Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Chiwetel Ejiofor loves ‘Love Actually’

love-actually-wedding-scene-590ac062310As I’ve said on many occasions, “Love Actually” is one of my favorite movies. If you have not seen this cinema gem about the many aspects of love, it always airs numerous times during the holidays. It’s the 10th anniversary of the production’s original release.

My love of the movie is why I take every opportunity I get when I talk to an actor who was in the film to ask about it. Another opportunity came up recently when I talked with Chiwetel Ejiofor for his Oscar-worthy work in “12 Years a Slave.”

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Learn how to slaughter zombies

zombie_site_topThe zombie apocalypse is coming. No, seriously, it is. And Aikido of Fresno wants to help you prepare. See, the traditional martial art of aikido is ideal for defending yourself from zombies, says Chris Hein, who heads Tower District dojo at Wishon and Olive.

“Aikido focuses on multiple attackers,” he says. “In the movies, there’s always 10,000 zombies coming for you, not just one.”

So Aikido of Fresno is offering classes on how to defend yourself from zombies. The two sets of classes start in October and run twice a week for two weeks. The class costs $140 to $160, depending upon when you register. Details here.

Students learn how to defend themselves, including using a short sword, and what to do when an attacker grabs your weapon hand. At the end of the class, students will go through a survival test, defending themselves from people dressed up as zombies (unless, of course, some actual ones show up) in a local park. Even if the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen, Hein hopes that people will enjoy the exposure to aikido, and maybe even stick with it.

The weird thing about the zombie defense class is that aikido is usually considered one of the less violent martial arts. In fact, the point is to resolve conflict, not to beat your opponent to a pulp. But the class won’t teach you to make peace with a zombie. It will teach you to kill that sucker dead — and that’s OK because zombies are already dead, Hein says.

“I believe it’s OK to take their heads off,” he says.

Jon Bernthal goes from ‘Dead’ to ‘Angels’

04_TWD2_GAL_Barn_Rick_Shane_LoriI felt sorry for Jon Bernthal when his character of Shane was killed on “The Walking Dead.” It’s bad enough to lose a job, but it’s a killer when that show is the top-rated series on television. I feel a little better for him now as he’s been cast on the new TNT drama series “Lost Angels.” Productions going on now for the six episodes that will launch in December on the cable channel.

“Lost Angels” comes from Frank Darabont, the man who brought “The Walking Dead” to life. It’s the story of the battle between mobsters and the cops in 1950s Los Angeles that’s based on John Buntin’s book “L.A. Noir.”

I caught up with a bruised and battered Bernthal on the set of “Lost Angels.” He couldn’t say how the battered look would play into his role as Los Angeles detective, Joe Teague, except that it’s part of the very complicated role. Darabont not only had Bernthal in mind for a role on the show but he’s giving him the pivotal character around which the show’s being built.

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UPDATE: You can win signed ‘Warm Bodies’ poster

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UPDATE: Here are the winners of “Warm Bodies” signed posters: Hailey, Dan, Rachel.

Thanks for all the comments and keep watching for more contests.

ORIGINAL POST: I’m still pushing “Warm Bodies” as a great movie to go see tonight as part of your Valentine’s Day plans. To sweeten the pot, I’ve got some posters signed by the cast to give away.

Send me your short review of the movie — whether you saw it last week, will see it tonight or plan to see it next week — and I will put you into a random drawing to win one (1) of three (3) miniature movie posters for the film that’s been signed by the cast. The autographs includes Nicolas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton. I think the other two signatures are writer Isaac Marion and the director Jonathan Levine but I’m not sure.

The movie may not be here for much longer but I still will give you some time. All review comments must be posted by Feb. 22. The winners will be notified and they will be able to pick up their poster at the Fresno Bee during normal working hours.

Here are the official rules:

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Analeigh Tipton ‘Model’ actor

WARM BODIESTomorrow is Valentine’s Day and three new movies are opening if you are looking for a date option: “Safe Haven,” “Beautiful Creatures” and “A Good Day to Die Hard.” The first two have a romantic element that make them obvious picks. “Dies Hard” doesn’t seem like the kind of film that fits a romantic date but the studio is promoting it as a film where “you can get some action.”

All three are good selections but don’t forget “Warm Bodies.” The romantic comedy about a girl and her zombie is a great date movie because it blends falling in love elements with killing zombies.

If you go see the movie, you might recognize Analeigh Tipton who plays Nora, the best friend to the zombie lover. Before getting into acting, she appeared on the 11th edition of the TV reality competition series “America’s Next Top Model” and finished third.

Here are five questions with the young actress/model:

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Observations of a grumpy old man

  • Have you seen “Pete Rose: Hits and Mrs.,” the new TLC reality show starring Pete Rose and his fiance, Kiana? It’s so bad that it’s impossible to decide who’s the biggest boob on the show.
  • There are many youth sports that no longer keep score. The concern is that losing a competition might hurt a child’s self-esteem. Then, why is it still OK to have winners and losers when it comes to youth beauty pageants like those on “Toddlers and Tiaras”? That seems like more of a self-esteem problem than keeping score in a baseball game.
  • One of the celebrities who will be on the ABC reality diving competition show “Spash” is Katherine Webb. No word on whether Brent Musburger will be an announcer on the show.
  • The upcoming feature film “Warm Bodies” is about zombies in love. I thought that was what Kristen Stewart was playing in all those “Twilight” films.
  • Time to place your Super Bowl bets. I’m taking a beer commercial to win by a 2-1 margin, although a car commercial has a good chance of being the champ.

Observations from a grumpy old man

  • “Two and a Half Men” star Angus T. Jones made news when he said “If you watch ‘Two and a Half Men,’ please stop watching it and filling your head with filth. People say it’s just entertainment. Do some research on the effects of television and your brain, and I promise you you’ll have a decision to make when it comes to television, especially with what you watch.” I see an episode where his character of Jake goes to subway station in Paris.
  • Lindsay Lohan was arrested for allegedly punching a woman at a New York City nightclub. She should be cut some slack. After her Lifetime movie, “Liz & Dick,” bombed, Lohan was probably looking for some kind of hit.
  • Reports have surfaced that some professional football players are using Viagra to gain an edge on the field. This gives a whole new meaning to being the league’s scoring leader.
  • ABC has ordered more episodes of “Last Man Standing” and “Malibu Country” proving NBC is not the only network that will hang on to bad comedies.
  • This season of “The Walking Dead” has featured a group being attacked, beaten and killed inside a prison. When did this become a realty show?
  • Random thought: If PSY was on “Psyche” would you be psyched?

History important to some actors

No two actors — like snowflakes — are ever the same. There are even some very big differences with the Olsen twins. One area where actors really differ is in how much information they need — or want — about their character. You would think acting would be the process of getting hired, being handed a script and then acting out the scene. That’s the process for some. Others need history.

There are actors who will create an entire history for their character even if the role is small. It’s a way of making that part feel like it has some depth. There are some actors who want to know the future of their character. That one’s a little harder — especially with TV shows — because the creative team behind the program often hasn’t thought or written that far into the future.

Although I find it hard to believe, the creators of “Lost” said they knew where that show would end and even told a few actors. It still seems like they were making it up as the show went along.

Actors in the AMC series “Walking Dead” face a different challenge. The TV series is based on the popular comic book of the same name. That would suggest all the actors have to do is read the comics and they’ll know what’s going to happen. The problem is, the TV show writers are twisting and turning the comic book plots so no one’s history is etched in ink and paper.

It also helps in interviews when the actors don’t know what’s happening with their characters. It means pesky journalists won’t be able to find out spoilers. Michael Rooker, who plays Merle on “The Walking Dead,” told me not to worry about asking questions about upcoming episodes in the current season.

“Don’t worry about it. I don’t know where my character is going anyway,” Rooker says. “When we are shooting an episode, we only get the script for the next episode about half way through the one we are shooting. We are finding out stuff as we go along. We’re sort of going at it in an interesting way and it’s intriguing.”

It’s intriguing for him and annoying for others.

Danai Gurira next ‘Walking Dead’ star

Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne in “The Walking Dead,” is playing such a popular character on the AMC  series that you can bet her star power will have shot up dramatically when she finally decides to go back to stage work.

She doesn’t worry about how a TV show will impact her career on stage  because long before Gurira started leading two limbless, jawless zombies around on the AMC series, she had distiquished herself as a stage actor and writer.

She made her Broadway debut in August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” in 2009. Before that, in 2006, Gurira won an Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle Award for writing, and the Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress for her off-Broadway play “In the Continuum.”

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Phone deadliest weapon on ‘The Walking Dead’

No member of “The Walking Dead” cast ever wants to get a telephone call from the special effects wizard on the AMC show, Greg Nicotero. It usually means you are about to be written out of the show.

It’s Nicotero who has to tell actors to stop by the makeup department to get a mold made of their face. That mold is what’s used to create the zombie features that often proceeded termination from the show. It’s obvious why he’s known as “The Grim Reaper” on the set.

If you haven’t seen the second season or the first few episodes of this third season of “The Walking Dead,” you might want to stop reading. A couple of spoilers are on the way. You’ve been warned.

After much speculation about the character of Sophia, played by Madison Lintz, who was missing the first half of the second season, a call had to be made to the mother of the young actress to tell her Sophia was going to die. That end is one of the most jaw-dropping moments in TV history.

“Madison is such a talented little girl and she was overheard during the first season talking about how much she loved being on the show,” says Nicotero. “She said that she didn’t even care if her character died as long as she didn’t become a walker. And then, it literally happened.

“That’s why people are scared to get a call from me.”

Scott Wilson, who plays Hershel, had every right to be nervous when he got the call that he would have to go by the makeup department. He was lucky. All they wanted to do was make a cast for his leg. It’s the appendage that got kicked off the show and not him.

Some young actors have all the luck

When I was young (and yes there was a time when I was young) it was always difficult to pick the right costume for Halloween. It needed to be scary but not hamper me from filling a bag with candy. Ghost is good. Mummy bad.

There are a couple of young actors who aren’t going to have a single problem picking the right costume this year.

During my talk with 13-year-old Chandler Riggs for the third season of “The Walking Dead” that’s currently airing on AMC, the young actor says that Halloween’s a breeze because of his role as Carl Grimes on the zombie drama.

“In the first season, because the show premiered on Halloween, I dressed up as the comic book version of Carl with the hat and everything,” Chandler says. Who better to play Carl than the actor playing the role?

He did have to switch costume gears for Halloween during the filing of the second season of “The Walking Dead.” Shooting didn’t wrap on that Halloween until 6:30 p.m.

“It was pretty late and an hour and half drive to get home. We had a hockey mask in the back of the car and so when we got home I threw that on and grabbed a pillowcase,” Chandler says.

The other young actor who has a natural costume is 13-year-old Natasha Calis. When I talked to her earlier this year for her spooky movie “The Possession,” she said that all she would have to do is put the letter E and a moth on her shirt and she would be ready to go. The letter is for her character name, Em, and the moth is for the thousands that attack her character in the movie.

For me, it’s probably another year going as Lou Grant.

Win tickets to see Rob Zombie in concert


UPDATE: Congrats to our winner, Gabrielle. Thanks for all who participated.

ORIGINAL POST: Metal icon Rob Zombie brings his current tour to the Crest Theatre on Friday night.

Zombie — known from his band White Zombie, his successful solo career and his devotion to horror movies — has already proven a hot ticket. Lucky for you, we’ve got a chance to get in for free.

One fortunate Beehive reader will score a pair of tickets — they normally cost $41.50 and are available at Valentino’s or online at To enter, leave a comment and fill in the blank: “If I saw a zombie in downtown Fresno I would ________.”

Deadline to enter is 9 a.m. Thursday. We’ll pick one winner at random and notify him/her via e-mail, so please leave a real address and please check it. No multiple entries, please. You’re ineligible if you’ve won something in the past 30 days. Full rules below.

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‘Tis the season for eating brains


Here’s one weekend option unlike some of the others we’ve mentioned today — getting dressed up like a zombie, crawling around Visalia, then partying with zombie friends.

Saturday is the Zombie Ball and Crawl in Visalia, organized by the Central Valley Horror Club. It starts with a Zombie Crawl down Mooney Blvd. at 6:15 p.m., then the Zombie Ball starts at 7 p.m. at Howie & Son’s Pizza Parlor with live music, a costume contest and the crowning of the Creepshow Queen.

It’s an all-ages event. Last year, it drew more than 250 zombies. You don’t have to dress up like a zombie, but it’s encouraged — and you get a discount if you do. The cover charge is $5 for zombies and $7 for non-zombies.

If Visalia is too far for the walking dead to travel, then know that the Tower District will host a Zombie Pub Crawl on Oct. 23. Here are the details:

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