20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        (416) 677-5883
                                                                                                                                                                                           langfieldent@rogers.com
                                                                                                                                                                             www.langfieldentertainment.com

LE NEWSLETTER

November 15, 2007


I celebrate Christmas and this year I'm looking forward to a very special show.  And I think that even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you'll be inspired by the musical genius of the arrangements and performances by some of the greatest Canadian talent.  You'll love it - trust me!  It's the The Gospel Christmas Project - see the details below.  And all of this is captured on a CD too - a MUST have for your collection.  Details under HOT EVENTS.

And I'm so pleased to announce the return of
Craig David.  Warner has generously given me five CDs to give away - if you can tell me where this project was recorded under SCOOP.  Enter the giveaway HERE and please include your full name and mailing address.

Once again, there is plenty to read below so have a scroll and a read.

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Two Shows, One CD - The Gospel Christmas Project – December 21 (Ottawa) and December 22, 2007 (Toronto)

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’re invited to the Christmas musical events of 2007: the
Gospel Christmas Project, live at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and Toronto’s Massey Hall! Audiences are calling this show “fabulous”, “amazing”, “thrilling beyond expectation”, “music to God's ears” and “a wonderfully joyful spiritual evening”.

“The Gospel Christmas Project - LIVE!” is two hours of the world’s greatest Christmas carols, in all-stunning new arrangements made by musician, producer and broadcaster
Andrew Craig. The songs are rendered by some of our country’s greatest voices:

Jackie Richardson, Canada’s Queen of Jazz and Blues,
Alana Bridgewater, “Killer Queen” in the Mirvish production of “We Will Rock You”
Kellylee Evans, 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Female Vocalist of the Year
Chris Lowe, a tremendous new voice recently-emerged from the Gospel community
and the Juno-award-winning
Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale

“The Gospel Christmas Project” is already a wildly-popular radio show, a Gemini-nominated TV special, and a brand-new CD, called “The Gospel Christmas Project”, available in all major retail outlets right now, and on ITunes as of December 4.

“The Gospel Christmas Project” was originally performed in
Ottawa in December 2006.  It returns to Ottawa this Christmas, joined by the National Arts Centre Orchestra on December 21.

And the next night (
December 22) The Gospel Christmas Project makes its Toronto debut at the legendary Massey Hall!

Visit the website: www.gospelxmasproject.com

Purchase CD at CBC Records, HERE!

::WARNER SCOOP::

Craig David Returns with Trust Me

Source:  Warner Music

With 13 million album sales worldwide and still only 26 years old,
Craig David has earned a reputation as one of the UK’s foremost talents, as well as one of the nation’s most successful musical exports. He’s now poised to return with a new album "Trust Me" – including first single Hot Stuff (Let's Dance) - in Canada on November 13th, already being heralded as his finest since the 2000 debut set "Born To Do It."

Recorded in Havana, Cuba with producer Martin Terefe (KT Tunstall, James Morrison) and writer/producer/mixer Fraser T. Smith (Craig David, Kano, Beyonce, Plan B, Jamelia), the track ‘6 of 1 Thing’ emphasises how Cuban musical culture influenced his new work, whilst the ballad ‘Awkward’ (highlighting guest vocals from a female west London star-to-be) features some of his most evocative lyrics to date. Other highlights include the infectious hook and insistent rhythms of the title track, and ‘She’s On Fire’ which combines sublime bass with Craig’s fluid lyrical flow.

Since becoming a global phenomenon with ‘Born To Do It’, Craig David has become a huge UK superstar with two #1 singles (‘Fill Me In’ and ‘7 Days’) and a further ten appearances in the Top 10. All three of his albums have been chart hits: ‘Born To Do It’ (#1), 2002’s ‘Slicker Than Your Average’ (#4) and 2005’s ‘The Story Goes…’ (#5).

A multiple-award winner who has earned three Ivor Novello Awards (including Songwriter of the Year and Best Contemporary Song), four MOBOs (one of which was for Best UK Act) and two MTV Europe Awards, Craig David has worked with a talented array of artists including Sting and Artful Dodger’s Mark Hill and Pete Devereux.  Craig David also recently featured on Kano’s Top 20 single ‘This is The Girl’.

www.craigdavid.co.uk
www.myspace.com/craigdavid

::RECAP::

The Gospel According to Stevie

See pics in my PHOTO GALLERY.

The Rev. Stevie Wonder invited us into his chapel and oh my, what a worship service!  Rev. Wonder masterfully and skillfully orchestrated the congregation – dancing, clapping and singing were all vehicles explored as we stood in awe of His Royal Greatness.  (Yes, even I was caught up and carrying on!)  This man's vocal control and vocal multiplicity is ... wonderful!

Waiting for the concert to begin on Monday night at the ACC was reminiscent of Christmas mornings as a child with all the anxiety and anticipation of being visited by a very special someone. 

Stevie Wonder graced the stage in a brown tunic with his signature braids and seashells and led a fluid, non-stop show - performing hit after hit.  It was almost dizzying - just when you recovered from one of your favourite Stevie tunes, he dealt out another!  From Overjoyed and Ribbon in the Sky to Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Superstition, the multi-generational crowd were entranced by the music legend, cooing and all.  His 10-piece band were obedient servants and followed every command with apparent ease.  Why this show was not sold out, is beyond me. 

The emotion behind Send One Your Love compelled Stevie to fight back tears with memories of his mother (Lula Mae Hardaway); the very woman who inspired this tour.  He said that she sent him a message from her grave, having passed one year ago, "Boy, you better get your ass out there and work!"  Stevie thanked his fans for helping him through his grief. 

After receiving several standing ovations, Stevie closed the night by inviting Toronto's own Glenn Lewis on stage to sing Superstition.  A triumph yet again! 

Stevie left us with words of love to impact our daily lives and how we should love those around us.  This soul icon has influenced so many fans, musicians and artists alike -  to see him live was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience. 

A reminder that ‘wonder’ful music and it’s messenger will live forever. 

::TOP STORIES::

Divine Brown Signs World-Wide Record Deal With Warner Music Canada

Source: Warner Music Canada

(November 12, 2007) Warner Music Canada is thrilled to announce the signing of R&B sensation singer
Divine Brown to a world-wide record deal.
 
In making the announcement, Warner Music Canada President Steve Kane said, “Divine Brown is an incredible modern songwriter and musician whose vision captures all that is great in classic soul music.  We look forward to incredible success together.”
 
 “I’m excited to be part of a new team – one that understands true artistry,” said Divine at the contract signing.  “It’s a great feeling to have everyone on the same page with what I hope to accomplish with my career.”
 
In 2005, Divine Brown’s ubiquitous hit single “Old Skool Love” could be heard blasting out of car stereos and packing dance floors right across Canada.  In those three and a half minutes, a brand new star was born.  The song propelled her album to gold status in Canada and landed her on the cover of numerous magazines.
 
More than your average diva, Divine Brown is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer.  With an outstanding 5 octave range, Divine has soaked in the influence of Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan and Tina Turner and created a sound she can call her own.  She began writing songs at the age of fourteen and honed her performing skills in the highly competitive world of musical theatre.
 
Divine Brown is currently working on material for her new album which will be released in 2008.

Attached photo (clockwise from top left): Steve Blair (Warner Music Canada); Jay Sakowski (Lockout Management); Divine Brown; Steve Kane (Warner Music Canada)

Donda West, Mother of Kanye, Has Passed

Source: Vibe - By: Julianne Shepherd

(November 11, 2007)
Donda West, mother of Kanye, has died at the age of 58, according to a spokesperson for Kanye West. The West family has issued the following statement to VIBE: "The family respectfully asks for privacy during this time of grief." No other information was released, but sources say Kanye West was in England to rehearse for his upcoming tour, and flew back to the states upon hearing the sad news.

For 31 years, Dr. West was a teacher and chairperson at the Chicago State University's English Department. Two years ago, she relocated from Chicago to Los Angeles to take over her son's business operations, where she served as Chief Executive of West Brands LLC. She also chaired the Kanye West foundation, an organization dedicated to decreasing the dropout rate in the nation's public high schools.

In May, Dr. West published a book about her experiences as a mother entitled Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip Hop Star

"When I wrote that song, 'Hey... Mama!' about my mom, I worked on it for months. I wanted to make it as great as she is," Kanye West wrote in the foreword to Raising Kanye. "I wanted to tell the whole world about our friendship and how it came to be. I also wanted to talk about her in the most artistic way I could. I wanted her to know how much I appreciate her for the way she raised me... because of who she is, I am able to be who I am."

In Raising Kanye, Dr. West expressed her love and pride for her son. "I am fortunate to have a son like Kanye," she wrote. "And from all indications, he feels fortunate to have a mother like me."

Dr. West was an academic, a mother, a businesswoman, valued and honoured for her exemplary teaching skills. VIBE's thoughts and prayers are with all those who loved her, and all those who were inspired by her.

Additional reporting by Jon Caramanica.

Celine Dion Tour To Include 6 Canadian Cities

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(November 08, 2007) Canadian singing diva
Celine Dion will kick off a North American arena tour next August.

The 45-date show will begin Aug. 12 in Boston and wind through six Canadian cities – Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

Promoters for the "Taking Chances World Tour" say tickets go on sale Nov. 16.

The show will follow Dion's five-year run of sold-out performances at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, which ends in a little more than a month.

She'll be promoting her new English album, Taking Chances, which comes out next week.

Dion is also set to tour Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.

"These past five years of performing at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas have been an incredibly rewarding experience for myself and my family, but I'm ready to hit the road again, with my husband and son by my side," Dion said Thursday in a news release.

"It's going to be so exciting to tour the U.S. and Canada again, and perform everything with a brand new show. I just can't wait!"

Stevie's Still Wonderful

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(November 13, 2007) That the word artist has become synonymous with entertainer seems fine until you see the former in action.

Pop and soul legend
Stevie Wonder brought joy and inspiration to Toronto last night – and that was before he even sounded a note.

Accompanied by two backup vocalists, the 57-year-old Detroit native walked onto the stage of the surprisingly not sold-out Air Canada Centre to a standing ovation and delivered an eight-minute monologue replete with Bill Cosby imitation.

He explained that this tour – his first in a decade – was borne of the desire to give something back to fans on behalf of his mother who died last year.

"I want to thank all of you for supporting my music," he said. "You made it possible for me to give my mother a far better life than she would've had."

Wonder said Lula Mae Hardaway, who taught her son that "blindness doesn't mean that you're blind; you do what you gotta do," delivered a from-the-grave message as he mourned for her: "Boy, you better get your ass out there and work!"

And so he did.

Last night was the second of two Canadian dates on the tour, which wraps up this weekend at Madison Square Garden.

Clad in brown tunic and matching pants, his trademark braids adorned with cowrie shells and working with a 10-piece band, Wonder sang hit after hit from his extensive catalogue, and played piano, keyboards and harmonica.

He may not tour regularly, but Wonder is no static awards show and special events performer. He is fluid, funny and keeps his ace crew of musicians on their toes James Brown-style with unexpected cues.

Whether smooth jazz, funk, soul, R&B, gospel, or pop, his voice is a resilient marvel. The evening's highlights included vocal gymnastics – from soft mewls to guttural growls – showcased on "Ribbon In The Sky," his emotional resonance during "Lately," and coming close to tears with thoughts of his mother during "Send One Your Love."

He interspersed the two-and-a-half set with comments that reflected his dedication to social change

"I can't believe we're still fighting wars in this world," lamented the early champion of the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday and anti-apartheid movements.

Decades from now, the likes of John Legend and Alicia Keys may close in on Wonder's accomplishments as a singer/composer/instrumentalist with catchy melodies and clever lyrics, but it's Wonder's commitment to using his talent as a vehicle for spiritual and political enrichment that sets him apart.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Jully Black: Short On Skirt, Long On Talent

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(November 08, 2007) I see London. I see France. I see Jully's not wearing much in the way of pants. On the cover of her new album, Revival, Toronto R & B singer Jully Black is toweringly hot in high heels and what looks to be nothing more than an ambitious blouse. With a low camera angle, her long, brown legs go on up forever. It's very nice, but, one wonders, did she forget her trousers the morning of the photo shoot or what?

"Ha-ha!" is Black's response, laughing on the phone from Regina. "It's a dress, absolutely! A la Tina Turner, or Gladys Knight - yeah, she wore a mini."

Often, when a woman is complimented on a frock, she will say, "What?
This little thing? It's just something I threw on." Of course, they don't actually mean that. But in Black's case, "this little thing" is dead on. You can't imagine that she'd wear the thigh-flashing baby doll on the street. "Sure I would, if I feel good," she says quickly. "I'm 5 foot 11, and the reality is that I have legs for days. I'm very comfortable with who I am. I'm a woman, very proud to be."

Black (whose first name is pronounced JOO-lee) has the right to be feelin' tall these days. A concert tour that brings her to Toronto's Mod Club tomorrow is selling out shows, and Seven Day Fool, the album's retro-rocking first single is a big hit, finding itself on the top 10 of downloaded iTunes last week. It's a remake of an old Etta James hit, very much in the bumpy, rhythmic style of Amy Winehouse's Rehab.

 ‘I’m very comfortable with who I am. I’m a woman, very proud to be,’ says Jully Black.

Everybody's digging the tune, apparently, except a few women who don't appreciate the subservient slant of the lyrics. "Nobody should be taking it that seriously," Black says, shrugging off any feminist concerns. "You know, it ain't that deep."

But still: "Do for you, baby, for the love that I seek/ Slave for you, baby, every day of the week." A bit outdated, no? "I'm the youngest of nine kids," says Black, who just turned 30. "My mom is in her 70s. I watched her washing the dirty clothes and doing a whole lot more."

For Black, singing the song was an homage to both James ("my favourite singer of all time") and her mother. "It was nice, to actually play that role. And it still exists. I think the idea of standing by your man is great."

Mind you, Black is nobody's fool. The album's name (Revival), and another track (Queen), speak to things more serious. The singer's debut album (2005's This is Me) was marred by the illegal downloading of its content. As well, there was a romantic breakup, and a friend of hers died young. At the end of her tour with the Black Eyed Peas two years ago, Black was unsure of her future. "It was like the end of summer camp," she recalls. "I was wondering if it was going to happen again."

It has. The former high-school athlete upped her workout regimen and recorded an album (with the help of producer Keith Harris of the Black Eyed Peas) that has her career in the same fine shape as her rich alto and admirable physique. The song Queen speaks to Black's lofty goals - she sees herself as the "face of the dream," of putting Canadian R & B on the map.

Ah, we can hear the shouts of her followers. "Long live the Queen," they will yell. And maybe, "the Queen, she's not wearing any pants!"

Jully Black plays Toronto's Mod Club tomorrow; Montreal, Saturday; Hamilton, Sunday; Wakefield, Que., Nov. 15; Calgary, Nov. 16; and Ottawa, Nov. 17.

Remember Wartime Duty, Folk Singer Says

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(November 09, 2007) Canadian folk music is failing its grand tradition of truthful storytelling in times of war, says Ontario singer-songwriter
Jon Brooks.

The straight-talking musician is nominated for a Canadian Folk Music Award for his disc of Canadian war stories, Ours And The Shepherds, a stirring collection of tales touching on the Korean War, the genocide in Rwanda and Canadian peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

It includes songs about Jim Loney, the Ontario peacekeeper held hostage in Iraq for 118 days; Romeo Dallaire, the former general who led an ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda; and Sgt. Tommy Prince, the decorated Canadian Indian veteran who died a forgotten hero in 1977.

"If we went back 40 years and I was a folk singer and it was 1967, I don't think I would be able to call myself a folk singer if I didn't have a song about Vietnam, you know?" he says.

"I wouldn't compare the two, but still, the idea of singing about wherever there is violence and social inequity in the world, that to me is the essence of folk songwriting and yet, it's not that common. There's a lot of people uneasy about it."

While artists like Neil Young, Steve Earle, Green Day and Bruce Springsteen have all produced albums critical of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brooks says the Canadian experience has been largely ignored.

The 39-year-old adds that he has even been turned down for gigs because of his provocative portraits.

"They said, `We're not quite sure, we think you might be a bit intense for our audience,'" he says of being rejected by some venues in northwestern Ontario.

"It makes me angry and it also makes me laugh because I just think that folk singing is not about writing in my diary about my last break-up. That's pop. The folk singer should be singing about the problems of the world."

Fellow Folk Music Award nominee Bruce Cockburn, however, says he's been inspired by what he sees as a healthy social awareness in music today.

Cockburn, whose catalogue of politically charged songs includes ``If I Had a Rocket Launcher" and "Lovers In A Dangerous Time," says many of today's protest songs are subtle in their approach.

"I'm hearing a lot of stuff lately that does seem to touch on the current goings-on, I think I hear it in the Arcade Fire stuff, kind of across the board," says Cockburn, who has a leading four folk nominations for his disc, Life Short Call Now.

"The references I was thinking of are more oblique and seem to be more springing from a recognition that we are faced with a period of conflict and that the times are very volatile, and that there's reason to be fearful. And to me that's very much like what was in the air in the '60s during the Vietnam period."

Cockburn says his job as a musician is to simply describe his feelings about real-life encounters.

"For some people it's not necessary to personally encounter something before they write about it, but for me it generally is," says Cockburn,

The Canadian Folk Music Awards will be handed out Dec. 1 in Gatineau, Que.

Teddy Pendergrass On His New 'Essential' Disc

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(November 9, 2007) "As a physically challenged individual, there are always physical challenges,” Pendergrass said, speaking very briefly about the disadvantages or health problems he faces every day. “I have had a wonderful quality of life. I don’t want for anything, I don’t need anything, and I’m doing well,” he said. “I look at what I can do and not what I can't do."  

*R&B legend
Teddy Pendergrass is a man of few words, but the award-winning singer took a moment to talk about a very special CD and a very special organization he's created.

The CD, "The Essential Teddy Pendergrass," was released earlier this week with much anticipation, and its release marks the 35th anniversary of his first recording as lead singer with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and 30 years since he emerged as a solo artist.

 “This is not just a compilation of random songs picked just to keep selling them,” Pendergrass relayed to EUR’s Lee Bailey. “This is a snapshot of my recording career. It tells a story from the beginning. I think we captured the gamut of the songs to show the audience the different material I’ve done; how many different types – the meaning and the styles. It’s really a storybook of my music.”

The 2-disc collection features the early hits and faves of the ‘80s and ‘90s, including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “The Love I Lost,” “When Somebody Loves You Back,” “Wake Up Everybody,” “Turn Off The Lights,” and his comeback crossover duet with Whitney Houston, “Hold Me,” plus many more. Just listing his hits and fan favourites would take quite a while, so it’s no wonder that it was quite a chore picking which songs made the cut for the project.

 “It was difficult and that’s a good thing,” he said. “That’s a good problem to have. So when we looked through the list of songs from the many years of recording and the many hit records that I’ve been afforded to have, we kind of thought of those songs that were most requested and the ones we always hear about, the ones that people ask for, the ones that did better on the charts than others did.”

However, as Pendergrass admitted, as daunting as the task appeared to be at first, he found it very enjoyable to work on selecting the best tracks for the disc.

 “It’s a lot of emotion involved, but it’s happy emotions,” he said in describing how he felt in going through his library of songs. “It’s like watching your children grow up over and over and over again. I’ve been a part of those songs more than 30 years. So in this project, I’m thinking ‘Which child am I going to pick for this task?’ It is agonizing. But I enjoyed the process. I revisited songs that I hadn’t paid attention to in many years. I don’t sit around the house listening to me, so it was quite an experience.”

Speaking of “an experience,” although Pendergrass last toured in 2003, he did hit the stage this past summer for a special engagement – a concert event held in Philadelphia called “Teddy 25 – A Celebration of Life, Hope and Possibilities.” The commemorative star-studded event celebrated the singer’s 25th year of disability. He suffered a serious automobile accident in 1982 that left him partially paralyzed from the waist down. The proceeds from the event were donated to his philanthropic venture The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance.

 “The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance is a non-profit organization that’s doing a lot of work to assist wheelchair users and spinal injury individuals to achieve a wonderful life [like] I’ve been afforded. This is something that I’m very passionate about,” he said. “The Alliance is obligated to helping them achieve the best life possible and live the way we want to live – through education, through employment, through housing. Those things are essential to life for anybody. I don’t believe that if you roll instead of walk that it should prohibit you from a quality of life.”

The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance was established in 1987 and last year partnered with the National Spinal Cord Injury Association to help people with injuries during the early stages of recovery.

Celebs who came out to show support at the event included Patti LaBelle, Ashford & Simpson, Melba Moore, Stephanie Mills, Mo’nique, and Bill Cosby, just to name a few.

 “It was incredible. It was wonderful,” Pendergrass said of the event.

As if that successful event weren’t enough, Pendergrass is overseeing the script of a play about his life and career. The production, opening in Chicago in the very near future, is called “I Am Who I Am,” which is also the title of one of his songs as well as his philosophy on life.

 “It really chronicles all of the aspects of my life. It’s such a wonderful vehicle,” he said.

Pendergrass claims to be a man of few words, but clearly he is a man of action. A new disc, a growing non-profit venture, and a stage play are just a few of the things the artist is working on. One might consider such a hectic project-load a bit overwhelming for someone with the health issues Pendergrass faces. But the singer said that’s nonsense.

 “As a physically challenged individual, there are always physical challenges,” Pendergrass said, speaking very briefly about the disadvantages or health problems he faces every day. “I have had a wonderful quality of life. I don’t want for anything, I don’t need anything, and I’m doing well,” he said. “I look at what I can do and not what I can’t do. And because of that philosophy, I’m able to do things that those walking around can’t do and haven’t done. I am not sitting by, living on what I used to do. Don’t play the old records and think, ‘Oh, those were the days.’ Yeah, those were the days, but these are the days, and tomorrow is another day for me to conquer.”

Well, you don’t even have to play the old records anyway. “The Essential Teddy Pendergrass” 2-disc CD is in stores now.

For more on the disc, check out the very interactive website at www.teddypendergrass.com. For more on the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, go to www.teddypendergrassalliance.com.

At Home With Anne Murray

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop & Jazz Critic

(November 10, 2007) At a time when most celebrities are trying to keep prying eyes at bay,
Anne Murray didn't think twice about letting a bunch of journalists into her home for an early peek at her new album.

"I think its one of those things where nobody's ever asked," Canada's Songbird said of the listening party held at her Thornhill residence recently at the suggestion of her record label.

"Once, I was up north with friends and, after dinner, one lady who was at the table said, `Would you sing for me?' and I went `Well, sure.' And the other women are looking and going, `You never sing for us.' Well, you never ask me.

"So, I have a lovely home and I'm proud of it and I see no reason not to invite people into it. I have nothing to hide."

The Muskoka-style dwelling is country comfortable, with a few of the trappings – indoor pool, grand piano – that let you know it's home to a 50-million-selling, 31-Juno-winning national icon known for shoeless strolls around the neighbourhood.

"I'm always in bare feet," the genial 62-year-old Springhill, N.S., native said in an interview. "For a few years in the very beginning I even performed in bare feet.

"I think I was rebelling against something, but everybody was rebelling in those days. I was not going to succumb to the glamour thing – and how long did it take me to succumb? Not very long; because you find out it is important what you look like onstage.

"It is important what you look like, period. So, I grew up and realized, `Just put on the shoes and wear some nice clothes and forget about it and try to sing well.'"

The singer, who made her recording debut in 1968, has been scaling back in recent years. Duets: Friends & Legends, which arrives in stores on Tuesday, came at the behest of record company officials.

"They said, `We would like to do an album of duets of your music.' That had never occurred to me. Then I said, `Would you consider that it might be only women?' To a person, they said, `No, that won't work.' All men, of course. So, I just tucked it back in my head and let them go on."

The executives' initial list included a host of male vocalists, such as Michael Bublé.

"It was overwhelming to me to have so many people to choose from. And I thought, with women, I would have more of a chance of having women who perhaps saw me as a role model, that it narrowed down the playing field a little. And I could concentrate more on whose voices would work."

Murray's vision of an all-female line-up won out. The 17-track effort shepherded by legendary producer Phil Ramone includes Nelly Furtado, Carole King, Céline Dion and Murray's daughter Dawn Langstroth.

The singer emailed back and forth with the proposed collaborators to pick tunes from her greatest hits.

"Shania (Twain), she got right back to me. I sent her a bunch of MP3s and, within days, she had chosen `You Needed Me.'

"Martina McBride actually invited herself to sing on the album and (requested) `Danny's Song.'

"k.d. lang and I did `A Love Song' on a country gold show years ago and I knew that was her favourite song, so that was set aside."

"I've always had in the back of my head that Jann Arden should do `Somebody's Always Saying Goodbye,' because it's a tearjerker and she loves those heart-wrenching songs."

Since 2004's I'll Be Seeing You was supposed to be her last album, Murray is now reluctant to make definitive career statements, but she's pretty sure her national tour next spring will be her last.

"Canadian tours are big and difficult, because of the large spaces between cities. You can go to New York State and play 30 towns that all have theatres and that's your Canadian tour."

But that doesn't mean she'll stop performing. "I could go to the Markham Theatre, for instance, and play for a week. There are little theatres that hold 400-500 people where I can take three to four musicians. But not on the scale that I do now – 22 to 25 people on the road, huge trucks, three buses.

"And I think it's time for me. I can still sing and I know that. And what I can't sing to my satisfaction, I won't sing anymore. I've raised the bar pretty high for myself."

Given the music industry's current woes, Murray is happy to be winding down.

Her advice to newcomers?

"The first thing you have to do is write songs. Dawn was told that years ago and that's what she does.

"Then, you just have to believe in what you do and, if you're good, it will happen, maybe. I say try and record some music somewhere, catch somebody's eye and go for it."

Offstage, she plays golf with a 13 handicap and spends summers in Nova Scotia near her five brothers and their families.

"I'm easing my way into doing less. If something's coming up, I will sing for about 45 minutes a day for about 10 days to two weeks before. I don't go for four months and not sing. It's the same as staying in shape. I have a trainer twice a week and I go to aerobics twice a week and I swim every other day."

What about romance for the divorced mother of two?

"No, nothing right now, but you never give up on that. My kids (visit) a lot. Getting to know and spend time with them as adults is a wonderful thing. I have a housekeeper and a dog. No grandchildren yet and none on the horizon as far as I can see. I enjoy my own company. I feel quite good about my life."

Q&A With The Aretha Franklin

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 13, 2007) *Billboard recently sat down with Aretha Franklin in advance of two new releases this month that examine her storied career: "Rare & Unreleased Recordings From the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul" and "Oh Me Oh My:
Aretha Franklin Live in Philly, 1972."

A third Aretha album, "Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets With the Queen," is due in stores on Nov. 13 with such vocal partners as Annie Lennox, George Michael, Mary J. Blige, John Legend and Fantasia, who appears on the set's first single, "Put You Up On Game."      

Billboard caught up Franklin before a recent charity concert in New York. 

1. WHAT ONE SPECIAL MEMORY SURFACED AFTER REVISITING THE "JEWELS" DUETS?

The duet with Frank Sinatra, "What Now My Love," is one of my favourites. It was 1969 and I went to Los Angeles to perform "Funny Girl" on the Academy Awards. Frank introduced me that night; to be introduced by the chairman of the board was a big moment for me. I had always wanted to duet with him. Frank always had the best arrangers, and his song selection and phrasing were impeccable.

2. IS THERE ANYONE ELSE ON YOUR DUET WISH LIST?

Absolutely. Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan. And you never know, Natalie Cole and I may do something. We've touched on that.

3. IS A NEW STUDIO ALBUM ON THE WAY?

It's called "Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love" on Aretha's Records. I think we're going to go to the Internet with that album, probably in the spring. Two fine young writer/producers, Troy Taylor and Gordon Chambers, worked on the album, which is mostly R&B with some pop. I also did some of the writing and production chores with Mike Powell and my son Kecalf.

4. WHERE DO THINGS STAND WITH YOUR STAGE PLAY, "ARETHA: FROM THESE ROOTS?"

That's coming along very well. Now we're talking about it as a follow-up to a telefilm that I'm negotiating with one of the networks. I'm very disappointed, though, that I haven't received the film proposals I would have loved to see from Hollywood. I did get a couple but they were very poor offers. They don't seem to respond to female celebrities in some ways as they do in others. So negotiations for a film broke off.

But the play is still definite. I have a consortium of gentlemen who are going to back it. I held auditions over five days and out of the 500 people we auditioned, I selected one. That gives you an idea as to how scrutinizing I am when it comes to this project.

5. HAVE YOU CONQUERED YOUR FEAR OF FLYING YET?

I'm driving out to L.A., but this is going to be my last time coming to the coast until I'm flying again. I'm going to give it one more try. The last time I took Fearless Flyers classes was about five years ago. If it doesn't happen, at least I tried.

Actually, I'm kind of planning my semi-retirement. I will always be singing somewhere but I won't be going on the road to the degree that I have before. But I'll still do select things and still record. I'm more into supporting my sons now and getting their careers out there.

Kecalf writes, produces and also has a degree in film. Eddie sings and I've recorded some things with him. And Teddy has his own rock group that goes to Europe three to four times a year to do the festivals.

6. IS AN "AMERICAN IDOL" APPEARANCE IN THE WORKS?

We've talked a number of times. Unfortunately, the show is on hiatus at the time I'm usually coming out to the coast. But since I'm coming in February, maybe I'll be able to do it this time.

Toronto Love-In For A Brazilian Trickster

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Caetano Veloso

(November 13, 2007)
Caetano Veloso is a trickster - a master of "all is not what it seems." He's a creator of inverted notions of what it is to be alive and able to express that life through song - and of the meaning within the songs themselves. Back in the (Tropicalismo) day, he was famous for it, a revolutionary who along with (the soon-to-be-former Culture Minister of Brazil) Gilberto Gil, so annoyed the government with his observations and cultural pranks that he was turfed out of the country. Now, nearly 40 years later and in his mid-60s, he's still exploring the realm of contradiction and clearly enjoys having an audience that will happily follow him through the strands of that double helix.

On Sunday, at his Toronto debut (incredible, given his stature as one of the founders of contemporary Brazilian musical aesthetics, through the aforementioned Tropicalismo movement), a full house enthusiastically went wherever he took them, from old favourites to songs from his most recent recording, Ce.

Backed by the same excellent rock trio of much younger musicians who appear on that recording, the music of Ce in itself is prime Veloso in trickster mode. It's rock music that's a poke in the eye of "rockism," the elevation of certain rock music to exalted elite status - something Veloso is on record as loathing. So at times on stage he seemed to play at being the rock god, with ungainly leaping and prancing, absurd flirting, openly grinning at his own, grey-haired antics.

But the music, whether audacious and driving or achingly melancholic, and from whatever period of his prolific songbook, was unfailingly stronger for any inherent contradictions. With the former - songs like the angular Outro, or the show closer, Rocks, he made them stronger still by brilliant use of the searing yet controlled guitar playing of Pedro Sa. Veloso knows what he can and cannot do, and though he was often (literally) strapped into his own guitar harness, at one point he tellingly related what a Brazilian critic once said - that "the only thing worse than having to listen to Veloso talk too much was having to hear his guitar playing."

Maybe, but at times Veloso's guitar playing, though not virtuosic, seemed an essential part of his appeal. This was well evidenced during the concert's solo moments, with an exquisite performance of Cucurrucucu Paloma, a song probably best known from his performance of it in the Pedro Almodovar movie Talk to Her. And if when Veloso speaks it strays into potentially mystifying tangents, that, too, is essential to who he is - at least as a performer.

Besides, at this point in his career, he seems to be slyly revealing his hand. After a performance of Odeio, a fast-running train of a song with the recurring chorus (in Portuguese), "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you," Veloso talked about how "sweet and strange" he finds it when people sing along with his music (something he encourages and something his audience is not shy of).

He added that he found it "beautiful" to hear everyone singing those particular lyrics, noting that as one friend of his had observed, if you repeat the phrase enough, as he does in the song, sung as it is to a beautiful, haunting melody, it almost becomes a way of saying, "I love you."

Does the audience get it? Do we critics get it? Impossible to truly know. But although one segment of the audience chose to yell, "Caetano rocks," during one of his least-rockin' songs, the purifying desolation of Minhas Lagrimas (My Tears), another, during the encore reprise of Odeio, chose to yell, loudly and lovingly, "Caetano, we hate you!"

Special to The Globe and Mail

John Arpin, 70: McMichael Gallery Pianist

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(November 13, 2007) Toronto lost a great popularizer of music when pianist
John Arpin died last Thursday of cancer at age 70.

People passing through Toronto's great hotels – the King Edward and the Sutton Place, among others – in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s probably heard Arpin at the piano.

"I opened up a lot of hotels. Thank God I didn't close any," he said in a 1989 Star interview.

With the encouragement of Julian Rice, who had founded the now-defunct Fanfare Records, Arpin began a prolific burst of studio recordings that included the full output of ragtime composer Scott Joplin, as well as collaborations with other artists, including singer Maureen Forrester. By 2000, he had recorded his 60th album and collected three Juno nominations.

During the last two decades, Arpin's name graced the programs of southern Ontario's smaller orchestras, as well as summer festival events. One of his final public concerts was at the Collingwood Music Festival on June 21.

He was also a popular Sunday afternoon regular in the McMichael Gallery's lobby in Kleinburg for more than two decades.

Whether playing his signature ragtime, or venturing into jazz, Broadway show tunes or even the great arias of opera, Arpin's playing was a model of poise and elegance.

He was born on Dec. 6, 1936, in Port McNicoll, on Georgian Bay, which has an Arpin St. not far from the centre of town.

The talented youngster attended the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto from 1950 to 1953. His first professional gigs were with fellow music popularizers like Howard Cable and Leo Romanelli.

Besides steady hotel work, Arpin joined CTV as a regular music director in the late 1960s. In 1984, he joined TVO's Polka Dot Door. Through the 1970s, his composition "Jogging Along" opened CBC Radio's Morningside.

Arpin leaves his wife, Mary Jane Esplen, and three children from his first marriage: Bob, Jennifer and Nadine. A mass will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m., at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto.

Queen Latifah - 'I Gotta Go With What I Love'

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(November 14, 2007) Like a lot of people her age,
Queen Latifah grew up listening to jazz, even if it wasn't always by choice. "My father always played jazz," she says of her childhood in Newark, N.J. "Every time I got in the car, I knew I'd be listening to someone - Coltrane, or Wes Montgomery, or Brubeck. Somebody. It would always be a jazz instrumental. And usually it was set to Jazz 88, which was the jazz station in New York since I was a kid."

"It was kind of mature for me when I was really young," she adds. "It was easier to follow a lot of the melody stuff that my mom would play, which would be anything from Elton John to the Jackson Five."

Later, as a teenaged aspiring rapper, she began to appreciate jazz as a form of knowledge.

She was part of a crew called the Flavor Unit, which worked with producer DJ Mark the 45 King. "I remember Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest coming over to the 45 King, and they would go through record after record after record," she says, over the phone from West Palm Beach, Fla. "They studied the music. They didn't go to music school, per se, but they studied jazz. They studied the horns, they studied the bass lines, they studied the chords, and they figured out ways to make that work in a modern-day context, in a modern-day, hip-hop generation context. And I think they did it really well."

Lately, Latifah herself has been doing her part to make jazz "work in a modern-day context." After having branched out into acting and artist management, the 37-year-old hip-hop star has moved into jazz singing, starting with The Dana Owens Album in 2004 (Latifah's real name is Dana Owens), and continuing with the just-released Trav'lin' Light.

At first glance, it may seem an ambitious move on her part, but she sees it as just self-expression, one more way in which she's being true to who she really is. "I gotta go with what I love, and what I feel," she says. "And what I can sing. There are a lot of Aretha Franklin records that I love, but I don't think I could sing them like she sang them." She laughs. "I think I'll leave that alone, let Mary J. Blige do that.

"But when it comes to a song like Lush Life, which struck a chord in me, I want to sing that," she says, referring to the Billy Strayhorn standard included on The Dana Owens Album. "Or I'm Gonna Live 'Til I Die [from Trav'lin' Light], which I heard in Sarah Vaughan's version, even though I know Frank Sinatra recorded it as well. I want to sing that because I think I can sing that, and I feel it's more in my vein.

"What's important for me is to stay true to Queen Latifah," she adds. "As long as I do what I do, it generally works for me. And that rule has followed me in every aspect of my life. Whenever I've not been myself, or stepped out of who I am, I usually get spanked. Or it's not successful. Whatever it is, it doesn't work for me."

She started out as a "conscious" rapper, one who made a point of expressing strength and a positive message in her music. "When I was just starting out as a rapper, there were female rappers talking about all kinds of stuff," she says. "But I'm raised a certain way. There's certain things I'm not going to say on a record, you know? I want to be able to play this record for my mother, so I'm going to limit the amount of curses I'm going to put on it.

"Also, I'm aware of what's going on in the world, so I'm going to talk about some of that stuff. And you know what? I think I need to be a lady in certain ways, so I'm going to reflect that. And I also need to be a strong woman, so I'm going to reflect that as well."

She made her movie debut in 1991, two years after the release of her first album, All Hail the Queen, and has since appeared in films ranging from Living Out Loud to Bringing Down the House to an Oscar-nominated turn in Chicago. Unlike a lot of hip-hop artists, who fade into obscurity after a few years, Latifah is still going strong two decades after cutting her first single.

"But if I came out and tried to be like everyone else, I wouldn't have had the records that I made," she says. "I wouldn't have taken a chance on acting, I wouldn't have opened up my own management company. There are so many things I wouldn't have done if I'd tried to be someone else. And I wouldn't be here right now."

Tony Bennett Shows No Sign Of Slowing Down

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Columnist

(November 13, 2007) You have to wonder what
Tony Bennett has left to prove? Why, at 81, he remains so driven, so obsessed with his work?

Maybe it's the work, the music, that drives him, not the other way round. Of the hundreds of musicians I've known and interviewed over three decades, none imparts such infectious joy at the mere prospect of talking about music, let alone performing. It's as if Bennett can't wait for the next overture, the tinkle of a piano intro, the next whispered four-count to begin. He lives and breathes music, and he can't get enough.

His recent release, Tony Bennett Sings the Ultimate American Songbook Vol. 1, which came out in September, is a lush and commanding restatement of some of the finest standards in the canon, with Bennett's rich bel canto seductively sliding through the jazzy blues modes and stylish lyrics of his favourite composers – including Cole Porter and Harold Arlen– in riveting performances culled from a dozen recordings, both popular and obscure, dating back to 1958.

The same month, Tony Bennett: An American Classic earned seven Emmy Awards, making it the year's most honoured TV program. Bennett also performed at the Emmys gala with Christina Aguilera and literally stole the show.

A few days later, PBS aired the comprehensive, intimate and deeply affectionate documentary biography, Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends, produced by Clint Eastwood and narrated by Anthony Hopkins.

With a revealing and expansive conversation between Eastwood, an inveterate jazz fan, and Bennett at its core, the two-hour film also contains eloquent testimonials from leading American writers, moviemakers, actors and critics, as well as a wealth of illuminating archival footage.

It has just been released commercially, accompanied by a second disc featuring Bennett's stunning performance at the 2005 Monterey Jazz Festival, which Eastwood attended and which immediately inspired him to make the documentary. For good measure, Sony-BMG has just re-released an enhanced version of the live-in-the-studio DVD, Tony Bennett: MTV Unplugged, the groundbreaking 1994 concert special that introduced the timelessly hip crooner to the video generation; reinvented him as a new-age star and yielded the biggest-selling album of his career.

When we spoke last Friday, Bennett seemed bewildered by all this sudden attention and characteristically humble.

Q: How did you feel being put under the microscope by Clint Eastwood?

A: I love the show. I was honoured that he wanted to make a film about me. We met at the Monterey Jazz Festival two years ago ... I tried to answer his questions honestly. He's a great music fan, and a good pianist, so the conversation was easy. My son participated in the production ... he helped find all the old concert footage and still photos. I think he delivered most of what we were asked for.

Q: You're still doing 150 shows a year, still going strong ... do you ever feel you should slow down?

A: I'm 81 and more accepted now than ever, and by five or six generations. I don't worry about surviving. I've always been able to survive. I'm still in good voice ... some people say in better voice than when I was younger. It's baffling to me, but I'm such a contented person. I always promised myself that if I ever started to wobble, I'd quit singing and just paint. I'd be happy to do that. But my voice is still strong ... and I don't feel like retiring.

Q: You've virtually exhausted the American songbook ... are you ever afraid you'll run out of material?

A: There was such an explosion of brilliant songwriting in the 1920s through the 1940s; I think the Depression and World War II had a lot to do with that. I compare it to the Renaissance in France. It was very economical to put on shows, and there were hundreds of them, thousands. Even shows that didn't do well had one or two great songs. They were the art form of the time, and composers jammed with each other, showing off their songs and getting new ideas along the way. Fifty years from now I think that will be looked on as America's classical period. I don't think I'll ever run out.... I have all of Sinatra, my master, Nat King Cole's records, Ella (Fitzgerald) ... they're never going to sound worse.

Jodi Proznick - Music a Family Affair for Jazz Bassist

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop & Jazz Critic

(November 14, 2007) Musicians end up playing the instruments they do for all kinds of reasons, but Vancouver bassist
Jodi Proznick, the daughter of a nationally acclaimed high school band director, can cite a specific one.

"He didn't know anything about the bass, so as a tenacious 13-year-old I thought that he couldn't look over my shoulder and tell me what to do," she said of her desire for musical independence from trumpeter/educator dad Dave Proznick.

That's not to say both parents didn't inspire their three children's artistic pursuits. Proznick also studied ballet for 10 years, while sister Kelly is a trombonist/educator and brother Tim plays drums.

"I suppose if they were as into hockey as they were into us doing dance and theatre and music I would have been on a hockey team," said Proznick, 32, who makes her Toronto headlining debut at the Rex tonight.

Her first national tour is also a family affair. The band, which played on her first recording, Foundations, includes pianist Tilden Webb, Proznick's husband of three years, his high school pal, tenor saxist Steve Kaldestad, and her sister's beau, drummer Jesse Cahill.

"In terms of being a leader, it's kind of ideal in a way, because you're dealing with people who care about each other," said the noted bassist.

Rooted in traditional swinging post bop, her group covered Duke Ellington, as well as Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel on Foundations.

"I love pop," explained the performer, who started out on electric bass and moved to upright at 16, "but jazz was a good fit, because it's challenging. You're on the edge of your ability always and it's such an in-the-moment way to make music. I love communicating with people and playing jazz is this euphoric way of communicating with others: the musicians and the audience.

On the disc's four original songs, Proznick said she was "trying to write from a real sensory place."

"With `Duke of York,' for example, I wanted to embody my 28-pound cat, York. Rhythmically, it's the soundtrack I would put to watching him lumber down my hallway.

"I will often explain this (to the audience) when I'm playing that song and people often respond because they have a visual. I think with instrumental jazz it can be a little difficult for the average listener; they feel a bit alienated from it, because it seems like there's so much going on. I've found this song is kind of an invitation: everyone knows cats, everyone's seen Garfield, they have something to hang their hat on it while listening to the song."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Method Man Invades Canada

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 8, 2007) *
Method Man will be north of the border tonight to kick off his first-ever solo Canadian tour – a seven-show outing that will also touch down in Alberta Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The jaunt is in support of his fourth solo album, "4:21... The Day After," which reached No. 8 on The Billboard 200 when it was released last year. The record--produced by RZA, Scott Storch and Erick Sermon--features guest spots from several fellow Wu-Tangers, as well as a cameo by the late Ol' Dirty Bastard.  The Wu-Tang Clan rapper is currently working on his next album, titled "Crystal Method," according to Canadian music publication ChartAttack. Meanwhile, Wu-Tang Clan's long-awaited set, "The 8 Diagrams," is scheduled to drop Dec. 4.  Here is Method Man's tour schedule:

November 2007
8 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Plush
10 - Edmonton, Alberta - Edmonton Events Centre
12 - Calgary, Alberta - Whiskey Night Club
14 - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Odeon Events Centre
15 - Winnipeg, Manitoba - The Empire Cabaret
16 - Barrie, Ontario - The Roxx Nite Club
17 - Toronto, Ontario - Kool Haus

Wyclef Jean Helps Haiti One Person At A Time

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 13, 2007) *
Wyclef Jean says he has founded several youth-based programs that are backed financially by Yele Haiti, the charity he launched to benefit his Caribbean homeland. Yele Haiti will provide computer labs, classrooms and counselling for jailed child gang members, help local women's groups sell food in the seaside slum of Cite Soleil, and establish a youth scholarship and soccer program, Jean said. "If you want to change a country, unfortunately, you're not going to be able to help 8 million people at one time," Jean told reporters Saturday after arriving in Port-au-Prince. "But if you can get one or two or three and start to make that change, that will make the difference." Jean, who wore a white linen jacket with Haiti's shield embroidered in sparkling stones, spoke to reporters mostly in Creole during his first visit to the city since being appointed its roving ambassador in January.

::FILM NEWS::

Bollywood Epics Go Toe-To-Toe At Box Office

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(November 09, 2007) A song-and-dance showdown between two
Bollywood films, Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, is set to take place today as the two hit the big screen in theatres across Toronto.

After weeks of worldwide publicity, the films have been pitted against each other partly due to the marketing tactics of distributors Eros International and Sony Pictures, who have turned the releases into a battle of the old stars of Bollywood versus industry newcomers.

"The outcome of this battle is important," said Mohit Rajhans, a film reviewer and host of Bollywood Boulevard on OMNI. "It could signal an entirely new generation of actors, since a lot of people have been criticizing that the industry has been stuck with the same four or five stars for years."

Om Shanti Om, produced and directed by Farah Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, has been tempting fans since the release of its soundtrack in September, with a number of its songs topping charts in India since then. Add to the mix a lead role by Bollywood's current "It man," Shah Rukh Khan, and cameos by more than 30 of the industry's top actors, and the film's publicity machine has been able to generate enormous buzz months before its release.

Saawariya has used a slightly different tactic to generate hype. As the first Hindi film to be released by Sony Pictures, it has also had the luxury of being marketed in the same way as Hollywood films. Sony will release the film in "almost every market it can tap into" in 85 theatres in 42 cities around the world.

But instead of using tried-and-tested Bollywood stars, producer Sanjay Leela Bhansali is banking on the public being ready to see some new faces on the big screen.

He has put all his chips on Sonam Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, two newcomers with little film experience who are the children of famous Bollywood actors past and present, Anil Kapoor and Rishi Kapoor.

Both films are expected to pack theatres in India and in Toronto throughout this Diwali weekend, and could provide Bollywood a much-needed boost after what has been a relatively lacklustre year.

Both films can be seen this weekend at Woodside Cinema in Scarborough, Albion Cinema in Etobicoke or Bayfield Cinema in Barrie, and at AMC theatres across the city.

Derek Luke: The Lions For Lambs Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(November 9, 2007) *Born in Jersey City on April 24, 1974,
Derek Luke took a most unusual route to fame and fortune.

He did move to Los Angeles, but was discovered in 2002 while working at a gift shop on the lot of Sony Studios.

And right out of the box he was cast in the title role as Antwone Fisher, the bittersweet bio-pic which marked the directorial debut of Denzel Washington.

A critically-acclaimed performance led to Derek's landing leads in such pictures as Catch a Fire, Glory Road, Pieces of April, Biker Boyz, Spartan and Friday Night Lights. He's also recently finished work on his first romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe, and he's currently in Tuscany shooting Miracle at St. Anna, an adaptation of the James McBride WWII saga about four black soldiers who find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in a tiny Italian village.

In 1998, Derek married Sophia Hernandez (Knockout) the attractive actress whom he brought up on stage with him when he won an Independent Spirit Award for Antwone Fisher. The couple is eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first child in the Spring.

Here, Derek talks about Lions for Lambs, his new release, opening today, a war flick in which he plays a college student who, along with an equally-idealistic classmate (Michael Pena), drops out of school and enlists in the military in order to serve in Afghanistan.

Kam Williams: How'd you enjoy making Lions for Lambs?

Derek Luke: It was the most intense and the most insane, but it was also the most fulfilling film I've done so far.

KW: How was it not only being directed by, but co-starring opposite Robert Redford?

DL: What I loved about Mr. Redford was how he gave. He always gave in a scene. And he was kind of teaching without teaching.

For full interview with Derek Luke by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Controversial Pakistani Film On 9/11 Aftermath Not Screening In Canada, At Least Not Yet

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(November 09, 2007) To see this year's hit Pakistani film
Khuda Kay Liye (In the Name of God) in Toronto, Faisal Anwar had little choice but to watch it illegally, after downloading it off a website.

It was the only way he and others in the local community could access one of the first films from Pakistan in years that has garnered both controversy and attention internationally.

"This is the first time we get a chance to see Pakistani perspective on post-9/11 on the big screen," said Anwar, a new media artist originally from Lahore. "It's just unfortunate that the only way to watch it was the pirated way."

What's caused the stir is that unlike most films emerging from Pakistan's love-story-obsessed film industry, known as Lollywood, In the Name of God addresses issues burdening Pakistanis around the world: radicalization of their youth, forced marriages in Pakistan and the wrongful detentions of Muslims in the West. Directed by Shoaib Mansoor, In the Name of God centres on two brothers. One changes from a jeans-wearing musician to a gun-toting fanatic, and the other is arrested in the U.S. following 9/11, brutally tortured and deported back to Pakistan.

That's why Anwar's trying to bring the film to Toronto. If successful, it would be the first film out of Lollywood to be officially released in theatres in North America.

"There's such a huge South Asian community here who would benefit from the movie," said Anwar. "For the first time in Pakistan's history, a film was made that made people think," said Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a Pakistani documentary filmmaker based in Toronto. "It's a story that resonated with a lot of people because of what is happening in society."

Trying to explain the religious turmoil embroiling Pakistani society in a post-9/11 world has been the goal of many in the Pakistani arts scene. A number of documentaries and books such as Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist have attempted to broach the subject and have done so with modest success, mostly within the large diasporic community. But the release of In the Name of God marks the first time a commercially released Pakistani film has attempted to bring the issue to the masses – with considerable success.

"Before this film, Pakistani cinema has been dead," said Obaid-Chinoy. "My generation has not ever gone to the movie theatre, but this film saw cinema houses packed."

When the film was released in July, Pakistanis flocked to the movie in droves, despite numerous bomb threats. In many theatres people stood up and cheered during the closing credits, said Obaid-Chinoy, who watched the film at a sold-out screening in Karachi in August.

Despite a limited release in a handful of theatres across the country, the film is said to have grossed a record $500,000 in its first three weeks, according to officials at Geo Films, the media distribution company that helped produce the movie.

Numbers like those give hope to an industry that has slumped from producing 100 films a year in the 1980s to less than 40 a year in the 1990s. The last film to achieve similar success was the love story Yeh Dil Aap Ka Huwa (This Heart is Yours) more than five years ago, which was said to have grossed $2.4 million within months of its release, but which never managed global success. International interest in Pakistani films has been virtually non-existent, largely overshadowed by neighbouring Bollywood. That's why many of those in the industry are hopeful this film will re-energize Lollywood.

"This film is definitely the kind of spark needed to revive our industry," said Sameena Pirzada, a Pakistani actor and director, during a recent visit to Toronto. "We have been lacking for years this kind of homegrown innovation."

Anwar believes that part of the success of In the Name of God is that for many Pakistanis the film and the fate of its main characters reflect their reality.

"People see their own life experiences in the movie," said Anwar. "Every family has either lost a son to this kind of extremism or knows someone who has.

"The real issue is that Pakistani films just don't have the financial backing and support to go international. But we have to start working on creating a means for them to get here; otherwise we could be missing an opportunity for understanding between the East and West."

Josh Brolin A Late Bloomer

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Movie Critic

(November 09, 2007) You know
Josh Brolin is having a great year when he casually mentions his on-set shenanigans while making No Country for Old Men for the Coen Bros.

Trying to get a rise out of Joel and Ethan Coen is like trying to pry a smirk out of the Sphinx, if they're not in the mood to be kidded.

"I made fun of them a lot during filming," Brolin says, smiling as he lights up one of his habitual Marlboros.

"I'd go, `This isn't funny – is this Coens? Do we have a wood chipper around that we can use?'"

Not that long ago, Brolin, 39, might have been inclined to zipper his lips and not push his luck. The son of actor James Brolin and stepson of singer Barbra Streisand had toiled in the trenches for more than 20 years, making movies and TV shows that did little to advance his obvious abilities.

Remember him in Hollow Man or the movie version of The Mod Squad? He'd prefer you didn't, especially since the last two years have brought him great gigs.

He has good supporting roles in Ridley Scott's American Gangster and Paul Haggis' In the Valley of Elah, both in theatres. Even his "B" movies are giving him "A" roles, as was the case in the Planet Terror portion of Grindhouse and the sea drama Into the Blue, both where he played interesting villains.

But he's happiest about Llewelyn Moss, the not-so-dumb hick who gives a serial killer, a bounty hunter and a lawman a run for their money in No Country for Old Men. It helps that Brolin actually does live on a ranch, along with his wife, actor Diane Lane, and his two children from a previous marriage.

He almost missed getting to play Moss. Two days after being cast, he crashed his motorcycle in L.A. and cracked his collarbone. That didn't stop him from showing up for filming two weeks later.

Brolin knows a good thing when he sees it. Such as the great audience response he got during the Toronto International Film Festival, where No Country had its North American premiere.

Sitting for an interview with the Star, he happily puffs away and talks about his best year in years.

Q. It seems you've clicked into a new stage in your career. Do you attribute any of it to good luck?

A. I think I'm just working with really good people, that's the difference. There's also serendipity, luck, all of the above, but who knows? I got into a place where I was fine and it was very important for me to never become bitter. People were coming up saying, `Oh, I love your character in this movie but I hated the movie.' I've heard that enough.

I'm okay now with just being a working actor. Suddenly I meet these people who I seem to collaborate with much better than I did with filmmakers of the past. Working with the Coens and Ridley Scott and Paul Haggis are the easiest things I've ever done.

Q. Do you suffer from Famous Dad Syndrome? Has it been hard working in the shadow of James Brolin?

A. When I first became an actor, yeah, I felt the shadow and all that. I never wanted to be an actor. The only reason I became an actor is because I took a theatre class and loved it. F---ing fell in love with it. Felt like a great drug. I told myself, `I can do this. I can just lie. It's all good. And it is all good.' I also took a very different path than my dad had taken, which I think was really important for me, at least early on. Now it's just two guys who have been around for along time.

Q. You weren't raised like the average Hollywood kid.

A. I grew up away from L.A., which I was very happy about. Greatest thing my parents could ever have done. I grew up in the country, and I'm raising my kids there the same way.

Q. Llewelyn Moss seems a lot like you.

A. It was a fun character to play. It really was, at least from an acting point of view. It was a little like an experiment in being laconic and not feeling like I was being bored. There weren't a lot of distractions. A lot of times as an actor you start distracting yourself or the audience or the character out of nerves or being lost: `Where's this guy?' A look is a look is a look is a look, and you gotta have something going on, or else it's going to be flat and vacant.

Spoof Opens Reel Asian Film Festival

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Reporter

(November 09, 2007) The fact that
Meryl Streep stars in a feature film in this year's Reel Asian International Film Festival is an indication of high the bar has been set for inclusion in a program boasting 77 independent films and videos.

Wednesday's gala opening screening of Finishing the Game kicks off the fest in high spirits. Hilariously spoofing '70s martial arts films and the 1978 posthumous Bruce Lee film Game of Death, Los Angeles director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) imagines Hollywood producers on the search to cast a Lee substitute.

The contenders include Breeze Loo (Roger Fan) an actor who needs a stand-in for all the fight scenes and a very Caucasian-looking Rob Force (James Franco) who claims he's half Chinese. MC Hammer does a turn as a swaggering casting agent.

From Vietnamese-born California director Stephane Gauger comes a sensitive and engaging feature set on the streets of contemporary Ho Chi Minh City, Owl and the Sparrow. Pham Thi Han gives an extraordinary performance as Thuy, a 10-year-old girl who escapes her uncle's bamboo factory to wander the streets as a flower seller.

Befriended by a zookeeper (the very handsome Le The Lu) and a flight attendant (Cat Ly), the orphaned Thuy brings love into the lives of those who watch out for her.

Dark Matter comes from a Chinese director living in New York, Chen Shi-Zheng, who is also a Chinese opera performer. His film draws on the stories of Chinese students who were allowed to study abroad in the early '90s.

An astronomy student, Liu Xing (well-known Chinese actor Liu Ye) is in the U.S. studying dark matter and stumbles on a theory that undermines his professor's scientific teachings.

Aidan Quinn plays Prof. Jacob Reiser and Meryl Streep is Joanna Silver, the wealthy patron of the university. Chen turns their encounters into a three-hander with profound consequences.

Homestay, from Vancouver directors Ian Kenji Barbour and Joshua Yuji Olson, has a homespun look, but explores an intriguing cross-cultural proposition.

Yaskuki Mukai is a Tokyo film school grad trying to become a comedian. After his jokes fall flat he applies for a homestay program in Canada and is picked up by Skeena Reese, a Tsimshian/Cree singer and satirical performer. Their journey into northern B.C., to Skeena's ancestral home, is plotted like a documentary where nothing goes they way it's expected to.

The closing night gala presents Sakuran, a lushly filmed portrait of geishas behind the scenes in the brothels of Japan from Japanese photographer and director Mika Ninagawa. The film is a sensuous experience, updating the image of the "oiran" or high-ranking courtesan that makes Memoirs of a Geisha look terribly tame.

Other screenings worth catching include the Korean film No Regret, short films by Japanese experimental filmmaker Oe Masanori, a collection of shorts from Canada under the heading Power Play, a screening of the short films and commercials of Thai director Penek Ratanaruang, a spotlight on the shorts of Canadian filmmaker Lesley Loksi Chan, and Getting Home, from Chinese director Zhang Yang (Shower, Sunflower).

As well, the festival presents opportunities for filmmakers in a series of workshops on topics such as film financing, making documentaries and screenwriting.

The festival runs until Sunday, Nov. 18, with screenings at the Bloor Cinema, the Isabel Bader Theatre, Innis Town Hall and the National Film Board Cinema.

Tickets are $10 for regular screenings. A festival pass is $120. Go to go to reelasian.com or call 416-703-9333 for information and schedules.

Actor Brings Tragic Author Back To Life In Docudrama

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(November 10, 2007) Edmonton-born
Olivia Cheng plays the role of deceased author Iris Chang in the docudrama Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking. Filmed on location in China and the United States, the movie explores the real-life experiences of Chang as she researched the "forgotten holocaust" for her 1997 bestseller, The Rape of Nanking.  A former journalist with the Edmonton Journal and ET Canada, Cheng talks of her experiences as a professional actor walking in the footsteps of the tragic literary figure.

Q. What attracted you to the film?

A.
I read the book and, as a writer myself, I was so appreciative and was just incredulous that, as a Chinese-Canadian, how I could not have known about this chapter in my (people's) history. I was so moved I hopped on the Internet and looked up Iris Chang because I wanted to send her a fan letter – and that's when I found out she had died a year earlier at that point. And I was like, "What happened? How does someone go from really changing the course of history and creating a legacy that really affects so many people to parking her car on the side of the road and putting a gun to her head?"

I phoned a number in San Jose and tracked down Iris Chang's widower and said, "I'm an actor based out of Vancouver. I was in journalism and I really want to know about your wife because I think I want to write a screenplay about her one day. Could you help me?"

After I talked to her widower, I realized I barely knew how to act. How could I write a screenplay about a person people actually knew? So I put it away and I gave myself 10 years to finally get this out there. Nine months later, my agent sent me a breakdown for a documentary getting ready to film called Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking, and I couldn't believe it.

Q. What was it like working with people who knew Iris?

A.
It was a pretty incredible experience because, to go to Nanking, following in the footsteps of the woman whose work inspired me to learn about this city and its history, was very surreal. Especially when they put me in costume and did my hair like Iris and I would walk up to these people who knew her and watch them trip out.

Q. She seemed to be haunted by the people and the images she wrote about in the book. Did you feel the same way?

A.
No, I think it's very different, because the work Iris put into that project doesn't compare to what I've done. She put in two to three years of her life going through atrocity story after atrocity story, hitting wall after wall after wall. I was researching Iris rather than the holocaust.

Q. How would you describe the genre of this film?

A.
This is basically a documentary with dramatic elements. If Iris Chang were still alive today this would have been a straight documentary. We have clips of the real Iris Chang in the movie. But they kind of bring me in to show the emotional narrative of what she might have been going through.

Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking premieres Monday at 7 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema. Tickets $12 at the box office.

Toronto Plays Itself, For Once

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Staff Reporter

(November 11, 2007) Toronto's streets and skyline have long been used as stand-ins for numerous cities on film.

But if the aspirations of four youthful local directors are fulfilled, the city's anonymity will soon be replaced by a showcase of the distinct personalities that make Toronto a unique town unto itself.

"There are many great filmmakers who have worked in the city but their visions are not necessarily representative of these streets," says Toronto-born director David Weaver.

Weaver, a veteran from behind the lens of TV cameras, has joined forces with fellow 30-somethings Aaron Woodley, Sook-Yin Lee and the Gemini Award-winning Sudz Sutherland to capture the city's essence in a series of love letters to Hogtown.

It's called Toronto Stories, and much in the vein of New York Stories and Paris, je t'aime, their film promises to be a tribute to Toronto.

The film was conceived by Weaver and Woodley over drinks one night when they decided the city wasn't properly represented in cinema.

"I think where Toronto differs from other cities in the world and even from Montreal is that it lacks its own mythology, maybe not in literature and maybe not in music, but certainly in film," says Woodley, who made his mark in animation before turning to directing.

Creating a cinematic mythology for the city is precisely what the four directors have set out to do.

"Forget about trying to emulate Hollywood. Let's tell our own stories," Lee says.

Splitting their film into four chapters – one for each director – the team has created a narrative that captures some of the many faces of Toronto.

Opening with the confusion of the arrivals lounge at Pearson Airport where an immigrant boy goes missing, the film travels into the city through the eyes of a child and records everyday and extraordinary stories that occur on our streets.

The crew has been filming in landmarks such as Union Station and the Royal Ontario Museum and has incorporated the Polkaroo of TVOntario fame and the infamous Cabbagetown Monster, a fictitious underground creature once said to have lived in the sewers beneath Rosedale, into the narrative.

Highlighting some of Toronto's most posh and grungy areas while giving importance to the city's major landmarks as well as the local people you might pass on the street, the directors have set out to, in Sutherland's words, "create something which feels real."

Sutherland, who will be filming this week in and around St. Clair Ave. and Vaughan Rd., hopes the film will instil an appreciation of the city to viewers both familiar and unfamiliar with Toronto.

"You know, a lot of people out West hate Toronto. A lot of people even in Newmarket hate Toronto. To give them some sort of an insight into what Toronto really is, is part of our goal," Sutherland says.

Filming of Toronto Stories is set to wrap on Friday. Producers hope to release the film, with its $1 million budget, in time for the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.

According to Lee, the timing for the project is ideal. She says the city is going through a cultural renaissance and it's about time that rebirth is captured on film.

"I moved here in the mid-90s from Vancouver and it really struck me as an intense, working city. In terms of the arts, a lot of the people were into the rock scene but it was just like Toronto was no fun," she says.

"But I have found in the last few years an incredible incubation of amazing musicians and artists, homegrown and coming from other places like Halifax, Calgary and Vancouver to Toronto and injecting a new kind of life to the city."

Weaver is fascinated by the idea that 50 per cent of Toronto's population were not born in the city and says this fact has given its streets a certain buzz.

"I'm very interested in this idea that Toronto's sort of a cusp city, like it's right on the edge of something that's happening," Weaver says.

In capturing the essence of this "cusp city," the directors have brought their own approaches to the project.

Lee describes her chapter of the film, shot mostly indoors using handheld cameras, as a postcard look at the seldom-profiled interior of Toronto.

Woodley's chapter deals with his own experiences as a wondering child going in search of the Cabbagetown Monster. In his piece, shot on dollies in and around the Don Valley, he aims to capture a rural face of the city not often recognized by those who view Toronto as a concrete jungle.

In Sutherland's chapter, the city is seen through panes of glass in representation of his experiences as a child coming into the city from Scarborough via the subway.

"Toronto was always downtown for me. It was always a place I would travel to, always seen at first from a moving vehicle," he says.

Weaver's chapter of the film is inspired by true events and aims to tug at our social conscience as it tells the story of a university professor, fallen from grace and living on the streets outside Union Station.

Filming at Union overnight in the pouring rain earlier this week, Weaver looked like a man dedicated to his self-imposed duty of showing the trueness of the city through the eye of his lens.

The project has hit a couple of snags, for example, the logistics of filming in places such as the ROM, which necessitated a call to area MP Olivia Chow, and at Union Station, which can only be shut down at night for shooting – not to mention the unique challenges of accommodating the vision and schedules of four directors.

But Weaver says the team's passion for the project is of a grander nature.

"There's a lot of pressure that we feel because this is the first time this has been done and it's important to get it right," he says. "But that's also pretty exciting to us."

Superstar Ascent - A Conversation with Idris Elba

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - The Robertson Treatment, Additional reporting Samantha Ofole

(November 13, 2007) *In over 15-years of chronicling the celebrities I have encounter only 3 individuals with whom I've been truly excited about interviewing:
Yolanda King, because of her father’s legacy; Eartha Kitt, because of her overwhelming legend, and most recently actor Idris Elba, who I honestly believe is the black actor to watch for the next generation.

I was first introduced to the work of this British born actor when he starred on the popular HBO drama, “The Wire,” which left me intrigued by his onscreen presence, but nothing more. However, after his performance playing a survivor of the Rwanda Genocide (“Sometimes in April”, 2005), I realized that more than a pretty face, he’s an actor with enormous talent. Hollywood has taken notice as well, giving the actor back-to-back roles that surely must please his growing fan base.

The Robertson Treatment’s regular contributor (and fellow Brit), Samantha Ofole recently spoke to red-hot actor in support of his new film “The Christmas,” which opens in theatres on November 21st. Enjoy! 

Robertson Treatment: Most of your fans know that you are from the UK even though you’ve mostly played American characters. Do you feel in a sense you are losing your British traits and accent and are becoming more Americanized?

Idris Elba: I definitely think I have Americanisms, but when I go back home it [British accent] comes back. I’ve lived in New York for a while and so I have this twang.

RT: You’re a very intense actor and watching your movies it’s clear that you study the character and immerse yourself in that role and that’s what we call real acting and you’re certainly one of the black British actors who have successfully made it in Hollywood. Do you think it was a combination of luck, skills and accent that aided your career?

IE: Thanks. I think English actors who come to America have to be prepared to go in and work hard because it’s very, very tough and very competitive. I have been very lucky. I didn’t broadcast the fact that I was English whilst I was on The Wire. The people that hired me didn’t know that I was English either. Now, of course people will say: he talks funny and are asking ‘who is he?’ now it’s more common knowledge. I’d say its luck and hard work really.

RT: Many people are definitely comparing you to Denzel as being the next big actor of our generation. How does that comparison make you feel?

IE: I think it’s such a compliment but at the same time I am very different from Denzel Washington. There are other people that remind you more of him. I think I am doing something that fills my own lane. I would love to be as successful as Denzel who has had a great, great career as an actor.

RT: How is the music going? A lot of people don’t actually know that you write lyrics also.

IE: Wonderful. I wrote something for Angie Stone which I think is going to be her second single. I met Angie on the set of her video shoot and I reached out to her and she gave me a break. I also wrote a reduced intro to Jay Z’s new album. It’s a great honour to be honoured by someone that is such a genus doing what he does. I was honoured to be able to open his album for him and that was big for me. I also have a record label in England that I am starting to try and get artists.

RT: Being British and being part of American culture in the movie celebrating Christmas soul food style, was it enriching for you to experience that culture?

IE: I don’t do America very often during the holiday because I travel and so I haven’t been accustomed to it, but I definitely love the way Americans celebrate and enjoyed it. Their holidays are so huge. Halloween and all that they really go in and celebrate it.

RT: So with American Gangster due out and This Christmas scheduled for release November 21st, what’s the next project we can expect from you?

IE: The next movie I have coming out will be the Guy Ritchie one called RocknRolla

RT: In This Christmas, you’re working with another very talented British actor Delroy Lindo and initially both your characters don’t gel, but I get the sense that you are both best of buddies -- call it screen chemistry or the bonding of the Brits. Was it difficult to work with him playing his archenemy?

IE: We don’t know each other well but we do get on really well. He loves to improvise so we definitely brought that to the table.

RT: Now the movie has wrapped, what do you take away from this project?

IE: Pride. It’s such a good film and I think it’s a classic. I want it to do very well and I want people to see it. It’s so good and it’s so rich.

Seinfeld Flick Maintains Buzz

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(November 11, 2007) LOS ANGELES — Jerry Seinfeld's
Bee Movie had plenty of sting left during its second weekend, replacing American Gangster as the No. 1 choice for North American moviegoers.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, the DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc production earned $26-million during the three days beginning Friday, swapping places with Universal Pictures' crime saga American Gangster, which slipped to No. 2 with $24.3-million.

The holiday comedy Fred Claus, which some industry pundits said could have a shot at No. 1, came in at No. 3 with a respectable $19.2-million. The Warner Bros. release stars Vince Vaughn as Santa's bitter older brother.

Tom Cruise's rare foray into low-budget drama, Lions for Lambs opened at No. 4 with $6.7-million, which was in line with modest industry expectations. Meryl Streep co-stars in the critically maligned political saga, as does Robert Redford, who also directed. It marks the first United Artists release since Cruise and production partner Paula Wagner took control of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.'s dormant art-house division a year ago.

The only other new release in the top 10 was the indie woman-in-distress thriller P2, which came in at No. 8 with $2.2-million. Rachel Nichols stars as a young executive pursued in an underground garage by a sadistic security guard.

Bee Movie was distributed by Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom Inc. Universal Pictures is a unit of General Electric Co and Warner Bros. Pictures is a unit of Time Warner Inc. P2 was released by Summit Entertainment, which is privately held. MGM is also privately held.

Music Within Star Researched Deaf Role

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(November 13, 2007)
Ron Livingston was taken aback when he finally met Richard Pimentel, the man he portrays in the biopic Music Within.

His hearing severely impaired by a bomb blast in the Vietnam War, Pimentel fought for a couple of decades to end discrimination against the disabled by lobbying for the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Preparing for the part, Livingston says, "I did what a lot of actors love to do. I jumped in with both feet."

He got fitted for earplugs to block out as much sound as possible. He wanted to feel the isolation and learn the discipline of always making sure he could see a person's lips move when in conversation.

"I got all excited about how I was going to play the deafness. Then I met Richard and was sort of taken aback to find that it's just not possible to tell that he's deaf from having a conversation or watching him," Livingston says.

"It was at that moment that I realized I'd made the very mistake that he spent his life trying to rectify, which is I came into the part thinking it was my job to play deafness. And it wasn't. It was my job to play Richard Pimentel.

"Richard's hearing is probably the 24th most interesting thing about him. Once I realized that, the whole story opened up for me."

This 40-year-old Iowa-born, Yale-trained actor, taking an afternoon off from the Toronto shoot of The Time Traveler's Wife, speaks with a bit of a Midwestern drawl.

With those big dark, puppy-dog eyes, he's unmistakably Jack Berger, the boyfriend who broke up with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) in Sex and the City by leaving a Post-it note on her refrigerator. The character, he says, still clings to him. Moviegoers might have him fixed in their minds as Peter Gibbons, the conniving slacker in the 1999 film Office Space. And he's still on TV a lot in rebroadcasts of HBO's World War II miniseries, Band of Brothers.

When he first read the screenplay for Music Within, out in theatres since Friday, Livingston assumed there would be changes made to Pimentel's actual parentage to fit the actor into the part. Pimentel's father was Chinese and died in a freak accident when a barrel of soy sauce fell on him in his restaurant.

"I thought, `I'm playing a deaf, half-Italian, half-Chinese, Vietnam vet?' I fell into the trap of attaching too much to the labels. But when I met Richard there is actually more than a little physical resemblance, if not necessarily between me and Richard, definitely between my dad and Richard, who are about the same age."

Livingston co-stars with Welsh actor Michael Sheen, who plays Art Honeyman, who has cerebral palsy. Pimentel is motivated to work for the disabled one night in a pancake house where his friend Art, who also uses a wheelchair, is denied service because his disability is considered unsettling to the customers.

Livingston quotes his own logline for Music Within, summarizing the film as "the heroic struggle of a couple of guys trying to get pancakes." Near the end of the film, after the disabilities bill is passed, Richard and Art go back to the pancake house and get served.

An active public speaker who has been working on behalf of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq, Pimentel has led a life that is all about getting out a message.

But Livingston was attracted to the script – he heard about it through an uncle in the hearing aid businesses – because it wasn't going to be a message film.

"If I'm going to ask somebody to sit in a theatre for an hour and a half I want to tell them a good, entertaining story.

"Ultimately what excited me about the story is that it's a buddy film, an underdog film. It's about a couple of guys bumbling around trying to change the world and, lo and behold, they did it."

EUR DVD Review: Ocean's Thirteen

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(November 14, 2007) *Upping the ante in terms of intrigue while toning it down in terms of action,
Ocean's Thirteen is a relatively-cerebral affair compared to the franchise's prior offerings.

All the boys are back in this cast crowded with male matinee idols, starting with George Clooney as ringleader Danny Ocean, and including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle and Casey Affleck.

Meanwhile, the movie introduces Ellen Barkin as its fetching femme fatale and Al Pacino as Willie Bank, a ruthless mobster who has just bilked Reuben (Elliott Gould) of the millions he was about  to retire on.

The rat pack proves that there is still honour among thieves when they reunite for the sake of their ailing mentor. And since Bank is about to launch a new casino in Vegas, they decide to rig the games so that the house

For good measure, they plot to relieve the cocky kingpin of a quarter billion in diamonds. However, masterminds Danny and Rusty (Pitt) soon discover that to succeed they need extra bucks in order to defeat a state-of-the-art surveillance system capable of reasoning like a human being.

This unanticipated expense leads the gang to make strange bedfellows, with former adversary Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). They offer the cutthroat crime boss a share of the profits in return for financial backing of the costly operation. He agrees, and at this juncture the story splits into several parallel plots as each co-conspirator prepares for D-Day in his own inimitable fashion.

Remember that the appeal of this familiar formula rests not in the execution of the patently preposterous crime caper, but in the easygoing badinage among the members of the ensemble. Approaching Ocean's Thirteen with this in mind, you're likely to enjoy this downright comfortable diversion that doesn't ask much except that you turn off your brain, sit back and relax.

Diablo Cody - From Peeler to Screenwriter

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Movie Critic

(November 14, 2007) In the past two weeks, ex-stripper turned screenwriting phenom
Diablo Cody has:

Ping-ponged across North America to promote Juno, the award-winning movie comedy she wrote.

Had dinner with Quentin Tarantino ("It was kind of accidental") and a phone chat with The Who's Roger Daltrey.

Schmoozed the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for Golden Globes votes.

Walked the Hollywood picket line as a striking member of the Writers Guild of America.

Rushed her husband Jonny to the hospital to remove "an evil bastard kidney stone."

All of which – and much more besides – is dutifully chronicled on "The Pussy Ranch," the cheekily named blog that has helped propel Cody, 29, on her rise from Minneapolis peeler to Tinseltown dynamo.

"I feel very disconnected from reality right now and very confused," Cody said, pausing for an interview this week during a brief Toronto stopover.

And well she might. Five years ago, she was a college-educated and Catholic-reared Chicagoan, living in Minneapolis with her boyfriend (now husband). She had a desk job at an ad agency, where she worked using her real name, Brook Busey-Hunt. She also had a passion for writing that made her an early adopter of blogging, the online art that figures prominently in her success.

On a lark, she tried out for an amateur stripper night at a Minneapolis club and discovered she loved the thrill of public seduction. She spent a year in the skin trade, moving through pole dancing to lap-dancing to phone sex to the point of exhaustion. She would later write of her experiences in the 2005 book Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper.

In the meantime, she was developing a more meaningful audience for her various guises on her blog and in her column for City Pages, a Minneapolis weekly newspaper. Her devilish pseudonym Diablo Cody is now the name she uses full-time.

Her highly confessional blogging impressed Mason Novick, the manager for her Candy Girl book. He figured she'd be a natural for writing screenplays. The result was Juno, the coming-of-age comedy directed by Canadian-born Jason Reitman starring two other rising stars: Canada's Ellen Page and Michael Cera of Superbad fame. Page stars as a smart teen who gets pregnant and then grows up.

Juno doesn't open until Dec. 14, but it's already the talk of the movie industry, having won the runner-up audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival and the top prize at the Rome Film Festival. Cody recently won the Hollywood Film Festival award for breakthrough screenwriter.

Cody has found that going public with her feelings has been the hardest thing of all, even for someone who dares to bare. "I was a solitary writer my entire life. And now to be a public writer, it was such a sudden and dramatic transition."

Judging by her punk pageboy haircut, her skull-and-crossbones top and her faux leopard jacket, Cody has adjusted well to celebrity life. Especially since most of the buzz is about Juno, a movie she's surprised and delighted to have written.

"To be honest, this was a situation where ignorance was bliss. Being as it was my first screenplay, I just sat down and knocked it out, and I didn't over-think it. It's continually shocking to me that people feel the script succeeded, because I really was just writing in a normal stream-of-consciousness way."

Cody hadn't heard of Page, Canada's fastest-rising star, when she began writing Juno. But now they're fast friends and she feels as though she wrote the screenplay with the whip-smart Page in mind: "Watching her work was a privilege for me."

Cody also discovered something she thought she'd lost: the ability to cry. She had never thought of herself as an "emo girl" before, but reactions to Juno have overwhelmed her. "I'm not a super-emotional person, so when I see people cry at the end of the film it's continually surprising to me. I never really thought I would be able to provoke tears in other humans, because I myself haven't cried since the '90s.

"The crazy thing is, I've actually been more emotional since this whole Juno experience went down. I was crying on the set. 2007 has been an emotional year for me."

It's likely to get even more so. Juno is hotly buzzed as an Oscar prospect, with Cody considered a sure bet for a Best Original Screenplay nomination. Juno hasn't even opened yet and already there's another film that Cody has written for Reitman. Titled Jennifer's Body, it's about a demonically possessed Minnesota teen who dines on boys in her rural town.

Cody has no regrets about her stint as a stripper. She figures it launched her, in a roundabout way.

"It was actually a smart decision. I may be the first person to ever have been fulfilled by that experience."

FILM TIDBITS

Ratatouille, Simpsons Film Among Oscar Contenders

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - AP

(November 10, 2007) Los Angeles -- Rats, bees, ogres and penguins are among the stars of the 12 movies competing for the top animation prize at the 80th Academy Awards. Contenders for the feature-length animation Oscar announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences include the rodent story Ratatouille, the bug tale Bee Movie, the ogre sequel Shrek the Third and the penguin comedy Surf's Up. Also in the running are The Simpsons Movie, Beowulf, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Meet the Robinsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, TMNT, Tekkonkinkreet and Persepolis. A committee of academy members will pick three nominees, which will be announced on Jan. 22. The entire academy membership will be eligible to vote on the winner for the Feb. 24 Oscars.

Latifah Should Be Rapping

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

Pop
Queen Latifah
Trav'lin' Light (Verve)


(November 6, 2007) On her second disc of easy-listening classics, the 37-year-old rapper turned actress turned singer begins in the folk pop vein with Phoebe Snow's "Poetry Man." Then she digs into her jazz bag for Antonio Carlos Jobim and Peggy Lee tunes, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" and "I Love Being Here With You," respectively. The blues also gets an airing – "Don't Cry Baby" – as does '70s soul – Donny Hathaway's "Gone Away."  Latifah pushes her tolerable voice, rendering it by turns smoky, smooth and sassy, but the song selection is indulgent. Who is really going to want to hear this lineup from this vocalist? I'd prefer to hear her rapping.

Jada Pinkett Smith Under 'Contract'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 14, 2007) *
Jada Pinkett Smith is scheduled to begin production this week on her upcoming film "The Human Contract," which is written and executive produced by the actress and will also mark her directorial debut.  As previously reported, the film follows a highly successful but personally tortured businessman who has his life turned upside down after meeting a free-spirited, mysterious beauty, who tempts him to explore reckless love.  Joining Idris Elba in the cast are Jason Clarke as the businessman and Paz Vega as the mysterious woman. Ted Danson has also signed on for the project, reports Daily Variety.  The film is a co-production with her husband Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment, Tycoon Entertainment and her own shingle 100% Womon. Tycoon is financing the project, which will be shot in Los Angeles.  Pinkett Smith recently wrapped production on the Diane English-directed remake of "The Women."

::TV NEWS::

VCaught Between 30 Rock And A Hard Place

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(November 9, 2007) The Great Writers Strike of 2007 has put TV and film production on pause and places
Tina Fey in a very unusual position. Fey is both the star and executive producer of 30 Rock (Thursday, NBC and A-Channel at 8:30 p.m.), arguably the best half-hour comedy on television (or at least last season's Emmy recipient in that category), but she also spent nine years in the writers den on Saturday Night Live. With whom should her loyalties lie?

Like Mary Richards before her, Fey has spunk. The tiny comic actress is also an occasional writer on 30 Rock and on the first official day of the strike this week, Fey was the only recognizable TV face among the hundred or so pickets in front of NBC's New York corporate headquarters, located, not so ironically, at 30 Rockefeller Center.

Naturally, Fey's presence did not go unnoticed by reporters, who asked her if the network was sincere in its claim that it simply didn't know how to go about the business of selling shows online, the issue at the core of the labour dispute. "NBC is breaking away from iTunes," she said. "They know what they're doing with new media."

Fey's display of solidarity was understandable - 30 Rock is the most-downloaded TV series on the Internet and writers receive none of the revenue - but the work stoppage threatens to bring her hot show's momentum to a thudding halt. By Fey's own estimate, 30 Rock has enough episodes in the can to last the network until mid-January. At that point, if neither side has blinked, NBC will haul out the repeats.

All of which would be a shame, since 30 Rock is as good as network comedy gets these days, and also because Fey seemed so very excited about the current campaign at the TV critics tour a few months ago.

"The second season is better, I think," said Fey, who turned up on the tour with 30 Rock co-executive producer Lorne Michaels (her old SNL boss) to promote the show's sophomore season. "We learned the first year that we have to keep the characters believable enough that you care about them, but can still do crazy jokes with them. You have to believe that somewhere in each one is a human being."

Last year's breakout hit, the sitcom casts Fey as the unsinkable Liz Lemon, the frazzled head writer of a network sketch comedy series called The Girlie Show, which is clearly depicted as airing on NBC. The peacock network takes plenty of hits on 30 Rock.

Unlike last season's similarly themed drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, 30 Rock was a critics' darling and a rookie hit that had people talking - and downloading episodes. "Most people I know have watched the entire series on a laptop, or an airplane," Fey said.

As on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Fey's character works in television and is surrounded by a strong ensemble cast that includes slick network boss Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin; the neurotic Girlie Show star Jenna (Jane Krakowski); and a hard-living comedian named Tracy Jordan, portrayed by Fey's ex-SNL castmate Tracy Morgan, airlifted in to boost the show's ratings.

The first season of 30 Rock covered considerable story ground. All the characters raced through some degree of personal growth - at one point, the hopelessly single Liz even found love with a guy named Floyd - and the show is fast and sharply written. The game plan for this season was to slow it down.

"We're going to maybe do a little less," Fey said, "because the shows last year were so dense that sometimes we worried it was going by too quickly for the audience. We're hoping to let things breathe a little bit."

And ratings in the U.S. are up for 30 Rock this season, however slightly. The second-season debut, guest-starring Jerry Seinfeld, was among the highest rated in the show's broadcast history and subsequent episodes indicate that the show has lost none of its edge.

When forced to comply with NBC's recent "Green Week" - an entire week of programming with environmental storylines - 30 Rock writers used the occasion to introduce a costumed character named Greenzo in last night's episode. Intended as NBC's environment mascot, the green-suited character was ill-informed and obnoxious and brought disgrace to the network as well as its mothership owner, General Electric. The self-mocking storyline never would have aired on CBS or ABC.

The prospect of a writers strike seemed remote last July, though Fey may have sensed a rocky year ahead. The pair breezed through their designated press session to hype the new season of 30 Rock, but when Michaels told critics with grand effusiveness, "I have a feeling the show will take a big leap this season," Fey never missed a beat and quipped: "One way or the other."

TV TIDBITS

'Verdict' In - Robin Givens Gets Lifetime

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 8, 2007) *
Robin Givens has booked a new TV gig. The former star of "Head of the Class" has been cast alongside Madchen Amick and Emma Lung in Lifetime's pilot presentation "The Verdict," says the Hollywood Reporter.  The Lionsgate project centers on the "crime of the century" trial of a beloved pop star who has been accused of having her lover murdered.  Givens will play Ayira, the pop singer/supermodel-turned-mogul on trial for allegedly having her lover/personal trainer killed by her bodyguard.  Amick will play Christine, a talented assistant D.A. assigned to the case.  Christine juggles her first high-profile trial with her marriage to a media dynasty heir. Lung will play Fiona, a British news reporter covering the case.  Production is slated to begin this month in Philadelphia.

100 Osmonds Film Oprah Show

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(November 9, 2007) CHICAGO – Despite the death of their patriarch, more than 100 members of
George Osmond's family filmed an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" because they thought he would have wanted it that way. "We talked about it and my father would want us all to be here," Marie Osmond told Winfrey on the show, scheduled to be broadcast Friday. "He loved his family." George Osmond planned to travel to Chicago to tape the show before he died Tuesday at age 90 at his home in Provo, Utah, Marie Osmond told Winfrey in a transcript provided by Harpo Productions. George Osmond had nine children, 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren. His wife, Olive, died in 2004. "Isn't it interesting how two people can raise a family in show business – nine children – and we still love each other," son Donny Osmond told Winfrey. Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay Osmond first became famous as The Osmond Brothers, a barbershop quartet singing at Disneyland and on ``The Andy Williams Show." Donny Osmond joined the group at age six and later hosted "The Donny and Marie Show" with his sister. The youngest son, Jimmy Osmond, is also a performer. Marie Osmond is also a contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

Charles S. Dutton behind A&E Drama Pilot

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 13, 2007) *Actor
Charles S. Dutton has booked yet another directing gig. The filmmaker has signed on to steer the Fox Television Studios drama pilot "Under," which will run sometime next year on A&E.  Actor Henry Thomas, most famous for his role as Elliott in Steven Spielberg's "ET: The Extra Terrestrial," stars in "Under" as a young thug who, after being marked for death by the mob and turning state's evidence against them, joins the witness protection program. He becomes an NYPD patrolman but is unable to escape his past. A&E senior VP drama programming Tana Nugent Jamieson praised Dutton's body of work as a director, including HBO's "The Corner" and Showtime's "Sleeper Cell."  "He's the perfect director for this unique script," Nugent Jamieson told the Hollywood Reporter. "The lead character is one who has seen both sides of the law, and I think you have to have someone who understands and has shot that." The project, which begins filming next month in Vancouver, follows Lifetime's announcement of Dutton directing and starring in its upcoming original movie "Racing for Time."

Bernie Mac 'Starting' Over With Fox

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 12, 2007) *Fox has won a fierce bidding war to acquire a new
Bernie Mac sitcom that is reportedly one of the biggest – if not the biggest – comedy deals of the now-suspended development season. Tentatively titled "Starting Under," the Warner Bros. TV project from "Drew Carey Show" creator Bruce Helford received a substantial series commitment from Fox, (believed to be an unheard-of seven episodes.)  According to Variety, the deal was hammered out late last Friday, making it the last major pilot pact before the writers strike began Monday.  "I've been a huge Bernie Mac fan forever and felt we needed to bring that star back to TV," said Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly.  The multi-camera project will star Mac as a large, opinionated guy who winds up divorced and living with his introverted twenty something son. What's more, he also winds up working for his son.

Seacrest, Clark To Host Rockin' Eve Bash In N.Y.

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(November 13, 2007) NEW YORK –
Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest will ring in 2008 as co-hosts of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on ABC. It will be the 36th consecutive year that Rockin' Eve has been on the air. Clark, 77, missed the show in 2004 when he suffered a stroke. He has been back in business for the past two years with Seacrest as co-host, counting down to midnight from New York's Times Square before a TV audience of millions. Seacrest, 32, is expected to eventually succeed Clark as host of the show.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Wizard of Oz – Lite

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

The Wizard of Oz
(out of 4)
By L. Frank Baum. Music by Harold Arlen. Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. Directed by Allen MacInnis. Until Dec. 30 at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E. 416-862-2222

(November 09, 2007) "If they only had the budget!"  That's what you may find yourself sighing at the production of
The Wizard of Oz that opened at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People yesterday afternoon.

Here's a production of the classic work that certainly has the heart, the brain and the nerve – thanks to a cast that is Grade A from top to bottom – but it's so short on the "wow!" elements most of us associate with the show that you'll be tempted to call it Wizard Lite.

Director Allen MacInnis has a theory about how the whole thing is really a dream in the mind of an adopted girl who is trying to cope with the fact that she doesn't really know where she belongs.

That sounds impressive, but you soon realize it could also be a rationalization for the fact that MacInnis couldn't afford big special effects (tornados, crashing houses, etc.) and that a chorus of two (count 'em, two!) young women play all the "Schoolfriends, Munchkins, Ozians and Jitterbugs."

In short, it's a chamber production of the show. And as long as you know that going in, you'll probably have a very good time, especially because of the dynamite actors on display.

Saccha Dennis is a wondrous Dorothy with a big heart, a bigger voice and a nice sense of reality.

You'll also love her sidekicks:
Thom Allison's cantankerous Tin Man, Paul McQuillan's wistful Scarecrow and Shawn Wright's lovably fey Lion.

Sharron Matthew is the coolest of witches, never stooping to overdone cackling, Sam Moses is an endearingly nebbishy Wizard, and George Masswohl and Molly Atkinson do right by Uncle Henry and Auntie Em.

Paul Sportelli's musical direction is impeccably tuneful, and he and Greg Gibson prove that two pianos can often be a very full band.

I was less enthused about Michael Gianfrancesco's surrealist set, which feeds into director MacInnis's minimalist production concept, but his costumes are whimsically appropriate.

All in all, it's a charming, warm-hearted production that should please lots of families this season.

But if, like me, you feel that "go big or go home" is the way to do The Wizard of Oz, you may wish there was more sizzle behind this tastefully prepared steak.
 

As One Of Broadway's Favourite Musicals Turns 50

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(November 08, 2007) When a 50th birthday rolls around, it's a good opportunity to tell the individual who's just reached the half-century mark that they're still pretty terrific.

West Side Story turned 50 on Sept. 26, so it's fortuitous that the National Ballet of Canada is opening its season tonight with an all-Jerome Robbins program, dedicated to the man who conceived, directed and choreographed this landmark work in the musical theatre.

West Side Story Suite is the anchor of the evening: a selection of six of the most memorable dance sequences from the original show, along with a special reinterpretation of the classic "Somewhere."

Robbins first began to assemble it for the 1989 retrospective of his work, Jerome Robbins' Broadway, but it took official form when it entered the repertory of the New York City Ballet in 1995.

Despite numerous requests from companies around the world, the NYCB has held the exclusive rights to it ever since and allowing the National Ballet the opportunity to perform it is a big honour.

There are vocalists in the orchestra pit to help deliver the glorious Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim score and even the dancers raise their voices in song on occasion, although as Elena Lobsanova, who's dancing the leading role of Maria, hastens to admit, "I'm more of a shower singer, like most dancers."

"It's a good challenge for the entire company," adds Nehemiah Kish, dancing the role of Tony. "It broadens your performance abilities and we get to do something that's very jazzy, but incredibly dramatic at the same time."

For many people, West Side Story (on stage or screen) is such an iconic work that it's frightening to realize how close it came to not happening on several occasions.

Jerome Robbins was the man who conceived the project. He thought that a modern musical based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet could have tremendous resonance.

He first floated the idea past composer Bernstein and librettist Arthur Laurents in the early 1950s, but it originally had a much different form.

Robbins' first idea was that it should be called East Side Story and be about the conflict between the Jewish and gentile communities on New York's Lower East Side.

With his love for ritual, Robbins wanted it all to take place during one week, when Easter and Passover happened at the same time.

But there was something a bit too Abie's Irish Rose (the 1920s Broadway comedy hit about a Jewish boy and his gentile wife) about the whole concept and it quietly died.

Then, about five years later, as gang violence between Puerto Rican immigrants and longtime American residents reached a peak in Los Angeles and New York, Laurents thought it was time to revisit Robbins' idea.

The show moved across town and became West Side Story with Bernstein, excited by the rhythmic and melodic possibilities of the Hispanic influence, leading the charge.

Originally the composer was going to write his own lyrics, but he soon admitted it would be too much of a burden and a 26-year-old wunderkind named Stephen Sondheim was brought on board to help.

At first he was listed as co-lyricist with Bernstein but after the show's out-of-town tryout in Washington, D.C., the composer generously gave him full credit as lyricist.

It proved to be a mixed blessing, as Sondheim was not fond of all the work he did for the show and later would attack his lyrics for "I Feel Pretty" in particular.

"It's alarming how charming I feel," he would quote derisively. "That's not a simple Puerto Rican teenager. It's someone who would have been at home with Noel Coward."

But we're getting ahead of ourselves, because West Side Story almost didn't even make it to Washington.

A series of backers' auditions yielded no money, because people weren't anxious to invest in a musical where most of the leads were dead by the end of the show.

And a few weeks before rehearsals were to start, producer Cheryl Crawford pushed the panic button and pulled out.

It was only thanks to Sondheim's friend and fledgling producer Hal Prince that the show happened at all.

Once in rehearsal, Robbins did exciting but controversial things, like making the two rival gangs of the show (the Jets and the Sharks) keep apart from each other in real life as well as on the stage, encouraging tension between them.

The atmosphere grew so charged and the taskmaster Robbins was so horribly demanding that on one occasion, not a single member of the cast called out to warn him as he walked backwards and tumbled into the orchestra pit.

All (or almost all) was forgiven when the show opened to reviews like the one it received from Walter Kerr in the New York Herald Tribune, praising "the most savage, restless, electrifying dance patterns we've been exposed to in a dozen seasons."

The 1961 movie version made an even stronger impression on the public, although ironically, Robbins was fired as co-director by the studio during the filming.

West Side Story took home 10 Oscars and changed the way a whole generation thought about dance.

"The movie is one of the things that got me into dancing," admits Kish.

"If anyone had ever told me I'd have to get into tights, that wouldn't have been appealing. But leaping around the streets of New York in jeans, well, that was something else."

Just the facts
WHAT: West Side Story Suite (along with two other Jerome Robbins works, Glass Pieces and In the Night)

WHEN: tonight to Nov. 18

WHERE: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W.

TICKETS: Available at ballet.ca or by calling 416-345-9595

::SPORTS NEWS::

Lindros Leaves On Own Terms

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Sports Reporter

(November 09, 2007) LONDON, Ont.–It was a relaxed and smiling
Eric Lindros who officially hung them up yesterday, confessing to just one regret.

"I might have practised stickhandling with my head up a little bit more," cracked Lindros, whose career-limiting concussions – including the jarring hit by New Jersey's Scott Stevens in the 2000 Stanley Cup playoffs – came when he was looking down at the ice.

Lindros spent much of his career looking like a deer caught in the headlights when facing a wall of cameras, likely a by-product of getting roasted in the media after he spurned the Quebec Nordiques when they drafted him No.1 in '91.

But yesterday at the London Hunt and Country Club, the 34-year-old Lindros gave every appearance of a man very content with his decision.

"I felt strong about this in my heart and mind all summer long," he said, before adding later: "I played with the best, I played against the best. It was a blast."

Lindros saved one of his biggest assists for last, announcing that he's donating $5 million in support of the London Health Sciences Foundation, which includes the Fowler Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic.

Dr. Peter Fowler, who was being honoured along with Lindros at a dinner last night, treated the hockey star throughout his career and became a good friend and mentor.

Cliff Nordal, president and CEO of London Health Sciences Centre, said he'd done some research and believes it's the single largest donation ever by a Canadian athlete.

Lindros tried to deflect the attention with the same skill he once used on hockey pucks.

"The thought behind it is I just bought a new pair of skis and I just wanted to make sure these guys were available," he said.

Lindros said he hopes to work for the NHL Players' Association as an ombudsman and reacted in mock horror when someone asked if he'd like to go behind the bench.

"No, not a chance."

Lindros did hesitate for a moment when asked if he regretted refusing to play in Quebec, before saying that he wished he'd better communicated why he didn't want to play there, that it had nothing to do with the people.

"The girl I'm dating right now is named Monique Paris, her dad's name is Jacques. I bought a fish camp up in Quebec," he said. "It had to do with (Nordique) ownership."

Lindros said he was satisfied with his career, that he was not haunted by what might have been if he'd been healthier but was still bothered by the shootout loss in the semifinals to the Czech Republic at the 1998 Olympics.

"That stings me and will stay with me," he said.

His playing days aren't over. Lindros said he had signed a "five-year contract to play Monday nights in the Toronto area. ... The pace may be a little bit slower but the rest of the game will remain the same."

Winnipeg Wins East Thriller

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(November 11, 2007) WINNIPEG – The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are off to the
CFL's East final.

Embattled Blue Bombers kicker Troy Westwood kicked the winning 20-yard field goal on the last play of the game Sunday to give his team a 24-22 win over Montreal in the East Division semifinal.

Winnipeg faces the Toronto Argonauts next weekend for the right to go to the Grey Cup.

Sunday's win was Winnipeg's fourth of the season over the Als, who came into the game with their first losing record (8-10) since they rejoined the CFL in 1996. The Bombers were 10-7-1.

Montreal led for most of the game, which was played with swirling, gusting winds in front of a season-low crowd of 22,843 at Canad Inns Stadium.

The turning point came with 1:35 left in the game when Montreal quarterback Marcus Brady kept the ball on a third-and-one gamble and was stopped. A Montreal challenge was unsuccessful and the Alouettes turned the ball over for the fourth time in the game.

Winnipeg took over at the Als' 44-yard line.

Running back Charles Roberts ran three times for 24 yards and quarterback Kevin Glenn ran for three yards to set up Westwood's kick.

Westwood, whose inconsistency this season put him in head coach Doug Berry's doghouse, had earlier missed a go-ahead 39-yard field-goal attempt with about five minutes left in the game.

The 17-year veteran, who likely won't be back next season, said before the game he relished having the opportunity to make the winning kick.

Winnipeg got its TDs on a 19-yard reception by Milt Stegall and 19-yard run by Roberts, who missed the past two games with a deep thigh bruise.

Westwood also booted field goals from 18 and 33 yards and added a 74-yard punt single.

Westwood now has 45 career playoff field goals, moving him into third place on the CFL's all-time playoff list.

Montreal's scoring came off a one-yard run by fullback Kerry Carter and a 65-yard TD reception by Kerry Watkins. Damon Duval connected on field goals from 43 and 20 yards and Winnipeg conceded a safety.

Montreal led 16-10 at halftime after a first half that featured two Montreal turnovers and one by Winnipeg.

After the Bombers scored on their first possession with the TD toss to Stegall, Montreal receiver Ashlan Davis appeared to score on a reverse early in the second quarter.

However, a Bombers challenge reversed the call and it was ruled Winnipeg linebacker Ike Charlton had pulled Davis down before the ball crossed the goal line.

With third and one yard to go, Brady handed the ball to running back Jarrett Payton, who was stuffed by Bombers linebacker Barrin Simpson.

Payton left the game late in the third quarter after a rib injury that kept him out of last week's game flared up.

The Bombers used the turnover on downs to claw their way close to midfield, but Glenn's throw to O'Neil Wilson bounced off his gloves into Montreal cornerback Davis Sanchez's hands.

The Als took over at Winnipeg's 50-yard line and it became the Eric Deslauriers show.

The rookie Montreal receiver made a leaping grab and stayed in bounds for a 39-yard reception and then hung onto a low 10-yard throw at the one-yard line.

After Brady was stopped on the next play, fullback Kerry Carter plunged in for the tying TD at 6:15 to make it 7-7.

Late in the second, newly acquired Als kick returner Bashir Levingston fumbled a punt return. Winnipeg linebacker Neil McKinlay recovered the ball at Montreal's 35, leading to Westwood's 18-yarder.

On Montreal's next possession, Brady fired the ball to Watkins, who got a good block from offensive tackle Luke Fritz and ran 65 yards for the TD and 14-10 edge at 13:19.

Westwood, who also did the punting in place of Pat Fleming (sore leg), conceded a safety to finish the first-half scoring.

Turnovers also played a role in the second half.

Glenn threw his second interception of the game (15th of the season) midway through the third quarter when Als DB Randee Drew stepped in front of a pass intended for Stegall.

After a drop by Watkins cut the drive short, Duval booted his 43-yarder and made it 19-10 at 7:48.

Roberts scored his TD at 9:27 of the third to finish off a four-play, 75-yard drive aided by Montreal penalties for a face mask and pass interference.

Bombers cornerback Juran Bolden, who missed the past three games with a back injury, stretched out and intercepted Brady six minutes into the fourth quarter.

Westwood ended up kicking the 33-yarder.

After missing his 39-yard attempt, he closed the lead 22-21 with a 74-yard punt single at 12:52.

::OTHER NEWS::

Author Norman Mailer, 84

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(November 10, 2007) NEW YORK —
Norman Mailer, the macho prince of American letters who for decades reigned as the country’s literary conscience and provocateur with such books as “The Naked and the Dead” and “The Executioner’s Song” died today, his literary executor said. He was 84.

Mailer died of acute renal failure at Mount Sinai Hospital, said J. Michael Lennon, who is also the author’s biographer.

From his classic debut novel to such masterworks of literary journalism as “The Armies of the Night,” the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner always got credit for insight, passion and originality.

Some of his works were highly praised, some panned, but none was pronounced the Great American Novel that seemed to be his life quest from the time he soared to the top as a brash 25-year-old “enfant terrible.’’

Mailer built and nurtured an image over the years as pugnacious, street-wise and high-living. He drank, fought, smoked pot, married six times and stabbed his second wife, almost fatally, during a drunken party.

He had nine children, made a quixotic bid to become mayor of New York, produced five forgettable films, dabbled in journalism, flew gliders, challenged professional boxers, was banned from a Manhattan YWHA for reciting obscene poetry, feuded publicly with writer Gore Vidal and crusaded against women’s liberation.

But as Newsweek reviewer Raymond Sokolov said in 1968, “In the end, it is the writing that will count.’’

Mailer, he wrote, possessed “a superb natural style that does not crack under the pressures he puts upon it, a talent for narrative and characters with real blood streams and nervous systems, a great openness and eagerness for experience, a sense of urgency about the need to test thought and character in the crucible of a difficult era.’’

Norman Mailer was born Jan. 31, 1923, in Long Branch, N.J. His father, Isaac, a South Africa-born accountant, and mother, Fanny, who ran a housekeeping and nursing agency, soon moved to Brooklyn — later described by Mailer as “the most secure Jewish environment in America.’’

Mailer earned an engineering science degree in 1943 from Harvard University, where he decided to become a writer, and was soon drafted into the Army. Sent to the Philippines as an infantryman, he saw enough of army life and combat to provide a basis for his first book, “The Naked and the Dead,” published in 1948 while he was a postgraduate student in Paris on the GI Bill of Rights.

The book — noteworthy for Mailer’s invention of the word “fug’’ as a substitute for the then-unacceptable four-letter original — was a best seller, and Mailer returned home to find himself anointed the new Hemingway, Dos Passos and Melville.

Buoyed by instant literary celebrity, Mailer embraced the early 1950s counterculture — defining “hip” in his essay “The White Negro,” allying himself with Beat Generation gurus Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and writing social and political commentary for the Village Voice, which he helped found. He also churned out two more novels, “Barbary Shore” (1951) and “Deer Park” (1955), neither embraced kindly by readers or critics.

Mailer turned reporter to cover the 1960 Democratic Party convention for Esquire and later claimed, with typical hubris, that his piece, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket,” had made the difference in John F. Kennedy’s razor-thin margin of victory over Republican Richard M. Nixon.

While Life magazine called his next book, “An American Dream’’ (1965), “the big comeback of Norman Mailer,” the author-journalist was chronicling major events of the day: an anti-war march on Washington, the 1968 political conventions, the Ali-Patterson fight, an Apollo moon shot.

His 1968 account of the peace march on the Pentagon, “The Armies of the Night,” won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He was described as the only person over 40 trusted by the flower generation.

When he covered the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago for Harper’s magazine, Mailer was torn between keeping to a tight deadline or joining the anti-war protests that led to a violent police crackdown. “I was in a moral quandary. I didn’t know if I was being scared or being professional,” he later testified in the trial of the so-called Chicago Seven.

In 1999, “The Armies of the Night” was listed at No. 19 on a New York University survey of 100 examples of the best journalism of the century.

Mailer’s personal life was as turbulent as the times. In 1960, at a party at his Brooklyn Heights home, Mailer stabbed his second wife, Adele Morales, with a knife. She declined to press charges, and it was not until 1997 that she revealed, in her own book, how close she had come to dying.

Mailer had views on almost everything.

The 1970s: “the decade in which image became pre-eminent because nothing deeper was going on.’’

Poetry: a “natural activity ... a poem comes to one,” whereas prose required making “an appointment with one’s mind to write a few thousand words.’’

Journalism: irresponsible. “You can’t be too certain about what happened.’’

Technology: “insidious, debilitating and depressing,” and nobody in politics had an answer to “its impact on our spiritual well-being.’’

“He had such a compendious vision of what it meant to be alive. He had serious opinions on everything there was to have an opinion on, and everything he had was so original,” said friend William Kennedy, author of “Ironweed.’’

Mailer’s suspicion of technology was so deep that while most writers used typewriters or computers, he wrote with a pen, some 1,500 words a day. In a 1971 magazine piece about the new women’s liberation movement, Mailer equated the dehumanizing effect of technology with what he said was feminists’ need to abolish the mystery, romance and “blind, goat-kicking lust” from sex.

Time magazine said the broadside should “earn him a permanent niche in their pantheon of male chauvinist pigs.” Mailer later told an interviewer that his being called sexist was “the greatest injustice in American life.’’

“He could do anything he wanted to do — the movie business, writing, theatre, politics,” author Gay Talese said today. “He never thought the boundaries were restricted. He’d go anywhere and try anything. He was a courageous person, a great person, fully confident, with a great sense of optimism.’’

In “Advertisements for Myself” (1959), Mailer promised to write the greatest novel yet, but later conceded he had not. Among other notable works: “Cannibals and Christians” (1966); “Why Are We in Vietnam?” (1967); and “Miami and the Siege of Chicago’’ (1968), an account of the two political conventions that year.

“The Executioner’s Song” (1979), an epic account of the life and death of petty criminal Gary Gilmore, whom Mailer never met, won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “Ancient Evenings’’ (1983), a novel of ancient Egypt that took 11 years to complete, was critically panned.

“Tough Guys Don’t Dance” (1984) became a 1987 film. Some critics found “Harlot’s Ghost” (1991), a novel about the CIA, surprisingly sympathetic to the cold warriors, considering Mailer’s left-leaning past. In 1997, he came out with “The Gospel According to the Son,” a novel told from Jesus Christ’s point of view. The following year, he marked his 75th birthday with the epic-length anthology “The Time of Our Time.’’

Besides Morales, Mailer’s other wives were Beatrice Silverman, Lady Jeanne Campbell, Beverly Bentley, actress Carol Stevens and painter Norris Church. He had five daughters, three sons and a stepson.

Mailer lived for decades in a Brooklyn Heights town house with a view of New York harbour and lower Manhattan from the rooftop “crow’s nest,” and kept a beach-side home in Provincetown, Mass., where he spent increasing time in his later years.

Despite heart surgery, hearing loss and arthritic knees that forced him to walk with canes, Mailer retained his enthusiasm for writing and in early 2007 released “The Castle in the Forest,” a novel about Hitler’s early years, narrated by an underling of Satan. A book of conversations about the cosmos, “On God: An Uncommon Conversation,” came out in the fall.

In 2005, Mailer received a gold medal for lifetime achievement at the National Book Awards, where he deplored what he called the “withering” of general interest in the “serious novel.” Authors like himself, he said more than once, had become anachronisms as people focused on television and young writers aspired to screenwriting or journalism.

“Obviously, he was a great American voice,” said a tearful Joan Didion, struggling for words upon learning of Mailer’s death.

Lennon said arrangements for a private service and burial for family members and close friends would be announced next week, and a memorial service would be held in New York in the coming months.

Keeping Their Creative Spirits Alive

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(November 08, 2007) The children of Chilean refugees who fled to Canada more than 30 years ago in the aftermath of a bloody military coup are keeping the culture of their homeland – and other Latin American countries – alive with three days of celebration at Harbourfront Centre.

The
Salvador Allende Arts Festival for Peace – named after the president who was deposed and assassinated in 1973 in a CIA-backed coup – will feature music, visual arts, film, theatre and free family events throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

"It's basically the sons and daughters of refugee exiles from Chile that got together and decided we wanted to do more than commemorate; we wanted to celebrate the survival of our parents," said Tamara Toledo who – at 20 days old – was the youngest refugee to arrive in Toronto following the coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Many of the children of the thousands of Chilean refugees who found safe haven in Canada have gone on to become artists, said Toledo, a visual artist who is among the festival's co-founders.

For the first time, the festival is moving to Harbourfront Centre and bringing in international artists, partly in response to the burgeoning Latino community across the GTA.

Among the highlights is the closing night concert on Sunday by revered Chilean folk music group Quilapayun, who have not toured in North America for more than 25 years, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Enwave Theatre.

Other highlights include a performance by Mexican children's rock band Los Patita de Perro, demonstrations of capoeira – a mix of dance, music and martial arts – a display of Peruvian Arpilleras quilts as well as live theatre and visual arts workshops.

More info at harbourfrontcentre.com

Marvel Puts Comic Books Online

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Ryan Pearson, Associated Press

(November 13, 2007) LOS ANGELES –
Marvel is putting some of its older comics online Tuesday, hoping to reintroduce young people to the X-Men and Fantastic Four by showcasing the original issues in which such characters appeared.

It's a tentative move onto the Internet: Comics can only be viewed in a Web browser, not downloaded, and new issues will only go online at least six months after they first appear in print.

Still, it represents perhaps the comics industry's most aggressive Web push yet. Even as their creations -- from Iron Man to Wonder Woman -- become increasingly visible in pop culture through new movies and video games, old-school comics publishers rely primarily on specialized, out-of-the-way comic shops for distribution of their bread-and-butter product.

"You don't have that spinner rack of comic books sitting in the local five-and-dime any more," said Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing. "We don't have our product intersecting kids in their lifestyle space as much as we used to.''

Translate "kids' lifestyle space" into plain English and you get "the Internet." Marvel's two most prominent competitors currently offer online teasers designed to drive the sales of comics or book collections.

Dark Horse Comics now puts its monthly anthologies "Dark Horse Presents" up for free viewing on its MySpace site. The images are vibrant and large.

DC Comics has also put issues up on MySpace, and recently launched the competition-based Zuda Comics, which encourages users to rank each other's work, as a way to tap into the expanding Web comic scene. Company president Paul Levitz said he expects to put more original comics online in coming years.

"We look at anything that connects comics to people," Levitz said. "The most interesting thing about the online world to me is the opportunity for new forms of creativity. ... It's a question of what forms of storytelling work for the Web?''

For its mature Vertigo imprint, DC offers weekly sneak peeks at the first five or six pages of upcoming issues. The publisher also gives out downloadable PDF files of the first issues in certain series, timed to publication of the series in book or graphic novel format.

The Web release of DC's "Y the Last Man" sent sales of that book collection soaring at Bridge City Comics in Portland, Ore., the shop's owner Michael Ring said.

"They really do tend to be feeder systems," Ring said of online comics. "They give people that initial taste.''

For Marvel, the general public has often already gotten its initial taste through movies like "Spider-Man" or the "Fantastic Four" franchises.

The publisher is hoping fans will be intrigued enough about the origins of those characters to shell out $9.99 a month, or $4.99 monthly with a yearlong commitment. For that price, they'll be able to poke through, say, the first 100 issues of Stan Lee's 1963 creation "Amazing Spider-Man" at their leisure, along with more recent titles like "House of M" and "Young Avengers." Comics can be viewed in several different formats, including frame-by-frame navigation.

Ring expects Marvel's effort to put a slight dent in the back-issue segment of the comic shop industry, where rare, out-of-print titles sell for hundreds of dollars on eBay and at trade shows.

Though most comic fans are collectors, some simply want to catch up on the back-story of their favourite characters and would no longer have to pay top dollar to do so.

About 2,500 issues will be available at launch of Marvel Digital Comics, with 20 more being released each week.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

An Oasis of Serenity

Source: Melanie Reffes, www.agentathome.com

The new
Agua Resort & Spa in Uvero Alto, Dominican Republic, which opened in May, is awe-inspiring from the moment you check into the luxurious suites, which come with Frette linens and garden showers. What may look familiar is the palm-thatched lobby designed by Dominican architect, Antonio Segundo Imbert, who also created the Punta Cana International Airport, located just 25 miles from the resort, the Beach Club at Cap Cana and the home of superstar singer Julio Iglesias. An oasis of serenity on the island’s northeast coast, the resort is the antithesis to most of the Dominican Republic, which is known for its all-inclusive vacation experiences. This is a very different tourism product, catering to a crowd that wants to be as far away from a buffet as possible. The property faces an unspoiled stretch of sandy beach and is poised to become the hippest hot spot in the region. The décor is authentic Caribbean, using stone, coral, pine and cane. Privately owned by the husband and wife team of Elena Giovannini and Jose Maria Font, the resort offers Mediterranean charm with six-star service, classy amenities and an elegant ambience.

Last month the resort named Domingo Castro as general manager. Previously, Castro served as general manager at Casa Colonial Resort & Spa in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Prior to that, he worked as general manager at Las Alamandas Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Accommodations : The resort features 18 two-story thatched-roofed villas that contain 53 suites in 10 categories, from the Junior Garden View suites, which are the least private since they face the restaurant and the spa, to the three bedroom Villa Caney, which comes complete with private pool and kitchenette. The Agua Junior Garden View suites have direct access to the infinity pool, and all suites have terraces perfect for sunset watching and sunrise spotting. Amenities include exclusive Korres bath products, a pillow menu offering an “intelligent” pillow that remembers the shape of your head, spacious bathrooms with slate floors, separate toilet with a bidet, air conditioning, mini-bars and Wi- Fi. Suites have flat-screen televisions, and DVDs in Spanish and English are available. The mini-bar won’t break the bank, with snacks under $5.

Public Spaces : There is one meeting room able to accommodate more than 100 people. The free business center has one computer, and, if demand warrants, more will be added. The lobby is spacious with plenty of nooks and crannies for an après-dinner mojito. Centuries-old urns that welcomed guests to homes in the countryside hang on the walls; coral stone from local quarries is used in the floors, and the thatched roof is made of giant cana leaves. A boutique selling clothing and art from Barcelona is the only store on property. A Kids Club is fully staffed, with babysitting at an extra charge.

Dining : The resort has two bars and two restaurants with a third opening this fall. A gourmet breakfast is served at Areito. For dinner, a Spanish and Dominican fusion menu is offered under the guidance of executive chef Edgar González Barrado, who joined Agua from the three-Michelin- star Arzak in San Sebastin, Spain. Barrado uses local ingredients, fresh seafood and meats, and organic foods whenever possible. The resort supports local farmers and fisherman in order to maintain a sustainable community in the Uvero Alto region. Dinner runs about $75 per person without wine and may include daily specials like duck in a passion fruit sauce with apple potato chips. The Caiku Beach Bar is open until 11 p.m. serving light fare and a wide selection of postres (desserts) like banana pie in a mascarpone cream. Opening this fall is Quisqugya, which will offer a three course menu for two, including wine, starting at $200. Service is reminiscent of fine dining in European restaurants. The Canoa Lobby bar (canoa is the Tahino Indian word for canoe) serves spirits and fruit juices. Armstrong Ruiz is the bartender and predicts newlyweds will enjoy his specialties. The resort features 24-hour room service with reasonable prices (a chicken sandwich and fries cost $15). Sivory Punta Cana, a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property, is next door, and Agua’s management is considering an arrangement whereby guests will receive preferential service should they choose to dine at either resort.

Pool , Gym and Spa : The serpentine pool is three feet at its deepest and snakes around the resort, while the infinity pool spills into the sea. The white-sand beach offers plenty of beach chairs scattered about and guests are catered to by a discreet staff eager to deliver cold water and fresh towels (there are no beach vendors). Relaxation has been elevated to a high art, and unless your clients rent a car or purchase an excursion, don’t expect much in the way of sightseeing or shopping opportunities. The gym is open until 11 p.m., unless the urge to exercise strikes at other times—in that case, the staff will allow guests in. The Yarari Spa, set amid the newly planted foliage, boasts such treatments as exfoliating scrubs using chocolate, oatmeal, grapes, melon and coconut. A 30-minute Swedish massage is $45 and a pampering package runs $600 spread over three days. Spa facilities include five treatment rooms, Jacuzzi, indoor heated lap pool, Vichy showers, hydrotherapy tubs, Finnish sauna, sensations shower, nail and hair salon and an ice fountain for cooling-off. Therapists use Phytomer products made from marine extracts known for their age-defying properties.

Activities & Excursions : A myriad of water sports are available, such as scuba diving, snorkelling, wind surfing, kayaking and fishing, but there are no motor sports in order to protect the reef. On land, tennis and golf are just minutes away. The El Golf package, priced at $600 per person, features greens fees and helicopter transfer to six course, including the diabolical Teeth of the Dog at the Casa de Campo (www.casadecampo.com) and the 27- hole championship course at the Cocotal Golf Club (www.cocotalgolf.com). Other activities include horseback riding on the beach ($25 for one person for 25 minutes) and ATV rentals ($50 per hour). Courtesy cars are available for excursions of up to four hours a day. Guests pay for gas. The resort also can arrange trips to nearby Manatee Park ($35 per person, $50 including swimming with the dolphins), the art market at Bávaro Beach and the new Palma Real Shopping Village. If your clients don’t mind losing a day, Punta Cana is ripe for exploring. They can rent a 4x4 to discover the caves and mangroves or drive west to Altos de Chavon, Bayahibe or La Romana, roughly two hours away.

Getting There : The road from Punta Cana International Airport to the resort is long, winding and a bit rough. The mountains are visible, which breaks up the monotony of the scrub bush fields, tiny cigar museums and car washes. The trip can take 90 minutes in traffic. For the ultimate indulgence, a heli-pad is on property for those who want to pay $150 for a 15-minute flight from the airport. The helicopter flies during daylight hours only and cannot take luggage (bags follow in a van arriving at the resort an hour later).

Rates & Commission : The resort is offering a travel agent rate valid through Oct. 31 of $150 per person per night, which includes airport transfers and breakfast. Regular rates, April through June, run from $400 per night for a Junior Garden View suite to $1,480 for the Villa Caney. Rates for July through December range from $350 per night for a Junior Garden View suite to $1,110 for the Villa Caney. Agua also features a Gentlemen’s Retreat Package that includes three nights in a junior suite; private round-trip airport transfers; daily breakfast en suite or in the Arieto restaurant; a round of golf; Dominican cigar night; and Brugal rum tasting. Rates for the Gentlemen’s Retreat Package are $1,350 per room, per night for travel through Nov. 1. Rates do not include taxes and service charges. Travel agents can earn 15 percent on new bookings through Oct, 31, 2007, including an extra 10 percent for booking helicopter transfers from the airport. Tour operators booking the resort include Creative Leisure (800-413-1000, www.creativeleisure.com) and Classic Vacations (800-635-1333, www.classicvacations.com).

Key Selling Points : The resort caters to the luxury market as well as wedding and honeymoon clients. With 24-hour butler service, the hardest decision your clients will make is whether to order the lobster grilled or steamed, or whether to enjoy a soak in a tub with soothing crystals or a hot-stone massage. The staff-to-guest ratio is two to one, which means assistance is never far away. Everything in the resort is brand new, and the property is correcting any opening hiccups. @

For more information or to make reservations, call 866-757-AGUA or 809-468-0000 (direct),email booking@aguaresort.com or visit www.aguaresort.com.