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Updated:  December  23, 2004

Merry Christmas!  Happy Hanukkah!  Happy Kwanzaa!  Happy Holidays!  That should cover everyone I think.  I was walking on Yonge Street the other day finishing up some Christmas shopping and the snow was falling lightly, Christmas carols were playing outside one of the stores and I finally found the spirit of Christmas.  It’s an exciting and busy time of year but remember those less fortunate as well.  At the very least, when reflecting on how grateful you are for all your blessings, remember in prayer those that are less fortunate – perhaps even people you know that feel very lonely and/or isolated this time of year.  Not everyone has a family to go to or has happy memories this season.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out the article below under THEATRE NEWS on my buddy from New York, Scot Robinson, whose Vision Warrior program hits kids right where they are with respect to drugs and self-esteem.  He’s doing amazing work and changing lives – someone who lives the spirit of the season every day.  And the message under MOTIVATION is important one for all of us – courage! 

There's still lots of gripping entertainment news below - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, OTHER NEWS, and SPORTS NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS






Irie Mondays

Monday nights at IRIE continue their tradition.  You’ve got one more week to catch the fun in 2004 at Irie!  What a great party two weeks in a row!   You can rely on Irie to give you a warm reception with a warm ambiance and hot food every visit - come by this Monday.  DJ Carl Allen will be spinning the old school mixed with the new!  Carl Cassell’s original art and IRIE itself will be featured in the January 2005 issue of Toronto Life!  It’s no surprise to me that Toronto Life has chosen Carl Cassell, in their quest to reveal those restaurants that also offer the unique addition of original art.  Let Irie awaken your senses.  Irie Mondays continue – food – music – culture.
Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.  
10:00 pm







Motivational Note  - Share the Gift of Courage

Excerpt from - By Willie Jolley

"Share The Gift of Courage!" Maya Angelou said, "In order to be the best you that you can be you must have courage. You must have courage to be fair, courage to be kind, courage to be honest and courage to live your dreams! Courage does not easily, but from it you become so much stronger!" Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is having fear and going forward anyway! This Christmas share the gift of courage!







Keshia Chante Knows What She Wants

By Mike Ross -- Edmonton Sun

(Dec. 17, 2004) Keshia Chante is not your typical teen pop star. She was not a contestant on either American Idol or Canadian Idol, she is not a former star of a popular children's television show, she was not a model, did not hook up with a former member of a boy band, did not participate in a reality show of any kind, was not written up in National Enquirer and was not a member of the Mickey Mouse Club.  Keshia Chante got through on talent alone. Imagine.  Ambition, too, of course. Appearing today at 4 p.m. in Kingsway Mall in Edmonton to sign autographs, the 16-year-old singer says she was driven to be a pop artist from early childhood. And when she wants to do something, "nothing and no one will stop me."  Her first public performance was rapping Dear Mama by Tupac Shakur - with whom Chante shares a birthday. Too cute. By 2003, she was hanging with Toronto love machine Shawn Desman. She recorded the female "answer song" to Desman's hit, Shook.  He sings, "With her pretty brown eyes, sexy little thighs, the way she moves just gets to me. Keep shakin' that thing, you're making me sing."  She sings, " 'Cause he's lookin' so fine, he's gonna be mine. The way that he moves just gets to me. Keep shakin' that thing and makin' me sing."  She was 15 at the time. Did it as a "favour," she says.  Chante's latest single is a bouncy track called Bad Boy. She didn't write it, but she says she's fine with the message behind it. It deals with, well, a "bad boy" who tries to be something he's not. Lyrics include, "Bling, bling, bling, I don't see no ring" and "bring back the thug or this thing is dead."  Nope, not your typical teen pop star. Definitely not another Hilary Duff. One is plenty. Too much.

With the whirlwind schedule of promotion and performance that is the lot of any modern recording artist bankrolled by a major label - not to mention studying in Grade 11 while on the road - Chante doesn't get to enjoy the typical teenage social life, either. It's a sacrifice she's willing to make.  "Since I was little I've always made sure that if I have dreams to do something, nothing will stop me. I've been raised to think that way. So I knew I'd miss my friends, but I had to overcome that. I still talk to them every single day. One of my friends is in my video. I don't get to go to the movies, go to the mall and do all those cute things that you do when you're 16 years old. In a way that kind of sucks, but in the end, this is what I love to do and I wouldn't trade it for the world."  Chante's self-titled debut album, released this June, is the fruition of a process that began with an audition over the phone. BMG Music's talent scout Ivan Berry had called the then-14-year-old at home on a school night - yes, Catholic school - and basically said, "Sing for me."  Chante didn't hesitate.  "I didn't even really know who he was and I did it anyway," she recalls. "It's important for people who have that dream and they get that shot to not hesitate, to not ask, 'Oh what song should I sing? What should I do?' None of that."  Other auditions in person followed - which she says were the most nerve-wracking performances of her young career. Big crowds, no problem. National anthem at the Grey Cup? Piece of cake. A boardroom full of humourless music biz execs? Now there's a tough crowd.  "Those were the most nerve-wracking shows I did. Execs don't bop their head or tap their feet. They don't do anything. They don't show any interest in what you're doing. They just sit there and watch and criticize - the suits," she laughs.  At least she doesn't have to do much of that anymore.




Holly Goes Lucky

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(Dec. 20, 2004) Let's set the record straight: Holly Cole is not the love child of Holly Golightly and Nat King Cole.  It's easy to see how such fanciful rumours could swirl around the jazz diva who'll be bringing her annual dose of slightly funky holiday cheer to Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow night.  On one hand, she's got that kooky but elegant white-gloved thing happening, something Audrey Hepburn worked so nicely in Breakfast At Tiffany's.  But, then again, she can smoulder her way through a ballad with an understated cool that makes you think of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, no matter the time of year.  It's a pleasing hypothetical parentage to toy with, but the truth is something else.  "I'm just a hoser from the Maritimes who comes on all glamorous on stage," quips Cole, while sipping at some tea in a restaurant just around the corner from her Annex home. "The people and artists who I'm most interested in are filled with contradictions ... just like me."  It's an interesting time for the 41-year-old singer to sit back and take stock of where she came from and where she's going.  She's just released The Holly Cole Collection, Vol. 1, a retrospective of the last 15 years of her recorded work and it reveals a woman every bit as complicated as you might expect.  Yes, there's nostalgic numbers of the sort she built her career on, but just in case you needed reminding of how truly eclectic her tastes are, hang around for the tracks from Tom Waits and Prince.  "The pop community thinks I'm a jazz singer and the jazz community thinks I'm a pop singer. None of that really matters to me.  "When you get right down to it," she shrugs, "I guess I've always been an outsider in some sense. It was painful in high school, when all you want to do is fit in. But now, it suits me just fine."  She was born in Halifax on Nov. 25, 1963 to classical musicians Leon and Carolyn Cole. Her first name was indeed inspired by the fact that her birthday was exactly one month from Christmas.  She grew up in Fredericton, N.B. and when asked to pinpoint her first musical memory, she pauses a bit, before breaking out into a giant grin.  "My grandfather playing `The Tennessee Waltz' on the accordion," is her surprising answer. "He wasn't a fantastic musician in terms of technique, but he showed me the importance of honesty in your music and how happy you could be on your own."  Independence would prove to be important to Cole, because, by her own admission, "I was a rebellious kid. Constant fights with my parents. About lots of things, but mainly the classical piano lessons they made me take from a very young age." 

Still, she's quick to point out how close she is with her parents now and even sings a bit of the patter trio from Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore to illustrate that her father's Savoyard obsession has found a belated home.  Cole's mother and father broke up when she was 13 and, shortly after that, she leapt at the opportunity to move in with her grandparents in Halifax, but she didn't actually stay with them for long.  "I met a guy I really liked a lot, maybe loved at the time," she confides. "I was 16 and I think he was 26. We lived kinda like hippies, in this solar-powered house he had built out in the bush. I'd have to cut through the forest to the highway and hitchhike to school, 30 miles a day."  Her older brother Allen, now a successful musical theatre composer, was then studying jazz piano at the Berklee School of Music in Boston and Holly went to visit him.  "I had one of those `Wow!' moments," she recalls. "Sitting in a club called The Five Spot, I heard Eric Dolphy play saxophone and it blew me away. I suddenly thought `Okay, I finally get it. This is what music can do to you.'"  So Holly the Hippie Chick made her exit and Holly the Jazz Baby took her place.  She began playing saxophone, but found ultimately that it wasn't for her. By the time she graduated from high school, she knew she wanted to be a singer and, in 1982, she followed her brother to Toronto.  A couple of years studying jazz vocal technique at Humber College taught her all the things she didn't want to do and she started working on a distinctive style of her own. "Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan made me want to sing," is how she describes the influences that shaped her during those years.  But, in 1985, it almost all ended on a road outside of Montreal.  "We were all drunk," Cole admits now, "but I wasn't driving. I remember the crash vividly, like a series of snapshots. I know it's such a cliché, but it all seemed to happen in slow motion. I was hurt very badly. There was glass stuck in my face and my jaw ... well, it wasn't connected any more."  She laughs, "I remember turning to my friend and saying `All I really need is to go home, get some aspirin and have a good night's sleep.'"  It was a lot more complicated than that. Her jaw was wired shut for six weeks and the doctors told her they couldn't guarantee she would ever be able to sing again.  But she did, and began to make her mark on the Queen St. W. scene with The Holly Cole Trio. After paying her dues in various clubs, she went platinum with her debut album Girl Talk, in 1990, and she's never really looked back.

She's won numerous Junos and Geminis, keeping a solid recording base while trying to tour annually, usually at this festive time of year.  Critics and commentators have knocked themselves out trying to describe her style, but to Cole herself, it involves an almost Zen-like discipline.  "There's a tiny little place I have to find. If I go too far to one side, I'm crying and sobbing. If I go too far in the other direction, I'm wondering about whether I left that other red sock in the laundry room. Neither extreme is good."  "It's got to be an emotional experience, but a carefully controlled one."  And perhaps the ultimate key to Cole's success is that her work allows the audience to be part of the creative process.  "If I'm doing my job right, I give you the vehicle to explore some passions that the songs might trigger in you. I don't spoon-feed emotions to people. I don't tell them what to feel. I just want to help them to feel something."  And that's the Christmas present she'll be offering tomorrow night.




Getting Barenaked For The Holidays

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Vit Wagner, Pop Music Critic

(Dec. 20, 2004) The Barenaked Ladies anticipate a merry Christmas, followed by an extraordinarily busy New Year.  Toronto's cheerful popsters return home to wrap up a current tour with holiday shows tonight and tomorrow at Massey Hall. Then it's on to 2005 which, in addition to the usual recording and touring regimen, will find them filming a pilot for a Fox TV series and composing music for a Stratford Festival production of As You Like It.  "It seems to be a time for branching out in strange in wondrous ways for us," says singer/guitarist Ed Robertson, during a stop last week in Chicago.  Barenaked For The Holidays, the quintet's first seasonally-themed album, will provide the focus for the two concerts. Apart from "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman/We Three Kings," recorded with vocal backing from Sarah McLachlan in 1996, the disc was made in May at a farmhouse/studio owned by the group's other singer/guitarist, Steven Page. The 20 tracks mix traditional favourites such as "O Holy Night" and "I Have A Little Dreidel" with original offerings, including "Green Christmas," originally penned for the movie The Grinch.  "The seven original songs made it feel like it was worth doing," Robertson says. "Then it became a question of what to fill the record out with. Do we go more trad? Or do we do silly stuff? Or what? And it came down to a delicate balance.  "I wanted my friends to be able to play it. But I also wanted my grandmother to enjoy it. When you're making a Christmas record, you're making it specifically for people to put on at their Christmas party. Even, say, recording `Auld Lang Syne.' We probably wouldn't have done it so straight, if we hadn't thought, `People aren't going to enjoy being able to just put this on at midnight without having to consider the wackiness of it.'"  To enhance the traditional side, the band — also including Jim Creeggan on bass, Kevin Hearn on keys and Tyler Stewart on drums — will be joined for each of its Massey Hall concerts by a different school children's choir.  "It's a super secret surprise," Robertson says. "But there may be members in each of the choirs who are perhaps related to some of the band members."  The Barenaked Ladies are also putting the finishes touches on the script for the pilot for a TV series the band has pitched to Fox. 

"We're calling it a variety show, but will be unlike any variety show you've seen before," Robertson says. "It will have a lot of performance, which is typical of a variety show, and hopefully a lot of celebrity guests, but more in an awkward sitcom format. Like a Curb Your Enthusiasm or a Larry Sanders Show, but with lots of performance in it."  Robertson laughs at the suggestion that he and his bandmates might be the first to find themselves employed by the Stratford Festival and Fox in the same year.  "Shakespeare was no stranger to comedy and tragedy intertwined," he says.  "Our plan is just go ahead and start making another record. And if the TV show works out, we'll just have to slot that into the schedule.  "So maybe it means we tour a little less, if we have to be somewhere making a television show. But the plan is to go on making records and doing shows as much as we can and just slot the show in as another thing we do. It was never meant to replace what we really do.  "It was just another thing to try out."




Mario Faces Career 'Turning Point'

Excerpt from - By Gail Mitchell

(Dec. 17, 2004) The transition from teen to young adult can be difficult enough on its own, but imagine making that change in front of a fickle public.  That was the situation facing 3rd Street/J Records artist Mario as he began preparing his sophomore album, "Turning Point." However, judging from the reaction to lead single "Let Me Love You" and the 18-year-old's new look, the transition is going smoothly.  "With the dearth of teen idols, I was a bit concerned that Mario's more mature look might alienate some of his fans who loved him as a younger-modeled star," BET senior VP of music programming Stephen Hill says. "It seems like that concern may have been unfounded. His video is so smooth and his appeal so broad that he is simply growing with his audience."  Released Dec. 7, the album debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 13 on The Billboard 200. First single "Let Me Love You" is No. 2 on the Hot 100 and the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks charts. The single is also available as a club remix featuring T.I. and Jadakiss and is included on the album.  Discovered at age 11 by his manager, Troy Patterson, Mario signed with J at 14. He released his self-titled album debut in 2002, reaching No. 4 in R&B and pop with "Just a Friend" and top 20 R&B with "Braid My Hair." According to Nielsen SoundScan, "Mario" has sold 586,000 units.  Work on "Turning Point" began a little more than a year ago, following Mario's summer tour with B2K.   "When we sat down, we were very conscious of the transition," Patterson says. "We were looking at what was out there, what was coming and where he would fit."  Those discussions gave Mario a goal: to fashion a coming-of-age record a la Michael Jackson's 1979 hit, "Off the Wall."

"It was kind of a funny change, singing mature songs," Mario admits. "But it was natural. All the songs are about friends and the situations I'm going through."  In addition to Scott Storch, who produced "Let Me Love You," the album's producers include Lil Jon, "Mario" collaborators the Underdogs and Harold Lilly, Sean Garrett and Dr. Dre associate Ron "Neff-U" Feemstar. Mario also co-wrote several songs for the first time.  "I write here and there," says Mario, who has college and a role in the feature film "Destination Fame" on the horizon. "But I got a chance to do more writing on this album. And I want to do more the next time out."




Hot Holiday Picks

Excerpt from - By Mr. Jawn Murray (Washington, D.C.)

Every year I share with you all my favourite things to give as holiday gifts.  This list is far from Oprah’s Favourite Things, but hey, you’ll like them all the same.

Donnie McClurkin’s From Darkness to Light:  This DVD documentary on the life of multi-platinum gospel singer Donnie McClurkin is a tear-jerking and heart-warming experience.  His inspiring story is truly captivating.  He endured horrific molestation from a relative as a child and the guilt of blaming himself for a relative’s death, and overcame these struggles to become a sought-after gospel superstar and dynamic preacher and pastor.  McClurkin’s life is captured so eloquently by filmmaker Stephanie Frederic and certainly offers insight as to why the New York native’s music has such depth.  Combined with the talk of McClurkin’s troubled upbringing, his 20-year struggle with his sexuality and his on-going health problem, are musical performances including such hits as "We Fall Down" and Oprah Winfrey’s favourite, "Stand."  Also featured on the DVD are Patti LaBelle, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Winans, CeCe Winans, Beyonce Knowles, Steve Harvey, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Kelly Price, Bro. Gerard Henry and others.
Fantasia’s Free Yourself:  Readers of this column will know that, from the very beginning, I said Fantasia Barrino was destined to win this year’s American Idol competition.  She just had “it!”  Well “it” has finally been captured on wax, and Fantasia’s debut offering Free Yourself is a modern music masterpiece.  From beginning to end, this disk oozes with soul and inspiration.  Women will certainly adopt songs like “Baby Mama” as an anthem, while other songs like “Don’t Act Right,” “Got Me Waiting,” “Truth Is” and “Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)” all appeal to the round-the-way girl, lyric-heavy audience that made Mary J. Blige a success.  If that doesn’t sell you, then Fantasia’s remakes of Gershwin’s' "Summertime" and Willie Nelson’s “You Were Always on My Mind” are worth the price of the CD alone.
227:  One of my all-time favourite sitcoms ever is now available on DVD.  The three-disk set of the NBC series, which was on-air for five years, captures the entire first season of the successful show.  The show starred Marla Gibbs as Mary, who lives in a building in a working-class area of Washington, D.C.  Gibbs’ great supporting cast included Jackee Harry, as the ever-popular Sandra Clark, Alaina Reed, the late Helen Martin, Hal Williams and Regina King.  The show still airs in syndication in some cities, but this DVD is priceless.  I’d love to see a 227 reunion happen as well.
Chaka Khan’s ClassiKhan:  The CD is a plethora of fine music gems, jazzed-up and recorded in a Chaka Khan kind of way.  Khan’s brassy, sassy, jazzy soprano paired with her all-star cast of jazz musicians—a combination of the London Symphony Orchestra on most and assistance from Joe Sample and Sheila E. on others—is a match made in musical heaven.  This set features Khan’s rendition of staples like "Teach Me Tonight," "To Sir With Love," "Crazy," and my album favourite, "Stormy Weather."  Many of these standards, such as “The Best Is Yet To Come,” “Crazy” and “Around Midnight,” have been recorded one too many times with no pizzazz or flair. But Khan has kicked them all up a notch and packaged a release that is certainly a timeless milestone in her musical legacy.
Hustle and Heat:  Starring Vivica A. Fox and Duane Martin ("All of Us"), Hustle and Heat is an action adventure about a private investigator who attempts to find out why his best friend is murdered. Unable to accept the suicide as an answer, the P.I. takes over the case and looks for anything that would prove his theory right. It's another strong straight-to-DVD offering, one of which people should take notice.  Martin is exceptional as an action star, and its unfortunate this movie wasn't released theatrically as it would likely have bolstered his status as a film actor. The film also stars Meagan Goode (You Got Served), Stacy Dash (Clueless) and rappers Sticky Fingaz and Jadakiss.




Nelson Mandela Announces Second "46664" Concert

Excerpt from  - By Nolan Strong

(Dec. 22, 2004) Former South African President Nelson Mandela has announced that he will host the annual “46664” concert, to help battle the AIDS pandemic on the continent.  The second 46664 concert will take place at the Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate on March 19, 2005.  The concert is being funded by philanthropist Professor Dr. Hasso Plattner, co-founder and chairman of SAP.  The focus of this year’s event is inline with the theme of World AIDS Day this year, which will be Women, Girls, HIV and AIDS.  "46664 South Africa will build on the success of our truly memorable concert in Cape Town last year,” Mandela said in a statement issued yesterday (Dec. 22). “It will serve to support the efforts of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and to show the world that South Africa is really addressing this most vital issue… and help in particular the growing numbers of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.” Mandela said the concert will feature prominent international female stars. The line up will be revealed in early 2005. Last year’s concert took place at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.  The event drew an audience of 40,000 people and was broadcast to hundreds of millions of people internationally.  A CD featuring 50 Cent, Beyonce, Shakira, David Bowie, Britney Spears and others was issued as well to support Mandela’s push to raise awareness of the disease and call other governments on the continent into action.

Rapper/producer Missy Elliot and R&B divas Alicia Keys and Beyonce also supported Mandela’s effort earlier this year, by donating fifty cents from each ticket sold on their “Ladies First Tour” to the 46664 campaign. 46664 was the prison number of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, Cape Town. He served a total of 27 years, while fighting apartheid in South Africa. He was released in 1990.  According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, over 25% of the South African population is affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. Plattner is also a member of South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki’s International Task Force on Information, Society and Development.




Ashanti On ‘She Can’t Sing’ Talk

Excerpt from

(Dec. 17, 2004) *Say what you want about Ashanti’s singing skills – enough people are buying her records to make her a bona fide, platinum-selling recording artist, and that’s all that counts these days, right?  …Anyone? As her latest album “Concrete Rose” settles in stores this week, the set’s first single “Only U” is climbing the charts, plus she’s already in the top 10 via Ja Rule’s “Wonderful.” The Glen Cove, NY native is also about to hit theatres in January starring opposite Samuel L. Jackson in “Coach Carter,” and Herbal Essences has just signed her on as a spokesperson. And don’t forget about her Muppet movie due out next month.    But with all of the advancements in her career comes the mountain of criticism over her singing, which at one point resulted in a petition to stop her from receiving Soul Train’s Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year award.  In an interview with Associated Press, Ashanti said the question of her singing talent, and her rampant use of “baby” in her lyrics make up the bulk of her “unfair” criticism.  “What I've heard is, ‘Oh, she can't sing. Oh, she can't dance.’ And then I'll hear, ‘She sings good in the studio, she's a studio singer but she can't do it live,’” Ashanti says. “The baby thing — I think that's kind of new for me. I think I heard it a few months ago, and it made me laugh because it was funny. 'Cause I do use the word baby a lot, but so what? So, and — what is your point? That's like the bulk of what I get.  “There's definitely been growth, in every aspect — lyrically, vocally, performances,” she says of her new album. “With the first album, although I had a lot of input, it was always up to [Murder Inc’s] Irv Gotti. And with this one, we both have to compromise (laughs).”




Jay Z On New Def Jam Gig

Excerpt from

(Dec. 17, 2004) "I think artists will relate to me 'cause I know their story," Jay Z told MTV of his new position as president and CEO of Def Jam. The retired rapper and former Roc-A-Fella exec says his background as an artist will offer invaluable insight into his ability to run the company. "I share some of the same struggles they have, possibly more,” he said. “These people were signed. I never got signed to a major label. I had to start my own label. I been through all those hardships, from not being able to get a deal to putting out a record that didn't work. I worked around all that. I see it more as being a coach who's been on the field and the players will respect me 'cause I'm speaking their language."  Speaking on Cam’ron’s recent decision to leave Roc-A-Fella and Def Jam entirely, “That was something that was going on before I got there," Jay-Z said. "I don't even know where it stands. That was something that was happening before me signing." After enjoying recent success with the Linkin Park “Collision Course” album, Jay-Z has been approached to spit on other collabos – most recently rock group P.O.D., and there’s even chatter about a possible project with his nemesis Nas.  On a recent visit to New York radio station Hot 97, Nas said he's put the beef behind him and would get in the studio with Young Hov under the right circumstances.  "I don't know," Jay said about the possibility to MTV. "It didn't happen before there was beef. What we went through was something musical. I don't wish any ill will; I wish the guy the best of luck. But there wasn't collaborations before anything happened, so why would it happen after? Right?" Meanwhile, Nas seemed to have backtracked a bit regarding the possible pairing. "I mean, at this point people would like to see a lot of things,” Nas told MTV Wednesday. “Let's let that be what it is. I can't really bring nothing good to that conversation. I'm happy. I hope everybody else is happy. I've got too many other things I've got to do right now. That conversation is what happens on every street corner all day long. So God bless everybody.”




Newcomer Likes Being Compared To Old Schoolers

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson /

(Dec. 17, 2004) Being compared to the likes of old school rhythm and blues stars Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack, is something that newcomer Urban Mystic handles quite graciously.  The 19 year old whose album Ghetto Revelations and single Where Were You are making strides on the Billboard charts these days, utilizes the influences of those legendary stars along with the influences from his involvement in the church, for his debut project.  "I handle the compliments quite well. It’s a great compliment because I grew up listening to those types of artistes, so its definitely an honour."   Urban Mystic whose real name is Brandon Williams, is from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.   The up and coming singer/songwriter/producer is in the midst of redefining contemporary R&B with the goods displayed on his debut album Ghetto Revelations. Released last month on SoBe Entertainment and distributed by the Warner Music Group entity, Ghetto Revelations gets a little bit of helping from well known names in the R&B and rap world. Prolific 1980’s crooner El DeBarge, one time Naughty by Nature member Kay Gee (who produced hits for Jaheim, Next and Naughty by Nature) and Red Spyda (known for his work with Jadakiss, Lloyd Banks and Twista) contribute tracks to Ghetto Revelations. ‘ "Working with those producers was really cool. I enjoyed working with Kay-Gee. It was a real pleasure. We got the hook-up through my A&R. I wouldn’t mind working with him again," said Urban Mystic. The journey has been a long one for Urban Mystic. He signed a record deal at 18, and since then he has been working to get his material on the market.  "Its been a grinding for me ever since I signed my record deal. It was important for me to get something out there that I can say is mine.  As they always say, good things come to those who wait. Now I can appreciate all that has been going on," he added.

The son of a church minister, and the youngest of four, Urban Mystic realized from an early age that music was in his soul.  "I grew up in a neighbourhood in Fort Lauderdale and I went to middle school, then high school. I didn’t have a rough life, but I have been through some struggles. At one time I was wondering where my next meal was coming from," he revealed. After nearly a decade of performing in his father’s church, Mystic convinced his family that he was destined for the big times as a singer.  He eventually got some assistance and guidance under the watchful eye of his older brother Christopher. Urban Mystic has added a number of impressive accolades to his artistic resume. Among them is a guest role in the 1999 independent film Ghetto Fabulous which was produced by Big Baller Records, and an appearance in a US advertising campaign for SPRITE. Asked what direction he opted to take artistically as far as Ghetto Revelations was concerned, he said, "I am just keeping it to the hood. I want the album not only to appeal to the mature listeners but also to the younger crowd.  There are some experiences from the ghetto and some revelations as well." When asked what he loves most about performance and music, Urban Mystic replied, "I love being able to express myself. When I perform, I tend to forget that I am on stage. I just close my eyes and get in the zone." If his first single Where Were You (the video has been in regular rotation on BET and the song is number 73 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart), is any indication of Urban Mystic’s God given talent, then this young man is sure to please neo-soul and old school R&B listeners alike, who long for soul and rhythm to make a re-appearance in good urban music. The album Ghetto Revelations debuted at number 50 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip Hop Album chart a week ago.




Smokie Norful – Interview

Excerpt from - By Danna Kiel

(Dec. 17, 2004) Since the release of his debut solo album, “I Need You Now” in May of 2002 Smokie Norful has been Gospel music’s man of the hour. Receiving several Stellar Awards and many other accolades over the last two years, Smokie is, simply put, a Gospel music phenomenal. Repeated airplay of the title track (live and recorded versions) thrust Smokie into the hearts and spirits of listeners (believers and non believers) everywhere.   On the heels of the protracted success of “I Need You Now”, one might assume just a touch of anxiety with the recent release of his sophomore album, “Nothing Without You.” Such is not the case as Smokie explains, “I thank God that I am at a place where I’ve come to the realization that God did it. I don’t have to question or wonder who did it? God did it. I am confident in that the same God that did this is doing this next one because I am doing the same thing. I am trusting him and being prayerful.”  “Nothing Without You” boasts a stellar stable of music’s top producers. A roll call reveals the inimitable George Duke with whom Smokie had worked with on the BET celebration of Gospel and the Trumpet Awards: Percy Bady, Asaph Ward, Tommy Sims and Smokie’s team of choice: Cedric and Victor Caldwell, who Smokie says, “are like family…you go to hang out and you get a little work done while you are there, they have great hearts and they are both supernaturally talented.”   As you listen to this recording, Smokie again delivers all manner of  music from the traditional to the very contemporary leaving very few stones in between unturned. His accomplished piano work is not to be missed. “God is Able” in addition to ministering a word of encouragement and inspiration at what may feel like your lowest moment showcases Smokie’s virtuoso skills.   Smokie explained further, “I am looking at my surroundings and my environment. I look at life for inspiration and I am also very much confident that God is doing this one whether this one goes gold, platinum or sells 50 CDs, I trust that his will is going to be done and the people that need to hear it and be blessed by it and need something God is giving me to give them are gonna get it!”    At press time “Nothing Without You” had been nominated for a  Grammy, Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. Smokie is competing against Fred Hammond’s “Somethin’ Bout Love”; Israel and New Breed’s “Live From Another Level”; Bishop T.D. Jakes, “He-Motions” and Tonex and The Peculiar People, “Out the Box.”   Radio is currently blessing us with Smokie’s stirring rendition of “Oh Holy Night” from “Follow The Star.” Happy Holidays!




Gospel Spirit Moved A Young Mavis Staples

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Dec. 19, 2004) Mavis Staples' life changed the day she first heard legendary American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson on her father's record player.  "Nothing had moved me like the sound of her voice on an old 78 my daddy was playing upstairs in our house," says the Grammy award-winning soul singer, who is bringing her own interpretation of Jackson's unforgettable work to Massey Hall this Thursday, on a double bill with the venerable roots/gospel group, The Blind Boys Of Alabama.  She'll be performing solo, backed by organist Stephen Smith, and showcasing material she recorded on the groundbreaking 1996 Jackson tribute CD, Spirituals & Gospel.  Now 64, Staples still remembers the chill Jackson's powerful voice sent through her at the tender age of 8.  "She was part of my life from that moment on. I ran up to the living room and asked my daddy (the late Roebuck "Pops" Staples, guitarist, songwriter and leader of the family rhythm 'n' blues band that bore his name) who that lady was. He used to play records by The Dixie Hummingbirds, The Soul Sisters, The Blind Boys Of Mississippi as well as the Blind Boys of Alabama, but after I heard Mahalia sing `Move On Up A Little Higher,' I had to play her music every day."  Three years later, The Staple Singers found themselves sharing a concert bill with the great gospel matriarch, and sharing the same dressing room.  "My father had told the others, `Don't you let Mavis drive her crazy,' but when she walked in, I couldn't help myself. She looked like a giant to me, in crimson brocade, and I jumped up to introduce myself, calling her `Sistermahaliajackson!' because that's what Daddy always called her. I told her how loud I could sing, and she laughed. After the show, she stopped me going outside to play `cause my clothes were damp, and she made me put on a dry T-shirt. She was teaching me how to look after my voice."  Staples was too young to understand how Jackson's massive, booming voice had moved her so, but now, after 40 years in the gospel/R&B concert and recording business and countless awards and a dozen Top 40 hits to her and her family's credit, she says she knows: "I was feeling the spirit for the first time, and it's the spirit that has stayed with me."  Raised in a loving, righteous Christian family and surrounded all her life by the sounds of sacred music in its manifold forms, Staples seeks the spirit in everything she sings.  Regardless of origins — secular or spiritual — her father trained his three performing daughters and a son to look for the kernel of divine inspiration in every song, she explains. That was and remains, even after Pops' passing four years ago today, The Staple Singers' stock-in-trade, the key to the unique room they occupy in the pantheon of American music, and part of the reason they are inductees in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  It's also the principle that guided her during the production of her recent solo CD, Have A Little Faith. It's an astonishingly accomplished roots/blues/gospel album that has received rave notices and, Staples believes, would have been nominated for a Grammy had the organizers not changed the categories in which it might have been eligible. 

Last year she was nominated alongside Bob Dylan for a Grammy in the Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals category for their duet on "Gotta Change My Way Of Thinking" from the album Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs Of Bob Dylan. Over the years she has recorded with The Band, Ray Charles, Nona Hendryx, George Jones, Natalie Merchant, Ann Peebles, and Delbert McClinton, among others. She has recorded with Prince on his Paisley Park label, and is rumoured to have turned down a marriage proposal from Dylan, an ardent admirer and long-time confidant.  This year she's up for Grammy nods in three categories — Best Gospel Performance for her collaboration with Dr. John on "Lay My Burden Down," from his N'awlinz Dis Dat Or D'udda, which is also nominated as Best Contemporary Blues Album; and in the Best Traditional Folk Album category as the featured artist on "Hard Times Come Again No More" from the album Beautiful Dreamer: The Songs of Stephen Foster.  "My father taught us not to care about winning awards," Staples says. "He told us we'd get our reward from God.  "Pops would listen to everything that came his way, concentrating on the lyrics. If there was something in there that moved his soul, he made it his own. He never believed a singer needed to be anything but sincere. `You don't need gimmicks to sing God's music,' he'd say when he heard me hollering like Aretha (Franklin), like some soul star I admired on the radio. `What comes from the heart reaches the heart.'"  Pops had been working on an album of his own — produced by Mavis — in Memphis when he fell ill.  "These were old songs he sang as a boy, and I asked him to record them as simply as possible, just his voice and guitar. I could add other stuff after his work was done. He took a liking to it, but there's still a lot to be done on that album. In the meantime, my sister Yvonne and (songwriter/producer) Jim Tullio convinced me to do something on my own, something to keep our name out there. I can't stop now.  "I wanted to record some songs that would shed light in these dark times, songs that are warm and positive ... healing songs."




Rock Band Queen Plans First Tour In Two Decades

Source:  Reuters News Agency

(Dec. 18, 2004) LONDON -- British rock band Queen is preparing for its first tour in 18 years, but fans are already complaining that the show can't go on without flamboyant front man Freddie Mercury. Mercury died of AIDS in 1991, and there are also doubts over whether bass guitarist John Deacon will join the aging rockers in Europe next spring. The 2005 tour will be the first time that the hugely successful group has played since it performed with Mercury in front of more than 100,000 fans at Knebworth in England in 1986. Paul Rodgers -- vocalist on Free's 1970 classic All Right Now -- takes Mercury's place alongside guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Deacon has been invited to play, but has yet to make up his mind. Promoters are aware that Queen devotees insist that filling Mercury's often outrageous platform shoes is impossible. "It's a Queen tour with Paul Rodgers, and planned for the spring, although no dates have yet been confirmed," said band agent Phil Symes. "It's not a case of Paul joining the band. The band would say that Freddie is irreplaceable, but Brian felt there was a chemistry with Paul." Queen, with hits including Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are the Champions, are one of Britain's top bands, selling more than 150 million records worldwide since the early 1970s.

Despite Mercury's death, their success has continued with compilations and prizes and the popular tribute musical We Will Rock You, which has wowed London audiences for over two years. Whether the tour can match that reception is unclear. "Huge Queen fan here, but no Freddie, no show," said one anonymous contributor to an Internet chat page, adding that to tour without Mercury was akin to The Doors' attempts to resurrect themselves long after the death of Jim Morrison. "How can it be Queen if not only Freddie is missing but also John Deacon?" wrote another. "Brian and Roger need to accept that Queen is dead, and move on." Age, however, need not be a problem for the surviving band members, who are all in their 50s. Fellow British rocker Mick Jagger completed a world tour last year when he was 60, although David Bowie, who is 57, underwent emergency heart surgery and cut short a European tour earlier this year.




Costello Cooking Up New EP, DVDs, Tour

Excerpt from
- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Dec. 17, 2004) Never one to rest on his laurels, Elvis Costello has a variety of projects on the horizon, including a 10-inch vinyl EP of previously unreleased recordings, two DVDs and a 2005 itinerary packed with touring.  First up is the seven-song vinyl release "The Clarksdale Sessions," due Jan. 25 via Lost Highway. The set chronicles a rehearsal session for Costello's latest album with the Imposters, "The Delivery Man," captured on tape at a one-room recording studio in Clarksdale, Miss.  In addition to "The Delivery Man" tracks "The Monkey" (an alternate version of "Monkey to Man") "Country Darkness," "Needle Time," "The Scarlet Tide" and the title song, "Sessions" sports a cover of the Chips Moman/Dan Penn composition "Dark End of the Street" and the previously unreleased original "In Another Room."  Costello and the Imposters recently released five additional live-in-the-studio versions of tracks from the album exclusively via Apple's iTunes Music Store as "The Futurama Sessions."  A collection of music videos and TV performances, "The Right Spectacle," will arrive on DVD Jan. 17 in the U.K. via Demon, with release plans in other territories still being finalized.  And although details are still being nailed down, April 19 will bring the release of the concert DVD "Club Date: Live in Memphis" via Eagle Rock Entertainment, taped this summer at the city's 250-capacity Hi-Tone Lounge.  The artist already has a full slate of 2005 tour dates on tap, beginning Jan. 19 in Stockholm and wrapping Feb. 20 in Manchester, England. A two-month North American run is scheduled for March, but the only dates confirmed so far are three Florida engagements: March 2 in Orlando, March 4 in Miami and March 5 in Tampa.  Finally, Costello was nominated for three Grammys last week: best rock album for "The Delivery Man," best rock performance by a duo our group with vocal for "Monkey to Man" and best male pop vocal performance for "De-Lovely," from the film of the same name.

Here are Elvis Costello's tour dates:

Jan. 19: Stockholm (Concert House)
Jan. 21: Oslo (Rockefeller)
Jan. 22: Copenhagen (Vera)
Jan. 24: Utrecht, Holland (Music Centrum)
Jan. 26: Antwerp (Koningen Elizabeth Hall)
Jan. 28: Berlin (UDK)
Jan. 29: Hamburg (Kampnagel)
Jan. 30: Frankfurt (Mouson Turm)
Feb. 1: Murcia, Spain (Auditorio de Murcia)
Feb. 2: Valencia, Spain (Palau De La Musica)
Feb. 5: Milan (Auditorium Verdi)
Feb. 6: Rome (Parco Della Musica)
Feb. 9: Brighton, England (Brighton Dome)
Feb. 10: London (Hammersmith Apollo)
Feb. 12: Bristol, England (Colston Hall)
Feb. 13: Coventry, England (Warwick Arts Center)
Feb. 14: Edinburgh, England (Usher Hall)
Feb. 16: Liverpool, England (Royal Court)
Feb. 17: Sheffield, England (Octagon)
Feb. 18: Buxton, England (Opera House)
Feb. 20: Manchester, England (Bridgewater Hall)
March 2: Orlando, Fla. (House of Blues)
March 4: Miami (Jackie Gleason Theatre)
March 5: Tampa (Tampa Theatre)




R&B Legend Leon Ware Is Back

Source: Rick Scott / Great Scott P.R.oductions / 310.274.0248 /

(Dec. 22, 2004) Sensual, soulful, exotic and beautiful appropriately describe the forthcoming album from legendary singer-songwriter Leon Ware.  The man who wrote hits for such icons as Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, and Maxwell and has been sampled by Prince, Aaliyah, Tupac, G-Unit, Ice Cube, Brandy and so many others is boldly set to take a step in a new direction even as he prepares to celebrate his 65th birthday.  A Kiss In The Sand is an elegant and inspired collection of what Ware calls “R&Bossa,” which reflects the marriage of R&B and Brazilian jazz. The CD will be released February 1. Although his songs have already thrived and survived for over four decades and are certain to endure, Ware still has plenty to say and he prefers to challenge himself as opposed to resting on his considerable accomplishments.  He remains hip, relevant and vital, a messenger of love and an optimistic poet despite the unfortunate passing of his beloved daughter, for whom this album is dedicated to (he wrote the album’s “Straight To My Soul” with Laura). This collection of fourteen new songs, written or co-written by Ware, is heartfelt and intimate.  The melodies are gorgeous and Ware’s laid-back vocals are suave and silky smooth.  His lyrical muse meanders between polar opposites: sensualism and spirituality. The production, which is by Ware along with Brazilian guitarist Sandro Albert, is warm, acoustic and classy. A Kiss In The Sand is the kind of record perfect for romantic winter nights by the fireplace or lazy summer afternoons on the beach. At this point in his life, Ware feels a sense of urgency and is passionate about saying something through his songs that can uplift and enlighten mankind with the time that he has left on this plane. Although this is his tenth album, he’s primarily been behind the scenes in the recording studio writing for others. Now he has a great desire for human contact, taking his music directly to the people to embrace and caress them through song. Plans are in the works to get Ware out on the road where he can do just that.  We ask that you please give a listen to this special record and consider Ware for a feature, interview, album review, performance or an appropriate roundup piece. Thanks for your consideration.  




Quincy To Be Honoured During UNCF Benefit

Excerpt from

(Dec. 16, 2004) *Legendary songwriter, composer and producer, Quincy Jones, will receive an all-star tribute for his lifetime achievements on the United Negro College Fund's (UNCF) annual televised fundraiser, "An Evening of Stars." Check local listings for the airdate in your area. Performing for Jones at a gala celebration previously taped at Hollywood's Kodak Theater were Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls, Lionel Richie, Chaka Khan, Musiq, Joss Stone, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Savion Glover, Brian McKnight and Tamia. Gospel performances include top selling artists Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin and Bebe Winans.      Mo'Nique, Salma Hayek, Debbie Allen, Bill Cosby and Whoopi Goldberg are among the featured presenters to salute Jones, while long-time homegirl Oprah Winfrey presents him with UNCF's "Award of Excellence."  The first Lou Rawls Parade of Stars aired in 1979, and has since become one of the longest running and most successful televised events in U.S. history, raising over $200 million to supplement the cost of higher education for its scholarship recipients and member institutions.




Ludacris Runs ‘Red Light’ To No. 1

Excerpt from

(Dec. 16, 2004) *The reign lasted one-week for Jigga’s "MTV Ultimate Mash-Ups Presents Jay-Z/Linkin Park: Collision Course," as Atlanta rapper Ludacris stomps into the No. 1 spot on The Billboard 200 album charts with his latest, “Red Light District.”  Luda’s fourth Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam South CD sold 322,000 copies in its debut week, and follows-up last year’s No. 1 entry of “Chicken-N-Beer,” which pulled in 430,000 copies and remained in the top tier for five weeks. Jay-Z and Linkin Park fall to No. 9 this week. U2's "How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" (Interscope) remains at No. 2, while Eminem's "Encore" (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope climbs to No. 3. Lindsay Lohan’s "Speak" (Casablanca/Universal) debuts at No. 4, the 17th instalment of "NOW That's What I Call Music!" (Sony BMG/Universal/EMI/Zomba/Capitol) jumps to No. 5, Shania Twain's Mercury Nashville greatest hits set remains at No. 6, Destiny's Child's "Destiny Fulfilled" (Sony Urban Music/Columbia) sits at No. 7, Toby Keith's "Greatest Hits 2" (DreamWorks Nashville/Interscope) is ranked 8th, and after falling to No. 13 last week, Clay Aiken's "Merry Christmas With Love" (RCA) rebounds to close out the top 10.




Lopez 'Rebirth' Coming In March

Source: Michele Schweitzer / M-Relations / 212-661-9411 /; Lois Najarian / Epic Records  212-833-7983 /

(Dec. 16, 2004) NEW YORK -- Coming March 1, 2005 Jennifer Lopez -- who's sold over 35 million records worldwide - emerges with the highly anticipated new album entitled Rebirth. This is Jennifer's first new music since This is Me ... Then, which spawned the smash hit "Jenny From the Block." Rebirth blasts off on New Year's Eve when MTV gives the first sneak peak of the video for first single "Get Right" (produced by Rich Harrison). Then, after AOL's first listen on January 2, "Get Right" will be on radio airwaves everywhere.  On January 5th, MTV will premiere the Making the Video episode. The video in its entirety will air on MTV's TRL, BET and FUSE on January 6th. Recorded over the last year, Rebirth was co-Executive Produced by Jennifer's long-time producing partner Corey Rooney. Other guests on the album include Fat Joe, Marc Anthony and Fabolous who joins Jennifer on a special version of "Get Right". Other song titles include "Hold You Down", "Step Into My World", "Still Around" and "Cherry Pie." Rebirth arrives on March 1.




Maxi Priest’s 'I Believe' Is His First Chart Hit In Five Years

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Dec. 16, 2004) London-based reggae singer Maxi Priest is hot on the South Florida and New York reggae charts with his I Believe.  The song produced by Donovan ‘Vendetta’ Bennett and released on the Don Corleon label for the Drop Leaf rhythm, is number 10 this week on the New York tally. Known for hits such as Wild World, That Girl, Close to You, Set the Night to Music, House Call and Just a Little Bit Longer, Priest last hit the New York Reggae chart five years ago in 1999, when his combination single Mary’s Got a Baby featuring Beenie Man, stalled at number nine.




Mariah In Disney’s Christmas Parade

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(Dec. 17, 2004) *Mariah Carey will sing “Joy To The World” and her version of "All I Want For Christmas” on the 21st Annual Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade, airing Dec. 25 from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, 1 to 3 p.m. ET on ABC.  Carey will join Ashanti, Wynonna Judd, Stacie Orrico, SheDaisy and former "American Idol" finalists Diana DeGarmo and Josh Gracin for the special, now in its 21st year airing on television. Presiding over the festivities are Regis Philbin -- who has hosted more Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parades than anyone -- and his “Live! With Regis & Kelly” co-star Kelly Ripa.  In other Mariah news, the singer will also hosts the Dec. 31 grand opening of Pure nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.  As previously reported, Carey is also launching the fashion line Kiss Kiss next year, and her newest album, "Emancipation of Mimi," is due March 22 via Island Def Jam. She’s also working on a Broadway show for Christmas 2005.




Fat Joe Donates Computers

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(Dec. 17, 2004) *Fat Joe will donate 20 Hip-e computers to his Bronx Grammar School, PS 146, as a holiday gift on Tuesday. The idea came out of conversations that he had with Assemblyman Rubin Diaz, who will also attend the assembly and multimedia room for the presentation.  In addition to the computers, Joe is also giving money to the school’s effort to repaint and buy new furniture for the computer multimedia room. Darlene Stokes-McWhales, the principal of PS 146, has also agreed to rename the room after Joe's late sister Lisa Cartagena, who passed away during childbirth.  "Each year, I make sure to give back to my community and to the children of New York City in some way, by giving toys at Christmas to children in hospitals to serving as Principal for the Day at schools in the Bronx and more,” the Terror Squad vet said in a statement. “I don't know if anything else I do charity-wise will top what I'm doing for my old grammar school. This was a school that had no computers for their children, so to be able to come in and give them 20 along with a new multimedia room that will be named after and dedicated to my sister is phenomenal and makes me feel so grateful that I'm in a position to give back to the community that helped make me who I am today."




T-Boz, Chilli Look For Collaborators

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(Dec. 19, 20040 Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins are looking to collaborate with a new voice, but the TLC stars insist they're not trying to replace the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.  As previously reported, the pair announced they were launching a search to find a vocalist to perform with them in concert and for one track on TLC's upcoming greatest hits project, a journey that will be the subject of a UPN reality show, "R U The Girl with T-Boz and Chilli."  "Nothing has changed. We're not replacing Lisa," Thomas says. "We're not looking for a new member." Some fans were concerned that Thomas and Watkins were seeking to fill the shoes of Lopes, who died in a car crash in Honduras in 2002.  But the duo said they would never try to replace Lopes, perhaps the most dynamic member of the trio, with her colorful personality and energetic raps.  "We started out with our fans and it's all about our greatest hits," Thomas said. "Basically, we are trying to give back to our fans and find one girl and give her a chance of a lifetime, to do one last performance with TLC."   "We kind of call it, like, fan appreciation," said Watkins. "We started together and we want to end it together, and that's something that Lisa would have been fond of."   TLC is one of the best-selling girl groups in music history. Its last studio album was 2002's "3D."




TLC Elaborates On UPN Show

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(Dec. 20, 2004) Nothing has changed. We're not replacing Lisa,” says TLC member Chilli, who clarified in a recent AP interview that their forthcoming UPN reality show "R U The Girl with T-Boz and Chilli" is not a search for a permanent member to step in for the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez  Last month, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins announced they were launching a search to find a singer to join them on stage for one track on TLC’s  upcoming greatest hits project — which will be chronicled on the UPN reality show.  The group’s fans, however, thought the duo was looking to find a third member. "We started out with our fans and it's all about our greatest hits," Chilli said. "Basically, we are trying to give back to our fans and find one girl and give her a chance of a lifetime, to do one last performance with TLC."  "We kind of call it, like, fan appreciation," said T-Boz. "We started together and we want to end it together, and that's something that Lisa would have been fond of."




'Ray' Spawns Second Soundtrack Album

Excerpt from - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

(Dec. 20, 2004) The hit Ray Charles biopic "Ray" will spawn a second soundtrack early next year. The 17-track "Ray: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Vol. 2" will arrive Feb. 1 via Rhino and features several tracks the late Charles re-recorded specifically for the project.  Among them are "Leave My Woman Alone," "Rockhouse Parts 1 and 2" and "I Believe to My Soul." The versions of "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" and "You Don't Know Me/Drown in My Own Tears" date back to 2002, when the film was in its earliest stages.  Other Charles favorites set to appear on "Vol. 2" include "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Betty Carter, "Makin' Whoopee," "Lonely Avenue," "Busted" and "But on the Other Hand Baby."  The first "Ray" soundtrack has been a huge hit, peaking at No. 9 and having sold more than 517,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The film has garnered Oscar buzz for star Jamie Foxx, who also earned a Golden Globe nomination for best performance by an actor in a motion picture (musical or comedy) for his portrayal of Charles.




B.B. Up For Top Blues Honour

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(Dec. 20, 2004)  *B.B. King will compete against soul-bluesman Bobby Rush, harmonica player Kim Wilson, pianist Pinetop Perkins and vocalist Solomon Burke in the category of blues entertainer of the year at the 2005 W.C. Handy Blues Awards, presented annually by the non-profit Memphis-based Blues Foundation.     The winners will be announced in a ceremony on May 5 at the Cook Convention Center in Memphis. Blues Foundation members vote on the winners. The Holmes Brothers' Alligator Records album "Simple Truths" was nominated for blues album of the year and contemporary blues album of the year, and the group will compete for blues band of the year. Additionally, Wendell Holmes' "Run Myself Out of Town" was nominated for blues song of the year; his brother Sherman received a nod for instrumentalist/bass, while bandmate Popsy Dixon was tagged in the instrumentalist/drums category.  Harmonica player Paul Oscher, a veteran of Muddy Waters' band, received four nominations. Rush, Wilson, Perkins, singer-guitarist W.C. Clark, harp players Rod Piazza, James Harman and Charlie Musselwhite and vocalist Mavis Staples received three nominations each.




Second ‘Ray’ Soundtrack Due In Jan.

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(Dec. 21, 2004) *Before Ray Charles death last June, the legendary artist re-recorded some of his classic tunes for the Universal biopic “Ray,” starring Jamie Foxx. On Feb. 1, those 17 tracks will be available in stores under the title “Ray: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Vol. 2.,” via Rhino Records. Tracks included on “Vol 2” include “Leave My Woman Alone," "Rockhouse Parts 1 and 2" and "I Believe to My Soul." The versions of "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" and "You Don't Know Me/Drown in My Own Tears" date back to 2002, when the film was in its earliest stages. "Vol. 2" also features "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Betty Carter, "Makin' Whoopee," "Lonely Avenue," "Busted" and "But on the Other Hand Baby." The first "Ray" soundtrack peaked at No. 9 and has sold more than 517,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.




Shar Jackson Reviving Girl Group

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(Dec. 21, 2004)   *Mpulz, a five-member girl group that includes “Moesha” vet Shar Jackson, is finally ready to drop their debut album after first appearing on 2001’s “The Princess Diaries” soundtrack. "It's a five-girl group, multiracial, pop, R&Bish, really, really, funky," Jackson told MTV.   The four-year delay in their album release was caused by line-up changes, however 2005 promises to be busy for the ladies.  The CD will include songs written by Jackson about her relationship with her babydaddy (twice over) Kevin Federline, who is now married to Britney Spears. The first single, "Hot Girls," is due early next year.  In the meantime, Jackson is busy shooting a reality show about her life as a mother of four: (Cassie, 9; Donnie, 11; and Spears’ step-children Kori, 2: and Kaleb, who turned five-months-old yesterday).     "It's just following the life of a single mom in Hollywood, you know, just raising her kids and doing her thing,” she said.




Lil Jon, 213 Impact Indie Charts

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(Dec. 21, 2004) *For the second consecutive year, Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz rank No. 1 on the year-end Top Independent Albums chart, capping 2004 with two of the top five titles on the indie chart. Lil Jon, Big Sam and Lil Bo’s BME/TVT release "Kings of Crunk" has spent more than 100 weeks on the Top Independent Albums chart, and has now topped the list two years running. To date, the album has sold more than 2.2 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.   Lil Jon’s spawn – the Ying Yang Twins – rank No. 2 on the year-end chart due to their successful ColliPark/TVT album "Me & My Brother."  The Doggystyle/TVT-released 213 album "The Hard Way,” featuring Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg and Warren G, finished the year at No. 6, while rapper Pitbull ranked No. 10 with his Diaz Brothers/TVT debut "M.I.A.M.I."  Notice how indie label TVT is in the mix with all of the above. The New York-based label is No. 1 on the Top Independent Album Labels chart, housing five of the top 10 indie albums of the year.




Bluesman Son Seals Dies

Excerpt from - Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

(Dec. 21, 2004) Noted blues guitarist Son Seals died yesterday (Dec. 20) in Chicago of complications from diabetes. He was 62.  Born Frank Seals in Osceola, Ark., he started his musical career by mastering the drums by his early teens, taking over guitar and leading his own band before reaching his 20s. Moving to Chicago in 1971, Seals played regular gigs on the city's South Side with such legendary artists as Junior Wells and Buddy Guy.  Seals made his recording debut in 1973 with the "The Son Seals Blues Band," released by Alligator Records, which in 2002 issued a career retrospective, "Deluxe Edition."  Among many honours, Seals was the winner of W.C. Handy Blues Awards in 1985, 1987 and 2001. He was nominated for a Grammy in 1980 for his participation in the live compilation "Blues Deluxe," recorded at the Chicagofest event with Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and others.  Seals, who made his last public performance appearance in October in California, is survived by a sister and 14 children. At deadline, funeral arrangements had not yet been announced.




Roberta Flack Creating Music School

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(Dec. 21, 2004) Veteran R&B singer Roberta Flack plans to transform two abandoned brownstones in Harlem into a school of music to be opened next fall.   The 126th Street facility will offer free liberal arts classes for talented students, Flack told the New York Post. It will house a permanent faculty of teachers, classrooms, a recording studio, an auditorium and performance cafe.  Flack has already secured a $1 million investment from Carver Federal Savings Bank and is seeking an additional $2 million in donations and private investments.  "There are so many young artists who have talent but they need support," said the 65-year-old Grammy-winning singer, who studied piano at Howard University in Washington. "I had such good teachers when I was young, I just wanted to give some of that back."







Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Bruce Springsteen, Live Collection, Sony Japan
N.O.R.E., Norminacle, Roc-A-Fella
N.O.R.E., Norminacle [Clean], Roc-A-Fella
Rufus Wainwright, Want Two [Bonus Tracks & DVD], Geffen International
Shakira, Laundry Service [Bonus Track], Sony Japan
Various Artists, Hip-Hop Hits, Vol. 9, Image
Various Artists, Much Music: Big Shiny Tunes, Vol. 9, EMI

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Chara, Live 97-99 Mood, Sony Japan
Earth Wind & Fire, Gratitude [Vinyl Classics], Sony International
Kylie Minogue, Ultimate Kylie, Festival
No Doubt, It's My Life [Canada EP], Universal International
Santana, Abraxas, Sony International
Various Artists, Best Of Soul [Madacy Box Set], Madacy





Ontario Film Industry To Get $48-Million Package

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Allison Dunfield

(Dec. 21, 2004)

Workers employed in Ontario's film and television industry got a pre-Christmas present from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on Tuesday. The province will provide enhanced tax credits in a package worth $48-million for members of the industry. Film and television crews have been suffering from a loss of work in Ontario as a result of fewer productions in the province, blamed on the SARS outbreak, global economic uncertainty and increased incentives in other provinces and abroad. Industry officials applauded the move. "I think it's terrific," Richard Perotto, business representative for International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees local 667 Toronto, told "This is a much-needed tax credit increase. We've been working on it for almost two years," he said. "There's quite a relief and the timing couldn't be better for a Christmas present."

The head of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema in Toronto, a professional organization representing English-language performers working in Canada, also said he was pleased with the move. "The more than 20,000 people who work in Ontario's film and television business were given their future back today," Brian Topp, executive director of ACTRA Toronto and co-chairman of Film Ontario, said in a release. "Today's announcement will pay off in greater stability, in strengthening and building Ontario's role as Canada's domestic film and television centre, and in greater competitiveness in the global production industry." Mr. McGuinty's plan calls for: increasing the Ontario Film and Television tax credit for domestic productions to 30 per cent from 20 per cent for five years, maintaining the current 10 per cent regional bonus credit and boosting the Ontario tax credit for foreign productions to 18 per cent from 11 per cent. Mr. Perotto said the foreign tax credit is of great importance to the survival of the industry. He said the Liberals went above and beyond their election promise because they did not promise to boost foreign credits at that time. The industry says it suffered a 36-per-cent decline in foreign-production shoots in 2003 and expects a drop of as much as 25 per cent this year.

"Our argument there was, to help the infrastructure in Ontario, you have to boost the foreign tax credit," Mr. Perotto said. Domestic shoots invariably have lower budgets and, therefore, shorter production schedules with less call for a big pool of workers, and smaller paycheques for those who do work Thousands of workers in the Ontario film industry flooded the legislature earlier this month in a one-day rally calling on the government to raise the tax credit for domestic productions, as was promised by the Liberals during their election campaign. Mr. Perotto said he feels the rally, which was attended by about 5,000 people, including a number of well-known Canadian actors, helped convince the government that the industry needed help.  Finance Minister Greg Sorbara told members of the industry Tuesday that the government is committed to the industry. "We see this investment as a way to stimulate growth and job creation." Mr. Sorbara had said earlier this fall that he wasn't in favour of boosting the tax credits and said the government would try to find another way to help the industry, including training more skilled workers. However, he was immediately criticized by the Conservatives, who argued that workers are already among the best in the world and what they need are a solid number of productions coming into the province. Culture Minister Madeleine Meilleur said Tuesday that Ontario's film and television industry contributes $2-billion a year to the province's economy. All of the proposals must first be approved by the Ontario legislature. If they are, they would come into effect Jan. 1, 2005. They would be subject to review by the government, which would look at whether the tax credits are helping the industry meet "their objective of sustaining and strengthening film and television production activity in Ontario." Today's move, seen as a final chapter in the difficulty suffered by the industry by some, comes after the Ontario Liberals met with industry representatives Dec. 8 and agreed afterwards that the situation was urgent and required a "timely response."

Veteran actor Gordon Pinsent said Tuesday that the government knows it can't backtrack on its promise after last month's protest at the legislature. Actress Luba Goy, star of Royal Canadian Air Farce, said even staff on her hit television show have been hurt by the downturn in productions in Ontario.  Thanks to a soft Canadian dollar and a pioneering regime of tax credits, Ontario in general (and Toronto in particular) became the incarnation of "Hollywood North" through much of the 1990s, generating in 2000-2001 almost $2-billion in production activity. But now with a Canadian dollar rising against the U.S. dollar, coupled with a weakened U.S. economy, post-Sept. 11 global uncertainty and the rise of tempting film incentive packages in locations as varied as Malta, Iceland, South Carolina, New York and Manitoba, Ontario's film and TV sector found itself in a downward spiral. Indeed, both Ontario and its main rival, British Columbia, are expecting production revenues in each province to dip below $800-million for 2004. However, Mr. Perotto said the government's announcement should help the province get back on its feet. There are several green-lit productions scheduled for early in 2005, he said, but more importantly, the tax credits will help television productions which are bound by tight budgets. With a file from James Adams and Canadian Press




Child of the Revolution

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Simon Houpt

(Dec. 16, 2004)  NEW YORK - Zhang Yimou has the grim demeanour of someone who came of age during the Cultural Revolution. Smiles don't often cross his face, and he tends to treat historical irony as something that must be tolerated rather than enjoyed. But on a recent visit from his home in Beijing to New York, where he presented his latest film, the martial arts romance House of Flying Daggers, he allowed himself a mild snicker when the allegations of his critics arose in conversation.  It seems that some believe Zhang, who has endured occasional clampdowns on his activities by Chinese officials arbitrarily displeased with his films, turned to martial arts partly to curry favour with the authorities. Directors know that making a martial-arts picture is almost guaranteed to raise little notice from authorities, especially if the movie is set in the past and therefore less likely to offer a critique of the state of contemporary China. Zhang, 53, allows himself a faint grin as he explains that indulging in martial-arts entertainments used to be an extremely dangerous activity. In 1966, the year of the Cultural Revolution, Zhang was just a teenaged boy eager for something new and exciting. One of his friends had gotten his hands on contraband. "I don't know where it came from but somehow, somebody got a hold of this old Chinese martial-arts novel that was written up to down rather than right to left in traditional characters -- it was probably printed either before Liberation, or came from Hong Kong or Taiwan, because they didn't have books like that during this period in China," Zhang says. "Me and my friends were just completely enraptured by this book, and we tore it apart so that we could all read it." They each took a segment of about 10 pages, which they raced through, then exchanged it for another. "The structure was all screwed up, because we didn't know what came first or what came after. So I read the whole book, but in a completely mixed-up order."

At night, they hid the book between the bricks at a nearby construction site. "There was this threat of reading it, because if somebody caught us we could be in big trouble, not only us, but our families could face great danger." Which might go some way toward explaining why Zhang made more than 10 features, from his 1987 directorial debut Red Sorghum to the voluptuous melodrama of Raise the Red Lantern (1991) and Happy Times (2001), his only comedy, before turning to martial arts with Hero. That film, which was nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar, became one of the most successful movies at the Chinese box office before making its way to North American cinemas last summer. But even now, Zhang is barely acquainted with the genre. "I really hate to say it, but up until today I think I haven't seen probably more than 15 martial-arts movies." But like a master swordsman who plays out in his mind the multiple possibilities of a fight before even drawing his weapon, Zhang has been planning the films for much of his life. That banned book he read as a teenager led to a life-long habit of consuming martial-arts novels like popcorn. Whenever he is on a film set, waiting for a shot to be set up or costumes to be changed, he can be found in his director's chair, riveted by whichever martial-arts book he is reading. "A lot of people have criticized me for these last two films, saying, 'You don't understand martial-arts cinema, that's not your forte and you shouldn't be making these films.' I admit, I don't understand martial-arts cinema," he says nonchalantly. "All of it, for me, is an exercise of the imagination, it's my personal imagination of what this genre is about." But his critics saw other problems. Hero made a sympathetic character out of the King of Qin, a figure who is rarely viewed with ambivalence. Qin Shihuang was the first monarch to unite the seven warring states of China under a single throne, and he built the Great Wall. But his achievements are marred by his legendary brutality, a subject barely acknowledged by Hero. Some felt that Zhang was soft-pedaling the violent reality in accord with the favourable official view of the emperor. "Over the years there have been two fundamental lines of criticism about my work," Zhang responds. "The first is that I kiss foreigners' asses, I make films for them. The second is that now I'm kissing the government's ass, or making films for the Chinese government. If that's right, when am I going to make films for myself?" It would be hard to argue that House of Flying Daggers is a pro-government film, since it returns Zhang to his celebration of rebels that we saw in films such as The Story of Qiu Ju. But it is really much more interested in the passionate sway of love and chopsocky. "I used the martial-arts genre as a mask to tell this love story, because the genre often tells stories about revenge, or people fighting to win some weapon, or some magic power, but very seldom do you use the genre of martial arts to tell a story about love." Set in 859 AD, during the decline of the Tang Dynasty, the picture opens with a clipped conversation between the police captain Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and his partner Leo (Andy Lau) about the anti-government alliance known as the House of Flying Daggers. Jin follows up a rumour about a new dancer at a local brothel who is said to be a member of the rebels. When he sees Mei (Zhang Ziyi), he is struck not just by her beauty but by the fact that she is blind. And she makes one hell of a warrior.

"There is a tradition in martial-arts film and literature of people with handicaps kind of overcompensating, or excelling. The master hidden in the handicapped old man," Zhang explains. One could say that Zhang himself overcame a severe handicap to become a master. During the Chinese civil war of the mid-1940s, Zhang's parents had been strong supporters of the opposition party, a stance that unwittingly condemned them and their son to a lifetime of suspicion. He doesn't dwell on that, but he will allow himself one other mild joke about the effect of oppression on his creative life, suggesting that the monochromatic aesthetic of his youth may have helped him cultivate his extraordinary eye for detail and beauty. "When I was young, from the age of 16 to 26, that was the time of the Cultural Revolution in China," he says. "So everything I saw was red."




Mission in the Motherland

Excerpt from - By
Mr. Jawn Murray (Washington, D.C.)

(Dec. 16, 2004) Sounds like Tyrese is becoming the male Renée Zellweger.  The Watts, Calif.-bred singer-actor had to pack on 45 pounds for his upcoming starring role in the Fox film Flight of the Phoenix.  “I had to put on a lot of weight because they were telling me that Dennis Quaid is 50 years old, and I’m 25, so it wasn’t believable at my natural weight for me to be on the side of him as a co-pilot because I looked too young.  I put on the weight and did what I had to do,” he explained when I caught up with the singer at the Ritz Carlton in Philadelphia this past weekend. And like Zellweger typically does after completing her Bridget Jones films, Tyrese quickly shed the access weight to shoot another movie.  “I had to take all of that weight right back off for Annapolis,” he said, laughing.  Annapolis shot this fall in Philly and will wrap production this Friday, the same day as Flight of the Phoenix hits theatres. Tyrese shot Flight of the Phoenix for almost five months in Namibia, Africa and was enlightened by his experience in the motherland.  “It was crazy.  I didn’t really know to expect when I got there.  In my mind, I was thinking about the stereotypes.  When I landed, I was expecting to see just the normal images they show on the Discovery Channel of just people naked with leaves on and so forth,” he confessed, “But, when I got there, I noticed their first language is English.  The most common language in Africa is English, and then they have all of their tribal languages.  There are over 78 different languages throughout Africa.  Outside of the countries that the people are from, they’re all from individual tribes.  That was some s—t to me because that’s like saying, ‘I’m from California, but I’m from Hover Gangs Crip.’  So they say, ‘I’m from Africa, but I’m from this tribe.’  So that was a different experience for me.” Already known for his humanitarian work in the Watts community of California, Tyrese decided to display consciousness abroad.  He and co-star Quaid answered an ad a local mother ran in the paper looking for financial contributions to help her son have heart surgery.  Both actors gave money to help the child have his surgery, and then took $50,000 a piece and created the Heart to Heart Sole’ Fund.  “I’ve done a lot to support my community in Watts, Calif., but it felt real good to do something worthwhile in Africa,” shared Tyrese.  Unfortunately, despite both stars’ efforts, the kid died after the first phase of the medical surgery.   

That wasn’t all either.  The singer then paid for a funeral for an African woman named Anna who lived to be 126 years old.  He penned a song called “Chapter 126” for the woman, and it was actually No. 1 for four weeks on the African music charts.  And it ended up being the theme song for the 10th anniversary of apartheid ending.   He also organized a concert in Anna’s memory that more than 40,000 people attended.  “I did a free concert on a beach, and we promoted it in like three or four days.  We had these fireworks that they had never seen.  This big stage and speakers.  Every contact I could get a hold of to make this event grand, I did it,” he said. In addition to his charitable work in Africa, Tyrese also has fond memories of his meeting with the Prime Minister of Namibia.  “He came to the set to meet me and the rest of the cast.  I ended up connecting with him like crazy.  We had dinner at my house, I was at his house and his wife was real cool.  I felt like I was meeting the father from Zamunda on Coming To America.  They came over, and she had a gown on and he had the hat.  I felt like singing, “She’s a queen to be!”  When he came to visit, I ended up being on the cover of The Namibian Times,” he remembered. While the J. Records recording artist learned a lot of lessons firsthand from being in Africa, he believes Flight of the Phoenix has some messages of its own to convey.  “For me, that experience was good because you realize you only get a lot of big s—t done by being a team player.  There’s no letter “I” in the word team.” He continued: “I think it’s one of the greatest adventure movies of all times.  It represents the human spirit and shows people that if you get past what you stand for and all of your personal preferences, and get together for one cause, you can survive.” Flight of the Phoenix hits theatres nationwide this Friday.




Cosby’s Character Comes Alive

Excerpt from - By Mr. Jawn Murray (Washington, D.C.)

(Dec. 16, 2004) Bill Cosby’s famed cartoon series comes to life in its big screen adaptation.  While the film’s trailers may mislead one into thinking this film is either corny or trite, Fat Albert is far from that.  In typical Cosby fashion, this film is full of positive messages of hope, encouragement and self-esteem building.  Such themes are cleverly tackled as well, so that the storylines aren’t forced and messages or not perceived contrived. Saturday Night Live star Kenan Thompson, who recently made national headlines for his portrayal of Star Jones on the hit sketch comedy, put on the 30-pound fat suit and convincingly captured a very-human Fat Albert.  “I like the idea of the atypical hero guy being Fat Albert and think it was creative of Bill to go in that direction for a hero,” said Thompson of his role.  “He wasn’t a muscle bound guy or whatever.  Just the fact that he always wanted to solve problems and he wanted to keep everyone so in check, I thought that was cool.”     He’s supported by a bevy of high-energy television stars and Hollywood newcomers who round out the cast.  Among them are Kyla Pratt (One on One), Keith D. Robinson (American Dreams), singer Omarion, Jermaine Williams (The Jersey), Dania Ramirez (She Hate Me), singer Marques Houston, Shedrack Anderson III (Just Deal), Alphonso McAuley (Joan of Arcadia) and newcomer Aaron A. Frazier. Cosby himself makes a cameo in the film and viewers learn a significant lesson about the origins of the original cartoon.  The aforementioned brings a very adult balance to a film skewed to a demographic of those 13 years old and younger.    Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukah, take the family out to see one the best feel-good movies of the year.  Fat Albert is in theatres on Christmas Day. 




Film News: ‘Lemony’ Fresh Box Office; ‘I, Robot’s’ Visuals; ‘Coach Carter’ In The Desert

Excerpt from

*“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” left the competition with a  sour taste in their mouths, pulling $30.2 million to debut at first place at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates released Sunday.  While “Ocean’s Twelve” dropped to No. 2, “Spanglish,” starring Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni and Spanish actress Paz Vega, entered at No. 3 with an estimated weekend take of $9 million. Here’s the full top ten:

1. "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," $30.2 million
2. "Ocean's Twelve," $18.3 million.
3. "Spanglish," $9 million
4. "The Polar Express," $8.6 million.
5. "Blade: Trinity," $6.6 million.
6. "National Treasure," $6.1 million.
7. "Christmas With the Kranks," $5.7 million.
8. "The Flight of the Phoenix," $5.1 million.
9. "Closer," $3.5 million.
10. "The Incredibles," $3.3 million.

*Will Smith’s “I, Robot” is in the running for an achievement in visual effects Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday. The futuristic flick faces competition from "The Aviator," "The Day After Tomorrow," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events," "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" and "Spider-Man 2." Academy members will pick three of these seven films for the Oscar consideration. Finalists will be announced along with nominations in 23 other categories on Jan. 25.

*The forthcoming Samuel L. Jackson, Ashanti film “Coach Carter” will open the 16th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival, which is set to screen some 190 films from 65 countries from Jan. 6-16. “Coach Carter” tells the true story of high school basketball coach Ken Carter (Jackson), who benched his undefeated team due to their unacceptable academic record in 1999.




World Film Festival Sues Over Potential Rival

Source:  Canadian Press

(Dec. 16, 2004) MONTREAL -- The organizers of Montreal's World Film Festival are suing Telefilm Canada to stop the creation of a rival film festival. The lawsuit was filed in Quebec Superior Court against the federal funding agency. "We're suing . . . to put an end to this conspiracy to put us out of business," Claude-Armand Sheppard, a lawyer representing the Montreal festival, said yesterday. CP  




Competing Festivals To Confuse Montreal's Film Scene

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By James Adams

(Dec. 18, 2004) Montreal film buffs are facing a stormy and confusing future as it appears the city may have as many as three major international movie festivals over the next two or three years. Yesterday, officials from Telefilm Canada and its Quebec counterpart, the Société de développement des enterprises culturelles, announced they are backing a proposal for a new international film "project" in Montreal from L'Équipe Spectra, organizers of the city's successful jazz and French music festivals. A "transitional" film festival is set for next October, with a more fully established version in 2006.  A six-member Telefilm and SODEC committee spent almost three months reviewing proposals from four groups for the new event after the two government agencies announced they would no longer finance the World Film Festival, which marks its 29th anniversary next year.  Previously, the WFF received about $1-million annually from Telefilm and SODEC. After the publication in July of a report damning the administration and performance of the WFF, Telefilm and SODEC said they wanted to create a new festival, one that would eventually supplant the WFF, and called on interested parties to submit proposals by early October. 

The WFF, in the meantime, has refused to fold and announced its intention to run its 10-day event as usual in 2005, starting Aug. 25. Indeed, it has already confirmed several major corporate sponsors, including Air Canada and Visa, and named the head of its international jury. On Dec. 10, it also sued Telefilm. Further complicating matters yesterday was Telefilm's declaration that, in 2005 at least, "the new festival [would] exist alongside" the extant Festival du nouveau cinéma, which Quebec culture maven Daniel Langlois has run for more than 30 years.  Mr. Langlois, in fact, submitted a proposal in October to organize the new Telefilm-inspired festival. But after his submission was turned down, he agreed this month to both join the new festival's board, led by L'Équipe Spectra, and allow it to create what Telefilm chairman Charles Bélanger called an "enhanced Festival du nouveau cinéma" for 2005. What remains unclear after a press conference yesterday is whether the Festival du nouveau cinéma will continue separately after 2005, or be folded into the 2006 edition of the new Telefilm-backed event. "That's two years down the road," Mr. Bélanger said. "I don't have a clue how things will evolve."




The Story Behind ‘Hotel Rwanda’

Excerpt from

(Dec. 22, 2004) *“I never have any hopes that any film I do is going to be seen or change anything in a social context,” begins Don Cheadle, star of the penetrating new film “Hotel Rwanda,” in limited theatres this weekend.   The 40-year-old actor delivers his best performance to date as a hotel worker in Rwanda who housed thousands of Tutsi refugees from the Hutu militia during the outbreak of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.  The story itself is worthy of being shouted from the rooftops to every Western country who stood by and did nothing to help, but the film's social significance wasn’t the initial reason for Cheadle’s decision to take on the role.   “I like movies that are about something, but that’s not really the first thing that made me want to do the film,” he says. “I read a script that I thought was a great script about a man and his family surviving and overcoming unbelievable odds. It’s a thriller, and it’s a love story at its core, and those are the things that turned me on about it. Now when I started doing my research and learned in detail what had happened in the genocide and the events that went into creating the circumstances that allowed it to happen, I became personally motivated to address it and it did change my life.” The Rwandan genocide that began on April 6, 1994 had roots stretching all the way back to the colonization of the region by Belgium in 1918. The region was then known as Rwanda-Burundi. What happened on April 6, explains director Terry George, stems from “the legacy of the Belgian colonists and how they carried out that classic old colonial trick of divide and conquer, where they took what was essentially two ethnic groups that had integrated to a reasonable extent, then divided them along purely ethnic lines.” In 1926, the Belgians introduced a system of ethnic identity cards differentiating the darker-skinned Hutus from the lighter, Tutsis, choosing the latter to run the country.   

“They literally went out and picked the elite by choosing people who were slightly richer, had lighter skin and literally measured the width of their noses and all that turn of the century, origin of the species bullsh**,” says George.  In 1961 and 62, the Belgians withdrew, and Rwanda and Burundi became separate, independent countries. “Having created that elite and then leaving immediately and turning power over to the Hutu majority, who had been repressed by the Tutsi minority at the behest of the Belgians, created the instant antagonism,” explains George.  The Hutu’s sudden power caused thousands of Tutsis to flee, and by 1963, it was estimated that half of the Tutsi population was living outside of Rwanda. By Oct. 1990, the Tutsis had formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and invaded Rwanda from Uganda.  Although a cease-fire was signed in March of 1991, thousands of Tutsis were killed in pockets of massacres throughout the country, leading the Rwandan army to form the Hutu-dominated “interahamwe” militia (“those who stand together”).  A second peace accord was signed in 1993 between Rwandan President Habyarimana (a Hutu) and the RPF. The following year, on April 6, 1994, President Habyarimana and the president of Burundi were killed in a plane crash, orchestrated by Hutu extremists to stop the implementation of the peace accords. 

“Hotel Rwanda” begins a few days before the President’s assassination, with Hutu underground radio stations stirring bloodthirsty, anti-Tutsi sentiment.   Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle), a Hutu with a Tutsi wife (Sophie Okonedo) works as a hotel manager at the Milles Collines hotel. Following Habyarimana’s assassination, Paul’s house somehow becomes the go-to spot on the block for Tutsi’s fleeing Hutu rebels. Soon, Paul is pleading, bribing and begging Hutu militiamen to spare his life and the life of his refugees as he attempts to transfer everyone to the Milles Collines.    “I knew I was sentenced to death because the militia and soldiers from all the corners wanted to kill the refugees,” says the real Paul Rusesabagina. “In order to kill them, they first of all had to kill me.  That is why I say that I was sentenced to death.” But through more begging, bargaining and bribing, Paul was able to stave off the murderous Hutu militia, as more and more Tutsis were flocking to the hotel for safety.  It was in these tense moments that a hero was born.   “Thinking about being a hero, I didn’t have that time,” explains Rusesabagina. “Even if I had, I thought I was doing my duties, my responsibilities, my obligations as a human being.” Capturing Paul’s mix of deep humility and inadvertent heroism is worthy of Oscar attention for Don Cheadle. As part of his research, the actor wanted to meet the real man and “maybe have him say that one thing that maybe to him, would’ve seemed meaningless and unimportant, but some little detail that would sort of drive it home for me and anchor me to what he was going through emotionally.”  Once Cheadle found out he had the role, he called Paul in Brussels, where he now lives with his wife and children.      “Then, when I went to Johannesburg to the set, he came out that first week and we spent a lot of time together,” says Cheadle. “Not with me sort of with a mike in his face or anything like that, but just walking around the set and going to dinner and getting drunk and hanging out, and just getting a sense of the spirit of the man.” 

“When we met for the first time, he was very curious, following me everywhere,” laughs Paul. “We spent a lot of days and nights together so that he could get used to me, my manners, my behaviours. He has only picked up good manners. He might have learned bad ones.”   Paul chuckles at the memory of Cheadle’s “research.” The director’s research, however, was not nearly as pleasant. George was emotionally shaken during a visit to one of the massacre sights in Southern Rwanda, where mummified skeletons of some of the 40,000 massacred Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus were stored. “It was a key moment in my life,” says George. “You’re right in the moment of people’s death. They’re actually frozen in their death throws. It’s the closest I could probably get to that genocide.  There’s nothing even that I’ve presented on screen that can equate that.” The film does not focus its attention on the actual genocide, but rather Rusesabagina’s ability to hustle his way through it, saving the lives of thousands in the process.   “It’s uplifting. Ultimately we see the love that a family has triumphing at the end,” says Cheadle. “Now there are many stories that didn’t go that way, and many people are lost.  But following Paul’s particular story, it’s a thriller, really. You don’t know what’s gonna happen at every turn, you don’t know how the events are going to unfold. As an audience member, I think, that’s sort of what invests you in the film is that you’re watching a man deal with the process and deal with circumstances that are pretty overwhelming. There is no guarantee that he’s going to make it. Also, if you appreciate love stories and seeing that sort of never-say-die attitude, that’s also something that’s fulfilling that you come away with.”




Pan African Film Festival

Excerpt from

(Dec. 20, 2004) *The 13th annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) will be held Thursday, Feb 10 through Monday, Feb 21 at the Magic Johnson Theatres and the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and throughout Los Angeles, California.  Over 1,000 international and domestic submissions will be screened; titles of the selected films will be posted on the PAFF Web site beginning January 3, 2005. The festival has three competitive film sections: feature films, short films and documentary films. Festival awards include Best Narrative Feature, Best First Time Feature Director, Best Documentary, Eugene "Doboy" Williams Best Short Award, Jury Prize, Festival Prize and the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Audience Favourite. The PAFF also presents each year special programming highlighting French language films, children's films, gay films and hip-hop films.   "Last year's festival demonstrated the incomparable class of PAFF as the leading film festival for Black filmmakers and an international film showcase, " said PAFF executive director Ayuko Babu, "Through displaying positive images of Blacks in film, we look forward to continuing our tradition of excellence in giving Black filmmakers from around the world a voice."




More ‘Ray’, Foxx Nods: ‘Rwanda’, ‘Collateral’ Also Among BFCA Nominees

Excerpt from

(Dec. 16, 2004) *“Ray,” “Collateral,” “Hotel Rwanda” and “Million Dollar Baby” are among the nominees for Best Picture by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), which holds its 10th annual Critics' Choice Awards Jan. 10 in Los Angeles. Also, Don Cheadle and Jamie Foxx (nominated for “Hotel Rwanda” and “Ray” respectively) will face off in the Best Actor category against Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”) Johnny Depp ("Finding Neverland") Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Aviator") and Javier Bardem ("The Sea Inside"). In the Best Supporting Actor category, Foxx – nominated for "Collateral" – and Morgan Freeman – nominated for "Million Dollar Baby" – will face Thomas Haden Church ("Sideways") Clive Owen for ("Closer") and Peter Sarsgaard ("Kinsey"). The BFCA is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing 195 television, radio and online critics.




MGM Shareholders Approve Sale To Sony

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Dec. 19, 2004) LOS ANGELES (AP) — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer shareholders voted overwhelmingly on Friday to approve the film studio's sale to a Sony Corp.-led consortium that includes cable television giant Comcast Corp.  At a brief meeting in Century City, 99.8 per cent of shares were voted in favour of the sale, company officials said after the vote.  The sale, valued at nearly $5 billion (all figures U.S.), is expected to close some time in the first half of 2005, contingent on approval by regulatory agencies.  Achieving a shareholder majority in favour of the sale was not a question coming into the vote, however.  Billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian, who through his Tracinda Group owns 74 per cent of MGM's outstanding shares, had already backed the deal, which is expected to net him about $2.1 billion.  At the meeting, MGM chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian stressed the studio would remain "a thriving independent company and a vibrant important player in this industry."  He added that MGM will continue to be based in Los Angeles, with Sony Pictures co-producing and distributing MGM's films. Comcast will also establish new cable television channels carrying Sony and MGM content, he said.







Reel Classics: Viewers Settle In For A Marathon Of Beloved Movie Chestnuts

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Andrew Ryan

(Dec. 18, 2004) Holiday television specials come and go like dollar-store tree ornaments -- but Christmas movies are forever. It's that time of year when festive movie favourites pop up around the dial. For some, holiday movies are a blessed diversion from wrapping presents and other chores. For others, they're the best thing about the season. Either way, Christmas movies are a tradition dating back to the origins of cinema itself. Here's a list of the most-beloved holiday movies of all time, presented in no particular rank, airing right up to Christmas Eve. It's going to be a wonderful week.

The Sound of Music (1965)
Thursday, 8 p.m., CTV
Not really a Christmas movie, though it's still worthy just to watch Julie Andrews singing her heart out while twirling her skirts out in the mountains.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Friday, 7 p.m., CBC
Frank Capra's sentimental masterpiece -- and arguably Jimmy Stewart's finest performance on film. It's one of those movies that just seems to improve each year. And if the ending doesn't bring tears to your eyes, well, you're just not human.

A Christmas Story (1983)
Friday, 8 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight, 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., TBS
Timeless tale of wee Ralphie (Peter Billingsley), who learns two valuable life lessons: little boys shouldn't ask Santa for BB guns and never, ever stick your tongue on a frozen metal pole.

The Bishop's Wife (1947)
Friday, 11:30 p.m., CBC
Rarely-aired gem starring Cary Grant as an angel who comes to the aid of a cash-strapped bishop (David Niven) and his neglected wife (Loretta Young).




Richard Chevolleau Wins Gemini

Congratulations to Richard Chevolleau on his Gemini win for Best Actor in a Guest Starring Role in a Dramatic Series (The Eleventh Hour - episode Hard Seven).  Richard Chevolleau, a Jamaican native, has been busy with several new projects.  Most recently he has worked on "Booth," a dramatic short and "Swarmed," a movie of the week for SCI-FI Channel (USA) and Space Network (Canada).  Richard will be guest starring in an upcoming new episode of "Wonderland" in 2005.  You can also catch him as "Nigel" in the dramedy "Kink in my Hair" which will re-air on Vision TV in February for Black History Month.  Richard is currently developing his own series, "The Wall," a semi-autobiographical account of his early days in Toronto.  His feature film script "5DV" is currently in development in the US.




A Martha Stewart Christmas Present

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Andrew Ryan

(Dec. 18, 2004) If you thought Martha Stewart was a hot property before, wait until she gets out of the slammer.  Going to prison shouldn't be a career boost for a TV personality but darned if Martha isn't making it work. It's both bizarre and typical that Martha's domestic goddess profile has steadily increased since she entered prison a few months ago. Stewart and her ex-stockbroker were convicted last March of lying to investigators about involvement in a stock-market scandal. Martha is still appealing her five-month sentence at a facility in West Virginia. The minimum-security federal prison is widely known as "Camp Cupcake." Still, Martha is doing just dandy. NBC Universal recently signed Martha to a daily syndicated talk show that will debut next fall. The new daytime timewaster will reestablish Martha to her rightful habitat -- making cookies on TV -- and will effectively replace her previous show, Martha Stewart Living, which went on hiatus last summer after 11 seasons. Production begins as soon as Martha is sprung next March. Don't expect a slapdash affair. The Martha show is being crafted by Mark Burnett, the man responsible for creating Survivor, The Apprentice, The Restaurant and other reality hits. And he's a Martha believer. "Millions of people feel that Martha got a raw deal," said Burnett. "America loves comeback stories." Moreover, America loves Martha. Around the same time as the new-show announcement, there was already media buzzing that Martha would eventually replace Donald Trump as the focal figure on The Apprentice. Both Burnett and NBC Universal entertainment president Jeff Zucker slyly offered no comment on the rumour, which only makes it more likely.

It sounds surreal -- all this frothy excitement over a middle-aged woman currently wearing an orange jumpsuit -- but it's more about melding TV genres. Burnett's task is to rebrand the good lady as a hybrid talk-show host/reality star. Martha's star power will be multiplied a hundredfold after her brief prison stint and it's all delightful fodder for TV. Hopefully, the jokes about prison food will die down after a few months. And you know what? This doesn't bother me one little bit. Martha was likely railroaded into prison in the first place. If she can turn the experience into a moneymaker, good on her. I like to think of her new show as a lovely Christmas present. Martha always did love the holidays.




CRTC Opens Door To More Third-Language TV

Source:  Canadian Press


(Dec. 16, 2004)  OTTAWAThe federal broadcast regulator has opened the door to more foreign-language television stations. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission unveiled a new policy Thursday for assessing applications for third-language television channels. The agency says that from now on: "general interest foreign third-language services" offered via satellite "will generally be approved, subject to packaging and programming rights." Previously, applications were assessed on competitive issues — whether services were already offered in the language of the new applicant. A proposed new entrant couldn't "be partially or totally competitive with Canadian speciality or pay services." The CRTC has been reviewing its regulations since summer, when controversy erupted after it rejected an application from the Italian state broadcaster RAI. At the same time, it approved nine other applications, including Al-Jazeera, Romanian Television International, German T-V, T-V Chile and CineLatino.




Chappelle’s Show’ Delayed

Excerpt from

(Dec. 22, 2004) The new season of Comedy Central’s “Chappelle’s Show” has been moved from its original Feb. 16 premiere date to April or May due to the comedian’s illness and lack of new material, reports the “New York Post.”  While Chappelle is reportedly bedridden with the flu, his writers are reportedly scratching their heads over what to write about next season.  The Emmy-nominated comedy is currently on hiatus for the holidays and will resume production in January. As previously reported, Chappelle reupped with Comedy Central in a groundbreaking two-year, $50 million deal last August that set a new industry precedent--reportedly giving the comic a huge cut of back-end DVD sales. The DVD release of season one currently ranks as the all-time top-selling TV show on DVD. The release of season two – which had been scheduled to hit stores Feb. 8 to coincide with the new TV season – has also been pushed back to a date yet to be announced.




Chestnut Cast In NBC Sitcom

Excerpt from

(Dec. 22, 2004)  *If Morris Chestnut’s character of Ricky in “Boyz N the Hood” hadn’t been gunned down in a drive by, he might have grown up to be the athlete Chestnut will play this fall in the NBC sitcom “Dante.” The actor suits up in the title role of a football superstar whose cocky attitude and sense of entitlement is way out of touch with reality.  Tony Cox, who starred as Billy Bob Thornton’s pint-sized partner-in-crime in "Bad Santa," will co-star. The pilot script was written by “Just Shoot Me” creator Steven Levitan, with John Immesoete, the creator of the Budweiser ad campaign featuring the egotistical football player Leon.  







Actor Uses Theatre To Fight Addiction

Source:  The Heardon Times, By Kali Schumitz,

After a group of friends on one side of the Herndon High School auditorium acted up several times, Scot Robinson called one of the boys up to the front of the room. Robinson told the boy to look at the room, filled with hundreds of other freshmen students and “enlighten them.” The youth looked uncomfortable, mumbled a reply and tried to walk away a few times, but Robinson kept making him come back. “One day you’re going to be a leader, brother,” Robinson told him. The boy’s demeanour visibly changed, and he listened more attentively as Robinson elaborated on his belief that all youth can grow up to be leaders in some way.

There are few people who can command respect from an audience of high schoolers like Robinson does. He tells them that he could be off making movies instead of talking to them about drugs and peer pressure and self-esteem at 7:30 on a Monday morning. “I’m here because I love you,” Robinson told the students. “For me, love means dedication, love means truth, love means passion, love means sacrifice.” After Robinson quelled a few outbursts of unruliness, he gained the students’ rapt attention as they listened to his personal story of a drug addiction that led to homelessness. Robinson, an actor, uses monologues and physical actions to help engage students in his “Vision Warrior” presentation. For example he acted as a “casual” drug user smoking marijuana and binge drinking and as an addict injecting heroin. As they left the presentation to head to class, students said Robinson’s performance resonated with them. None of those interviewed said they use alcohol or illegal drugs, but most said they had friends who did. “I don’t really get into their business,” said Shannon Roy, 14, when asked if she would talk to people she knows about their drug use, though she said those people were at the presentation, as well. “Sometimes kids respond immediately. You can see it in their eyes,” Robinson said. Other times, he said, he will get e-mails from young people years after they saw one of his presentations, thanking him for how he touched their lives. Students said they felt that Robinson understands what they are experiencing as teenagers. “A lot of that happens in high school, too,” said Tyler Andere, 14, though many of Robinson’s experiences were in college and early in his acting career. Robinson describes his childhood as “normal” — playing Little League baseball and dreaming of being a member of the Jackson Five. His parents were very supportive and loving, he said, but, because he is mixed race, he had trouble fitting in any community. His use of alcohol and marijuana made him feel more accepted in high school. In college, he discovered cocaine, considered a “glamorous” party drug at the time. After college, he tried heroin while attempting to escape stresses in his life.

Eventually, he was homeless with a 12-bag-a-day heroin habit and also using crack cocaine. “It is so much easier to gravitate and stay around negativity than it is to be positive and do the right thing,” Robinson said. “You think it’s hard now? It gets harder.  Sometimes you feel like you don’t know where you’re going. That’s OK.” He explained that his drug use kept him from facing challenges in his life and growing stronger through overcoming those challenges. Robinson speaks all over the country and tailors his presentation to fit his audience. At Herndon, he occasionally spoke Spanish during his presentation. After speaking to the freshmen, he spoke with a small group of students who were identified as “at risk.” He also spoke to students one on one during lunchtime. No matter what type of community he is in, Robinson said, all youth have a lot in common. “Kids are basically the same,” he said. “They all have hearts; they all have fears; they all have issues.” 







Carter to Ratner: ``I won't let you down''

Source:  Associated Press – By CHRIS SHERIDAN, AP Basketball Writer

(Dec. 22, 2004) PST EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Vince Carter turned to New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner and team president Rod Thorn to deliver a vow.  "I thank both you guys for bringing me here. I won't let you down. I promise," Carter said Wednesday at his introductory news conference for the New Jersey Nets, who acquired the five-time All-Star last week from the Toronto Raptors.  A sore Achilles tendon kept Carter out of the Nets' game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Carter said he was hoping to play Monday night at Detroit.  So for at least a few more days, the Nets will have to wait and see what the pairing of Carter with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson will look like.  "Don't blink when you see Vince, Jason and Richard together," Ratner said. "They're going to be so fast, so quick."  But will they be permanent?  That is the longer-term question facing the Nets as they move forward trying to appease the disgruntled Kidd, who was upset by the off season cost-cutting moves that led to the departures of Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, Lucious Harris and Rodney Rogers from a team that went to the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003.  The Carter trade left the Nets undertalented in the frontcourt, with Nenad Krstic starting at centre and Jason Collins at power forward, backed up by Brian Scalabrine, Kaniel Dickens and Jabari Smith.  Thorn said he would continue to explore trade possibilities to address the team's weaknesses.  Ratner, who purchased the team over the summer, plans to move the franchise to Brooklyn in 2007. In the meantime, Carter will help him bring bodies into an attendance-starved arena so decrepit that the air reeked of mildew in the area beneath the stands where Ratner, Carter and Thorn held their news conference.  "I never really knew New Jersey was in the picture," said Carter, the subject of trade rumours all season after his agent asked the Raptors to deal him over the summer.

Carter's production has dropped steadily since he was the darling of All-Star Weekend in 1998, won a gold medal for the U.S. men's basketball team at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and came within a few inches of leading Toronto to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.  He was scoring just 15.9 a game for the Raptors, who sent him to New Jersey in exchange for forward Eric Williams and Aaron Williams, centre Alonzo Mourning and a pair of first-round draft picks.  Carter recalled the ease with which he scored when he was Kidd's teammate on the 2000 Olympic team -- and when he was paired with Jefferson and Kidd on the 2003 Olympic qualifying team. He had no harsh words for the Raptors, or for the fans in Toronto who turned on him when they realized his days north of the border were coming to a close.  "I'm rejuvenated," Carter said, "This is an opportunity for me to start over. I feel like a rookie again."



Father of Hoop Dreams Star Murdered

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Dec. 19, 2004) BERWYN, Ill. (AP) — The father of a high school basketball player whose life was chronicled in the acclaimed documentary Hoop Dreams has been shot and killed.  Arthur (Bo) Agee Sr., 52, was shot Wednesday in an alley located several garages from his own in the western Chicago suburb of Berwyn, his family said.  Arthur Agee Jr., whose high school basketball exploits and life in public housing were the subject of the 1994 film, said he was on his way home for the holidays when he heard the news.  "I'm flying to Chicago and counting the hours until I come back, and my dad is in the alley getting shot," Agee said Thursday.  Berwyn police didn't respond to requests for comment. Agee said his father typically carried "a couple of hundred dollars" to conduct a clothing business but was found with no money on him.  The elder Agee appeared in the documentary along with his son. Ten years ago he overcame a cocaine habit and later was ordained a minister. Eight years ago, he moved to the Berwyn home his son bought with proceeds from the movie.  "Hoop Dreams changed him and had an impact on his life," Agee said, noting that his father stopped using drugs shortly after the movie was released.  The family was recently interviewed for a DVD version of the documentary, expected to be released in April, Agee said.  The younger Agee took Chicago's Marshall High to the state tournament in 1991.  He went on to play at Arkansas State, the U.S. Basketball League and the International Basketball Association. He came to Canada and played with the Winnipeg Cyclone in the fledgling IBA.  He has four children and plans to launch the Hoop Dreams sportswear line with a Los Angeles-based partner next year.  On Thanksgiving morning, 1994, Agee's older half brother, DeAntonio, was gunned down at Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project.




Sports Beat: Toronto in Mourning

Excerpt from

*After the big trade last weekend that sent former Toronto Raptor Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, it looks like the 34-year-old center may never step foot on the court in a Raptors jersey. Mourning, who underwent a kidney transplant exactly one year ago today, is currently in Miami undergoing medical tests and will remain there through Christmas, Toronto general manager Rob Babcock said Saturday. Mourning does not have to report to the Raptors or pass a physical for the trade to go through.   Openly demanding a trade from the Nets following impatience with the team’s front-office decisions, Mourning may never actually report to Toronto “because he wants to play for a winner,” Nets president Rod Thorn said Friday.   Babcock claimed Saturday he hasn't discussed a buyout with Mourning's agent, and won't until his medical situation becomes clearer. If Toronto does buy Mourning out, there's a chance he could resign with his old team, the Miami Heat.  The Raptors also could trade him to the Heat.  Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said he wouldn't blame Mourning if he didn't report, considering the team is rebuilding and that his career could be over soon.







Eva Is ‘America’s Next Top Model’

Excerpt from

(Dec. 17, 2004) *Diva Eva beat out Afrocentric Yaya to be crowned “America’s Next Top Model” Wednesday in a final showdown between two of the show’s four African American contestants.   It all came down to a CoverGirl photo shoot for the final three contestants, which resulted in legally-blind model Amanda Lynn Swafford being eliminated, leaving Eva Pigford, from Los Angeles, and CamaraYayaDa Costa, from Harlem to battle each other for the title.     The two never really got along during the show – with Eva’s diva attitude clashing with Yaya’s perceived Ivy League sense of superiority. But it seems as though their shared blackness brought them together in the end, as both appeared proud that two sistas made the final cut.  “It’s not about us thinking, ‘Oh, a black girl needs to win this year,’” host Tyra Banks told Eva on the show. “It’s just the two best were black girls.” The final competition was for Eva and Yaya to slowly work a square catwalk in a Noriko Fukushima runway show. While both girls did exceptionally well, it was Eva who came out on top.   "Eva has vitality, she has sass and spunk that make her relatable to young girls everywhere," said Tyra. "She is a true cover girl."   In describing Eva's transformation, acclaimed fashion designer and judge Nolé Marin said, "Today, I almost fell down when I saw how incredible Eva looked...she looked like a superstar."  He added, "Eva...she's like Cinderella.  She comes in like a little tough boy, and she turned into this incredible gorgeous woman.” "I am a cover girl," Eva cried in emotional response to her win, as photos from her childhood flashed on the screen.  "This little tomboy from L.A. that has never been beautiful.  I was not the cute girl in school.  I came here the shortest and the one that had the most insecurities inside of them, and now I'm America's Next Top Model." As the winner, Eva receives the opportunity to be managed by Ford Models; a $100,000 contract with cosmetics giant CoverGirl; and a fashion spread in “Elle” magazine.  America's Next Top Model 4,” the next edition of the series, will premiere in March 2005.




Black Voice To Get New Life On Canada Reads

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Judy Stoffman, Entertainment Reporter

(Dec. 20, 2004)  CBC Radio's Canada Reads program has emerged as a powerful force pushing Canadians to read outside the box. By encouraging celebrity panellists to choose their favourite books to defend on the program, it has revived interest in many older, lesser known titles.  Even if a book is voted off the week-long show, it benefits by being debated on air and having a red Canada Reads sticker slapped on its cover.  No Cystal Stair, a first novel by retired civil servant Mairuth Sarsfield, stands to be a beneficiary of the Canada Reads effect, when the program goes on air for its fourth year in February.  Set in Montreal's Little Burgundy area in the 1940s, where the author herself grew up and raised her two children as a young widow, helped by her mother, the book is a fascinating slice of social history.  It was a community where most of the men worked as Pullman porters— many had fled the Jim Crow laws of the American South — and the women kept an eye on each other's children and prized education, elocution and decorum. The experience of her hardworking widowed heroine Marion Willow mirrors Sarsfield's, though the romantic triangle that forms the novel's centre is fictional.  With virtually no promotion, almost 10,000 copies of the book have sold since it was first published in 1997. It has also found itself on Canadian Studies course lists.  Toronto's Women's Press reissued the book month, expecting renewed demand. It was chosen and will be championed by Olympic fencer Sherraine MacKay.  "She's a white girl born in Alberta, and she loved the book, " marvels the grandmotherly Sarsfield during a recent interview. "Margaret Atwood and I are the only two women whose books have been chosen. I had a note from Austin Clarke congratulating me."  (Atwood's Oryx & Crake will be championed by Toronto councillor Olivia Chow. Other novels to be discussed: Volkswagen Blues by Jacques Poulin; Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen; and Rockbound by Frank Parker Day.)  Sarsfield, who has retired to Vancouver Island, is in town to read tonight at a Kwanzaa celebration sponsored by the Ontario Black History Society.

Kwanzaa, which starts the day after Christmas and goes for six days, involves candle lighting much like Hanukkah and reaffirms the communitarian ideals of the North American Black community as well as commitment to family — ideals much in evidence in No Crystal Stair.  For a novel that deals with weighty subjects like race relations and anti-woman prejudice in Quebec, No Crystal Stair is remarkable for its lack of bitterness or anger. It's a sunny book.  Some younger writers of colour found this hard to accept when the novel first came out. Writing in this paper, reviewer Donna Nurse wrote that you cannot write of racial prejudice today in the style of Louisa May Alcott writing Little Women.  "Mairuth paints a very accurate portrait of the trials and travails of the black community in Montreal," says her friend Ken Alexander, publisher of Walrus magazine and author of Towards Freedom: The African Canadian Experience.  "Remember, I was born and bred here. Being black is a lot of fun — or can be. You don't have to bellyache to write a good book," says Sarsfield in her mellifluous voice. "Everyone is hurt in life."  Her own has been marked repeatedly by tragedy. Her son Jeremy was killed in a car accident and her daughter Jennifer died in the late '80s of cancer, leaving Sarsfield's granddaughter Zinzi de Silva, now a student at University of Toronto.  At the time of Jennifer's death, Sarsfield was on the board of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, her last official role before retirement.  "I decided I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and that's when I started writing my novel," she says.  She had studied at Sir George Williams (now Concordia) and McGill University, and written advertising copy and children's stories as a young woman.  She was nearly 70 before she considered herself a real writer.  In the past seven years, she has been at work on two new novels, one set partly in Papua-New Guinea where she lived in the mid-'70s, and one set in British Columbia in the late 1800s, about a talented family of freed slaves, the Starks, who settled there and stayed loyal to the British crown.




Art Gallery Gets Funding Boost For Battle

Source:  Associated Press

(Dec. 19, 2004) Fredericton — The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is getting major financial support from the New Brunswick government in its battle to keep millions of dollars in paintings from the heirs of the late Lord Beaverbrook. Brad Green, New Brunswick's Minister Of Justice, announced Friday the gallery will be given a $1 million interest-free loan, repayable in five years. As well, the province will give the gallery an annual operating grant. A few weeks ago, Green said the gallery was handed a cheque for $50,000. He said that next year, the grant will be increased to $200,000. "The Beaverbrook's art collection is the most significant and valuable public collection in the province and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery stands out as a symbol of New Brunswick, known nationally and internationally," Green said. "We will continue to support the gallery and its board of governors as appropriate." An ugly custody battle is raging over about 200 masterpieces at the gallery worth at least $100 million. The gallery claims the paintings were bestowed to the people of New Brunswick by the late Sir Max Aitken, the first Lord Beaverbrook, who was one of the province's greatest benefactors. Beaverbrook grew up in new Brunswick before moving to England where he amassed a fortune as a newspaper publisher and financier. Two institutions, the Canadian Beaverbrook Foundation and the British Beaverbrook Foundation, both headed by Aitken grandsons, say the paintings were only on loan to the gallery and now they want them back.

The foundations were established to continue Beaverbrook's charitable work. However, they have withdrawn support from several New Brunswick organizations, including the art gallery, because of the legal battle. Elizabeth Weir, leader of the NDP in New Brunswick and a critic of what she has described as a raid by the Beaverbrook heirs, said she was surprised the cash-strapped New Brunswick government could come up with money for the gallery. "But I'm glad they have moved to assist the gallery against the rapacious aristocracy," Weir said. Judy Budovitch of the gallery's board of directors said the provincial contribution eases financial pressure on the gallery, which was struggling with legal costs and the loss of its annual $200,000 grant from the Beaverbrook foundation. Budovitch said the grant from the province exactly matches what the foundation had taken away. "It takes huge pressure off the operational needs of the gallery," she said of the government grant. The legal battle, expected to drag out for months and possibly years, is expected to cost several million dollars. Budovitch said that as public trustees, the gallery has an obligation to make sure its paintings are protected. "We can't give anything back to anybody unless we're sure they have proper title," she said. Officials with the foundations have said that if they win the claim and get the paintings back, at least some would be sold while others would be placed in galleries outside New Brunswick. The works in question include masterpieces by such famous artists as Botticelli, William Hogarth, John Singer Sargent, Graham Sutherland, Cornelius Kreighoff, Lucian Freud and J.M.W. Turner. The gallery is famous for its collection of paintings by Salvador Dali. But those paintings were clear gifts to the gallery and are not in dispute.

Vincent Prager, a trustee with the Canadian Beaverbrook Foundation, said earlier this week the lawsuits are a "lose, lose" situation for the people of New Brunswick and the gallery. He said the ill will created by the dispute will forever sour relations between the Beaverbrook family, the foundations and the province of New Brunswick. "You don't sue your major benefactor," he said, referring to the gallery's bid to keep the paintings. "Whatever kind of dispute you have, you sit down and try to work it out." But Green said there is an up side to the fight for the paintings. He said New Brunswickers are pulling for the gallery and are reaching out to support it in its time of need. "In the last 12 months, gallery attendance has increased by 25 per cent, gallery membership is up 27 per cent and monetary donations have risen by 163 per cent," Green said. Lord Beaverbrook founded the art gallery in downtown Fredericton in 1959 as a legacy for all New Brunswickers.




‘Time’ Honours Diddy

Excerpt from

(Dec. 21, 2004) *P. Diddy appears on CNN and “Time” magazine’s 2004 list of “Global Business Influentials” in honour of his "combined celebrity and smart branding." The mogul owns the Sean John fashion line, Justin’s restaurant and the marketing company Blue Flame, among other ventures.




Oprah's Picks Are Gold, Study Confirms

Source:  Associated Press

(Dec. 21, 2004)

Provo, Utah — A new study confirms what many already knew: Oprah Winfrey's book endorsements are good as gold to publishers. “Oprah's recommendations had a bigger impact on the sales of books than anything we have previously seen in literature, or seen since,” said Brigham Young University economics professor Richard Butler, whose findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Publishing Research Quarterly. Butler found that Winfrey's recommendation was enough to lift books from obscurity and to keep them on the bestseller lists longer than other titles. Using USA Today's weekly 150-item best-seller list, Butler and his team of students went about examining the 45 non-children's titles Winfrey picked from her book club's inception in 1996 until she announced its end in 2002. Of those books, only 11 had been on the bestseller list before her recommendation, and none of them had gone beyond No. 25. Of the first 11 books that Winfrey picked, all went to at least No. 4 within a week, Butler said. Among those most affected were Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, which was on the bestseller list for 137 weeks, and Billie Letts' Where the Heart Is, which lasted 98 weeks. Winfrey restarted the picks last summer but now recommends only classics.




Slang in The Oxford English Dictionary

Excerpt from -

(Dec. 22, 2004) The Oxford English Dictionary has added 2,000 new words to the online version of their dictionary. New additions to the list include the terms “thugged out,” “crack ho,” “po’ boy,” “beat down” and “hoochie.” Editors stressed that they had a responsibility to put the words into the dictionary because the terms are used in American vernacular so frequently.








The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar       
574 College Street (at Manning)       
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.




Irie Food Joint 
745 Queen Street W.   
10:00 pm   
EVENT PROFILE: Monday nights at IRIE continue their tradition.  Carl Cassell’s original art and IRIE itself will be featured in the January 2005 issue of Toronto Life!  It’s no surprise to me that Toronto Life has chosen Carl Cassell, in their quest to reveal those restaurants that also offer the unique addition of original art.  Let Irie awaken your senses.  Irie Mondays continue – food – music – culture.




Revival Bar       
783 College Street (at Shaw)       
10:00 pm       
NO COVER       
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Rich Brown, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar       
574 College Street (at Manning)       
10:30 pm       
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French




Have a great week!       

Dawn Langfield        
Langfield Entertainment