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June 5, 2008

Ahhhh ... June!  How great is summer in Toronto?  Not to mention the rest of our great nation!  Mark your calendars for (and what a great Father's Day gift!) the Diary of Black Men at the Sony Centre on Friday, June 20th and Saturday, June 21st. 

Lots of great Canadian news below mixed with lots of global entertainment news! 

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



The Diary Of Black Men: “How Do You Love A Black Woman?” Friday, June 20th and Saturday, June 21st

Profile Entertainment presents Thomas Meloncon’s The Diary of Black Men on Friday, June 20th and Saturday June 21st  at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.  The shows start at 8:00 p.m.

The Diary of Black Men
delivers a strong emotive message about the relationships between black men and women.   The play provides an opportunity for both men and women to see the other’s side of the relationship issues.   

Six male actors portray the different characters: The Working Man, The Black Muslim, The Player, The Black Revolutionary, the Professional and “Slick.”  There is one woman in the play who plays a representative role and does not have any speaking lines.

Audiences will experience side-splitting humour, anger and déjà as they relate to the different vignettes played out on stage.

Billed as a “must see” for the black community, the play has had successful box office records and is considered a phenomenon by theatre audiences across the world. Since 1983, the play has been touring and entertaining audiences in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and the Caribbean.

Not only is The Diary of Black Men an entertaining theatrical performance but it is informative, educational and worthy of the many accolades it has received over the years,

Following the highly successful run of Umoja, Profile Entertainment now brings Toronto theatre audiences the longest touring play in African-American history, The Diary of Black Men.

Makes a Great Fathers Day Gift!

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
1 Front St. E. (corner of Yonge & Front St.)
Prices are: $67.50, 57.50, $47.50 and $37.50.
Tickets: (416) 872-2262 or CLICK HERE

For Group rates call 416.751.1717


Canucks Defenceman Luc Bourdon Killed

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 29, 2008) SHIPPAGAN, N.B.–Luc Bourdon, a promising rookie defenseman with the Vancouver Canucks, was killed Thursday when his motorcycle struck a tractor-trailer in a crash near his hometown. He was 21.

His death was confirmed by sister Eve Bourdon and stepmother Maryse Godin. Both declined further comment when reached at the family's home in Shippagan.

Police wouldn't confirm the identity of the victim but said a motorcyclist was killed in the early afternoon on a road between Shippagan and Lameque.

"Luc was an extremely talented player with a bright future," Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said in a statement. "He brought great passion to the game and was a valued team member on and off the ice."

Bourdon's agent, Kent Hughes, called his client a winner and a competitor.

"There was no quit in him," said Hughes, who knew Bourdon since the player was 15. "He persevered through a lot. He was a great guy and a great teammate."

Bourdon was the first-round draft pick of the Canucks in 2005, selected 10th overall. He split time this season with the Canucks and the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League. In 27 games with the Canucks, he scored twice and had no assists.

"Through hard work and perseverance, Luc was able to realize his dream of becoming an NHL player," Paul Kelly, executive director of the players' union. "Luc had a promising life and career ahead of him and he will certainly be missed."

Bourdon played on the Canadian team that won the gold medal at the 2006 world junior hockey championship in Vancouver and made the tournament's all-star team. He helped Canada win another gold at the 2007 tournament in Sweden.

Bourdon played for Val d'Or, Moncton and Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before turning pro.

Actor Harvey Korman Dead At 81

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Bob Thomas, Associated Press

(May 29, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Harvey Korman, the tall, versatile comedian who won four Emmys for his outrageously funny contributions to The Carol Burnett Show and played a conniving politician to hilarious effect in Blazing Saddles, died Thursday. He was 81.

Korman died at UCLA Medical Center after suffering complications from the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm four months ago, his family said. He had undergone several major operations.

“He was a brilliant comedian and a brilliant father,” daughter Kate Korman said in a telephone interview. “He had a very good sense of humour in real life. “

A natural second banana, Korman gained attention on The Danny Kaye Show, appearing in skits with the star. He joined the show in its second season in 1964 and continued until it was cancelled in 1967. That same year he became a cast member in the first season of The Carol Burnett Show.

Burnett and Korman developed into the perfect pair with their burlesques of classic movies such as Gone With the Wind and soap operas like As the World Turns (their version was called As the Stomach Turns).

Another recurring skit featured them as “Ed and Eunice,” a staid married couple who were constantly at odds with the wife's mother (a young Vickie Lawrence in a grey wig). In Old Folks at Home, they were a combative married couple bedevilled by Lawrence as Burnett's troublesome young sister.

Korman revealed the secret to the long-running show's success in a 2005 interview: “We were an ensemble, and Carol had the most incredible attitude. I've never worked with a star of that magnitude who was willing to give so much away.”

Burnett was devastated by Korman's death, said her assistant, Angie Horejsi.

“She loved Harvey very much,” Horejsi said.

After 10 successful seasons, Korman left Burnett's show in 1977 for his own series. Dick Van Dyke took his place, but the chemistry was lacking and the Burnett show was cancelled two years later. The Harvey Korman Show also failed, as did other series starring the actor.

“It takes a certain type of person to be a television star,” he said in that 2005 interview. “I didn't have whatever that is. I come across as kind of snobbish and maybe a little too bright. ... Give me something bizarre to play or put me in a dress and I'm fine.”

His most memorable film role was as the outlandish Hedley Lamarr (who was endlessly exasperated when people called him Hedy) in Mel Brooks' 1974 Western satire, Blazing Saddles.

“A world without Harvey Korman – it's a more serious world,” Brooks said on Thursday. “It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we'd crash to floor in comic ecstasy. It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh.”

He also appeared in the Brooks comedies High Anxiety, The History of the World Part I and Dracula: Dead and Loving It, as well as two Pink Panther movies, Trail of the Pink Panther in 1982 and Curse of the Pink Panther in 1983.

Korman's other films included Gypsy, Huckleberry Finn (as the King), Herbie Goes Bananas and Bud and Lou (as legendary straightman Bud Abbott to Buddy Hackett's Lou Costello). He also provided the voice of Dictabird in the 1994 live-action feature The Flintstones.

In television, Korman guest-starred in dozens of series including The Donna Reed Show, Dr. Kildare, Perry Mason, The Wild Wild West, The Muppet Show, The Love Boat, The Roseanne Show and Burke's Law.

In their '70s, he and Tim Conway, one of his Burnett show co-stars, toured the country with their show Tim Conway and Harvey Korman: Together Again. They did 120 shows a year, sometimes as many as six or eight in a weekend.

Korman had an operation in late January on a non-cancerous brain tumour and pulled through “with flying colours,” Kate Korman said. Less than a day after coming home, he was re-admitted because of the ruptured aneurysm and was given a few hours to live. But he survived for another four months.

“He fought until the very end. He didn't want to die. He fought for months and months,” said Kate Korman.

Harvey Herschel Korman was born Feb. 15, 1927, in Chicago. He left college for service in the U.S. Navy, resuming his studies afterward at the Goodman School of Drama at the Chicago Art Institute. After four years, he decided to try New York.

“For the next 13 years I tried to get on Broadway, on off-Broadway, under or beside Broadway,” he told a reporter in 1971.

He had no luck and had to support himself as a restaurant cashier. Finally, in desperation, he and a friend formed a nightclub comedy act.

“We were fired our first night in a club, between the first and second shows,” he recalled.

After returning to Chicago, Korman decided to try Hollywood, reasoning that “at least I'd feel warm and comfortable while I failed.”

For three years he sold cars and worked as a doorman at a movie theatre. Then he landed the job with Kaye.

In 1960, Korman married Donna Elhart and they had two children, Maria and Christopher. They divorced in 1977. Two more children, Katherine and Laura, were born of his 1982 marriage to Deborah Fritz.

In addition to his daughter Kate, he is survived by his wife and the three other children.

40,000 Videos, Reels Destroyed In Universal Studios Fire

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(June 01, 2008) UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.–A large fire tore through a back lot at Universal Studios early Sunday, destroying a set from Back to the Future, the King Kong exhibit and thousands of videos and reels in a vault.

The blaze broke out on a sound stage at the theme park in a set featuring New York brownstones facades around 4:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m. EST, at the 400-acre property, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said. The fire was contained to the lot but still burning several hours later.

Roughly 40,000 to 50,000 videos and reels were in the video vault, but there are duplicates stored in a different location, said Ron Meyer, NBC Universal president and chief operating officer. Firefighters managed to recover hundreds of those titles from the vault.

"Nothing is lost forever," Meyer said.

The videos included every film that Universal has produced and footage from television series including Miami Vice and I Love Lucy.

The iconic courthouse square from Back to the Future was also destroyed, Freeman said, and the famous clock tower that enabled Michael J. Fox's character to travel through time was damaged.

Two mock New York and New England streets used both for movie-making and as tourist displays were a total loss, said Darryl Jacobs, Los Angeles County fire inspector.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and no initial damage estimates were given.

The park reopened on Sunday afternoon. On a typical weekend day about 25,000 people visit Universal Studios.

However, studio tram tours planned to avoid the King Kong attraction, a favourite stop where the ape bellows at passengers and an artificial banana scent fills the air, said Universal Studios spokesperson Eliot Sekuler.

Hundreds of visitors waited outside the park gates Sunday morning, where acrid smoke lingered, providing an eerie backdrop. Fire officials didn't believe air quality would pose a health hazard to the public.

Mike Herrick of San Diego watched the fire on television from his hotel before deciding to return to Universal Studios for a second day with his wife.

"By gosh, we're going to go and get whatever we can out of it," Herrick said. On Saturday, Herrick had ridden the tram that winds around the studio lot, snapping photos of the King Kong attraction, among other sights.

The fire will not affect the 2008 MTV Movie Awards, which is to be broadcast live Sunday night from the Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City, according to the music network.

The fire broke out along New York Street, where firefighting helicopters swept in for drops and cranes dumped thousands of gallons of water on flames in the early morning. More than 100 firefighters worked to ensure the flames didn't spread to nearby brush.

At least one building had burned and as many as three blocks of movie facades were destroyed, Jacobs said. A thick column of smoke rose thousands of feet into the air.

At one point the blaze was two city blocks wide, and low water pressure forced firefighters to get reserves from lakes and ponds on the property. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.

"The water pressure situation was a challenge," Freeman said. ``This fire moved extremely fast.''

Universal Studio, 14 kilometres north of downtown Los Angeles, has thrill rides and a back lot where movies and television shows are filmed, including scenes from War of the Worlds, When Harry Met Sally and Scrubs.

A commercial shoot was going on when the fire broke out, Sekuler said.

A major fire erupted at Universal Studios in November 1990, destroying sets for several TV and movie productions, including Dick Tracy and The Sting and causing $25 million in damage. A security guard was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to starting the blaze.

We Remember Bo Diddley

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 3, 2008) *Rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley, whose hits include such timeless classics as "Who Do You Love," and "Before You Accuse Me," died Monday of heart failure at his home in Archer, Florida. He was 79. In May 2007, Diddley suffered a stroke during a concert in Iowa and was hospitalized in Omaha, Nebraska. In August 2007 he had a heart attack in Florida.  More than 35 of his family members were at his home when he died at about 1:45 a.m. His passing was not unexpected, according to Diddley's grandson Garry Mitchell. "There was a gospel song that was sang and he said 'wow' with a thumbs up," Mitchell told Reuters, when asked to describe the scene at Diddley's deathbed. "The song was 'Walk Around Heaven' and in his last words he stated that he was going to heaven." Diddley's career in rock-n-roll spanned more than five decades and was distinguished by his special rumba-like rhythm, which came to be known as the "Bo Diddley beat."  Toting a signature rectangle guitar, Diddley and contemporaries Chuck Berry and Little Richard were among a pioneering group of black recording artists who crossed the American racial divide with music that appealed to white audiences and was emulated by white performers. The artist was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and collected a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 1998. Born Ellas Bates in 1928 in McComb, Mississippi, he took the last name McDaniel from his adoptive mother, and played classical violin as a boy. He was given the nickname Bo Diddley as a teenager after moving to Chicago, where he started playing music on street corners in the 1940s. His agency said public and private services are planned for this weekend.

Barack Obama Is The Democratic Presidential Nominee

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2008) *It's official. Illinois
Senator Barack Hussein Obama can now say he is the Democratic Party's nominee to run against the Republican Party's nominee John McCain in November.

Obama's claim to the nomination is also historic because it marks the first time that a black person has ever headed the ticket of a major American political party.

"America, this is our moment," the 46-year-old senator said in his first appearance as the Democratic nominee-in-waiting. "This is our time; our time to turn the page on the policies of the past."  (Read the full text of Obama's nomination victory speech here.)

Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton praised him in an appearance before her supporters, although she neither acknowledged his victory in their gruelling march through the primaries nor did she offer any concessions.

Instead, she said she was committed to a unified party, and said she would spend the next few days determining "how to move forward with the best interests of our country and our party guiding my way."

But at what price? Or more succinctly, what does she want? That's what a lot of watchers are asking. Of course the general thinking is that the former First Lady is angling for a spot on the ticket as Obama's vice presidential running mate.

Meanwhile, Obama's victory set up a five-month campaign with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a race between a first-term Senate opponent of the Iraq War and a 71-year-old Vietnam prisoner of war and staunch supporter of the current U.S. military mission.

McCain spoke first, in New Orleans, and he accused his younger rival of voting "to deny funds to the soldiers who have done a brilliant and brave job" in Iraq." Americans, he added, should be concerned about the judgment of a presidential candidate who has not traveled to Iraq yet "says he's ready to talk, in person and without conditions, with tyrants from Havana to Pyongyang."

McCain agreed with Obama that the presidential race would focus on change.

"But the choice is between the right change and the wrong change, between going forward and going backward," he said.

Obama responded quickly, pausing in his own speech long enough to praise Clinton for "her strength, her courage and her commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight."

As for his general election rival, he said, "It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 percent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year. It's not change when he offers four more years of Bush economic policies that have failed to create well-paying jobs. ... And it's not change when he promises to continue a policy in Iraq that asks everything of our brave young men and women in uniform and nothing of Iraqi politicians."

Obama sealed his nomination, according to The Associated Press tally, based on primary elections, state Democratic caucuses and support from party "superdelegates." It takes 2,118 delegates to clinch the nomination at the convention in Denver this summer, and Obama had 2,154 by the AP count.


South Africa Reserve Is One Wild Neighbourhood

Source: www.thestar.com - Special To The Star

(May 29, 2008) PHINDA, South Africa–The two sets of eyes in the tall grass reflect the beams from our open 4x4's headlights. Little else is visible in the downpour that we all agree later is one of the worst any of us have ever endured. But a bolt of lightning reveals something even closer – a lion, lying just two metres away.

Much too close for comfort, I think, knowing there is no time for our ranger to grab the rifle mounted in front of the steering wheel, let alone get off a shot should the beast decide he wants to dine in the rain.

But he and the two lionesses in front could not care less about their night-time intruders.

Still, I find unsettling my first major contact in the wild, despite our earlier briefing from Ranger Mo.

"The animals see only the vehicle," he assures us. "As far as they're concerned, the 4x4 is neither prey nor a predator. Just don't stand up or make any sudden movement that will make the animal focus on you as a human."

Mo adds, "Humans are considered a threat."

A few hours later, now dry and sipping a beer, Mo sympathizes with the lion.

"That poor guy," he says, "was trying to keep warm by putting his paws underneath his body. I've never seen a lion so unhappy."

I hadn't noticed.

We are visiting Forest Lodge at Phinda Private Game Reserve, a luxury 16-room eco-tourism resort in KwaZulu-Natal province in northeast South Africa. There are four of us, including my wife and two teenage boys.

The magic of Phinda begins seconds after a guard opens the gate into the 25,000-hectare (250 square kilometres) reserve. We drive less than 50 metres before seeing the first of many nyala, an antelope with such striking differences between the male and female that they seem to belong to different species. Warthogs scamper across the dirt road on our five-minute drive to Forest Lodge, one of six small resorts in the award-winning (for conservation, community work and accommodation) reserve where we are staying for two nights.

There is no cumbersome registration procedure – we are expected. The open dining area overlooks a field where impala are grazing.

"Please remember to stay on the paths at all times," says Mo. "And after dark, don't go anywhere without a security guard."

Phinda opened in 1991 and just one visitor has been lost since then, a French woman who ignored the rules and wandered off on her own at night and stumbled upon a pride of lions.

We meet Mo that afternoon at four for our first game drive. Luckily, no one else is assigned to him and his tracker, Zidele Dlamini. All three rows of seats in the Land Rover are ours.

Zidele, 39, an anti-poaching unit veteran, is perched on a jump seat extending from the car's front. He swings his head back and forth as he points out a zebra here or a purple-breasted turaco there.

"He's our eyes and ears," says Mo. "He knows how the animals think."

Mo will drive us in search of any animal, or anything else for that matter, that interests us. Our desires are fairly typical: lions, elephants, giraffes and cheetah.

"Okay," he says, "let's go," the clouds darkening above.

Within half an hour we find a rare black rhino, one of several species that Phinda has helped rehabilitate. There are just 4,000 left in the world. A bonus: there's also a white rhino mom with her calf. We drive into the high grass to get a closer look. Out of respect for the flora, rangers drive off road only for big cats or black rhinos.

"You're really spoiled," Mo tells us. "I've tracked black rhino for three days without finding one."

The sun has set, and rain is beginning to fall. There is lightning here and there, but not too close. Are we still interested in pursuing an earlier lion sighting? Sure, why not.

Within moments we are climbing a plateau. The road has all but disappeared. The car gets stuck between some rocks. Mo wants to get out and survey the situation. But Zidele shakes his head no, motions for him to remain seated and points ahead to the pair of eyes.

Mo joins us for a tasty kudu casserole dinner. Born and raised in Durban, Mo, 32, is a former surf shop manager who has been coming to the bush since he was six months old. To qualify as a ranger, he underwent more than six months of rigorous training. For one of his final tests, he had to take 12-hour, unarmed walks for 10 days in a row.

"A rifle gives you a false sense of security," he says. "You need to learn how to use your eyes and ears to understand the signs of the wild."

One day, he stumbled upon a lion.

"He let me know I was too close, so I walked around him." Another time, he climbed a tree to let some water buffalo and rhinos pass.

Wake-up call at Phinda is at 5:30 a.m. for a six o'clock drive, after a cup of tea and biscuit. Today, we are on a cheetah hunt. It doesn't take long to pinpoint a mother and two cubs. But, typical of cats, they lie and sleep for 20 hours a day.

Nearby, we find the lions from last night. They have moved some five kilometres from their stormy hilltop, but they, too, are simply resting.

We stop for coffee in the bush. In less than a minute, Mo and Zidele combine to unfold a table, with tablecloth, and an array of drinks, both hot and cold. I have begun to relax, no longer looking warily over my shoulder.

We have now seen two of the so-called Big Five: lions and rhinos. The others in this group, named by early big-game hunters for their difficulty to track down and kill, are buffalo, elephants and leopards.

"But there's so much more here than the Big Five," says Mo. "There's smaller animals; there's the trees, the birds, the butterflies and snakes. If you appreciate that, the bush is a never-ending storybook."

On our final outing, we hope for elephants. Unfortunately, Phinda's main herd has moved that day into a no-man's valley, inaccessible even to 4x4s. But a radio call from another ranger alerts us to two wandering bulls.

We speed off, whizzing by giraffes, zebras and various antelope that are now becoming old hat.

Zidele examines some dung, but it's hours old and elephants, unlike most of the other animals we have been pursuing, don't travel in predictable paths. Mo wants to drive one way, but Zidele waves him off and tells him to turn the car around. As he does, my younger boy beats Zidele to the punch.

"I see it," he shouts. And there it is, swinging its trunk at the leaves on a slope several hundred metres away. We admire his majesty through our binoculars before heading off.

In less than a minute, Zidele stops us again. He sees a rare sight: a cheetah on the move. We follow alongside. The cheetah barely notices. We circle ahead of him and wait as he approaches and marches elegantly by, just a couple of metres away. Mo points to his distended stomach and tells us, to my relief, that he is in no imminent need of food.

Four hours later, Mo drives us to the 1,000-metre private airstrip where a Cessna takes us on the two-hour flight to Johannesburg and the journey home. As we take off, we see Mo at the end of the runway, shooing away the giraffes and warthogs.

Michael Benedict is a Toronto-based freelance writer.


HipHopCanada Launches New Digital Record Label

Source: www.hiphopcanada.com

HipHopCanada Inc., Canadas largest national hip-hop website, announced today the expansion and continuing investment in Canadian urban artists with the launch of a new record label, HipHopCanada Digital Inc (HHC Digital). HHC Digital will be announcing its official roster shortly and will be available on 100 digital retail locations, including its own popular website, HipHopCanada.com starting July, 2008.

The label has announced it has signed an exclusive worldwide digital distribution agreement via KOCH Entertainment. KOCH Entertainment Canada is the leading independent audio and video distributor in Canada. KOCH Entertainment Canada is a division of publicly traded global independent entertainment content ownership and distribution company Entertainment One Ltd.

Emerging artists within the HHC community will have new opportunities in both the domestic and international marketplace via HHC Digital's distribution arrangement with KOCH. Co-President of HipHopCanada Digital and Founder of HipHopCanada.com, Jesse Plunkett commented on the overall objective of introducing the new label,
Building on KOCH's past successes at digital retail and focused marketing and promotion, HHC's upcoming digital release schedule will introduce the largest catalogue of high quality Canadian hip-hop to the international marketplace."

Dominique Zgarka, President of KOCH Entertainment Canada and KOCH Digital says,
The addition of HipHopCanada.com to our growing list of independent labels is a clear indication of the importance of digital distribution for the indie market, the fastest growing segment of the music industry today. We expect significant revenue growth as this market expands and more signings of this nature as we move forward. We welcome HipHopCanada to our family. KOCH digital represents some of the world's finest labels including Metal Blade, Relapse, Savoy, Denon, Stones Thro, Decon, SMC Recordings, Green Street, Thrive, Tilt Rock, DPTV, Fat Beats, and KOCH Records among others.

"KOCH is a major force in music distribution, and we are thrilled that they share our vision to strengthen the opportunities for hip-hop artists from Canada," said Maurice Laurin, HipHopCanada Digital's Co-President. "We believe selling digital music on a worldwide level is definitely a step in the right direction for the growth of Canadian hip-hop."

"HipHopCanada has built up a strong brand and core relationships within the urban community in Canada. We're excited about this deal with them and hope it can be a launching pad for Canadian urban artists," says KOCH Entertainment Label Manager Jay Devonish.

About HipHopCanada Digital Inc.

HipHopCanada Digital Inc. is a Canadian urban record label and was officially launched in May of 2008. The label is brought to you by the people behind Canada
s leading online hip-hop publication and community, HipHopCanada.com. The website has been awarded the honour of Best Online Publication on numerous occasions at the Canadian Urban Music Awards and has been featured and/or referenced on Canadas largest news networks on several occasions including CBC, GlobalTV, CTV, CityTV, the National Post, and MuchMusic.

About KOCH Entertainment

Independent Distributor of the Year (1996 - 2002, 2004-2007)

The North American operation of KOCH Entertainment is the dominant force in independent music and video distribution. KOCH Entertainment Canada is home to various diverse audio lines such as Metal Blade, Relapse Records, Hopeless Records, Putumayo, Smithsonian Folkways, DPTV, Savoy Jazz, Stones Throw Records, VP Records, Duck Down Records and many more.

About Entertainment One (LSE: ETO)

Admitted to trading on AIM on 29 March 2007, Entertainment One Ltd's strategy is to build a leading global independent entertainment content ownership and distribution business which acquires films, television programs and music content and exploits these rights in all media throughout the world. Entertainment One is the largest distributor of home entertainment products in the Canadian market. Following the acquisition of Seville Entertainment in Canada on 20 August 2007, it also has a significant presence in the theatrical and international sales markets. Outside Canada Entertainment One owns KOCH Entertainment, the largest independent record label in North America and a leading independent distributor of music and video in North America and Contender, one of the leading independent UK distributors of filmed entertainment. On January 9th, 2008 Entertainment One purchased RCV Entertainment. RCV is the leading independent film distributor in the Dutch and Belgium market. http://www.entertainmentone.ca and http://www.entertainmentonegroup.com

Family Affair For Apache

Source: www.thestar.com - Prithi Yelaja,
Staff Reporter

(May 29, 2008) Fans of Apache Indian, a.k.a. Steven Kapur, are in for a double treat this weekend when the British Punjabi singer headlines DesiFest with son Kelvin.

Kapur – who burst onto the music scene in 1993 with the hit single "Arranged Marriage" from his album No Reservations – is all grown up, with a 22-year-old son to prove it. His progeny, who goes by the stage name Kayvew, has already released three rap albums and is about to launch his first music video, Kapur, 41, reveals.

"It's going to be a family show. We have lots of positive messages to spread. I'm going to be singing all the songs from back in the day," says Kapur.

Apache Indian will be among nearly 40 acts performing at the second annual DesiFest, a 12-hour musical extravaganza in Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday.

Best known for fusing raggamuffin and bhangra with influences from mainstream pop and hip hop, Kapur sings in a patois of English, Punjabi and Hindi. His biggest commercial success was the 1992 hit "Boom Shak-A-Lak," which has been featured in more than 50 TV commercials and five Hollywood movies, including Dumb and Dumber and Scooby Doo 2.

He has also collaborated with artists as diverse as Boy George, Boyz II Men and Indian playback singers Asha Bhosle and A.R. Rahman.

Born in Britain to immigrant parents from Jalandhar, India, Kapur has used his music to raise awareness about social issues ranging from the caste system and arranged marriage to alcoholism and AIDS.

"My music just represents life, really – sometimes it's happy, sometimes it's sad," says Kapur, who used to work as a welder.

"I had bits and pieces of criticism when I first started, but I'm not trying to disrespect the culture. Times are changing and we have to re-evaluate things we grew up with. ... My music is a reflection of who I am and what I see around me."

He made headlines in Britain last year when he lashed out at what he called a resurgence of rampant racism there.

"The war on terrorism is backfiring on the Indian community in the U.K. in a big way. You used to hear about racism from your parents when they came in the '60s, and when we were growing up in the '80s it wasn't so bad, but now it's back again. ... With terrorism and immigration problems, it breeds racism."

His sense of outrage, coupled with a midlife crisis, almost pushed him to move his family to India, where his music is hugely successful. Instead, he just bought a house in Goa and visits several times a year.

"My music has helped me reconnect to my culture. I never used to speak that much Punjabi. Going back to India and Jalandhar and the villages, I've been able to get back into the culture and who I am and where I came from."

Kapur is excited about performing in Toronto again after a gap of six years. "People are really excited with our Asian sound and language and culture there," he says.

"Right from the beginning we had a lot of support from Toronto. It's one of my favourite places. I've got so many friends and fans there."

Just the facts
WHAT: DesiFest
WHO: 40 South Asian singers and dancers, mostly based in Canada
WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
WHERE: Yonge-Dundas Square

Najee Brings His Unique Style Back To Toronto

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

(May 30, 2008) More than a decade since his last Toronto performance, smooth jazz saxist/flautist Najee returns with a sextet tomorrow at Lula Lounge.

The New York native started off in the backing bands of vocalists Chaka Khan and Freddie Jackson before making his album debut with Najee's Theme in 1986. His unique blend of instrumental R&B, funk and soul sold well and ranked consistently in Billboard's Contemporary Jazz Albums Top 10.

The 51-year-old married father of six, who divides his time between homes in Orlando and L.A., has just released his 11th record, Rising Sun. He spoke with the Star from a Birmingham, Ala., tour-stop.

Q. What can we expect from your Toronto concert?

A. A couple songs from Rising Sun and a lot of stuff from my most popular albums. The show is very different than what people hear on the records. When people hear jazz they think it's a sit down and chill concert, but it's really more lively than that.

Q. How did you pick the two covers on the new disc?

A. I'm a John Mayer fan; I've always liked "Clarity" and wanted to see if it would work on the saxophone. And as a youngster growing up in New York City I used to listen to ... "Moody's Mood For Love." That song has been in my head ever since I was a little kid.

Q. Why do you always include vocals on your albums?

A. Jazz needs to be accessible to people that will support it financially. I hear some critics say "it's not straight-ahead, its not traditional," but we have to make music that's relevant to people's experience. The music that Miles and Trane did will always be in our culture, but (today) that may not be what the market is calling for.

Q. Did those criticisms sting?

A. They used to, but now I make no apologies. I'm pretty comfortable with who I've become.

Q. Having studied with the likes of Jimmy Heath and Frank Foster you're obviously versed in straight-ahead jazz, do you ever play that style?

A. Occasionally. I've done a couple of albums with legendary jazz organist Charles Earland. I played on a 1998 album (Live at the Greek) with Stanley Clarke, Billy Cobham and Larry Carlton. I also performed ... with Quincy Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival with Herbie Hancock and George Duke and we ... do straight-ahead.

Q. What are your pursuits away from music?

A. Aviation has always been my first love. ... I haven't gotten my pilot's licence, but I can fly very small, light recreational planes.

Q. Sounds dangerous.

A. (Laughs) Every time you get in there you make your little prayer and you just go.

Just the facts
Who: Najee
When: Friday 8 & 10 p.m.
Where: 1585 Dundas St. W.
Tickets: $30 @ ticketweb.ca

Jazmine Sullivan Heats Up The Airwaves

Source: Antero Fail / RCA Music Group, antero.fail@sonybmg.com 

(June 2, 2008)  *With a distinctive vocal style that's rich and full of conviction, J Records' latest signing, Jazmine Sullivan, is set to heat up the airwaves this summer with her smash new single "Need U Bad." 

The infectious reggae-tinged single, written by Jazmine and produced by Missy Elliott and Lamb, impacted urban mainstream radio stations last week. "Need U Bad" is currently available on iTunes.

Demure but dangerous, Jazmine's frank, take-no-prisoners approach to songwriting, coupled with her passionate delivery, will quickly establish her as the one to watch this year and years to come. 

While her self-penned lyrics on "Bust Your Windows," "One Night Stand," "Call Me Guilty" and "In Love With Another Man,"  may raise a few eyebrows, music production by Missy, Salaam Remi, Jack Splash, Tricky, Wyclef, Stargate and more, will keep listeners captivated throughout her forthcoming debut disc.

While in the process of recording and promoting her album, Jazmine will give fans an inside look into her life by leaving voice mail updates along her journey.   Fans can call Jazmine at (215) 789-4753 to hear her updates and leave messages.

Singing since the age of five, the Philly native made her first national televised appearance on Showtime at the Apollo at the age of 11.  As Jazmine continued to hone and define her vocal dexterity, she quickly gained a legion of fans during her jaw-dropping live sets at her hometown's popular Black Lily showcases, where artists such as Jill Scott, Musiq, and Floetry performed before they became national recording artists. 

With a track record of amazing live performances, songwriting credits for Christina Milian's "Say I," and background vocal appearances on several albums, including Missy's forthcoming  album, there's no question that the sassy 21 year-old Jazmine is prepared to introduce the world to her unique brand of bold and beautiful music with a rebellious spirit. 

Check out Jazmine Sullivan via her MySpace page: www.myspace.com/jazminesullivan

Blowing Minds, Not Woofers

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(May 31, 2008)  A record-label man doubles as an usher, herding a small, lightly shuffling group of music journalists into a listening room. “Sit anywhere,” he says, motioning to nicely stuffed chairs. “You can sit in the back too,” he says, “because we blew out the rear speakers at the last session.”

Coldplay, the band whose colourful hit rhymes with mellow, is now rupturing woofers? While I picture straws breaking camels' backs, the lights go down and the album – with the two-minded title Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends – arrives with the rising swirl of Life in Technicolor, which mixes a strumming acoustic guitar and arpeggiated Baba O'Riley synthesizers. The effect is similar to the instrumental start to U2's Joshua Tree, co-produced by same Brian Eno who co-produced this album.

Eno's influence on the new Coldplay is profound. And by “new Coldplay,” I mean “different Coldplay.” The elegant ballads, airy crooning and life-affirming choruses of the past are not abandoned as much underplayed.

Due to be released on June 17, Viva La Vida (Long Live Life) is structured with meticulous concern, and is more adventurous and atmospheric than its high-selling predecessors Parachutes (8 million copies worldwide), A Rush of Blood to the Head (11 million) and 2005's X&Y (10 million). An epiphany came to singer Chris Martin after listening to a droning, off-kilter song by Blur, Sing ( To Me). “I remember hearing it and thinking ‘OK, we need to get better as a band,' ” Martin recently recalled.

Group vocals were recorded in an ancient Barcelona monastery; the title track employs strings, kettle drums and church bells; Strawberry Swing bears the influence of Malian blues; a piano is actually jaunty on Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love. “When a band gets to its fourth album there's little surprise left in the singer's voice,” Martin told a television interviewer. “We wanted to make sure we didn't sound the same as we did four years ago.”

Mission accomplished. This sonically grand fourth album makes the first three look like a light-rock trilogy in retrospect.

Lyrically, there is a preoccupation with ghosts and existentialism. “Time is so short,” Martin ponders on the elaborate 42, “I'm sure there must be something more.”

The album closes as it began. The Escapist, one of two “hidden” tracks, samples from the disc's rippling, synthesized introduction. “And in the end,” Martin sings, “we lie awake and we dream of making our escape.” An idea on life's meaning also applies to a band's run for higher artistic credibility. Coldplay doesn't wish to wreck speakers and cash registers, but to blow minds.

Disco Diva Donna Summer Is Back

Source: PRNewswire

(May 29, 2008) NEW YORK -- Celebrating four decades of milestones,
Donna Summer adds another accomplishment to her list with the success of her new album "CRAYONS."

The album debuted at #17 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart making it Summer's highest debuting album ever. It also debuted at #5 on the Billboard R&B chart -- another personal best.

"Crayons" is Donna's first album of all new studio material in 17 years and is her highest charting album since "She Works Hard For The Money" in 1983.

Adding to her list of accomplishments is the recent success "I'm A Fire," the first single from "Crayons" which rose to #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Charts making it her 13th #1 single to top the club charts and her 19th #1 charting single across all charts.

Donna Summer is the only artist to have had a #1 charting dance hit in every decade since the 1970s. "I'm A Fire" was remixed by several remixers including Solitaire, Craig C, Rod Carillo, Redtop, Matty Soulflower and Baggi Begovic & Soul Conspiracy. The Rocasound original version is found on the full album.

Containing a potent mix of the up-tempo tunes and ballads, "Crayons" showcases incredible new material, all co-written by Donna (who wrote or co-wrote the majority of her hits of the 70's and 80's).

Working with Donna were renowned writers and producers including: Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Pink), Danielle Brisebois (Natasha Bedingfield, New Radicals), JR Rotem (Sean Kingston, Rihanna), Toby Gad (Fergie, Natasha Bedingfield), Evan Bogart (co-writer of Rihanna's smash "SOS" and the son of legendary record executive, Casablanca Records founder and Donna's mentor, Neil Bogart), and Lester Mendez (Shakira, Santana).

Donna describes the background of the title "Crayons" and the aesthetic of the album as "a menagerie of colors and styles, with hints of different ethnic traditions and sounds. My dream is that when people hear the music it will remind them of their youth, their childhood and the joy and wonderment they felt exploring their first pack of Crayons."

Donna's long list of musical accomplishments include: 19 #1 Billboard singles, 12 Gold and Platinum singles, 5 Grammy Awards, 6 American Music Awards, 2 Double Platinum albums, 1 Platinum album, 8 Gold albums. Her song "Last Dance" won both Oscar and Golden Globe awards.

 Hong Kong Star Loves Loyal Fans

Source: www.thestar.com - Nicholas Keung,
Staff Reporter

(May 31, 2008) It doesn't happen too often when you have a jet-lagged superstar telling a handler to give a reporter more time for an interview.

But it is that easygoing and grounded character that has made Hong Kong Cantopop and Mandopop icon
Leo Ku Kui-Kei a darling to his fans worldwide, including those who filled 10,000 seats at Toronto's Rogers Centre last night.

Having travelled to Canada numerous times for charities and concerts going back to 1996, Ku is no stranger to Toronto, though all he has ever seen in the area is Niagara Falls. (His stays are often too short to allow him time to do any sightseeing – not even to the CN Tower.)

But he loves his "up-close-and-personal" moments with his followers overseas, fans he gets to meet once every few years, such as the 500 or so who greeted him Thursday afternoon at a Markham mall to chat with him and collect his autographs.

"My relationship with my fans abroad is like a long-distance love affair," Ku said during a 40-minute, sit-down interview in Cantonese. (It ran long by 10 minutes.)

"We probably only get to see each other several times in our lives, but we are connected somehow. They are just so loyal and I'm touched."

Ku was last in Toronto in 2005 for a performance at Casino Rama. That appearance was part of his world tour to promote his album,
Games, which was based on the video game theme.

His latest tour – accompanied by three up-and-comers, Theresa Fu, Kary Ng and Terence Siufay – is titled The Magic Moments after his new album, Moments.

A veteran artist with a 17-year career, the 35-year-old Ku is a "big kid" at heart, fascinated by both video games and Japanese animations.

"Leo is just a very nice guy, a talented artist with a big heart for charities," said Teresa Woo, an organizer of Ku's Toronto fans' club, whose members received their idol at Pearson International Airport Tuesday.

Sporting the club's black T-shirt, imprinted with Ku's concert poster, Woo, a University of Toronto student, said the multiple-award-winning singer is a role model for young people, especially in the midst of the sex scandals that recently rocked the entertainment industry in Hong Kong.

These days, Ku is also devoting time to his childhood passion – painting. He has released two comic books, titled The Story of Kubi, about an alien who got dumped on earth for his birth defects but used them to his advantage to help others in the human world.

"I always wanted to do this, but didn't get to it until 2003, when Hong Kong was struck with the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic and everyone, including myself, was stuck at home," explained Ku, who picked his anglicized name, Leo, because that is his astrological sign.

"I spent about four months to finish my first book. My next step is to turn Kubi into an animation."

Ku was named one of Hong Kong's 10 outstanding young achievers in 2005. The award recognizes the hard work he has put in during his career and his contributions to the community, including the Leo Ku Children Medical Fund that he established to support expensive medical treatment for needy kids.

Coupled with his artistic talent, it's Ku's offstage persona that helps win his older fans' hearts. (He had to cut short his tour to return to Hong Kong Saturday for a June 1 fundraising performance for recent earthquake survivors in China.)

"I am thrilled to be able to meet him," said Julianna Wong, a middle-aged woman who took a day off Thursday and arrived at the Market Village Mall at 9:30 a.m. to get a glimpse of Ku.

"We have a better chance to chat with him and get his autograph in Canada," added the Toronto social worker, holding a CD, a poster and a T-shirt for Ku to sign. "In Hong Kong, people are so crazy for Leo that you can't even get near him."

Despite his success, Ku said he has managed to keep his feet on the ground because of all the ups and downs in his long career, including a span of several years when he was stalled by his label company due to a contract dispute.

"Life is not a sprint; it is a marathon. You've learned to appreciate your success and fans' support more," Ku paused.

"All these awards, albums and books don't matter to me as much (as) if I can use my celebrity to make a difference and bring about some positive influence among our young people. I think that's what really matters."

Ku is not sure when he will return to Toronto, but said Canada is his favourite country, an ideal place for retirement.

"I just love the blue sky, the warm sunshine and the clean air here," he said, pointing at the window behind the couch of his hotel room.

"And the fans, too."

Winning Canadian Music Competition Could Open Many Doors For Young Armenian

Source: www.thestar.com - William Littler,

(May 31, 2008) Her name is Nareh Arghamanyan, she is a 19-year-old Armenian pianist and if you have never heard of her, just wait.

Last Tuesday evening she became the latest winner of Canada's highest-profile music contest, the
Montreal International Music Competition, with $30,000 in prize money to her credit, plus a contract for an internationally distributed Analekta debut recording and a list of recitals and orchestral engagements potentially stretching over the next few seasons from London and Paris to Vancouver and Victoria.

Although she has won other prizes in her young life, this is the literally long-haired pianist's first career breakthrough, the event that promises to open doors for her internationally and lay the foundation for her future career in music.

Will she ultimately make it as a major soloist? Judging by her performance of the Tchaikovsky B-flat minor Concerto with the Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal in the competition's final round, I shouldn't have thought so.

While there was much musicality and pianistic talent on display, her playing was also patchy, full of technical slips and an imperfect interaction with the hard working but minimally rehearsed orchestra under Jean-Marie Zeitouni's direction.

On the other hand, the nine-member international jury made its decision not simply on the basis of the competition's concerto round. In the quarter- and semi-finals – which I did not attend – competitors had to present short recitals embracing a variety of music, including a compulsory, specially commissioned piece by Toronto composer Alexina Louie.

Having sat on international juries myself, in places as far afield as Tokyo, Japan and Sydney, Australia, I know how differently young, relatively inexperienced musicians can perform from round to round. By the time they came to play their concertos, the six finalists in Montreal had already presented a list of credentials to the jury. As its president, André Bourbeau, explained to an enthusiastic audience in the Salle Maisonneuve, their performances in all three rounds had to be taken into consideration.

A former minister in the Robert Bourassa government in Quebec, Bourbeau, together with Joseph Rouleau, the distinguished bass and president of Jeunesses Musicales of Canada, revived this competition in 2002, after years of suspension, with an obvious awareness that identifying and exhibiting the best young talent is a complicated business.

Not even first-prize winners are guaranteed careers. And the jury's decisions are sometimes trumped by subsequent events. The Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser came in only third in 2002 (the annual competition rotates among piano, violin and voice), yet he turned out to be the one singing in Gounod's Romeo and Juliet opposite Anna Netrebko at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this past winter.

What competitions offer is a momentary spotlight, a showcase, in some cases no more than Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame. They represent an opportunity rather than a guarantee. And as Brazilian pianist Arnaldo Cohen, one of this year's jurors in Montreal, explained, they also help establish the parameters of excellence to which aspiring young professionals can look to measure their own accomplishments.

Cohen, now a professor at Indiana University, instructed his own students to tune in to the Montreal competition by means of the Internet. CBC Radio Two also broadcast the various rounds from coast to coast and the European Broadcasting Union plans to include them in this year's festival series.

In short, Arghamanyan and her colleagues (23 pianists were chosen to participate from 28 countries) have already had the kind of exposure difficult to imagine in generations past. Whether she, Russia's 27-year-old Alexandre Moutouzkine or Japan's 30-year-old Masataka Takada (the tied second-place winners) or Sergei Saratovsky, the sole Canadian in the final, will establish a significant career is now a matter of individual initiative and luck. A big door has just opened for all of them.

Cyndi's Back, With A Little Help From Her Friends

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(June 4, 2008) Almost everybody who has heard of Cyndi Lauper knows that she was born in Brooklyn - with that accent, where else could she be from? - that she was a fan of the World Wrestling Federation and that she had several enormous hits in the mid-eighties, including Time After Time, True Colors and Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

Some of you may also know that Lauper has just released her 11th album, a club-oriented dance disc dubbed Bring Ya to the Brink. On the heels of that, she will be spending June (and a little bit of July) on the road with the True Colors Tour, a celebration of freedom and tolerance that also features the B-52s, comedian Rosie O'Donnell and host Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame.

Here are two or three things you may not know about her.

She's a hockey mom.

"My son, who plays hockey, he always says, 'Mom, why don't we have a house up in Toronto? It's right near the Museum of Hockey!' " she says over the phone from New York. "I went to that museum so many times. I could recite some of those interviews."

She learned about jazz with bebop legend Lennie Tristano.

"I studied jazz with the Lennie Tristano school," she says. This was in the late-seventies, just before Tristano died and just after Lauper had damaged her vocal cords while singing in New York cover bands. "I lost my voice, and they felt I was a natural jazz singer."

At the school, she worked mainly with Betty Scott. "Betty Scott was his singer - and apparently his ex-wife. Who knew? I didn't," she laughs. "They taught me to find the centre of the beat, and not be a slave to it. That's why I went to find a different rhythm, and to change my singing."

So why didn't she pursue jazz? "They threw me out," she says. "They felt I should stick with [jazz]. But I wouldn't quit rock. I couldn't, I just couldn't."

She once hoped to become a painter in the photorealist school.

"In photorealism, they wouldn't take your typical portrait. It would be a different framing of things," she says. "The forefront and the background were equal. Nothing in the background was fuzzy. Everything was equal, do you know what I mean? And that is kind of what drove me on, most of my life. For a long, long time, I thought that was who I was about to be, this painter."

Even though she gave up on her painterly ambition, the visual aesthetic lingered, and in a roundabout fashion led to the making of Bring Ya to the Brink. The initial spark had to do with an art project involving shoes. "I wanted to do this shoe piece," Lauper says. "I knew it would be called Bringing It to the Brink, and I wanted to find the right artist to collaborate with, and I found Stefanie Schneider, who's really a wonderful photographer out of Germany, a photographer/artist who works with Polaroids."

Working with Schneider involved using what Lauper describes as "snippets of things," an approach she then discovered works equally well with songwriting. "In Set Your Heart, ... we kind of replayed a piece of music from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Where Are All My Friends," she says. "Of course, that was kind of tricky, because I didn't want to repeat his melody. But it was reminiscent of that time."

Other snippets came from interactions with friends. "I tried to take things from real conversations, things that real people were saying, and put them in the music," she says. "For instance, Same Ol' Story came out of a conversation about inclusion."

Inclusion is also a major theme of the True Colors Tour. "You gotta come together," Lauper says.

"This is a celebration about humanity, through music and laughter. Those are two things I love to do, laugh and sing. And dance around like a fool." She laughs. "Hey, it's what I do. And I like to do it with everybody, so I'm going to celebrate all of June."

The True Colors Tour plays the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto tonight and Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, B.C., on July 2.

Calvin Richardson's Soulful Musical Trials

Source: inquepr@comcast.net; inquepr@gmail.com; shetom24@hotmail.com

(June 4, 2008) You know you're in for something different the moment you hear "Sang No More," the catchy, provocative lead single from Calvin Richardson's new album, When Love Comes.

Over a Fifties-style doo-wop ballad pulse, Calvin sings frankly about the hard choices a singer must make given the trade-offs between being an artist, a star, and an authentic human being.

His choice? If fame and fortune means forgetting what's important-love and the core values of life- then he doesn't want to sing anymore, doesn't want to be "successful."  The price would be too high. Spoken like a true soul man, which is what Calvin Richardson is-a contemporary, hip-hop generation version of a classic soul singer.

Richardson, who grew up with K-Ci and Jo-Jo, sang alongside fellow soul crooners Angie Stone and Raphael Saddiq and appeared on numerous soundtracks including "Bringing Down the House" starring Queen Latifah and Steve Martin, demonstrates why he is one of the best singers to emerge in R&B in years on his new Shanachie recording When Love Comes which was released on May 27.

Affectionately known as 'The New Prince of Soul', Calvin Richardson demonstrates that he is a worthy heir to the tradition of Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack and Marvin Gaye.

With When Love Comes Calvin had a vision of embracing the essence of classic soul. To achieve that vision, he wrote and produced all the tracks himself.  "I wanted to highlight the vintage soul sound and reconnect with the Curtis Mayfield sound, the Betty Wright sound and put it into a contemporary context," Calvin explains. "I had done that before but this time I wanted to try to make it a more coherent statement than previously when different producers were bringing me tracks. A lot of the songs were inspired by samples, digging in the crates and listening to old music that put me in the mood to create this album. It helped me to take a sample and build off of that. When I hear that music it speaks to me in a way that just having some musicians sitting around trying ideas does not. It's sort of a road map back to the way things used to be.
I took it to another level."

When Love Comes is notable for its wide-ranging lyrical themes. Tracks such as "Fire In The Attic," "Nobody's Gonna Love You" and "When Love Comes" are sure to become classic love anthems suitable to set the mood for any late-night rendezvous. Then there are the songs with a more subtle message, such as "Daddy To My Kids," in which Calvin sings of a man's simple desire for a strong, positive relationship with his children, or "She's Hurtin'," a sensitive portrait of a lonely woman looking for love in the midst of the party atmosphere of a club.

The songs highlighted on When Love Comes are personal to Calvin, who explains the story behind "Daddy To My Kids." "I'm really, really close with my kids but I'm not with any of the mothers…and it's tough sometimes when others are controlling the situation. The overall desire is just to be there without the restraints of the mother in the way. A lot of guys deal with that. A lot of guys could be great dads if the situation let them."

"She's Hurtin'" was inspired by a real situation. I was with a friend of mine and she had just gotten out of a relationship. We were talking and I recognized her pain. A lot of women when they break up become vulnerable and guys prey on that. I'm letting some guys know maybe that's not the best thing."  At the same time, he's not afraid to celebrate a woman's sexuality on the booty bumping Calvin Richardson / When Love Comes bio - page 2

"Give It To Me," which is one of several tracks that reinforce Calvin's image as a "ladies man.  "I don't have a problem with that. I'm not a one-dimensional guy. I'm somewhat of a ladies man. I like women. I love whatever they bring to the table and I can match whatever they bring to the table."

The variety of lyrical themes is matched by the variety of the grooves.  The fresh conga-driven groove of "Give It To Me" is miles away from the intimate, acoustic textures of "Make Friends With Love" or the lush textures of "Fire In The Attic."  Most impressive is the fact that Calvin wrote or co-wrote all the tunes. 

The centrality of finger-picked or strummed guitar, often acoustic, reflects the fact that  Calvin plays the instrument, writes with it and can go into a radio station and accompany himself for an impromptu performance if need be. It's all held together by Calvin's impressive vocalizing-an ability that is all-too-rare these days. He can move from the guttural growls of a Bobby Womack to the joyous arpeggios of Sam Cooke. He can sing hard, sweet, rough or tender. He's not a copyist though; he has absorbed his influences and delivers an authentic rooted soul voice with a contemporary sensibility.

Calvin Richardson came by his soulful style honestly. Born in Monroe, North Carolina, the first of nine children, Calvin had a strong musical upbringing. His mother sang in the local gospel group, The Willing Wonders, and he sang with them as a youth. But he was able to listen to secular soul music and funk and was particularly inspired by Bobby Womack, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Donny Hathaway. Singing on the gospel circuit he met and became friends with Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey and Joel "Jo Jo" Hailey, who went on to form the hit-making group Jodeci in the early Nineties and later as K-Ci and JoJo scored numerous hits. Calvin was encouraged by their success to form the urban contemporary vocal group, Undacova, whose song "Love Slave" was included in the New Jersey Drive soundtrack in 1995. When Undacova folded, Calvin launched a solo career that resulted in his debut solo album Country Boy on Uptown/Universal Records in 1999. Despite strong material, including a great cover of Bobby Womack's "I Wish He Didn't Trust Me So Much," the album failed to sell, despite notable guests such as Chico DeBarge, Monifah and K-Ci, possibly due to confusion occasioned by the album title. While Calvin was working on his follow-up, Angie Stone heard a demo of his song "More Than A Woman" and invited him to duet with her on a version of the song for her album Mahogany Soul. A second album for Universal was shelved before release but Calvin's second album release 2:35PM, named after the time one of his children was born, was released by Hollywood Records in 2003. The album went on to sell more than 250,000 copies and generated significant adult urban radio play. Though lumped in with the rising crop of new-soul singers, 2:35PM revealed Calvin as an authentic soul singer bringing a classic vocal style to a contemporary production sound. With When Love Comes, Calvin Richardson delivers at last an unfettered musical vision, a compelling statement of his true artistic identity.

"Working on this album before I got a new label deal was an opportunity to express myself, to let my voice be heard without hearing too many opinions about what the music was," Calvin says. "Sometimes it takes you a while to discover your voice and your soul. I had found my way before but sometimes it can be hard when there's a lot of people with opinions. So that was the great part for me this time around. I was able to just do me without any pressure."

Check out Calvin Richardson's soulful sounds via his MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/calvinrichardson

Martha's Turn

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Paul Lester

(May 30, 2008) LONDON — Martha Wainwright is about to be interviewed for British TV, so she doesn't waste time getting to the point. Perhaps also because she is beset by such teenage and twenty-something singer-songwriters as Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash and Lily Allen, there is a general sense of urgency about the Montreal-born musician, who turned 32 on May 8 but is just now releasing her second album, titled, with a similar concern for pressing communication, I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too.

“They're probably less autobiographical than the songs on my first album,” she says of her sophomore set (which hits Canadian stores this week) in the bar of west London's K West, the hotel of choice for rock 'n' rollers visiting town. In fact, rising psych-rockers MGMT, neighbours of Wainwright from her hometown of Brooklyn, are in the lobby. Croaky of voice, and wearing a scarf, she sips a cappuccino and rubs her nose during the interview, suffering as she is from a cold despite the unusually hot weather.

“The songs are certainly personal,” she continues, “but they're a little less navel-gazing than [2005's self-titled debut]. That first set I wrote between the ages of 18 and 24, but things change. There are songs here where I'm looking outside of myself at larger subject matter, whether it's war or death or suicide” – The George Song, for one, is about a friend who took his life – “but I always try to make my point by illustrating it through personal experience. The difference is, I've pulled my head out of my ass a bit. There are far more things to write about than my own personal problems.”

Principal among those problems around the time of her first album was the need to shake off the lingering spectre of her famous family. The sister of Rufus, and daughter of Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, she felt somewhat boxed in. And so she came out fighting: Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole was an early broadside directed at her songwriter father, whose parenting skills she called into question (but who was at her wedding last September to Brad Albetta, as were her mother, her brother, Emmylou Harris, Linda Thompson and Jimmy Fallon).

 “That was a bad time for me,” she says of the era that produced the less-than-complimentary song about her dad. “I'd been Rufus's backup singer for five years, but I hadn't started to make a record yet. I was getting older and, although I had a lot of material, I didn't have a record company that wanted to sign me. I had to pull myself together. Brad was very helpful,” she says, referring to Albetta, who aside from being her husband also co-produced her new album.

“I needed someone to help me focus who didn't see me as an artist necessarily involving my family,” she continues. “I had a stubborn need to put a record out; I wanted to feel legitimized and loved because I always felt like an underdog.” As producer and spouse, Albetta has, she says, helped Wainwright overcome her “fear of not being any good, and a general insecurity about whether I'm smart or pretty or strong,” coupled with an ongoing “sadness about death.”

Writing and singing, she says, “helps to relieve some of the neurosis.” Being married, meanwhile, provides her with much-needed security and a sense of permanence. “It's nice to have something that's hard to get out of,” she jokes. “I've got so much insecurity in my life: I live in this divey apartment where the ceiling's falling in; it's a mess. Then there's the insecurity of the music career.” And although she insists she's “not a depressive person,” she hastens to add: “I can be very sad and emotional and very crippled, with a chip on my shoulder. … I'm trying to get rid of that, but that's helped me to write songs, because sometimes I feel bad about myself.”

Wainwright acknowledges that, given her family background, “the bar was raised really high, and there was a certain amount of pressure not to fail. I didn't want to be mediocre – I'm afraid of that. Another of my greatest fears is that I don't work hard enough. I do now. A lot of my fears have been shed, like my pants.”

She is referring to the front cover of her new album, which features her reclining on a couch wearing a tiny black dress, all bare legs and high heels. She looks like a film-noir femme fatale: Dial M For Martha. “I thought it was so funny, it would make a good cover,” she explains. “It fits with the title – sort of nonsensical and murderous.”

That title comes from the opening track, Bleeding All Over You, one of many forthright confessionals on an album of sonically embellished folk-pop. Much of the embellishing is courtesy of the stellar likes of the Who's Pete Townshend, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, and Garth Hudson of the Band.

So how autobiographical is the disc? Did she have an affair with a married man?

“No,” she replies. “I don't say that I had the affair in the song. I just say ‘I still love you.' I think it's a funny title. Bleeding All Over You seemed too earnest and goth for a title. I wanted to show my sense of humour, because the songs are so intense. The song is a reference to a few past unrequited loves, and by singing about it, you get it out of your system.”

She explains that the second track, You Cheated Me, is less about an unfaithful partner than it is about “cheating yourself” with drugs and alcohol. After growing up in Montreal and quitting an acting degree at the city's Concordia University in 1997, she lived a nomadic, hippie-like existence on the road with Dylanesque singer-songwriter Dan Bern before performing “for 60 bucks a night” as a folkie in New York, where she shared an apartment “with some crazy people” that was, she says, less like Friends and more like Trainspotting, a reference to the 1996 film about the squalid life of a group of heroin addicts in Scotland.

Did she ever succumb to those sorts of temptations? “I've always dabbled in that world, but I'm lucky not to have fallen into it too deeply,” she admits. “I'm not embarrassed about it, but sometimes there's regret and realizations. … Life is hard and scary. Bad things happen. We're just trying to get through.”

Clearly helping Wainwright to get through these days is her music. Has her highly acclaimed brother heard the new album? She smiles. “Yes,” she says with a mixture of wry self-doubt and triumph. “It's got him shaking in his boots.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Quebec Soprano Divine Choice For Temple Concert

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

(June 02, 2008) Let's hope
Suzie LeBlanc's visit to the Sharon Temple yesterday afternoon is a promising sign of summer riches to come.

It's hard to imagine a better recital than what the Quebec soprano presented with Toronto pianist Robert Kortgaard at the first of four concerts hosted by Music at Sharon, part of the expanding list of out-of-town summer festivals within easy driving range of the GTA.

The sensual and mystical – in every one of the multiple senses of those words – met as LeBlanc made vocal magic with a program of art songs that ranged from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) to Michel Conte (1932-2008), with a significant stop at the output of Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992).

Messiaen's work explored the edges of our tonal universe using everyday musical means. His work is also imbued with a devout Christianity – more divine than proselytizing.

In these works, as with everything else on a program containing well-known mélodies like Les chemins de l'amour, by Francis Poulenc, LeBlanc dove in with her whole being, fully inhabiting the songs in mood, spirit and musicality.

Her clear, bell-like soprano positively rang in the wood-and-plaster temple's lively acoustics. Her impeccable phrasing rose and swelled with the arched ceiling. The elocution was as bright as the dappled sunlight that lights the interior.

Even a relatively schlocky piece, like Conte's Évangéline, shone with earnest emotion thanks to LeBlanc's consummate honesty and Kortgaard's spot-on playing.

The temple is a mix of secular and sacred – much the same as Messiaen's music. The Quaker-style spirit that inspired David Wilson's Children of Peace in the mid-19th century was rooted in egalitarianism, charity and pacifism – and a love of music (although presumably a bit simpler and more foursquare than Claude Debussy or Messiaen's experiments).

The ideal summer-festival program allows us to experience top-quality artistry, while also taking us out of the sunlight-blocking concert hall into a more pastoral setting. LeBlanc and the Sharon Temple fulfilled the ideal in spades.

The series continues next Sunday with more magical Messiaen, the Quartet for the end of time.

Info: sharontemple.ca.

For Singer-Songwriter, It's Every Mann For Herself

Source: www.thestar.com - Pamela Chelin, Special to the Star

(June 02, 2008) LOS ANGELES–"I want to have something substantial that is good and a good piece of art. That is why I do it," says
Aimee Mann.

Sitting on a couch in her Los Angeles house with her cat in her lap, the acclaimed singer-songwriter is trying to explain why even though the music on her new album @#%&*! Smilers (out tomorrow) was finished a year ago, Mann has spent months assembling the cover and the liner art.

"I can put out what I consider good music, with the players I want, the songs I want, the sequence I want, the artwork I want and I don't have to confer with a bunch of idiots about what they think, which is always wrong, and then to have to do this dance where you're trying to get them to think that they thought of the idea. It's just an embarrassing waste of your time.

"When I was on a major record label, nothing ever got done."

If anyone should know, it's Mann. The 47-year-old initially rose to fame in the '80s with her band 'Til Tuesday but then endured years of exasperating dealings with her corporate handlers. In 1999, having grown frustrated with the major label (Geffen) she was signed to, Mann started her own label SuperEgo Records in order to release her own records. A year later, she was once again thrust into the limelight due to her Oscar nomination for her song "Save Me" from the Magnolia soundtrack.

Being her own boss has its perks – including having no one to answer to when she decided to bestow her record with its provocative title. "There was this newsgroup ages ago that my friend and I used to read called Alt Bitter. It was all people who talked about how bitter they were. We thought that was just the funniest thing," she says. "One of the threads we always used to talk about was f---ing Smilers. This person was bitching about how people at their workspace, when you walk down the hall, say, `Come on, smile!' and what do you say to that? The person writing the thread hated that. And I totally related. I hate when people try to force you to smile when you don't feel like it or they say, 'Come on, it can't be that bad' and it's like, `How do you know? It can be that bad.'"

Dressed casually in a red sweatshirt and jeans, her straight blond hair thrown back into a bun, Mann explains the album's new direction while relaxing in the living room of the home she shares with her husband, singer/songwriter Michael Penn. Mann, an accomplished guitarist who studied music at Berklee College of Music, has made Smilers free of electric guitars, an unusual choice for the songwriter whose previous records have been significantly guitar-based.

With an emphasis upon keyboards, instead, @#%&*! Smilers is as Mann-ian as ever: songs filled with a cast of dysfunctional characters, including drug addicts, alcoholics and doctors who over prescribe medication. Despite the difficult subject matter and the bluntness of her songs, both compassion and understanding filter into even the bleakest of situations – a reflection of Mann, herself, who is constantly trying to understand human behaviour.

She admits that she herself has an obsessive personality and started going to Al-Anon in order to deal with the exhaustion she experienced from trying to help addicts in her own life.

"People are endlessly interesting to me," she says. "I don't know if they'll ever stop being interesting. There's always new things that you notice and new levels that you notice. I don't think that will ever change for me."

When Mann's not spending time exploring human psychology, she boxes and bicycles around her neighbourhood to keep in shape. With her 48th birthday coming up in September (after her show in Toronto in August, on a tour with Squeeze), she reveals concerns about getting older. "You can see how women who are not physically attractive are invisible," she says. "It's not that they aren't taken seriously. It's like they don't exist and are not even on people's radar."

She does have limits, however. Mann calls the ubiquitous Botox injections and breast implants in L.A., where she has lived for 13 years, "creepy" and "awful." As to her own celebrity status in a city obsessed with fame, she says, "I'm fortunate because I'm very unrecognizable."

Floods Of Light And A Home For Music From Classical To Hip Hop

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(June 4, 2008) A sneak peek at the Royal Conservatory of Music's new Toronto home yesterday offered a glimpse of a much expanded, technologically sophisticated space designed to extend the conservatory's reach from education into social change.

The Telus Centre for Performance and Learning, as the new home has been dubbed, is in the final stage of construction, with most of the main rehearsal hall and five floors of soundproof studios ready to use. Some public spaces, such as a 50-seat café in the atrium where the historic building joins the new and a display area for antique instruments, have yet to take shape.

The building's public areas offer floods of natural light as well as stunning views of the University of Toronto's Philosopher's Walk and the neighbouring Royal Ontario Museum through large windows, glass roofing and an outdoor balcony atop the south façade.

President Peter Simon said the facilities will be complete and open by September, the only exception being the 1,140-seat Koerner Hall performance space, a venue Simon hopes will be acoustically among the world's great halls, which is expected to open in September, 2009. (The $50-million second phase of the conservatory's $110-million capital campaign was launched recently under the direction of former Bank of Montreal president and chief executive officer Tony Comper and his wife, Elizabeth.)

Rebirth is the dominant theme at the conservatory, including a new slogan proclaiming that "the Finest Instrument is the Mind." Faculty, staff and students are champing at the bit to move back to Bloor Street, having been temporarily relegated to a retrofitted Toronto District School Board building for the past two years. One staff member said their second home served its purpose but was less than ideal, lacking in soundproofing and airflow among other things.

Still, Simon says they were fortunate to have found such a large site that could house them in one location. The new building also promises a crucial renewal of the historic but dilapidated conservatory building, which Simon described as "well past its prime."

Technology is paramount to Simon's stated goal of promoting a holistic vision of a society where creative activity is the domain of every person. Not only will the technology allow for cutting-edge musical composition and recording, Simon says, it also gives the conservatory the capacity to spread its programs to schools across and even outside Canada.

New offerings opening for online registration on June 9 include arts-based English-as-a-second-language classes, a children's series entitled Music Makes You Smarter, courses for seniors and professional-development courses for teachers and musicians.

A parallel stream continues offering courses in diverse forms such as traditional Chinese instruments, hip hop, jazz and rock, while introducing instruction in new media.

"What the new building has given us a chance to do is unleash or unveil a series of new programs that are more focused on people of all ages, whether young children or adults, in becoming active in creative things, and perhaps it will stimulate a rebirth of music activity by all people across the nation," Simon says.

Pianist Calls Music `Our Universal Language'

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

(June 04, 2008) Given his life-long love affair with Africa, you would think jazz pianist Randy Weston might attempt to find out where in that vast land mass his roots lie through the DNA testing that has recently been all the rage among African Americans.

"No, I'm very lazy, I claim the whole continent," said Weston, 82, with a laugh on the phone from the Brooklyn home his family has owned since 1946.

"When I'm in Morocco, I'm Moroccan. When I'm in Senegal, I'm Senegalese. In Africa, the music is part of the environment itself; I try to capture the spirit of each particular environment.

"I've played in 18 countries in Africa and what I tell people in the different countries is, `Listen, this is your music. After it crossed the Atlantic, it came in contact with other cultures and I'm bringing it back to you. You may not understand it, but it's your music.'

"People don't realize the influence and the impact of Africa in civilization in the world, but music itself came out of Africa thousands and thousands of years ago."

African and Caribbean rhythms and spirituality permeate Weston's recordings, including the current disc, Zep Tepi, with his African Rhythms Trio. On Friday, he performs at the third annual Art of Jazz Celebration in duo with saxist Billy Harper.

"He has a great sound that I think comes somehow from the tenor saxophone players from Texas," Weston said of his longtime collaborator. "He has that incredible imagination. He plays such beautiful music, sometimes it's very advanced, sometimes it's very basic."

Noted for compositions such as "High Fly" and "Berkshire Blues," Weston said inspiration is everywhere. "I try to be in tune with nature and check out what's happening every day; whether it's the way somebody walks, or the way a child runs, or if there's thunder; and I always try to tell stories, whether it's a portrait of my parents, or of great musicians like Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.

"Music is always our universal language and I'm amazed at how we communicate with audiences all over the world although we don't speak the language of the country. For example, my No. 1 fan club is in Kyoto, Japan. I don't speak Japanese, but we speak to each other through music. That shows this is truly the spiritual language of the planet."

Tom Petty A Worthy Blast From The Past

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(June 04, 2008) The systemic malaise that has diminished the once mighty music industry to a shadow of its former self occasionally provides peculiar benefits to the neglected, radio-abandoned fans of adult pop and rock music.

Last night's brilliantly constructed two-parter at the near-sold-out Air Canada Centre – 1960s and '70s British R&B icon Stevie Winwood opening for venerable American roots rocker
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – might not have happened if the radical drop in CD sales over the past five or six years hadn't made it imperative and relatively easy for working musicians with radio resonance in the deep dark past to hit the road regularly to earn their keep.

Neither act has had a hit in a long time, yet past good work, sustained artistic integrity and the solid collective memory of faithful fans resulted in an event that was at once magical and inspiring.

Petty, a master of three-and-four-chord songs beset with simple yet unforgettable melodic hooks and irresistible sing-along lyrics, has never appeared more in control of his music, and of his audience.

In shabby chic Florida cowboy duds (red waistcoat, sunshine yellow satin shirt, faded blue jeans) and the focus of a magnificently inventive and complex light-and-video display, the singer and guitarist meandered through his song book at an easy pace. He served up a tightly executed selection of hits and favourites – "I Won't Back Down," "Free Falling," "The Waiting," "Honey Bee," the Traveling Wilburys' "End Of The Line" – and exotica, of which 1979's "Even The Losers", the sinister "Sweet William" and the JJ Cale-influenced bad-boy ballad "Spike" were particularly effective.

The Heartbreakers – guitarists Mike Campbell and Scott Thurston, organist/pianist Benmont Tench, bassist Ron Blair and drummer Steve Ferrone – were equally unfazed by the size and ferocity of the ACC crowd, which spent most of the two-hour show on its feet. Petty's long-time musical sidekicks exhibited a seasoned band's understanding of the power of simple dynamics.

Singer, composer, keyboard virtuoso and primo guitarist Winwood, who has sustained his mystique since the early 1960s by appearing infrequently and hardly ever touring, was a joy to behold. In fine voice and exhibiting astounding musical muscle, he held the crowd spellbound with a 65-minute set that included material from his most recent CD, Nine Lives, and past gems, including "Dear Mr. Fantasy," "Higher Love," "I'm A Man" and "Can't Find My Way Home."


Rush Rocks For Human Rights

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
James Adams

(May 29, 2008) Canada's most famous rock trio, Rush, played its first concert date in Winnipeg in 25 years last Saturday and to commemorate the end of the quarter-century "drought," lead singer/bassist Geddy Lee announced yesterday that the band is contributing $100,000 toward the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in the Manitoba capital. The money's coming from the ticket sales of last weekend's concert at the MTC Centre where Lee, drummer Neal Peart and guitarist Alex Lifeson performed before an estimated 11,000 fans. Yesterday, too, Lee said the band would be selling special CMHR T-shirts at its upcoming gigs in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and donating the proceeds to the museum. The message on the T-shirt reads: "My pals Rush and I support the Canadian Museum for Human Rights." Lee, 54, has a personal investment in the museum's mission. His parents, Mary and Morris Weinrib, were Jewish refugees from Poland who survived internment in Bergen-Belsen and Dachau during the Second World War. "Geddy" is, in fact, how Lee's Yiddish-speaking mother pronounced his birth name, which is Gary. In a prepared statement issued yesterday, Lee said he and his bandmates "are proud to be associated" with the CMHR since "Canadians are uniquely positioned to be leaders in championing [the cause of human rights]." Construction of the $265-million human-rights museum is expected to start later this year or in early 2009, with 2011 the likely completion date. The museum is raising $105-million from corporate, foundation and private donors like Rush and now it's within an estimated $10-million of reaching that goal. Campaign chair Gail Asper whose father, the late media magnate Izzy Asper, was the initial driving force behind the museum's creation, said she and her support organization, the Friends of the CMHR, were "thrilled" with the $100,000 donation. "We encourage all Rush fans to buy the T-shirts and wear them proudly."

Getting Proud And Spicy

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(June 03, 2008) Pride Week 2008 festivities just got spicier with the news that ex-Spice Girl Melanie C will perform. Melanie Chisholm, a.k.a. Sporty Spice, will play a free concert June 28 on the TD Canada Trust Wellesley stage. Chisholm is considered by many to be the most successful of the Spice Girls, with sales of three million solo albums and six top 10 singles. A gifted songwriter, she has co-written 11 No. 1 singles, including nine with the Spice Girls. Chisholm, 34, last played Toronto – dubbed "Spice City" by her bandmates – in May, promoting her solo album This Time. "I just love to perform," she told the Star at the time. "I like that connection you feel with the audience." The five Spice Girls performed four nearly sold-out shows here in February, including the final concert of what was billed as their last-ever tour.

Kardinal Cracks the U.S. Charts

Source:  www.thestar.com - Billboard

(June 03, 2008) With its ultra-catchy hook written by R&B superstar Akon and a unique rap style, Kardinal Offishall's "Dangerous" is poised to become an unavoidable summer single. It's No. 51 with a bullet this week on the Billboard Hot 100. But it almost didn't happen, after Offishall, a.k.a. Toronto-born James Harrow, was dropped by MCA, says Shawn Holiday, senior vice-president of Interscope. Offishall acknowledges that he may not have been the most commercial of prospects in the past. But then he met Akon at a Canadian tour stop, joined him on tour and worked in a studio on the back of a tour bus. The beat in "Dangerous" was handed off after a Vancouver show to Akon, who wrote its chorus in minutes and let Offishall finish it.


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

DMBQ Live (Opening Day Entertainment)
(out of 4)

(June 04, 2008) There's nothing dated or predictable about the inaugural recording of the Toronto-based Davidson/Murley/Braid Quintet led by Juno awardees Mike Murley (sax), David Braid (piano) and Murley's erstwhile pupil Tara Davidson (sax) and rounded out by bassist Jim Vivian and New York drummer Ian Froman. With Braid's nimble fingers blurring the lines between classical and jazz on complex chords during an extended solo, the group's standard for top-notch improvisation is declared with the opening track, "Things," Murley's clever take on the standard "All The Things You Are." This recording of a 2006 Vancouver concert succeeds as much for performance as compositions – two from Davidson, three apiece from the other leaders. Braid's writing is particularly outstanding on the other worldly "Say A Silent Prayer" and hymnal "Wash Away," which incites the saxists to wail in unison about longing or loss. This can't be relegated to background music, but is worth the attention.  Top Track: The audience couldn't contain their exhortations during the exciting and relentless horn play of "The Call."

Ashanti: The Declaration

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

The Declaration (Universal Motown)
(out of 4)

The idea here is that for her fourth disc R&B singer
Ashanti has thrown off the shackles of her mentor Irv Gotti and The Inc.'s in-house production team in favour of hitmakers such as Babyface, Jermaine Dupri and Rodney Jerkins. But this album still doesn't justify the 27-year-old New York native's million-selling career. Her vocals are pleasant, but distinctive for only that they lack – Beyoncé's power, Rihanna's novelty, Keyshia Cole's sass.  Halfway through the disc she morphs into Janet Jackson, cooing Prince-like eroticisms on "Girlfriend" and "Things You Make Me Do."  There are only two songs worth downloading: "Body On Me" which features Nelly and Akon, reinforcing the notion that Ashanti succeeds best as a hook singer who came to fore on duets with Fat Joe and Ja Rule; and the bouncy, attitude-laden Dupri-produced "Good Good" which contains elements of Michael Jackson's "The Girl Is Mine" and should've been the lead single.

Craig David Tries Again In U.S.

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(June 4, 2008)  *British singer
Craig David hopes his new single, "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)," will not only reintroduce him to U.S. audiences, but this time match the tremendous success he's enjoyed overseas.    "I'm going to have to slowly but surely build momentum back in the States," David told Billboard.com.    The artist got his feet wet in America in 2000 with his platinum debut, "Born To Do It," and its hit singles "Fill Me In" and "7 Days." His 2002 follow-up album, "Slicker Than Your Average" was certified gold.   But, David said, "It's been a good, like, four years or so that I've been away from America. To come back in and say, 'I'm here! Accept me!,' I'd be fooling myself. America's not waiting for me. It's open with all arms if you're hungry and you go in and make things happen, so I know I've got to work from the grass roots upward."   David's fourth album, "Trust Me" (Warner Bros.), dropped in the U.S. last month after a 2007 release overseas. He's currently in the states trying to build radio support for "Hot Stuff (Let's Dance)," which is crafted around a David Bowie-approved sample from his 1983 hit "Let's Dance." [Scroll down to listen.] In the meantime, the singer said he will exercise some patience regarding his acceptance on U.S. soil.   "I'm young -- I'm only 27 now -- and I've got a new record and I'm excited," he said. "If this album just stars the ripple to which I drop a next record, then that's what it's all about. I'm not expecting to just come here and, bang!, Craig David's back. I have to work it hard."


Denying Tax Credits For Films Could Kill Industry, Gross Says

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gloria Galloway

(May 29, 2008) OTTAWA — The members of the Senate banking committeet were a little star-struck.

Then again, they are getting used to seeing famous faces from Canadian film and television at the end of their committee table, chatting about tax credits.

Paul Gross, with his chiselled jaw and perfect smile, told the senators yesterday that Bill C-10, which proposes to deny tax credits to productions deemed "contrary to public policy," could spell the end of his industry.

It "may destroy an already very precarious and insanely complex system of film financing," said Mr. Gross, who described himself as an actor, a writer, a producer, a director and a Canadian nationalist.

"One of the very few things in our system that has some degree of predictability has been the tax credit. It is their very reliability that has made tax credits essential to financing any film in the country."

Mr. Gross, who has starred in notable Canadian films including Men With Brooms, is probably best remembered as RCMP Constable Benton Fraser from the Canadian television show Due South.

He is currently working on a film about Passchendaele, the great battle of the First World War that killed 16,000 Canadians among hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides.

Without the tax credit, he said, "it is quite possible that we would not have secured an advance from the bank ... and a film that pays honour to the Canadian sacrifice in the Great War of 1914 to 1918 quite simply could not have been made."

Conservative Senator David Tkachuk said: "It's a stretch to draw C-10 to the battles of the First World War."

He and other Conservative senators asked why the film and television industry did not ring alarm bells when consultations about changing the structure of the tax credits were conducted in 2001.

Mr. Gross replied that he could only apologize for himself and everyone else in the film and television business "for being so slow to understand what the implications of something like this are. I am not sure why we didn't see it but we didn't."

Hammered by accusations that she is attempting to censor Canada's artistic community, Heritage Minister Josée Verner has said she will ask the entertainment industry to help craft guidelines to govern what material no longer qualifies for tax credits.

But Mr. Gross said he believes the only test should be whether or not a production is legal under the Criminal Code.

His appearance before the committee follows those of several other luminaries from the country's entertainment industry, including actors Sarah Polley and Wendy Crewson and director David Cronenberg.

The few witnesses who have supported the government's proposal have pointed to the tax credits given to a film called Young People Fucking that will be in theatres next month.

A special screening for parliamentarians has been scheduled by YPF's producers at an Ottawa theatre tonight in an effort to prove the film is not as salacious as the title would suggest.

A staffer for Conservative MP Gary Goodyear was reportedly fired this week for accepting the invitation after being warned not to - an allegation denied by Mr. Goodyear's office yesterday.

"The story was wrong about the termination of my staff person. Out of respect for my former staff person I will not comment any further, the real reasons for her termination are confidential," Claudine Courtois, Mr. Goodyear's legislative assistant, wrote in an e-mail.

Harmony Korine: Film's Bad Boy Grows Up

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(May 30, 2008) Harmony Korine seems to be trying to figure out how to age gracefully.

My Lonely at last fall's Toronto International Film Festival, the soft-spoken, former enfant terrible of filmmaking looks and sounds like any other settled 35-year-old, as opposed to someone who has created some of the most polarizing films of the past decade.

"I don't really ever set out to say anything. I don't really have any grand statements. I'd like to say maybe there's a lot in there, maybe there's nothing," he says. "I hadn't made a movie in a long time and I was feeling a different way about things."

Korine burst onto the scene with the screenplay to the teen sex- and violence-filled Kids (1995), which he wrote when he was 19. He continued, directing the controversial Gummo (1997) and the Dogme-inspired Julien Donkey-Boy (1999).

Depending on who you ask, Korine is one of the most important young directors working today or to his detractors, barely watchable. But it was shortly after making Julien Donkey-Boy that Korine says he fell out of love with making movies.

"There was like a disconnect, I didn't feel like I could do it any more. Or I could do it, but if I kept it up the movies would just be lies. I didn't really care about it any more, so I wanted to live a life separate from filmmaking," he says.

He says he had to leave and do his own thing. He moved to Nashville and began to work on other projects.

Slowly, he says that he began to feel the itch again: "I started to dream again and to think in images."

It's obvious that the search for his own identity informs Mr. Lonely, which opens today. Telling two parallel stories, one featuring Diego Luna as a Paris-based Michael Jackson impersonator who meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) who invites him to a commune with other look-alikes, mixed with a seemingly unrelated story starring director Werner Herzog as a priest on a strange mission of mercy.

"As far as the icons go, I wanted to play with the myths," says Korine. "I spent a few years as a kid growing up on a commune, so I started thinking instead of a hippie commune, how about populating it with icons? I wanted to see if maybe the myth bleeds over. I want to see people like Sammy Davis Jr. mowing the yard, or James Dean tending sheep. Or Abe Lincoln fishing, Buckwheat riding a pig. These were all things for whatever reason, I just wanted to play with."

He says that there isn't really an overarching message to the film, more of a feeling that he wanted to share. There is definitely a sense of improv in the film, although Korine chalks that up to the way he works.

"A lot of people will think that it's more improvised than it is. What I'll do is write a formal script, we'll say. But a script to me is an outline. It's just ideas and part of the fun for me as a director, is this kind of process of discovery," he says.

He also chose to make this film a family affair. He co-wrote the script with his brother; his wife, Rachel, plays one of the impersonators, his mother plays one of the nuns and his father served as his assistant director for part of the shoot in Panama, where his parents live.

"These days, I'm pretty much focused on filmmaking ... my mind feels right. It didn't feel right for a while, so now I feel like I can do it again," he says.

Jennifer Hudson: The Sex And The City Interview With Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams

(May 29, 2008) *
Jennifer Kate Hudson was born in Chicago on September 12, 1981 to Darnell Hudson and Samuel Simpson.

At the age of seven, she started singing in her Baptist church's gospel choir where she honed her vocal skills with the help of her late maternal grandmother, Julia.

After graduating from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in 1999, the 5'9" beauty began in show business in community theatre and then on a Disney cruise liner before unveiling her four-octave range in front of a national TV audience on American Idol during the show's third season.  

Though Jennifer only finished seventh, many still consider her to be the most talented person ever to enter the competition. So, it was no surprise when she brought down the house delivering a spirited rendition of "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" as Effie White in the screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls.

Based on the strength of that Oscar-winning performance, she was signed to play Carrie's (Sarah Jessica Parker) assistant, Louise, in "Sex and the City," a character writer/director Michael Patrick King created with Jennifer specifically in mind. The movie opens this weekend in theatres throughout North America.

On the musical front, her yet to be titled debut CD is set to be released by Arista Records in the Fall, although her first single, "Spotlight," was leaked on May 16th, and can be found online. (Visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw50xPhFtd4)

As for her love life, Jennifer is back with her high school sweetheart, James Peyton, though the couple is in no rush to tie the knot just yet.    

Kam Williams: Hey, Jennifer, thanks for the time.

Jennifer Hudson: How are you doing?

KW: Fine, thanks. Have things calmed down for you since winning an Academy Award?

JH: I have had a break. That was crazy with the whole Dreamgirls thing and the Oscars and all that. I was glad to get to come down a bit because it was like riding a roller coaster.

KW: How do you feel about following up Dreamgirls with Sex in the City?

JH: I love it! Dreamgirls and Sex and the City. That's hot! I like the idea.

KW: Would you have preferred doing another musical?

JH: No, I've been looking for a role in which I didn't have to sing. I don't want every role to involve singing. I don't mind singing in a film, but I want to act, too. 

KW: Do you have any songs on the soundtrack?

JH: Yes, "All Dressed in Love." Cee-Lo [Green of Gnarls Barkley] wrote it, and then I got to sing it. And I think it's the perfect song, because they took fashion and love and tied them together and made a Sex and the City song.

KW: Were you a fan of Sex in the City when it was on HBO?

For full interview by Kam Williams go HERE

Depp, Transformers win MTV Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Derrik J. Lang, Associated Press

(June 01, 2008) UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif.–The "Transformers" have another chunk of metal to add to their collection.

The blockbuster about robots in disguise took home the golden popcorn trophy for best film at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday night, and Johnny Depp won two buckets for best comedic performance and best villain at the awards show.

A couple of hundred yards downhill, the final remnants of a disastrous fire that ripped through Universal Studios was extinguished as the ceremony got under way.

While there was no mention of the fire, there was definitely smoke during the over-the-top ceremony: Presenters Seth Rogan and James Franco, stars of the upcoming stoner comedy Pineapple Express, pretended to smoke marijuana before handing out the popcorn trophy for new category of best summer movie so far.

"Kids, don't really smoke fake weed like this," Rogan sarcastically told the crowd at the Gibson Amphitheatre.

As they pulled out the "contraband," the cameras pulled away to a wide angle, staying that way until Rogan and Franco left the stage. The awkward moment made some in the audience laugh, but left Robert Downey Jr. – who accepted the award on behalf of Iron Man – with a puzzled look.

"Thanks fellas," he said, "for that intoxicating introduction.''

Franco later said MTV put them up to the joke, from the script to the bag of fake contraband, but that someone from the network decided at the last minute that they couldn't go through with it – but it was too late.

The nearby studio fire broke out 4:30 a.m. on a soundstage featuring a New York brownstone facades at the 400-acre property. It was contained to the lot but burned for more than 12 hours before the final flames were extinguished.

"I actually came here early because I wanted to see it," Chris Brown told The Associated Press on the event's gold carpet before the show. What did he expect to see? "A whole lot of chaos.''

Winners were threatened to keep their speeches short by a man resembling Javier Bardem's character from No Country for Old Men – complete with the bob hairdo and pneumatic cattle gun. Best female performance winner Ellen Paige from Juno escaped unscathed, but best fight winners Sean Faris and Cam Gigandet were ushered off stage by the menacing lookalike.

Host Mike Myers and Dana Carvey resurrected their Saturday Night Live characters Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, the cable access hosts of Wayne's World. They acknowledged it's been awhile since they've been together ("1994. That's a while," said Wayne) and presented a risqué top ten list of adult film titles (No. 8: I Am Legend . . . In Bed).

Depp showed up to accept his trophies for best comedic performance for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and best villain for Sweeny Todd. While the crowd was visibly excited – including a nearly swooning Diablo Cody – Superbad actors Jonah Hill and Rogan shot shook their fists at Depp and give him the thumbs down. Depp kept his first acceptance speech short.

"You can ask anybody," he said. "I'm not a very funny person. I'm not even remotely funny.''

Tom Cruise presented Adam Sandler with the Generation Award, the MTV Movie Awards' highest honour, for his various comedic and "stupid" performances over the years. Sandler sang a live version of "Nobody Does It Better" alongside a bevy of backup dancers clad in skin-tight gold outfits. Among them: Rob Schneider.

"It's the most arrogant thing I've ever done," Sandler said.

Coldplay performed "Viva la Vida" amid a flurry of confetti, which at one point found its way in lead singer Chris Martin's mouth. Later, the Pussycat Dolls danced in front of a giant lit-up sign broadcasting the group's name alongside "America's Best Dance Crew" winners Jabbawockeez to "When I Grow Up.''

Other winners included Will Smith for best male performance for I Am Legend; Zac Efron for best breakthrough performance for Hairspray; and Briana Evigan and Robert Hoffman for best kiss in Step Up 2: The Streets.

The mood backstage was calm as stars schmoozed during the show. Cruise posed for photos with his arm around Ben Stiller while wife Katie Holmes stood a few steps away from them. She wasn't by herself for long. Sarah Jessica Parker chatted Holmes up. Sandler and Smith both had their children with them behind the scenes.

AP writer Ryan Pearson contributed to this report.

Ads Rife At MTV Movie Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 02, 2008) Barely 30 seconds into last night's MTV Movie Awards, homeboy host Mike Myers dropped a plug for his upcoming comedy, Love Guru (opening June 20). There was another less than 30 seconds later, and yet another almost immediately after that, with the title Love Guru (opening June 20) projected behind him in great glowing letters at least 10 feet high.

And really, that first minute-and-a-bit laid bare the mercenary heart of the youth-skewed audience-voted awards show: "Free advertising," as Will Ferrell put it so succinctly soon after (naturally, following a plug for his own upcoming Step Brothers, opening July 25).

Not that all this overt flick flogging is necessarily a bad idea. Between the pre-show trailers, the in-show plugs and the in-between commercials, it may just be the kick in assets the film industry now so desperately needs. I mean, if the Oscars could ever lower themselves to this level of pandering to the middlebrow masses, people might no longer be tuning out in droves.

Of course, few of the popcorn movies honoured last night are in any danger of Oscar nomination. On the other hand, no one over the age of 20 will have otherwise even heard of MTV winners Never Back Down and Step Up 2: The Streets.

But then, the actual MTV Award is a gilded bucket of popcorn – "'Nuff said" (a quote popularized by comic-book creator Stan Lee, well represented again this year by nominee Spider-Man 3, winner Iron Man and the upcoming Incredible Hulk, opening June 13).

Of course, Hulk co-stars Ed Norton and Liv Tyler were there to present, as were Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman from Hancock (opening July 2), Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson from Get Smart (June 20) ... essentially, anyone with a mass-market movie coming out in the next 100 days.

And several in need of summertime spin, like a confused Lindsay Lohan, a bored Paris Hilton and a slumming Tom Cruise praising "icon" Adam Sandler's "legendary work" on the "best-loved comedies of the century" (the newest, You Don't Mess with the Zohan, opens June 6).

One notable deviation from the above, Johnny Depp, was pretty much obliged to show his face (for a change, clean-shaven) with a contradictory double win for Best Comedic Performance (Pirates 3) and Best Villain (Sweeney Todd).

An even more welcome win went to gracious and well put-together (leather jacket, cool kicks!) Ellen Page for the Canadian-made Juno.

And it wasn't all "shameless promotion" and "pimping," as Myers himself allowed (though only after another two or three references to Love Guru, opening June 20). Indeed, it was Myers who eventually proved the most entertaining exception, with an ecstatically received Wayne's World reunion with Dana Carvey, and filmed shorts introducing two hilarious behind-the-screen characters, an Aussie set caterer and a myopic pet wrangler – either of whom would make a more interesting film subject than a "love guru" (opening June 20).

Also break-out funny in a show surprisingly devoid of real laughs, a violent "viral" bit with Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and Ben Stiller riffing on Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda (opening Friday) and the Stiller-directed comedy co-starring all three, Tropic Thunder (opening Aug. 15).

The same cannot be said for any of the lame presentation gags, notably the "fake pot" piece by Seth Rogen and James Franco (Pineapple Express, opening Aug. 8), initiated then disavowed by MTV by pulling the cameras back to shoot it from the back of the hall.

Lamest of all, alas, were the crammed-in MTV Canada interstitials, featuring a mob of no-name, know-nothing "hosts," gushing and giggling away precious moments of airtime that could otherwise have been used to promote more summer movies.


Eddie Murphy Set For 'Beverly Hills Cop 4'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 30, 2008) *Eddie Murphy will return to the role of Detroit detective Axel Foley in Paramount's upcoming fourth instalment of the "Beverly Hills Cop" franchise. According to Variety, Brett Ratner is currently negotiating to direct the sequel, while Murphy is confirmed for the project, which Paramount will begin shooting in 2009 for a summer 2010 release. The fourth "Cop" film was Murphy's idea, according to Variety. He came to Paramount with plans about reviving the franchise that cemented his status as a box office powerhouse. Released in 1984, the original "Beverly Hills Cop" grossed $316 million worldwide and spawned two sequels. Altogether, the three pictures grossed $712.9 million worldwide. The last was released in 1994.  Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the original "Beverly Hills Cop" trilogy with late partner Don Simpson, won't be actively involved in the new film.

Get Over Guru Gripes, Chopra Says

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(June 03, 2008) Deepak Chopra has something to say about Hindu opposition to Mike Myers' new movie: Get over it. The bestselling author and spiritual teacher is defending The Love Guru, a comedy in which Myers plays an aspiring self-help guru who aims to achieve Chopra's level of popularity. Chopra posted an essay online in response to those in the Hindu community who say The Love Guru is offensive and mocks important tenets of their faith. "The premature outcry against the movie is itself religious propaganda," Chopra writes, noting that the protesters based their views on the film's 2 1/2-minute trailer. "As viewers will find out when the movie is released this summer, no one is more thoroughly skewered in it than I am – you could even say that I am made to seem preposterous." Chopra, who has a cameo in the film and is friends with Myers, inadvertently inspired The Love Guru. During a period of depression, Myers discovered Chopra's books and videos and began imitating his accent, Chopra said. Myers tried out his new character in comedy clubs and began to write the film. "The teachings in this comedy are fictional and non-denominational," Myers said in a statement.


Will Canadian Idol Be Eliminated?

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
Special To The Star

(June 01, 2008) This year on Canadian Idol, the pressure is really on. Not just on the contestants – on the entire franchise.

The CTV talent showcase, which returns for a sixth season Tuesday at 9 p.m., is not the ratings juggernaut it once was. Despite all the screams in the John F. Bassett Theatre, ratings were down last season, just as they dipped this spring on American Idol.

Viewership was especially down in big cities like Vancouver and Toronto, where some Idol episodes failed to crack the local Top 10 lists. More alarming to CTV and its advertisers has to be the exodus of younger viewers. When American Idol premiered, for example, the median viewer age was 33. Last season, it was 45.

Where did those younger viewers go? Always TV's most fickle audience, they've moved on, not just to other TV shows, but to YouTube, Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto.

At one point last summer, frustrated executive producer John Brunton made the unusual plea for Torontonians to get behind their local singers. Brunton knows, as he explained this week, that Canadian Idol is not that different from Hockey Night in Canada.

"The ratings for the Stanley Cup playoffs aren't as high as they would be if there was a Toronto sports team in it," he says. The show is driven by viewer involvement. Idol needs Toronto or Vancouver or Montreal to rally behind a local singer in order to goose the ratings.

Then again, viewers in those cities may be distracted this summer by the flurry of reality programming flooding across the border, shows like Celebrity Circus, America's Got Talent, Celebrity Family Feud and I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Beyond that, CBC's coverage of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing will test Idol's staying power in August. With so much first run competition, this is not an idle – or perhaps an Idol – summer.

Canadian Idol, which routinely drew more than 2 million viewers per outing in previous years, was down to 1.3 to 1.6 million through July and August last season. CTV is responding by tinkering with the show, adding Juno-winner Jully Black to the mix as a mentor, critic and voice coach. The four judges – Sass Jordan, Farley Flex, Jake Gold and Zack Werner – will all be back, as will host Ben Mulroney, "fresh from his non-speaking supporting role in front of the House of Commons Ethics Committee," as Larry LeBlanc tweaked in his music industry newsletter earlier this year.

Fox is also talking about making changes next season, cutting the results show back to half an hour, allowing contestants to play more instruments, maybe even reducing Paula Abdul's medication.

There is a suddenly a whiff of vulnerability about Idol, although Mediaweek's "programming insider" Marc Berman cautions about getting too carried away with all the Idol obits. He points out that the recent Fox finale drew a whopping 31.66 million viewers. "There's still immense interest," said Berman, "and there's no reason to believe the Canadian version will fade to black anytime soon."

Still, hit shows tend to go down a lot faster than they go up. Remember Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? That No. 1 show had a spectacular fall after ABC played it to death, flaming out in less than three seasons. Celebrity versions, increased jackpots – once that skid started there was no way even Regis could put on the brakes. After a two-episode tryout, CTV abandoned plans to spin off a weekly Canadian version.

With the broadcaster, which spent $1.7 billion to acquire the CHUM station group in 2006, investing millions on a makeover of another American hit – So You Think You Can Dance Canada – can it still afford an Idol that has hit its peak? CTV vice president of programming Ed Robinson admits it did not escape notice last season that the Canadian Idol audience numbers fell. The series is not cheap to produce, travelling to 10 cities again this season in search of new talent, with costly music rights clearances always an issue.

Still, Robinson believes the show can rebound and extend beyond this season. He's proud of the show and the homegrown innovations picked up by American Idol, such as letting competitors play guitars and other instruments. "They're borrowing from us," says Robinson.

Brunton, whose Insight Productions signs a year-by-year deal to produce the series, is confident that there are at least two more seasons in the show. He already has his eye on one young performer – who came all the way from London, England, to audition – he feels will be embraced by Torontonians.

Veteran music industry observer LeBlanc, however, wonders whether Canada can sustain an annual nation-wide music talent search. "I watched last season and cringed," says LeBlanc, who was not impressed with some of the finalists. He questions whether the Canadian talent pool is deep enough. "Is there not a rising young entertainer in Canada that has truly not tried out for this show by this point?" he asks. "They almost would be better off taking the show off the air for two or three years and then coming back with a new crop of artists."

Brunton says he used to worry about that, but now feels there has been a shift in the type of people coming out for auditions (some for the first time via online submissions). Last summer's winner, Hamilton, Ont.-native Brian Melo, 26, gave the show more of an alt-rock edge, he feels, inspiring all the garage bands and singer/songwriters he and the judges have seen this season. Brunton says it's the best talent lineup "since Season Two."

They better be, says LeBlanc, who notes that there is a great deal of cynicism about the career sustainability of Canadian Idol winners, especially in the media. "Who are the five losers who have already won?" is the typical media take, LeBlanc suggests.

Expecting Canadian Idol winners to become pop stars is unrealistic, says LeBlanc, who cites the high cost and long odds of launching a pop music career. Besides, we're a nation of rockers and folkies, not pop stars, he says, echoing Brunton's take that the show's future lies in a different musical direction.

"Will I be watching? Yes," says LeBlanc. "To be honest, I enjoy it. You see some of the crazy people at the beginning, tune out in the middle weeks, and come back at the very end." And if a Toronto kid is still standing in September as the sixth Canadian Idol winner, you can bet there will be a seventh.

Lost Finale Playing With Time

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

(May 29, 2008) Forget all the deduction, the guesswork, the idle speculation, the wishful thinking ...

I know what's going to happen on tonight's two-hour
Lost season finale (ABC and CTV at 9).

The Survivors, the Others and whoever's left on the freighter team up to survey a previously unexplored stretch of beach, where they stumble across a small pleasure boat, intact except for a suspiciously circular hole in the hull.

Nearby, on the shore of a small lagoon, they are amazed to discover yet another castaway community, living obliviously in several thatched huts, unaware that several decades have passed since the shipwreck of what was apparently supposed to be a "three-hour tour."

Aided by an enigmatic academic known only as "The Professor," the group somehow manages to enhance their GPS satellite phone using only palm fronds and coconut husks, attracting the attention of a passing biplane piloted by "Wrong Way" Corrigan.

In other words, I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen. And even when I watch it tonight, along with several million of you, I will only have the slightest notion of how it all fits into the grand scheme of things.

I am content with the knowledge that there is in fact a grand scheme – something I would not have said just a couple of seasons ago when I dropped the former favourite from my must-see list after feeling burned and betrayed by that non-event first finale.

By the time I was convinced it was safe to return, I was so hopelessly out of the loop on all the intricate back-and-forth plot twists it was all I could do to just hold on for dear life and try to enjoy the ride.

And I have. Clearly having bullied ABC into letting them work to a finite end – mark your calendars for May 2010 – Lost's writer/producers were finally able to stop simply flying by the seats of their pants and start planning things out in advance, each revelation and complication now building towards some sort of real resolution.

Hence, the margin of storyline safety that has allowed them, this season, to flash forward as well as back and, as they are apparently planning to do tonight, flash to somewhere in the middle and possibly even reinterpret what we have thought of till now as "now" to actually have all along been "then."

There are those to whom that last sentence will make perfect sense. And then there are the rest of us, who are already getting a headache. As a recap for the former and a primer for the latter, you can check out the "five burning questions" on E1, to which our in-house aficionados hope to get at least some answers tonight.

Me, I'm going with the Gilligan scenario.

Pilot Error: This is what I get for jumping the gun on the CBS fall previews in yesterday's column. And for filing from home when I should have been in bed, battling the flu.

To begin with, I incorrectly identified Simon Baker, the star of the new CBS show The Mentalist, as British. He is in fact Australian.

I also, in my snotty stupor, completely mischaracterized the mid-season show Eleventh Hour, which stars an actual Brit, Rufus Sewell, as a "supernatural investigation" thriller à la The X-Files, when in fact it is a "bio-hazard investigation" thriller, much closer to our own, just-ended (in its cable incarnation) ReGenesis.

This erroneous impression could have been the result of having seen only a five-minute promo, as opposed to a full pilot episode. But it wasn't. Truth be told, I should have known better. The title did seem a tad familiar, but it's taken me till now to realize why. This Eleventh Hour is an Americanized remake of a British show of the exact same name – starring Star Trek's Patrick Stewart – that aired here a couple of seasons ago.

Both the Star and I regret the errors.

Beverly Johnson Gives A 'Look'

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(June 4, 2008) *The average modeling career is launched at 16, but if TV Land has anything to do with it, 35 is the new 16.

The nostalgia channel is in the game of original programming, leading with the new show “She’s Got the Look,” which features beautiful women vying for a modeling crown. The twist is – all of the contenders are over 35 years of age.

“She’s Got the Look” premieres tonight with the auditions whittling down to the final contestants with the help of the judging trio of modeling masters being Wilhelmina Models, Inc. President Sean Patterson, celebrity stylist Robert Verdi, and over-35 beauty supermodel Beverly Johnson, who let EUR’s Lee Bailey in on details about the new show.

“We live in the US where most of us are going to be 50 years old and more, so there is a huge market for women over 35 that really hasn’t been addressed yet,” Johnson said of one of the reasons TV Land created the series. “But the show is not only going to be a platform to address that market, but also to embrace our maturity.”

Thing is, the maturity level of the contestants will surprise you. Even Johnson herself was taken aback when she met some of the ladies.

“I thought I was the best 50 year-old around,” the legendary beauty said. “I was a supermodel; I kept myself together. I thought I was going to go out to Middle America and see the women and say, ‘This is what you can do to look like me.’ But no.”

Johnson said that she was greeted by thousands of amazing looking women.

“I didn’t expect it. The idea of health and beauty and fitness – they got it. I thought I was going to see all these middle aged women wearing the fashion of the ‘70s and hadn’t changed their hairstyles, and it was just the opposite.”

Johnson said that many of the women were so youthfully gorgeous that they looked too young for the platform of the program.

The contestants will face off each week for the grand prize of a life changing contract with the world famous Wilhelmina Modeling Agency, a spread in “Self” magazine, and $100,000. However, Johnson explained that she got something out of the experience too.

“For me it was great because I learned a lot from them,” she said of working on the show with the hopefuls. “I don’t think that I would have the courage they have at the age I am now and they are now from what I know about the industry to do what they’re doing. I’d be terrified. I guess that’s why I’m so stoked on the show. For me it was surprising all the way around.”

She also said that the exchanges on the set with the other judges and industry professionals also taught her a thing or two that her long modeling career had not.

Johnson admitted that she isn’t particularly good at spotting someone and knowing they photograph well, but she said she does have her way of picking out a star.

“What I was looking for was the ambition and the desire. That’s one thing you can’t give a person,” she said. “I saw so many beautiful women enter the industry when I was coming up – or even now, and I’ve said, ‘Uh oh, this girl is going to come in and take over. She’s just gorgeous.’ And then they don’t make it. They just don’t want it. So, I had to see that light. I had to see that desire. I had to see that ambition.”

Check out more on “She’s Got the Look” at www.TVland.com. For more on Beverly Johnson and her company, Beverly Johnson Hair & Wigs Collection, go to www.beverlyjohnson.com.

Kids In The Hall Are Somewhat Grown Up

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

(June 04, 2008) They aren't "Kids" any more.

It's been 25 years or so since
Kids in the Hall broke out of the burgeoning Toronto comedy scene to begin building a cult following for their anarchic, envelope-pushing sketch and character comedy.

A TV series, a movie, a feature documentary and several reunion tours later, they are back on the road – or rather, just off it – as their most ambitious and successful tour to date brings them back to Toronto for a couple of final shows tonight and tomorrow at Massey Hall.

Each has, in the interim, enjoyed considerable individual mainstream success in TV and film: actor/writer Dave Foley (Newsradio, Robson Arms); actor/writer/producer Mark McKinney (Saturday Night Live, Slings & Arrows, Studio 60, the new Winnipeg sitcom Less Than Kind); director/producer/writer Bruce McCulloch (Dog Park, Superstar, Carpoolers); actor/writer Kevin McDonald (That '70s Show, endless other episodic, film and cartoon character roles).

Scott Thompson would appear to have clung closest to the group's original fringe sensibilities, in one-man shows and specials and a 1998 "biography" of his most notorious character, the inexhaustibly opinionated gay icon Buddy Cole. Which has not prevented him from also amassing a long list of mainstream film and episodic credits, including several seasons of Larry Sanders.

And now they're all together again, enjoying each other's company and creative collaboration more than ever, wrapping up an exhaustive month-long North American tour that may lead to another film and/or limited television project.

Though the new material – and it is almost all new – proves the years have not dulled their cutting comic edge, they will admit to having mellowed. The Kids (Thompson aside) now have kids of their own.

Indeed, a dinner with his daughter has kept McKinney from joining in on our own little reunion (I wrote the Kids' first press release).

SALEM: Now that your audience is multi-generational, I can't help but wonder about your own kids' awareness of what Daddy does for a living. Kevin, you're a cartoon, so you're automatically a hero. You and Scott talk amongst yourselves.

FOLEY: My boys started watching the (TV) show in the last few years – they're 15 and 12 now. They're coming to Massey Hall. It's the first time they've seen a live Kids show....

My daughter rode with us on the bus from L.A. to Anaheim. She's 5, but she watched the show in Anaheim and apparently she loved it. I figure at 5 she just won't get the dirty parts.

McDONALD: This is one of the dirtiest shows we've ever done.

FOLEY: It's also the most fun we've had since probably before the TV show.

McDONALD: We've been together 24 hours a day ...

SALEM: But I seem to remember, back in the day, you guys were constantly fighting. I always assumed that was part of your process.

McDONALD: Well, I think you mellow when you hit 40.

FOLEY: Yeah. Anything else is undignified.

MCCULLOCH: Absolutely. I mean personally, when I was 26, I thought I had to come up with every idea. Around 34, I realized I was wrong. And now, I think, we've all developed as people ... we don't have to compete with each other.

FOLEY: We know now that every decision we make isn't life and death. When you're young, you fight for as long as you can about everything, because you think everything is that important. But now it's ... well, you know, if I lose this argument, I'll win the next one.

SALEM: I want to bring Scott in here ... I mean, we've been talking about kids, and mainstream success ...

THOMPSON: Hey, I'd love to have more mainstream success. As an actor starting out, there weren't many people like me. There still aren't, though I guess it's getting better. Gay people have always been the whipping boys of comedy ...

MCCULLOCH: Scott is literally an artist. Every line is of importance. So it's not like he's, "Oh, there's these two guys and one of them loses his car keys, and ..." you know. He's got to write stuff that is interesting to him.

THOMPSON: I haven't grown up.

McDONALD: I don't think any of us have, really, in terms of our work. I think if you look at us onstage, we're still children.

FOLEY: I don't think we're so hip that, you know ... I mean, some people get so hip that they're not funny any more. We're still allowed to be really funny. I think we're a great balance of that, the kick to the crotch and real intelligence.


'Akeelah's' Keke Palmer Books Nickelodeon Pilot

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 3, 2008) *Akeelah and the Bee" star Keke Palmer has scored the lead role in Nickelodeon's new live-action pilot "True Fashion, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The project, described as "Big" meets "The Devil Wears Prada," centers on a 15-year-old (Palmer) tapped to head the teen division of a major fashion label. She has a passion for fashion but soon learns that corporate life has the same highs and lows as high school, complete with cliques and mean girls -- but also with such cool perks as designing for up-and-coming rock stars and casting cute models. Palmer, who pocketed an NAACP Image Award for her "Akeelah" role, will next be seen on the big screen in "The Longshots." Based on a true story, the movie stars Palmer as the first female quarterback in Pop Warner football history.

Nicole Ari Parker, Keith Robinson Score ABC Gigs

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 3, 2008) *Pilot season has been very good to Nicole Ari Parker and Keith Robinson, as both have been added to pilots in production for ABC, according to the Hollywood Reporter.   Parker will join the Damon Wayans comedy "Never Better," while Robinson, last seen on the big screen in "Dreamgirls," will star opposite Catherine O'Hara in the drama "Good Behavior."   "Never Better" stars Wayans as Keith, a recovering alcoholic who's trying to be a better husband and father to his family. Parker, last seen opposite Martin Lawrence in "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins," will play the wife of Wayans' character. "Good Behavior," an adaptation of the New Zealand series "Outrageous Fortune" from "Veronica Mars" creator Thomas, is about a woman's (O'Hara) efforts to get her criminal family to go straight after her husband is sent to prison.    Robinson, who's coming off FOX's "Canterbury's Law," will play a police officer who's friendly with O'Hara's character.


Bethany Jillard Has Catapulted Herself Onto The Toronto Theatre Scene

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

(May 29, 2008) Bethany Jillard knows that playing someone as controversial as Rachel Corrie brings its own burden along with it.

"There are people going to be coming into the theatre saying she was naive, she was a dupe, she was a terrorist," says the young actor about playing the title role in My Name is Rachel Corrie, now in previews at Tarragon Theatre prior to a June 4 opening.

"But I knew absolutely nothing about her or her case when I was cast in the role and I think that was the best way to be.

"I discovered the woman on her own terms, piece by piece, and that's what I think the audience should do."

Corrie, of course, was the 23-year-old Olympia, Wash., resident who was run over by an armoured Israeli bulldozer in 2003 while taking part in a Palestinian demonstration in Gaza.

Whether the driver acted deliberately or accidentally and whether Corrie was a political martyr or a piece of collateral damage has never been settled.

And since this play – based on her diaries, emails and poetry – was released in London in 2005, it's caused a storm of controversy around the world (see sidebar).

That's why it's wonderful that Jillard came to the work fresh, with no political or religious preconceptions.

"There was something really awakening about discovering the woman through her writing," she insists. "I was really inspired by her, blown away by her, actually. Not just for what she said, but the way she crafted her writing. It's like you're hearing another artist."

Jillard admits that on the surface, she was nothing like Corrie, although the actor is within 18 months of the age the activist was when she died.

"I was born in Toronto on Sept. 26, 1983, and then grew up all over the place, travelling wherever my father worked – London, Mexico City, Whitby."

Her stage debut was at the age of 9. "I played Young Florence in Chess," she giggles, "and yelled `Poppa!' as I was being dragged off the stage."

Her mother was a drama teacher, which helped Jillard keep her hand in once she returned to Canada. And although she originally enrolled at U of T to pursue a science career, she found herself being drawn to "the thing that kept compelling me: theatre."

Driftwood Theatre was the first company that hired her, "as a 20-year-old fairy in A Midsummer Night's Dream." The company has stayed faithful to her, rewarding her with the female lead in Romeo and Juliet this summer.

That performance as Juliet will cap off what Jillard jokingly calls "My year of living dangerously" – in a 12-month period, she will have played in George F. Walker's Tough at Factory, tackled the leading role in Daniel MacIvor's How It Works at Tarragon, played a musical ingénue in A Man of No Importance for Acting Up, plus the substantial roles of Rachel Corrie and Juliet.

Impressively, this is the 24-year-old Jillard's first full professional annum in the business. Most actresses would be thrilled to have a bill like that at the peak of their careers.

"I couldn't possibly be more overwhelmed or thankful," she says quietly, which leads her back to Rachel.

"When I read the script, I kept hearing echoes of my soul, not in the sense that I've ever been overly political, but I do share a lot of her idealism.

"I hear echoes of myself, an acute sense of justice, a feeling that the world ought to be a certain way and then feeling betrayed when you discover it isn't."

A little bit of steel enters her sweet, gentle voice as she adds, "I have not been made cynical by the world yet and I think Rachel wasn't either."

Jillard believes that Palestine just happened to be the place that Corrie's idealism and growing radicalism led her at that time, because "after 9/11, she felt a certain amount of complicity as an American citizen funding military activities in the Middle East.

"Her spirit could have made her go anywhere, but that's the place she happened to choose."

That brings us to the play's final moments. What went through Corrie's brain in the last moments of her life?

Jillard answers with difficulty. "She didn't go to Palestine looking to be a martyr. She didn't want to die. I think she truly believed she would stop that bulldozer," Jillard says.

"And I think I would believe the same thing. I hope I'd have the courage to be as alive as she was and if it led to the same place, then so be it."

Just the facts
WHAT: My Name is Rachel Corrie
WHEN: Tonight to June 22
WHERE: Tarragon Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.
TICKETS: $15-$35 at 416-531-1827 or totix.ca

The Music Man: Just Perfect

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

The Music Man
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_star10.gif(out of 4)
By Meredith Willson. Directed by Susan H. Schulman. Until Nov. 1 at the Avon Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600.

(May 29, 2008) STRATFORD–There's no trouble at all in River City.

The production of
The Music Man that opened last night at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival is so joyous, skilful, professional and perfect that all I really have to do is tell you all the reasons you must buy tickets for it at once.

Director Susan H. Schulman has performed a kind of minor miracle by taking a piece of musical theatre that many people regard as hopelessly old-fashioned and proving that it's truly timeless as long as everyone involved with it really believes in the story they're telling.

Meredith Willson's saga of how con man Harold Hill convinces the citizens of 1912 Iowa that he can teach their children to form a band has never seemed fresher or more touching than it does here.

Besides Schulman's deft way with the material, playing it brisk and funny, never cartoonish, you have the joy of the kind of all-star company you can only get at Stratford.

It's a thrill to discover that skilled tragedian Jonathan Goad is a first-rate musical comedy star, or that Fiona Reid can steal a production even with the relatively minor role of the Mayor's wife, just by the way she says "Balzac!"

And the incredibly versatile Michelle Fisk makes the potentially sentimental role of Mrs. Paroo a wondrous display of comedy and warmth that sparks the evening perfectly.

When someone like Sara Topham, who has played parts as commanding as Rosalind, brings her wide-eyed charm to the virtual cameo of Ethel Toffelmier, you know you're on safe ground. And the reassuring comic presence of Lee MacDougall as the malaprop-riddled Mayor makes it even better.

There's the wonderful barber-shop quartet of Laird Mackintosh, Shawn Wright, Jonathan Monro and Marcus Nance – each a major talent in their own right – who combine into one perfect unit of comedy and music.

Eddie Glen is the ultimate sidekick as Marcellus, Eric S. Robertson a perfect leading dancer and W. Joseph Matheson the eminently hissable villain, while young Christopher Van Hagen is a wondrous young Winthrop, devoid of any disfiguring cutesiness.

But probably the happiest discovery in the whole production is Leah Oster, making her Stratford debut as Marian the Librarian.

With a clear, true voice, a wonderfully saucy sense of humour and unexpected reserves of deep feeling, she's united with her director to give us a leading lady who provides a fresh new take on the show and makes it even more endearing.

Every single technical element is in excellent hands as well. Patrick Clark's sets have the feel of nostalgia, but move with the speed and invention a modern musical requires, while Kevin Fraser knows just when to turn on the schmaltz with his lighting and when to keep it bright and cheerful.

The always-superb Berthold Carrière has never conducted his orchestra with more zip and verve – another reason the show seems like a newly minted treasure and not a soggy remnant.

And Michael Lichtefeld's choreography manages to be true to the period while adding countless touches of personal invention. His "in-joke" addition of a mini Romeo and Juliet in the library ballet is pure saucy delight.

The production is full of moments to cherish, from Goad's cheekily flashing smile, to Oster's slyly telegraphed kisses. But in the end, you'll come away with that feeling of happiness that only a beautifully produced musical can create.

I'm not ashamed to admit I was in tears at least a half-dozen times in the evening. For that, I thank Susan H. Schulman, her talented company and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival for understanding that if you're going to do a musical, you better do it superbly.

Two Young Actors Who Created A Hip-Hop Video Are Unlikely Stars Of The Shaw Festival's Newest Marketing Campaign

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

"The 21st century, meet the 19th, with the 20th century squeezed in between. Shavian propriety, Fabian Society, Learn it all ... with Bernard Shaw."

(June 2, 2008) Two young actors who draped themselves in parody to create a witty and satirical hip-hop video on YouTube are the unlikely stars of the Shaw Festival's newest marketing campaign.

The video, in which the chorus above casts the Shaw as the crucial meeting point of three centuries, might fix a company problem. The festival, like so many arts organizations, is pouring considerable time and resources into attracting an audience young enough to carry them through the coming decades. Now, it's possible a video that didn't cost Shaw a dime might help spark interest in antique drama in that demographic weak spot.

The five-minute track Learn It All by the Shavians, featuring DJ Chops and MC Stash, has been viewed more than 2,700 times on YouTube and now appears on Shaw's website. The two would-be rappers, Martin Happer and Gray Powell, clad in sunglasses and false facial hair, rattle off their clever wordplay while turning the genre's stereotypes on their heads - bicycles stand in for luxury cars, and the only glorification of alcohol is a markedly ungangsterish monument to Jackson Triggs wine.

MC Stash, left, and DJ Chops produced their rap video Learn It All to entertain their fellow actors.

"I think theatre in general could always keep in touch with younger folk, and I don't think it's any secret that the Shaw Fest appeals to the 50-plus set," said Happer, a fifth-year Shaw ensemble member who doubles as DJ Chops. "And looking to the future, you've got to think of that."

But the video was never intended to market the company. It was the product of simple fun and games, according to Happer and his co-star, second-year actor Powell.

"It was a joke," Powell said. "We were driving to work and saw graffiti on an abandoned school, and thought the irony of us being gangsters who took the mandate of Shaw way too seriously, in a small town like Niagara-on-the-Lake, would be kind of funny."

With the season's first company meeting approaching, the roommates decided to film the video to give their colleagues a few laughs. With some help from Sherry Nasmith-Jones in wardrobe and sound technician Fred Gabrsek, the urban-Shaw ballad took shape.

The festival's director of public relations, Odette Yazbeck, quickly suggested the video be posted on the Shaw website, emphasizing that the video highlights aspects of Bernard Shaw's work that are often ignored by all demographics.

"So many people hear the words Bernard Shaw and think drawing rooms and doilies and high collars, and this really does blow the dust off people's perceptions," she said. "Really, Shaw was about the common man, he was about poking fun at the establishment, and he was about shaking things up - and that's kind of what this video did."

Happer and Powell say they were surprised by the video's success, and the way their alter egos have "taken on a life a bit outside" themselves. They talk, tongue firmly planted in cheek, of the real-life history of DJ Chops and MC Stash.

"Chops and Stash, there's a bit of a myth surrounding these guys. We think they were in the company in the early nineties, and they were let go, but Shaw really hit something in their hearts and in their minds," Happer and Powell said, completing each other's sentences in the video's Beastie Boys, call-and-answer style.

Powell and Happer expect to create new instalments, though they cannot promise the return of Stash and Chops.

"The spirit of Shaw lives in [the Shavians]," Powell deadpanned. "They're genre-busters. They can do different things. They could do gay industrial pop. We've got some metal. Who knows?"

Visit http://www.shawfest.com to view the Shavians video.


Blu-Ray DVD Format May Not Dominate For Years

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(June 01, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Blu-ray stomped HD DVD to become the standard format for high-definition movie discs, but years may pass before it can claim victory over the good old DVD.

Noemi Velazquez, a 44-year-old warehouse worker, can explain why. She took one look at the $399 (all figures U.S.) price tag of a Blu-ray player at a Best Buy store in Glendale, Calif., and kept going.

"I have to admit, Blu-ray is great," she said. "(But) I'm going to wait until they go to half-price.''

Analysts, movie studios and the Blu-ray Disc Association, a manufacturing group, all say Blu-ray discs will eventually dominate video sales. The question is when.

Consumers are balking at the $300-plus cost of most Blu-ray players especially because only limited movie titles are available in the format.

"People aren't going to pay three times as much for a platform that's only half-baked," said Steve Wilson, a consumer electronics analyst with ABI Research.

Many also are waiting to see how cable, satellite and online video services play out. But, above all, consumers seem satisfied with standard-definition DVDs and players – even consumers who upgrade to high-definition TVs that can tap into Blu-ray's sharper picture and clearer sound.

Velazquez said that because she was still paying off a $1,000 high-definition TV she bought in October, she was happy for now to keep watching pay-TV movies and standard-definition DVDs on it.

Sony Corp.-backed Blu-ray was crowned the next-generation video technology in February after Toshiba Corp., creator of the competing HD DVD format, abruptly said it would drop the fight. The move came after Warner Bros. decided to join most other studios by going solely with Blu-ray and video rental chains followed suit.

Manufacturers are planning a souped-up lineup of titles and special features on Blu-ray discs to boost sales this summer and during the coming Christmas season in the hope that Blu-ray can turn around the sagging home video market. And retailers are creating new displays to explain Blu-ray's benefits.

U.S. consumer spending on home video rentals and purchases in all formats, including DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray and VHS, fell 3 per cent to $24.1 billion last year. The figure was expected to drop another 2 per cent this year to $23.6 billion, despite a six fold increase in Blu-ray disc spending to $1.3 billion, according to Adams Media Research.

The Blu-ray increase is not enough to offset an expected 6 per cent drop in overall spending on DVDs.

Adams says it could take two more years for Blu-ray sales to put the home video market back on a growth path.

"The group that bought $2,000, 40-inch TVs are the ones that will lead the charge," said Tom Adams, founder of the research firm. "Everyone else will come along when the price comes down.''

To jump-start the changeover, studios are beginning to release movies in Blu-ray with enhanced bonus features like picture-in-picture director commentary. The new bells and whistles are meant to entice consumers to plop down as much as $10 extra for a Blu-ray disc compared with a standard DVD.

Blu-ray machine prices are starting to drop. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. began stocking a $298 Magnavox model in mid-May, said spokesperson Melissa O'Brien. That's cheaper than most alternatives but a hefty price hike from a typical $50 DVD player.

The format also faces sales challenges that DVDs did not when they took over from VHS in the late 1990s. It doesn't save any space compared with DVD, and there's no need to replace a DVD collection once you buy a Blu-ray player because it will play your old discs.

There also is a proliferation of direct-to-home offerings appearing on cable, satellite and the Internet that threaten to stop Blu-ray growth in its tracks. Blu-ray backers say, however, consumers prefer physical copies of movies over virtual ones, especially when some online rental services impose a time limit.

And Blu-ray's adoption curve is similar to – maybe even faster than – that of DVDs, backers say. Blu-ray players, now available for three years, cost $100 less than DVD players did at a comparable point in their life cycle, said Dorinda Marticorena, a senior vice president at Warner Home Video, a unit of Time Warner Inc.

"DVD was exactly the same thing. Players were expensive and there were not many titles. Lo and behold, the awareness went up and demand went up," said Andy Parsons, chair of the association's U.S. promotion committee. "It'll happen in good time.''

Blu-ray still has a long, uphill climb. Last year, more than 101 million U.S. households could play DVDs, compared with 3.7 million that could play Blu-ray discs, including those with PlayStation 3 consoles, according to Adams.

But that's double the 1.6 million DVD devices that were in U.S. households in 1998, the comparable second year they were available. By the end of 2008, 14.4 million U.S. households are expected to be Blu-ray compatible, compared with the 9.4 U.S. million households that could play DVDs in year three.

Manufacturers and studios are preparing new offerings to take advantage of a feature known as BD Live, which allows access to enhanced Blu-ray bonus features over the Internet. It's available now on Sony's PlayStation 3 game consoles.

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. added a BD Live clip-sharing function on its horror flick Saw IV and plans to have Rambo director Sylvester Stallone conduct an interactive exchange with viewers about his director's cut.

"It makes these discs almost alive," said Lions Gate President Steve Beeks.

The Walt Disney Co. is set to rerelease the 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty in October in Blu-ray with chat, trivia and video-messaging functions, just as its rerelease of Snow White on DVD in 2000 introduced a then-revolutionary animated menu.

"Snow White made the mass market wake up to the potential of DVD and helped demystify the technology," said Bob Chapek, president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment Worldwide. "Sleeping Beauty" on Blu-ray a decade later represents much the same thing.''


Cleo Parker Robinson Pays Us A Visit

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

(May 29, 2008) Here in the centre of the universe, we assume that significant dance ends at the borders of the megacity.

But less than 100 kilometres to the west, the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival has been quietly expanding its presence.

Ten years ago, festival co-founders and dancers Janet Johnson and Catrina von Radecki came to Guelph from Toronto and Montreal, respectively, and found a community ready and willing to support contemporary dance. The newly opened River Run Centre provided the perfect venue.

"We had about 600 people in the first year," says Johnson. Now with festival events including workshops and the Guelph Youth Dance Training program, they attract as many as 8,000 participants throughout the year. Only about 15 per cent of festival audiences come from Toronto.

"Guelph is a place that is culturally vibrant and eager for new ideas," says Radecki. With five universities, including Guelph's, within striking distance, the festival can draw on a very aware fan base. And dance company Dancetheatre David Earle has contributed to a growing audience in this city of 106,000.

Earle's famous Ray Charles Suite from 1973 kicks off the festival at tomorrow night's gala, along with Roger Sinha's Apricot Trees Exist and Deborah Dunn's Wuthering Heights.

For times, tickets and complete information on the festival go to guelphcontemporarydancefestival.com.

A dance maven needn't feel stuck in Toronto this weekend, though, because Dance Immersion's Showcase is featuring a rare appearance from Cleo Parker Robinson's company from Denver, one of the finest proponents of African American dance.

Cleo Parker was born in 1948. "My father was black and my mother was white," she says.

At one point the family lived in Dallas, long before the civil rights movement. "My mother was the only white woman in an all-black choir. Sometimes, because of segregation, we would have to hide my mother."

She married Tom Robinson, a dancer and teacher, and returned to Denver, where there was precious little in the way of modern dance, and no black dance at all. She formed Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble more than 35 years ago. She found a home for the company, a 300-seat theatre and a school in an African Methodist Episcopal church – rebuilt after the Ku Klux Klan burned it down in the 1950s – in a part of town that could use some cultural uplifting.

Dance was always part of her life. "I started dancing when I could start walking," says Parker Robinson, on the phone from Colorado. "My father was a dancer and he loved to dance: calypso, cha cha, jitterbug. My mother was musical. She played the French horn."

She names Rita Berger, a Balanchine dancer, as her formative influence. "She was an extraordinary teacher." To get into Berger's class, she pretended she already knew ballet, although she'd been mostly dancing in musicals.

Over time, the dancer found her place in the African American dance lineage that begins with Katherine Dunham (1909-2006) and includes legendary dancer/choreographers Lester Horton, Alvin Ailey and Arthur Mitchell (Dance Theatre of Harlem).

She remains a fierce keeper of the flame, maintaining a repertoire from which she has plucked Dunham's Ragtime, Chorus and Barrel House Blues, from 1938, to perform at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre. The ensemble will also dance Ailey's Escapades, set to the music of Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln, and Parker Robinson's choreography. Following the showcase, she'll be in town for a week to conduct workshops at the National Ballet School.

But be warned: Parker Robinson says people in the audience could well be invited up on stage to dance with her ensemble.

Just the facts
What: Dance Immersion Showcase
Where: Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W.
When: tonight through Sat. @ 8 p.m. tomorrow and Sat. @ 1 p.m.
Tickets: $30 at 416-973-4000

Renegade Choreographer Morris Is Aging Gracefully

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

(June 01, 2008) NEW YORK–The one-time enfant terrible of American contemporary dance has slipped gracefully into the role of senior artist – minus pretensions.

Mark Morris, who directs one of the world's leading dance companies, is at once a traditionalist, working extensively in ballet and opera, and a renegade – still sexy, barefoot and bare-legged, and still prone to provocative statements.

The fact that his company is coming to Luminato with three different programs should raise a thrill in any Toronto dance lover. Mark Morris Dance Group has not performed in Toronto since 1992.

Morris's "Mozart Dances," "All Fours," "Violet Cavern," "Liebeslieder Waltzes" and "Grand Duo" will all be Toronto premieres, and the audiences of any of them might expect anything but the mundane.

"This is dance, not a documentary," Morris explained in an interview. "I'm not interested in showing reality."

Morris has always been at the leading edge of dance, thumbing his nose at convention while directing and choreographing productions for such major companies as New York's Metropolitan Opera, the San Francisco Ballet and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels.

Since 2001, his group has been based in a repurposed auto showroom in Brooklyn, diagonally across the street from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, staging ground for all that is avant garde in the performing arts.

The Mark Morris Dance Center is also a community centre, where dancers mix with children, the elderly and the disabled not only to create new professional work, but for recreational, rehabilitative and fitness training in dance.

Morris is at once refining and elevating his art form and bringing it to a wider audience, including a free summer concert in Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

The man behind all this activity and the 28-year-old company is 51. His long curly locks are gone, but traces of the diva who played Queen Dido in his landmark dance production of the Purcell opera, Dido and Aeneas, remain. The slightly greying hair is now neatly cropped, but the seductive raspy voice and generous laugh is ever present.

Morris still dances, always in his Nutcracker adaptation, The Hard Nut, and sometimes in other solo parts. But he is still recovering from a foot injury. "I do class and run rehearsals," he says. "Nobody's making me not dance. I'm just not right now."

The spacious room where he works and entertains boasts an ensuite, open bathroom, where the dancer could soak in a tub while talking with guests in his office. The walls are painted a Kelly green as vibrant as his green eyes. A row of sports trophies – for golf, baseball, tennis, basketball; sports Morris would never play – makes a kinetic frieze along a ledge high above his head. Masks, art, objets from India, Africa and Indonesia constitute a testament to Morris's omnivorous curiosity and eclectic tastes.

Always inclined to collaborate with artists in other disciplines, Morris has taken his dance further into other performance realms in recent years. He's made opera (with Peter Sellars and the Metropolitan Opera's James Levine) and film and directed the Paul Simon musical Capeman.

Whatever he's making, it always begins with the music. His biographer, Joan Acocella, in her 1993 tome Mark Morris, makes a lot of the choreographer's deep understanding and attention to the structure of music and musical theory. It began with an obsession with baroque. Morris is that rare choreographer who never messes with the music to make it fit his dance formations.

In his best known full-evening works, especially L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, set to Handel, it is clear how the structure leads to the structure of the dance.

Lately he has been delving into a pre-Stalinist version of the Sergei Prokofiev score for Romeo and Juliet, for a dance that will premiere on July 4 at Bard College, about 150 kilometres north of New York City. The show will bear no resemblance to the MacMillan or Cranko ballet versions.

"Some of the music is in a completely different location; Romeo's variation doesn't exist. The structure is quite different. To me it's more through-composed." As for imagery, Morris says, "I went shockingly to early renaissance Italy." It will be more Giotto than Quattrocento. "I promise the Capulets and the Montagues are not colour-coded."

In other words, this dance maker will not repeat himself or anyone else, and looks to unknown or lateral territory whenever he's creating. With "Mozart Dances," from 2006, he wanted to work with an old friend, the prominent British abstract artist Howard Hodgkin. He also wanted "way too much piano music. It's more than you would get on a pianist's concert."

He sent the music to Hodgkin. Hodgkin painted five works; Morris chose three. The paintings are blown up huge and high behind the dancers – whose costumes allude to the time of Mozart – so they look as if they're inhabiting the art.

With the Brahms Liebesliederwalzer, the music for the show that opens June 14, Morris has massaged a work he made in 1989, adding more actual waltzing. "I love to do it and I love to watch it," he says.

If this artist adheres to any credo when it comes to making dance shows, it's in strong opposition to the postmodernist trend toward text-laden bits of everyday life: "I don't want to go to the theatre to see the show that's about my trip to the theatre on the subway. I want a little magic, please."

From June 7 through 14, it is safe to say, Toronto will be treated to more than a little magic.

Call it South Asian dance HQ

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

(May 30, 2008) When Lata Pada talks about the year-old centre for Sampradaya Dance Creations, her already bright eyes light up. "It's had a huge impact," says the choreographer and dancer. She's talking about the 3,500-square-foot space in Mississauga that opened last March.

"The centre has become the nucleus for advancing all aspects of South Asian dance development," says Pada, artistic director of the company and the 28-year-old academy that operate under the Sampradaya umbrella. "It can become a hub for training, mentoring and building audiences." She wants her organization to be the catalyst for growing a South Asian Dance Alliance, a cohort of companies across the country aimed at putting classical Indian dance on a professional footing.

"We've been losing valuable assets," she says, "dancers who've been trained well but who are not going into the profession, either through lack of opportunities or lack of knowledge of opportunities."

By Pada's estimate, there are at least 40 schools of South Asian dance in the GTA. Students spend up to 12 years training; they start at 4 years of age at Sampradaya. And then they give up dancing except at the unpaid, community arts level, to pursue paying professions.

The bharatanatyam dancer, born in Bangalore but resident in Canada for more than 40 years, has taken some cues from a South Asian arts agency in Birmingham, England. She has connected with an annual international choreographic residency involving 20 emerging Indian dance artists from Canada, the U.S., England and India. One of the teachers who went to Britain was Canadian bharatanatyam dancer Natasha Bakht. In August 2009, Sampradaya will produce the choreographic intensive sessions.

Sampradaya is also taking the lead in affiliating itself with the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance, the U.K. organization that gives accreditation to teachers of ballet, mainly, but for the last five years to teachers of bharatanatyam and kathak dance. It will be the first step toward creating a professional stream at the academy.

The two big Sampradaya studios afford greater opportunities for creation and presentations of students debuting in solo bharatanatyam performances. Over the last few months, Pada has focusing on two new works in a unique collaboration with Mavin Khoo. The dances will go to the Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa after opening at Harbourfront Centre's Premiere Dance Theatre tonight.

Khoo is a beautiful Malayasian-born dancer with extensive bharatanatyam and ballet experience. After training in Britain, India and America, he worked with contemporary dancers in the U.K., including Akram Khan. In 2003, he formed his own London-based company, mavinkhooDance.

B2 is the result of a three-way collaboration between Pada, Khoo and Ballet Jörgen, taking intercultural dance creation to a new multiple. Four dancers from each Canadian company will perform B2. The ballet dancers are on point; the bharatanatyam dancers are barefoot. "It's not a fusion of the two forms," Pada says. "It is instigating a dialogue between the two forms."

In the second work, shunya, Pada goes into the mystic exploring the concept of zero. The piece is another cross-cultural dialogue, this time between kathak and bharatanatyam. Joining the dancers onstage for shunya is singer Maryem Hassan Tollar and Catherine Potter on bansuri, the Indian bamboo flute.

After four decades of living in the GTA, Pada is blind to cultural barriers. "When you live in a city like Toronto, differences just fall away. We're all feeling we're pretty eclectic people. I'm interested in creating work at the crossroads and that has been the inspiration for this program."

And not only that, she admits: "It has also got to do with one's own life journey."


Legendary Designer Yves Saint Laurent Dies At 71

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Elaine Ganley, Associated Press

(June 02, 2008) PARIS — Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most influential and enduring designers of the 20th century, will be remembered for empowering women through his fashion, a long-time friend and associate said.

Saint Laurent died Sunday at his Paris home after a yearlong battle with brain cancer, said Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's business partner for four decades. He was 71.

"Chanel gave women freedom" and Saint Laurent "gave them power," Berge said on France-Info radio. Saint Laurent was a "true creator," going beyond the aesthetic to make a social statement, Berge said.

"In this sense he was a libertarian, an anarchist and he threw bombs at the legs of society. That's how he transformed society and that's how he transformed women."

In his own words, Saint Laurent once said he felt "fashion was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves."

Saint Laurent was widely considered the last of a generation that included Christian Dior and Coco Chanel and made Paris the fashion capital of the world, with the Rive Gauche, or Left Bank, as its elegant headquarters.

From the first YSL tuxedo and his trim pantsuits to see-through blouses, safari jackets and glamorous gowns, Saint Laurent created instant classics that remain stylish decades later.

Designer Tomy Hilfiger said he was saddened by the loss of such a legendary talent.

"He was a creative genius who changed the world of fashion forever," Hilfiger said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Saint Laurent was a pioneer and a visionary who "contributed to France's influence" in the world.

"Mr. Saint Laurent revolutionized modern fashion with his understanding of youth, sophistication and relevance. His legacy will always be remembered," said Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa.

Saint Laurent was born Aug. 1, 1936, in Oran, Algeria, where his father worked as a shipping executive. He first emerged as a promising designer at the age of 17, winning first prize in a contest sponsored by the International Wool Secretariat for a cocktail dress design.

A year later in 1954, he enrolled at the Chambre Syndicale school of haute couture, but student life lasted only three months. He was introduced to Christian Dior, then regarded as the greatest creator of his day, and Dior was so impressed with Saint Laurent's talent that he hired him on the spot.

When Dior died suddenly in 1957, Saint Laurent was named head of the House of Dior at the age of 21.

He opened his own haute couture fashion house with Berge in 1962. The pair later started a chain of Rive Gauche ready-to-wear boutiques.

Saint Laurent's simple navy blue pea coat over white pants, which the designer first showed in 1962, was one of his hallmarks. His "smoking," or tuxedo jacket, of 1966 remade the tux as a high fashion statement for both sexes. It remained the designer's trademark item and was updated yearly until he retired.

Also from the 60s came Beatnik chic — a black leather jacket and knit turtleneck with high boots — and sleek pantsuits that underlined Saint Laurent's statement on equality of the sexes. He showed that women could wear "men's clothes," which when tailored to the female form became an emblem of elegant femininity.

Some of his revolutionary style was met with resistance. There are famous stories of women wearing Saint Laurent pantsuits who were turned away from hotels and restaurants in London and New York.

Saint Laurent's rising star was eternalized in 1983, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted a show to his work, the first ever to a living designer. He was awarded the Legion d'Honneur in 1985.

But bouts of depression marked his career. Berge, who also was the designer's former romantic partner, was quoted as saying that Saint Laurent was born with a nervous breakdown.

When Saint Laurent announced his retirement in 2002 at age 65 and the closure of the Paris-based haute couture house, it was mourned in the fashion world as the end of an era. His ready-to-wear label, Rive Gauche, which was sold to Gucci in 1999 for $70-million cash and royalties, still has boutiques around the world.

Saint Laurent had long been rumoured to be ill, and Berge said on RTL radio Monday that he had been afflicted with brain cancer for the past year.

"He no longer liked the world of today's fashion ... he said it didn't understand him," Berge said.

After retirement, Saint Laurent spoke of his battles with depression, drugs and loneliness, though he gave no indication that those problems were directly tied to his decision to stop working.

"I've known fear and terrible solitude," he said. "Tranquilizers and drugs, those phony friends. The prison of depression and hospitals. I've emerged from all this, dazzled but sober."

A funeral ceremony was scheduled for Friday at the Saint Roch Church in Paris, Berge said.

Is Montreal The Real Art Capital Of Canada?

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Sarah Milroy

(May 30, 2008)  MONTREAL — Is Montreal the new Vancouver? I've heard the question floated the last few days following the opening of the Québec Triennial at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal last weekend. It's a major exhibition – 38 artists showing 135 works of art – and it presents a new generation of Quebec artists, emerging into view after a long period of relative seclusion and quiet growth. There are many, many discoveries to be made, particularly for gallerygoers who live outside of Quebec.

The curators took risks. (The show was organized by MACM curators Paulette Gagnon, Mark Lanctôt, Josée Bélisle and Pierre Landry, now at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.) They set out with no declared curatorial theme, which so often serves as a diversion from the brutal sheep-and-goats sorting that such a show should be all about. The exhibition's title, Nothing Is Lost, Nothing Is Created, Everything Is Transformed, was arrived at after the fact, borrowed from the writings of a Greek scientist and philosopher named Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500-428 BC).

It's a title that would suit many of the big roundup shows this year (for example, Unmonumental at The New Museum in New York, and the Whitney Biennial), having about it both the celebratory and the apocalyptic flavour of the moment. These days, the artist often seems to perform a kind of sampling role, picking through the churning deluge of information and imagery that makes up the contemporary visual environment. But where some of these larger international shows seem chaotic in sympathy with their subject (the current Whitney being the odious example), the Québec Triennial is tightly considered and expertly installed.

There were obvious big names missing from the lineup – such as Montrealers Pascal Grandmaison and Geneviève Cadieux or the Quebec City artist collective BGL, which has been showing up a lot in Toronto – and the curators may take heat for that on the home front. But instead of received ideas they have delivered us news.

One of the most startling discoveries is the video work of 36-year-old Patrick Bernatchez. Here, he is showing two mesmerizing projection pieces, both set in the Fashion Plaza in the Mile End former garment district of Montreal, a part of the city currently being re-gentrified by the arts community. In I Feel Cold Today, we enter a 1960s-style office tower and ascend the elevators to the sound of a lush soundtrack (the artist's remix of fragments of classical music and film scores), arriving at a suite of empty offices that gradually fill with billowing snow. It's a mystical transformation. The cinematic precedent is the famous snow scene from Dr. Zhivago, where the accumulation of snow in the abandoned country house bespeaks the loss of a way of life, and the passage of time. Here, it is modernism that is mourned and, more particularly, the go-go optimism of Quebec in its Expo 67 moment.

Bernatchez's other work, Chrysalide: Empereur, is without such obvious precedent, drifting in a realm of its own. All the camera shows us is a car parked in a grimy garage. In it sits a man in a Ronald McDonald clown costume, smoking a cigarette behind the wheel as water gradually fills the interior of his car. The sun roof is open (we see his party balloons escaping), so this man is not trapped, yet he makes no effort to escape as the water rises.

This seems to be a suicide, yet he does not die. Breathing in water, is he returning to life in the womb, a place of deep privacy and seclusion? I found myself reminded of Bruce Nauman's famous videos of clowns in extremis (his dark and distinctive blend of comedy and cruelty), and the sense of violent threat in Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle. If these have inspired Bernatchez, he has wrung from these precedents a new comic/tragic resonance.

One of the few big names in the show is David Altmejd, who also hangs out on the borderline between beauty and horror. His two giant standing figurative sculptures in this show continue his investigations of decay and regeneration. One, titled The Dentist, is a stylistic departure for the artist : a mammoth monolith in the shape of a standing man that is made entirely from faceted mirrors. This colossus houses a number of quail eggs in its sides, and its surface is shattered here and there with what look like bullet holes, some of which sprout animal teeth. Despite the evidently fragile material from which it is made, the sculpture embodies a kind of brutal force. This is the sort of material conundrum that Altmejd loves to explore.

An inspired juxtaposition

In one of the most effective installation decisions in the show, Altmejd's mirrored sculpture stands within hearing range of Gwenaël Bélanger's video projection featuring the sound of a shattering mirror. The camera spins in the artist's studio, the rotation recorded in myriad stills spliced together to create a stuttering visual effect. Every five minutes, a pane of mirrored glass shatters as it is dropped on the floor with a sound like church bells, the phenomenon captured in hundreds of frozen micro-moments cut together. Like the works of Alexandre Castonguay (not in the show) or the earlier, more overt digital composites of Nicholas Baier, Bélanger takes an artisan's approach to digital technology, showing off his handiwork in obvious ways, a different approach than the sleight of hand of Vancouver artists such as Jeff Wall or the younger Scott McFarland.

Mirrors figure, as well, in the new work of Baier, another of the show's better-known figures. For this show he has installed a magisterial suite of his most recent scanned antique mirrors, surfaces that offer scars and imperfections from deep within their inky depths. But, unlike Baier, most of the artists here are little known. There's Valérie Blass, whose sculptures range from a fur-clad zigzag form that springs from the wall (she titled the piece Lightning Shaped Elongation of a Redhead) to a two-legged standing figure that looks like the Cowardly Lion in a pair of high-heeled hooves. (A sloth clings to its breast, regarding us with wide eyes, curiouser and curiouser.) This woman has developed her own completely distinct vision, each work embodying a precise material language.

Likewise, the British-born artist Adrian Norvid, who is showing a giant cartoon drawing of the Hermit Hamlet Hotel, an alternative getaway for deadbeat longhairs with hillbilly affectations. (One slogan reads “Recluse. Footloose. Screw Loose. No Use.”) Norvid takes the eccentric posture of the outsider/slacker, throwing rocks into the mainstream from his lazy place on the riverbank.

Painting comes on strong. Etienne Zack appears to tip his hat to Velazquez and other classical masters in Cut and Paste, a painting of a courtier slumped in a chair. In this Cubist-seeming likeness, he breaks the figure up into planes of form hinged together with masking tape (painted, not real). Zack takes as his subject the literal building up of form through paint. This is painting about painting.

Michael Merrill engages in another form of homage with his Paintings about Art, depictions of his fellow artists' work in museums and galleries in Canada and abroad. (One downward-looking view of the stairwell at the DIA Foundation in New York is a compositional gem, executed in dazzling emerald greens.) These pictures document the watering holes and pilgrimage sites of the little tribe of peripatetic Canadian artists, curators, dealers and collectors. Like Manet's portraits of his contemporaries, they are images to inform a future history of art.

Certainly there were things here that seemed weak by comparison. The artist collective Women with Kitchen Appliances felt like a seventies throwback. I could live without the karaoke saloon by Karen Tam, or Trish Middleton's detritus-strewn Factory for a Day. David Armstrong Six's wonderful little watercolours hold up better than his large installation work here. And Julie Doucet's collage works are always fun to look at, but they wear out fast. As well, I have never taken to the simulated theatrics of Carlos and Jason Sanchez, who are exhibiting a photo portrait of John Mark Karr (who claimed to have killed six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey) and another work showing a pair of soldiers on the battlefield (the maudlin title: The Misuse of Youth). And it was disappointing that Michel de Broin, who won last year's Sobey Art Award and is a significant force on the Quebec scene, missed the opportunity to make a new major piece for this show. But every exhibition of this sort has its hits and misses.

Montreal's critical mass

So, why is Montreal art so strong these days? First, you have to credit the strong art schools in Montreal and Quebec City. Looking at the CVs of these artists, one sees most of them are homegrown talents trained at Concordia University or the University of Quebec at Montreal. (Just a handful have gone on to hone their skills at places like Cal Arts or Columbia in the United States or Goldsmiths in London.) These programs, coupled with the viability of Quebec's artist-run-centre scene and the highly charged political push for cultural integrity over the past several decades – plus the critical funding for the museums to support it – have clearly given extra momentum to the province's artistic production.

With all its vitality and freshness, the show leaves one with the unmistakable impression of Montreal's ascendancy. Quebec artists are emerging now knowing who they are, apparently not seeking validation from elsewhere to feel empowered. Let's note: Montreal is home to the only international biennial in Canada (organized by the Centre International d'art contemporain), something English Canada has never pulled off. And nowhere in Canada has a museum committed to a regular showcase of this sort for Canadian contemporary art. (Province of Ontario, you're getting your butt kicked here.) It's telling that the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal is the first to take the lead with its new Triennial. Refusing wannabe status, and with its leading institutions honouring the home culture with discernment and passion, Montreal is suddenly looking like the sexiest thing around.

Nothing Is Lost, Nothing Is Created, Everything Is Transformed continues at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal until Sept. 7 (514-847-6232 or www.macm.org).

Barbara Walters Won't Get Political

Source:  www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter

(June 03, 2008) Barbara Walters, making the rounds to promote her bestselling memoir Audition, readily concedes that she is a lot more comfortable in her customary position as interviewer than in her more recent role as interviewee.

But there is only one topic the pioneering, 78-year-old TV personality waves off during a 30-minute back-and-forth at a downtown hotel. She won't venture a judgment on whether sexism has been a factor in the knockdown, drag-out contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Those of us who have grown up in television news – at least most of us – don't give political opinions," says Walters, in Toronto yesterday for interviews and a signing session at Indigo.

"It's changed because you have all of these different types of shows where the anchors are happy to shout out their opinions.

"But I don't – not when it comes to politics."

Walters allows, however, that she doesn't share the pessimism of those who argue that Clinton represents the last, best hope of a woman winning the White House – at least in the foreseeable future.

"She's made that possibility much more plausible," Walters says. "She's a very serious candidate. Nobody takes her candidacy lightly. And by running she has changed the course of history."

Walters, who resumes her perch on TV's daytime gabfest The View today, has been a significant groundbreaker in her own right, even if she wasn't always universally applauded for her efforts. In the 1960s, she worked her way up from writer and researcher to on-air personality on NBC's The Today Show, before being lured in 1976 by ABC to become the first woman to co-anchor an evening network newscast, alongside visibly grumpy cohort Harry Reasoner.

"I was a total flop," Walters recalls. "(Reasoner) did not want to have any partner. And if he was going to have a partner, he certainly didn't want a woman.

"I'm not sure about this, but I also think that viewers were not used to a woman's voice giving them the so-called hard news. There was so much publicity before I came to ABC – that I was gimmick, a chorus girl coming into the big time – that it would have been very hard for me to succeed. But I didn't realize I was going to be such a failure that my career was over."

Well, not quite, even if it seemed so at the time. Walters was put on "special assignment," a reporting gig that landed her high-profile interviews with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and other leaders.

She was also contracted by ABC to host four annual interview specials. These, including the popular Oscar-night sessions, became a TV ratings bonanza, with Walters plying personal details from whatever celebrities had tongues wagging at the moment. Her interview with Monica Lewinsky, televised in March 1999, ranks as the most- watched news special ever.

"My life has not just been onward and upward," Walters says. "It might have made a happier life if it were, but it would have been very boring. Many of us have had failures. That's why people can relate to my book.

"Perhaps I had to struggle more than some women today. But on the other hard, there are so many more now that are successful. Not just in television. I certainly wasn't waving a banner trying to change things, but if my own experiences have made it easier, then what a wonderful legacy to see all the women not just in front of the cameras but behind them as well. When I think of what they've accomplished, I think, `That's my reward.'"

Steve Nash, Kids In The Hall Among New Inductees To Canada's Walk Of Fame

Source: By Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(June 3, 2008) TORONTO - NBA star Steve Nash, comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall, singer kd lang, model Daria Werbowy and filmmaker James Cameron are among the latest inductees to Canada's Walk of Fame.

But of all the stars set to be recognized for their impressive contributions to the worlds of sports, entertainment and the arts, the Walk of Fame's founding director said one star had far and away the most nominations for this year's honour - Frances Bay.

The 90-year-old actress is affectionately known as "Hollywood's Grandma" for her string of old lady characters.

"We received a signed petition of over 10,000 names for Frances Bay, including personal letters from Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld and David Lynch and Henry Winkler, Monty Hall among many others, all making a very compelling case for Frances and they were right," Peter Soumalias said.

The Winnipeg performer didn't start acting until age 60, but has racked up an impressive resume that includes film and TV roles in "Happy Gilmore," "Seinfeld," "ER", "Road to Avonlea" and "Hannah Montana."

"Corner Gas" star Brent Butt helped announced the lineup Tuesday and said he was particularly excited to see comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall among the inductees.

The funnyman said he used to be the warm-up act when the Kids' taped their eponymous sketch comedy show for CBC-TV in the mid-'90s.

"It was a sweet gig, it was easy money," Butt said of the stint.

"Because everybody was so jazzed about seeing the Kids in the Hall. There were rabid Kids in the Hall fans and one of the Kids would come out and introduce you as being a friend of theirs, so everybody liked you - they wanted you to like them.

"Normally, you know, when you're a young comic, 99 per cent of the shows you're just dodging ashtrays, people hate your guts. And this was the one gig where, 'Oh, people are excited that I'm here!' "

Also set to attend this year's ceremonies are rocker Bryan Adams and actor Michael J. Fox, who were both previously named to the Walk, but couldn't attend the induction festivities.

Adams was an inaugural inductee in 1998, a year that Soumalias notes hardly attracted anyone to the then-little-known gala. Fox was inducted in 2000, but didn't learn of the honour until after the gala because Walk of Fame organizers had such a hard time notifying him.

"In the early years we got a lot of 'Who? What? Why?" Soumalias said of the Walk's early days, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

In 2003, organizers announced 13 inductees thinking "five or six would show up".

"But all 13 of them came," Soumalias said. "Which was wonderful in some respects but we didn't budget for 13. So it became a challenge for us."

He said the event's stature has grown considerably since then, with more than 40 per cent of this year's nominations coming from countries other than Canada.

To qualify, candidates must have been born in Canada or spent their formative or creative years here and must have a body of work recognized for its impact on Canada's cultural heritage.

Fans can lobby on behalf of their favourite athlete or artist, but the final decision is made by Walk of Fame organizers.

Previous inductees include Alanis Morissette, Paul Anka, Jim Carrey, Shania Twain, William Hutt and Wayne Gretzky.

To date, 107 Canadians have been honoured.

The new list of inductees will be celebrated during a gala on Sept. 6 in Toronto.


On the Net: www.Canadaswalkoffame.com


7-Minute Butt Makeover

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

I've trained hundreds of clients and I can't remember one not asking me the magical question, "What can I do to get my butt in shape?"

My female clients have shared deep, dark fears about how everyone is staring at their butt and about their self-consciousness when they wear certain clothes. Maybe you can even relate.

If this is how you feel or if your backside is one of the areas you want to target, then I have a quick and efficient workout that will help you tighten your soon-to-be-bodacious butt.

Hopefully, you're aware that your glutes won't get tight and small unless your overall body fat is reduced. You can do all the butt movements on the planet for hours a day, but it won't make one bit of difference unless you lose body fat -- that fact is non-negotiable.

Along with a balanced program of resistance training, cardio and a slight calorie-reduced nutrition program, I've had great success developing specialty routines for problem areas.

These routines are built into your program two to three times per week on alternate days of the week. They're always short, intense and absolutely get the job done.

I've designed many butt routines, but the following is one of my favourites because you don't need a gym membership. It will only take you about seven minutes, and you'll know that you worked out in those seven minutes.

Whenever you focus on a specific muscle, you always want to make sure you perform the most efficient exercises possible. In addition, you want to do the most amount of work in the least amount of time.

This method stimulates tremendous amounts of muscle fibres and almost forces the body to make changes.

There are only three exercises in this routine, but you never stop moving. You perform the recommended reps for each movement and keep moving from exercise to exercise. So after completing exercise No. 3, you start immediately from the beginning. No rest for seven minutes.

1. Extension Step Ups -- Grasp a pair of dumbbells by your sides with palms facing the side of your body. Stand behind a 6- to 12-inch high step and keep your arms straight. Step onto the middle of the step with your right foot and then lift your left knee high (to hip height), step down with your left foot, then repeat on the right side. This is a great one, and you'll really feel it. Perform 20 repetitions for each side of the body, and when finished immediately go to the next exercise.

2. Walking Lunges -- Stand with your feet hips-width apart, grasp a pair of dumbbells with your arms straight at your sides, palms in. Take a large step forward and lower your body so that your front knee lines up with your ankle. The back knee is almost touching the floor. Push off with your back foot and take a large step forward with your other foot. Walk lunge 15 steps and then turn around and return to the start using the same form. You should contract your glutes on the lowering of each movement. Just think of these as continuous giant steps while lowering the body. When finished, go directly to the next movement.

3. Bent Leg Reverse Kick-Up -- Start this exercise on your hands and knees on a mat. Raise your left leg up until it is parallel with the floor with a slight bend in the knee. Support your weight with your arms and right leg. While contracting the butt, lift your left leg up and toward the ceiling, maintaining a bend in the knee. Slowly return to the starting position. After completing the set on the left side, repeat on the right side. To increase the difficulty, you may want to add an ankle weight to the working leg. Perform 20 reps each side and when finished, immediately begin again with the first exercise.

Perform two to three cycles. A cycle is defined as completing all three exercises. In the beginning, you may only be able to do two cycles. However, as you improve and become accustomed to the movement, you'll be able to do three cycles in seven minutes.

Beginners should take their time and go their own pace. Also, beginners should begin with stationary lunges and then practice the walking portion of the lunge in about 30 days.

Is the routine easy? Nope! Just keep in mind that it's only seven minutes and it will be over soon. The end result will be well worth it. In fact, you might start feeling and seeing results within two to three weeks.

Get ready because the 7-Minute Butt Makeover will produce results -- no buts about it.


Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Orison Swett Marden

"All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible."