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Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Talking points: Ban violent video games for kids?

The United States Supreme Court this morning struck down a California law that would have imposed $1,000 fines on stores that sold violent video games to people under 18.

The New York Times reports:

Justice Antonin Scalia., writing for five justices in the majority in the video games decision, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, No. 08-1448, said the court refused to create a new category of speech beyond the protection of the First Amendment. Depictions of violence, he said, have never been subject to government regulation.

The fact that the law tried to protect children, Justice Scalia added, did not alter the analysis. Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority opinion.

The California law defined violent games as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way that was “patently offensive,” appeals to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests” and lacked “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”

Well, from that definition above, it seems like nearly every title at GameStop would have been affected.

Still, you’ve got to wonder what all that violent video game imagery is doing to children.

What do you think? Are you glad the law was struck down, or do you wish it had been upheld?

To-Do Tonight: Keep Your Head Up

Tonight brings another installment of Y101′s Unplugged concert series, and it’s another chance to see an up-and-coming musician in to town for a free show. Andy Grammer, who has a hit currently with his upbeat summery jam “Keep Your Head Up,” is at The Tasting Room (at Palm & Nees).

Lucky for you, this isn’t one of the times you have to win tickets. The concert is free and open to everyone 21-and-up. It starts at 6:30 p.m. But since Grammer is doing well right now, you might wanna get there early, because space is limited.

Here’s “Keep Your Head Up,” whether you need to get introduced to it, or just want to get it stuck in your head again. Watch for Rainn Wilson making a cameo.

On TV tonight: ‘The Big C,’ ‘Weeds’

thebigc_gal_KAL_vert_C.JPG Showtime has two programs that shouldn’t be missed tonight.

“The Big C,” 10:30 p.m. Showtime: There are a handful of actors who by their casting make a project better. Laura Linney is on that short list. If you have any doubts, take a look at her work in this series about a woman dealing with cancer.

It helps she’s surrounded by strong actors like Oliver Platt, John Benjamin Hickey and Cynthia Nixon.

“Weeds,” 10 p.m. Showtime: Another dependable actor is Mary-Louise Parker who begins her seventh season playing the pot-selling single mom turned danger junkie.

This season opens with Parker’s character getting out of jail after three years and looking to start a new life in New York.

Tonight: It’s time again for Pecha Kucha

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I feel like a broken record whenever a new installment of Fresno’s Pecha Kucha Night rolls around. Sorry if you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth repeating: Pecha Kucha is one of the most creative and inspiring local events out there.

Pecha Kucha — for the uninitiated — is a creativity-fueled alternative to normal, boring PowerPoint presentations. Presenters show 20 slides for 20 seconds a piece, making for a rapid-fire presentation.

Topics are wide and unpredictable, as just about anybody can get up there and share their craft or area of interest for six minutes and 20 seconds. While originally a platform for designers and architects when it started in Japan (Fresno is one of 418 cities globally that participates), we’ve seen presenters from numerous disciplines — photographers, business people, Dusty Buns, etc. Every time I go to a Pecha Kucha night, without fail, I leave impressed and inspired by the talent we have here in town.

Tonight’s theme is “coded” — so expect presentations to be loosely tied to that. I’ve already heard that we’re getting a presentation about libraries (ya know, Dewey Decimal code). Not sure what else, but don’t let mystery deter you. It’s another point of Pecha Kucha intrigue.

Tonight’s event — Fresno’s 11th — is at Fulton 55 and starts at 7 p.m. Cover is $5, or $3 for members of Creative Fresno, which presents the event.

The Ladies of NOtown: The Clarifier

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The ladies of NOtown Roller Derby are back in action Saturday night, hosting a bruising bash at the Fresno Fairgrounds vs. the OC Roller Girls.

It’s always fascinating to get to know the ladies off the track, so we’ve asked a few of the NOtown gals to slow their roll and answer some questions for The Beehive.

We’ve already introduced you to Rita Ville, Lucky Eddie and Pookie. Today, we finish our series with The Clarifier.

Remember: Saturday’s bout is also a chance to help Fresno Bully Rescue.

VITALS
Real Name: Claire Avila
Age: 35
From: Fresno
Number: #101
Position: Blocker and Jammer

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A deeply affecting ‘Tree of Life’

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I don’t have much time for movie reviews these days, alas, and of the movies I do see, I’m not often wowed. But this weekend is the exception. I review Terrence Malick’s new film “The Tree of Life,” which I call a “philosophical wallop” of a movie.

At nearly two and a half hours — and with long, dialogue-free stretches of impressionistic images devoted to the evolution of the Earth itself — it isn’t for everyone. But if you allow it to immerse you in its meditative bath, I think you might find it tremendously moving. I sure did. It’s playing at Edwards.

Donald’s weekend picks

1. THE BARD’S THE THING
We’re all over Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s opening weekend in Friday’s 7 section. Here’s my cover story. I haven’t yet seen the show but plan to on Saturday night. But advance word — and knowing that veteran Fresno State director Brad Myers is at the helm — makes it sounds promising.

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Just 3 weeks to ‘Deathly Hallows 2′

I think I’ve watched every trailer that’s come out for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” But I still can’t get enough. With just 3 weeks to go until the July 15 opening, I’m amped for the final battle. So I thought I would share this latest featurette. Enjoy!

[Look for another HP post next week – hint, hint.]

Michael Caine reveals ‘Dark Knight’ secret

The Dark Knight.JPG A huge challenge for directors these days is trying to protect the secrets of their latest project. You can’t blame them. It would have killed “Super 8″ if the film’s secret had gotten out before the movie was released.

Director Christopher Nolan may be taking the secrecy thing a little too far. He’s always been protective with projects from “Batman Begins” to “Inception.” But, Nolan’s really clamped down on any info regarding “The Dark Knight Rises.” And, I mean ANY.

All of the actors have signed contracts that say they won’t talk about the next Batman movie. That doesn’t stop journalists from asking.

“I was asked what my next project was going to be,” says Michael Caine during an interview for his voice work in the new animated movie “Cars 2.” “I said ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.”

Caine has played Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler, in Nolan’s other Batman movies.

Nolan actually told Caine that he should never have revealed he was going to be in the movie. And, Nolan wasn’t kidding.

That’s tight security.

Five Things You Should Do This Weekend

Ya know, in addition to that roller derby bout we’ve mentioned 46 times this week …

1. DON’T BE USELESS: We owe a top-of-the-post shout-out to this Sunday night show at Fulton 55 with Useless Keys, Quiet Americans and The Mallard. L.A.-based headliner Useless Keys and its “heavy space rock” is cool, but the main reason a lot of people will care about this is the return of Greer McGrettrick, a former Fresnan who used to play in Rademacher and is now behind SF’s The Mallard. Fresno Famous has more with McGrettrick. [Tickets]

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Entertainment this weekend

CARS 2.JPG Here are a few entertaining tips for the weekend.

TELEVISION
“True Blood,” 9 p.m. HBO”: The fourth season opens with Sookie (Anna Paquin) returning to Bon Temps, La., only to find things are different. What remains the same is the raw sexuality and hot action of the cable series.

MOVIES
“Cars 2″: This is a high-octane version of the original film. When Lightning McQueen gets invited to be part of an international race, his best buddy, Mater, gets pulled into working with British spies. It’s fun for kids and adults.

DVD
“Unknown”: A man (Liam Neeson) wakes from a coma to discover someone has taken over his life. Director Jaume Collet-Serra has created a tantalizing cinematic puzzle based on the smart script by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell. January Jones is the biggest flaw. The nature of her role requires aloofness, which comes off more as bland. Even when she shows a different side, she’s lifeless next to Neeson, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz and Diane Kruger.

Win tickets to see Salt ‘N’ Pepa

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UPDATE: Congrats to our winners — Larry, Christy and Lisa Ovalle. Enjoy the show!

ORIGINAL POST: Iconic hip-hop group Salt ‘N’ Pepa is ’bout to “push it” at the Kings Fair in Hanford on July 8. In addition to that signature song of theirs, the ladies are also known for “Shoop,” “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “Whatta Man.”

You can buy tickets for $25 — or you can enter here and hope you’re one of the three lucky Beehive readers to score a pair of tickets, courtesy of J-Live Entertainment.

To enter, just leave a comment below and telling us whether you prefer salt or pepper (or Salt or Pepa — your choice, have fun with it) and why. We’ll pick three winners at random and give them a pair of tickets. Winners will be notified by e-mail, so please leave a real one, and please check it. Deadline to enter is 2 p.m. Monday.

Official rules below.

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Meet Fashawn, get a Nickel Nickel Nine tee

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In the past couple weeks, I’ve had half a dozen people ask me where they could find Nickel Nickel Nine T-shirts now that FTK closed its Fresno shop. I didn’t know if they could.

Right on cue, I got a call yesterday saying that FTK and Basta (a new downtown gallery/boutique at Broadway Lofts) were releasing a batch of limited-edition Nickel Nickel Nine collabo tees.

They’ll be available Saturday at the Basta space in an event that triples as the last chance to see Basta’s inaugural, graffiti-inspired art show, “Enough” — details here — and a meet-and-greet with famed Fresno rapper Fashawn from 11 a.m. to noon.

It’s happening in advance of Fashawn’s headlining show at the Tower Theatre on Saturday night, his first local show in a while.

Here’s a look at the new tees, more details on Fash’s show and his new video, just released today, for “Big Dreams.” It filmed while he was on tour in Barcelona with longtime video collaborator Punit Dhesi.

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Deep-fried Kool-Aid at the Big Fresno Fair?

I’ve seen a few stories this week about the latest fair food: Deep-fried Kool-Aid. It’s been getting talk with the start of the fair in San Diego and is apparently from none other than Chicken Charlies, who has fried up Klondike bars, zucchini weenies (hollowed-out zucchini stuffed with hot dogs, then battered and deep fried), White Castle cheeseburgers, Spam with sauce and Strawberry Pop Tarts at the Big Fresno Fair over the years.


Anyone hoping this is on the Fresno menu this October? Charlie plans to be in Fresno Oct. 5-16.

Is JK Rowling teasing us or what? UPDATE

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UPDATE:

JK Rowling announced
more details about Pottermore today, which combines role playing games that include more details about the world of Harry Potter, and establishes an online e-book store for the Potter books. Most of the coverage I’ve seen focuses on the e-book news. But the game part sounds cooler to me. This is from an Associated Press story out of London:

“Pottermore” had been the subject of intense speculation among fans since it appeared on the Internet with the words “coming soon.” Rowling revealed Thursday it is a website designed to immerse users in her intricately crafted world of wizards and magic.

The site lets fans delve into Harry Potter’s beloved Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. They can shop for wands in Diagon Alley, travel to Hogwarts from the imaginary Platform 9 3/4 at London’s King’s Cross train station and be sorted into Hogwarts school houses by the perceptive Sorting Hat.

Along the way are wand fights, games and new information about characters beloved around the world, including Harry’s boorish relatives, the Dursleys.

The website also features 18,000 words of new Potter material from Rowling, who said it will have “information I have been hoarding for years” about the books’ characters and settings. The level of detail is sure to please fans of Potter minutiae,
who have been sharing their enthusiasm online for years.

ORIGINAL POST JUNE 16:

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To-Do Tonight: Mucho Music

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Lots and lots of live music waiting for your eyes this evening. Let’s have a look:

DIEGO’S UMBRELLA: This SF-based band is at Audie’s Olympic. Should be a wild one, considering Diego’s Umbrella calls its style “gypsy pirate polka.” You had us at pirate … but polka is fun too.

HE’S MY BROTHER, SHE’S MY SISTER: Told you all about these L.A. funky folksters yesterday. Totally worth a reminder today. They’re at Fulton 55 with Fierce Creatures — which is doubly fun and funky. Read this amusing Q & A with HMBSMS from today’s Bee. [Tickets]

SOME FIVE-BUCK YEE-HAW: Totally not as dirty as I made it sound — but it is a bargain. It’s the next in Kiss Country’s $5 Summer Concert series at Woodward Park starring Steve Holy, Due West and LoCash Cowboys. (Watch for that Shakespeare/country traffic)

ANGEL LEBRON: Live salsa at Starline, from the Starline Salsa Club and New York-bred Angel Lebron. Beehive High-Five to whoever asks Lebron to see his rings.

ROCK THE MALL: It’s another installment of Sierra Vista Mall’s free Rock the Mall concert series. It oughta be a big one, too, with popular local Journey tribute band Midnight Run playing. Did we mention free? Cuz, yeah, free.

Fliers and a few more options below:

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Showtime’s stars complete opposites

Thumbnail image for People Michael C_ Hall.JPG Thumbnail image for PEOPLE MACY.JPGFor those of you planning to attend this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego, the Showtime cable network will put on two panels that star exact opposites. There’s the ever moody Michael C. Hall for “Dexter” and the very outgoing William H. Macy for “Shameless.”

Hall’s a tremendous actor but talking to him is like trying to have a conversation with a neighbor who thinks you killed his cat. Take for example a question about an episode of “Dexter” where his character finally got to release his rage.

His answer was, “It was fun.”

I had to get him to slow down so I could correctly transcribe the quote.

Then’s there’s Macy. Here’s part of his response to a question about starring in “Shameless” as an alcoholic father.

“I’ve got the role of the century here. I am having so much fun. I love every part of it. I look really cool on a motorcycle with my hair like this. I’ve got the most outrageous things to do, great writing, outrageous stories. They’re true. You know what I mean? They’re all true stories to the human condition. There’s love at the bottom of every single episode. But they’re outrageous. Wait till you see some of the stuff we do. It’s amazing. I mean, it stops us on the set every once in a while. We just think, ‘That is shameless’,” Macy says.

There’s a lot more but you get the point. This was a case of being glad the interview was taped.

Should you want to see these two different actors for yourself, the Showtime panel will be at 5:30 p.m. July 21 in Ballroom 20.

Did They Just Say Fresno? The Oregon lottery vs. the 559

UPDATE: Video and link is back! Woot!

ORIGINAL POST: We’ve seen late-night comics and TV commercials take shots at Fresno. But here’s a new one: the Oregon lottery has us in its sights. It has launched a series of new scratchers that parody reality TV shows. Among them, “The Annoying Housewives of Fresno.”

KSEE 24 is on the case for this one, talking to some Fresno housewives, a kinda-apologetic Oregon lottery rep and Mayor Ashley Swearengin who called this “ignorant.”


Just another reason to hate Portland, right?

To-Do Tonight: ‘The Comedy of Errors’

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Worried it will be too hot for tonight’s season-opening performance of “The Comedy of Errors” at Woodward Shakespeare Festival?

There are a couple of factors in your favor. It’s supposed to be cooler today than yesterday, for one thing. And “The Comedy of Errors” is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays. (This production will clock in at a brisk 1 hour 20 minutes with no intermission — it’s certainly no “King Lear.”)

Most important, the festival’s new location in the park is decidedly cooler than the other two venues used by Woodward Shakespeare in the past. With a breeze off the river and lots of grass, the temperature is usually palatable by 7 p.m. or so, even on monster-hot days. (The show plays 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays through July 16.)

“The Comedy of Errors” is directed by Fresno State theater professor Brad Myers, who has set the play in the style of a 1950s American sitcom. Think bright colors, brisk accents, northeastern accents, mistaken identities and lots of puns.

Admission is free, but reserved seating is $10 at woodwardshakespeare.org. You can also buy season tickets for the three-show season for $20.

The Ladies of NOtown: Pookie

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The ladies of NOtown Roller Derby are back in action Saturday night, hosting a bruising bash at the Fresno Fairgrounds vs. the OC Roller Girls.

It’s always fascinating to get to know the ladies off the track, so we’ve asked a few of the NOtown gals to slow their roll and answer some questions for The Beehive.

Our series started Monday with Rita Ville and continued Tuesday with Lucky Eddie. Today we get to know co-captain Pookie.

Free stuff alert: You can enter to win tickets to Saturday’s bout here.

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Get Familiar: He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister

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Funky L.A. folksters He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister arrive in Fresno on Thursday to share the stage with Fierce Creatures at Fulton 55.

Of the thousands of bands who have visited Fresno while I’ve been writing about the local music scene, I don’t know that I can think of one whose cast of characters is this interesting.

Brother-sister duo Robert and Rachel Kolar lead the band and share vocals. Robert is a John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner who also plays guitar and kick-drum. Rachel plays tambourine and is also an accomplished playwright and actress on L.A.’s local theater circuit.

Bass player Oliver Newell is a music-school drop-out who has played in a symphony, hitch-hiked across America, and eventually graduated from CalArts. Guitarist Aaron Robinson is well versed in both classical and folk guitar, as well as flamenco (he lived in Spain for a while). He also tours with Sea Wolf and has played with Akron Family.

Cello player — yes they’ve got one of those too — Satya Bhabha is a Yale graduate and actor whose credits include “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and “Fair Game” with Sean Penn. The funkiest piece yet is Lauren Brown, a tap dancer, who serves as the band’s percussionist. She also founded a theater company with Rachel Kolar.

If you’re wondering how all that comes together musically, the answer is with much eclecticism. A sound the band calls “flamboyant folk” and “psych-acoustic.”

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘Skin Deep’

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Meet Maureen, an overweight 30-something gal living in Queens. Her only romance these days, it seems, is with the succession of pints of ice-cream residing in her freezer. Mostly cheery about her single status, she lays out a steady stream of self-deprecating one-liners as a defense mechanism whenever the subject of her weight comes up. “It ain’t over till the full-figured lady sings,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.

In the wrong hands, Jon Lonoff’s comedy “Skin Deep” could have been a lackluster, one-dimensional, mediocre sitcom about a fat gal who gets a shot at romance. That is certainly not the case with the new Good Company Players production at the 2nd Space Theatre. (It plays through Aug. 7.) Thanks to thoroughly winning performances from a charming Kristin Crase as Maureen and a sharp Ashley Taylor as her plastic-surgery obsessed sister, along with J Daniel Herring’s sensitive direction, the script’s weaknesses are overcome in winning style.

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To-Do Tonight: All-female Americana

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If you like Americana, folk and roots/rock, then head over to Fulton 55 tonight for a date with female trio Red Molly, who hail from the New York/New Jersey area.

Expect three-part harmonies, plus a little banjo and Dobro from a band whose most recent CD was named the 23rd best Americana release of 2010.

Band member Abbie Gardner sent this over:

The big news is, after six years together, one of our founding members left the band and we’re hitting the road with our newest member — Molly Venter! We’re very excited to share her with our fans!

Tickets cost $15 and are available in advance at Ticketfly. Doors open at 7 p.m., music starts at 8 p.m. Below is a sample of Red Molly’s sound:

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