20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
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July 31, 2008

Another month away - but it's a long weekend and it's Caribana in Toronto!  Speaking of which, please have a look below at a fun boat cruise happening on Sunday - get your tickets NOW before they're sold out!! 

CALLING SEASONED MUSICIANS:  below is a great opportunity for veteran and talented musicians who might be interested in working for Cirque du Soleil.  Please have a look at the credentials to see if you qualify.

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



Farley Flex Calvin & Richie Boat Cruise – August 3, 2008

On Sunday, August 3rd what is affectionately known as Caribana Sunday will remain indelible in the minds of the 300 plus that attend Farley Flex, Calvin and Richie's "White Linen Affair". As patrons enter the parking lot they will encounter a pre-boarding party hosted by title sponsor Supreme Auto Group. Luxury vehicles on display will set the stage with an aura of prestige that will sustain itself straight through to the boarding of Toronto's most luxurious commercial vessel the Yankee Lady IV.

The duo of DJ Channel Nine and Soca Sweetness along with MC Toney Williams will rock the boat with classic after classic, R&B, SOCA and SLOW JAMS.

This event is rated "M" for Mature - Need we say more?


261 Queens Quay E
Between Sherbourne and Parliament Streets on the east side of the Waterside Tennis Club
The Supreme Auto Group Pre-boarding Car Show
Embark 8:00pm1:00am Disembark
For Tickets Call):
Farley: 416-599-3539
Calvin: 416-615-9497 or 905-404-3928
Richie: 905-922-2663

Also Featuring:
- Epiphany's Authentic Caribbean Buffet
- Steel Pan Performance
- Canadian Idol Top Ten Ticket Giveaway
- Pre-boarding Photos - On the Spot

SPONSORS:  Supreme Auto Group & Get Rite Urban Outlet
PARTIAL PROCEEDS DONATED TO: F3 - Farley Flex Foundation For International Youth Development
A Shephard Occasion Event (www.shephardoccasion.com)


Musicians: Talents Needed For A New Show About Elvis In Las Vegas In 2009

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil is looking for nine musicians to perform in our new show about Elvis and his musical heritage. It will be presented at the theatre of the City Center in Las Vegas in 2009. The show will be directed by Vincent Paterson .

Musicians who play one of the following instruments must showcase at least three different types of music (i.e. rockabilly, rock & roll, Latin, pop, blues, gospel, jazz).

1.       Keyboardist (possible bandleader)*

  1. Guitarist/keyboardist (possible bandleader)*
  2. Bass/double bass (possible bandleader)*
  3. Guitar
  4. Percussions
  5. Drums (possible bandleader)*
  6. Saxophone
  7. Trumpet
  8. Trombone

 The following instruments are considered an asset:

         Vocal beat box

         Programming/sequencing**

         Slide guitar

         Drum line

         Banjo

         Harmonica

         DJ/scratch

         Singing

         Others (hidden talents)

For the bandleader position: Experience in musical direction in a theatrical environment; strong leadership; interest in internal band management; ability to operate audio sequencing software during the show.

** One of the nine selected artists must have an excellent knowledge of computers and audio sequencing software and an interest in managing audio sequencing software and show sampling bank.

You must also possess:

     Ability to work within a team in a constantly evolving context and environment;

       Working knowledge of English or French;

       Strong stage presence and charisma;

       Experience with in-ear amplification an asset;

       Good physical condition.

Cirque is very particular about fulfilling ALL of the above qualifications and if you do not fill all of them, please do not apply.  However, if  you think that you would like to apply for one of these positions, please write to me at langfieldent@rogers.com for further details on how to submit your demo online.


Rookie Reavie Wins Canadian Open

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jim Byers, Sports Reporter

(July 27, 2008) A 5-9, 150 pound guy with dark hair and a sweet short game won the RBC Canadian Open.

Unfortunately for Canadian fans, this guy hits the ball from the right side.

On a day when Canada's favourite lefty, Mike Weir, couldn't quite close the deal, little-known Arizona product Chez Reavie brought home his first ever PGA Tour win with a three-shot victory at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville.

Reavie, a 26-year-old Tour rookie, was shaky early on but recovered nicely and played terrific golf down the stretch to post a 17-under 267 for the tournament.

Billy Mayfair shot a final round 68 to come second at 270, while O'Hair and Steve Marino tied for third at 271.

Weir had a pretty good day at the office, shooting a final round score of two-under 69 for a total of 12-under 272 for the tournament. That put him in a tie for fifth with Nicholas Thompson and Scott McCarron.

Anthony Kim had his chances but sprayed the ball all over the course and missed some key putts to finish at 273 and a tie for eighth.

Reavie didn't exactly come in with a lot of momentum. His only top-ten finish came back in February when he tied for fifth at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. In the five tournaments he played immediately before coming to Glen Abbey, his best finish was a tie for 41st. His finish at the Hope was his only top-30 finish this year. But he certainly tamed the Abbey during a tournament that featured numerous rain delays that led to ideal scoring conditions.

Reavie wears an Arizona Diamondbacks logo on his shirt and has been dubbed by some as "The Little Unit," a comparison with towering Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson, long known as "The Big Unit."

Weir had his chances and played well. Just not quite well enough.

"I enjoyed it and I played well this week," he said.

Weir was serenaded with a version of "Oh, Canada" by a huge throng of fans on the 18th green and he broke out in a huge smile.

"It's special," he said. "Sean (O'Hair, his playing partner) and I were commenting on how cool it is and how special it is."

Weir said he's learned to embrace the pressure of representing his country at the Canadian Open.

"It's taken a long time, but I do enjoy it. I've learned to use it as an advantage."

The last Canadian to win the Canadian Open was Pat Fletcher in 1954.

Weir bogeyed the first hole on Sunday and played pretty much an up-and-down round of golf the rest of the way; teasing fans with the odd birdie but then giving back a shot soon after. Still, a tie for fifth is nothing to sneeze at, particularly in a tournament where most of the players from the true north went decidedly south.

Weir, who played in last week’s British Open at Royal Birkdale, withdrew from next week’s Bridgestone Invitational before the Canadian Open.

He was even more thrilled with his decision after enduring four days of rainy, windy weather at Glen Abbey.

“I’m sure glad I withdrew from next week,” said Weir, who will be vacationing in Mexico with his wife. “I’m glad I’m not playing golf. I’m gonna be sitting on a beach.

“It has been an exhausting two weeks. I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks, I seems like I’ve been on the road for a month. The last two weeks have been pretty tough all the way around.”

Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., had the second-lowest score among Canadians, closing with an even-par 70 to finish his tournament at 1 under.

“I hit it well here, and I putted pretty well,” said Taylor, whose tie for 53rd is the best result by a Canadian amateur since 1972. “I think everything (went) pretty well.”

Despite the strong showing, The University of Washington junior doesn’t intend to give up his amateur status any time soon.

“I’ve always planned to do four years of school and get a degree,” said Taylor, who would have earned $11,520 as a pro for his weekend performance. “College life, college golf, it’s pretty awesome. I really don’t want to miss two years of it.

“I haven’t really thought about turning pro and I probably won’t until I’m done school.”

Weir praised Taylor as one of the country’s top up-and-coming golf talents.

“He seems like a solid young kid,” said Weir, who only met Taylor over the weekend. “It seems like he has a steady game. He isn’t a long bomber or anything, but maybe he can learn that consistent game.”

David Hearn of Brantford shot 74 today for an even-par 284 for the tourney, while Bryan DeCorso of Guelph also shot 74 today for a plus-one 285.

Aside from Kim and O'Hair, few of the better-known players did a whole lot to brag about this week on a mostly defenceless Glen Abbey layout. Defending champion Jim Furyk shot a one-under 70 on his final day and finished at nine-under 275 for the tournament. Furyk almost certainly won't be back next year, as the Canadian Open remains saddled with a tough date right after the British Open.

Fred Couples, who was making his first appearance at the Canadian Open in some time, shot 67 on Sunday to finish at eight-under 276.

Retief Goosen, who's been struggling of late, shot a final-day 73 for 279, while Camilo Villegas finished way back at one-under 283.

Although a Canadian didn't win the tournament, a Toronto area company did just fine. Reavie sports clothing made by up-and-coming Canadian apparel company Quagmire, and you can bet they'll use that to good advantage in the coming days.

With files from Canadian Press

Tap vs. Bottled

Source:  www.thestar.com - D. Grant Black

Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It
by Elizabeth Royte
248 pages, $27.95

(July 27, 2008) Ever wondered what's in that glass of water, or more likely these days, what's in that bottle of water?

Brooklyn-based journalist Elizabeth Royte not only wanted to find out what's in our drinking water, but where it comes from, its history, politics and, increasingly, who controls our shrinking fresh water resource.

In Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Royte's reporting uncovers some disturbing water industry facts around the United States. Bottlemania is a watery Fast Food Nation, a treatise on H2O that PR flacks would rather keep underground.

Bottlemania is thoroughly researched, fluid storytelling by a veteran investigative journalist who explains why water has made the leap from the tap in the last 20 years to a global industry worth $60 billion annually.

Royte, who also penned an exhaustive exposé on American trash, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, profoundly points out that the "outrageous success of bottled water, in a country where more than 89 per cent of tap water meets or exceeds federal health and safety regulations, regularly wins in blind taste tests against name-brand waters, and costs 240 to 10,000 times less than bottled water, is an unparalleled social phenomenon, one of the greatest marketing coups of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries."

She says the marketing of bottled water has been a huge success because it "plays into our ever-growing laziness and impatience." She says environmentalists decry the environmental impact of bottled spring water (draining aquifers, trucking and shipping, non-refundable plastic waste) given that we have a perfectly good source of drinking water right under our noses.

Nestlé, a Swiss-owned conglomerate and the largest food-processing company in the world, which controls 32 per cent of the U.S. bottled-water market and offers several brands around the U.S., brought in estimated 2006 profits of $7.46 billion. The other two biggest players are those old whores of a trendy drink, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Royte points out that sales of bottled water in the U.S.– more than 700 domestic and 75 imported brands – have already surpassed sales of beer and milk and by 2011 are expected to surpass soft drinks.

"They are ubiquitous where I live. You can't walk a block in New York City without seeing a bottle in someone's hand, their baby stroller, or bike cage, spilling from the corner litter baskets or crushed flat and gray, ratlike, in the gutters. Nationwide, we discard thirty to forty billion of these containers a year."

Those containers are manufactured from polyethylene terephthlate (PET), a polymer derived from oil with other ingredients for colour, strength and flexibility. Antimony, a catalyst in the manufacture of PET, leaches into bottled water.

"Ingested in small doses antimony can cause dizziness and depression; in large does, nausea and vomiting, and death" explains Royte. Antimony levels rise the longer water stays in PET containers. Apparently, those hard polycarbonate bottles aren't any better.

Royte says polycarbonate can leach small amounts of bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that mimics estrogen.

So what's the solution for safe, portable drinking water? And what about tap water's chlorine taste? Royte, who takes tours of municipal water treatment plants in New York City and Kansas City, Missouri (with jaw-dropping content on what has and hasn't been removed from river water), is keen on her Ultramax Brita system set on top of her fridge.

Owned by Clorox, Brita is the leader in the "pour-through" market.

She pairs the Brita with the Swiss-made Sigg, those hi-tech re-useable water containers that claim not to leach harmful plastic chemicals into your hydration moments.

Although Bottlemania is written from a U.S. perspective, the content is still relevant to the Canadian reader. (Walkerton, Maude Barlow and the United Church's war on bottled water are detailed.) The bottled-water-as-preferred-delivery-system is pretty much the same here.

Read Bottlemania. Like me, you may find that you were sucked into buying expensive bottled water for years that was as close as your kitchen taps all along – paired with a pour-through filter system, of course.

D. Grant Black is a Saskatchewan freelance journalist.

Michael Posner Catches Up With Jimmy Fallon As He Prepares For His Latest Gig

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Michael Posner

(July 24, 2008) When Jimmy Fallon auditioned for a coveted spot on Saturday Night Live a decade ago, he was warned repeatedly not to expect executive producer Lorne Michaels to laugh.

Fallon, who is in Toronto this weekend hosting the final two Just for Laughs galas at Massey Hall, remembers that an SNL stagehand, then a makeup person and finally the talent co-ordinator all told him the same thing: “Don't take it personally, but Lorne doesn't laugh. He hates comedy. He's seen it all, heard it all.”

So Fallon steeled himself for a cold response. He launched into a series of celebrity impersonations, thinking that “this was the best way onto the show, to do what Dana Carvey had done,” Fallon said in an interview. “He was my all-time favourite, and I wanted to be like him.”

Michaels sat predictably stone-faced through several “voices,” but when Fallon did his impression of Adam Sandler, who had only recently left the long-running show, Michaels put his head in his hands and collapsed with laughter.

Still, the young man who actually made Michaels laugh had to wait several months before hearing whether he'd been selected to join SNL. “I was on cloud nine after the audition,” Fallon said, “but you don't really know. And then you wait. It's brutal. Like, six months or something of waiting. It's insane.”

Then Fallon was summoned to another meeting with Michaels, the Toronto boy who has become one of American television's most powerful executives.

“It was in Los Angeles at Paramount Studios,” recalled Fallon. “The entire room was white. It was surreal. And Lorne asked me, ‘Do you wear wigs?' I'm thinking, ‘Huh?' So he says again, ‘Do you wear wigs? Because we want you for sure.” Well, that was it. Wow. It seemed to happen in slow motion.”

Impersonations, of course, became Fallon's bread and butter during eight seasons on the show. He now has an inventory of about 50 (mainly male) voices – many are uncanny likenesses – accompanied by body language. Among those he can be expected to perform Saturday night are Sandler, Robin Williams, John Travolta, Gilbert Gottfried and quite possibly Sarah Silverman.

Brooklyn-born Fallon, 33, will be heading a strong gala bill that includes the likes of Sugar Sammy, Craig Robinson, Patrice Oneal, Larry Miller and John Oliver. The hosts for the other galas are Martin Short (tonight) and Jason Alexander (Friday).

Fallon is back on the comedy stand-up circuit honing his chops in preparation for his new network TV gig – in 2009 he's taking over Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show on NBC. It was announced Tuesday that he would warm-up for the main event – expected to begin next spring – by hosting several months of nightly talk-show webcasts, each no more than 10 minutes long.

Michaels's strategy – he's also executive producer of the O'Brien show – is to give Fallon, otherwise untried as a host, plenty of time to find his groove and, hopefully, to build a younger Web audience that will later move with him to television. O'Brien, of course, is slated to take over The Tonight Show from the departing Jay Leno on June 1.

Fallon said he has complete trust in Michaels's judgment: “He's so smart with that stuff. He's a less-is-more guy. I ask him advice about anything, even dating.”

But you're married, I reminded him – Fallon married film producer Nancy Juvonen last December at Richard Branson's exclusive British Virgin Islands retreat. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I guess I don't need to ask him about that any more.”

Fallon said that at his parents' urgings, he did his first impressions at age two, of James Cagney and Don Ho. “I opened with Cagney [‘You dirty rat'] and I closed with Ho [‘Aloha'].”

His method, one he recommends to any aspiring mimic, is to tape a favourite episode of a show featuring the character he wants to impersonate and then watch it over and over again. For Fallon, nailing the voice gives him the same euphoric feeling he had after watching Rocky – “that I could work out, fight, run.”

He finds women more difficult than men, mainly because of the higher pitch. But on his third episode on SNL, he dared to do an impression of Canadian pop singer Alanis Morissette, who was the show's musical guest. “I was so nervous, just shaking … so I did it in rehearsal and then asked her if it was okay, should I do it for the show. And she loved it. ‘Awesome,' she said. ‘Do it again.'”

Fallon says he's thrilled to be back in Canada. He did the closing gala last Saturday night for JFL in Montreal. It was there, 12 years ago, that he appeared in the annual new-faces-of-comedy night. As a result, JFL executive Bruce Hills picked him to open for Penn & Teller, which led to Fallon securing his first agent.

Toronto, he says, seems no less special because it was here, four years ago on the set of the film Fever Pitch (with Drew Barrymore), that he met Juvonen. “I was at the Windsor Arms and she was at the Minto and we just went back and forth and started hanging out, at places like the Bovine Sex Club … Then, when we promoted the film in London, we started dating for real.”

Fallon says the new TV gig is a “dream come true. When I was a kid, all I wanted was to be on Saturday Night Live and it was great, and then I wanted to do movies and that was a blast. But the opportunity to do a show where you write jokes and other writers write jokes and you make people laugh every night? What could be better than that?”

The Toronto edition of Just for Laughs continues through Sunday. For information www.hahaha.com or 416-872-1111.


Self-billing itself as “bigger, bolder and braver,” the second annual Just for Laughs Toronto festival offers a wider gamut of gags, guffaws and venues this year. Here's the breakdown:

Ethnic Series: A trio of race-based programs began with last night's Ethnic All-Stars Show, and continues with The Asian Invasion (featuring Sugar Sammy, tonight at 7 and 9:30) and the Italian laugh-stallions of Wiseguys (featuring Dom Irrera, tomorrow and Saturday nights, 7 and 9:30). $45.50. Winter Garden Theatre, 416-872-1111.

Galas: Nightly programs hosted by inimitable celebrity-comics including Martin Short (tonight), Jason Alexander (tomorrow) and Jimmy Fallon (Saturday). 7 and 9:30 p.m. $55.50 to $120. Massey Hall, 416-872-1111.

The Headliners: Nightly twin-bills at Mark Breslin's Yuk Yuk's serve up festival favourites (2007's Last Comic Standing contestant Gerry Dee, among others) in the downtown entertainment district. $22 to $29. 224 Richmond St. W., 416-967-6425.

The Sketch Show: Top local ensembles (the Sketchersons, the Imponderables and the Williamson Playboys) share a night of skits. Today and tomorrow, 10:30 p.m. $22. Second City, 51 Mercer St., 416-343-0011.

Toronto Street Theatre: A free, two-night extravaganza of comics and colourful performance troupes breaks out of the halls and clubs and onto the streets. The outstanding Shaun Majumder headlines Friday's party (7:30 p.m.). Street events run on Friday (7-11 p.m.) and Saturday (5-11 p.m.) in Yonge-Dundas Square.

For complete information: www.hahaha.com

Brad Wheeler

Coldplay Was Worth The Wait

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(July 28, 2008)  The highly-anticipated performance by Coldplay at the inaugural Pemberton Festival north of Whistler, B.C., had to be anticipated for just a little longer on Sunday, as extreme traffic delays on the highway finally had an impact on the performances. American funk/hip hop/alt-rock band N.E.R.D. arrived late for their show – minus three of their five musicians – and took the stage 35 minutes late, putting the rest of the mainstage schedule off-balance for the remainder of the day.

Coldplay, it must be said, was worth the wait. The headliners – and the driving force behind the festival – put on a powerful show. Frontman Chris Martin exhibited more than his typical enthusiasm and what seemed like genuine appreciation that people came to the remote festival and stuck around long enough to hear his band, which took to the stage at 10:20 pm on Sunday night.

“You braved hours of traffic and rain – all to take a chance on a new festival,” he said, adding that the consensus was that the event has been “a great success.”

Too bad for distractions during Coldplay's set: people departing in an attempt to avoid another long journey home, the slow-moving traffic visible behind the stage, the ever-present bass coming out of the B-Live tent across the field (particularly annoying during what should have been a Coldplay highlight: a short set on a tiny stage that included an acoustic version of The Scientist).

But overall, it was a strong show, with highlights that included Clocks, In My Place, and everybody singing along to Yellow.

Coldplay was preceded by an extraordinary performance by
Jay-Z. For just over an hour, the New York hip hop star had the place in a tizzy – fans waving their arms in tribute and bouncing like crazy (the temporary wooden floor I was standing on felt positively trampolinesque). Some female fans showed their appreciation by flashing the crowd on the giant video screens – to great approval.

Jay-Z's urban lyrics set against the silhouette of the darkening mountains as he sampled everyone from Amy Winehouse to the cast of the musical Annie, was something to experience. Even he seemed impressed.

As the show wrapped up, like a teacher handing out gold stars at the end of class, Jay-Z sent some shout-outs to audience members whose enthusiasm he had noticed. “You in the yellow t-shirt,” he pointed to a fan. “And you, baby girl.”

An unlikely highlight from earlier in the day was a stunning two-song collaboration between Dj Dopey and 16 members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. As the VSO played The Verve's Bittersweet Symphony, Dj Dopey ruled the turntable, and scenes from The Shining flashed on the screens behind the stage. The crowd in the B-Live tent ate it up. Future VSO subscription holders? Perhaps.

On unlikely combinations, the American Hasidic reggae almost-star Matisyahu closed out the smaller Lillooet stage with a spiritually-inspired performance that went with the gorgeous setting (at least the part of the show I managed to catch; there were scheduling conflicts with Dj Dopey and Death Cab for Cutie). In beard, yarmulke and side-curls, Matisyahu didn't exactly look the Pemberton Festival part, but with musical talent like his, he fit right in.

N.E.R.D. – late though they were – got the crowd going with a high-energy, infectious performance. Okay, so they thought they were in Vancouver at first, and Pharrell Williams uttered the f-word more times than one could count, but their energy was almost unparalleled on Sunday (and then Jay-Z came along).

Wish I could say the same for Seattle's Death Cab for Cutie. Perhaps it was festival fatigue setting in, but they just didn't do it for me – or the crowd. After N.E.R.D. – and Dj Dopey – the performance simply felt lacklustre. Too bad, because they've got a lot to offer.

Highlight of the final day: a crowd crazy in love with Jay-Z.

Low point: the backlog caused by earlier traffic delays meant Coldplay didn't wrap up their set until 11:40. And then, festival fans set out for what would no doubt be another long journey home.


Personal Touch Gets Layah Jane Noticed

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(July 29, 2008) Toronto singer/songwriter Layah Jane often springboards off real experiences for the fusion of personal and political messages that comprise her songs. Take how a confrontation at a rally against the Iraq war resulted in "Put Your Foot Down," which appears on her current album Brightness & Bravery.

"We were walking by the American embassy and people in the crowd started yelling `Shame' and I had this really intense reaction against it," the Toronto native explained.

"It felt like perpetuating that same cycle of hate and lashing out; but if we're calling for peace, we've got to practise it. That was a really striking experience for me and that song came out of it.

"I'm definitely inspired by things that I feel strongly about, whether it's the state of our current world affairs, a relationship or my family. Anything that comes from a deep place in my heart tends to want an outlet through music."

Good thing Jane has an understanding boyfriend who no doubt sees glimpses of himself on her engaging sophomore disc.

"I don't know if I'd want to be connected with a songwriter," she acknowledges with a laugh, "because you see yourself reflected; hopefully not in a way that makes you feel exposed in a bad way, but it is fuel for my creative process."

Nominated for a 2008 Toronto Independent Music Award for Best Folk Artist (the awards will be handed out Thursday), Jane performs at Not My Dog today with guitarist/co-writer/producer Oliver Johnson.

Their previous effort, Grievance and Gratitude, took the TIMA for Best Jazz in 2006. "It felt a little bit out of left field, but I think our music stretches into a few different genres, so the judges must've been hearing the jazzy inflections," says Jane, who cites inspirations as varied as Joni Mitchell and Sade.

She adds that she's purposeful about genre-straddling: "I think the average listener is a little more sophisticated than we actually expect them to be. I know I love all kinds of music, and I love albums that are diverse ... We're going for that crowd that really appreciates music with something to say and music that can also make your feet move a little bit."

Jane and her actor sister were raised by a psychotherapist father who wrote songs as a hobby and a poet mother who teaches writing.

"There was always music on in our house, often it would come from (dad), but my mom always sang to us, too. I can't remember a time when we weren't singing."

Though she took piano lessons as a child and attended an arts high school, Jane, who plays acoustic guitar, vibraphone and keyboards, resisted further formal training.

"I was very clear that I wanted to pursue music, but I guess my relationship to music theory has been a little bit more distant. I always felt it got in the way of my creative flow. I felt called to continue playing and writing and listening to music, going to school in that way: studying musicians that inspire me.

"I had moments of wanting to go into medicine and I studied homeopathic medicine a couple years ago. It's definitely a part of my life. I feel a great balance between music and alternative medicine; it helps me stay grounded.

"Right now most of my energy is going into music. Who knows what will happen later in life."

Percussionist Learns To Make Street Noise Part Of The Show

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(July 24, 2008) You can shake your fist at the sky, the water, the street and its streetcars, the fire trucks and planes. Or you can make peace with them.

When percussionist
Aiyun Huang was invited to perform at the Toronto Music Garden four summers ago, she found herself fighting the outdoor urban racket.

She recalls how Music Garden artistic director Tamara Bernstein came up to her afterward and noted that "I was the only performer she had who could be louder than a helicopter."

Huang returns this evening with a very different mindset.

"The program this year is not about fighting against the surrounding noise," she explains over coffee. "I wanted to embody and embrace all these things and make them part of the music."

This mirrors the positive reception Huang enjoyed during her 2004 outdoor show.

This summer, Huang is not only including the environment in her music-making, but also transforming herself from percussion virtuoso into simply another component of that environment.

"I want to get away from the situation where it's, `Look at me, I'm the performer,'" she explains.

For an hour, Huang will perform on instruments she could pack into a suitcase. One piece is a 20-year-old creation by Alvin Lucier called Silver Streetcar for Orchestra. It features a suspended triangle, which the performer strikes in a number of different ways to showcase rhythm as well as the way sound changes depending on where and how the metal is struck.

Another piece – a movement from Mathematics of Resonant Bodies by Alaskan composer John Luther Adams – is for a hand-cranked siren, with a laptop-generated accompaniment.

Huang's laptop will be a part of the opening piece as well. That Which is Bodiless is Reflected in Bodies, by American composer Matthew Burtner, starts off with the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl, subtly leading into computer-processed sounds. "The electronics pick up the harmonics of the temple bowl," Huang explains.

This may sound a bit esoteric to a mainstream classical-music audience. Unlike most classical music, repertoire for solo percussion is not old – "It's only been around for the last 55 years," says Huang.

Late tomorrow night, she switches from solo percussion to ensemble work as she reunites with old friends Toca Loca, led by the energetic and ever-inventive Gregory Oh. This show will be indoors, in the Brigantine Room at York Quay.

The Taiwan native moved to Toronto with her family at age 18, and went to University of Toronto. Huang's graduate degrees are from the University of California, San Diego. Currently, home is with her Sicilian husband and 3 1/2-year-old daughter in San Diego.

She has been teaching percussion at McGill University in Montreal since 2006. And she does a lot of travelling as a performer.

Huang says she is at peace with her pan-global existence. She equates her ability to multi-task with the demands of her craft.

"Percussionists tend to be able to manage many instruments and many sticks," she explains.

"It's embedded in our training, like playing with 11 pairs of mallets. So playing a didgeridoo in one piece and a gong in another doesn't seem so weird."

The 30-something performer admits to the difficulty in explaining all this to airport security people, who routinely pull her aside once x-ray machines pick up the strange objects in her luggage. Her Toronto visit warranted two searches on Monday.

"I guess plane travel is hard for everybody these days," she says, shrugging it off.

Just the facts

Aiyun Huang
WHERE/WHEN: Solo at Toronto Music Garden, Queens Quay, just west of Spadina Ave. Tonight, 7 p.m.
With Toca Loca at Harbourfront's Brigantine Room, 235 Queens Quay W. Tomorrow, 11 p.m.

Al Green & Quincy Jones Honoured By BET

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(July 24, 2008)  *The recent star-studded BET Awards gave entertainment fans quite a show. Hosted by comedian D.L. Hughley, this year’s show opened with a hot performance by Usher. Additional performances included multi-nominee T-Pain, Nelly, Chris Brown, Ciara, and Lil’ Wayne.

With stellar performances and awarded guests, top music legends were honoured at this year’s show. The incomparable soul star Rev. Al Green and the legendary music maestro Quincy Jones were given the BET lifetime achievement award and the humanitarian award, respectively.

After stirring performances from Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, and Maxwell, the 2008 BET lifetime achievement award was bestowed on the good Reverend Green, who even did a performance of his own, sounding just as great as ever on his hits “Let’s Stay together” and “Love and Happiness,” though he apologized for the performance backstage.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t sing as well as I should,” the veteran crooner modestly told reporters. “I was scared. I got nervous.”

The R&B star also had just a few words in regard to the numerous years and creative impressions he’s made on music that brought him to be given the award.

“It took 25 years,” he said.

And of his music’s longevity, he simply explained that the work he’s done has been about love – in more ways than one – and that has made it all the more treasured.

“It’s longevity. It’s a lot of making babies,” he said. “The music is what it is. It’s about love and compassion. It’s about affections; it’s about family.”

Green’s new CD, “Lay It Down,” was released earlier this summer. The disc offers up 11 more tracks abounding with love of music. The disc was produced by ?uestlove, but also features a bevy of young soul talent.

“Lay it down, let it go, fall in love. That’s what our new CD is. That’s what I want to do,” he said. “We wanted to cut an R&B secular record. I contacted Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend and Anthony Hamilton. We got in the studio and got the work done.”

 The humanitarian award presentation to Quincy Jones rounded out the award night. Queen Latifah introduced Jones, calling him "an international artist, an innovator, and a leader."

Jones told reporters that receiving the honour from an assembly of young-bucks was important.

“All of the dudes in hip-hop are my little brothers,” he said. “I go all the way back to the Sugar Hill Gang and people like Reggie Hudlin. He just said he had no idea that we’d see him direct ‘Boomerang’ in New York and he’d be an executive one day. That’s the way God does it. Those are the paths you go through. It’s an honour to be the recipient of a tribute of all the young dogs. All this tied together would be BET.”

In referencing his humanitarian award, Jones said that it’s for the whole world to share.

“Every child in this world deserves a chance, an education, and food,” he said. “There are organizations training 18 years olds, mentored by their mayors to run their own cities in 2020. That’s the kind of out-of-the-box stuff I’m addicted to.”

 Ever the activist, Jones is on a mission of making music an important issue in the States.

“One of the first things, after we get Obama [elected], is to get a Secretary of the Arts,” he charged. “This country's music is replicated by every country in the world. We’re the only major country in the world that doesn’t have a Minister of Culture. We’ve got to get it into our school systems. I’ve talked to a couple of the young kids who don’t know who Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker were.”

 Well, until the country steps up to create such a post as a cultural attaché, Jones as our honoured music ambassador will have to suffice.

 For more on the legends Al Green and Quincy Jones, visit their websites at www.algreenmusic.com and www.quincyjones.com.

Festival De Lanaudière's Success: Divine Inspiration And Well-Timed Government Funding

Source:  www.thestar.com - William Littler

(July 26, 2008) JOLIETTE, Que. When you want to start a music festival, you could do worse than consult a priest, especially if that priest happens to be Fernand Lindsay.

But don't wait too long. Father Lindsay is 80 years old and his time is pretty well occupied these days as founder and artistic director of what is generally recognized as Canada's leading music festival, the
Festival de Lanaudière (www.lanaudiere.org).

The Lanaudière region of Quebec, stretching from the St. Lawrence River to the Laurentian Massif, may not occupy a prominent place on the world map of high culture but it happens to be where Father Lindsay has lived and taught for decades as a member of the Clercs de Saint-Viateur, centred in the riverside town of Joliette.

Travelling in Europe taught this enterprising priest that successful festivals sometimes take place in towns scarcely larger than his own. He decided to send aloft a trial balloon in the shape of three concerts by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, presented in Joliette's impressive stone cathedral.

That was in 1977. A year later, the festival was officially launched and with it a 30-year tradition of summer music-making embracing such names as Cecilia Bartoli, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich and Maxim Vengerov and continuing this year, on a $2.5 million production budget, through Aug. 3.

End of story? By no means.

As the festival's ambitions grew, so did its need for expanded facilities. Father Lindsay's ecclesiastical connections opened the doors of several picturesque churches in neighbouring villages that still serve as venues for chamber music and solo recitals, including, the other day, a beguiling vocal recital by Quebec mezzo-soprano Michèle Losier in the Eglise de Saint-Zénon.

But it was Father Lindsay's political connections that secured the greatest coup, the construction in 1989 of a handsome amphitheatre facility with roofed-over seating for 2,000 and lawn seating for thousands more, nestled in a hemlock grove on 17 hectares of parkland neighbouring the site of the archery trials of the 1976 Olympics.

At the very time Father Lindsay was lobbying for an amphitheatre for Joliette, Charles Dutoit, the seemingly all-powerful music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, was lobbying for a similar summer home for his orchestra on the banks of the St. Lawrence.

To the surprise of more than a few, the government funding wound up going to Joliette. The maestro was reportedly not amused.

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra nevertheless continues to be an annual visitor to the town founded by Barthélemy Joliette in 1823, this year bringing the festival's final weekend to a climax with a performance of the Verdi Requiem under Kent Nagano's direction.

The festival's larger events focus on weekends, with bus shuttles from downtown Montreal, less than an hour's drive away. Picnicking on the lawns, à la Tanglewood and Ravinia, is also popular.

Ontario offers nothing to compare with the Lanaudière experience, although the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is reportedly investigating yet again the development of a Tanglewood or Ravinia-style summer home in the Niagara region.

If such a home materializes, Toronto's orchestra could look eastward for an example of innovative programming such as last weekend's day-long celebration of the piano, presided over by the charismatic Alain Lefèvre, involving a morning master class, an afternoon recital with eight pianists playing piano four- and eight-hand music and an evening orchestral concert of Bach and Mozart concertos for two, three and four keyboards.

Add to such ingredients the prayers of a charismatic priest and how can you fail?

William Littler writes about classical music around the world for the Star's entertainment section.

Rolling Stones Sign With Universal

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jane Wardell,
AP Business Writer

(July 25, 2008) LONDON–The Rolling Stones, the world's top-earning music act last year, have signed a long-term, exclusive worldwide contract with Vivendi SA's Universal Music, dealing a major blow to the group's former recording company, EMI Group PLC.

Universal said on Friday that the new deal covered both future albums by the Stones and their back catalogue including such albums as "Sticky Fingers" and "Black and Blue" and songs "Brown Sugar" and "Start Me Up.''

Universal, the world's biggest recording company, did not disclose terms of the deal.

The Stones' departure from EMI, where they'd been for more than 20 years, is a low point in a bumpy ride for Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd., the private equity firm that bought the London-based recording company last year.

New EMI boss Guy Hands failed to re-sign British band Radiohead. Other major artists, including Coldplay and Robbie Williams, have expressed unhappiness with some changes at the company since the buyout.

"Universal are forward-thinking, creative and hands-on music people," the Stones said in a statement. "We really look forward to working with them.''

The British group has already had some experience of working with Universal after the company, a subsidiary of French media and telecommunication giant Vivendi SA, in March released the soundtrack album from "Shine A Light," director Martin Scorsese's film of the Stones' 2006 performance at the Beacon Theater in New York.

Universal will now release all new recordings by the group through its Polydor label and take over full digital and physical rights. It added that it will "begin planning an unprecedented, long-term campaign to reposition the Rolling Stones' entire catalogue for the digital age.''

The Stones topped Forbes magazine's list of wealthy music acts last year, reportedly earning some $88 million between June 2006 and June 2007, mostly from their "Bigger Bang Tour.''

EMI, whose artists also include the Beastie Boys, Norah Jones and Kylie Minogue, announced plans this year to cut more than one-third of its work force to offset a drop in CD sales revenue and the departure of several major artists, including Paul McCartney.

EMI has struggled more than the other major labels – Universal, Sony BMG and Warner Music Group – as digital music downloading has gained in popularity.

The company blamed disappointing North American results for a series of damaging profit warnings, but industry experts also pointed to internal control problems and the company's lack of new music.

Grammy Winner Tony Rich Signs With Hidden Beach Recordings

Source: Joe Wiggins, Play Fair Media, playfairmedia@yahoo.com

(July 28, 2008)  *Santa Monica, CA - Hidden Beach Recordings announces the signing of eclectic and electric singer & songwriter, Tony Rich.

"Tony Rich fits the Hidden Beach Family's quest to partner with the best of the best artists, whom are able to condense their emotions into the recorded form. Tony is also a talented photographer, fine painter and poet. He has developed his artistic expression through several mediums and we intend to utilize all of these talents to tell his story which will resonate with both his loyal fans and many new ones alike," says Hidden Beach Recordings President, Steve McKeever. "This project should certainly answer the question: 'Where is Tony Rich?'"

The Detroit-born crooner made his debut in early 1996 with his album, WORDS. The hit single spawned from that album, "Nobody Knows" peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and climbed to number one in the UK.

This propelled the single and album to go platinum and in 1997, Rich won a Grammy Award for the Best R&B Album.

He is also an accomplished songwriter who's penned hits for Boys II Men, Johnny Gill, Elton John, CeCe Winans, TLC and Toni Braxton.

Tony has been a longstanding resident of Atlanta and has released two independent albums that spawned critically praise but failed to match the commercial success of his debut. He has experienced the trials and tribulations of an artist wanting to get his music out to the world.

"There first must be a test before you can have a testimony," affirms Rich. "I've had some ups and downs but my desire and ability to create art has always been my gift. It feels good to finally find a home at Hidden Beach. They have really supported my vision and will allow me to continue to share the unique sound of my musical contributions."

Tony Rich's fifth album, EXIST is due out on September 16th. The first single "Part the Waves" is a rhythmic soliloquy reflecting the before and after of first meeting then being with that special someone. In support of the forthcoming album, he will be doing a 12-city promotional tour from Monday, July 21st to Friday, August 1st; dates and cities are below:

Fans Buying More Merch, Fewer CDs

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Oliveira,
The Canadian Press

(July 28, 2008) TORONTO – Just how much are music fans willing to pay to publicly proclaim their love for their favourite artist?

Some Bon Jovi fans haven't flinched at dropping US$750 for a tour jacket, and a few White Stripes diehards have parted with hundreds of dollars so they could look a little bit like singer Jack White.

With record sales down and music companies looking for ways to create new revenue streams, there are some novel – and increasingly expensive – items being sold alongside the traditional T-shirts and posters at concerts.

And some fans seem more than willing to buy almost anything that's put in front of them.

The White Stripes have had a variety of kilts for sale – in their official tartans registered with the International Tartan Index – the most expensive selling for US$280. It's made of 100 per cent wool and only 10 were made, making it an exclusive collector's item for the serious fan.

The band also sells two custom-made cameras – the Jack Holga and Meg Diana, named for band mates Jack and Meg White – for US$180 each. Only 3,000 of each camera were made.

For women who want to throw their underwear on stage, a growing number of rock bands are thoughtfully incorporating thongs into their selection of merchandise available at shows, including Canadian group Three Days Grace, which sells panties for $20 each.

Prince sold pillowcases for around US$30 during his tour last year.

But perhaps the most expensive merch currently on sale is Bon Jovi's "Grade A distressed cow hide leather" tour jacket, selling for the jaw-dropping price of US$750 – and fans are buying.

One Norwegian fan commented on the band's official website that she just had to have one – even though her size was no longer available – and was thrilled with her purchase, despite the fact that it didn't really fit properly.

"It's a little big for me, being a female, but I still love it. It will be fine in the winter, nice to have some place for a sweater," she wrote. "This is the most amazing (piece) of clothing I have ever owned!"

Others have opted for a bottle of wine from the Bon Jovi signature collection, ranging between US$21.95 for a Chardonnay to US$145 for a 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon.

And for parents who want to pass on their love of Bon Jovi to their kids, the band has its own baby merchandise line, including onesies for US$20 and blankets for US$30.

It all seems a little ridiculous to Toronto concert buff Mark Churaman, although he admits to having dropped $120 on a Bon Jovi hooded sweatshirt that he only somewhat regrets buying.

The 23-year-old – who goes to as many as three or four shows a month – is the music industry's dream consumer, willing to pay whatever it costs to get the latest, coolest piece of merch sold by their favourite artists.

"If it's someone in the top five artists that I love and I go to their shows, obviously I want to buy a T-shirt or something," said Churaman, who works as an administrative assistant for a major financial company.

"If I'm spending $100 for a concert ticket and it's someone I really like and I want a souvenir, then price really isn't an issue."

With the slowdown in album sales and a new reliance on concerts and merchandise to bring in revenue, giving fans what they want has become increasingly important to the music industry, said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of music industry magazine Pollstar.

"It used to be 20 years ago that artists toured to help sell records, but today they tour to make money and hopefully, maybe, they'll sell a few more records along the way," Bongiovanni said.

"Merchandise sales are now a very significant part of their revenue streams, to the point it wouldn't surprise me if most (popular) recording artists make more money off their merchandise than they do off of their recording."

For fans that can't buy a concert ticket – or can't afford one – the same merchandise is often available on artists' websites, which can resemble full-blown retail outlets.

Avril Lavigne's online store features 78 items, ranging from a .99 cent glowstick to a hooded sweatshirt selling for $69.99. She also sells underwear, comic books, belt buckles, toques, change purses, hand bags – and, of course, T-shirts.

Marty Peters, the merchandising manager for Nettwerk Management, which represents Lavigne, said merchandise revenue is definitely growing and T-shirt sales can sometimes account for as much as 30 to 70 per cent of a concert's gross profits.

He said merchandise companies are thinking of gimmicky new products to sell simply because they know fans will buy them.

"The companies that are savvy are seeing where the niches are in the merch business and are always chomping at the bit to give you the next best item to offer your artist, to get their name out there and increase their exposure and their sales," Peters said.

There's a willingness to take risks to come up with the next new hot piece of merch, and the industry is closely monitoring trends in what sells and what doesn't, Peters said.

"When one or two T-shirt designs are making 40 to 60 per cent of a gross on a show, that's a trend we pay attention to, naturally," Peters said.

Artists are being allowed to come up with their own products, but the more out-there ideas can backfire – like the super-limited edition White Stripes kilts that are still available for sale.

"Sometimes the artists think there's certain items the fans may like and then it ends up they don't," he said.

"Things will get tried, and if they don't work then we just drop it."

Overall, the best business is coming from younger fans whose parents are often accompanying them to concerts and picking up the tab for whatever their kids insist they "must" have.

"The per head is how we gauge concert tours, and there's a significant difference between sales at a Barenaked Ladies concert and an Avril Lavigne concert," Peters said.

"Parents are more likely to drop a credit card than people at a Barenaked Ladies concert, where you have older fans that are still going to buy something but they're going to be a little more sophisticated in their decisions."

For Churaman, he's willing to spend but draws the line at band-branded candles, wine and $750 jackets.

"I could go see like seven Bon Jovi shows for that money," he said.

Smooth Jazz Virtuoso Andre Delano Releases Second Album


(July 30, 2008) *Los Angeles, CA (July 29, 2008) – Saxophonist Andre Delano, an accomplished musician with a distinctive original sound, releases his highly anticipated second album “My So Fine” on August 19th, distributed through Nu Groove Records.

Delano, once again commands attention of his fans with 14 original songs that include guest appearances by bassist Byron Miller (Luther Vandross, George Duke), Smooth Jazz pianist, Kevin Toney (The Blackbyrds), trumpeter Greg Adams and guitarist Michael Ripoll (Baby Face, James Brown, Usher). From the opening note the Latin flavoured first single ‘Sista Caliente’, which means ‘hot sista’ in Spanish, sets the tone for “My So Fine.” The new single is available for preview by visiting Delano’s websites: www.andredelano.com or www.myspace.com/andredelano.

Delano’s music is described as Smooth Soul, a new genre encompassing an appeal to Smooth Jazz, R&B, and Urban AC. Inspired by Junior Walker, Delano continues his tradition as an instrumentalist and vocalist effortlessly mixing both successfully. “Junior Walker began as a prolific writer and instrumentalist and it was not until the release of “What Does It Take” did Walker start believing in his vocal skills and singing on more records,” states Delano. ““The Da Da Song” is my Smooth Soul reincarnation of the style of music Walker would make.”

Nu Groove Records, re-launched in 2006 by original founder David Chackler in conjunction with Red/Sony Distribution, is set to take Delano’s music and career to the next level. “We love Delano’s brand of soulful, passion-filled jazz,” said Chackler. Nu Groove is proud to bring his music to the masses and introduce him to a new generation of smooth jazz fans.”
Darren Strothers, president of 7th Note Entertainment states, “Andre Delano is the preeminent jazz artist of our generation. With his supreme skills on the saxophone, and one-of-a-kind voice, his talents have to be heard and seen to be believed.” Strothers continues, “I am very pleased that Nu Groove believes in his artistry and this project as much as we do.”

My So Fine Track Listing:

1. Sista Caliente’
2. Once My Love
3. My So Fine
4. Soultie
5. More Than Words Can Say
6. The Da Da Song
7. College Sweetheart
8. JSU Jam
9. Get To You
10. I Do
11. First Dance
12. Home Sweet Home
13. That Much (I Love U)
14. The Da Da Song (Instrumental)

Upcoming Shows:

7/30 Catalina Bar & Grill, Hollywood, CA 8:00pm www.catalinajazzclub.com
8/16 Wilson Creek Winery, Temecula, CA 7:00pm www.wilsoncreekwinery.com
9/12 Spaghettini’s Italian Grill & Jazz Club, Seal Beach, CA 8:00pm www.spaghettini.com

For more information please visit:


Timbaland Prepares Shock Value 2


(July 25, 2008) *Timbaland has a gang of recorded material stockedup and ready to roll on his upcoming album, "Shock Value 2," featuring guest appearances from Rihanna, Beyonce, the Jonas brothers, T-Pain and Jordin Sparks – so far. There is no release date as of yet, but he tells MTV he wants to avoid using some of the same artists featured on the first "Shock Value" album in 2007, just to keep things fresh.   "Shock Value is really like the Now [That's What I Call Music!] compilation," he said. "That's my goal for this — not [to showcase] me as an artist. Of course I'll do my little part, introduce some people. It gives me room to go tour across the world. People request me. I put on a show. I put on a musical show."   "Right now, I have a song with Madonna that I didn't put on her album. I saved [it] in case I wanna do one for me," he revealed. "Of course I'mma do one with Beyonce. Of course I'mma do one with Jordin Sparks, Rihanna. It's a lot of people. I'mma do one with Jonas Brothers. I'mma try to have 10 major ones."    As for guest rap artists, Tim says he's considering T.I. and expects to recruit Jay-Z.   "Jay was really on the last one, but he wanted to change [the song]," he said. "I said, 'Look, man, I gotta put out an album. You're killing me.' "    Tim said he may produce an entire Jay-Z album in the near future. Until then, he has work featured on CDs from Missy Elliott and Chris Cornell.

Thicke Does A Lil 'Something' On The Road


(July 25, 2008)  *R&B singer Robin Thicke will embark on a short tour next month to preview material from his forthcoming album, "Something Else," due Sept. 9.  The singer/songwriter will kick things off Aug. 9 and hit clubs and theatres around the country through Aug. 18. Cities include Las Vegas; Tempe, AZ; Englewood, CO and five dates in California.   Thicke told the magazine he would describe the sound of his new album as "classic Philly, Motown and '70s black disco meets the creativity of The Beatles and Bob Dylan."   Below are Robin Thicke's tour dates:

 August 2008
9 - San Diego, CA - House of Blues
10 - Anaheim, CA - House of Blues
12 - San Francisco, CA - Mezzanine
13 - Sacramento, CA - Empire Events Center
14 - West Hollywood, CA - House of Blues
15 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues
16 - Tempe, AZ - Marquee Theatre
18 - Englewood, CO - Gothic Theatre

Bryan Adams To Play Acoustic Shows In Toronto

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(July 28, 2008)  Toronto — The kids wanna rock, but Bryan Adams has something softer in mind for a pair of concerts at Toronto's chic Carlu, an elegant Art Moderne room once favoured by pianist Glenn Gould. On Sept. 4 and 5, the raspy-voiced hit-maker performs the same solo-acoustic show he performed earlier this year at St. Andrew's Wesley Church in his Vancouver hometown. The London-based Adams, currently touring larger venues in Europe and the United States, released his 11th studio album (appropriately entitled 11) in March. Tickets for the intimate concerts go on sale Thursday, through Ticketmaster.

Alicia Keys, Jack White To Sing 007 Theme

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jill Lawless,
The Associated Press

(July 30, 2008) LONDON–It's a double-O duet. Alicia Keys and Detroit native Jack White have recorded the theme song for the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, producers said Wednesday. The R&B singer and White Stripes frontman have teamed up for "Another Way to Die," the first duet to be chosen as a Bond theme. Producers said White wrote and produced the song and also plays drums, as well as sings with 11-time Grammy winner Keys. Producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli said they were "delighted and pleased to have two such exciting artists as Jack and Alicia, who were inspired by our film to join together their extraordinary talents in creating a unique sound for Quantum of Solace.'' Previous Bond themes have been performed by the likes of Paul McCartney, Duran Duran and Madonna, and each new film's tune always produces intense speculation. Troubled diva Amy Winehouse previously had been linked to the Quantum of Solace theme. But her collaborator, Mark Ronson, said earlier this year that work on a song for the film had been abandoned because Winehouse was not ready to record. Other reports had suggested singers Duffy and Leona Lewis were being considered. Quantum of Solace sees Daniel Craig return as suave secret agent 007. It is due for release in Britain on Oct. 31 and around the world in November.

Two Pianists, Baritone Win Canada Council Prizes

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 29, 2008) OTTAWA – Pianists Jean-Philippe Sylvestre and Michelle Yelin Nam and baritone Tyler Duncan have been named winners of the 2008 Canada Council for the Arts prizes for young Canadian musicians. Sylvestre of Montreal is the winner of the $25,000 Virginia Parker Prize for performers of classical music under age 32 who demonstrate outstanding talent and musicianship. Nam, who lives in Edmonton, won the $15,000 Sylva Gelber Foundation Award, given to the most talented candidate under age 30 in the council's annual competition for grants to professional musicians, classical music category. Duncan, originally from Prince George, B.C., and now based in New York, won the $5,000 Bernard Diamant Prize, which offers professional Canadian classical singers under age 35 an opportunity to pursue their careers through further studies.

René Angélil To Coach Aspiring Stars On Quebec Reality Show

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 29, 2008) MONTREAL – René Angélil, the manager of pop icon Céline Dion, has agreed to coach another generation of aspiring stars for a Quebec TV reality show. Angélil, who is also Dion's husband, will advise and critique performers as they prepare and then perform for Star academie, which is broadcast on the French-language TVA network. Julie Snyder, who hosts and produces Star academie, said at a news conference Tuesday that she asked Angélil during a recent telephone call if he would participate in the show. He agreed after a week of reflection. Star academie is the Quebecois equivalent of CTV's Canadian Idol. Angélil said the young people who participate in the show enjoy a springboard for their career that was not available to him when he was younger and in a musical trio called Les Baronets. The Star academie team will travel to 12 cities in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick beginning in mid-August to find 100 candidates for the competition. That number will be narrowed down to 20, whose identities will be revealed during a gala in February.  Dion will also participate in one of the galas.


Canadian Steven DeNure Finds Success Can Be Child's Play When It Comes To Making Films

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jerry Langton,
Special To The Star

(July 28, 2008)  Picture this: You're sitting in a beautiful yacht in the Mediterranean just outside the harbour of Cannes. You're there as the president of a major international film company negotiating huge deals. You're also young, handsome, athletic and have a great family back home in Toronto.

That would be pretty much the definition of success for most people. But not quite for
Steven DeNure. He was in that exact position in 1996 when it occurred to him that he wanted something more.

"I remember thinking to myself: `If I don't start my own business before I'm 40, I never will' " he said.

So when he went back to Canada, he started talking to some friends about a great new idea he had.

The idea turned out to be Toronto's
Decode Entertainment Inc. – one of the most successful producers and international distributors of children's and family-oriented television programs on the planet.

DeNure wasn't being greedy; he was just working to fulfill his dream. Born and raised just this side of cottage country in Lindsay, Ont., DeNure always had big ideas. After high school, he went to university for two years in Grenoble, France. While there, he met the woman who would later become his wife.

"She was friends with Bobby Altman, Robert Altman's son," he said. "So we were invited to the Popeye movie set in Malta." His experiences with the legendary director led DeNure to a lifelong desire to make films.

Returning home to Canada, DeNure enrolled in the business and economics program at Simon Fraser University in Burrnaby, B.C. But while he was earning that degree, he also took film and made a number of creative shorts.

"Some would get accepted into festivals," he said. "So I would travel from festival to festival – whoever would have me." His film Ranch: The Alan Wood Ranch Project – a documentary about a massive environmental art installation in the Canadian Rockies – was nominated for a Genie Award.

Armed with that recognition, he went to Los Angles looking for work in the film industry. But unlike the throngs of hopefuls who want to become actors, writers or directors, DeNure had his eyes on a different prize.

"I had done all that before – cinematography, directing, art directing – what I really wanted to do was produce," he said. "So I hooked up with John Kemeny."

Kemeny was a very successful producer who could boast such films as White Line Fever, Atlantic City, Quest for Fire and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz among his credits. Through him, DeNure started working for – and eventually running – the L.A. office of Canadian film giant Alliance-Atlantis.

From there, he moved to Alliance-Atlantis's office in Montreal. He spent 10 years there, eventually earning the title of president.

And that's when the idea struck him while on the yacht outside of Cannes. His experience told him that there was a worldwide market for Canadian children's programming.

"For some reason, Canadian children's shows are very popular worldwide, while Canadian dramas – no matter how good they are – are usually a hard sell," he said.

"At the time, Nelvana and Cinar were the biggest things in kid's TV."

He also admitted that working in kids' TV was more fun.

He had some experience with children's programming – having worked on Alliance-Atlantis' groundbreaking CGI series Reboot – and he had some valuable friends. He recruited Neal Court, head of international distribution for Jim Henson Productions; and live-action producers Beth Stevenson and John Delmage from Alliance-Atlantis.

"They all had a great deal of experience and were well-known in their field worldwide," DeNure said.

And on the auspicious-but-risky date of April 1, 1997, the partners launched Decode. It started small, with the distribution of three shows – The Zack Files, Rainbow Fish and an animated version of the classic British novel, Watership Down – produced by other companies. All of them were at least moderately successful, and it gave Decode a foothold in a market dominated by giants.

But it was a show called Angela Anaconda that put Decode on the map. An artist named Sue Rose had developed a series of shorts for U.S. kids' TV giant Nickelodeon that featured the adventures of a nerdy little girl.

The animation style was unprecedented for kids' TV – it was a mélange of drawings, paintings and cut-out black-and-white photos. Although Nickelodeon passed after a few airings, DeNure saw something he liked.

At Decode, Rose's original project was developed into a half-hour format with a gentler theme and storyline more kids could relate to. Angela Anaconda was an immediate success. It ran on Teletoon in Canada, ABC and Fox in the United States before migrating to Britain, France and, eventually, other countries.

That success – along with his experiences at Alliance-Atlantis and his observations of his rivals at Nelvana and Cinar – led to a few of lessons that DeNure said still help guide the company today.

The first was to keep the number of projects to a reasonable limit. He had seen other studios succumb to the temptation to take on too much and had seen their product quality suffer.

"Our job is to be creative and distinct," he said. "I don't think you can do that with 20 different projects all at the same level of development."

The mandate at Decode quickly became to do fewer shows at a higher level of quality.

Another thing he learned was to keep his labour costs down and his staff creative by outsourcing what work he could.

Normally, Decode works with established companies like Jim Henson in the U.S. and Aardman in the U.K. DeNure calls Aardman "one of the truly great independent animation companies" and Decode and Aardman have worked together on the phenomenally successful Planet Sketch and Chop Socky Chooks.

And they have not left Canadian companies out of the mix either. In 2006, Decode partnered with Halifax Film Co. Originally known as Salter Street Films, Halifax developed This Hour has 22 Minutes.

And Decode is expanding internally as well. A new show, Urban Vermin, was developed by the company's interactive crew and has been picked up by YTV in Canada and Jetix worldwide.

An even bigger departure has been the success of live-action shows like Naturally, Sadie (which was popular in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and the Middle East) and The Latest Buzz.

Controversial Director Moves Forward – One Scandal At A Time

Source:  www.globeandmail.com

(July 25, 2008) She has been called a "porno auteuriste." Indeed, Catherine Breillat is probably better known in mainstream media for the controversies that surround her often sexually explicit films, as opposed to the more subtle, cerebral details of her work celebrated by serious critics and cineastes.

The Last Mistress, the French novelist and director's latest and most accessible film, which premiered at Cannes and played the Toronto International Film Festival last year, is certainly laden with scandalous behaviour, but not the kind that would disturb censor boards and puritan types. (For example, Breillat's 1999 film Romance featured non-simulated sex, causing much kerfuffle among censors and critics in various countries, while Ontario censors initially banned Fat Girl in 2001 for depictions of teen sex.)

With this film, the scandal is history. The Last Mistress (the original title Une vieille maîtresse - an old mistress - doesn't translate so well) is loosely based on Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly's 1851 novel - extremely controversial in its day - about La Vellini, a passionate Spanish mistress (the sultry Asia Argento), who challenges the efforts of well-bred but penniless Ryno de Marigny (screen newcomer Fu'ad Ait Aattou) to remain faithful to his wife. Not surprisingly, there is plenty of rolling in the sheets but it's the boudoir banter that is most alluring here.

Breillat, who has said she would have been d'Aurevilly if born in an earlier century, was introduced to the novel by French actress Anémone more than a decade ago. "It almost never happens that I immediately make my film," Breillat explained through a translator during last year's Toronto festival. "This film was made 10 years after writing the script, and Romance was 20 years. You might think I don't sense an urgency, but I'd say it's the opposite. A film keeps working on me, so I find it very rewarding to wait."

But there was another factor at play delaying Breillat's filmmaking this time. In 2004, she suffered a massive stroke and was hospitalized for several months. During our interview last year, a walking cane and slightly slurred speech were the only signs of her ordeal. (Breillat, who turned 60 this month, has since suffered a second stroke while making her new film, Barbe bleu, this year.)

While the film is reasonably faithful to the 350-page novel, choices obviously had to be made. "There are so many pieces that have been done 100 times better than we could do," Breillat says. "There is a ball in the novel, and of course it's impossible to do anything better than in Visconti's The Leopard - plus we didn't have money to do it properly. But there are also scenes in the novel that allow me to find my own ways of expression."

The Last Mistress is not only Breillat's most expensive film but her first costume drama. As someone always intimately involved in the visual aspects of her films, that meant a trip to the flea market to buy expensive 18th- and 19th-century lace. "The costumes are all authentic creations, many I designed myself, and I put authentic jewels in new settings," explains Breillat, who also sought inspiration from paintings in terms of her locations and sets.

"If you use historical designs but the fabric isn't old fabric, then what you're creating are disguises," she adds - a formulation that would apply to just about every other period film. Yet despite her attention to historical detail, Breillat allowed room for her own invention. "I used a song that was first sung in the 1930s and I also played with the universal theme of the vamp, the image of the femme fatale," she says. "In the novel, La Vellini is described as dressing and having her hair done unlike anyone [else], so I could give expression to my own fantasy."

Like many of her previous films, The Last Mistress features two relatively unfamiliar faces in the leading roles. Breillat met Argento - a rising actress and daughter of Italian horror director Dario Argento - at the Toronto festival, while she spotted the unknown Ait Aattou sitting at a sidewalk café. "It's like love at first sight; I sense immediately whether the person is right," says Breillat, who never rehearses her actors.

"When we're doing screen tests for casting, I almost never give actors text of the script. There is something magical about arriving on set and being thrown into things. So although there are technical preparations, and we spend time choreographing movements of bodies and faces, we start filming from the very beginning.

"It's almost like an acid bath; there is a sense of cruelty, finding yourself unprotected," she adds. "Suddenly you're on this set and there's no going back. There is a sense of urgency, of moving forward. And there's something natural and very moving about that."

Special to The Globe and Mail
Select filmography
The Last Mistress (2007)
Anatomy of Hell (2004)
Fat Girl (2001)
36 fillette (1988)
Une vraie jeune fille (1976)

Actor Breaks Bollywood Boundaries

Source:  www.thestar.com - Prithi Yelaja,
Special To The Star

(July 25, 2008) Nandita Das has never been one to shy away from controversy.

An unconventional actor in her choice of film roles, her repertoire includes playing a lesbian in Fire, a rape victim in Bawander, a witch in Maati Maay and a maid in love with her married white master in Before the Rains.

But her favourite film hasn't happened yet, she says over the phone from India. With three dozen acting credits, Das, who will be in Toronto this weekend for a retrospective of her films at the Masala! Mehndi! Masti! festival (starting tonight at the Queen Elizabeth theatre at Exhibition Place) has achieved greater fame outside India than within her own country.

Now in its eighth year, Masala! Mehndi! Masti! showcases South Asian art and culture from around the world.

Das will be on hand throughout the weekend to introduce her movies.

They are not the usual Bollywood fare that appeals to the masses. Most fall into the art-film genre, typically with themes highlighting social causes.

"I've done 30 films, but most people would struggle to remember four or five because many are in languages people don't know," says Das, who has acted in 10 languages, including Marathi, Kannada and Gujarati.

Having her movies screened at international film festivals in Toronto, London, New York, Cairo and Cannes has helped to boost her international cachet. She was a jury member at Cannes in 2005 and will receive the prestigious Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in Paris later this year for her contribution to art.

Half a dozen of her films will be screened at Masala, but at 38, Das says she is too young for a formal retrospective of her work.

"It's too early in my life to have a retrospective. There's lots more to do" she says with a chuckle.

"Many of my films have been triggers for conversations around social justice. So I see this (retrospective) as more like an exchange of ideas and thoughts, and sharing of common concerns around issues of women and social justice, which are close to my heart."

Das's background in grassroots human rights advocacy – she has a master's degree in social work from Delhi University and has worked tirelessly to help uplift poor women and children – tends to influence the roles she chooses.

"My films tend to portray women with more layers going through their trials and tribulations. I instinctively anchor to films that have a strong storyline, and resonate with my own interests and causes. I don't actively work toward breaking the typecast, but I would love to do a comedy or thriller – not something that's regressive. To be funny you don't have to be stupid."

Das has spent the last nine months directing her first feature film, Firaaq (an Urdu word that means both separation and quest), an experience she calls thoroughly enjoyable and highly stressful.

"In acting at least you're focusing on one thing, but when you're directing, my God, you have to focus on 100 things almost simultaneously."

Firaaq is set in the aftermath of the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. Though the movie is fiction, it is "based on a thousand true stories," according to Das.

"It traces the emotional journeys of ordinary people: some who were victims; some perpetrators; and some who chose to watch silently. It is through their journeys that we experience the explicit and implicit impact of violence, and the desperate desire for peace."

She chose an ensemble cast, including Naseeruddin Shah and Deepti Naval, "because I feel that in mass violence there are no individual heroes or villains."

When Das is not acting or directing, she returns to her first love, travelling around the villages and cities of India to talk about social issues. "There are months I don't do any acting work and I'm not pressured about it."

Her big break came in 1996 when Toronto-based director Deepa Mehta cast her as a lead in Fire. Das had no formal acting training and didn't even audition for the role, but she and Mehta hit it off right away. Mehta subsequently cast her in Earth as well, though the two apparently had a falling out after Das lost the lead role in Water to Lisa Ray.

The daughter of artistic parents – her father is a painter from Orissa and her Gujarati mother is a writer who is director of the National Gandhi Museum – they were supportive of her choice of an acting career.

"I come from a very liberal family in the sense that they did give me choices. There's no reason I couldn't have shifted to Bombay," she says.

But she has consciously resisted the pull of Bollywood and moving to Mumbai, as Bombay is now known.

"I don't think there's anything so tempting in Bombay. In fact, I feel that there's a lot of insecurity there, a lot of competition, a lot of stress. If I was a full-time actress maybe I would have moved because, after all, the work is there, but if that is not your full-time passion, then to be in a neutral space is better because then you can do other things. You meet people from different walks of life who don't think cinema is the ultimate."

Das prefers her quiet life in New Delhi.

"It's not like Bollywood where there's 500 people jumping up on me. I do have my freedom."

Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired Offers First-Rate Reportage

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
A documentary on the trials of Roman Polanski. Written and directed by Marina Zenovich. 99 minutes. At the Royal. 14A

(July 25, 2008) When
Roman Polanski fled America for France 30 years ago, on Feb. 1, 1978, it was an apparent case of a fugitive fleeing justice.

And to most people, it was case closed. The mercurial movie director, then in his mid-40s, had been convicted of having unlawful sexual intercourse a year earlier with a minor at the Hollywood mansion of actor Jack Nicholson, who wasn't home at the time.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, a documentary by Marina Zenovich that is also a first-rate work of reportage, makes a forceful case that the whole truth of the matter was never heard in court and Polanski was more sinned against than sinning.

Zenovich uses clips of Polanski's films – including Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown – to both dramatize and make ironic commentary on her findings.

The case was an unusual one in many ways.

For starters, Polanski never attempted to deny his deed. He protested that the girl, a 13-year-old aspiring model, wasn't a virgin and the sex wasn't coerced (there is some dispute on this point). To his supposedly liberated way of thinking, he believed he did nothing wrong.

At best, Polanski made a colossal error of judgment. At worst, he was a pedophile attempting to justify his sickness.

He deserved to face some kind of penalty, but the film persuasively argues that the punishment he received didn't fit the crime.

Zenovich tracked down almost all of the people involved in the case – police, lawyers (the prosecutor included), court officials, journalists and the victim herself, now a married mom of three.

All say that a vindictive judge, who has since died, perverted justice by targeting Polanski to advance his own career.

The press was equally culpable. There was no presumption of innocence accorded Polanski by the poisoned pens and snapping lenses of Hollywood.

The Polanski case set the template for today's norm of lawless paparazzi harassing celebrities without regard to personal privacy, good taste or natural justice.

Facing a possible jail term of 20 years, Polanski took a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Paris, where he has remained ever since.

He's still on the run from a crime for which his victim long ago forgave him.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired suggests that the rest of the world needs to learn some forgiveness, too.

He's A Mummy's Boy

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Bob Strauss

(July 29, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Brendan Fraser is back in our faces. Literally (or is "virtually" the more appropriate word?) in the digital 3-D Journey to the Center of the Earth that hit theatres a few weeks back. And again, this Friday, chased by armies of the undead in the third Mummy movie, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

In other words, the way audiences like him best. The 39-year-old Canadian-American actor just can't deny that.

He has done many other things, some critically praised, others nobly failed. In the past half-decade, there were television appearances, stage work and independent movies that hardly anyone saw. The biggest thing he has been part of since 2003 was the ensemble cast of the Oscar-winning Crash. Also during that time, Fraser was busy building a family. He has three young boys with his wife, Afton, from whom he separated late last year.

But do fans ask him how the kids are doing, or if he's okay? Nah. There's only been one consistent question.

"I wasn't exactly at the point of despair," Fraser, in jeans, layered T-shirts and his trademark floppy brown hair, assures us. "But so many people were asking me 'When are you going to make another Mummy movie?' This is, like, guys in pinstripe suits in elevators, kids, the guy you give your bag at the airport. It's really affirming and nice, but completely unsolicited. They know what they want and know what works; there's an expectation thing that does exert a good bit of pressure. Hopefully, we've done our job right and will deliver the goods."

But Fraser was also concerned that returning as mid-20th-century adventurer Rick O'Connell to battle 2,000-year-old corpses could be considered a little stale at this point. "Reviving the franchise also includes reconceiving and redefining," he reckons. "We brought it to another country, recast, use technology to do things different from the last one, have fresh eyes."

Those eyes would belong to Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, Dragonheart), who takes over directing duties from Stephen Sommers.

Other changes include a shift from the Middle East to China (Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh appear), a new actress playing Mrs. O'Connell (American Maria Bello takes over from England's Rachel Weisz), and a grown-up son for the semi-retired couple (Australian Luke Ford).

But Fraser assures the faithful that they will pretty much get what they have come to expect from the series. "Here we are again, back in the saddle, trying to put down these maniacal ancient forces that are intent on ruling the world," he says, with only a touch of self-mockery. "This is straight-ahead entertainment. We're here to give you what you came for - so scare yourself, enjoy yourself, eat your popcorn. We'll keep our tongues permanently in cheek so it won't get too intense."

Though family-friendly fun-ride movies have made him famous, Fraser readily admits that that is not enough for him. He usually has a knack for choosing outstanding adult indie films: Besides Crash, he has appeared in the acclaimed Gods and Monsters and The Quiet American. He also digs more experimental, effects-laden fantasies such as Monkeybone, Looney Tunes: Back in Action and Inkheart, which is scheduled to open this year. For sheer juvenile silliness, there have been the George of the Jungle and Dudley Do-Right live-action cartoons and the Pauly Shore comedies that gave him his start.

Fraser tries to view it all as a fun job, if not always an artistically satisfying one. "Even though I thought I may have fallen down at some point, couldn't get a gig or anything like that, I tried to remember just to enjoy it," he reveals. "And it got easier after that.

"This is a town full of high aspirations," he says of Hollywood. "High highs and low lows. The in-between part? Actors, writers ... creatives who don't idle well. There's a hunger to create and be a part of it. I don't know what I would have done if I wasn't able to balance the larger, more encompassing films like this picture with what I could call my more thoughtful, enlightened ones."

A wide range of acting choices seems like a natural enough outgrowth of Fraser's peripatetic childhood. His travel-executive father and his mom were in Indianapolis, Ind., when Brendan was born, and returned home to Canada long enough for Brendan to attend primary school in Ottawa and high school at Toronto's Upper Canada College. There were also stints in London, where the adolescent Fraser first caught the acting bug, and other European capitals, as well as in various parts of the U.S. He got his acting degree from Seattle's Cornish College of the Arts.

"Many actors I talk to call themselves army brats," Fraser says. "I was a brochure brat 'cause dad worked for Tourism Canada. That nomadic lifestyle. ... The armchair psychiatrist would say, 'You were redefining yourself each time you moved or were uprooted. You were trying to survive by being different people, trying to form relationships that would be more permanent.' I think there's something to that. And, as an actor, I still live out of suitcases for weeks on end. It's kind of a drag, but it's also the gig."

Being home with the kids seems to make all of the globetrotting, monster-slaying, occasionally art-making effort worth it. Ask about the kids, and Fraser couldn't be more thrilled. "The boys are almost 6, almost 4 and just turned 2," he says, grinning. "The oldest one isn't really interested in films or television; he'd rather jump on a trampoline or kick around a soccer ball, and I am just delighted. The three-year-old is running for mayor already. And the two-year-old wants to do everything he sees his brothers do."

Special to The Globe and Mail

It's Costner's Vote That Counts

Source:  www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Toronto Star

(July 30, 2008) Kevin Costner is a multi-tasking kind of guy.

When a big Hollywood studio didn't seem interested in making his new movie, Swing Vote, he got out his cheque book. And since he had to head out on a promotional press tour to drum up word of mouth for the flick (opening Friday), why not get his band Modern West together and play a few dates at the same time?

"This particular movie wasn't going to be made by anyone, so I financed it," Costner said with a half smile as he looked out the window of a Yorkville hotel room.

After a full day of talking to Toronto media, Costner then changed from tan Wranglers into blue jeans, traded his tailored striped black dress shirt for something more utilitarian and hit the stage at the Phoenix with the band.

A country-rock outfit that does all original songs, Modern West will never win a Grammy. Costner isn't always in key and uses his guitar more as an accessory than an instrument. But he's clearly having the time of his life up there. He even throws in "Mr. Tambourine Man" ("I do all four verses," Costner says with pride) as something for the fans to sing along to.

As with Swing Vote, Costner is used to having to fund the movies he believes in. His producer's credits include the critically acclaimed Mr. Brooks, Open Range (the last movie he directed) and Oscar winner Dances with Wolves. And then there were Waterworld and The Postman.

Even Costner admits he can't be sure when he's backed a winner.

"It's like Field of Dreams. Guys come out of corn. Is that going to work? Our movie ... is it going to work?" he wonders of Swing Vote.

"I really believe that this movie is cut from the same cloth" as Bull Durham and Field of Dreams, Costner adds.

Notoriously unwilling to make sequels (although he says he'd consider it for Mr. Brooks), he says he gets pleasure from being able to conjure up the same concepts in new movies rather than coming back to the same story.

"I like to revisit that, not as a sequel but as a tone," he says.

Costner is relaxed and affable as we chat about how much he enjoyed playing Bud, the ne'er-do-well, beer-swilling loser who holds the key to deciding the presidential race in Swing Vote.

"The scenes were pretty fun," he allows.

"I've always liked comedy and tried to infuse it into any movie that I thought it was possible. Movies I make are generally comedies, but even something like Open Range, I try to insert humour into it out of the actual lines. But (in Swing Vote) I was able to be a little broader and do physical comedy and hopefully still stay natural."

Lean and tanned, Costner's face shows his 53 years and his dark blond hair is thinning on top. But he still has that killer smile that for years made him a regular resident on magazine lists of the sexiest men.

Costner says it was important that he bring credibility to the relationship between Bud and his daughter, Molly (12-year-old newcomer Madeline Carroll). A single dad, in truth Bud is being parented by Molly, a responsible youngster who's quick with a quip and not eager to tolerate her father's foolish ways.

"No matter what you thought about him in the fact that he seemed to have a general lack of responsibility ... you realize that he has been doing the best he can do," says Costner of Bud. "You get that because we're pretty quick to judge people. Here's a guy that clearly isn't a PTA dad, he's not a soccer dad, but at the end of the day, you also go, well, at least he's the one that took her and kept her and had to do it alone."

The fact Molly calls him "Bud" and not "dad" was something Costner, a father of three with ex-wife Cindy and a 1-year-old with current wife Christine Baumgartner, made sure worked onscreen before he committed to it. He also took his time getting to know Madeline so she'd be comfortable playing his daughter, able to let him give her a hug, kiss on the head or a tug on her ponytail.

"Those things ... you see that that bond is there and as actors you start to trust each other," Costner says.

Swing Vote shows what lengths politicians will go to when they court voters, especially when there's just one man standing between them and victory.

Costner is cagey about his politics; he started out as a Republican he says, because of the household he was raised in.

Although "I think people would like my overt support," Costner has never been wooed by a politician.

"I give that when I'm ready to give it. I don't use the position ... to do all that stuff, it's not my way," he says.

"One can be dismissed really easily as a celebrity when you do that, and generally the side that's going to dismiss you is the one that's not getting the vote."

Tired Of War, Filmmakers Turn To Everyday Heroes

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(July 30, 2008) Eco-warriors have supplanted conventional soldiers in the documentaries division of this year's Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 4-13).

TIFF selectors have noted the recent box-office battle fatigue for films themed on the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts for docs in Real to Reel and other fest programs. Just one of the 26 docs announced yesterday has an explicit Iraq angle: Blood Trail, a portrait of war photographer Richard Parry.

At the same time, the growing public interest in environmental causes influenced the choice of three films: Food Inc., a look at how big business determines what goes on dinner plates; At the Edge of the World, a pirate-style chase of Japanese whalers led by Canadian enviro-activist Paul Watson; and Upstream Battle, the quest by Native American activist Nerv George to protect California water reserves. "What Iraq was to us last year, eco-warriors are to us this year," said Thom Powers, TIFF's Documentary and Mavericks programmer.

Toronto audiences aren't alone in their lack of interest in war movies, especially ones dealing with the Iraq conflicts. Several major war films that premiered at last year's TIFF, including In the Valley of Elah and Redacted, subsequently failed.

"Audiences are tired of this war and they're tired of critiques of this war, even if they agree with them," he said. "I think it's incumbent on filmmakers to find fresh ways of reinvigorating interest around this subject, but it might take a little bit more distance to do that."

There's a broader theme in the selection of docs for TIFF 2008, most of them world premieres: it's the recurrence of stories about rebels, mavericks and singular sensations. Many of the films announced yesterday track the exploits of individuals with passionate visions; people like rocker Jimmy Page, singer/activist Youssou Ndour and fashion master Valentino:

A Time to Stir: A four-hour epic that examines the epochal 1968 student uprising at Columbia University. The film will premiere as a work in progress at fest's end and feature appearances by several leaders of the student strike.

Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love: Hugely influential African singer Ndour, who has worked with pop stars Peter Gabriel and Neneh Cherry, is seen using his music to try to change Western stereotypes of his Islamic religion.

Valentino: The Last Emperor: The ultra-luxe feminine designs and glamorous life of Italian fashion master Valentino come into focus in this Special Presentations screening.

American Swing: The rise and fall of New York's notorious Plato's Retreat, a 1970s hideaway for liberated libidos.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29: Made by Atomic Café co-director Kevin Rafferty and starring the memories of Tommy Lee Jones and other Ivy League students of 1968, it's the story of a football game that broke all the rules.

It Might Get Loud: The electric guitar stylings of rock originals Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White are turned up to 11 by David Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth.

Killing Kasztner: Dr. Israel Kasztner was like Schindler during World War II, helping to rescue more than 1,600 Hungarian Jews. After the war in the newly created nation of Israel, he was branded a traitor by right-wing extremists. Yes Madam, Sir: Oscar winner Helen Mirren narrates the story of Karin Bedi, India's first woman police office, and her struggles against corruption and brutality.

For information on these or other TIFF films, call 416-968-FILM or click tiff08.ca.

Cheech And Chong Reunite After 25 Years

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(July 30, 2008) WASHINGTON–Now that their feud is up in smoke, Cheech and Chong are high on plans to reunite for their first comedy tour in more than 25 years.

Cheech Marin told AP radio that he and Tommy Chong "looked at each other going, 'If we're ever going to do something it has to be now because you're not getting any younger and neither am I."'

They tossed around some ideas and figured a comedy tour would be "the most fun" and "the least hassle," the 62-year-old Marin said.

Marin and Chong, who broke up amid creative differences, have tried to reunite before, but have always fought too much. Marin laughed and said: "It takes about three minutes for that to happen. There's this veiled hatred." But he added: "We've kind of resolved that."

"We've gotten to the age where we don't feel like fighting anymore because the end is a lot closer than the beginning," he said.

Marin said he thinks dope humour can be as funny today as it was back in the '70s.

"I think it's time for a revival of dope jokes. It's a much bigger audience now, it's much more widespread and institutionalized," he said in an interview earlier this month.

Details of the "Hey, What's That Smell?" tour were to be announced Wednesday at a news conference in West Hollywood, Calif., according to concert promoter Live Nation.

During their original run, Marin and Chong released nine comedy albums between 1972 and 1985, were nominated for four Grammy Awards and won one. They also starred in eight feature films, almost always portraying a pair of comical stoners stumbling through life.

While Chong has continued to do standup, Marin has concentrated on films and TV appearances.

"I guess Cheech forgot how tough standup is," Chong joked last month after Marin said they were considering reuniting.

"But he's got the incentive and the enthusiasm and he's ready," he said of his former partner. "My boy is back."


Will Smith Is Hollywood's Top Moneymaker


(July 24, 2008)  *Will Smith earned more money last year than any other film star, according to Forbes magazine's latest ranking of Hollywood's top earners. The "Hancock" actor raked in $80 million in 2007, beating No. 2-ranked Johnny Depp and his $72 million.   Eddie Murphy, whose output last year included "Norbit" and "Shrek the Third," is tied at No. 3 with Mike Myers, each having earned $55 million.   Cameron Diaz is the highest ranking female film star, with $50 million banked in her account last year.  "Atonement" leading lady Keira Knightly earned $32 million, and Jennifer Aniston pulled in $27 million to rank No. 2 and 3 respectively.    In terms of media personalities, Oprah Winfrey's $275 million haul in 2007 eclipses everyone and everything.

Batman May Sink Titanic Record

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(July 28, 2008) The Dark Knight continues to obliterate box-office records, crossing the $300 million (all figures U.S.) mark in just 10 days. The epic Batman saga grossed $75.6 million (U.S.) in its second weekend in theatres, pushing its domestic total to $314,245,000, Warner Bros. head of distribution Dan Fellman said.  That surpasses the record set in 2006 by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which took 16 days to make $300 million. The latest Batman instalment already had broken records for best opening weekend at $158.4 million and best single-day with $66.4 million. It's also busted records in its showings on IMAX screens, making $16.3 million in its first 10 days. Fellman expects that Dark Knight could reach $400 million in about 18 days, which would beat the record Shrek 2 set in 2004 when it made that much in 43 days. "What can you say? We've been getting a lot of repeat business coming in," Fellman said. He called it "a big surprise," adding: "To do $300 (million) plus in 10 days, we just couldn't have predicted it.'' The Dark Knight could pass Titanic as the highest-grossing film in U.S. history, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers. James Cameron's 1997 extravaganza made $600,788,188 domestically, a record no other movie has come close to touching. "The Titanic record has sat in a lock box for 10 years. It's a tall order, but if any film has a chance to surpass that number, it's got to be Dark Knight," Dergarabedian said. Director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to his 2005 origin story Batman Begins, which again stars Christian Bale, initially benefited from the mystique of the late Heath Ledger giving his masterful last performance as The Joker, Dergarabedian said. "The first weekend, there was this huge, pent-up demand and eagerness by audiences to see this movie. Now it's like a freight train – it seems to be unstoppable." Below are the top five North American movies with estimated box office totals in millions U.S.


ABC Looks North For New Comedic Talent

www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(July 30, 2008) You might call it Juno meets Meet the Fockers - for television.

Jessie and Tom are 18-year-old neighbours. One day, on a dare, they decide to get married. That's the post-Junoesque premise of 18 to Life, a new half-hour, prime-time sitcom pilot that has been produced after winning the simultaneous backing of CBC and ABC.

In the $1-million pilot episode (A Modest Proposal), written by Toronto's Derek Schreyer and Karen Troubetzkoy and produced by Arnie Gelbart's Montreal-based Galafilm, the young couple marry and announce the news to their respective families and friends. One set of in-laws is straitlaced, conservative and apoplectic; the other is laid-back, liberal and copacetic. Let the fun ensue.

The show stars 21-year-old Toronto natives Stacey Farber (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Michael Seater (Life with Derek); and features Peter Keleghan, Al Goulem, Ellen David, Angela Asher, Jesse Rath, Tilo Horn, Tommie-Amber Pirie and Ariel Shiri.

"You never know in this business," Gelbart said in an interview yesterday. "There are never any bad meetings in L.A. But we're hopeful this will go forward, perhaps with an order for six to eight episodes." Each of those would be budgeted at about $750,000.

Gelbart suggested that the green light could be flashed quite soon, at least by the CBC. "It really depends on the needs of the CBC and ABC," he said. If it were given the nod, taping would begin this fall for possible air dates in the spring or summer of 2009. The producers have secured options on the actors, ensuring their prompt availability.

ABC was brought into the deal by Los Angeles-based Alchemy Television, which bought British and American rights.

It had earlier brokered the agreement that took CTV's Flashpoint to CBS.

"With rising production costs and the costs of prime-time television in general, I think everybody is eager to find new ways of doing business," said Samie Falvey, ABC's senior vice-president of comedy development. "I think the experimental nature was interesting."

Added Falvey: "The joke we always make about Canadians is that they're so much nicer than Americans, and it's true that the humour tends to be more accessible because it's not mean-spirited. A lot of great comic talent comes out of Canada so it makes a lot of sense to look north for new voices."

Alchemy chief executive officer Carrie Stein was equally enthusiastic. "We read the script and it was absolutely adorable," Stein said. "It captures the times. It has a lightness and, especially on the heels of Juno, it's spot-on."

ABC invested both in the development of 18 to Life's pilot script and in its production, along with the CBC and the Canadian Television Fund. There was interest from other American networks, Stein added, but "ABC was incredibly enthusiastic and moved quickly."

Gelbart said the project has been in development for two years - the outgrowth of a prior collaboration with Schreyer and Troubetzkoy on 15/Love, a teen series that has since been sold in 70 countries and has aired in Canada on YTV.

The writers, who met in film school and are unmarried but have been together for a decade, said they were inspired by the teenage actors they met while shooting 15/Love. "They had these relationships, but they seemed so much more mature than their ages," Schreyer said, speaking on his cellphone from a rock on Ontario's Manitoulin Island, where he and Troubetzkoy are writing new episodes. "We had the idea long before Juno came out, but it definitely helped our cause."

Unlike conventional one-set, multicamera sitcoms, 18 to Life - directed by Peter Wellington (a Gemini winner for the acclaimed Slings & Arrows) - uses five different sets and is shot cinematically, with a single camera.

Gelbart said the CBC executives involved, Fred Fuchs and Anton Leo, had been "nothing but supportive, but it's great to also have the backing of ABC. They see a lot of stuff."

With a report from Simon Houpt in New York.

Welcome to Whedon's Dollhouse

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
The Canadian Press

(July 25, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't judge a TV series by its set. But if Joss Whedon's new series Dollhouse fails to catch on next January, he could always go straight into the luxury spa business.

The sci-fi series stars Eliza Dushku (Tru Calling) as a woman who has her memory wiped clean by a secret underground group. Along with others involved in the experiment, she is routinely reprogrammed to perform various tasks for wealthy clients. Dushku will therefore get to play a different personality every week, sometimes several. The character could be a sniper, a concert pianist or just about anything.

The series sounds a bit like The Stepford Wives meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Fox has it scheduled to premiere in January, around the time American Idol returns. Each episode will run longer than usual and with fewer interruptions under a special sponsorship arrangement.

Because it is a Joss Whedon series – he's the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – it is already under a microscope with sci-fi fans. Some bloggers have pounced on the fact that a second pilot has been shot, a situation Whedon has tried to defuse on his own blog, whedonesque.com. The new pilot should add a little clarity to the premise, Whedon writes, joking that he showed some scenes of the original pilot to notoriously inscrutable director David Lynch (Twin Peaks) "and he's all, `whuh?' Bad sign, but I kid."

The lavish sets are spread over two massive soundstages on the Fox Studios lot in Century City. Critics got a sneak peak this week at the tail end of the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour.

Of special interest was a large, round, wood-and-Plexiglas corral where the inmates of the "dollhouse" take coed showers.

"Where did the idea of coed showers come from – dreams?" Whedon was asked by one reporter.

The producer said he was going for a free, Garden of Eden-like environment.

Dushku said she's all for the coed shower idea, admitting she isn't "the most modest creature in the world."

The area where the reprogrammed individuals or "puppets" sleep was next on the tour. Again, the set was circular, with everything constructed in rich teak and natural stone.

Whedon described the design as vaguely Chinese. Five beds are sunk into the floor. Flat covers slide over the beds at night, sealing the puppets into their cosy little coffins.

On the surface it's all "communal and nice," a "really pleasant, weird slumber party," says Whedon.

The showpiece of the studio tour was the cavernous, spa-like, fully realized main dollhouse itself. A protruding viewing area allows the genius in charge full view of the inmates; it is a bit like the glassed-in perch where the faceless banker sits on Deal or No Deal.

At the centre of the floor area, where Whedon and Dushku sat and took questions, is a wooden bridge. Under it, water streams over smooth rocks. Later, in post-production, digitally added koi fish will swim.

A fully functional gym is on one side of the large Dollhouse set, with meditative spaces and activity areas on the other. There's even a space for finger painting and other child-like activities; children's books, including some old Hardy Boys titles, are stacked on the shelves.

Whedon credited Dushku with coming up with the general outline of the series.

He's aware of the Internet chatter that has already begun, with sci-fi fans all over every little bit of information on the show. That kind of attention is only going to intensify this weekend when Whedon stops by Comic-Con, the giant comic book convention, in San Diego, Calif.

"We are kind of like living in a fish bowl," says Whedon, brought down to earth after the success of Buffy by the failure of his follow-up series, Firefly.

He knows some fans are going to say, "Here it comes, here is the big miss. You do feel the pressure."

Mad Men's Many Mysteries Return

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(July 27, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Matt Weiner isn't talking. It's a trick he learned from David Chase, his friend and mentor, for whom he supervised the Sopranos writers room the last half of its storied eight-year run.

Keep it secret till they see it. Let no one know before the show.

"I don't really like to talk about storylines," the otherwise effusive writer/producer of Mad Men insists. "You'll just have to trust me to give you the information as you need it in the most entertaining fashion possible."

He hasn't let us down yet. His solo post-Sopranos creation – which in fact got him that job in the first place, when he first penned it seven years ago – has been embraced with the same kind of fannish zeal by critics, viewers and the industry itself, making it, along with Damages and Dexter, the first non-HBO cable series ever to be nominated for the Best Drama Emmy.

That along with another 15 Emmy nominations, a Golden Globe, a Peabody, three TV Critics Association awards and top honours from both the Writers and Directors Guilds. Not a bad first season.

The much-anticipated second season of Mad Men starts tonight at 10 on originating AMC, and also locally on A Channel, which has been moved by all the Emmy excitement to bump it up to a simulcast.

The uninitiated can catch up with the first season via DVD, repeats Wednesdays on Bravo, or online at CTV.ca. And catching up is advisable; the show's '60s setting may have been a simpler time, but there is nothing simple about the lives of the fictitious Sterling-Cooper Agency's ad execs and their assistants (back then, still "secretaries," when they weren't being referred to in terms considerably less polite).

And if you have been keeping up, and are already on the edge of your seat waiting for the answers to all those lingering questions (How's Don's marriage? Are his secrets still haunting him? What about Peggy's illegitimate baby?) ... well, you're going to have to wait a bit longer.

Weiner only promised to make it entertaining. He didn't say anything about making it easy. In tonight's episode the changing times start to close in on the characters a bit more – Don's told that all that smoking and drinking is actually, gasp, bad for him, and the office is flirting with a much-feared youth movement. But your questions may grow, because Weiner starts the season with the increasingly common tactic of jumping forward in the characters' lives. Fourteen months have passed, and it's Valentine's Day 1962.

Weiner explains it this way:

"I know I always say that I don't think people change, but their world was definitely in the process of changing, and this gave us a chance to sort of accentuate that.

"I think that, from when you watch the first episode of this year, you will immediately look back and think that, grimy and gritty as a lot of last season was, these people do somehow seem more innocent."

Perhaps that may have something to do with the fact that they know little more than we do what Weiner has in store for them.

"We don't know very much in advance at all," concedes John Slattery, a series standout as Roger Sterling, the firm's platinum-haired partner whose boozing, womanizing ways make his satyrical subordinates look like Cub Scouts – and who's had two heart attacks as payment for his sins.

"Speaking for myself," he adds, "I'm afraid to ask half the time. ... I'm hanging by a thread.

"Every week I look at the cast list. And if I'm in it, I'm happy."

The truth is, none of them really wants to know. "It's an unbelievable surprise every week," Slattery allows. "The characters go places you did not expect them to go.

"When we're at the table reading, everybody is oohing and aahing and laughing and moved ... or we're all (at home) texting each other, `Do you believe that?' `Did you see that coming?'"

Jon Hamm, for one, wouldn't have it any other way. The Rock Hudson-handsome real-life father of five (with Jennifer Westfeldt of Kissing Jessica Stein) is Mad Men's solid anchor with his remarkably nuanced portrayal of Sterling-Cooper's enigmatic junior partner, Don Draper.

"Like (all) human beings," says Hamm, "you don't know what's going to come down the pike. So you are kind of forced to play what you know, what's in front of you."

Last season's debut started with Don spending the night with a lover, and ended with him going home to a neglected wife and family. Later, we were surprised to learn that he's not Don Draper at all – he stole a dead man's identity. Even more startlingly, his boss doesn't care.

"You think it's going to go one way," says Hamm, "and the material takes you in a completely different direction, and you find, 'Oh, my God, this is a totally interesting way to go, and I didn't see it coming.'

"Well, neither did we."

Mideast Mania For Turkish Export "Shows There Are Muslims Who Live Differently"

Source:  www.thestar.com - Karin Laub / Dalia Nammari,
Associated Press

(July 28, 2008)  RAMALLAH, WEST BANK–Every evening for the past four months, a tall young man with soulful blue eyes has been stealing hearts across the Middle East, from the refugee camps of the Gaza Strip to the gated mansions of Riyadh.

But it's not just the striking good looks of
Mohannad, hero of the hugely popular Turkish TV soap Noor, that appeal to female viewers. He's romantic, attentive to his wife, Noor, supportive of her independence and ambitions as a fashion designer – in short, a rare gem for women in conservative, male-dominated surroundings.

Noor delivers an idealized portrayal of modern married life as equal partnership, clashing with the norms of traditional Middle Eastern societies where elders often have the final word on whom a woman should marry, and many are still confined to the role of wife and mother.

Some Muslim preachers in the West Bank and Saudi Arabia have taken notice, saying the show is un-Islamic and urging the faithful to change channels. But all the same, the show may be planting seeds of change.

"I told my husband, `Learn from him (Mohannad) how he treats her, how he loves her, how he cares about her,'" said Heba Hamdan, 24, a housewife visiting the West Bank from Amman, Jordan. Married straight out of college, she said the show inspired her to go out and look for a job.

Noor seems particularly effective in changing attitudes because it offers new content in a familiar setting: Turkey is a Muslim country, inviting stronger viewer identification than Western TV imports. The characters in Noor observe the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and Mohannad and Noor were married in a match arranged by his grandfather.

But it also upholds secular liberties: protagonists have a drink with dinner and sex outside marriage. Mohannad, while faithful to Noor, had a child with a former girlfriend, and a cousin underwent an abortion.

The nightly soap opera "shows that there are Muslims who live differently," said Islah Jad, a professor of women's studies at the West Bank's Bir Zeit University.

The show's Turkish producer, Kemal Uzun, added: "We are a little more open, not as conservative as some of these countries, and I think this might have some appeal for the audience."

Even though some of the racier scenes are sanitized for Arab consumption, clerics have been sermonizing against Noor.

"This series collides with our Islamic religion, values and traditions," warned Hamed Bitawi, a lawmaker of the Islamic militant group Hamas and preacher in the West Bank city of Nablus.

But the purists seem powerless to halt the Noor craze. In Saudi Arabia, the only country with ratings, about three to four million people watch daily, out of a population of nearly 28 million, according to MBC, the Saudi-owned satellite channel that airs the show dubbed into Arabic for Middle East audiences.

In the West Bank and Gaza, streets are deserted during show time and socializing is timed around it. In Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and in Hebron, the West Bank's most conservative city, maternity wards report a rise in babies named Noor and Mohannad. A West Bank poster vendor has ditched Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein for Noor and Mohannad.

Jaro's Clothing Store in Gaza City is doing brisk business in copies of blouses seen on the show, including a sleeveless metallic number adapted to Gaza standards by being worn over a long-sleeved leotard.

Producer Uzun said the Istanbul villa on the Bosporus, fictional home of Mohannad's upper-class clan, has been rented by tour operators and turned into a temporary museum for Arab visitors.

In Hamas-ruled Gaza, keeping up with Noor is a challenge. Power goes out frequently because of a yearlong blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the violent Hamas takeover. When a blackout disrupts viewing, many set their alarms to catch the pre-dawn repeat.

In the Shati refugee camp, several teenage girls huddled around an old TV set recently, trying to follow the action despite flyovers by pilotless Israeli aircraft that can scramble reception.

Ala Hamami, 17, wearing a black robe and headscarf, said she looks up to Noor because she is independent.

"This series gives strength to women in the future," said Hamami, although she was set on a very traditional path: she had just gotten engaged in an arranged match.


'Afro Samurai' Adds Lucy Liu


(July 25, 2008) *Lucy Liu will lend her voice to Spike TV's two-hour sequel to "Afro Samurai," the animated series starring Samuel L. Jackson in the title role. In "Afro Samurai: Resurrection," the 39-year-old Asian American actress will play Sio, a seductive and sadistic mastermind out to destroy Jackson's samurai, reports the Associated Press.  "When we first created the character of Sio, we knew that Lucy Liu would be perfect for the role," said executive producer Leo Chu. "We thought we owed it to ourselves to at least ask her, never dreaming that she would say yes."  Mark Hamill is also slated to star in "Afro Samurai: Resurrection," playing a servant and protector to Liu's character.    The movie is set to premiere on Spike TV in January.

Lennie Moves From 'Jericho' To AMC


(July 28, 2008)  *Lennie James, last seen as Robert Hawkins on CBS' popular-but-cancelled drama "Jericho," has signed on to AMC's remake of the classic 1960s show "The Prisoner." The actor will play Number 147, a resident of the mysterious Village where a former secret agent, now known as Number 6 (Jim Caviezel), finds himself imprisoned.  Ian McKellen has already been cast as Number 2, the apparent head of the Village and Number 6's primary antagonist, reports Zap2it.com. Other actors playing Village members include Ruth Wilson, Hayley Atwell and Jamie Campbell-Bower.   AMC is producing "The Prisoner" with British broadcaster ITV and Granada International, with Bill Gallagher attached to write. The six-hour miniseries is scheduled to air sometime next year.

Keke Palmer Preps For 'VP' Role


(July 29, 2008) *Keke "Akeelah and the Bee" Palmer will topline Nickelodeon's newest live-action series "True Jackson, VP," which was just given a 20-episode commitment from the network.  The actress stars in the title role of a 15-year-old who is tapped to head the youth division of a major fashion label. True soon learns that corporate life has the same highs and lows as high school, complete with cliques, mean girls and crushes -- but with cool perks like designing for up-and-coming rock stars and casting super cute models. The series begins shooting in September in Los Angeles with a cast that includes Ashley Argota, Danielle Bisutti, Matt Shively and a recurring role by Greg Proops. The first episode introduces True Jackson as a no-nonsense teenager selling sandwiches outside the offices of a major fashion label. When the head of the company Max (Proops) is solicited by her, he notices True's young yet marketable fashion sense and offers her a job on-the-spot as Vice President in charge of his youth apparel line.  She accepts and soon encounters the office politics: her older -- and bitter -- executive assistant Cricket and resentful colleague Amanda (Bisutti). But with the help of her high school friends, Lulu (Argota) and Ryan (Shively), True quickly acclimates to the corporate culture and deals with it as if it was just another day in high school. "True Jackson, VP" will join the TEENick line-up this fall, which includes hits "Zoey 101" and "iCarly," the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked shows with tweens on all basic cable.

NBC News Names Replacement For Russert

Source:  www.thestar.com - Frazier Moore,
The Associated Press

(July 29, 2008) NEW YORK–Mark Whitaker has been named to replace Tim Russert as head of NBC News' Washington Bureau. The former Newsweek editor, who joined NBC last year as senior vice president of news, will assume many of the off-camera duties held by Russert, who died of a heart attack in June. As bureau chief, Whitaker will be in charge of "Meet the Press," as well as NBC News' election and political coverage. He also will make occasional appearances as an on-air analyst, the network said in its announcement Monday. Whitaker, 50, worked as a summer intern at Newsweek while at Harvard University in the late 1970s and did a variety of jobs at the magazine before serving as its editor from 1998 to 2006. While there, he supervised the growth of Newsweek's website, which is affiliated with NBC News' MSNBC.com. He was president of the American Society of Magazine Editors from 2004 to 2006. With Whitaker's appointment, another decision remains in filling the gap left by Russert, legendary as a multi-tasker: Who will be the permanent "Meet the Press" host? Through the November election, the semi retired Tom Brokaw, who in the past anchored ``NBC Nightly News," has stepped into the role.


A Canadian Export In Sudden Demand

Source:  www.thestar.com -
John Doyle

(July 25, 2008) Los Angeles — This is a story that goes in a circle – from Queen Street West in Toronto to Los Angeles, and back again. One recent evening, I sat down in Trader Vic's at the Beverly Hilton in L.A. to talk to Tracy Dawson, the Canadian actor, writer, comedian and playwright. We had a few laughs, because Tracy is funny and charming.

I hadn't spoken to Tracy in person for some years. And I remember the last occasion with utter clarity. It was a Friday evening about five years ago. I was having dinner at the Epicure restaurant on Queen West. It's a funky little place that, along with the Taro Grill down the street, caters to the theatre crowd coming and going to the Theatre Passe Muraille around the corner. Just after I sat down, a friend pointed and said, “I think that young woman wants to talk to you.”

I turned and there I saw Dawson, who had appeared on several Canadian shows I'd reviewed (most notably, the comedy series Go Girl! on which she was the brilliantly phlegmatic teenager, Regan) and written about favourably.

In a rush of apology, she introduced herself, reminded me I'd written nice things about her work, said she was applying for a green card to work in the United States and move to L.A., and could I possibly send my positive reviews to help the procedure. I said sure, no problem. She gushed a thank-you, an apology for intruding, and said she had to get to work at the Taro Grill, where she was waitressing.

In due course, I heard from Tracy by e-mail, and I sent the reference for her green-card application. This, by the way, is a standard but peculiar part of my job. When a Canadian applies for the green card, some endorsement about their talents that comes from an objective source – rather than an agent or work colleague – is a plus. I copy and paste what I wrote about somebody, sign it, and it goes off to some U.S. office. I've done it several times.

“Oh, I remember that,” says the Ottawa-born, 35-year-old Dawson now. “I was so focused on getting the green card, I just followed you into the restaurant and blurted it out. You must have thought I was insane.”

I didn't. I admired her drive. The green card (officially it designates a person an “alien of extraordinary ability”) eventually came, and Dawson moved to L.A. in 2005, temporarily, for the TV-pilot season. After a brief stint back in Toronto, she moved permanently in 2006.

At first, she was all nerves and uncertainty. “It was a very rude awakening,” she says. She auditioned for and got a small role on an episode of Desperate Housewives, but when she saw the script, she balked. “It called for a girl who was described as ‘plain or ugly,' and I called my agent and said, ‘I'm turning this down.' That was a mistake, I know now. I was being insane again.”

Her living arrangements were also a source of some anxiety for a while. “I usually lived in sublets,” she says, “because you get a bargain from somebody who wants to keep their apartment occupied. I'd live in a place for a week or two months. Sometimes, they were completely unfurnished. So I'd go to Target, buy some basic stuff like an air mattress and really basic furniture, and then when I moved somewhere else, I'd return it to Target. That's what it was like for ages.”

It's not like that now. “Before the writers' strike, I was getting into some very good rooms – that's the casting offices – and was starting to be known and respected in those rooms. I had a much-coveted audition for Curb Your Enthusiasm last year and almost barfed when I realized the audition was improvising with Larry David and Jeff Garlin. It was tremendous. But then the writers' strike happened, and the momentum that was building stopped, and I find myself okay with it.”

There's every reason for her to be okay with it. Because there's an irony in Dawson's situation. You see, her Canadian career is about to take off, big time. Her first full-length play, called Them and Us, will be staged at Passe Muraille during its 2008-09 season. The theatre's artistic director Andy McKim describes Them and Us as “a darkly comic world premiere about love from Tracy Dawson, a talented new voice on the scene.” And she has landed a leading role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Boys in the Photograph. It will be staged next spring in Winnipeg and is scheduled for a Toronto run next summer.

Now, Dawson is torn between two places – Los Angeles and Canada. And she's enjoying it.

“I like L.A. much more than I ever thought I would. There is so much more to this place than ballooned lips and palm trees. True, there are a lot – and I mean a lot – of wounded souls here, and that can be hard. There's both a feeling of ‘anything is possible' and the evidence of poor souls who have come here on a bus from someplace and are looking for something and didn't find it. And I can't deny that my mind doesn't wonder if I'll be pushing a cart down Hollywood Boulevard with overly rouged cheeks, muttering to myself.”

That's not going to happen, obviously. A play at Passe Muraille and a role in a major musical is the way up, not down.

Dawson describes the play as “a comic tragedy” about finding love. Four actors play 40 characters in a series of vignettes. (It hasn't been cast, but Dawson workshopped it with Tom McCamus and Allegra Fulton playing two of the roles.) “There are only two things that really influence your life, and those are love and fear,” she says. “We need love, but we have this pathological need to push people away. That's the core of the play.”

The play has been a work in progress since 2001 and came to fruition during a residency at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., last year. “It was thrilling to just be allowed to write and have no other distractions,” she says. “And there were actors there ready to read the dialogue and try things with me. When Andy McKim decided to mount the play, I'm not sure I understood at first how big a deal it was. I was back in L.A. and there were distractions. Now I'm really getting how important this is.”

One of those distractions is T&A, a Web-only comedy that Dawson created, writes and performs in, along with actor Adam Shapiro. Adult, caustic and hilarious, it's an excellent vehicle for Dawson's talent with scathing humour.

As a Second City alumnus – she got a Dora Award nomination for the Second City show Nude Beach Wear: 100 Per Cent Off in 1999 – she has focused on comedy writing and performing. She's been busy developing the T&A series into a possible TV series, and writing scripts that might suit current TV sitcoms. That means the usual L.A. routine of writing and taking meetings. It can be a lonely, anonymous existence, but Dawson says she feels lucky and supported, and other Canadian writers and performers help each other out.

And then there's the Lloyd Webber musical. Set in Northern Ireland during the sectarian troubles, it's a love story and a reworking of his earlier musical Beautiful Game.

Dawson landed the role because she was on a brief family visit back to Toronto, and out of the blue was asked to audition for the Queen musical We Will Rock You. She didn't get the part, but Ben Elton, who wrote the musical with Queen, remembered her audition. When he was casting the Winnipeg production of The Boys in the Photograph, he got in touch, and Dawson landed a major role.

“It's terrifying at first when you get a role like this in a major musical,” she says. “But now there's the play as well as the musical. Things have certainly turned. I've got a lot of stuff I'm doing, not making very much money, but I'm happy. Because I am loving the writing and the Web series, and the play is going to take me away for a while, so I'm just riding the wave and I have no idea where I'm going.”

But for now, where Tracy Dawson and her work are going is back to Canada. She'll be at Passe Muraille for the play, and we agreed we should meet up at the Epicure, to make sure the circle is complete.

Intermission In Theatre Drama

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(July 26, 2008) Sometimes the best live theatre can be found in the courtroom, and the Toronto showbiz community is on the edge of its seat awaiting the climax of the latest drama.

Its focus is the drawn-out legal battle over the sale of two downtown Toronto theatres: the
Canon and the Panasonic. At press time, a judge had yet to determine the storyline in the saga. The civil case pits Dancap Productions, a relative newcomer to the city's theatre scene, against veteran Mirvish and U.S.-based Key Brand Entertainment, which owns the Canon and Panasonic, both on Yonge St.

It will be up to Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court to decide whether to grant an injunction sought by Dancap to block the sale of those two theatres to Mirvish, though it may require a future trial to settle the matter. No date was given for Morawetz's decision, following a day-long hearing July 11.

The case "is important because we entered into a legally binding agreement with Key Brand with the promise of managing the Canadian assets, which include the Canon and Panasonic," Aubrey Dan, president of Dancap Productions, said in an interview.

David Mirvish, head of Mirvish Productions, preferred not to comment directly about the case.

"Our focus has always been and will always be to put on the best shows, to support the artists who create those shows, and to establish an environment where artists and audiences can come together. For us, it's always about what's onstage, period," Mirvish said.

In the meantime, lawyers for both sides are busy trading accusations.

"Mirvish Productions knowingly induced Key Brand to enter into a secret and illegitimate course of action ... a deliberate and knowing breach of contract," Jonathan Stainsby, representing Dancap, told the court.

"There is not one scintilla of evidence ... that there was any kind of conspiracy whatsoever," retorted John Kelly, acting for Mirvish Productions.

The stakes in the live theatre game are high for both players. A hit show at a large theatre can be immensely profitable: During a 10-year run at the former Pantages Theatre (now the Canon), The Phantom of the Opera grossed $464.8 million.

The case is awash in bulging files containing loads of emails and other documents detailing the struggle between Dan and Mirvish, most of it sealed for the time being.

But some facts are not in dispute.

In late 2007, Dancap invested $12.5 million ($5 million in cash, $7.5 million in letters of credit) for a 12.5 per cent stake in Key Brand. In exchange, Key Brand made Dan chair of Broadway Across Canada, a division of the larger Broadway Across America, which produces Broadway-style theatre.

Dancap also believed that it would acquire control over the Canon and Panasonic to stage its own live theatre shows – in direct competition with Mirvish.

Key Brand – at the time of Dancap's investment – was negotiating to acquire the assets of Live Nation, a deal that concluded in January of this year that includes the Canon and Panasonic.

Besides owning the Royal Alex and Princess of Wales theatres on King St. W., Mirvish Productions also has a 15-year lease (with Live Nation's predecessor, SFX Theatrical Group) to manage and control booking for the Canon and the Panasonic, which will expire in 2016. The agreement also gives Mirvish first option to purchase the Canon if it comes up for sale. In February, Mirvish Productions began negotiations to buy the Canon and Panasonic outright for $35 million. Dan, as a member of Key Brand, withdrew from a critical meeting that approved the sale because of a potential conflict of interest.

In April, the deal between Mirvish and Key Brand was sealed.

Dan quickly filed suit for an injunction to block the sale, believing that giving Mirvish control of the two theatres would freeze him out of the downtown core.

Dan's lawyer, Stainsby, argued Dancap's investment in Key Brand was intended to be a "springboard" aimed at "expanding significantly its presence and stature in live theatre."

Mirvish Productions has had a virtual monopoly on the high-end theatre scene, Stainsby said. Allowing Mirvish to buy the theatres would be devastating to Dancap's future, he argued.

"The bulk of the theatre-going population is downtown. My clients will be shut out of downtown Toronto, not by market forces but by design," Stainsby said.

Kelly countered that Dan's $12.5 million investment in Key Brand was a circuitous way of trying to gain control of two theatres.

"You get the impression he (Dan) wouldn't be in the deal (with Key Brand) without those theatres," Kelly said. By buying the theatres, Kelly argued, "what Mr. Mirvish did is protect his interest in his lease, which he is fully and legally entitled to do."


In the meantime, life onstage goes on. Mirvish has moved We Will RockYou from the Canon to the Panasonic and, just down Yonge St. at the city-owned Elgin, Dancap's next production, Avenue Q, opens Tuesday. Mirvish's Spamalot opens at the Canon in September.

Like Sesame Street, But With Porn

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(July 28, 2008)  It's awkward, it's frightening, it's filled with anxiety and it drags on far too long.

It's the "quarter-life crisis," a period of uncertainty and inner turmoil during the often rocky transition from school to life on the outside, and it's the major theme of
Avenue Q, a musical featuring crass puppets from Toronto's Dancap Productions. But the same descriptors are not to be applied to the quirky and comical show itself.

Avenue Q is a smash hit now starting its sixth year on Broadway and celebrating several successful international stints. Tomorrow night, the show and its gang of foul-mouthed puppets trying to find their way as young adults in New York hit the Toronto stage for the first time.

The show itself was the product of a team in crisis, so to speak. The creator-songwriters, Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, were in their 20s when they created Q, as were almost all their collaborators. But the group's efforts earned three Tony Awards in 2004.

"We weren't writing a musical about other people; we were writing about ourselves after college, trying to find our own ways in the world without our parents' money, and it's not so easy," Marx, now 38, said from Los Angeles, where he resides.

By the time Marx had rambled through a degree in musical theatre performance at the University of Michigan, seen his Broadway career stall before it started and completed a second degree at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he was full of optimism and primed for the awkwardness of quarter life, a period that - between himself, Lopez and their friends - provided plenty of real-life fodder.

"For example, there's a song called Everyone's a Little Bit Racist which came about when Bobby [Lopez] had visited his grandmother and came back and said, 'Oh my God, she is so racist.' And I said, 'We should introduce her to my grandfather. He is so racist.' And as we talked about it, we realized that some racism had been carefully taught from our grandparents to our parents and down to us."

Marx said most characters are not direct representations of real-life subjects but rather reveal aspects of each of them. The main character, Princeton, is a hybrid of Marx and Lopez emerging from their respective college programs (Lopez studied English at Yale, hence the famed song, What Do You Do With a BA in English?). Another character named Rod struggles to come out of the closet, which mirrors Marx's own tale.

Such frankness about his efforts to publicly come to terms with his sexuality proves that no topic is off limits for the duo, something that's apparent in Trekkie Monster, an ironic Sesame Street-inspired character whose unhealthy obsession with Internet porn, as opposed to cookies, is a vice Marx said both he and Lopez freely admit to indulging.

But for all of the exploration of these peripheral themes, the quarter-life crisis is primarily about the dashed hopes one has to rebuild.

"College sets you up for thinking that you're pretty special and talented and smart, and you're going to go out into the real world and set the world on fire. But the truth is ... both of us found that the harsh reality of real life is not as glamorous as we expected it to be, and it's hard to make a living," Marx said.

With three degrees, Ivy League credentials, legal training and musical talent between them, Marx was bouncing around between internships, "answering phones, getting people lunch and making Xerox copies," while Lopez was an intern at Pfizer, charged with writing letters to satisfied Viagra customers.

And though the hardships of young adulthood are no great revelation, Marx thinks the universality of the experiences fed the show's success.

"It's not just New York. ... It's everyone who turns 18 and puts off starting life by going to college. It can take place anywhere and it happens to people all around the world. We thought we were just writing for our friends, our age, people after college. But it turns out that really all generations relate to it," he said.

The appeal also comes from the familiar format of singing puppets popularized by Jim Henson's Muppets, juxtaposed with an absurd mix of wit and crassness. Marx and Lopez originally wrote the script to be an official Muppet musical, but it was turned down. So they decided to create their own puppets.

In the end, the pair broke out of their quarter-life doldrums thanks to a healthy dose of entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. And all that education - even the law degree - paid off after all, Marx said.

"When you're writing a parody of Sesame Street that uses very Henson-like puppets and uses [a puppet of child star] Gary Coleman, it certainly helps to know a thing or two about parody and copyright law."

Avenue Q runs at Toronto's

Elgin Theatre from tomorrow through Aug. 31 (416-872-5555).

Moving Canadian Play Comes 'Home' To Rwanda

Source:  www.thestar.com - Kelly Toughill,
Special To The Star

(July 28, 2008) KIGALI, RWANDA–The high wail of grief is a universal note, a keening that transcends language, culture or custom.

The first time I heard that horrible song in this beautiful land was at Gisozi, a memorial for 800,000 people killed in the Rwandan genocide 14 years ago. A man sat on a low leather stool searching a wall of small black-and-white identity cards. Suddenly his back arched; he wailed long, then slumped over in sobs.

The second time was in a small theatre tucked under a bar, beside a dry cleaner. War widow Mejra, played by actor Jacqueline Umubyeyi, cradled the corpse of her dead daughter, Ana, just dug up by Ana's killer, a young soldier named Stetko. It was a scene from
The Monument, a play about innocence, evil, responsibility and forgiveness. It is a very Rwandan story. It is also a very Canadian story, for Kigali's newest stage production was written by Toronto playwright Colleen Wagner, and produced and directed by Canadian Jennifer Harszman Caprau.

Wagner completed The Monument a year before the Rwandan genocide even began. It has been translated into seven languages and staged around the world. Even so, many here are convinced that Wagner snuck into the country to research the play, or that she was actually here to witness the killings.

"Even though Colleen had never been in Africa, the play is the history of Rwanda, of the genocide," says Jean Paul Uwayezu, who plays the lead role.

Uwayezu, 25, was 11 when Tutsuis and moderate Hutus were hunted down by neighbours, soldiers and police. His family ran for three months. One brother didn't survive. They discovered his body a year later, thrown into a latrine.

Umubyeyi, who plays the female lead, also lost family in the genocide, as did many of the audience who have come to see the play.

Caprau has wanted to stage The Monument for years. The play resonates for her personally – her mother was saved from the gas chambers by Belgian nuns who hid her through World War II – but she couldn't find the right venue. Then she came to Rwanda as part of the crew for the feature film Shake Hands With the Devil.

Caprau did an experimental reading at the Gisozi Memorial a year ago, then returned to have the play translated into Kinyarwanda and worked on adapting it to the experience of her audience.

Uwayezu says his family was horrified to hear that he was going to play the role of a killer that he was going to slip inside the skin of the kind of man who murdered his brother, tore down their home and tried to beat their father to death. But when his family came to see the play, he says, they understood.

"Before the war, Stetko was a nice guy," says Uwayezu. "He followed orders and he became a horrible person. In 1994, many of the killers were young people. They were not educated and they too followed orders."

Playwright Wagner, an associate professor of screenwriting in the film department at York University, travelled to Rwanda for the debut of her play. Even though it has been performed around the world, she says this production was special.

"Rwanda is still recovering from a genocide. It is still so alive there. That was too great an opportunity to miss, to see The Monument done in that context. I had to come."

The play shines a light on the role of women during and after war. Wagner said several women came up to thank her after the play.

"Some were moved beyond words," she says.

"Some women felt I was telling their story. Rwandans are not seeing it as a universal play ... but it is an old, old story, and an ongoing story."

'Dark Horse' Wins Maria Role

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(July 29, 2008) Elicia MacKenzie, the exuberant 23-year-old Vancouverite who went from what Andrew Lloyd Webber called "almost zero to hero" was the surprise winner last night as the CBC-TV program How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? came to a close.

"I never expected this would happen to me," MacKenzie told the Star when she had a chance to speak privately backstage. "I was shocked, I was flabbergasted, I couldn't breathe!"

The people of Canada voted for MacKenzie over Woodstock's Janna Polzin, who had seemed the favourite going in, making the young woman who said her favourite thing was "rollerblading the seawall in Stanley Park" the star of the Mirvish production of The Sound of Music opening Oct. 15 at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Host Gavin Crawford was visibly surprised as he read out MacKenzie's name and her purple-clad supporters screamed loudly as they hoisted signs that spelled "E-L-I-C-I-A," drowning out the crowd in lime green whose placards announced "I'm a Fanna Janna."

This marked the end of a process that began in January, with open auditions held across Canada. Two hundred semi-finalists soon became 50, who got to hone their skills in "Maria School" and from them 20 were picked to audition for Lloyd Webber on the stage of the Palladium Theatre in London.

After that, Lloyd Webber picked 10 who went on to further work in Salzburg and finally appeared on the six-week program. The show generated impressive ratings for the CBC, rising to an average of 732,000 on Sunday night, with more than a million viewers by the time the program ended.

Judges Elaine Overholt of Toronto and John Barrowman of London were also moved by the final choice of the viewing audience, with Overholt describing MacKenzie as "the dark horse that came up through the middle."

When the program began, MacKenzie seemed to take a back seat to some of the more seasoned talents, but her natural exuberance won over the judges as well as the people of Canada.

Shortly before the final program, Lloyd Webber said MacKenzie had "grown the most of all the girls on the program," and after her victory, he told the studio audience that "Canada had made a very, very wise choice."

Lloyd Webber felt that MacKenzie had "the most delicious quality when she sang. She's just a wonderful girl."

Producer David Mirvish said he found it all "pretty exhilarating. It's thrilling that we're going to be able to bring a new star for the people of Canada to discover."

When asked if he thought he would do this again – as Lloyd Webber had done in England – by mounting a similar casting search for the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, he responded: "I would love to see Joseph here and I feel television programs like this are valuable because they connect the whole country."

"This is my time to shine," said a beaming MacKenzie. "This is my time to keep growing and make the people of Canada proud that they chose me."


Apple Makes Big Play On IPhone And IPod

Source:  www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star

(July 26, 2008) The Apple App Store (www.itunes.ca) has barely hung out its virtual "Open for Business" sign, yet more than 125 downloadable games are already available for the iPhone 3G smartphone and iPod touch.

Taking advantage of the devices' 3.5-inch touch-screen interface and built-in tilt sensor (dubbed the "accelerometer"), these new games offer hours of fun while passing time in line at the supermarket or lazing away a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Here's a brief look at a few picks, each available for $9.99:

Have a ball with Sega's Super Monkey Ball, a fun arcade game that uses the iPhone accelerometer to control the action.

Simply tilt the iPhone and iPod touch and the ball-encased monkey rolls in a particular direction; the goal is to make it through the hoop at the end of a floating 3-D platform without falling off the edge in the process.

It might sound easy, but the levels get increasingly challenging with sharper turns, deadly drops and plenty of obstacles to bypass.

If you haven't yet wasted countless hours playing this addictive digital diversion on your PC, PopCap Games' Bejeweled 2 for the iPhone works much of the same way.

Your goal: create a horizontal or vertical line of at least three same-coloured gems by swapping adjacent ones on a grid.

Along with high-resolution graphics, this new version supports the accelerometer, which flips the screen between vertical and landscape views when the iPhone is tilted.

Namco Network's classic Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man offer an authentic arcade experience for on-the-go gamers — without needing any quarters. You know the drill: Navigate the hungry hero or heroine around a maze while avoiding the nasty ghosts.

Eating a larger power pellet, however, temporarily reverses the chase.

These new iPhone and iPod touch versions offer three different ways to control the action: the virtual d-pad, touch-screen or by using the built-in accelerometer by tilting the device in a given direction.

Electronic Arts' Scrabble is a faithful reproduction of the classic board game, with variable difficulty levels, multiple game modes and attractive graphics and animation. Players can zoom in and out using a fingertip, drag and drop tiles onto the board, or even give the iPhone a shake to shuffle tiles.

The goal, of course, is to spell out words and attempt to rack up as many points as possible per turn.

You can also partake in a "pass 'n' play" match against up to three friends beside you.


Fan Frenzy Falls In Line At Comic-Con

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
TV Columnist

(July 27, 2008) SAN DIEGO–It's tough to find an appropriate superlative, in this time and place where "super" is an essentially redundant concept. "Overwhelming" will have to do.

Welcome to "Nerdvana," more commonly known as
Comic-Con International, the public-access nexus of all that is contemporary pop culture.

It is, from an entertainment industry perspective, like shooting geeks in a barrel, as more than 125,000 of the fantasy faithful conveniently flock together to be pitched, prodded, primed and promoted, and freebied into a collective frenzy, over anything that could be even remotely construed as a hot new genre movie, TV show, videogame, collectible, wearable and, oh yes, comic.

"Hard to believe," the shuttle bus driver muses en route, having stopped to let cross a small cadre of G.I. Joes, some mini-skirted anime girls, a couple of Ghostbusters, a Spider-Man (black costume), a Joker (Heath Ledger style), and a gold-bikini Princess Leia on a leash. "This all started back in 1970 with a couple hundred fans in the basement of the U.S. Grant Hotel."

The mammoth San Diego Convention Center can barely contain what this monster has become. Nor indeed, can even the most obsessively fannish brain. Anyone who comes for the first time expecting to see it all, or even most, must quickly learn to settle for some.

And that doesn't even take into account the bizarro mall of a convention floor, an entire planet unto itself. Overlapping panel chats begin every 15 minutes or so, with queues for the most popular starting hours early, requiring advance strategic planning akin to a full-out military assault (perhaps explaining all those G.I. Joes and Star Wars stormtroopers).

You've got to be prepared to put in the time. I showed up four hours early for the most hotly-anticipated panel of the entire weekend, featuring director Zack Snyder (300) and the cast of his Watchmen, the long-awaited film adaptation of the comics masterwork.

Imagine my chagrin to find a couple thousand people had already arrived ahead of me, some apparently as early as 2 or 3 a.m.. Fortunately, the ballroom, site of most of these mob scenes, houses 6,500 (less, if a significant number are wearing Ghostbusters proton packs).

But perseverance paid off for our happy horde when we were treated to an exclusive Watchmen highlight reel twice the length of the trailer currently attached to Dark Knight, and an hour or so of gab from the director and cast (see sidebar).

Which speaks to the very heart of what Comic-Con is all about – "bragging rights," as Snyder himself put it. The chance to be first on your block, blog, or Facebook circle to sample The Next Big Thing.

And, if you're lucky, to have a collectible piece of it to take home, which requires yet another queue at a sponsored booth or what is comfortingly referred to as a "fulfillment centre." If you managed to miss out on the Watchmen panel, and the limited-edition T-shirt, and the convention-exclusive autographed poster, you could still at least ogle the film's full-scale, remarkably detailed, 9,000-lb. "Owlship," on the convention floor.

To focus, perversely, on the non-comics content (those people already know what they're into – though the "50 Years of Gay and Lesbian Legion of Superheroes Fandom" session had an intriguing ring to it), other represented movies included the Benicio Del Toro Wolfman remake, the Keanu Reeves The Day The Earth Stood Still, Seth Rogen's Pineapple Express, Steve Coogan's Hamlet 2, the movie version of the vampire novel series Twilight, a live-action G.I. Joe, and Terminator: Salvation.

Also previewed were new TV shows like Fringe, Kings, Tru Blood and Dollhouse, as well as all sorts of returning "genre" TV series (Dexter and 24 maybe, but The Office?).

Not to overlook the "digital" media: most significantly, a hands-on demo of DC Online, a still-in-development online role-playing game that will let players, and heroes they design, kick butt alongside Batman and Wonder Woman . . . a kind of Second Life with superheroes.

Or a typical day at Comic-Con.

John Hayes Is Known As One Thing: The Man Who Fired Howard Stern - Twice

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Grant Robertson

(July 25, 2008) Some of the best advice John Hayes ever got in radio came from a small sign that hung inside a station he worked at early in his career. It read: Play the hits, talk dirty, give out free money. That was the easy part; unfortunately not everything in the industry always ran so smoothly.

As he prepares to leave as president of Corus Entertainment Inc.'s radio division this summer, after seven years of restructuring that business, Mr. Hayes is being credited with helping revolutionize the industry, both in Canada and the United States.

He assisted in bringing two new formats to the dial - new country in the 1980s and adult contemporary in the 1970s. More recently, radio insiders say he has been the driving force behind a shift that will take place this fall in the way ratings are calculated in Canada.

Despite those accolades, there is one part of his legacy Mr. Hayes knows he'll never live down.

It's the part that never ran smoothly - his notorious run-ins with Howard Stern during his days as the controversial shock jock's boss at WNBC in New York.

Tales of how Corus boosted revenue at its radio operations after Mr. Hayes was brought in to whip the division into shape may not make scintillating conversation at dinner parties. But people seem to love a good Howard story.

Like the time back in 1985 when Mr. Hayes was managing WNBC and he looked up from his desk to find Mr. Stern trying to break down his office door - live on air.

"Howard had this wireless mic, and he liked to rag on the managers," Mr. Hayes recalls. "So I'm sitting in my office talking on the phone and Howard comes to the door and starts pounding on it. So I put the phone down and go unlock the door a crack, and I'm saying 'Howard, not now! Not now!' Then he starts pushing on the door and I didn't like that, so I push him out and he pushes back. And I push back."

Now immortalized in Mr. Stern's book, a subsequent movie and on the Internet, the shoving match, as it has been coined, and the pair's fractious relationship have since taken on mythic proportions - along with Mr. Stern's on-air nickname for his former boss: the Incubus.

When NBC higher-ups eventually decided they'd had enough, Mr. Hayes officially became known as The Man Who Fired Howard Stern, one of the most successful personalities in radio. "I try to point out that it wasn't really like that, word came from above," he says. "But it is what it is."

As legacies go, it's a red herring. At 58, his true impact on the business is more subtle, but far more significant. When Mr. Hayes departs Corus at the end of August, one of his biggest effects will kick in only a few weeks later.

Starting in September, Canada's radio sector will adopt a new system for tracking audience numbers that Mr. Hayes advocated for years. Pager-like devices, worn by randomly selected listeners, will be used to electronically track tuning habits. These devices will record which stations are heard throughout the day and the data will be crunched to generate ratings.

It may not sound like much, but the pagers represent a remarkable leap forward. Until now, the industry has grudgingly relied on a system of antiquated surveys filled out by volunteer listeners in an attempt to extrapolate market data. It was a process fraught with problems, since advertisers often questioned the accuracy, while station managers lived in fear that a few rogue responses could sink them.

"It's a pretty dramatic change," says Hugh Dow, president of the ad buying firm M2 Universal. "It is what radio needed, and it came with significant costs to the industry. John had to rally the rest of his counterparts at other radio groups to really steer it through. He was the force behind it."

Mr. Hayes hasn't decided what he'll do after Corus. Having completed the restructuring of its stations, a few weeks ago he told John Cassaday, the company's chief executive officer, that he was ready to move on. He may return to his roots and run his own operation - perhaps online. "I've started thinking about what I want to do for the last hurrah, if anything," he says.

The irony in leaving now, is that he won't be around when the first batch of electronic ratings come on stream in December. "I just hope John is somewhere that we can shoot him the first official numbers," says Jim MacLeod, president of BBM Canada, which will operate the new system.

Mr. Hayes was recruited to Canada when Corus needed someone to tidy up the radio division, following a period when it expanded rapidly to more than 50 stations, from 11, through several acquisitions.

His task involved deep cuts - including jobs - but the plan paid off. Since 2004, revenue at Corus Radio has grown 21 per cent to $275-million, outpaced only by its specialty TV division, which grew by a third to $436-million.

The role of clean-up man is fitting for someone who got into radio after quitting his job as a garbage collector in Buffalo. But his reputation as a turnaround artist was forged after he revived several money-losing stations by devising new formats on the dial.

It began in 1978 when he and a few executives at NBC took a struggling San Francisco station and switched the play list exclusively to soft rock. It would become the first adult contemporary format in the business, rising to No. 3 from No. 30 in a matter of months.

A decade later, Mr. Hayes pulled off a similar trick, taking a sleepy rock station in Dallas and flooding it with young country stars. At the time, no one else had thought of this, including the other stations in Dallas that were still dominated by Willie Nelson and Hank Williams. The station soon cracked the top five, poking fun at the banjo playing yokels across town. The new country format soon spread across the industry.

But Mr. Hayes knows his role as Howard Stern's much-maligned boss is probably the one he'll be remembered for. Of course, it doesn't help that when Corus cancelled Mr. Stern's show in Toronto in 2001, after complaints about lewd conduct on air, it was their new radio president, Mr. Hayes, who presided over the decision. It makes him the only man in radio to have fired the shock jock twice, in two countries.

He holds no grudges though. Looking back on that bizarre shoving match with Mr. Stern, he knows it was good for ratings. "It was just such great, funny radio," he says. And WNBC didn't even have to give out any free money that day.

JL King No Longer On 'The Down Low' (PT 1)

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(July 28, 2008)  *JL King became known as the infamous "Mr. Down Low" after he guested on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and shared the story of his double life as a loving husband who had homosexual affairs.

After writing two books on the subject, King has written a new novel called “Love on a Two Way Street,” due out tomorrow, that expects to be just as intriguing.

But the author and speaker explained that the road to the fictional project (or is it fact?) has been a bumpy, yet helpful ride.

“They say be careful what you ask for because it can either be beautiful or it can be hell. I’ve had experience in both,” King said of “coming out” about his life a few years back. “Because I came forward and pulled back a cover of a behaviour that’s been going around since the beginning of time, I then became the poster boy of that type of behavior, even though I came forward and said I’ve changed.”

King protested that even though he’s no longer on the down low, no longer one of those “brothers that lie to women,” he still can’t shake the title and the ridicule.

“I am one who wants to let people know that this type of behavior exists and it looks like me,” he said, “but the African American community did not let me change.”

King said that his wife has forgiven him, his children have forgiven him, and even the church has forgiven him – but the community as a whole has not.

“That’s not who I am anymore. People just refuse to allow me to change. For some reason, they got a rush out of being near or knowing Mr. Down Low,” he said.

King has since become an HIV/STD prevention activist, educator, and author and said that he does go into his Mr. Down Low personality as needed in those cases.

“Sometimes I’m Mr. Down Low because an organization or a health department or a group wants to see what it is to be around a person who lies about who he is,” he explained. “And then there are people that let me be this changed individual who had become an example of what other men who live on the double life should live their life and be honest with their women, and give their women a choice.”

One thing that has come out of his revelation to the world has been that he’s become an answer key in some cases too thousands of men and women who have concerns about the “down low” issue.

“About a month a go I probably received my 150,000th question from women asking me what are the signs of being on the down low. Wherever I go, whether I’m at a restaurant, a bar, or at church, women come up to me and say, ‘I want to know what are the signs. How can I tell?’ So I am in the studio right now putting together a two-hour DVD called ‘The Top 10 Down Low Signs and More.’”

King hopes the DVD will help women in particular recognize the signs of when their man is cheating, whether it be with men or women.

“And I’m hoping that that will ease the fear that a lot of our women are dealing with everyday,” he said and continued that he’s found that a number of women have fallen into an attitude of mistrust of black men, thanks in part to his books.

“They say, ‘Every black man is on the down low; every black man that came out of prison must be gay; every black man that spends time with his friends must be on the down low. Everything thing that brothers do, women are accusing them of being on the down low.”

Interestingly, King is also getting requests from men, too. He said that literally thousands of men plead with him to let sisters know that not all black men are on the down low.

“This has caused a lot of damage between men and women. It has caused a lot of unnecessary paranoia in the black community because of me coming forward and sitting with Oprah talking about my life,” he said.

But the paranoia may not be that unnecessary.

“At the same time, HIV is still running rampant,” King added. “The CDC says that the number one way is through heterosexual contact. There is still a lot to feed that fear.”

Still King assures his audiences that there is no need to be afraid of black men.

“This behavior impacts every ethnic group,” he said. “You have to be careful who you get to know. Don’t rush to go to bed with someone. Know their HIV status. Get to know them first. I tell a lot of young people when I do my HBCU tours that it’s ok to abstain from sex. You don’t have to be sexually active and you don’t need a man in your life. Learn to love yourself more and you’ll be ok.”

With the questions and suspicions, however, King said he doesn’t regret making his confession and talking about it to the world.

“I truly believe that God chose me to do this. There are thousands of men who could have told their story about being on the down low that could’ve created the same wave, but I believe that God chose me. I think that he used me and he saved me from being HIV positive and hurting my wife or anything more destructive than I did. Showed me that I could stand forward and be that poster boy and talk about my life,” he said.

King told EUR’s Lee Bailey that it’s important to him that women see him as someone who doesn’t “look” gay, but rather looks like their husbands and boyfriends. He believes that that teaches women to be responsible and not just “give up their bodies because of a look, a job, a title, or education.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do. Trying to let people know that that’s who I used to be, that’s not who I am today, that there are good brothers out there who are not lying and more importantly, it’s about behavior and going into healthy relationships.”

King’s “Top 10 Signs of Down Low Behavior” is available on July 29. Check his website at www.jlking.net.

More on JL King’s new novel is coming in EUR’s JL King profile, part 2, later this week.


Nadal Wins Rogers Cup

Source:  www.thestar.com - Kevin Mcgran, Sports Reporter

(July 27, 2008)  Rafael Nadal's amazing winning streak continues.

Nadal won the Rogers Cup — his fifth tournament victory in a row — with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Germany's Nicolas Kiefer on Sunday.

At 22 years, one month, 24 days old, the Spaniard becomes the third youngest player to win 30 ATP titles. Only Bjorn Borg (21 years, seven months, nine days) and Jimmy Connors (22 years 20 days) got to 30 wins sooner.

Nadal has also won 29 matches in a row, dating back to a second-round exit in May in Rome.

He's ranked second in the world, but could surpass Switzerland's Roger Federer next week with a win in Cincinnati.

Nadal broke Kiefer in the first set, but the match hinged on the outcome of the fifth game of the second set. It was tied 2-2 and Kiefer looked like he had a chance to break Nadal. But twice holding the advantage, Kiefer failed to land his forehand for the winner.

Kiefer held the advantage for a third time, and launched a drop shot that Nadal just got to. Nadal returned it with a backhand slam that left Kiefer flatfooted.

Nadal got the advantage back and held serve for a 3-2 lead.

In the next game with Kiefer serving, Keifer led 30-0, then double faulted twice to let Nadal back in it without hitting a ball. Nadal won the next two points to break Kiefer.

A deflated Kiefer didn't offer a challenge after that.

The Rogers Cup also found itself with a Canadian champion on Sunday.

Daniel Nestor of Toronto and partner Nenad Zimonjic won the men's double title at Rexall Centre on Sunday, beating American twins Bob and Mike Bryan.

Nestor and Zimonjic – the world's No. 1 pairing – took the match 6-2, 4-6, 10-6.

It was the pair's second win in a row. They won Wimbledon two weeks ago and have now won 14 matches in a row.

The 35-year-old Nestor, a crowd favourite, won this tournament in 2000 with fellow Canadian Sebastien Lareau. Zimonjic's preview best finish here was reaching the quarterfinals in 2006.


Final Verdict on Low Carb Diets?

Glenn Mueller
, Senior Writer/Editor

(July 18, 2008) A recent study found that people who followed a low-carb diet lost more weight than people who ate a low-fat diet.

What's more, they enjoyed lower cholesterol levels to boot. So, was Dr. Atkins right? Should people ditch their fruit for a filet mignon?

"Not so fast," says Pam Ofstein, director of Nutrition Services for eDiets.

"Low carbohydrates shouldn't mean no carbohydrates," she said. "While a low carbohydrate plan can help with weight loss, a lot depends on the types of carbohydrates and the quality of other foods included."

The study, conducted by researchers from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, found that both low-carb and Mediterranean diets were as effective as low-fat diets. Appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two-year Israeli study is one of the largest and longest of its kind to compare the effectiveness and safety of common weight-loss approaches.

The study followed 322 moderately obese subjects. Participants ate a low-fat, Mediterranean or low-carbohydrate diet. Those following a low-carb approach recorded the greatest weight loss -- averaging 10.3 pounds. Those assigned to the Mediterranean plan came in a close second losing an average of 10 pounds. The low-fat group dropped the least amount with 6.6 pounds. Encouragingly, almost 85 percent of participants actually stuck to their diets.

In addition, the low-carb approach seemed to have the best overall impact on cholesterol, while the Mediterranean approach seemed to be the most effective for controlling blood sugar.

While the results were eye-opening, there are some things to keep in mind, Ofstein said. Carbohydrate foods such as whole grains and fruits are fibre-rich and have a low glycemic impact. Including them daily can help you lose or maintain weight as opposed to eating refined carbohydrates and foods that contain low nutrient density. And of course, exercise is important to any healthy lifestyle.

"As we know with a majority of weight-loss plans, if you follow them and include activity, you can lose weight," she said. "Weight-loss plans can be individual, and what works for one person may not be the best fit for another."

Choosing an approach that works means finding a food strategy that satisfies you and that you can stick to in the long term -- which is the first step toward a lifestyle change that will help you lose weight and live healthier. A trained and accredited nutrition professional can help you match your own preferences with the right diet.

If you have questions, you can learn more by visiting the Glycemic Impact or the Mediterranean diet report cards on eDiets.

Or, you can get your diet and nutrition questions answered immediately by an eDiets Nutrition Specialist by calling 1-800-265-6170, or chat online. Nutrition Specialists are available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, and Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. You may also email to get your questions answered.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - F. W. Nichol

"When you get right down to the root of the meaning of the word 'succeed,' you find that it simply means to follow through."