” and “Bad Teacher” only got a short window to prove their worth: “Every season we have shows that work and shows that don’t work, shows that get traction, others that don’t. And if we didn’t have that cycle, it wouldn’t create opportunity for other shows to get on the air. It’s a part of our ecosystem. Some shows take off, and some don’t.”

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