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January 24, 2008

January brings to Toronto some frigid weather - so dress warm and avoid all those germs out there.

With all the industry deaths this week including the recent death of Heath Ledger and all the celeb fiascos and chaotic behaviour, it led me to think of what the cost of celebrity is ... so I've written a brief editorial this week entitled
The Cost of Fame. 

Oh and I've added a new section that will run regularly - TECHNOLOGY.

And this week also brings news about a special Valentine's concert entitled Celebrate Love - surely to be enjoyed and tickets are sure to go fast so mark your calendars now and get your tickets!



Celebrate Love – Thursday, February 14, 2008

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’ve made all the plans for the perfect
Valentine’s Day. You’ve reserved your favourite table at your favourite restaurant. You have the flowers, the chocolates, the card, the gift.

The limousine picks you both up after work, and you slip across town to dine. Once you arrive at the restaurant, everything is perfect: the ambience, the food, the wine, the conversation. You decide to top off a sumptuous meal with a decadent dessert and coffee.

It’s only 7:30 p.m. Now what? It’s too early to retire to the bedroom, and yet you don’t want the magic to end. What to do?

It’s time to
Celebrate Love!

Celebrate Love is, simply put, an evening of the world’s greatest love songs, sung by some of Canada’s greatest voices, accompanied by top-flight musicians. Celebrate Love is the brainchild of musician, producer, broadcaster and impresario Andrew Craig, and is the realization of a decade-old dream: to create a Valentine’s Day event so compelling and beautiful that it would draw fans back year after year.

Molly Johnson, Canada’s first lady of jazz, headlines a stellar cast of vocalists, including Kellylee Evans (the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards Female Vocalist of the Year), rising star DK Ibomeka, Indo-Canadian vocal sensation Kiran Ahluwalila, and Mary Jane Lamond, Canada’s preeminent interpreter of Gaelic songs from the East Coast. Add to this mix some of Toronto’s finest emerging vocal talents, the exquisite sounds of the Toronto-based cello quartet Lush, and the Celebrate Love Orchestra, and the result is magical.

Don’t think this show is just for couples! Featuring a unique blend of classic popular songs, rare musical gems from across the planet, poetry and reflections, Celebrate Love is the perfect Valentine’s Day activity for people in all stages of love: from new love, to unrequited love, to jilted love, to old love, to true love.

Andrew Craig first produced Celebrate Love as a proof-of-concept show in 2004, in Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre. Despite minimal advertising, the show sold-out completely, and patrons anxious to get in caused a major traffic jam at Bloor and Avenue Rd!

Audience response to Celebrate Love was overwhelmingly positive. Here are but a few quotes from ecstatic attendees:

“Congratulations on an outstanding performance. Wow! We were totally blown away. The music selection, the individual vocal performances, the tremendous musicians, lighting, sound, and an enthusiastic audience just spoke volumes about the true heart of Canadian music.” - K.S., Toronto

“I want to say that last night was FANTASTIC 10 out of 10, please do it again, Toronto missed the best show in town, if you do the same as last night you will have triple as you did last night.” - J.A., Toronto

“Celebrate Love - WOW! I attended Saturday night’s show...and was blown away. Andrew Craig...remarkable job. The mix and choice of music and culture and diversity beautifully represented the Toronto scene.” - R.T., Toronto

“Amazing Valentines Performance! Thank you so much for making our 9th Valentines together so special.” - S.T., Toronto

“I was at the "Celebrate Love" concert on Saturday, February 14.  It was one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to (and I've been to quite a few concerts).” - I.D., Toronto

“What a great show! The last time I left a show feeling that good was when I saw Luther Vandross and the Voices of Blackness at Maple Leaf Gardens. Keep up the great work!” - C.P., Toronto

Celebrate Love 2008 promises to be even bigger and better. There simply is no better place to be this Valentine’s Day than The Music Hall.

Log into www.celebratelove.ca and get a taste of what the show will be like.

Celebrate Love: An Evening of the World’s Greatest Love Songs
The Music Hall
147 Danforth Ave., east of Broadview
8:00 p.m.
Click HERE to purchase tickets


The Cost of Fame

This week is filled with so many deaths in the industry -
most recently Heath Ledger.  Whether ruled suicide or not, he was still on anti-depressants and taking sleeping pills.  So young to be experiencing these ailments.  And such a waste of talent. 

It makes me wonder what price young people with fame are paying for such "celebrity status" - whether devised by publicists or contrived or not.

It has been apparent in recent reports with all the rehab woes of these young starlets - Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Owen Wilson, Amy Winehouse - to name a few ... that fame is not what it's cracked up to be.  Is it worth the cost?  Young people's lives are being destroyed and whether they've made poor choices and/or judgment calls, the results can be tragic.

I place partial blame on the media and technology as these two combined in today's world wield a brutal blow.  The tragedy of these lives are obvious and this is why you don't see these sort of 'celeb rehab' stories in my newsletter - there's already too much coverage already and I would prefer to let people live their lives and hopefully seek the help they need. 

And can we blame ourselves for the tendency to migrate towards these sort of stories?  I mean, if it didn't sell, would the stories stop?  Human nature and it's bleak curiosity - can that be repaired?

In the interim, I think that we need to remember these people in our prayers.  Yes, yes, - I have had a guilty chuckle over some of their antics too - but ultimately, I feel that their demise may be imminent as those that have walked the path before them ... Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, River Phoenix, John Belushi, Freddie Prinze.  So, this week, try to bypass the tabloids and the pointless dribble - that is someone's life.  We're all flawed in our own ways - just not normally in front of millions of interested readers.

And that's just my opinion.


Actor Heath Ledger Found Dead In Bed

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Tom Hays, The Associated Press

(January 22, 2008) NEW YORK—Actor Heath Ledger was found dead today of a possible drug overdose in a Manhattan apartment, where his body was discovered in a bed with a bottle of prescription sleeping pills nearby, police said. He was 28.

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Ledger had an appointment for a massage at the SoHo apartment that is believed to be the home of the Brokeback Mountain actor. The massage therapist and a housekeeper went to his bedroom to get Ledger, and found his naked body in the bed at about 3:30 p.m. They tried to revive him, but he was already dead, police said.

Browne said there was no obvious indication of suicide.

A gaggle of paparazzi and gawkers began gathering outside the building, where police put up barricades to control a crowd of about 300 people. Onlookers craned their necks as officers brought out a black body bag on a gurney, took it across the sidewalk and put it into a white medical examiner’s office van.

As the building door opened, the bystanders snapped pictures with their camera phones and rolled their video. “He’s coming out!” some said.

The Australian-born actor was nominated for an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain, where he met actress Michelle Williams in 2005. Ledger and Williams had lived in Brooklyn and had a daughter, Matilda. The couple split up last year.

Ledger's roles also include the suicidal son of Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball and he had starring roles in A Knight's Tale and The Patriot. He was to appear as the Joker this year in a sequel to 2005's Batman Begins that recently finished filming.

Ledger was also one of six actors portraying different sides of the iconic rocker Bob Dylan in I'm Not There, released last year.

Ledger told The New York Times in a November interview that he ``stressed out a little too much" during the Dylan film, and had trouble sleeping while portraying the Joker, whom he called a ``psychopathic, mass-murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.''

"Last week I probably slept an average of two hours a night,'' Ledger told the Times. "I couldn't stop thinking. My body was exhausted, and my mind was still going." He said he took two Ambien pills, which only worked for an hour, the paper said.

Ledger was a widely recognized figure in his Manhattan neighbourhood, where he used to shop at a home and children's store. Michelle Vella, a buyer there, said she had frequently seen Ledger with his daughter – carrying the toddler on his shoulders, or having ice cream with her.

"It's so sad. They were really close," said Vella. "He's a very down-to-earth guy and an amazing father.''

She said Ledger once bought a bookcase at the home store, and purchased stuffed animals and dresses for his daughter at the children's store.

"It's a shock; he's so young," said Taren Dolbashian, who works on the block and also had seen Ledger with his daughter on his shoulders. "He always seems so happy.''

Before settling down with Williams, Ledger had relationships with actresses Heather Graham and Naomi Watts. He met Watts while working on The Lords of Dogtown, a fictionalized version of a cult classic skateboarding documentary, in 2004.

"It's the first job in my career where I can finish work and go home," he told USA Today that year. "When you rarely get a chance to be at home, that's what you want. You want stability, your sofa.''

Ledger was born in 1979 in Perth, in western Australia, to a mining engineer and a French teacher, and got his first acting role playing Peter Pan at age 10 at a local theatre company. He began acting in independent films as a 16-year-old in Sydney and played a cyclist hoping to land a spot on an Olympic team in a 1996 television show, Sweat.

After several independent films, Ledger moved to Los Angeles at age 19 and co-starred opposite Julia Stiles in 10 Things I Hate About You, a teen comedy reworking of The Taming of the Shrew. His movie career caught on soon after that, culminating with his Academy Award nomination for Brokeback Mountain.

In talking about the Dylan film, Ledger told The New York Times he most admired that the singer was not someone who could be easily explained, saying he felt the same way about himself.

"Some people find their shtick," Ledger said. "I've never figured out who 'Heath Ledger' is on film: 'This is what you expect when you hire me, and it will be recognizable.'''

"People always feel compelled to sum you up, to presume that they have you and can describe you. That's fine. But there are many stories inside of me and a lot I want to achieve outside of one flat note.''

The medical examiner's office planned an autopsy on Wednesday, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

Veteran Sportscaster Don Wittman Dies At 71

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 19, 2008) WINNIPEG – Don Wittman, whose smooth baritone voice called some of Canada's most significant sports, has died of cancer. He was 71.

For more than 40 years, Wittman was a familiar face on CBC television. He did the play-by-play for Grey Cups and Stanley Cups, plus covered curling, golf and track and field. He was a fixture at both summer and winter Olympics.

"He is truly a first-generation television sports legend. He's one of the pioneers of our industry," Scott Moore, executive director of CBC Sports, said in January.

"He has done almost everything and done it all well."

It was Wittman who called Ben Johnson's steroid-fuelled 100-metre victory at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and he was on hand when Donovan Bailey sprinted to gold in the same event in 1996 at Atlanta.

He saw Wayne Gretzky win Stanley Cups and was in Czechoslovakia in 1987 for the Canada-USSR brawl at the world junior hockey championships.

During the 1972 Olympics in Munich he stood on a balcony and looked into the masked face of one of the terrorists who kidnapped nine Israeli athletes.

"It was then the reality of it really struck me," Wittman said in a 1984 interview about the incident. "Here was this man with a hood over his face standing there."

Born in Herbert, Sask., Wittman got his start as a news reporter with CFQC radio in Saskatoon in 1955. He also worked for CJNB radio in North Battleford. He was only 24 when he joined CBC Winnipeg on New Year's Day 1961.

During his career, Wittman won two ACTRA awards and in 2002 was named Broadcaster of the Year by Sports Media Canada. He also was a member of the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame, the Canadian Curling Hall of Fame and Manitoba's provincial sports hall of fame.

"He is the voice of football in Canada in my mind," said Moore, who grew up in Montreal watching Wittman call Alouettes games.

The respect held for Wittman was evident at a ceremony in January, when he was inducted into the CBC Sports Hall of Fame. The guest list was a who's-who of the sports world. Hockey Night In Canada's Ron McLean, Winnipeg Blue Bombers general manager Lyle Bauer and New York Rangers GM Glen Sather were among those on hand. Wayne Gretzky and others sent video tributes.

Wittman was choked with emotion, saying he was humbled by the tributes.

Wittman is survived by his wife July, two daughters and a son.

Suzanne Pleshette, Dies At 70

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Thomas, The Associated Press

(Jan 20, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Suzanne Pleshette, the husky-voiced star best known for her role as Bob Newhart's sardonic wife on television's long-running The Bob Newhart Show, has died at age 70.

Ms. Pleshette, whose career included roles in such films as Hitchcock's The Birds and in Broadway plays including The Miracle Worker, died of respiratory failure Saturday evening at her Los Angeles home, said her attorney Robert Finkelstein, also a family friend.

Ms. Pleshette underwent chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006.

The Bob Newhart Show, a hit throughout its six-year run, starred comedian Mr. Newhart as a Chicago psychiatrist surrounded by eccentric patients. Ms. Pleshette provided the voice of reason.

Four years after the show ended in 1978, Mr. Newhart went on to the equally successful Newhart series in which he was the proprietor of a New England inn populated by more eccentrics. When that show ended in 1990, Ms. Pleshette reprised her role — from the first show — in one of the most clever final episodes in TV history.

It had Mr. Newhart waking up in the bedroom of his The Bob Newhart Show home with Ms. Pleshette at his side. He went on to tell her of the crazy dream he'd just had of running an inn filled with eccentrics.

“If I'm in Timbuktu, I'll fly home to do that,” Ms. Pleshette said of her reaction when Mr. Newhart told her how he was thinking of ending the show.

Born Jan. 31, 1937, in New York City, Ms. Pleshette began her career as a stage actress after attending the city's High School of the Performing Arts and studying at its Neighborhood Playhouse. She was often picked for roles because of her beauty and her throaty voice.

“When I was 4,” she told an interviewer in 1994, “I was answering the phone, and (the callers) thought I was my father. So I often got quirky roles because I was never the conventional ingénue.”

She met her future husband, Tom Poston, when they appeared together in the 1959 Broadway comedy The Golden Fleecing, but didn't marry him until more than 40 years later.

Although the two had a brief fling, they went on to marry others. By 2000 both were widowed and they got back together, marrying the following year.

“He was such a wonderful man. He had fun every day of his life,” Ms. Pleshette said after Poston died in April 2007.

Among her other Broadway roles was replacing Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker, the 1959 drama about Helen Keller, in New York and on the road.

Meanwhile, she had launched her film career with Jerry Lewis in 1958 in “The Geisha Boy.” She went on to appear in numerous television shows, including “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Playhouse 90” and “Naked City.”

By the early 1960s, Ms. Pleshette attracted a teenage following with her youthful roles in such films as Rome Adventure, Fate Is the Hunter, Youngblood Hawke and A Distant Trumpet.

She married fellow teen favourite Troy Donahue, her co-star in Rome Adventure, in 1964 but the union lasted less than a year. She was married to Texas oilman Tim Gallagher from 1968 until his death in 2000.

Ms. Pleshette matured in such films as Hitchcock's The Birds and the Disney comedies The Ugly Dachshund, Blackbeard's Ghost and The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin. Over the years, she also had a busy career in TV movies, including playing the title role in 1990's “Leona Helmsley, the Queen of Mean.”

More recently, she appeared in several episodes of the TV sitcoms “Will & Grace” and “8 Simple Rules ... For Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

In a 1999 interview, Ms. Pleshette observed that being an actress was more important than being a star.

“I'm an actress, and that's why I'm still here,” she said. “Anybody who has the illusion that you can have a career as long as I have and be a star is kidding themselves.”

'Brady Bunch' Butcher Dies - Allan Melvin Was 84

Source: The Associated Press

(January 19, 2008)
Allan Melvin, a character actor best known for playing Sam the Butcher on "The Brady Bunch," has died. He was 84.

Melvin died of cancer Thursday at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, said Amalia Melvin, his wife of 64 years.

The jowly, jovial Melvin spent decades playing a series of sidekicks, second bananas and lovable lugs, including Archie Bunker's friend Barney Hefner on "All in the Family," and Sgt. Bilko's right-hand man Cpl. Henshaw on the "Phil Silvers Show."

But his place in pop culture will be fixed as butcher and bowler Sam Franklin, the love interest of Brady family maid Alice Nelson, who was played by Ann B. Davis. Melvin played the role from 1970 to 1973.

Born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1923, Melvin grew up in New York and attended Columbia University.

He was appearing on Broadway in "Stalag 17" when he began his decades-long television career with "The Phil Silvers Show," playing a role his wife said was always his favourite.

"He was proudest of that show," Amalia Melvin said. "I think the camaraderie of all those guys made it such a pleasant way to work. They were so relaxed."

He saw steady employment as a voice actor from the early 1960s to the early 1990s, most famously providing the voice of "Magilla Gorilla" for the Hanna Barbera cartoon of the same name.

His other credits include several guest appearances on "The Andy Griffith Show," "Gomer Pyle: USMC," and "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

In addition to Amalia, Melvin is survived by daughter Jennifer Hanson and grandson Jon Hanson Jr. A daughter, Mya, died in 1970.

John Stewart, 68: Wrote 'Daydream Believer'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com – John Rogers, The Associated Press

(January 21, 2008) LOS ANGELES –
John Stewart recorded some of pop music's most acclaimed solo albums, helping create a style that came to be called Americana, but he was always best known for writing the Monkees' enduring hit "Daydream Believer.''

Stewart, who came to prominence in the 1960s as a member of folk music's Kingston Trio, died Saturday at a San Diego hospital after suffering a brain aneurism. He was 68.

"He was a lovely man and a very gentle soul and I guess the only thing you can say today is that the world is less one great songwriter," the Monkees' Micky Dolenz told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Stewart left the Kingston Trio shortly before the Monkees released "Daydream Believer" in 1967, then went on to record nearly four dozen solo albums, including the critically acclaimed ``California Bloodlines" and "Bombs Away Dream Babies." The latter included the hit single "Gold," in which he dueted with Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks.

Still, as with "Daydream Believer," he was likely best known for writing songs for others, including Joan Baez, Nanci Griffith, Roseanne Cash and Anne Murray.

"He was a cult hero, he never made it super huge," said his manager, Dean Swett. "He was one of those outlaw rebels, one of the people who refused to conform to what the record labels expected him to be.''

A husky-voiced singer and accomplished guitarist who delivered his lyrics in a poignant, often longing voice, his music was hard to classify. It fell somewhere between rock, country and folk and eventually came to be called Americana.

He wrote "Runaway Train," a country hit for Roseanne Cash, and ``Strange Rivers," which Joan Baez included on her 1992 "Play Me Backwards" album. Nanci Griffith dueted with him on "Sweet Dreams" and Murray, like the Monkees before her, had a hit with ``Daydream Believer.''

"There are certain songs that you just go in humming. It was one of those," Dolenz said of "Daydream Believer," which also was Stewart's best-known recording. Although he sang background to Davy Jones' lead on the Monkees' version, Dolenz performs the song himself at his solo shows.

"To this day it is one of the biggest songs that I do in concert," he said.

Stewart joined the Kingston Trio in 1961, replacing Dave Guard in the group that had helped usher in an American folk music revival in the late 1950s.

"John truly was the right fit. A first rate entertainer and gifted songwriter," the group said in a statement on its Web site.

He recorded more than a dozen albums with the trio before going on to a solo career in 1967. A year later he released "California Bloodlines," which included the minor hit "July You're a Woman.'' ``Bombs Away Dream Babies" came out in 1979.

He eventually recorded more than 40 solo albums. Others included ``The Lonesome Picker Rides Again, "Airdream Believer" and ``Rough Sketches," the latter a collection of songs about the iconic American highway "Route 66.''

Stewart was said to be at work on still another album at the time of his death.

Stewart's wife, Buffy, and children were at his side when he died, according to a statement on the Kingston Trio's Web site. There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements.


Jessica Lucas Poised For Monster Breakthrough

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Jan 20, 2008) Cloverfield – the monster movie that's gotten behemothic buzz from legions of Internet geeks – may prove to be a gargantuan leap in the career of Jessica Lucas.

"I would say this is a huge breakthrough and opportunity for me. You can't help but feel it's going to be helpful," says the 22-year-old Vancouver native.

Lucas plays Lily, one of five Manhattanites, whose late-night revels are rudely interrupted by a leviathan from the deep, sending them off on a dark, dangerous and nail-biting run for their lives. But better than a mere thrill-ride, the movie – shot in an intimate, jumpy hand-held style reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project – also gives Lucas a chance to display some acting chops in a film in which character development holds its own against a rampaging, scene-wrecking special-effects monster.

The first 20 minutes or so of the film set the stage with a raucous send-off for Rob, who's headed off to Japan despite unresolved feelings for Beth (Odette Yustman), who shows up at the party with another guy. Lucas plays Lily, a take-charge type; when Rob gets a distress call from Beth following the monster's first onslaught, it's Lily who bravely supports Rob's crazy plan to head up to midtown to rescue her.

"Most typical action movies lose the character and it's all about the action and the cheesy movie moments. But this movie is really about the people and their struggle," says Lucas via telephone. "Because of the way it's shot, from the first-person camera view, you just feel as if you're experiencing it first-hand with these people and you really start to care for them."

Getting a chance to flesh out the characters before the monster – and an accompanying band of nasty oversized spiders – start picking them off is, in Lucas's estimation, critical in separating the film from its gore-obsessed brethren.

"It's really emotional, actually. It's more heart-wrenching than any other action movie," she says.

Lucas is a TV veteran from recent Vancouver-filmed series such as Life as We Know It and CBC's Edgemont, with her fellow alumnae from that show including Smallville's Kristin Kreuk and Battlestar Galactica's Grace Park. But this is her first big movie, and acting – or reacting – to a "green-screen" computer-generated monster that isn't actually there was just part of the challenge for the cast, she says.

"The fact is that we're actors; we're supposed to be able to use our imagination," she says. Director Matt Reeves made sure his actors had a clear concept of what the mysterious creature looked like and "every time we had a special effects where we saw it (monster) or interacted with it, they would be very specific and tell us exactly what was going to happen," Lucas says, noting that that ensured horrified reactions were synchronized.

While praising screenwriter Drew Goddard's script, Lucas says the actors were able to "go off the page a lot as far as improv and stuff" in the chase portion that encompasses the greater part of the film.

"It's fast-paced with a lot of running and screaming and yelling and frantic energy. You definitely feel like you're there," she says.

Cloverfield is Lucas's second big break recently. Last August, she joined the cast of CSI in the role of Ronnie Luke – rumoured to be a possible replacement to regular Jorja Fox – but Lucas says the Writers' Guild of America strike is keeping that plot development up in the air for the time being.

"Because, with the strike, nothing's been confirmed, unfortunately. But it was a really a fun experience and quite a big break for me last year. I would love to continue on that show," she says.

That may mean moving from her beloved, laid-back Vancouver to live in L.A. full-time, a prospect Lucas contemplates with mixed feelings, noting that "I feel stressed almost the minute I step off the plane" in Los Angeles.

Audiences get a chance to judge Cloverfield this weekend, but some critics have already delivered a carpet-bombing pan of the mysterious monster.

Lucas, however, insists this is a monster movie with legs – big ones. "You will not leave this movie and feel you were not entertained," she says. "It's extremely entertaining. It lives up to the hype."

Tre Amstrong - Accomplished Dancer-Turned-Actress Takes Centre Stage

Source:  Kam Williams

Tracey Tré Armstrong has been dancing as long as she can remember. During her childhood in Toronto, she used to get up and groove to her mother's music and eventually she started taking lessons at a place called the Dance Factory. She later attended Erindale School of Dance and also trained with Luther Brown at Do Dat Entertainment.

Lithe-limbed Tré landed her first big break when she was chosen from over a thousand hopefuls to perform on the Missy Elliott concert tour. Then, she subsequently appeared in music videos for Rihanna, Sean Paul, Robbie Williams, Seal, Ashanti and Shawn Desman. 

Meanwhile, she made her screen debut been in HONEY as one of the principal dancers.  She then again appeared as a dancer in CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE DRAMA QUEEN, SHALL WE DANCE, BREAKIN’ IN: THE MAKING OF A HIP HOP DANCER, and STEPPIN’ UP: SAVE THE LAST DANCE II, where she enjoyed her first speaking part.

Now, the multi-talented cutie pie has parlayed her winning combination of acting chops, charisma, charm and, of course, dancing ability, into a co-starring role as the nemesis in HOW SHE MOVE. Here, Tré talks about all of the above and more.

KW: How long have you been dancing?

TA: I started off dancing when I was five.

KW: Do you see your future with acting or with dancing or with both?

TA: With acting. I’m a little character. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m bouncing off the walls all the time. I would love to play an action hero.  

KW: You remind me of another dancer, Columbus Short, who has that same boundless energy. He made the jump over to acting successfully, and had a big hit starring in Stomp the Yard.

TA: Yes! We actually appeared together in Save the Last Dance II. I love the fact that he’s made that move. He’s a great role model for me, because that’s exactly where I want to go, except adding on choreography, too.

KW: Well, this is as good a time as any to ask the Columbus Short question. Are you happy?

TA: Am I happy? I am ecstatic! People have been telling me that I don’t look happy because I have to control myself to contain myself. If I let myself go, my erotic self will come out and I’ll do something.

KW: Is there a question that nobody has asked you, that you wish somebody would?

TA: Yeah, will you ever quit dancing?

KW: Okay, will you ever quit dancing?

TA: Never. Dancing is part of my life.

KW: Are you at all like your character in How She Move?

TA: That character, Michelle, is inside me, my inner self. I contain her. But if you tick me off, Michelle will come out more than you’ve ever seen her.  

KW: Do you still live in Canada, or have you moved to Hollywood?

TA: I love Canada, But I’m making the move to L.A. in February.

KW: This is a good time for the Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. will you live?

TA: I’ll probably stay in North Hollywood, though, to be honest, I’d rather stay in West Hollywood.

KW: Do you have your next project lined up yet?

TA: Actually, no.

KW: Who would you like to act opposite?

TA: I’d like to make movies with some up and coming actors. 

KW: Any advice for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

TA: You have to believe in yourself first for anyone else to believe in you. And once you’ve done that, you have to follow your energy. Everybody has a divine-inspired energy. Accept it, don’t reflect it. 

KW: Is there a way fans can get in touch with you?

TA: Yes they can visit my new website at www.tre-lystikz.com.

KW: Thanks for the time, Tré, and I hope when you break big, I’ll able to get another interview with you.

TA: You know what? I’ll make sure that happens. Thanks you so much!

Leafs Make Change At The Top

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kevin Mcgran, Star.Com Staff

(January 22, 2008) The
Toronto Maple Leafs have fired general manager John Ferguson and replaced him with Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis. The team announced the move today.

"After full consideration of the Leafs' situation, it has become clear that change and a new direction is needed," Richard Peddie, president and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement. "The decision has been made that John will not be receiving a new contract at the end of this year, and it's in the best interests of the Leafs and of John to begin the transition immediately."

Peddie said at a news conference today that Fletcher's role would be to establish a foundation from which the next general manager can build, and the search for a permanent president and GM would begin immediately.

Fletcher said today that he had signed a 19-month contract with the Leafs that begins with his role as interim GM and the remainder as a consultant with the team. No firm date for his move from GM to consultant, adding he had no interest in being long-term general manager of the Leafs.

Peddie said the next Leafs general manager would be both a long-term builder and a short-term fixer.

"Sports attorney Gord Kirke and I will form the search team that will ultimately recommend the next president and general manager to the board of directors. (Fletcher) will serve as a resource to us in that process," Peddie said.

Fletcher was asked today about the future of Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who is free to walk away from the team at season's end; he could be traded for a package of prospects and draft picks, helping the Leafs build for the future.

After calling Sundin one of the greatest players to wear the Leafs jersey, Fletcher said he felt the team should "do what's right for Mats." He added that Sundin holds a no-trade clause in his contract and that would affect any move made with the captain. Fletcher would not comment further about specifics regarding the team's personnel and the NHL trade deadline, Feb. 26.

Despite going 3-1 in their last four games, Toronto remains five points out of the final playoff berth in the NHL's Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs host the Washington Capitals tomorrow.

"John has been given the opportunity and the resources he requested to deliver results from the strategic plans that he put in place when he was named general manager in 2003, and while the new collective bargaining agreement required some re-shaping of those plans, the results have fallen short of what our organization, including John, and our fans expect," added Peddie.

"We will always be grateful to John for his passion, dedication and commitment to putting a winning team on the ice. He's a man of the highest integrity, who withstood often unfair public criticism with dignity and class. He represented our organization and our community in a first class manner. We wish him well in what we expect will be a long and productive hockey career."

Fletcher had a year remaining on his deal as a consultant to the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Leafs had almost all of last week to speak with him after receiving approval from the Coyotes to negotiate with him while he was still under contract. That process, though, required a formal salary offer to Fletcher.

Ferguson became the 12th general manager in Leafs franchise history on August 29, 2003. Over his tenure Toronto had a combined record of 145 wins, 110 losses, 10 ties, 13 overtime losses, and 17 shootout losses for a .559 winning percentage.

Urban Music Awards Launches In The Caribbean

www.caribbeannetnews.com / www.caribbeaninternetnetwork.com

(January 22, 2008) OCHO RIOS, Jamaica: The 1st annual Caribbean Urban Music Awards launches in Jamaica on the April 26, 2008 in Ocho Rios. The Urban Music Awards is one of the biggest international awards ceremonies held in the USA, UK, France, and Germany and broadcast worldwide to an audience of 14.5 million viewers.

The UMAs celebrated its 5th anniversary in 2007 by launching for the first time in New York on July 7, 2007. The Urban Music Awards was born out of the need to build a worldwide and independent awards ceremony to recognise the achievement of 100% urban based artists, producers, club nights, DJs, radio stations, record labels and artistes that are a product of the current urban music scene.

With over 3 million urban music fans nominating and voting on the official UMA website internationally per year and urban music being the official biggest selling music genre in the world. Invincible Media Group's 'Urban Music Awards' has become synonymous with great music and leading a fashion that is set to become even bigger in 2008 and beyond.

From its inception all nominations and voting have been left for the public to decide. The public submit their nominees online for all 10 categories, with voting to be announced in February 2008 at a press conference in Kingston, Jamaica.

For 5 years, the awards ceremony has been covered by: CNN, Vibe Magazine, BET, MTV, The BBC World Service, Hot 97, VH1, BBC Radio 1, BBC Entertainment Online, Invincible TV, Evening Standard, The Metro Newspaper, The Independent, The Guardian, Invincible, Channel 4, CD: UK, London Tonight, Choice fm, Daily Star, New York Daily, New Nation, The Voice, and many more.

Chris Mitchell, Marketing Manager of Invincible Media Group & Urban Music Awards said: "The growth of the Urban Music Awards since it was launched by Invincible Media Group seven years ago has been incredible. As one of the biggest international Music Awards ceremonies, we are proud to launch the Caribbean Urban Music Awards for the first time annually in the Jamaica. We plan to make this a people's choice awards ceremony which will serve to promote Caribbean music and artists internationally to millions of homes like never before."

In a move to unite all the Islands of the Caribbean via the Caribbean Urban Music Awards. the Urban Music Awards team has announced that it has entered into a licensing agreement to create a brand new television show.

Launching in the Caribbean in February, North America in May and the United Kingdom in August 2008, the Caribbean Next Urban Superstar will be similar to Britain's Next Urban Superstar and America's Next Urban Superstar. It will be a unique television show of its kind to be directly associated with a major awards ceremony. Next Urban Superstar search will become the biggest annual urban televised singing competition directly associated with the Urban Music Awards.

The Caribbean's Next Urban Superstar will see the auditioning of thousands of acts from February 2008 giving a chance for the public to vote for the winners by SMS text and via the official website.

Aspiring acts will be auditioned from Jamaica, Anguilla, Martinique, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, St. Lucia, Curacao, Dominica, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago.

Winners from Caribbean's Next Urban Superstar will win a recording & management contract and will win the chance to perform at the UMAs in Jamaica, New York, and London all expenses paid). Winners of all 10 of the other categories at the CUMA awards show will also be determined by the public when voting commences in February.

Jordan Kensington, CEO of Invincible Media Group & the Urban Music Awards said. "Invincible is a very iconic and pioneering brand and all our activities and events to date have been hugely successful. There have been several television shows dedicated at discovering the next big thing but never has there been a show solely dedicated to the discovery of the future urban stars and as the biggest Urban Music Awards ceremony in the world. We feel launching, the Next Urban Superstar search in the US, UK, and especially the Caribbean will seek to find, develop, and give a once in a lifetime opportunity to discover the next Sean Paul, Bob Marley, Beenie Man, Rihanna, Collie Buddz, Beyonce, Jay-Z, and much more. We are also proud to bring the Urban Music Awards to the Caribbean as the Caribbean was in need of an awards ceremony that reflects, promotes and provide worldwide opportunities for the different forms of Caribbean artists, music and culture."

Some of the acts already confirmed to perform at the Caribbean Urban Music Awards include Sizzla, Collie Buddz, Bobby Valentino and many more to be confirmed.


Pete Rock Is 'NY'S Finest'

Source: kimberly@theorchard.com

(January 18, 2008) Legendary hip hop producer
Pete Rock is preparing for the release of his new album, NY's Finest, on February 26 via Nature Sounds records.

The album is his first in four years, and was produced almost entirely by Pete Rock, with one track contributed by producer Green Lantern.

"I called it [NY's Finest] because I feel like that's me. I'm one of New York 's finest producers," Pete Rock explains.

In fact, not only is Pete Rock one of New York 's finest producers, but the album itself is one of Pete Rock's finest creations. He even pays homage to the classic James Brown double-disc, Hell, with the cover art.

Fans have already caught a glimpse of what to expect from NY's Finest with new single "We Roll" featuring Jim Jones, along with b-side "Till I Retire" (in stores now) and "914" featuring Styles P and Sheek Louch.

The record also features appearances by Wu-Tang's Raekwon and Masta Killa, Papoose, Little Brother, and Redman. A special iTunes version of the album will also contain a bonus track with Slum Village .

Listen to Pete Rock's "We Roll" from NY's Finest (Nature Sounds)

Listen to Pete Rock's "Till I Retire" from NY's Finest (Nature Sounds)

Listen to Pete Rock's "914" featuring Sheek Louch (Nature Sounds)

About Pete Rock:
Born in the Bronx, NY by Jamaican parents, a teenage Pete Rock first hit the scene in the late 80's when he joined legendary DJ/producer Marley Marl on NY station WBLS' show "In Control With Marley Marl."  The popularity of the radio show soon led Pete Rock to experiment with production. In 1991, he was joined by up-and-coming rapper CL Smooth and released the debut EP, All Souled Out.

In 1992, the duo dropped Mecca And The Soul Brother, one of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums of all time. Pete and CL eventually released The Main Ingredient in 1994. Although the album was very well received by critics and fans alike, the project marked the last effort for the duo.

Since then, Pete Rock has lent his production skills to some of the greatest MC's. He crafted and remixed hits for Nas, Biggie, Jeru The Damaja, and, more recently, Jim Jones, Talib Kweli's Ear Drum, Redman's Red's Gone Wild and Ghostface, for whom he produced tracks for Fishscale, one of music critics' favourite hip hop albums of 2006
LA Reid Previews New Janet And Mariah Tracks

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 18, 2008) *The name of
Mariah Carey's forthcoming 11th studio album is "That Chick," according to reports from a joint listening party held in the UK for both her album and Janet Jackson's new disc, "Discipline."

Island Def Jam chairman Antonio "LA" Reid, who hosted the affair at a hotel theatre in central London, played assembled press 10 tracks from "That Chick," including “Migrate,” featuring T-Pain; "Heat" produced by Will I Am; "Cruise Control" feat. Damien Marley; “Love You Long Time”; "For Real, For Real"; "Bye Bye"; "Love Story"; "Touch My Body"; "O.O.C." and the title track.

The album is reportedly due for release on April 1 with the title track set to hit radio on Jan. 29 as the first single.

Reviews of the various songs may be found at the following sites:

Matt P's Music Blog 
Mariah Daily Journal
Mariah Connection

Meanwhile, Reid played eight tracks from Janet's Feb. 26 release, "Discipline": the Rodney Jerkins-produced first single "Feedback," as well as "Tonight," "Love, Love, Love," "This Can't Be Good," "Rock With You," "Rollercoaster," "Greatest Ex Ever" and the title track.  

Further details about Janet's "Discipline" tracks may be found at DiscoPop.

Ike Turner's Death Ruled Cocaine Overdose

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(January 17, 2008) SAN DIEGO — Rock 'n' roll pioneer
Ike Turner's death last month at age 76 was caused by a cocaine overdose, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office said Wednesday.

“We are listing that he abused cocaine, and that's what resulted in the cocaine toxicity,” said Paul Parker, chief investigator at the medical examiner's office.

The medical examiner's office also listed hypertensive cardiovascular disease and pulmonary emphysema as “significant and contributing factors” to Turner's death, Parker said.

A telephone call from The Associated Press seeking comment from the attorney of Turner's daughter, Mia Turner, was not immediately returned.

Turner, whose musical accomplishments were overshadowed by his image as the man who brutally abused former wife Tina Turner, died Dec. 12 after years of drug abuse. He was jailed in 1989 and served 17 months.

Turner once told the AP he originally began using drugs to stay awake and handle the rigours of non-stop touring during his glory years.

“My experience, man, with drugs — I can't say that I'm proud that I did drugs, but I'm glad I'm still alive to convey how I came through,” he said. “I'm a good example that you can go to the bottom. ... I used to pray, ‘God, if you let me get three days clean, I will never look back.' But I never did get to three days. You know why? Because I would lie to myself. And then only when I went to jail, man, did I get those three days. And man, I haven't looked back since then.”

But while he would readily admit to drug abuse, Turner always denied abusing his ex-wife. In her 1987 autobiography, “I, Tina,” Tina Turner told of a brutal pattern of abuse.

After years out of the spotlight his career finally began to revive in 2001 when he released the album “Here and Now.” The recording won rave reviews and a Grammy nomination and finally helped shift some of the public's attention away from his troubled past and onto his musical legacy.

Turner spent his later years making more music and touring, even while he battled emphysema.

Jolene Higgins A Small Town Girl At Heart

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(January 18, 2008) Her first instrument was a piano, a saloon mini-grand her father hauled into their home in Independence, Kan., one night. That's where
Jolene Higgins more or less grew up, the dimpled daughter of an oil man who apparently knew a good deal when he spotted one.

Jolene – better known in contemporary music circles as rising retro-country blues star Little Miss Higgins – immediately carved her name in it, then settled into scales that would eventually lead to Mendelssohn, Brahms and Mozart.

"It was a small prairie town much like the one we'd left behind in southern Alberta," Higgins said over the phone from her present home in Nokomis, Sask., another small prairie town – this one located about halfway between Saskatoon and Regina.

Nokomis was at one time the point where the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National rail lines crossed in that neck of the woods. These days it's a small and isolated bit of the Prairies' fabled past, home to just 400 souls.

Nevertheless, Nokomis is well served on Higgins' sophomore album, Junction City, in which the town's past and present abide comfortably together in original songs that reverberate – quite literally – with the twang of pre-rock blues and post-Carter Family country music, and come alive in Little Miss Higgins' plaintive, high-pitched holler.

It's a voice that reminds those old enough to remember of Memphis Minnie and Billy Holiday, of the rough roadhouse beginnings of rockabilly, and of the same line of empowered female blues and jazz singers who also inspired American roots music diva Maria Muldaur.

That's a long way from her classical music beginnings, admitted Higgins, who spent two post-secondary school years studying theatre, and a third studying music and drama at the B.C. Conservatory of Music on Vancouver Island.

By then she had abandoned the piano for the electric guitar – an early 1960s Kay hollow body with a massive single-coil pickup is her preferred weapon – and graceful airs for primordial rock 'n' roll, that quaint and inflammatory mix of blues and country music, with their sexy bent scales, profane rhythms and soulfully flattened notes.

"Everything changed after we moved back to Saskatchewan at age 13," explained Higgins, who's both a featured performer and a contender in the Best New Artist/Group category at the 11th annual Maple Blues Awards gala and concert Monday night at the Mod Club.

Other performers include Dawn Tyler Watson, Downchild, Colin James, Jack de Keyzer, Lance Anderson, Michael Fonfara, Bill King, Shakura S'Aida and Garrett Mason.

(Tickets are $32 at 416-538-3885 or ticketpro.ca. For more details go to torontobluessociety.com.)

"That's when I heard Billy Holiday for the first time ... then Memphis Minnie, who was really cool because she also played guitar, and Big Bill Broonzy."

Higgins' musical world was soon bound by the songs, stories, mannerisms, fashions, and ribald excess of the all but forgotten artists who were the unwitting pioneers of rock 'n' roll in the 1930s and '40s. It helped, she noted, that they lived very theatrical lives, onstage and off.

"My training in the theatre gave me the confidence to be in the moment as a performer, as a storyteller and as a singer. For this kind of music you have to be in the moment."

Recorded in Calgary with producer Tim Williams and sound engineer Rob Smith, Junction City is a collaboration with Higgins' musical and life partner, guitarist Foy Taylor. The album has already earned rave notices and the attention of concert and programmers for this summer's Winnipeg Folk Music Festival, Summerfolk in Owen Sound and the Kitchener Blues Festival.

"It will be nice to finally get east," said Higgins, who made her Toronto debut this past October at the Free Times Café. "But it's also nice to get back to a place like Nokomis, somewhere quiet, with a house and garden.

"I get all the inspiration I need right here."

Raheem Devaughn: Soulster's New 'Woman' Track Gets Grammy Nod

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

(January 23, 2008) *Singer
Raheem DeVaughn showed soul music some love in 2005 with the hit song “Guess Who Loves You More,” his first solo single released on a major label.

The track and another stunner “You,” came from his Jive Records debut “The Love Experience,” which showcased his very R&B-hippie-soul-rock style.

Now, DeVaughn’s released the follow-up to the acclaimed and very popular first disc. The new project, “Love Behind the Melody” has already gone beyond buzz. The first single, “Woman,” is a fave anthem for the femmes and garnered DeVaughn a Grammy nomination for a Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

“This is a complete album of love songs,” DeVaughn said of the disc. “I did it like that purposely, but I couldn’t do it without an anthem like that. It’s just a conscious tribute, paying homage to women in general. Putting the album together, I stepped back and asked, ‘What’s missing?’. But off the success of the ‘You’ record off the last album, I just felt like I still needed that anthem.”

Though the singer followed a bit of the game plan from his first disc, his look isn’t so much a repeat; cutting the braids and trading them in for a suit.

“It’s about reinventing yourself,” he said of the image change. “You can’t stay the same way forever. It was time to grow up; cutting the braids and throwing on a suit. At the end of the day, I think [my fans] connect with my inner beauty, so it’s all good.”

While DeVaughn’s debut disc was critically acclaimed and his new single has captured a Grammy nod, the soulster admittedly hasn’t hit his highest potential. He told EUR’s Lee Bailey, however, that it’s just a matter of time – a matter of a lifetime career.

“Out here in the DC area, I’m pretty much a household name; from like Baltimore down to VA,” DeVaughn said. “I sold a quarter of a million with the first album so far and it’s still selling. The majority of that was sold in this area. I think it’s taken that mentality and movement that I’ve created here and it’s starting to spread out. Nothing happens overnight and I wouldn’t have it happen any other way. The type of following that I’m building is a following for a lifetime.”

DeVaughn explained that since he comes from a background of putting out his own music independently, his approach to success in music is putting out good product and letting it marinate.

“On any given day I would rather sell 70,000 the first week and then continue to sell and end up selling 10 million two or three years from now than to sell 350,000 the first week and the album just kind of fizzle out. I think the slow grind is the best grind,” he said.

DeVaughn, who is also featured on the remix to Alicia Keys’ “No One” single, said that he put together the latest album with a more rigid preparation. Still, even while he was working on “Love Behind the Melody,” he was also putting together tracks for a second disc he’s already titled ‘The Love & War Masterpeace Project,’ and even considered releasing the two together as a double album.

“It’s a socially conscious love album,” he said, It’s definitely designed for people to fall in love and make babies. It’s like my version of the Marvin Gaye ‘I Want You’ album. I think where it’s different, I’m not touching any socially conscious issues – I’m waiting to have that on the next album.”

Which, well, is already ready.

For more on Raheem DeVaughn, the new disc, and tour dates check out www.raheemdevaughnonline.com or his MySpace – which he actually checks and updates personally at www.myspace.com/Devaughnenterprises.

Ne-Yo Sings For Smokey

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2008) *Some of the biggest names in show business were on hand last September at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium to witness
Smokey Robinson being presented with the United Negro College Fund's Award of Excellence at the "An Evening of Stars" taping. The vent will air this weekend. 

In accepting the award Robinson was classy and humble as ever. The Motown great has touched many hearts and minds of millions of fans. Some of those fans have gone on to become great fans of his. Anita Baker, Joss Stone, Ne-Yo, John Legend and Yolonda Adams to name but a few. 

EURweb was one the scene that evening and we found another star, among the many, who was influenced by Robinson. Pop sensation Ne-Yo was so inspired that he felt emboldened enough to sing Smokey's "Cruisin'" with the legend on hand.

"It's hard to put it into words," Ne-Yo told our reporter.  "I just hope and pray that I lived up to his standards.  That I didn't get up there and disrespect his song."

Show business moves at a lightening fast pace. In fact, the night moved along so quickly for Ne-Yo after the performance that he didn't even get a chance to meet the one who he says he wishes to model his career after.  Ne-Yo told our reporter that he would have simply asked Smokey for the secret to his career longevity, that's all.

"How do you do it," said Ne-Yo. "How do you keep making number one hits?  How do you keep making classic records over and over and over again? I think that is the question any songwriter would ask."

"If I could do that," he continued "They'll probably be having one of these events for me some day."

We would dare tell Ne-Yo not to fear about his maintaining his own  great success.  Some think it's only a matter of time, but Ne-Yo knows it's not as easy as he sometimes makes it look.

"Let us pray," he joked.

Early on Ne-Yo has proven himself to be a triple threat in the entertainment industry.  When asked to choose his between acting, singing and songwriting, he chose his original love.

"Mine would probably be songwriting," he responded.

Motown has always been the inspiring engine for Ne-Yo.  He tells EURweb he was introduced to it in much the same way all children who were not of the 60s were.  Their mothers listened to the music while cleaning the house every Saturday afternoon. The artist says if he even comes close with his interpretation of that era's sound then he knows he's on the right track.

"Then I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  That was the whole  idea towards what (I am doing). That's the kind of music that I grew up listening to. From Smokey, to Stevie, to the Temptations.  That whole era was my mother's era. My mother was and still is my hero.  Whatever she was in to, I was in to."

The positive and soulful influence of one generation's idea manifested in physical form for future generations to behold.  Is there anything blacker than that than Ne-Yo's relationship with his mother?  We doubt that.  But we do know this. The United Negro College Fund is definitely a body for positive change influencing the future generations with positive works and intentions.  UNCF is currently supporting over 65,000 students in 900 colleges and universities across the nation.

As we said, the "An Evening of Stars" affair was taped in late September and is slated to air the weekend of January 26-27. Keep an eye on your local listings for details or visit www.uncf.org for more info.  

Rolling Stones Sign 1-Album Deal With Universal

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press

(January 17, 2008) LONDON — The
Rolling Stones announced Thursday they have signed a deal to release the soundtrack to their Martin Scorsese-directed concert film through Universal Music Group.

The move does not bode well for EMI Group, the label that has been the Stones' home for 16 years, raising the possibility that the band might follow Radiohead and Paul McCartney and leave the embattled record company.

In a one-album deal, Universal Music's labels around the world will release the “Shine A Light” soundtrack in March.

The album will be released in Britain by Polydor Records.

EMI said its relationship with the Stones was unaffected by the announcement.

EMI spokesman Andrew Dowler stressed it had been always understood Universal Music would release the soundtrack because its studio affiliate Universal Pictures was producing the film.

“We are really proud to be working with the Rolling Stones and so is everybody in Universal Music globally,” Universal Music Group International chairman and chief executive Lucian Grainge said.

EMI has lost McCartney and Radiohead, two of its biggest acts, in the past year, while others — including Coldplay — have expressed unhappiness with the label.

EMI was bought by Terra Firma Capital Partners last year and on Tuesday the private equity firm announced plans to cut as many as 2,000 jobs, about a third of the company's work force, in a restructuring plan aimed at reassuring its restless artists, countering plummeting CD revenue and saving $400-million (U.S.) a year.

“Shine A Light” was filmed during a Rolling Stones performance at New York's Beacon Theatre in autumn 2006. It includes appearances by Buddy Guy, the White Stripes' Jack White and Christina Aguilera, along with rarely seen archival footage of the band.

The film will open the Berlin International Film Festival on Feb. 7 and is expected to be released in theatres in April.

It's Still All About Peace And Love For Ringo

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(January 17, 2008) He'll forever be associated with his mop-top beginnings and the age of flower power, and that's OK with
Ringo Starr.

The former Beatle readily admits those sunny clichés of peace and love still ring true for him as he releases his 15th solo studio disc this week.

"It's still an era that is very big for me – I love flower power, I love the freedoms," Starr, 67, said Thursday in a conference call from London.

"My mindset is with peace and love.... The dream I have is that one minute, one day, one year, everybody on this planet will go: `Peace and love!"'

Starr's new disc, Liverpool 8, is full of such wistful dreams, with syrupy songs like "For Love", "Give It a Try" and ``If It's Love," urging an open heart and spirited sing-alongs.

The title track is a sentimental tribute to the Fab Four's modest hometown, with lines like: "Liverpool I left you, but I never let you down," and "When I look back, it sure was cool/For those four boys from Liverpool."

The album's release coincides with a year-long celebration touting the city's cultural heritage.

It's lightweight fodder that rides on Starr's ample charm and famous past, with the drummer openly admitting that his songwriting approach generally centres on references to love, his friends, and even songs from his own past catalogue.

"If I can mention the word love on the track, then we do it," said Starr, who adds that his tunes often germinate as he's exercising.

"The last five albums have been love, love, love. People are getting fed up with me, but it's where I come from."

Despite all the nostalgia, Starr's latest disc marks a leap into the modern age with the material also being released on a USB bracelet in most parts of the world. The bracelet plugs into USB ports as a removable/portable hard drive and is expected to arrive in Canada in four to six weeks.

The device comes pre-loaded with the album, a video message, interview and track commentary from Ringo, ring tunes, photos and behind-the-scenes footage from the recording sessions.

"I decided to get modern," Starr said of the multimedia release.

"Personally, though, I like to hold something. I'm from that school where I love to hold vinyl, and now a CD. Now it just comes out of nowhere."

Although Liverpool 8 is also available for digital download, there was no mention of when the Beatles catalogue would be offered by online music services.

Speculation has raged in recent months that Beatle tracks will arrive online in early 2008. The move has most famously been held up by a lengthy trademark dispute with iTunes' owner Apple Inc.

Starr said his latest solo effort marks a break with frequent back-up band The Roundheads and former musical partner Mark Hudson, with whom he performed and recorded for some nine years.

Hudson was the original producer on Liverpool 8, Starr noted, but when the relationship dissolved, production duties were taken over by the Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics.

Starr said he expects to hit the road again this summer, with tour rehearsals expected to take place in Canada. Previous jaunts have started with sessions at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont., north of Toronto, but Starr said he hadn't yet decided the location of this summer's rehearsals.

In the meantime, Ringo fans can catch the winsome musician in a slew of TV appearances set for the coming weeks, including Live with Regis & Kelly, A&E's Private Sessions, CBS' Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Triumph Lays It On The Line

Excerpt from www.thestar.com – Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(January 21, 2008) The
Triumph shadow has hung for more than 20 years over Toronto guitarist Rik Emmett, but nothing – not the promise of money, nor the efforts of friends and advisers to engineer a reconciliation with his estranged bandmates, drummer Gil Moore and bassist Mike Levine – could have lured him back into the arena-rock vortex.

Until, that is, the recent cancer-related death of his younger brother, a longtime fan of the Toronto trio that broke out of the club scene in the mid-1970s and rose to international stardom through the 1980s before calling it quits.

Emmett, Moore and Levine have spent the subsequent two decades bickering and sniping at each other in public and lawyer's offices.

"Yeah, well ... life's too short, and I did make this promise to my brother before he died," Emmett said Friday from his Toronto home after the announcement that Triumph is one of the featured headliners in June at the four-day Sweden Rock Festival. Having been inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame last March, Emmett, Moore and Levine were approached by the festival to share its main stage with Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Blue Öyster Cult, Whitesnake and other top arena rock bands of the 1980s.

Their decision to reform had little to do with money and less with revisiting past glories, said Emmett, 54, the band's youngest member. He has built a respectable solo career as a jazz and rock guitarist since Triumph split. Levine and Moore quit playing altogether, the latter to establish the Metalworks recording complex in Mississauga.

"When there's a death in the family, you start pondering the meaning of life ... and it's not as if Triumph has ever gone away. It's been part of me since I was in my early 20s," says Emmett.

He also recalled sharing a bill with veteran hard rock act Nazareth recently and being moved by their camaraderie and shared loved of the music they've been playing since the early 1970s.

"They're old, grey-haired, hard-drinking Scottish geezers and they're living an adventure that may never end, eternal brothers in music. I was jealous. I wished I still had that."

In the 1980s Triumph released a string of gold and platinum albums (Progressions of Power, Allied Forces, Never Surrender, Thunder Seven) and several durable hits, including "Fight the Good Fight," "Magic Power" and "Lay It On The Line."

Even so, it's unlikely Triumph can pick up where it left off. The plan, Emmett said, is to perform once in Sweden, and maybe a couple of times in July at venues yet to be determined, then to spend a year gearing up for a major world tour beginning in the summer of 2009.

"Of course, there is a Spinal Tap element to all of this," Emmett adds. "We haven't even had a rehearsal yet.

"This is no middle-age adventure. This is our history, our lives, our work."

Emotional Quartet Takes Your Breath Away

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

(January 22, 2008) Perhaps one of the reasons that classical music doesn't register with a wider population is that it's too polite.

That possibility came to the fore last night at University of Toronto's Walter Hall, where the visiting
St. Lawrence String Quartet was anything but polite.

The result was an evening of riveting, breath-catching emotion and virtuosity that we don't often associate with chamber music.

The strength of last night's concert came on several levels: the exceptional playing of every member of the group; the immediacy of the interpretations despite the quartet's crazed schedule; and the fact that these were late-life works by two great composers who, instead of fading into old age, were enjoying a personal creative renaissance.

The Canadian-born St. Lawrence String Quartet turned 15 last year. In 2008, they celebrate their 10th year as the ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University in California.

The program notes said that the foursome (whose membership has changed a bit over the years) has performed more than 1,800 times since their founding.

Yet they somehow managed to sound as fresh as ever.

The current players are violinists Geoff Nuttall and Scott St. John, violist Lesley Robertson and Christopher Costanza on cello.

Last night, St. John had first-violin duty in a program of late-life quartets, the Op. 132, No. 15 "Heiliger Dankgesang" Quartet by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and the Op. 106 by Antonin Dvorák (1841-1904).

Beethoven wrote his quartet in 1825, after recovering from a near-fatal illness. This music, the second of three quartets commissioned by a Russian prince, is the composer's thanks to God for having spared his life (the title translates as "Holy Song of Thankfulness").

The Lawrences played this piece as if their own lives depended on it, highlighting every nuance in the score, which is as complex as anything Beethoven ever wrote for a full symphony. Especially in the prayerful third movement, all four players sustained a delicately tense balance in the music while playing very softly, then released the tension in great waves of energy.

Just as breathtaking was their interpretation of Dvorák's Op. 106 String Quartet in G Major, which dates from late 1895, another optimistic piece that brims with emotional as well as creative spark.

Here, as in the program-opening selection of three Cypresses – 12 songs Dvorák set for string quartet – the hall was bathed and basted in late-romantic effusions of emotion.

Yet despite their hearts being on their sleeves, the interpretations never felt weighed down by artificiality or melodrama.

The St. Lawrence Quartet return May 1 for a Music Toronto program that includes Beethoven's Op. 130 String Quartet. Don't miss them.

Each Piece An Eloquent, Joyful Poem

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Tamara Bernstein

Richard Goode
At the Jane Mallett Theatre in Toronto on Tuesday

(January 17, 2008) It's a rare treat to hear any major pianist give a recital in Toronto these days, and
Richard Goode is not just any old big-name pianist: He's one of the most eloquent and humane artists currently gracing the concert stage. So it's no surprise that the 64-year-old New Yorker drew a near-capacity crowd to the Jane Mallett Theatre, where he performed for Music Toronto.

Goode secured his reputation with "monuments": notably his revelatory recordings of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas and Schubert's late sonatas. But Tuesday's concert was all about the small: The program consisted almost entirely of groups of relatively short pieces by Bach and Chopin, with a smattering of Debussy and Faure. The largest-scale piece on the program was Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (Op. 27 No. 2).

But there was nothing small about Goode's artistry. Under his hands, every voice in the piano sang with a sweetness that often had an elegiac tinge; his interpretations were entirely his own.

Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C Major, which opens Book II of The Well-Tempered Clavier, launched the concert with an irrepressible energy - particularly in the bubbling Fugue - and sense of exploration that carried into a set of five sinfonias. The latter - also known as Three-Part Inventions - are part of every piano student's diet, but are rarely heard in concert: On Tuesday, each was a poem. The sheer, quiet joy of Goode's performances reawakened the fundamental thrill about Bach: namely, that this was the one moment in Western music (and for all I know, in any music) when the vertical and the horizontal - that is, harmony and counterpoint - were held in perfect equilibrium.

This notion of balance percolated through the concert on other levels. Whether Goode was exploring the mysteries of the heart in Chopin's Mazurkas, or unleashing the febrile, impulsive energy of Debussy's étude Pour les arpèges composés, you felt that he held passion and intellect in a perfect, dynamic equilibrium. Goode is fundamentally an ecstatic - but an ecstatic with one heck of a mind. When he takes a piece on stage, no detail of its texture or architecture will go unnoticed - or unloved.

You could call Goode's approach to Chopin "sympathetic modernism," as in: "This is how they felt about love, life and musical sound in those days - isn't it wonderful?" Chopin's Polonaise in F-sharp Minor, Op. 44, was a standout. Goode gave this a grand, orchestral conception, but rejected the heroic posturing one often hears in these pieces. Instead, he explored the subtle allures of the obsessive rhythm, which sounded almost modern, and thoroughly diabolical.

But the Moonlight took the cake. In the famous first movement, Goode created a deeply moving relationship between the three voices: I cannot recall hearing the soprano sing with such brave sweetness, ever vulnerable to the urgings and ebbing of the bass. The flowing triplets, meanwhile, watched from an emotional distance. Their dispassion carried over into the swirling finale, where the storm had an inner, ghostly quality.

Richard Goode performs the same program at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. The concert is sold out.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Apollo Theater Needs Makeover Money

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 18, 2008) *The world famous
Apollo Theater in Harlem needs help. The landmark that launched the careers of such legends as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan is in dire need of money to begin the "final phase" of its $47 million renovation. The funds will go toward doubling the size of the theatre lobby, building a grand staircase at its center and replacing its wall-mounted columns and marble wainscoting, reports the Associated Press. Work inside the theatre would include repainting the colourful, intricate patterns on the walls and restoring box seats.        Under the Apollo Theater Foundation's plan, the names of musical legends would be memorialized on bronze plaques in a walk of fame in front of the venue. A revamped third-floor performance space would be placed in front of the building's windows, allowing passers-by to look inside. The foundation also aims to raise $12 million for an endowment.        The non-profit organization already has spent $37 million to replace the theatre’s seats, as well as stage and restore its famous marquee.

Sheila E. Promotes New Group C.O.E.D.

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 17, 2008) *
Sheila E. has chosen the World Wide Web to launch and promote her new group C.O.E.D. (Chronicles of Every Diva) and their first single, "Waters of Life."  The famous percussionist has teamed with Speakerheart – an online platform for independent artists and bands to upload, promote and sell their own music – to co-sponsor a contest designed to call attention to both the Web site and the band. "With Speakerheart, we were able to get our storefront up and running quickly, complete with e-mail marketing support," said Sheila E. "Running the promotion and selling our music with Speakerheart has been a great experience."   "Waters of Life" is available for download exclusively at Speakerheart.com/coed. Sign up at www.speakerheart.com between now and Feb. 12, to be eligible to win. The grand prize is an 80 gigabyte iPod video player with second and third place winners receiving signed Sheila E. Player's Series Congas.   C.O.E.D., the all-girl group formed by Sheila E. in 2006, features Rhonda Smith on bass, Kat Dyson on guitar and Cassandra O'Neal on keyboards. Individually, they have toured with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams, Justin Timberlake, Macy Gray and Seal.

Cheri Dennis' Debut Album Gets A Release Date

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 17, 2008) *Bad Boy singer
Cheri Dennis' debut album, "In and Out of Love," will finally hit stores on Feb. 26 after numerous delays and a digital release last year through iTunes.    "Last year, I loved 'I Love You,' but the album itself I wasn't confident in yet," the 28-year-old Cleveland native told Billboard.com about the revamped project. "It was hard to endorse it and support it and push it during that time. But now I can say with confidence, this is a good way to come in. The best meals are slow cooked. I'm just excited now because the timing is so perfect."   Gorilla Zoe, Yung Joc and Sean "Diddy" Combs make guest appearances, while producers Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins and Mario Winans contribute beats.   The follow-up single to last year's "I Love You," titled "Portrait Of Love," is currently No. 57 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.   "Love" will include some bonus tracks designed to encourage buyers to purchase the physical copy.

Nate Dogg Suffers Stroke; Rapper In Rehab

Excerpt from www.allhiphop.com - By Tai Saint Louis

(January 18, 2008) Reps for artist
Nate Dogg have officially confirmed the state of his medical condition, following reports earlier this month that the singer suffered a stroke in late December.    His manager, Rod McGrew confirmed last night that Nate Dogg, born Nathaniel Hale, was left paralyzed on the left side of his body by what was described as a mild stroke shortly before the Christmas holiday.    The 39-year-old singer, known for his collaborations with Hip-Hop artists from Warren G to Ludacris, is currently being treated at an occupational rehab facility. McGrew went on to say that although Nate Dogg has some "neural-muscular issues that have to be jump-started," he has not suffered any brain damage and his voice has not been affected by his current condition, McGrew told MTV News.    "Time will tell everything, obviously," McGrew added. "But based on situations with similar people his age, and based on his health, the prognosis is good right now."    McGrew’s comments come only days after various websites posted audio of the 911 phone call placed from Nate Dogg’s girlfriend, to paramedics.    Nate Dogg was reportedly treated at Panoma Valley Hospital from December 19 to December 26.    On behalf of the singer and his family, McGrew has asked that Nate Dogg be granted the needed privacy to continue on his path to recovery.

Colin James, Downchild Lead Maple Blues Winners

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 21, 2008) Blues guitarist Colin James has snagged the
Maple Blues Awards for entertainer, electric act and recording of the year with the help of his Little Big Band. At an awards gala in Toronto, five trophies went to members of the veteran blues band Downchild, including best male vocalist, best drummer, and best bass, horn and keyboard players. Harry Manx took Socan's songwriter of the year award and shared the spotlight with Kevin Breit for acoustic act of the year. Gala host Dawn Tyler Watson was named female vocalist of the year while Winnipeg's Big Dave McLean was honoured with a lifetime achievement award. Other winners included: Jack de Keyzer for best guitarist, David Rotundo for best harmonica player, Watermelon Slim for best international artist, and Thom Swift for best new artist. Swift also snagged a $1,000 rising star award. Nominees are selected by a panel of blues experts from across Canada, and winners are selected by the online votes of Canadian fans.

Smithsonian To Host Exhibit On Hip Hop Culture

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2008) *Hip Hop and its influence on popular culture will be the focus of a new
Smithsonian exhibit to debut next month at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.  LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Common and Erykah Badu are among the artists featured in Recognize! Hip-Hop and Contemporary Portraiture, which will be on display from Feb. 8 through Oct. 26.    Photographs by David Scheinbaum will be available for viewing, as well as paintings by Kehinde Wiley, video self-portraits by Jefferson Pinder and several works commissioned specifically for the show. Poetry, spoken word and graffiti will also be included.  "Recognize! Hip-Hop and Contemporary Portraiture shows that much of the art inspired by the Hip-Hop movement is a form of portrayal," said Gallery director Marc Pachter. "Music, photography, painting, poetry and even graffiti provide a medium for self-expression and establishing identity."   Award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni wrote an ode to hip hop, titled "It's Not a Just Situation," that will be published in an accompanying booklet for the exhibition as well as displayed in the gallery.  Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artist Shinique Smith will interpret the poem and create an installation in the same gallery that will include an audio component.

Estelle 'Homeschooled' And Ready To Go

Source: www.estellemusic.com; www.myspace.com/estelleonline

(January 22, 2008) The UK's finest, multiple award-winning artist
Estelle is back with 'Shine' - her stunning new album, set for release in May 2008.   The first artist signed by US soul sensation John Legend, to his new Homeschool Records label, Estelle's new album features collaborations with Wyclef Jean, will.i.am, Swizz Beats, Mark Ronson and Kanye West, as well as a beautiful duet with John Legend.  'Shine' is a joint venture with Homeschool and Atlantic Records. "I have known John for a while now...We worked on my first album '18th Day' before he was signed. He featured on 'Hey Girl', played piano on 'Free', and appeared in the video. As I went to do my second album I asked him to help exec-produce it. As I progressed with it, I left my label and he said he'd sign me... and here we are today!  We always make great songs together. While I like and listen to a lot of musicians - there aren't many that I respect on a level to help me write songs or upgrade/push me as an artist... but John is one of them." John Legend continues: "I'm thrilled to be a part of Estelle's career.  This album is truly an accomplishment.  She will be one of the most of exciting breakthrough talents of 2008.  Mark my words."    


Rutina Wesley: The How She Move Interview with Kam Williams

Source:  Kam Williams

After studying at the Las Vegas Academy of Performing Arts,
Rutina Wesley attended the University of Evansville where she received her BFA in Theatre Performance. Next, the attractive, Las Vegas native matriculated in the prestigious Juilliard School’s Drama Division, performing in productions of Macbeth, Richard III and The Winter's Tale to The Marriage of Figaro, Rebel Armies Deep into Chad and In the Blood, among others. 

Rutina also spent a summer studying Shakespeare at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she landed the title role in a production of Romeo and Juliet. And since graduating from Juilliard in May of 2005, she’s exhibited such an impressive emotional range that Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes cast her opposite Julianne Moore in the Broadway production of The Vertical Hour.

So, it’s no surprise that the charismatic young actress was tapped to make her screen debut in the lead role of Raya Green in
How She Move. Here, the promising young star of tomorrow talks about this inspirational, inner-city saga where she plays a prep student who has to return to her crime-infested ghetto neighbourhood when her parents can no longer afford the tuition.

KW: Thanks for the opportunity, Rutina.

RW: Not a problem. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

KW: Given your classical training, what interested you in this script?

RW: Honestly, when I read one of the first lines, which was, “Chocolate-stained skin,” I was immediately drawn to that, because I’m a dark-skinned female, and it’s something that I’ve, my whole life, struggled with, being considered too dark by some, and all that stuff. But I also just related to Raya because she’s very driven, she’s passionate, she sets goals for herself, and she goes after them on her own terms. I think that as a young lady, you start off not knowing what you want to do, and then you kinda arrive at yourself by the time you’re 17 or 18, hopefully. And that’s what I did. In high school I was figuring out what I wanted to do, and by the time I was 18, I settled on being an actress, and began seriously pursuing that goal.

KW: Where are you from originally?

RW: I grew up in Las Vegas, born and raised.

KW: Soon after Juilliard, you landed a role on Broadway as one of the five original cast members in The Vertical Hour. How was that experience?

RW: That was one of the most amazing experiences of my career, because a young actor could not ask for anything more than to work with people of the calibre of Sam Mendes, Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy. They’re so good at what they do, I learned so much just by watching them. And they treated me like family. I was very, very, very lucky to have that opportunity. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.  

KW: Now you’re in How She Move which is so much more than just a dance movie. It has a richness and depth which reminded me of Love Jones.

RW: That’s how I feel about it, too. The dancing is great, but there is this beautiful little story behind it that’s positive and hopeful for our community. 

KW: I was very pleasantly surprised by the movie. It even made me cry. And you did a great job.

RW: Wow! Thank you. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Wow! Thanks.

KW: Did you identify with your character, Raya?

RW: Definitely. I had definitely made sure that I got out of Las Vegas after high school. I knew that if I stayed there, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my dreams as an actor or dancer. My family always told me to dream big, so I made sure that I got out of there and explored new places, because the world is huge. And I’m still learning new things every day in this business and in my life.   

KW: Now, this is your screen debut. How much pressure did you feel in the lead role?

RW: It was a lot of pressure. Your nerves can get the better of you, especially when it’s your first film. But Ian [director Ian Iqbal Rashid], from the beginning, made me feel right at home, and reassured me that the part was mine, and that I didn’t need to worry about whether I was going to have the part the next week. So, I was able to relax, enjoy myself, and live in the moment.

KW: In the movie, your character has an accent since her family is from Jamaica. Do you really have a West Indian background?

RW: No I don’t. I had to work on the accent with a dialect coach. Raya, remember, went to a prep school, so her dialect had to be a bit more proper than her parents. But when she came back home, we threw a little more of her roots back in there to make her a little more tangible, and to contrast how she is at home versus how she is at school, because that really happens.  

KW: Do you think Halle Berry’s Oscar win opened up roles for all black actresses, or just for lighter-skinned actresses?

RW: I think Halle opened the door for all of us. As black women, we should all stick together, and if someone gets there first, you’re setting an example for those behind you. So, I definitely look up to Halle Berry. And Angela Bassett is my role model. And Viola Davis is another actress who I love and adore. For me, I’ve gotten away from feeling I’m too dark. We’re all women of color, and a lot of us are doing some great things. I think it’s important the great things that we all do instead of asking, “Why didn’t I get this?” or “Why did the light-skinned girl get that?” instead of focusing on the positive. That what I and some girlfriends of mine are doing, celebrating all colors and all ethnicities of women of color. That’s a better way to go, rather than bringing all the negativities into it. It so much easier to smile and have fun than it is to hold grudges.    

KW: I hope that your powerful performance here will open things up further in terms of colorblind casting.

RW: Thank you very much. The reason I trained so hard in school was so that I could be versatile and play any character. With all these in my bag, I’m like a chameleon. I always tell other young actors to go to school, or at least watch movies to learn as much as you can.  

KW: Do you think you will still be able to go to the mall after this movie opens?

RW: My grandmother thinks I won’t be able to, but of course I will. I don’t know what it will be like, but it’s exciting.

KW: What message do you want the audience to get from How She Move?

RW: I would like for the young generation to walk away from this movie inspired about their lives and about the possibilities that are out there for them.

KW: Would you describe yourself as happy?

RW: [Laughs] Yes. I feel incredibly blessed.  I’m happy, but all of this movie business, and working as an actress is really hard. When you’re not working is when you have to stay positive and remind yourself that you’re talented. What’s due for you is due for you, and you don’t know when that’s going to come. That’s something I struggled with after I got out of school, wondering how long I was going to have to wait. Then beautiful jobs started coming to me. Now, I feel that my path is going to be what it’s going to be, and as long as I relax and breathe, I can enjoy it. I think that an actor shouldn’t work from a place of fear, because it’ll show in your work. You should work from a place of contentment, relaxation, and coming from your heart, and from the truth of yourself.      

KW: Columbus Short gave me that “Are you happy?” question when I asked him what would be a good question to ask him.

RW: Yeah, some people assume you’re happy, because you just did a movie. And you’re like, “Maybe not.”

KW: The Jimmy Bayan question. Where in L.A. do you live?

RW: I’m in the Hollywood area.

KW: What’s up next for you, career-wise?

RW: I have an upcoming HBO television series starring Anna Paquin called True Blood.  

KW: You’re very intelligent. Do you think you’ll write and direct someday?

RW: I’ve thought about producing, maybe way, way, way down the line, because I do have a lot of friends who are amazing writers. I’d love to have a production company where I can produce more black films, period pieces, for instance, like Shakespeare, with an all-black cast. There are lots of ideas that I have, but all in due time.  

KW: Well, best of luck with everything, and thanks for the time.

RW: Thank you.

Page Among Oscar Nominees

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Germain, The Associated Press

(January 22, 2008) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.–No Country
for Old Men and There Will Be Blood led with eight Academy Awards nominations each Tuesday, while several Canadians are also up for Oscars, including Halifax actress Ellen Page.

Page received a best actress nod and Montreal-born Jason Reitman got a directing nomination for the teen pregnancy film Juno.

"It's extremely humbling to be recognized with these other actresses, people I respect and admire – it's crazy," Page told NBC's The Today Show.

"I just feel so grateful to be part of the film and I'm so happy that people have responded to it in the way that they have."

Toronto's Sarah Polley, meanwhile, got a screenplay nod for Away From Her.

It remained in doubt whether any stars would cross striking writers' picket lines to attend the ceremony, scheduled for Feb. 24.

No Country for Old Men, a crime saga about a drug deal gone bad, and There Will Be Blood, a historical epic set in California's oil boom years, will compete for best picture against the melancholy romance Atonement, Juno and the legal drama Michael Clayton.

Atonement and Michael Clayton trailed with seven nominations each, including best actor for George Clooney in the title role of Clayton. The lead players in Atonement, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, were shut out on nominations, however, with teenager Saoirse Ronin the only performer nominated for that film, for supporting actress.

Past Oscar winner Cate Blanchett had two nominations as best actress for the historical pageant Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and as supporting actress for the Bob Dylan tale I'm Not There.

On strike since Nov. 5, the Writers Guild of America refused to let its members work on the Globes, which prompted stars to avoid the show in solidarity. Globe organizers were forced to scrap their glitzy telecast and instead announce winners in a swift, humdrum news conference, without anyone on hand to accept the prizes.

Guild leaders have said that if the strike continues, they will not allow writers to work on the Oscars, either, which might leave nominees and other celebrities forced to choose between attending the biggest night in show business or staying home to avoid crossing picket lines.

"I would never cross a picket line ever. I couldn't," said Tony Gilroy, a directing nominee for Michael Clayton. "I'm a 20-year member of the Writers Guild. I think whatever they work out is going to be one way or the other but no, I could never cross a picket line. I think there's a lot of people who feel that way."

The acting categories generally played out as expected – with a few surprises, including best actress nominee Laura Linney for The Savages and best-actor nominee Tommy Lee Jones for In the Valley of Elah. Neither performance had been high on the awards radar so far this Oscar season.

Best actress looks like a two-person duel between Julie Christie, an Oscar winner for Darling, as a woman succumbing to Alzheimer's in Sarah Polley's Away From Her and Marion Cotillard as singer Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. Both won Golden Globes, Christie for dramatic actress, Cotillard for musical or comedy actress. Yet they face strong competition from Blanchett, Linney and relative newcomer Page as a whip-smart pregnant teen in Juno.

Day-Lewis, an Oscar winner for My Left Foot, grabbed another best-actor nomination as a flamboyant oil baron in There Will Be Blood, for which he could emerge as the favourite.

Along with Day-Lewis, Clooney and Jones, the other nominees were Johnny Depp, who won the Globe for musical or comedy actor as the vengeful barber in Sweeney Todd, Viggo Mortensen as a Russian mob member in Eastern Promises.

With a Golden Globe and universal acclaim for his performance as a relentless killer, Bardem looks like the closest thing to a front-runner this Oscar season, which is unusually wide open for best picture and other top categories.

Bardem is up against Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War; Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild; Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton.

Joining Blanchett and Ronin in the supporting actress category were Ruby Dee for American Gangster, Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone and Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton.

Snubbed along with Knightley and McAvoy was Atonement director Joe Wright. The directing nominees were Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood; Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men; Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Jason Reitman, Juno; and Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

The Coens and Anderson also were nominated for writing the screenplay adaptations of their films.

The wide-open awards season had left the field up in question, and some other notable prospects were shut out, including past Oscar winner Angelina Jolie for A Mighty Heart, Helen Bonham Carter for Sweeney Todd, and Emile Hirsch for Into the Wild. Sean Penn also missed out on a directing nod for Into the Wild, as did Eddie Vedder, who was shut out in music categories.

Also left out of the Oscars completely was the hit musical Hairspray.

The fairy-tale comedy Enchanted had three of the five best song nominations.

John Singleton Is Latest Writers Strike Casualty

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 17, 2008) *Warner Bros. TV has ended its production deal with director
John Singleton as part of a sweeping attempt across all major studios to cut costs due to the writers strike, now in its third month.

Warner Bros. TV, along with CBS Paramount Network TV, Universal Media Studios and 20th Century Fox TV, sent termination letters to a total of 45-50 writers and producers on Monday, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

 As previously reported, ABC Studios ended its production deal with Taye Diggs when it dropped 25-30 producers last Friday. Jonathan Lisco, the creator of Fox's "K-Ville" starring Anthony Anderson, has had his deal terminated with 20th Century Fox TV as well.

 The studios have cited the "force majeure" -- or act of God -- provisions in contracts that allow studios to cancel deals with writers and producers. These deals usually involve the supply of offices and staffers on the studio lot, and can be both costly and unproductive, the trade reports.

 In other Singleton news, the director spoke with collider.com about the reasons he signed on to helm 20th Century Fox's upcoming big screen adaptation of "The A-Team."

  He told the Web site that no one has been cast, not even Ice Cube, who is rumoured to have been offered the Mr. T role of B.A. Baracus. Singleton did however express a desire to cast Woody Harrelson as Murdock. 

 Singleton also described the tone of his upcoming adaptation, telling the Web site: "It’s not a comic movie farce like 'Starsky and Hutch,' it’s kind of in the tradition of the 80’s action pictures, the man’s movies like 'Die Hard,' 'Predator,' 'Commando,' or even 'Lethal Weapon' – more so than anything else. The action is very serious, but there is humour."  

 As for Baracus, Singleton said: "He will have a Mohawk and there is a moment in the movie where he actually gets the Mohawk cause he’s going crazy."

  Singleton said the cast will have to sign on for sequels, should the film become a hit. He also revealed that the script was written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, the duo who wrote the hit western "3:10 to Yuma." 

 Whoever does sign on for the film will be contracted to do multiple sequels should the first one become a hit. Fox is eying a release date in summer 2009.

Queen Latifah: The Mad Money Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – By Kam Williams

(January 17, 2008) *Dana Elaine Owens, aka
Queen Latifah, was born in East Orange, New Jersey on March 18, 1970. Soon after launching her showbiz career as a human beat-box for the rap group Ladies Fresh, she struck out on her own, releasing All Hail the Queen in 1989, the first of her half-dozen solo albums thus far.

Latifah’s film career followed two years later, starting with a supporting role in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. She’s since added about another forty acting credits to her resume’, including an Oscar nomination for Chicago, and appearances in such diverse productions as Hairspray, House Party 2, Bringing Down the House, Brown Sugar, Barbershop 2, Beauty Shop, Taxi, Last Holiday, The Perfect Holiday, and The Cookout.

She was recently awarded a Golden Globe for her stellar work in
Life Support, a made-for-TV movie chronicling the real-life struggle of a crack-addicted, HIV+ single-mom, thereby shedding light on a seldom examined plague taking a devastating toll on the black community. Upon winning the award, Latifah said, “I am so thrilled. Thank you to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association... Life Support is such an important film which addresses such important issues and I'm so proud to be recognized for my work in it. I only hope that the film helps in our fight against AIDS and HIV. My partner Shakim Compere and I were so passionate about Life Support that we signed up to produce it and never imagined it would go this far. So, thank you to the HFPA, HBO, Nelson George, Shelby Stone, Jamie Foxx and the entire cast.'

Here, she talks about her new film, Mad Money, a crime caper co-starring Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes as employees of the Federal Reserve Bank who conspire to steal millions of dollars in currency about to be destroyed. 

KW: Tell me a little about your character, Nina Brewster.
one in their neighbourhood, and to just have them live in a better place in general. And that’s sort of the pressure and the enticement that Bridget’s character [played by Diane Keaton] uses to get her to be involved in it.

KAM WILLIAMS: Were you familiar with the fact that the Fed routinely destroys old bills?

QUEEN LATIFAH: I don’t know if I ever have just consciously thought about money in the sense of the process that it goes through. I only assumed that they had to destroy some. I knew that they must destroy money, because they create new money. You couldn’t just put that new money into circulation without throwing off the entire economy. So, yeah, I did realize that they had to get rid of all that ripped up, beat up, dirty money somehow. Would I want to do that for a living necessarily? Nah.

KW: How was it working with Diane Keaton?

QL: It has been a blast. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been a fan of Diane’s for a really long time, so just to be able to work with her and watch her do her thing was amazing. Her energy is just unbelievable, and her skills. And she’s just fun to watch. And Katie [Holmes], too! Katie gets to play this crazy, aloof character [Jackie] who wants my character to have lots and lots of sex, which is always fun, because she really cares. It’s not that she’s being nasty or throwing it out there for shock value, she really cares about it and wants my character to be happy. It’s funny. She does have some of that free-spiritedness naturally, so it seems only right that she’s the person that plays this role.

KW: How do these three women feel about the crime they’re committing?

QL: I don’t think they really get into the economics of it all. The only one who seems to think about it is Don [Bridget’s husband, played by Ted Danson] But in their minds, obviously, this is not enough money to really make a big splash. It’s found money. It’s not going to exist after they destroy it. Who’s getting hurt? They figure this is like a crime that’s not really affecting anyone. So, why not?

For full interview by Kam Williams – go HERE.

Rambo Returns

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(January 19, 2008) HOLLYWOOD–Sylvester Stallone has just been bushwhacked by George W. Bush.

Not in person, of course. The 61-year-old Italian Stallion has the exact same age and birth date as the U.S. president, July 6, 1946, but he outweighs him by a good 14 kilos – and most of that is muscle.

Yet mention to Stallone how often Bush gets referred to as "Rambo" for his aggressive War on Terror forays, and the actor who actually is Rambo acts like he's just been shot.

"Agh, no, please, stop!" he hollers earlier this month during a round-table session in L.A.

He pauses for a moment to decide whether to take the bait. He's not a fan of Bush, but he doesn't want to be quoted attacking him. So he does a little riff that gets the message across.

"I know we share a birthday, but ... you're leaving me open for a ... could just slam that whole `Rambo' ... what rhymes with Rambo? Dumbo! No, we've got nothing to do with (Bush). Believe me. No."

It may not seem like it, and his heavily tanned face shows scars from years of physical and critical abuse, but Stallone's in a good mood and eager to talk about Rambo again.

The war-loving character followed Stallone's earlier creation, the fighter Rocky, for a one-two punch of American male icons that made Stallone a global star in the 1970s and 1980s. Both were billion-dollar franchises.

But by the dawn of the 1990s, Rambo and Rocky had become punchlines to bad jokes and was easy shorthand for anything resembling mindless violence. The franchises ground to a halt.

Worst for Stallone, his name became synonymous with bad acting, a huge comedown for a guy who, in 1976, was hailed as the new Marlon Brando, Oscar-nominated for both writing and acting in Rocky, that year's Best Picture winner. In 2000, the nose-thumbing Razzie Awards declared Stallone Worst Actor of the Century.

But what goes around, comes around. Stallone returned to his Rocky character last year for the well-received comeback picture Rocky Balboa, which even the Razzies couldn't fault. And now Stallone is trying to revive warrior John Rambo, the one-man army, with a movie simply called Rambo that opens this Friday. He wrote it, directed it and stars in it.

It's been 20 years since Stallone last sported the Rambo headband, machete and snarl. He knows people are going to accuse him of attempting to revive a corpse. He clearly doesn't care.

"You have careers of peaks and valleys and you harken back to things that you're known for. Every actor would like to say they're Daniel Day-Lewis and they have this incredible palette, but quite often you're known for certain things.

"And I said, `If I'm gonna get back into my career, I'd like to finish up the loose ends on Rambo because of Afghanistan.' The last one (Rambo III) didn't work. And the last Rocky (Rocky V) didn't work. So I wanted to focus on these two."

He figures his timing is impeccable. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, plus 9/11 and its aftershocks, have made it so.

"As fate would have it, the world has gone through that transition the past 20 years where, maybe 10 years ago, this wouldn't have even been acceptable. But right now with this inundation of violence and this constant bombardment of CNN everyday, I think there's a frustration building up and it needs a release. So that's why. It was just good timing."

He had no trouble at all slipping back into character.

"I love it," he says, and the smile is proof of sincerity.

"It reminds me of Eugene O'Neill's father (actor James O'Neill) in The Count of Monte Cristo. He played (the title role) for 33 years. I get that."

Yet Stallone still wants Rambo to stand for something, even if in the new film he admits to being a simple killing machine, with no patriotic urges whatsoever. Rambo takes place in Burma, a country recently in the news for its brutal suppression of protesting Buddhist monks.

The film's plot about an aging and angry Rambo coming out of retirement to rescue peacenik missionaries seems torn from the headlines, just as earlier editions of the Rambo saga name-checked conflicts in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Stallone likes having his action heroes tethered to reality, so much so that Rambo begins with harrowing documentary footage of real atrocities against women and children that are currently being committed in Burma.

It's this devotion to telling it like it is that has Stallone defiantly – make that proudly – agreeing that, yes, Rambo is indeed one violent movie. The body count is astronomical.

When a journalist suggests Rambo is one of the most violent movies going – even more than the blood-soaked Sweeney Todd – Stallone interrupts him.

"Not one of the most. The most. I tried very hard for this."

He had to argue his case before the censors of the Motion Picture Association of America, which wanted to give Rambo the audience-limiting NC-17 rating. He managed to persuade the MPAA to give it the more accommodating "R" rating.

Stallone believes it's important to show people the truth about "the most brutal regime on the planet," even if the truth hurts.

"You're doing a real subject. As we're speaking right now, people are dying and being tortured in the most brutal fashion you can never even imagine. This film will show that. If we're going to do anything that actually uses this media besides entertaining and perhaps save a few lives and bring awareness to this, please don't water it down.

"People can turn away. They have this option. But don't just cut away from it."

He brought this same no-compromises philosophy to the rugged set in Thailand, where the lean budget allowed for only 48 days of shooting last year.

"He doesn't coddle you," says his 35-year-old co-star Julie Benz (TV's Dexter), who plays a missionary who warms Rambo's cold heart.

"He's brutally honest. He's so passionate about what he's doing, but he's very passionate as well. He's not above calling you out when you suck."

Fellow cast members Graham McTavish and Matthew Marsden, British actors playing gnarly mercenaries who fight alongside (and also with) Rambo, also marvelled at Stallone's stamina and perfectionism.

"He brings something else," says Marsden, 34, whose résumé includes Black Hawk Down and a recurring role on TV's Coronation Street.

"He brings something that you have to respect. He gives 100 per cent and he expects you to give 100 per cent back."

Adds the 40-something McTavish (TV's Rome and Empire): "He's a 61-year-old megastar who has made a ton of money. He doesn't have to do this. He's consistent. If I can run as fast and look as good at him at his age ..."

He doesn't have to complete the thought. It's one Stallone is clearly considering, if Rambo turns out to be the hit it's predicted to be – even though the studio is hedging its bets by eschewing critical previews.

He starts talking about what he might do next. Maybe something with his muscle-bound peers Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.

He's seen Space Cowboys, the 2000 actioner that teamed Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland as aging astronauts who hit the skies one more time.

"I have a very, very bizarre idea," he says, teasing his press audience.

"It's probably absurd. It's got a formula to it. But if I told you I was gonna do one about a 61-year-boxer you'd go, `Yeah, sure.' If you can find the right formula, almost anything is feasible. It's just coming in there and having the audience go, `Okay, that's possible.' It's weird, but feasible. Space Cowboys, hello? It worked!"

He'd have to get Schwarzenegger to quit his day job as Governor of California. Still, you don't want to bet against a man who can bring both Rocky and Rambo back from the dead.

"I always talk to Arnold about it. I say, `When are you going to get over this (governor) job? Let's go back to having some fun!'"

Sundance - More Than Black And White

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com – Liam Lacey

(January 21, 2008) PARK CITY, UTAH — Slavery has been called the "original sin" of the United States, a transgression that goes back to the country's founding and has continuing consequences through ongoing racial disparities and schisms. With the country facing, for the first time, the possibility of a black president in Barack Obama, there is renewed emphasis on more open racial dialogue, shown at this year's
Sundance Film Festival in several films that range from celebrating black accomplishments to examining white guilt and silence.

One of the first sales of the festival (to HBO) was
The Black List: Volume One, an intelligent, concise inspirational documentary produced by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and former New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell, which consists of a series of more than 20 direct-to-camera testimonies of black Americans who have made notable accomplishments, talking about their careers and what being black in the United States meant to them.

Each person discusses their experience, followed by more general statements on how they see the world. Greenfield-Sanders directed, while Mitchell conducted the interviews. Simple as it is, the film is often illuminating, from Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash talking about his differences with singer Axl Rose over the latter's racist lyrics for the song One in A Million, to Rev. Al Sharpton talking about the influence of singer James Brown on his personal theatrical style.

Rap mogul Sean Combs talks about staring for three hours at an image of himself on a Times Square billboard while thinking about his background. Combs's father, and most of his friends from his youth, died of gun violence.

In another production headed for the small screen, Combs stars in and served as executive producer on a remake of Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun. It will be broadcast on ABC on Feb. 25, the night after the Oscar telecast. Using the same cast (Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan) as the hit Broadway revival, the play, set in the 1950s, is about a Chicago family and a $10,000 life insurance cheque that changes their lives. In an otherwise exemplary production, Combs, in the role of Walter Lee, is out of his depth as an actor.

Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North is a nine-year project that follows first-time filmmaker Katrina Browne, who discovered that her illustrious Rhode Island ancestors in the DeWolf family made their fortune as the most successful slave-trading family in the United States in the 19th century.

She decided to organize a trip to explore their past, and headed off with nine relatives, some quite distant, to visit the slave coast of Ghana and a Cuban plantation on a journey of collective self-examination.

The movie is sincere and often acutely embarrassing: A scene in Africa where several of the family members decide to join black visitors to Africa in a ritual to heal the wounds of slavery is so appalling, it feels as though it were cooked up in an Albert Brooks satire. Yet, the family members do seem to go through a transformative experience. Several of them became engaged in the work to establish reparations for slavery and the movement in institutions to examine their own past and responsibility.

Traces of the Trade is a great story, not particularly well-told, in which a kind of neurotic guilt gets confused with acknowledgment of responsibility. Filmmaker Margaret Brown takes a much more subtle approach with her documentary, The Order of Myths, which examines the two Mardi Gras festivals, one black and one white, in her hometown of Mobile, Ala.

A study of community ritual, pomp and camaraderie, The Order of Myths also gradually unveils the startling connections between the two communities, where the great-grandchildren of slaves and the great-grandchildren of slave owners still live highly segregated lives. Yet, in the year when Brown trained her camera on the community and its "mystic societies" that run the annual event, things appear on the verge of change. There's a new secret society that's actually integrated and an impromptu, historical decision by the crowned black Mardi Gras King and Queen to pay a visit to the white Mardi Gras ball.

U2 in 3-D

Rock and roll broke loose at Sundance on Saturday night, when U2 took the stage to introduce their new film, U2 3D, and soon sedate filmgoers turned into waving, singing true believers. The movie, shown for the first time in its entirety, is a blend of technology and social message and music that feels like mass crowd hypnosis. Even Al Gore was bopping along, and as the credits rolled, one man began yelling repeatedly, "LEGENDARY!"

Even for those not sold on all of U2's music, the film (co-directed by Mark Pellington and Catherine Owens) felt like a milestone. Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz (with The Band) and Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense (with the Talking Heads) are generally acknowledged as the best rock concert films, but U2 3D makes them look terribly stage-bound. U2 3D is about stadium rock as an intensely collective experience. As the music thrums and Bono chants, the giant screens flash like stained-glass windows. The audience is given a godlike omniscience from sweeping overviews, down in the seats and within touching distance of Bono's fingers as he reaches them forward in a laying-on-of-hands gesture.

Still, it seemed a bit ridiculous when many of the 1,200 members of the audience, wearing their 3-D glasses, started raising their illuminated cellphones and BlackBerrys up toward the screen to express solidarity with U2's world peace message.

Things came back down to earth with a thump when, in the brief post-screening question-and-answer period, an audience member asked something about if, after all, wasn't it just a concert film rather than a story like The Beatles' Yellow Submarine? (Unlike U2, the Sundance Festival does not embrace technology; they still don't have microphones in the audience for question-and-answer sessions.) Bono vociferously told the man to eff off. After declaring himself a huge Beatles fan, he asked incredulously: "You are telling me that Yellow Submarine has a narrative arc?"

U2 3D opens next month in Toronto.


Occasionally Sundance includes big-name actors who work the low-budget indie side of the street in an effort to try something different and less financially risky than a major studio production. The Great Buck Howard, directed by Sean McGinly, is that sort of movie, a light, briskly paced mixture of backstage satire and coming-of-age story. Colin Hanks plays Troy, a law student who, unbeknownst to his father (Colin's real-life dad, Tom Hanks, who is also one of the film's producers), drops out of school for a dubious career as a tour manager for an over-the-hill "mentalist" played by John Malkovich, who remains a star only in his own mind and pockets of small-town America. Malkovich, as a vain, hack entertainer of imperious manners and indeterminate sexuality, earns all the laughs here, with his shoulder-dislocating handshakes to demonstrate his youthful energy, and his eccentric petty feuds (including an entirely forgivable adoration of Johnny Carson and contempt for Jay Leno.) When Malkovich is not filling the screen, the film drops down a notch into familiar coming-of-age fare, with Emily Blunt adding some sparkle as Troy's temporary love interest, a pretty, cynical publicist hired to help Buck on his attempted comeback. One miscalculation is the movie's condescending portrayal of Buck's fans, with Steve Zahn as an idiotic limo driver, and a sequence of obese, fawning women as local theatre managers who still treat Buck as a major star.

Colin Farrell Returns As The Hit Man

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Jan 20, 2008) PARK CITY, Utah–Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson have obligingly interrupted their lunch to talk to the Star, in the midst of Sundance Film Festival hubbub.

Which is a very good thing, especially since the two Irish actors are dining in an establishment called Butcher's Chop House on historic Main St., a name entirely in keeping with the mob hit men they play in In Bruges, the well-received black comedy that opened Sundance Thursday night. (The film opens Feb. 8 in Toronto.)

They're hit men who – cue ominous music – beat up a hapless Canadian in a restaurant. The Canuck is just one victim in their spree that includes violence both physical and verbal against dwarves, fat people, obnoxious ticket sellers, whiny skinheads and anybody else in their way.

Yet Farrell, 31, and Gleeson, 52, are both sipping what appear to be straight Coca-Colas, so they're unlikely to be starting a saloon brawl.

Coke is also the beverage of their dining companion, writer/director Martin McDonagh, the prize-winning British playwright and Oscar-winning filmmaker who convinced Farrell and Gleeson to spend weeks in the medieval tourist town of Bruges, near Brussels, for a shrewd and funny story about mobsters Ken (Gleeson) and Ray (Farrell), who aren't as hard as they look and sound. The two are on the lam from a botched job in London that left a young boy dead, and their crime boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes) furious.

In Bruges is not your standard Sundance opener – it's neither American nor politically correct – and it's not the kind of movie you'd take your kids or your grandmother to.

It's loaded with profanity and dialogue that polite company would deem sexist, racist and cruel, especially fat people, dwarves, ticket sellers and Canadians (more on that later), even though none of it could be considered gratuitous when taken in context.

And that's exactly how McDonagh and his actors want it, as Gleeson was explaining earlier at a press conference. He and Farrell were delighted to just let loose their inner louts, without worrying about whether film censors or grannies would scold them. They weren't just being vile for no reason.

"Sometimes, things that have taken on racist overtones are just purely descriptive," Gleeson says.

"And there's kind of a common language that sometimes gets ironed out and degraded by everybody watching their P's and Q's."

This attitude will cost them the lucrative PG-13 rating in America, where censors get their knickers knotted a lot faster than in the U.K. or Canada. PG-13 films are only allowed a single "f---." But a single one sounds all right to them:

"Jeez, that's better than we got in Bruges!" Gleeson quips.

"I didn't even get a feel!"

Judging by the laughter ringing through the Eccles Theatre Thursday night, it seems audiences get the joke that Ken and Ray are more lap dogs than pit bulls, even if their bark and bite are often fearsome.

Farrell's Ray is the most offensive of the two. But he's such a colossal doofus, it's impossible to hate him.

Farrell says he got to understand Ray so well, he felt like he was betraying him when he recently went to a sound studio to "loop" some of his dialogue for a cleaned-up version of In Bruges that can be used on TV and in airplanes. Instead of ranting about dwarves and midgets in the bowdlerized version, for example, he talks of "little people."

"We laughed about it on the day in the studio but it actually felt wrong. Like we shouldn't have been doing it."

Farrell and Gleeson both speak in an Irish brogue heavy with slang in the film, not far off their real speaking voices. They warrant subtitles more than the Belgians, who speak quite good English. "That's on purpose so we get people to see it a second time!" Farrell jokes.

Amidst all the censor-baiting and Canuck-bashing, there's actually a profound message in In Bruges. These assassins have a code of honour they go by, "moral barometers" to use their words, even if it doesn't seem so honourable on the surface. The movie is quite unlike many of today's crime films, where the bad guys kill for sport and double-cross both friends and enemies.

"There's so much violence in it, yet there's nothing gratuitous about it," Farrell says.

"There's always a price ... you may not see it on the surface. But underneath, there's an incredible amount of damage."

Farrell says he was glad to finally play a truly flawed human being instead of the almost superhuman figures he's played in such films as Miami Vice, Alexander and S.W.A.T.

"Softness can be the strength itself, you know. And with that in mind, it was liberating to not have to be that cock of the walk, whether it was Miami Vice or other things I did where I had to portray that I was in control a lot and alpha male and all that stuff, you know? It was very liberating to just be the mortal man, and it was more interesting."

It's also a change for Farrell to play an essentially comic figure. He's been cast in dramas since his breakthrough role as an angry U.S. soldier in Tigerland seven years ago.

"I've just been sharpening my funny bone for seven years now, and this was the coming out."

Gleeson has played many outsized characters, too, notably his title role as the mob leader in The General that won him his first major notices a decade ago. He was also one of the main rounders in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York.

But there was something about Ken's hard-won sense of justice that made In Bruges more than just another film for him. "We went into places we didn't know, places that I didn't know we'd end up in."

Gleeson has a big challenge coming up, portraying Winston Churchill in a biopic due out this year. He had to work on his language for that, too, getting the famous "never surrender" speeches exactly right.

"It's not `We shall fight them on the beaches,' it's `We shall fight on the beaches.' I had never realized that before. But it was really spine-tingling stuff ... and for a paddy, it was a big leap. I had my own baggage about the guy."

Speaking of exact phrasing, there's a line in In Bruges that is going to have people from Vancouver to Halifax howling. It has to do with that Canadian who gets pounded. Let's not spoil it here, except to say that Farrell is almost ready to apologize to his Canadian interviewer for beating up on a fellow Canuck.

But then he reconsiders.

"He was asking for it, wasn't he?"

On that note, it's time for this Canadian to end the interview and let the lads finish their lunch in peace.

UN Chief Names Clooney A 'Messenger Of Peace'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

(January 18, 2008) UNITED NATIONS – Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today designated actor and activist George Clooney a UN "Messenger of Peace" to help promote global awareness of the world body's activities especially in its far-flung peacekeeping missions.

Clooney, who has been campaigning for an end to the 4 1/2-year war in Darfur and for humanitarian aid for the millions caught up in the conflict, will become the ninth UN peace envoy.

While many UN agencies have goodwill ambassadors to promote their activities ranging from helping children and refugees to promoting human rights, "Messengers of Peace" are selected by the secretary general to promote the broader work of the United Nations.

UN spokeswoman Michele Montas, who made the announcement, said Clooney was recognized "for focusing public attention on crucial international political and social issues." As a Messenger of Peace, she said, he will have "a special focus on United Nations peacekeeping."

The eight other Messengers of Peace are actor Michael Douglas, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, primate expert Jane Goodall, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, Japanese-American violinist Midori Goto, and Olympic equestrian competitor Princess Haya of Jordan.

Clooney will visit UN headquarters on Jan. 31 to receive his designation and attend a meeting of countries that contribute troops to the 17 UN peacekeeping missions in countries from the Mideast and Africa to Haiti, Afghanistan and East Timor.

The 17 missions, with more than 100,000 personnel, include 73,000 troops and more than 9,000 international police. One of the newest missions is a joint African Union-UN. peacekeeping force for Darfur which started deploying this month.

Clooney and Don Cheadle – co-stars in the Ocean's film instalments – co-founded a humanitarian organization called Not On Our Watch together with other stars, including Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, to focus global attention on the plight of Darfur's people. They have raised more than US$9.3 million for humanitarian efforts in the region.

After he took over the reins of the United Nations in January 2007, Ban quietly dropped five other Messengers of Peace appointed by his predecessor Kofi Annan – U.S. boxing great Muhammad Ali, Indian tennis star Vijay Amritraj, Italian author and journalist Anna Cataldi, Algerian-born French singer Enrico Macias and American jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, who was a Messenger of Peace for nearly a decade, died on Sept. 6.

Oscar nominees: Complete list

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 22, 2008) Complete list of 80th annual Academy Award nominations announced Jan. 22:

1. Best Picture: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood.

2. Actor: George Clooney, Michael Clayton; Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood; Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah; Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises.

3. Actress: Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Julie Christie, Away From Her; Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose; Laura Linney, The Savages; Ellen Page, Juno.

4. Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War; Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton.

5. Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There; Ruby Dee, American Gangster; Saoirse Ronan, Atonement; Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone; Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton.

6. Director: Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Jason Reitman, Juno; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood.

7. Foreign Film: Beaufort, Israel; The Counterfeiters, Austria; Katyn, Poland; Mongol, Kazakhstan; 12, Russia.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Christopher Hampton, Atonement; Sarah Polley, Away from Her; Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood.

9. Original Screenplay: Diablo Cody, Juno; Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton; Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille; Tamara Jenkins, The Savages.

10. Animated Feature Film: Persepolis; Ratatouille; Surf’s Up.

11. Art Direction: American Gangster, Atonement, The Golden Compass, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, There Will Be Blood.

12. Cinematography: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood.

13. Sound Mixing: The Bourne Ultimatum, No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille, 3:10 to Yuma, Transformers.

14. Sound Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum, No Country for Old Men, Ratatouille, There Will Be Blood, Transformers.

15. Original Score: Atonement, Dario Marianelli; The Kite Runner, Alberto Iglesias; Michael Clayton, James Newton Howard; Ratatouille, Michael Giacchino; 3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami.

16. Original Song: Falling Slowly from Once, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; Happy Working Song from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; Raise It Up from August Rush, Nominees to be determined; So Close from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz; That’s How You Know from Enchanted, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.

17. Costume: Across the Universe, Atonement, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, La Vie en Rose, Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

18. Documentary Feature: No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Sicko, Taxi to the Dark Side, War/Dance.

19. Documentary (short subject): Freeheld, La Corona (The Crown), Salim Baba, Sari’s Mother.

20. Film Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood.

21. Makeup: La Vie en Rose, Norbit, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

22. Animated Short Film: I Met the Walrus, Madame Tutli-Putli, Meme Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven), My Love (Moya Lyubov), Peter & the Wolf.

23. Live Action Short Film: At Night, Il Supplente (The Substitute), Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets), Tanghi Argentini, The Tonto Woman.

24. Visual Effects: The Golden Compass, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers.


In Latest 'Saw,' Killer Terrorizes After Death

Source: By David Germain. Associated Press

Even from beyond the grave, the psychotic serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) manages to lay wicked traps. "Saw IV" (Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99), the fourth movie in the blood-soaked horror franchise, picks up after the death of the terminally ill Jigsaw, who before checking out concocted new terrors that test the mettle of a police SWAT team commander (
Lyriq Bent).  The DVD and Blu-ray discs feature a deleted scene and two commentary tracks, one with director Darren Lynn Bousman and Bent, the other with the movie's producers. Also included are featurettes on the traps the killer sets and the grisly props he applies to victims, along with a video diary from the director and a music video.

Ugo Pirro, 87: Oscar-Winning Scriptwriter

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 18, 2008) ROME – Italian scriptwriter Ugo Pirro, who wrote the screenplays for two Oscar-winning movies, including "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," died today in Rome, city officials said. He was 87. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said the city was mourning the loss of "one of the greatest screenwriters in the history of cinema.'' In a statement, Veltroni, a movie buff and former film critic, praised what he said was Pirro's "extraordinary talent,'' ``fantasy" and his ability to interpret modern society. Pirro co-wrote the screenplays for "Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion'', directed by Elio Petri, and Vittorio De Sica's ``The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.'' Both films, released in the early 1970s, went on to win Oscars for best foreign-language movie. Pirro himself won Academy Award nominations for the screenplays, but did not win. Over his career, Pirro adapted the Mafia novels of Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia and also worked with directors, including Lina Wertmuller, and actors, including Gian Maria Volonte.

Romance On Jack's 'Bucket List'

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 18, 2008) Jack Nicholson says he'd like to fall in love again.  "I never minded being a fool for love," the 70-year-old Oscar winner tells AARP The Magazine.  The legendary ladies' man says getting older has changed the way he woos women. "I can't hit on a girl in public like I used to. I never thought words like `undignified' would come into my own reflections on myself, but I can't do it any more." Nicholson's past flames include Anjelica Huston and Lara Flynn Boyle. But he'd date a woman close to his age – or younger.  "In fact, every year I like to cover a very broad spectrum. But you know? I've been single for quite a long time. I've been invested in my teenage children (with Rebecca Broussard)."  He says nearly all his contemporaries say they want "that one last big romance." If he were to write a movie, he says, "I'd find a way to make this the dramatic narrative ... because it's one of those silent yearnings of my own age group."

Cambodia Bans Mia Farrow-Led Darfur Protest

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com – Reuters

(January 17, 2008) PHNOM PENH — Cambodia has barred U.S. actress Mia Farrow and a group campaigning for an end to atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region from lighting a symbolic Olympic torch at a “Killing Fields” memorial site. Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on Thursday police would “take measures” to prevent Dream for Darfur holding a ceremony this weekend at Tuol Sleng, the Phnom Penh school that became the Khmer Rouge's main torture and interrogation centre. Dream for Darfur has already held similar events in Chad, Rwanda, Armenia, Germany and Bosnia as part of a campaign to persuade China to push Khartoum into ending the violence in Darfur, where 200,000 people have been killed since unrest broke out in 2003. Khieu Sopheak denied Cambodia's decision had anything to do with pressure from Beijing — one of Phnom Penh's biggest donors — saying the government was more worried about the politicization of the Olympic symbol. “According to its charter, the Olympics does not allow people to hold any forums which implicate or involve the Games in politics,” he told Reuters. “This is nothing to do with Chinese aid.” An estimated 1.7 million people died under Pol Pot's 1975-79 Beijing-backed regime, which emptied the cities in bid to turn the country into a peasant utopia. Victims were tortured and executed, or died from starvation, disease and overwork. China is a major supplier of military aid to Sudan and purchaser of its oil, giving Beijing the clout to push Khartoum to halt the violence in Darfur, critics say. Many anti-Chinese pressure groups are using Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympics as an opportunity to bring pressure to bear.

Ruby Dee Receives First Oscar Nomination

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 22, 2008) *"American Gangster" star
Ruby Dee had her name called in the category of supporting actress this morning during nominee announcements for the 80th annual Academy Awards.  It's the first Oscar nomination ever for the 83-year-old stage and screen legend, whose storied career across all major forms of media dates back to 1939. Dee is nominated for her "American Gangster" role of Mama, the mother of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington. She faces competition in the category from Cate Blanchett ("I'm Not There"), Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement"), Amy Ryan ("Gone Baby Gone") and Tilda Swinton ("Michael Clayton"). "American Gangster" also picked up a nomination for art direction, along with "Atonement," "The Golden Compass," "Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and "There Will Be Blood." Meanwhile, the eight-time Razzie-nominated "Norbit," starring Eddie Murphy as multiple characters, received an Oscar nomination for makeup against "La Vie en Rose" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."  "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" led with eight Academy Awards nominations each. Meanwhile, "The Great Debaters" "Hairspray" and Angelina Jolie's performance as Marianne Pearl from "A Mighty Heart" were among the notables that were shut out.    Oscars will be handed out on Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Kodak Theatre and televised live by ABC beginning at 5 p.m. PT. However, it remains to be seen whether any stars will cross striking writers' picket lines to attend the ceremony.


Directors Guild Makes A Deal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber, The Associated Press

(January 18, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Hollywood directors reached a tentative contract deal yesterday with studios, a development that could turn up the pressure on
striking writers to settle the two-month-old walkout that has idled production on dozens of TV shows.

"Two words describe this agreement: groundbreaking and substantial," said Gil Cates, chairman of the Directors Guild of America's negotiations committee.

"There are no rollbacks of any kind."

Among other things, the three-year agreement establishes key provisions involving compensation for programs offered on the Internet.

That issue has also been a key sticking point between striking writers and the studios, which broke off talks on Dec. 7.

The deal between directors and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios, was lauded by executives from eight major companies, who expressed hope it would help end an extremely difficult period for the industry. They also called on the writers guild to engage in informal discussions to determine if there was a reasonable basis for returning to the bargaining table.

The Writers Guild of America said it would evaluate the terms of the directors' deal. It also reiterated that it has been calling on the studios to resume negotiations.

"We hope that the DGA's tentative agreement will be a step forward in our effort to negotiate an agreement that is in the best interests of all writers," the writers guild said in a statement. Writers previously said directors do not represent their interests.

The deal with directors gives their union jurisdiction over programs produced for distribution on the Internet and sets a new residuals formula for some paid Internet downloads that essentially doubles the rate currently paid by employers, the guild said.

In addition, it sets residual rates for ad-supported streaming and use of clips on the Internet.

"Our industry's creative talent will now participate financially in every emerging area of new media," the studio alliance said in a statement.

The deal was welcomed by others in Hollywood.

"I'm very pleased with the new agreement and I hope it helps speed up the negotiations" with the writers guild, actor George Clooney said.

The directors guild was well prepared when it started negotiations Jan. 12.

It had spent $2 million researching the potential value of new media over the next decade and held a series of meetings with key studio heads to establish a basis for the formal talks.

Small-Town Alberta's 15 Minutes Of Fame

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com – Marsha Lederman

(January 21, 2008) VANCOUVER — When the women of
Hardisty, Alta., (population, 743) up and leave town for a week, their men-folk are left to their own devices: to look after the children, clean the house and cook. A lot of barbecuing ensues. And, the CBC hopes, a lot of drama too.

The Week the Women Went, a new reality-TV series premiering on CBC Monday night, is billed as a rare and large-scale social experiment. Based on a 2005 BBC production of the same name, and produced by Vancouver's Paperny Films, the show examines what happens to a town when almost all of its women leave temporarily. Last June, Paperny Films sent 14 camera crews to Alberta for eight days of 24/7 shooting. The crews were split between Canmore, west of Calgary, where 117 of Hardisty's women were sent for a week-long vacation (85 per cent of the women managed to leave; the others were unable to leave either work or family obligations), and Hardisty itself, where the men remained.

“It was a crapshoot,” says executive producer David Paperny. “No one knew what we were going to get.”

In the first episode, as the women prepare to leave town, they assign chores to their husbands, plunk meals in the freezer, and predict disaster. “I know it'll be a mess,” participant Kelly Weatherly says. The men, meanwhile, joke about how free and easy life will be without their wives bossing them around. “Without their women to keep tabs on them, it's a good bet the men will be keeping tabs at the bar,” the narrator (Vancouver musician Jim Byrnes) says.

You're forgiven if you find the premise a little archaic. Don't men already look after their children and participate in the housework? Aren't contemporary marriages partnerships where men and women share in the work equally?

Apparently not. “I think us big city folks are a bit naive,” says Paperny, who is quick to point out that an unequal division of labour is not just a small-town phenomenon. “I think even in the cities here the women who work look after those families and the concept that us working fathers are also full-time fathers is a myth.”

Paperny has research to back him up: According to data from Statistics Canada, women still do most of the housework and, even if both parents work full time, mothers on average spend more time with young children than fathers do.

“These things change, but they change slowly and there is still a tendency for women to do more of the housework and the domestic stuff,” says Hardisty resident and Conservative MLA Doug Griffiths, 35, one of the participants in the program. “I don't care whether it's in Hardisty or Toronto; I don't care whether it's a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant couple or a Hindu couple. That crosses cultures between urban and rural.” (Griffiths, by the way, doesn't do a lot of cooking – although he does barbecue and makes a mean Hamburger Helper meal.) Still, when the narrator refers to men “babysitting” their own children and says the men will discover what it's like to be full-time “moms”, it's a little unsettling.

The show's press material asks questions like “Will chaos erupt? Will the kids survive? Will the men pick up the slack or head to the pub?” No doubt, there will be more than a few men who this will offend.

And speaking of being offended, there's a moment in the first episode when pipeline worker Dustin Miller jokes to his wife Heather (they're both 27) that women should only speak when spoken to and explains (with a smile and a laugh) that he's just putting her in her place. Producer/director Sally Aitken says the reactions to that clip have varied widely: There are people who can't believe what they've just heard and others who think it's hilarious. “Mostly people laugh,” she says. “They think he's deliberately poking the needle in. He knows that he's going to make his wife roll her eyes.”

It took Aitken and the rest of the production team six months to find the right town for this series. They scoured western Canada for a small town with panoramic views, where some fairly conservative gender-role attitudes might exist and where people were willing to open doors and spill secrets. The latter, they definitely got. In the first episode alone, there are tales of infidelity, divorce, drug use, prison and a lot of marital griping.

If you're wondering why anyone would agree to let the cameras examine their lives this closely, Hardisty resident (and show participant) Bobbi Jo Hays has a simple explanation. “Well, who wouldn't want to go away for a week?”

Paperny prefers to describe The Week the Women Went as a documentary series, or a “documentary soap opera” with reality-TV elements imposed upon it. Obviously, the device of sending the women away is unnatural, but the results, Paperny says, are very real.

“I think there's a lot of derogatory feelings about reality television. A lot of people feel it's superficial. … We wanted to use the premise of sending the women away not as an end in itself, but as an entry point into the lives of the people of Hardisty and into the town of Hardisty.

For Canadians who are used to watching U.S. reality television like Survivor and The Apprentice, Hays says this show offers something different. “I think it'll be [interesting] for the rest of Canada to see inside homes of real Canadians. It's not American television. These aren't American people. These aren't actors. These are real people that live in Canada.”

The Week the Women Went premieres Monday night on CBC-TV at 8 ET/PT.

Sparks Fly Over CBC Fireworks Deal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman
, Entertainment Columnist

(January 22, 2008) The plot has thickened in a nasty but mostly behind-the-scenes battle over
CBC Television's decision to sell its international sales division to the British firm Fireworks International.

"This (the deal) stinks to me," writes Peter Emerson, president of the Toronto-based international TV sales firm Oasis Pictures Inc., in a strongly worded letter to CBC executive vice-president Richard Stursberg, who runs the English network.

Copies of the letter were sent to members of the CBC board of directors, which will undoubtedly be considering the matter during a teleconference board meeting tomorrow morning.

Film industry players and CBC insiders have been abuzz over the CBC's startling move to close its own international sales division and, without allowing competing bids from anyone inside or outside Canada, turn international rights to 700 hours of 135 shows over to the British company, a division of ContentFilm.

On Jan. 17, Emerson wrote to Stursberg to protest "cavalier and grossly inaccurate comments" the CBC boss made on the CBC radio program As It Happens.

What infuriated him was Stursberg's remark, in defending the Fireworks deal, that there was no Canadian distributor to properly handle series like The Border and Heartland.

"As an international distributor with a library of over 2,500 hours of Canadian television programs, a formidable sales team based here in Canada and a client roster that includes virtually every television network in the entire world, I take extreme offence."

Emerson demanded a public apology.

Instead he got a private, qualified apology. "I could have chosen a better way ... to characterize Canadian distribution companies," Stursberg admitted in a Jan. 18 letter to Emerson.

But he went on to defend the deal, saying that the CBC was taking advantage of a strategic opportunity that was time-sensitive because of the writers' strike in the U.S.

With the writers' strike becoming entrenched, said Stursberg, "ContentFilm came to us in late November with a proposal that fit all our criteria."

But in a second letter to Stursberg, Emerson revealed: "I met with your executive director Fred Fuchs on Nov. 15.... My problem is he never mentioned the outsourcing of the CBC distribution library! Not once. You say Content came to you? How did they know to do this? I didn't know the CBC library was in play. If Mr. Fuchs knew, he wasn't telling me, the most obvious candidate in Canada."

Global's The Guard Off To A Swimming Start

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

(January 22, 2008) A car has plunged into the water.

From a steep embankment, a man points and screams; his wife and two children are trapped inside the submerged vehicle. Responding to the emergency, a Coast Guard boat powers toward shore carrying its four-person crew: duty captain Miro Da Silva (Steve Bacic) and rescue specialists Andrew Vanderlee (Jeremy Guilbaut), Carly Greig (Zoie Palmer), Laura Nelson (Claudette Mink).

As the Cape Pacific boat cuts its throttle and bobs in the chop, the urgency accelerates. So begins
The Guard (Global, 10 tonight), a new drama about a search-and-rescue team in the Pacific Northwest.

When depicted in prime time, water usually assumes one of two roles: 1. A tranquil backdrop for affluent characters, a symbol of chattering class excess or, 2. An amorphous expanse of wretched menace.

Here, we are dealing with the latter. But, today, a straightforward drama on the high seas will not, well, wash.

No, we need our aquatic protagonists to do more than just dive in and save lives.

We need them to be swimming with problems of their own.

Take Miro, a bearded, laconic fellow who, when not violating Coast Guard protocols, may be found surfing Eastern European porn sites, staring at nubile women as they pose lasciviously in slinky black robes, smirk coyly into peep-cams and type messages like, "R U Lonely For Me"?

Laura, meanwhile, has issues, many of which stem from her relationship with medicinal-marijuana smoking partner David Nelson (David James Elliott). Carly prefers to drown her earthly sorrows with booze and high-risk behaviour. And Andrew is exhibiting classic post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms following the aforementioned car rescue.

Therein lies the tension: on terra firma, these marine rescuers are not a particularly sure-footed bunch.

There is much to admire about The Guard, not least of which is its ambition. Shooting on location in Squamish, B.C., couldn't have been a breezy endeavour. But by not replicating conditions on a soundstage, the fictional Port Hallet is imbued with authenticity, from the pewter skies that hang over Howe Sound to the jagged coastline south of Whistler.

Many scenes are visually arresting, including the frantic opening sequence that eventually has Andrew under water, undulating toward the upturned car as rays of sunlight strobe into the abyss. Or, later, as a rescue chopper sweeps the water, its tracking beam slicing through the darkness like a flashlight in a Spielberg movie. (At times, it's tough to tell if this is a TV show or a recruitment ad for the Canadian Coast Guard.)

What else is good? Short answer: plenty. But special recognition must go to composer James Jandrisch who, let the record show, is in an elite class when it comes to scoring television in this country.

However, where The Guard ceases to stand on guard for thee, the viewer, is when characters are thrust into the upper emotional register. On more than one occasion, the dialogue feels lazy:

Miro: "Back off, Andrew! We follow the book!"

Andrew: "We follow the book, they die."

Sometimes, if a character wants to get, say, completely wasted, telegraphing this intention with "I feel like getting completely wasted" is a complete waste.

Also, repetition is a hackneyed way to add emphasis: "His wife and kids are dead. They're dead, okay?"


All this said, the virtues outnumber the sins. The action sequences may never rival shows with bigger budgets. The characters may never become as memorably flawed as their cable counterparts. But, combined, The Guard manages to deftly float both in a vessel that rocks but never capsizes.

Put on your life preserver. This could be the start of a very interesting voyage.


Mary J. Blige Returns To One Life To Live

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(January 17, 2008) NEW YORK –
Mary J. Blige is returning to the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. The Grammy-winning singer taped another appearance Thursday. She last visited the fictional town of Llanview in July 2006 to perform hits from her multiplatinum album The Breakthrough. For her second cameo, she'll be a surprise guest at a Sweet Sixteen birthday party for Starr Manning (played by Kristen Alderson), ABC said. The episodes are set to air Feb. 15 and Feb. 18. Accompanied by her band, Blige, 37, will sing "Just Fine," the Grammy-nominated single from her new album, Growing Pains, as well another track called "Hurt Again." "It's absolutely amazing to be integrated into a soap opera I've watched since I was a little girl," Blige said in a statement. "I am beyond thrilled to be welcomed back again." Nelly Furtado, Chris Botti, Erykah Badu, Timbaland and Keri Hilson have also performed on the show.

Canadian Producers Announce Indie Nominees

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 21, 2008) OTTAWA – The
Canadian Film and Television Production Association announced nominees for its first annual CFTPA Indie Awards on Monday, with organizers emphasizing a need to celebrate the country's independent producers. "There is an incredible number of talented independent producers across Canada, and this is a reality that is not celebrated nearly as often as it ought to be," Guy Mayson, the association's president and CEO, said in a release. Awards will be handed out in nine categories covering film, television and new media at a reception in Ottawa on Feb. 20. Luc Dery and Kim McCraw have two nominations in the best feature film category – one for Congorama and one for Continental, Un Film Sans Fusil. Those titles will go up against Robert Lantos for Eastern Promises; Bruce McDonald, Sarah Timmins and Paul Barkin for The Tracey Fragments; and Daniel Iron, Jennifer Weiss and Simone Urdl for Away From Her. Producers nominated for best TV comedy program or series represent the shows Corner Gas, Rent-a-Goalie, Little Mosque on the Prairie, The Jane Show and Moose TV. Programs nominated for best prime-time drama series include Blood Ties, Durham County, Intelligence, Race to Mars and ReGenesis III. In the best miniseries category there's October 1970, Redemption SK, Dragon Boys, St. Urbain's Horsemen and Above and Beyond. Best TV movie contenders include Luna: Spirit of the Whale, Abducted, A Life Interrupted, In God's Country and The Robber Bride. The CFTPA is a non-profit trade organization representing almost 400 companies. For the complete list of nominees, visit www.cftpa.ca.


Bringing Light To Life's Grey Areas

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(January 18, 2008) NEW YORK — It may seem funny now, but when the playwright
Lynn Nottage was growing up in the late 1960s and 70s, she remembers the thrill that swept through her Brooklyn home when a black person appeared on the TV screen. “We were soooo excited,” she said with a self-deprecating laugh the other day. “My parents would call me in, and for 10 seconds we'd be like, ‘Yah!' And then they'd be gone.”

As she got older, Nottage says, she kept wondering about those background extras who filled in the scenery: “‘What is that person's story?' I became obsessed with filling in those grey areas.”

With her drama
Intimate Apparel, Nottage travels back to early 20th-century Manhattan to fill in the grey areas of the lives of a handful of fictional labourers whose social caste would have consigned them to anonymity: ambered in some high-school history text or museum exhibit. The play, which won a clutch of awards during its 2004 off-Broadway run and went on to dozens of stagings across North America, made its Canadian debut last night in an Obsidian Theatre production at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

“What I'm interested in as a writer is the people who are marginalized, or the people who don't tend to have their stories told on a larger scale,” Nottage said, picking at a calamari salad at a noisy French bistro a few blocks from her Brooklyn home. Outside, as the sky darkens and unleashes a torrent, pedestrians scurry along, seeking shelter. “Good God,” Nottage said, taking in the downpour. “I really was convinced it was going to clear. I left my cats outside.” Does she want to run back to let them in? “No, they'll just get wet,” she replied with a mild shrug. “They're animals.”

Nottage's early plays were often criticized for sacrificing dramatic integrity for politics. Her 1995 off-Broadway play Crumbs from the Table of Joy depicted a black family, recent arrivals in Brooklyn from Florida, struggling amid the racial and social upheaval of the 1950s to find their footing after the death of the mother and the quick remarriage of the father to a white German immigrant. In Mud, River, Stone, which played here in 1997, half a dozen people taken hostage by a hotel bellhop in an unnamed sub-Saharan country argue about colonialism, foreign aid and rivalries among African nations.

But in the late 1990s, Nottage, now 43, put her playwriting on hold when her mother became sick. Nottage and her partner Tony Gerber moved back from the Upper West Side, where they were living, to her family's Brooklyn homestead. Her mother died and Nottage and Gerber had a daughter, Ruby, now 10. “Life intervenes,” Nottage said. She and Gerber also made a film together, Side Streets, which was well-reviewed if poorly distributed. In time, Nottage returned to writing plays at the family's kitchen table. Intimate Apparel proved a triumphant return.

It centres on Esther, a 35-year-old black seamstress who supports herself creating delicate underthings for Fifth Avenue ladies and women of the night. Though she cannot read or write, Esther begins a correspondence with a Barbadian man working on the Panama Canal, depending on a pair of clients to pen her increasingly romantic letters. Her suitor moves north and they marry, even as Esther keeps up a cautious friendship with Mr. Marks, a Romanian Jewish immigrant who supplies her with fabric.

The relationship between Esther and Marks has a real-life parallel in the marriage of Nottage and Gerber, who is Jewish.

Nottage says the audience at Roundabout Theatre, where Intimate Apparel played in New York, seemed particularly touched by the rare depiction of cross-cultural dialogues at that time in American history. “The assumption is that we were not interacting and we were not influencing each other culturally. But you know, when we think about modern America, it is very much a cross-cultural dialogue. You look at the music that came out of the period. Look at the art – it's because these kinds of intimate relationships were occurring, literally and metaphorically, with New York being one of the few places it could happen fluidly.”

The spark for the play came as Nottage was going through some of her late grandmother's belongings and she happened upon a picture of her great-grandmother, who like Esther had worked as a seamstress in early 20th-century New York. “I had never seen a picture of this woman before, and I thought – I know nothing about her, no one's ever spoken about her, how can that be? How can I be connected genetically to this woman? She had this incredible face, and I thought, there's a story there and no one in my family has deemed it worthy of telling.”

Last September, citing the achievement of Intimate Apparel, the MacArthur Foundation named Nottage one of 24 recipients of a so-called “genius” grant, which provides $100,000 (U.S.) each year for five years, no strings attached, to help artists, scientists, and academics pursue their work.

Her next play, Ruined, going up next season at the Goodman in Chicago, is about rape in the Congo. She expects it to come to New York after that, though not on Broadway. “The subject matter is too dark,” she said with a laugh. “I can't imagine the tourists standing around going: Let's see, there's Lion King, Xanadu – oh, look, Ruined is on for $15! Let's go see that!”

Lately, Nottage has been working on something she calls The Nigger Chronicles. “This will sound absurd when I tell you,” she said. “It's about all the times in my life I was called a nigger, recounted sort of from the time I was 6 up until the very last time.” That would be last summer, when she was in Rwanda with a predominantly white group of theatre folk. Every day, as the group walked a route up a hill, a group of Rwandan teens would call out, “Mzungu! Mzungu!” – the Swahili word for white person. “And then one day I was walking up and I heard: ‘Nigganigga!'”

“I thought: Oh. Wow. Here I am in Africa and someone is calling me – nigga! And for the rest of the trip, I thought, well, was it a term of endearment? What did they mean?”

Nowadays, of course, the word has manifold meanings – Puerto Rican teens here use it to greet each other, apparently unaware of its racist characteristic – and Nottage herself recalls knowing it originally only as a term of endearment around the neighbourhood. Last year, New York city council introduced a symbolic motion to ban the word. “I don't think you can legislate a word out of existence,” Nottage acknowledges. “This word is so resonant for me. If it disappears, what does that mean about my entire childhood, where it was part of this colourful language and it was used as a term of endearment?”

Nottage doesn't yet know whether Chronicles will be a play, but at least the MacArthur will help alleviate the financial stress of needing to produce something quickly. “It may go nowhere,” she admits with a cautious smile. “I have lots of little projects like that which become therapy. Cheap therapy.”

Evan Buliung Says Goodbye To We Will Rock You

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(January 19, 2008) If Evan Buliung's past five years were to be compared to an amusement-park ride, the only one that would fit the bill would be a super-duper, killer-diller roller coaster.

During that time, he's had leading roles at Stratford and Shaw as well as in two of the biggest musicals of recent Toronto history – one a juicy hit, the other a legendary flop.

"I've had my ups and I've had my downs," says the straight-talking Buliung. "The ups are better."

For the past year, he's been delighting audiences (and himself) with his hyper-camp performance as the villainous Khashoggi in
We Will Rock You, but before that he endured his stint as Aragorn in what he now calls "the physical, spiritual and emotional barrage" otherwise known as The Lord of the Rings.

It's probably a good thing Buliung spent some of his formative childhood years as a military cadet, because without that rigour, he might not have been able to stand the strain of his time in Middle-earth.

"It became a personal agenda for all of us in the cast to just survive it," he says of the ill-fated Tolkien epic. "And when it first ended, I was heartbroken and pretty shattered as a person. Very bleak days. And many of us from the cast were in the same situation. I didn't leave my apartment for days."

That's clearly not the kind of scenario the Brantford-born Buliung had in mind when he wrote at the age of 5 in his "little kid's journal that I wanted to be an actor."

The son of two elementary school teachers and the younger brother of a professor at University of Toronto, Buliung notes that "their academic skills seem to have bypassed me."

Instead, he devoted himself to "studying brochures from the Stratford Festival and noting who had been invited back each year and who hadn't." Bitterly enough, he would find himself on the "not wanted on the voyage" list after his 2002 season at the Festival – although he's making his return later this year.

Buliung immersed himself in the community theatre life of Brantford, appearing in everything from A Christmas Carol to On Golden Pond and, after finishing high school, he went straight into the theatre program at George Brown College.

He now dryly refers to that period as "interesting," but when pressed for details, he admits that "for lack of a better word, I was kicked out. I was experiencing more of the thrills of living on my own in Toronto than I was the education they were trying to offer me."

But the talented Buliung had no trouble getting hired on the Ontario theatre circuit and, after a year of assorted jobs around the province, found himself at Stratford.

Since he's going back to the Festival this year, he chooses his words carefully when discussing his five seasons there.

"Stratford is a very big organization. It's easy for a young actor to be a ladder-climber and I didn't want to go that route."

For whatever reason, Buliung got a rude awakening in 2002 after playing Edgar opposite Christopher Plummer in King Lear when he was told he would not be going with the production to New York. He was replaced by Brent Carver.

"It was an incredibly humbling and terrifying experience" is how he describes his departure. But he quickly got back up on his feet and went to his colleague Ben Campbell, who was joining his wife Jackie Maxwell at the Shaw Festival and said, "Take me with you!"

For the next three years at Shaw, Buliung honed his craft, moving to a new level of accomplishment in shows like Journey's End and Major Barbara. He loved it at Shaw, but when he heard a new giant musical version of The Lord of the Rings was auditioning in Toronto, he wanted to be a part of it.

"I was a huge fan of the movies and the video game, but I'd never read the books," he says, laughing.

He was cast as the heroic Aragorn and prepared for battle.

"The day (director) Matthew Warchus said to me, `I'm going to ask you to do something of Olympic proportions,' I should have known I was in trouble," he now recalls.

"We spent a month and a half doing the Battle of Helm's Deep," he remembers with a shudder. "We wasted a lot of time on technical stuff and didn't spend enough time on the scenes.

"You can throw as much money and effects as you want at a production, but if the heart of the story isn't there, it just doesn't work."

Still smarting from the LOTR experience, Buliung at first refused to audition for We Will Rock You, vowing, "I don't want to do another big thing."

But the power of Queen's music and the Blackadder-ish humour of the book won him over.

"I went in on the first day of rehearsals," he says, "put on the sunglasses and gloves and just went to town.

"I went very, very large and explored the monster of it."

But now he's leaving (Jan. 27 is his final performance, when he will be replaced by Adam Brazier) and it's back to Stratford, where he's playing such juicy roles as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.

He hails the "new and different vision" of Antoni Cimolino and his artistic directors, calling the offer "the chance of a lifetime."

And with Evan Buliung involved, you certainly know things aren't going to be dull.

Politics Of War Packs A Punch

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Robert Crew, Toronto Star

Palace of the End
(out of 4)
By Judith Thompson. Directed by David Storch. Until Feb. 23 at Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. 416-368-3110

(January 18, 2008) In the course of a long and distinguished career, Canadian playwright Judith Thompson has rarely allowed contemporary politics to flood her work.

That's all changed with
Palace of the End, which opened last night at the Canadian Stage Company's Berkeley St. digs.

The play – a series of three monologues – has as its backdrop the war in Iraq, and there's no doubt where Thompson's sympathies lie. She is firmly against the "weapons of mass destruction" propaganda that was used to justify the intervention, firmly against the abuse and torture of soldiers and civilians, firmly against the inhumanity of war itself.

Sound preachy? It's not. Written with poetry and passion, multi-layered, intense yet understated, this is Thompson's most brilliantly sustained piece of writing in years.

The first of the three monologues, rivetingly performed by Maev Beaty, looks at the female American soldier whose thumbs-up abuse of Muslim inmates at Abu Ghraib prison provoked waves of disgust and anger worldwide.

Thompson's writing is clear-eyed and unsentimental, but she does allow us to see that the woman has been brutalized by the macho military culture around her.

If she is the Scapegoat, then the second monologue looks at the Whistleblower, British weapons inspector David Kelly, who was hounded after confessing to having juiced up the evidence against the Saddam Hussein regime.

We meet Kelly (a bravura performance by Julian Richings) while he is dying in a forest – probably of self-inflicted wounds. But the climax of the monologue – which Richings delivers magnificently – is the murder of an Iraqi bookseller and his family whom Kelly had befriended and the rape of one of the daughters.

Monologue number 3 is about the Victim – an Iraqi mother performed with quiet intensity by Arsinée Khanjian. It's another tale of abduction, violence and rape, horrors performed both by the Hussein regime and the American "liberators."

Unobtrusively directed by David Storch on Teresa Przybylski's stunning set and with Kimberly Purtell's rich lighting, this is a play that does what every great play should do – have you hotly debating the issues and arguments as you head out of the theatre and into the street.

A major work. Don't miss.


New Tunes To Unleash Inner Rocker

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(January 19, 2008) If the 58 songs that shipped with the popular music game Rock Band (www.rockband.com) aren't enough for you to jam with, Harmonix and MTV Games announced this week new song downloads for roughly $2 apiece, available from both the Xbox Live Marketplace (160 Microsoft Points per track) and the PlayStation Network.

This week, it's one original song – Blink 182's melodic alternative track "All the Small Things" – and two decent covers: The '70s rock tune "Action," as made famous by Sweet, and the mid-`60s ditty "Last Train to Clarksville," as popularized by The Monkees.

Recent downloadable content for Rock Band include songs by The Police, Metallica, Foreigner, Black Sabbath, Wolfmother, The Knack and Queens of the Stone Age. Three-song bundles are also offered, such as The Police Pack, which includes "Can't Stand Losing You," "Synchronicity II" and "Roxanne."

For the uninitiated, Rock Band is like Guitar Hero on steroids – players can play along with hit rock songs over the past 40 years in order to rack up points and gain more recognition for their virtual rock band. The Rock Band Special Edition bundle includes a guitar-shaped controller (which can also be used to play bass), collapsible drum kit and microphone so friends can play together in front of the same television or over the Internet.

Nintendo delays Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Nintendo of America has postponed the launch of the eagerly anticipated Nintendo Wii game Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Originally slated for a Feb. 10 launch, the cartoon fighting game has been delayed to March 9. In fact, this game was supposed to be out in December in time for the all-important holiday season, but was pushed back sometime in October.

According to industry news site GameDaily, Nintendo claims the development is taking longer than anticipated, as the Japanese company says the game "contains an unprecedented number of characters, options and experiences."

In addition to offering online play, and a lengthy adventure mode called "The Subspace Emissary" (which is said to be a full game in and of itself), Super Smash Bros. Brawl will feature many characters ranging from popular Nintendo mascots such as Mario, Link, Pikachu, Donkey Kong and Wario, as well as new playable characters including Zero Suit Samus (from Metroid), Meta Knight (from the Kirby games), Pit (from Kid Icarus) and even Solid Snake (from Konami's Metal Gear Solid) and Sonic (from Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog series).

For Lots Of Gamers, Escapism Means Starting Out In A Trap

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko, Special To The Star

(Jan 20, 2008) Progressive-rock fans heading to Amazon.com to beat the rush and preorder the new The Mars Volta record, The Bedlam in Goliath, are treated to a suitably mystico-moody diversion: Goliath the Soothsayer, an online adventure game purporting to let fans in on the creepy "true story" that inspired the album.

Fairly slight as adventure games go, Goliath belongs loosely in the "room escape" subgenre, and its deployment as a marketing gimmick is indicative of the online renaissance of this most ancient of game styles.

Modern room-escape games have their antecedents in the old point-and-click graphical adventures (Myst and its predecessors) and in the text adventures (Zork et al.) of the earliest days of computer games, where players explore the game's environment, solving its puzzles using discovered items and clues. Room-escape games strip the adventure genre right to its basics. A single room or a handful of connected chambers replace the sprawling maps of classic adventures, and the backstory is most often a variation on "You wake up locked in a strange room. How will you get out?"

It's this simplicity that makes for the resurgent popularity of room escapes. Most often programmed in Adobe Flash and played in a browser window, these games are part of the casual-games explosion that has already rejuvenated the similarly ancient puzzle, platform and shooter genres – quick-playing creations with which you can while away a coffee break ... or blow off an entire day's work. Their limited scope means they can easily be cranked out by individuals or small teams, making for a diverse scene and a constant flow of new material.

The modern room-escape scene got its start in 2001 with Jan Albartus' Mystery of Time and Space, a one-room puzzle that has since outgrown its genre by expanding to comprise a sprawling 19-episode epic of escape artistry. In the footsteps of MOTAS came games like Toshimitsu Takagi's Crimson Room, and the floodgates opened. Casual games blog/clearinghousjayisgames.com tags nearly 100 escape games, and that's just the cream of a huge indie genre.

Room-escape games are an acquired taste, and playing them is a learned art. They can seem perversely difficult at first, but after escaping a couple, maybe with the help of hints or solutions from fellow players, one starts to get the hang of it – and the first lesson is "click everywhere." Soon, the mind recognizes a sap-encrusted pine cone and a coat hanger as the raw materials for a sticky-tipped key-grabbing tool, and understands every painting conceals a secret safe.

It can be frustrating when your guy is holding an object called "crowbar" and can't open a flimsy cabinet (or pry open the room door), but the secret is to suspend disbelief and realize that despite the first-person perspective, these are not meant to simulate reality. They're formal puzzle boxes, and like any formal art the joy is in the variations. There are horror-themed escapes, sci-fi escapes, satirical escapes, escapes exploring psychological themes. Some have slick production values; others have visuals little better than MSPaint doodles ... with the quality of graphics and sound often inversely proportional to the quality of the puzzle itself.

The Rube Goldberg universe of room-escape games (use firecracker to frighten cat to knock over plant to get leaves, etc.) isn't for everyone. But a growing global fanbase of puzzle fans – when top-tier Japanese escape developer Gotmail released their new game Job Pico, their servers ground to a crawl for days – has turned an archaic genre from the dawn of computer games into a thriving, innovative scene. All that remains to be seen is, how much crossover is there between people who enjoy escaping from surreal prisons and people who might dig The Mars Volta?

Darren Zenko has been writing about video games for nine years.

Testing Resumes For TV High-Speed Internet

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

(January 18, 2008) WASHINGTON–Federal regulators said they will try again to test prototypes on Jan. 24 for transmitting high-speed Internet service over unused television airwaves.

Late Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission said the devices – developed by Adaptrum Inc., Microsoft Corp., Motorola Inc. and Philips Electronics North America Corp. – will be tested in laboratory and real-world conditions.

The agency said testing will take three months and issue a report about six weeks after the testing ends.

Last year, a high-technology coalition – which includes Microsoft, Philips, a division of Netherlands-based Royal Philips Electronics NV, Google Inc., Dell Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and EarthLink Inc. – submitted prototypes they said could transmit broadband Internet service over unlicensed and unused TV spectrum, known as "white spaces.''

The coalition – which does not include Motorola and Adaptrum, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup – says using white spaces could make Internet service more accessible and affordable, especially in rural areas.

However, television broadcasters and the wireless microphone industry say such devices could interfere with programming.

Initial prototype testing failed. In July, the FCC gave a failing grade to Microsoft's prototypes, saying the devices did not reliably detect and avoid TV programming signals and could have caused interference.

Two weeks later, though, the agency said one of the Microsoft-built devices was broken, accounting for the failed results. A duplicate Microsoft device sent to the FCC was never tested.

At the time, the coalition also said a second prototype Philips developed was able to detect TV and wireless microphone signals, but only in a laboratory setting.

If the tests are successful this time and the devices are approved, the coalition plans to introduce commercial devices for sale after the digital television transition in February 2009.

"It seems to me this timeline is reasonable and could lead to a final decision by the end of the June," said Scott Blake Harris, who represents the coalition.

Video Game Sales Set Record

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press

(January 18, 2008) NEW YORK–Fuelled by the success of Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Microsoft's "Halo 3," more video games were sold in the U.S. in 2007 than in any other year, with retail sales hitting US$17.94 billion, according to the NPD Group.

The market researcher said total video game sales grew 43 per cent, up from $12.53 billion in 2006. In December, historically the industry's strongest month, Americans spent $4.82 billion on video games, up 28 per cent from a year earlier and up 83 per cent from $2.63 billion in November.

Video games sold well during the holidays even as jittery consumers were cutting back spending on clothes and other items.

Hardware sales jumped 54 per cent to $7.04 billion in 2007, while software sales climbed 34 per cent to $8.64 billion. In December, hardware sales rose 17 per cent to $1.83 billion, and software sales grew 36 per cent to $2.37 billion.

"I think the industry has become much more generally accepted as a mainstream form of entertainment over the last couple of years, and that sets it up well for future expansion," NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in an e-mail.

Much of this growing acceptance has been attributed to the Wii, groundbreaking when it launched in 2006 for its motion-sensitive controller that lets players mimic movements for bowling, tennis or sword-fighting.

Even so, the portable Nintendo DS was by far the year's best-selling gaming system with 8.5 million units sold, 2.5 million of them in December. In short supply all year, the Wii still sold 6.3 million units, 1.4 million of them last month.

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said the company expects to sell more Wiis this year than it did in 2007. To deal with the high demand, Nintendo raised Wii production twice since last April, the last time to 1.8 million units a month. Though the consoles are still selling out soon after they hit store shelves, Nintendo has not said it plans to boost production again.

The year's best-selling game was Microsoft Corp.'s blockbuster first-person shooter "Halo 3," which helped sell 4.6 million Xbox 360s in 2007, about 1.3 million of them in December.

Microsoft spokesman David Dennis said there have been shortages of the Xbox 360 at retailers across the U.S. The company, he added, is working on getting the consoles back on store shelves "as soon as possible."

Sony's PlayStation 3 was the only gaming system that didn't sell more than a million units in December. Nonetheless, sales have jumped since Sony slashed the console's price by $100 and launched a low-end model last fall. There were 797,600 PS3s sold during the month, and 2.6 million in 2007.

Frazier said Activision Inc.'s "Guitar Hero" games remain the industry's best-selling franchise. People spent more than $820 million on "Guitar Hero" games for various consoles in 2007.

Dennis and Fils-Aime said the U.S. economic slowdown had not hurt video games, as the industry has generally been insulated from broader downturns.

"Gaming is about having fun, spending time with friends – you want to do it whether the economy is good or bad," Dennis said.


Canadian eh? The Hole Truth

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Christine Sismondo

(Jan 20, 2008) Sooo sorry to bring up this clichéd and time-worn question, but here goes: What makes us Canadian?

Okay, sure, there's hockey, cold winters, the word "eh," a shared distain of our neighbours to the south and a few other things we heard about in a beer commercial a while ago.

Say, that's something, isn't it? Our beer? Except, wait a minute – although we drink a lot of beer, every country has beer. Most of them even have much better beer than we do – at least better than our big brands, which have commercials about what constitutes Canadian identity. That pretty much leaves maple syrup, back bacon and poutine as candidates for national foods.

Although, if you grew up in Eastern Ontario or Quebec you'd surely want to nominate beavertails as a candidate. To save you the trouble of googling, queues de castor are big slabs of really sweet dough that are deep-fried and coated in sugar. (Personally, I'm skipping Type I diabetes and moving straight on to Type II.)

Anyhow, the point is, young gullible children of that region were always told that beavertails were Canadian doughnuts. But, somewhere along the line, the game changed. Now we are told that just plain regular doughnuts are Canadian doughnuts – a symbol of our national identity. The doughnut, according to two new authors – and to another, the Canadian apple – is one of the very few things we have in common from sea to shining sea.

What's that you say? That's from an American song, not a Canadian one? That's okay, because apples and doughnuts aren't from here, either.

Not that apples originated in the United States or anything. It's just that I can't get "American as apple pie" and the story of that Johnny Appleseed fellow entirely out of my head when trying to think of apples as really Canadian, as Carol Martin does in The Apple: A History of Canada's Perfect Fruit.

Martin, a writer and editor from Thomasburg, Ont., explains that apples originated, as much of our fruit did, from central Asia. Apples came to Canada, via Europe and landed first in Acadia – perhaps as early as 1610 – where they were to enjoy a long and distinguished career.

Why the rush to get the apple seeds in the ground? Mostly so that people could make cider. Early settlers, carrying their European traditions with them, drank beer and cider all day long – wisely — since it was safer than bacteria-filled water. (At least, back home in Europe where the water was polluted.) The fact that the water in North America was pretty fresh and clean couldn't have escaped them for long, but they persisted with the beer and cider – an admirable trait.

That made apples a high priority. And in her pretty little book, replete with beautiful images of apples through the past few centuries, Martin makes an excellent case for the fruit being quite central to Canadian culture, regardless of Johnny Appleseed's claim and other American associations.

They were, after all, one of the very first fruits transplanted to Canada. For some time, different varieties made up some of the most important crops in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. And, it turns out, the McIntosh apple – acknowledged as one of the world's greatest varieties – originated right here in Ontario. It was an accidental planting carefully preserved through years of painstaking grafting on the McIntosh farm in Dundas County – not too terribly far from where those beavertails are regularly served.

Which brings me back to the doughnut. Steve Penfold, author of the recent The Donut: A Canadian History, details how the doughnut has become a Canadian icon, firmly distinguishing us (along with hockey, the cold winter and anti-Americanism) from the United States. Cities like Hamilton, Moncton, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls all vie for the title of "Donut capital of Canada." Comedian Eugene Levy declared the difference between America and Canada was really all about the doughnuts. And let's not forget Bob and Doug McKenzie who (along with beer and French toast) needed their doughnuts in the morning.

Penfold's book contains myriad cultural references linking Canada to the doughnut and the doughnut to hockey. And, obviously, hockey is irrevocably linked to Canada. They sort of belong together like (dare I say it?) a hat trick.

The association begins most famously with legendary Leafs player Tim Horton but continues, as Penfold points out, through advertising and, last but not least, the instinctive feeling we have that, if you're going to be out on a January morning nearly freezing to death on a hockey rink, you're not going to be reaching for a margarita or a cold Coke. The truly Canadian way to face the day is with a bag of Timbits and a double-double.

All of this assumes you want to be out of doors on a winter morning. Maybe some of us prefer the more Americanized Canadian summer Penfold describes – spent at the movie-plex watching Hollywood blockbusters and drinking DQ Blizzards. And, you know, maybe in a hundred years, the Blizzard will be the new doughnut – the new Canadian icon.

You laugh now but it's happened before. It happened with the doughnut – an American import.

In an 1897 issue of Saturday Night, the rise of the doughnut (and ice-water) is cited as evidence of American cultural domination.

So just when did doughnuts become so Canadian?

Penfold traces it to the 1980s, saying it was a result of a few things: a frustration with endless constitutional debates; a void in national identity and iconography and a simultaneous proliferation of doughnut shops.

Well, so what? So the doughnut isn't originally ours. And we only started calling it one of our own relatively recently. And, well, let's face it, the most famous doughnut eater in the world isn't even Canadian – it's Homer Simpson.

None of that is the point. We're a new country, still happy to adopt and celebrate innovation, cultural exchange and recent immigrants. Like the apple and the doughnut.

Christine Sismondo is the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History, also published by McArthur & Co.

International Organisation Sees Bright Future For Barbados

Source: Counterpart International

WASHINGTON DC (January 18, 2008) - An international development organisation has high hopes for the sustained social, economic and environmental development of Barbados following this week's sweeping election victory by
Prime Minister David Thompson's Democratic Labour Party (DLP).
Offering his congratulations to the new government, Lelei LeLaulu, president of Counterpart International, said it was his organisation's hope that the spirit of the "Barbados Programme of Action" - a sustainable development roadmap to address the special vulnerabilities of small island states - will be rekindled after being adopted by the international community in Barbados nearly 14 years ago.

"The Barbados Programme of Action put on the global agenda the importance of countries working together to preserve some of the richest biodiversity areas on the planet. Sustainable tourism development was seen by world leaders as a major element of the sustainable development of islands in the Barbados Programme of Action.

And while Barbados has taken the lead in developing this most important sector of the region's economy, so much more needs to be done both on the islands across the region and the world," said LeLaulu, whose organisation produces the biannual Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism (CMEx).
LeLaulu, a native of Samoa and chairman of the Foundation of the Peoples of South Pacific International, recalled that the 1994 United Nations Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States was held in Barbados when the Democratic Labour Party last governed the nation.
Dr. Basil Springer, chairman of regional affiliate Counterpart Caribbean, congratulated the major political parties in Barbados for an incident free election. "Congratulations to Prime Minister David Thompson and the DLP on a convincing victory. Thanks to the Barbados Labour Party for their contribution to development of Barbados over the last three terms in office. Well done to the officials and the people of Barbados for effecting an incident free election process. All these things enhance the image of Barbados as a leading developing country and can only serve to promote Barbados, as an example of "democracy in action", to the entire world. This is a major asset which we must lever to the fullest," he said.
Dr. Springer was hopeful that the new DLP administration would mobilise its resources as quickly as possible and seek to use as much of the intellectual capital in Barbados and overseas to propel the nation forward. "Now that the wind has subsided, let us all put our shoulders to the plough, a fitting pledge for Monday's Errol Barrow Day - a national holiday," said Dr. Springer.
For more than 42 years, Counterpart International has given people a voice in their own future through smart partnerships, offering options and access to tools for sustained social, economic and environmental development.
For further information, visit www.counterpart.org.

UK Corner: Chris Rock - The Best Show in Town

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Fiona McKinson

(January 22, 2008) The multitalented
Chris Rock live in the UK is a hot ticket. The sold out No Apologies tour started on 9th January in London and by the time I attended on the 10th, the media had revealed some of his top jokes about Hillary and Barack, Britney, and steroids in sports.

The venue was hot not simply due to the number of people but the sheer heat, which the controversial but honest Chris brought.

The comic, dubbed the funniest man alive, had a never-ending arsenal of material to play with and he delivered non-stop for almost two hours.

Dedicated fans who have read the book, watched the DVDs and the sitcom will be familiar with the funny tales of growing up in white suburbs, about not being able to afford to be too allergic to shrimp when working in Red Lobster and the debt he inherited when his father died.

But there were no liabilities for those seeking to be entertained unless they had no sense of humour. Some have complained that Chris did not tailor the show to a British audience (despite jokes about the British sport darts and British Boxer Frank Bruno), but not only is he at a stage in his career where he can simply ‘do him’, but his genius lies within that.

Only Chris could so wittily crack on the racial overtone of child custody cases from OJ to Britney to Whitney, or the plight of the black man like his Granddaddy versus Sea biscuit, what it takes to live in his neighbourhood, or when a white person can use the N word (according to the NWA dictionary).

Racial and sexual politics are his staple subjects and the latter issue had men and women in the audience whooping and hollering in appreciation of acerbic one-liners on the financial and spiritual price of relationships.

If race and sex were not taboo then class certainly was fair game and Chris quipped about the difference between a job and a career and how his former hatred for rich kids was now threatened by the luxury his two daughters have inherited – but then his only duty as a father is to keep them off the pole!

In a blue shiny suit and black shirt, Chris looked like he just stepped out from one of his DVDs as he showcased his natural talent effortlessly. He flowed with confidence, charm, and panache complete with idiosyncratic facial expressions and delivery.

The insightful social commentary that he is renowned for was not missing. Serious issues of the Iraq war were brought up and the Presidency of George Bush was perhaps best underlined through deft jokes about Hurricane Katrina and the California Fires.

For a generation who were deprived of a chance to see Richard Prior live, witness a legend in a show you could watch again and again - can I get an encore?

Playing at various locations until January 26 visit http://www.chrisrock.com/

The UK Corner covers the UK/British urban entertainment scene and is written by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at info@TheTalentShow.co.uk.


Canadian Tourism Market Jamaica's Future?

Excerpt from Jamaica Gleaner – by Janet Silvera, Senior Tourism Writer, Western Bureau

(January 20, 2008) The influx of Spanish-operated hotels in Jamaica is being credited for re-invigorating the market for Canadian tourists, who have been responsible for playing a pivotal role in the country's achievement of another record year in stop-over arrivals.

"The Spanish chains have set a new standard of value for the vacationer, forcing a number of traditional Jamaican hotels to revamp themselves and spruce up their products," says Brad Miron, vice-president of marketing and strategic partnerships of itravel 2000, one of Canada's most reputable online tour operators.

Itravel2000, in collaboration with the Jamaica Tourist Board, Yoplait and CTV, launched a live television satellite broadcast - from the Riu Ocho Rios last week - of Canada's most popular morning show, Canada AM, showcasing Jamaica to over 2.5 million viewers in the North American country.

Top-selling brands

"Riu is one of our top-selling brands worldwide. We are probably doing 800,000 to 900,000 room nights between Riu hotels in Jamaica, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Aruba," Miron told The Sunday Gleaner.

He said Canadians who, in the next 18 years, will inherit CA$1 trillion in legacy money, are becoming more familiar with the hotel brands and the value proposition that they offer. "For example, someone has been to Riu Mexico and they become collectors of the product and want to experience the different destinations, so their next sampling may be Jamaica."

Coupled with that, he said, the Spanish resort was a good barometer of what Canadians are asking for, which is the minimum of a 4.5 star-rated hotel. All the Spanish hotels in Jamaica are five-star.

Speaking to the robust figures that the market is now attracting, Angella Bennett, director of sales, Riu Resorts, Jamaica, noted that not only have the Spanish hotels grown the business out of the North American destination, "but we have increased business out of Spain and Portugal by over 100 per cent."

According to Mrs. Bennett, the Canadian business she is seeing is a result of the strong partnership between charter operators Sunquest and Riu. "Sunquest has allotted additional flights to Jamaica because of the increase in room count, and the current trend of increased arrivals is expected to continue," she predicts.

Accordingly, Canadians have matured, are at an all-time high consumer base, and are willing to pay CA$1,800 for a vacation, instead of $1,500.

The number-one thing

In Brad Miron's estimation, Jamaica is in line for the expected windfall. He said Canadians are experiencing a very cold winter, their dollar is at an all-time high, the economy is the strongest it has ever been, and unemployment is at its lowest ever. And studies show that among the bloomers and late bloomers who stand to get this legacy inheritance, travel is the number-one thing they plan to do with their money.

"The average Canadian has a boat, a house, a cottage; the next thing they will want to do is experience more of the world through travel," said Miron.

Second, he predicts, will be their desire for foreign real estate investment. Currently, Canadians own CA$10 billion of real estate in Florida. The tax impact of US$274 million in 2002 and the generating of 23,000 direct jobs was enough incentive for the Americans to continue to woo them.


Giants Get Patriots Rematch

Excerpt from www.thestar.com – Dave Perkins

(January 21, 2008) GREEN BAY, Wis. - This is somehow fitting. All those NFL teams that tanked late in the season – Indianapolis, Dallas and Tampa Bay, for starters – were bundled out of the playoffs in a hurry and the
New York Giants, who played their guts out against the New England Patriots the final week of the season, get rewarded.

Their reward is to play the Patriots again – but this time in the
Super Bowl. They are 13 1/2-point underdogs for Feb.3, but have been making nothing but believers by winning on the road every week. They made millions more here last night by overcoming some bad breaks, a couple of their own dumb mistakes and enough brutal cold to last a lifetime to beat the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in overtime and win the NFC championship.

It was a crackling game, one the Giants roundly deserved to win and a lot earlier than they did. Former Ottawa Renegade Lawrence Tynes punched a 47-yarder straight and true for the winning field goal after missing two shorter tries, including a 36-yarder on the final play of regulation.

That miss, plus a couple of throttling penalties against the Giants, had made this resemble just one more chance for Brett Favre to be a hero again. But this was far from vintage Favre. He did nothing with plenty of opportunities, including two possessions in a tie game in the final seven minutes without even a first down. The fast-maturing Eli Manning, the better quarterback all night, kept moving his team into position and would have won sooner with a better kicker.

"This game and this season has been one of those things, `We're gonna do it.' I've had so many people ... tell me to just believe it, that this was our year for everything to fall into place and it sure seemed that way, when it went back and forth," Favre said.

The winner came after Favre threw – make that underthrew – a killer interception, snared by Corey Webster, early in overtime. It was a toss he said will bother him all off-season.

So now we get what will go down as a Boston-New York championship neither the league nor TV networks truly wanted. It's not a bad consolation prize, though. Imagine if it's as good a game as that 38-35 New England win against the Giants in the final week of the season.

"We played them well (and) we know what it takes to beat them," Manning said.

The Patriots won ugly against San Diego, which will provide much fuel for the jabber mills. Either they're due to rebound or they are simply on a small but steady decline since about Week 10 of the season and are ripe for the upset.

Any upset is up to Manning and Co., who persevered after breaks and penalties kept turning against them. Example: Favre got running around, freelancing when trailing in the fourth quarter, and threw a terrible interception right to R.W. McQuarters. The Giant DB, though, fumbled the ball right back, presenting the Packers the tying field goal. A few minutes later, the Giants had a 43-yard field goal for the lead, but Tynes honked it, setting a nasty pattern.

After another Green Bay three-and-out, the Giants took over with 2:15 remaining and Ahmad Bradshaw went 48 yards for a TD. Tweet: Holding penalty on Chris Snee. Bring it back.

Things should be better in Arizona for them. They'll need to be; the Patriots await.

Chan Simply Phenomenal

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(Jan 20, 2008) VANCOUVER–Patrick Chan had said, not 24 hours earlier, that he wasn't here to win the Canadian championship, didn't even want it, really.

Screwed up, kid.

"I guess so. Unfortunately.''

But a goofy grin stretched across his face.

Only turned 17 on New Year's Eve, the Toronto resident became Canada's youngest male national champion yesterday, denying pal and rival Jeffrey Buttle his fourth title.

They are as different as night and day – Buttle an artistic genius and Chan a jumping firecracker – but they're both going to the worlds, giving Canada its strongest one-two punch in ages.

Shawn Sawyer, bronze after climbing over three opponents in the free skate, gets Four Continents.

The story, though, the dramatic spectacle, is Chan, who claimed all along his goal was simply to make the world team, not shove Buttle off the podium's top step.

That's what he did, though, posting an astonishing technical score of 81.66 en route to a final tabulation mark of 232.68, compared to 229.85 for Buttle.

A heart-clutching save on his opening triple Axel but pretty much seamless after that, except for a little board-scraping encounter deep into his Vivaldi long program, over-excited and celebrating in his head before the performance was finished.

A teensy déjà vu episode, it was, of his Grand Prix victory in Paris a couple of months back.

"I had a flashback moment to Paris, where I fell on my butt in the last spin.

"I thought to myself, `Oh God, don't go too crazy.' And then I hit the boards – oh, oh, oh!''

Two more triples rattled off after that, eight in all, had the Pacific National Exhibition audience roaring to its feet.

"I started pumping my fist because, just the feeling of the crowd rising during my footwork, and then into the two spins, it was just phenomenal. I wish that everybody could experience something like that.''

Over the moon, Chan appeared in a daze as he submitted to TV interviews and media scrum.

"I'm still in a trance right now.''

Morning practice had gone badly; pre-skate warm-up no better. But he pulled out the big triple Axel, first one with an effort, and quite handily dethroned a three-time champion.

"People are amazed I could do that,'' Chan explained, of his ability to nail the jumps after popping everything in practice.

"I'll come back after a crappy warm-up and do a good triple Axel in the program.''

He's not yet developed the false modesty that afflicts many athletes. Young enough still to say what he thinks – even when the subject is himself.

In partial eclipse – if just on this day – Buttle was gracious, insisting he was pleased with the skate overall, despite stepping out of an opening combination, falling on the triple Axel, doubling a Lutz.

"I'm obviously disappointed that I didn't get the fourth title.

"But you know what? I've won the title skating worse than that. I'll take a good skate with a second place over a bad skate with a first place.''


"Yes, I would. Because now I feel a lot better going into ... worlds than I have in past seasons. So, nothing wrong with that.''

For Chan, who gave Buttle a huge hug afterwards, this has been a "dream season,'' but he cautions against anticipating too much at the worlds.

In dance, Tessa Virtue of London, and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont., used a sensual, free program to score a 34-point victory over Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, who were second.

"This was a huge goal of ours. Best in Canada. I don't know if it's sunk in yet," said Moir.

With files from The Canadian Press

Another Big Night For Raptors' Bosh

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter

(January 19, 2008) Jose Calderon had just been dissecting Chris Bosh's game quite analytically, talking about Bosh's quick passes out of double teams, the aggressive moves to the basket when Bosh has a smaller or slower man guarding him. It would have been great for a Basketball 101 session.

Then Calderon stopped, smiled a bit and really got to the crux of what Bosh does and what he is.

"That's our guy."

And their guy is going as well as he ever has.

Bosh had another monster night, 35 points on just 18 field-goal attempts, as he helped rally the Raptors to an 89-78 victory over the Atlanta Hawks before a sell-out crowd at the Air Canada Centre that witnessed Toronto's fifth win in its last six games.

Scoring more than 30 for the fourth time in his last five games, Bosh has been nothing short of spectacular in an efficient, workmanlike manner. He doesn't do much flashy but he does so much so well, his efforts can sometimes be taken for granted.

"I'm voting for him for the all-star game," said teammate Anthony Parker. "I've got a T-shirt ready and I'm going to bring it out.

"He does so many things out there. ... He's just put us on his back for the last couple of weeks now and that's a huge reason we've been able to string some wins together."

Bosh, who's averaged 32 points a game over the last five, said it's a combination of mental and physical health that's allowed him to elevate his game.

"From the beginning it was frustrating a little bit, to have my knee swell up from the middle of nowhere and just coming off my foot injury," he said.

"Just trying to get back into the swing of things was hard. ... It's been a long, hard stretch but I feel I'm coming around at the right time."

The Raptors came back to take control midway through the third quarter, when coach Sam Mitchell went to a small line-up that he's been using more frequently in the last week.

Surrounding Bosh with Calderon, Parker, Jamario Moon and Joey Graham (who was eventually replaced by Carlos Delfino for the final quarter), Toronto finished the third on a 17-6 run to wipe out a 56-50 deficit.

"I felt like we needed some energy," said Mitchell. "We just didn't have any pop and I thought Joey coming in and running up and down the court would give us some energy. He was active and from that point we started running a little bit."

With Bosh surrounded by so many shooters, the Hawks had no answer.

When they double teamed him in the post, he got the ball back out quickly to open teammates and when they left him alone, he simply turned and drove to the basket.

"Chris is very patient and he just feels like if he can get the ball right now, he's going to score," said Mitchell.

He had 14 free-throw attempts as part of his night, getting hacked mainly by Atlanta big men who weren't nearly quick enough to defend against him.

"I'm being aggressive when it's time to be aggressive but I don't feel I'm taking many bad shots," said Bosh. "I'm getting off the double team very fast and finding a lot of my teammates and putting them in good positions."

While Atlanta's Al Horford was the object of the fans' derision for most of the night, it was Hawk guard Anthony Johnson who took over as the chief villain late in the second quarter.

Johnson, an 11-year-veteran, was thrown out of the game for smacking Calderon in the back of the head with an elbow.

The two guards had been having a running conversation during the game but it became physical with 41.3 seconds left in the half.

"We were just talking about basketball," said Calderon. "The truth is I don't know what happened. It was nothing.''