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December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve(or the eve of a couple of days off!).  Due to a busier calendar this time of year, the newsletter is a little lighter than usual this week.  I wish you all a very very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays ... may 2010 bring you joy, generosity of spirit and prosperity.  I truly appreciate all your support, help and readership over the past year and hope you stayed tuned for more in this next decade of 2010!  Celebrate safely out there!

Check out some exciting
New Years Eve options at either Harlem at 67 Richmond St. E. or Harlem Underground at 745 Queen Street W.

Kayte Burgess rolled through town on Tuesday night and performed at Harlem Underground - what a great night with some of Toronto's elite musicians coming out to show support and love for the talented Torontonian artist, now living in Atlanta. 

Look at my PHOTO GALLERY within the next couple of days for photos from Kardinal Offishall's Annual Charity Gala in support of breast cancer.

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


Harlem at 67 Richmond St. E. – New Years - Thursday, December 31st

Join us for a special New Year's Eve dinner followed by a night of dancing & celebration. Ring in the New Year in Style!

Enjoy a 3 Course Dinner Harlem Style and stay for the Party:

$50 Dinner and Party
$30 Party Only

To book a reservation please call:


1st Course:

Choice of:
Soup - Corn Cowder
Choice of Salad

2nd Course

Choice of:
Surf + Turf
6oz Beef tenderloin with Lobster Tail
Herbed Supreme Chicken
Escovetch Snapper

3rd Course

Spiced Rum Cake Topped with Pecans


Follow us on Twitter for updates:

Harlem Underground at 745 Queen Street W. – New Years - Thursday, December 31

Exclusive New Years Eve Bashment inside Harlem Underground. A newly renovated lounge where you will enter through the side and walk on the red carpet lined with velvet ropes. While the flashing lights of 2009 remain behind, we invite you to join us and raise your glasses high filled with complimentary champagne.

As we ring in the New Year and step into 2010, we look forward to making this a memorable night with all of you.

Harlem Underground
745 Queen Street West.
Admission: $25
For Advanced Tickets and more info please call 647-309-5243.

DJ Line-up:

-Double Dragon
(DJ L'Oqenz & DJ NaNa)
-Mike Stoan

Spinning the best in Hip Hop, R/B, Reggae, Ol'School, and House.  Big-it-Up giveaways, Good music...Good vibes! 

***For those that have joined us in previous years you know, to avoid disappointment, get your Limited Advanced Tickets to guarantee your admission.***


Brittany Murphy's Family Says Actress Was Ill

Source: www.thestar.com - Anthony McCartney

(December 21, 2009) LOS ANGELES – Brittany Murphy's family said the actress was ill with flu-like symptoms in the days before her death and prescription medications were taken from her home, the Los Angeles coroner's office said Monday.

The 32-year-old star of films such as Clueless and 8 Mile died Sunday morning after collapsing at her Hollywood Hills home. Paramedics tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said they will conduct an autopsy Monday to try to determine what killed the actress, and said her death appeared to be from natural causes. He said the reported illness could have contributed to her death, but it will be weeks before a final determination is made.

Toxicology tests will be performed, and officials will contact her personal physician to get a better sense of Murphy's medical history, Winter said.

Neighbour Clare Staples said she saw firefighters working to resuscitate the actress Sunday morning. She said Murphy was on a stretcher.

Murphy's husband, wearing pyjama bottoms and no shoes, appeared "dazed" as firefighters tried to save her, Staples said. "It's just tragic," she added.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

"The sudden loss of our beloved Brittany is a terrible tragedy," Murphy's husband and family wrote in a statement. "She was our daughter, our wife, our love, and a shinning star. We ask you to respect our privacy at this difficult time."

Murphy moved to Los Angeles with her mother, Sharon, in the early 1990s. Her career started with small roles in television series, commercials and movies, but her part in Clueless led to larger projects.

She is best known for parts in Girl, Interrupted and 8 Mile, and also voiced the character Luanne Platter for more 200 episodes on Fox's animated series King of the Hill.

Her role in 8 Mile led to more recognition, Murphy told AP in 2003. "That changed a lot," she said. "That was the difference between people knowing my first and last name as opposed to not."

She married British screenwriter Simon Monjack in 2007.

Murphy's father, Angelo Bertolotti, said he learned of her death from his son, the actress's brother, and was stunned.

"She was just an absolute doll since she was born," Bertolotti said from his Branford, Fla., home. "Her personality was always outward. Everybody loved her – people that made movies with her, people on a cruise – they all loved her. She was just a regular gal."

He said he hadn't heard much about the circumstances of Murphy's death. Bertolotti divorced her mother when Murphy was young and hadn't seen Murphy in the past few years.

"She was just talented," Bertolotti said. "And I loved her very much."

Just Married

Drake: So Far Gone, He's Arrived

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(December 19, 2009) Most successful pop musicians will eventually make a song or even a full album about the drawbacks of fame and fortune. Drake is a little unusual. He tackled the subject even before his debut album was done.

What might have looked like hubris in someone else, however, turned into prophesy for the 23-year-old Toronto singer, actor and rapper. Since the beginning of 2009, Drake has become hip hop's new golden boy. His mix tape So Far Gone was one of the hottest music releases on the Internet this year, his single Best I Ever Had became a No. 1 hit last summer, and he's competing for two Grammy Awards against the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West. All this, and Drake still hasn't finished making his first album.

“I had one of the craziest years of my life, maybe one of the craziest years in hip hop for any new artist,” he said, sprawled on a distressed leather sofa in the prime downtown condo he bought last summer but has only recently had time to furnish. The decor – mostly hardwood, leather and sisal – is understated and frankly male. The view is easily worth a million or two, and seems to confirm that the multilabel bidding war that erupted around Drake last summer ended very much in his favour. (The winner, Motown Universal, released an EP of “extended-play selections” from So Far Gone in September.)

Drake, who grew up as Aubrey Graham, has been in show business since 2001, as a seven-season regular on the TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation . His move into music over the past few years may seem like an echo of his Degrassi character, Jimmy Brooks, but Drake says it happened the other way round: He began making music (his first mix tape came out in 2006) and then the Degrassi writers made Jimmy an aspiring rapper.

I went to a predominantly Jewish school, so to be half-black and Jewish wasn't something a lot of other kids could understand.

Drake's upbringing is a tale of two cities: Toronto, where he lived with his white Jewish mother in prosperous Forest Hill; and Memphis, where he spent summers with his drummer father, Dennis Graham, and his uncles Teenie Hodges (who co-wrote songs with Al Green) and Larry Graham (who played bass with Sly and the Family Stone).

“My mom is the Scrabble player, overly neurotic and organized, the epitome of a proper woman,” Drake said. “All the rappers like my mom, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, she's a great lady. And then you've got my dad, who's straight down-south, a real, true Memphis man, not glamorous at all. Very intelligent, but my mother definitely has him trumped in the class category.”

Drake never felt completely at home in either milieu. He was a black kid in a white Jewish enclave, and a Jewish Canadian in a Southern black 'hood.

“I went to a predominantly Jewish school, so to be half-black and Jewish wasn't something a lot of other kids could understand,” he said. “A lot of their nannies were black. They made me feel like an outsider, for sure.

“Memphis was like one of those wild theme parks in movies. We might be shooting guns in the back yard at my cousin's house, or drinking beer. My dad watched out for me, but he was like, ‘Go ahead, see the world.' Crazy things would happen.”

Outsiders are often good observers, and Drake was fascinated by the different forms of high life he saw in his two hometowns: the well-bred upscale women in his mother's set versus the flashy, bling-laden guys he saw at rap shows in Memphis. He wanted a bit of both for himself, but also sensed that the gold under the rainbow might not be enough.

“As a 23-year-old kid, that's what I strive for: money, cars, clothes, now furniture – material things,” he said. “That's what we're conditioned to think happiness is. But are we on the right path? Is it possible to find love, to enable you to enjoy all this stuff? I'm a young man of substance. I don't like chasing empty connections. That's what my album is going to be about: my new situation, about me getting a firm grasp on it, and then trying to find the missing component.”

He's been lucky so far, both in the timing and reception of his own work, and in the high-profile collaborations that have come his way, with Kanye West, Jay-Z, Alicia Keyshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifand Mary J. Blige. He has a solid entrée into the top tier of the American hip-hop scene, above all through Lil Wayne, who took him on the road with his Young Money crew in 2008, signed him to his boutique label in June, and showed him what hard work really looks like.

“My mom always used to say, ‘You've got to work hard, because when you're resting or you take a break, there's somebody else that chose not to,' Drake said. “Lil Wayne is that guy, who chooses not to ever take a break. When I'm tired at the end of the night, because we've done a show and an after-party, he's like, ‘I'm gonna go on the bus and record some songs.'”

It's a timely lesson, because wonder boy Drake is still just getting started. With luck, his album may be out by the time he suits up for the Grammys.  

Star Athlete's Dreams Shattered After Bizarre Accident

Source: www.thestar.com - David Grossman

(December 18, 2009) It all happened in a horrifying split second and, three months later, Anthony Lue still can't quite believe it.

"I should be dead," he said.

Lue's voice cracks as he recounts the events of a bizarre and near fatal industrial accident that has left him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

The dreams of the 21-year-old former Pickering High School student are in tatters. There was a time when he aspired to major league baseball, or even compete for Canada in the hurdles at the Olympics. In high school, he was a multi-sport star and an athlete of the year.

With his parents and family at his bedside daily, he was treated at first at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and now at the Lyndhurst Centre, a facility known for spinal cord rehabilitation.

The memories of the accident, that saw Lue crushed inside a car at a recycling facility, are still horrifyingly raw to him.

"It's a miracle that I'm still talking about this," he said. "A few more inches and, well, I wouldn't be here."

Lue had been working as a mechanical apprentice at Auto Boyz, a specialty car repair shop, which delivered scrap vehicles for recycling.

On the day of the accident, he had driven a 1989 Oldsmobile from the shop to nearby K and K Recycling Company. While he was in still in the car, it was pushed on to a scale used to weigh vehicles for scrap metal.

Something then went horribly wrong.

An overhead crane operator, presuming no one was in the vehicle, began to crush it.

Nino Baggieri, owner of Auto Boyz, was standing nearby as the accident happened.

"The crane, it's like a six foot disk in diameter and weighs around 20 tons, swung around and hit the car on an angle," recalled Baggieri. "If it had dropped straight down, he'd be dead. Then another crane, with jaws, lifted the car."

"There was miscommunication somewhere," recalled Lue, who said he was conscious but couldn't recall for how long. "He dropped a big magnet and it crushed the passenger side. Then the car was picked up and someone had said that I was still in it. The car was dropped enough to make an impact."

At first, the damage Lue suffered appeared minimal; he only had a minor cut on his finger. But he couldn't feel his legs.

After being airlifted to Sunnybrook, Lue underwent surgery to stabilize his back.

He had sustained a broken back, a fractured neck, broken ribs and spinal cord damage.

"They said I'll be in a wheelchair forever," said Lue.

"But they don't know me, my desire, and with all the medical research, I don't give up that easy. It sucks what happened to me, and it may have been an accident, but I'm not one to hold grudges and I have a new life to live."

His mother Marcia had been picking up a daughter when she received a cell phone call urging her to get to her son's job location.

"Everyone was frantic when I got there," she said. "A firefighter said he was alive, but I didn't realize that they were talking about my son. In the hospital, he knew I was there but he was traumatized. I can't forget that car ... it was crushed and I thought how close he came to brain damage."

"Doctors said it was horrific, we were lucky and he would never walk again. But I told them that one day they will see a miracle and he will walk."

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating the accident and K and K Recycling president Kevin Morgan was not available for comment.

Marcia Lue has retained the Toronto law firm of Singer Kwinter.

"It's an absolute tragedy what happened and (K and K) hasn't admitted liability," said lawyer Jason Singer, who has been in contact with the Labour Ministry and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board of Ontario.

"(Anthony) will need attendant care, home modification and more to care for him. I know we hear of miraculous stories, but it's too early to tell now."

Baggieri said Lue came to his firm 11 months ago looking for an opportunity to work.

"A great kid, very ambitious and wanting to learn," he said.

Lue had a fondness for cars, but he was also quite the athlete.

An outfielder with the Pickering high school team that won the Blue Jays-sponsored Prentice Cup, he also was a defensive back with the school's football team that won a Metro Bowl.

But it was his performance on the track that had coach Cyril Sahadath beaming.

In 2004, Lue set a provincial record in the junior boys' 100 metre hurdles and had a partial scholarship offer from Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa. Nursing an injury at the time, he chose instead to work – while completing his studies at Durham Alternative School in Oshawa – and save up enough money to help with his university education.

"He excelled in sports, he was a gamer and was always on the go," recalled Sahadath. "What happened was devastating, people were shocked, but (Lue) has this relentless passion to do well and I believe will be the next Rick Hansen because he's that type of person."

When Hansen was 15-years-old, he sustained a spinal cord injury as a result of a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. The Rick Hansen Foundation has raised more than $200 million for projects, awareness and research.

Serena Williams Picked As AP's Female Athlete Of The Year

Source: www.thestar.com - Howard Fendrich

(December 22, 2009) Playing her best at the most important events, Serena Williams re-established herself as the top player in women's tennis in 2009 and was a landslide choice as Female Athlete of the Year by members of The Associated Press.

Williams received 66 of 158 votes cast by editors at U.S. newspapers that are members of the AP. No other candidate got more than 18 votes in the tally, which was announced Tuesday.

Clearly, Williams' most infamous on-court episode – a tirade directed at a line judge after a foot-fault call near the end of her U.S. Open semi-final loss in September – didn't hurt her standing in the eyes of the voters.

"People realize that I'm a great player, and one moment doesn't define a person's career," Williams told the AP. "And I was right, for the most part: It wasn't right the way I reacted – I never said it was – but I was right about the call."

She also noted that the outburst, which resulted in a record fine and two-year probationary period at Grand Slam tournaments, ``got a lot more people excited about tennis."

The 28-year-old American tends to do that, thanks to her powerful, athletic play and her outgoing personality.

"We can attribute the strength and the growth of women's tennis a great deal to her," WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a telephone interview. "She is a superstar."

Williams, who is based in Florida, also won the AP award in 2002, a seven-year gap that is the longest between AP Female Athlete of the Year honours since golf's Patty Berg won in 1943 and 1955.

"I'm just happy and blessed to even be playing seven years later. All this is a bonus, really," Williams said. "In 2002, I just was really dominant, and I think in 2009, I just brought that back. I kind of became that player again.''

Runner-up in the AP voting was Zenyatta, who capped a 14-0 career by becoming the first female horse to win the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Tennis' Kim Clijsters finished third with 16 votes.


N’dambi: In The ‘Pink’: Singer/Songwriter Releases Label Debut

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

(December 18, 2009)  *Singer N’dambi released her debut disc, “Little Lost Girl Blues,” a decade ago and has since developed and grown her sound with a following and follow-up discs, all self-released.

 Her major label debut came recently with her Stax Records disc “Pink Elephant,” described as classic R&B with a “modern sheen.”

 “The pink elephant is a take on there being an elephant in the room,” N’dambi said of the project’s concept. “An elephant has a huge presence so you can’t miss it miss it. So it’s a take on the idea of being able to be fearless of your own personal power and embracing it and illuminating despite whatever obstacles may come in your life and experiences that may happen that try to overshadow that.”

 The singer explained that the color pink is considered a color of strength and hope, so it made sense to shade a pachyderm in it.

 “Those are elements you need in being your best self and be powerful in embracing that because sometimes it’s scary to stand alone and be confident in yourself and you feel like you have to dummy that down,” she said.

 She continued that the concept behind the disc is that it is an album of stories, and that the title “Pink Elephant” is also an attention grabber.

 “Like a book with an interesting title. It’s a conversation piece. It was an idea to draw attention to it and make you want to know more about it.”

 As she described, the disc is full of songs that reflect her notion of empowerment – the Pink Elephant.

 “There’s ‘Nobody Jones,’” naming a track on the new disc. “It’s a song about a girl named Nobody Jones and is expected not to do much of anything, but she she’s a bright star and she shines very brightly. You can also look to ‘Can’t Hardly Wait,’ which is about someone not understanding the greatness of someone else and not acknowledging it and dimming their light a bit.”

 N’dambi shared that fans have related to these songs in particular – in their relationships, friendships, and battles in life.

 “I got an e-mail from a guy battling cancer and it’s helping him with that,” she said. “It’s up to the listener to interpret it to the most meaningful way for them. Every now and again we felt that way about a situation and it just came out that way. Why am I continuing to do this when I’m so undervalued and unappreciated? When I get my feet back, I’m going to get out of here to leave this alone.”

For this album, N’dambi worked with legendary producer Leon Sylvers, who helped shape the sounds of R&B stars Gladys Knight, Shalamar, The Whispers, and Shalamar.

 “Leon Sylvers was on my wish list of people to work with,” N’dambi confessed. “He’s created magnificent art with different artists that I really love and appreciate. Working with him makes me a better artist. I really appreciate him stretching me and growing me.”

 Find out just how much N’dambi has grown with her new disc “Pink Elephant” by visiting www.concordmusicgroup.com.

 “I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue to make music,” she said. “I’m thankful for the support and the love.”

Sade Appears At Listening Party For CD

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 17, 2009) Singer/songwriter Sade Adu made a rare public appearance Monday evening to preview tracks from her group Sade's upcoming album "Soldier of Love" in New York City.

 "Looking as youthful as ever in a black, silk pant suit and her staple slicked-back ponytail," according to Billboard.com, Adu revealed herself "to thrilled members of the media" in Frederick P. Rose Hall at Lincoln Center.

 "Soldier of Love," Sade's first collection of new material in almost ten years, is due Feb. 8, 2010 via Epic Records. The set is produced by Sade along with the band's friend and long-time collaborator Mike Pela. The band's line-up remains virtually unchanged since its inception in 1983, and the songs on "Soldier" are written primarily by Adu, saxophone and guitar player Stuart Matthewman, bassist Paul Spencer Denman and keyboard player Andrew Hale.

 Below is Billboard's account of the new material heard Monday night.

 "The Moon and the Sky" finds Adu declaring her devotion to her former lover, singing, "I pulled in all the stars and the moon/laid them on your feet till I gave you my love/you are the one that got me started/you could let me love anyone, but I only wanted you/why did you make me cry? Why didn't you come get me one last time," over choppy violins and simple drums.

 The heartfelt "Morning Bird" is packed with strings, piano strokes and tambourine clatter, as Sade questions, "How could you? You are the river/I told this life, how could you/you are the morning day, you sang me into life/everyday, fly away, you are the blood of me/the heart of my dream."

 She commends a man's fatherly instincts on "Baby Father" over a guitar and drums, while she shelters the love of her companion on "The Safest Place," singing, "In my heart, your love has found the safest hiding place" over a piano-based production.

 "Long Hard Road" has dramatic violins and "Be That Easy" is reminiscent of a country love song with guitars and whistles. Meanwhile, Sade sounds pained on "Bring Me Home," with lyrics like, "I've cried for the lives I've lost/I feel so close but far away from God;" "In Another Time" is one of the album's highlights, with a stunning violin arrangement and saxophones; and "Skin" features a delicate drum and bass beat.

Jody Watley Gives A ‘Makeover’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 21, 2009) *Singer/songwriter Jody Watley has orchestrated a makeover like few have seen in recent years. This particular MAKEOVER did not include a plastic surgeon or a new product or a team of construction workers. “The Makeover” is the Grammy Award-winning artist’s latest offering, featuring a different take on some familiar titles.

“‘The Makeover’ is my interpretation of some songs that people are probably very familiar with,” she said of the project. “I don’t say covers because covers are generally when and artist is true to the original version, but makeovers are really about stripping it down and really trying to make it your own.”

Watley is favoured by many for her years with the group Shalamar (1977-1984) and the hits “A Night to Remember” and “The Second Time Around.” She outdid her group years as a solo artist with huge hits “Don’t You Want Me,” “Looking for a New Love,” and the cutting-edge R&B/rap collabo “Friends,” with Eric B & Rakim. With six studio albums and a pretty moderate indie career after that, she was inspired to create the new disc from some concerts she did in San Francisco just a few years ago.

“I title [the show] ‘Songs in the Key of my Life.’ It was just a way for me to have fun. I wasn’t doing any of my songs. It was just songs that I liked and maybe I had a story about those songs,” she said. “The audience loved it so much and they’d say, ‘You should do a record like this.’”

The project started from there; coupled with inspiration of a few remix tracks Watley had heard.

“There were a couple of really interesting remix projects where they had taken some Nina Simone music and Shirley Bassey. They were remixed by DJs and it gave the songs a new life. Those were really my inspirations to get the project going.”

‘The Makeover’ itself has gone through a makeover. Watley explained that the project was previously released in 2006 with the first single as Watley’s take on Madonna’s “Borderline.” That version was an exclusive with the now defunct Virgin Megastore.

“We put on major makeover events. The exposure was great,” she said. “I did a few live performances from ‘The Makeover’ and we gave makeovers to some of the fans. It was a lot of fun. I was really proud for Avitone, which is my company, to be able to put something together like that.”

The singer spoke fondly of her experience as an independent artist and an entrepreneur and shared that she had always had dreams of being in charge.

“I always had big dreams all my life. I would always drive my parent nuts talking about, ‘I’m going to do this, and I’m going to be that, and this is the way the front of my store is going to look,” she reminisced. “In Jr. High I would make clothes and pillows and stuff and sell them so I always had a little bit of that in me.”

In 1995, Watley launched independent label Avitone Recordings, partly inspired and intrigued by R&B/Pop superstar Prince who had just left Warner Bros. Though she might be considered a trailblazer in that right – Watley is one of very few African American females to do so – she believes being an indie artist is becoming more and more common.

“These days it is much more common now with the music business being in a crumbling state in many ways and trying to redefine itself. It will become more of what’s considered normal,” she said.

“I enjoy it. It’s something that surprisingly not many female artists have done,” she continued. “I’m learning every day all the time, but I am very proud of that part of the diversification of what I’ve tried to do. I’m I love music, I respect music. I’m an artist that has always tried to grow and not be afraid to try new things, and really respect what music has meant to me.”

Watley continued that she has no regrets of leaving the major label fold. She explained that the time brought a different style – New Jack Swing – and message of music that simply did not fit her.

    “I continued to have moderate success with R&B and I’ve always done well on the dance charts. People ever day, whether Facebook, Twitter, or my web site, are discovering something they may have missed,” she said. “All of my music is a progression; whether they are big commercial blockbusters or not, the thing is always the quality of my music. You can’t have regrets if you always have quality. And for me, that’s why I do it.”

Jody Watley’s “The Makeover” is available now. Currently, she working on her next project called “Chameleon,” expected in 2010. For more on Jody Watley, visit her official website at www.jodywatley.net.

Later this week in part 2, Jody responds to rumours that she was involved with a makeover of a different kind. Her face. And she explains why she'll never reunite with Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniel for a "real" Shalamar revival.

Watch Jody perform "Border Line" from "The Makeover":

Jody Watley Gives A ‘Makeover’ Pt. 2

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

(December 23, 2009)  *Music artist
Jody Watley has released a new disc titled “The Makeover,” which showcases the singer/songwriter’s new interpretations of some familiar hits.

 “I don’t say covers,” she clarified, “because covers are generally when and artist is true to the original version, but makeovers are really about stripping it down and really trying to make it your own.”

 What Watley has already made her own was the sound of a Grammy Award-winning singer. Though she garnered fans early in her career as one-third of the group Shalamar (1977-1984), which gave music aficionados “A Night to Remember” and “The Second Time Around,” it was her solo years that helped mold the pop music and video stylings of the late-80s, early 90s with huge hits “Don’t You Want Me,” “Looking for a New Love,” and the cutting-edge R&B/rap collabo “Friends,” with Eric B & Rakim.

“In this era, there’s a difference between being a pop star and being a real artist,” Watley told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “When you are fortunate to have a long career, you do hope that your songs grow with you. Sometimes artists can get trapped in their own ‘same,’ so to speak, and get so afraid to lose fans or stretch out creatively. Some people get stuck.”

 Watley said that her departure from Shalamar in 1984 was in part due to the creative limitations she felt as a member of the group. More than two decades later, the singer still rarely performs the hits of her old trio due to a few reasons. One, because she was not the leader of the group, she finds it a bit “bizarre” to sing the songs. Two, she does not really have a good relationship with or particularly good memories of the group.

 It’s no secret that when Watley left Shalamar it was on not-so-good terms, although her's was a very integral part of the sound of the group which was made up of lead Howard Hewitt and member/dancer Jeffery Daniel. And though fans have clamoured for it, and Hewitt has even broached the idea, Watley said that she has absolutely no intention of reuniting with the group.

 “I don’t have an emotional connection to Shalamar for many reasons, not just because the personalities in the group or anything that has happened over the years. It’s old news now and a lot of water under the bridge. There are no bad feelings,” she said, explaining again why she rarely performs Shalamar hits.

 “I have an emotional connection to my own songs that I don’t have with Shalamar songs even though those are songs that people love,” she continued. “And I don’t do anything just to do it. It has to mean something; whether I’m making a record or it’s my concert or if I’m putting some artwork together or choosing a producer I’d like to work with or a writer I’d like to collaborate with. Life’s too short for fakery.”

 The singer said that she does not have any unresolved feelings or longings for what was, though she suspects that the guys of the group do.

 “It was a happy ending for me,” she said, “even though every story doesn’t have a tidy wrap up. I understand and I respect what Shalamar was, but I’ve been establishing myself and making great achievements as Jody Watley. When MCA signed me, the first thing I said was, ‘I don’t want to be marketed as a former member of anything.’”

Watley’s MCA self-titled debut garnered her a Grammy for Best New Artist.

 Meanwhile, "The Makeover," her newest project, a reworking of the 2006 release under the same title, has some serious radio buzz going for it. However, the concept photos behind the project gave bloggers something to talk about.

 “Some of the pictures from the original artwork were taken out of context before the album came out and people thought ‘Oh Jody had a facelift,’ she said. “But it was all parody on how people go to extreme measures to be young forever or to get perfection. [I’ve had] no facial work or anything like that. I haven’t even tried Botox.”

The singer (born January 30, 1959, in Chicago, Illinois) said that the rumours did bother her just a little and she even tried to get retractions, to no avail.

 “Some blogs that never write about me at all, that was the one time they blew it up like, ‘Jody, lookin’ for a new face.’ I tried to tell them – I have all the pictures of when the special effect artist was there – that it was all fake.”

 The singer did post the clips on YouTube so her fans could see the behind-the-scenes and realize what the concept was all about. She contends that her looks are simply because of the ageless genes she inherited from her mother.

 “My mom looks 30 years younger than she is. It’s a wonderful genetic thing.”

 For more on Jody Watley and her new album “The Makeover,” visit her website at www.jodywatley.net. Read part 1 of this feature here.

 Check out Jody doing her sensual "Makeover" of Madonna's "Borderline" here. In the meantime, let's flash back with a couple of our favourite Jody jams. First up is "Looking For A New Love." Then we'll flash backpack with her and Shalamar with "A Night To Remember."

A Rising-Star, Trans-Genre Singer In Search Of Focus

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(December 21, 2009) The Artist: She's Alejandra Ribera, the rising-star daughter of an Argentine waiter and a Scottish actress. With her rich, broad, eventful voice and a sublime flair for drama, the darling of local CBC Radio has seduced ever-growing weekly crowds at the launch-pad Cameron House, a successful Tuesday-night residency that is soon to end. (On Jan. 17, she gives a concert at the bigger Hugh's Room.) Her debut album, Navigator Navigateher , is an earthy mix of world music, coffee house jazz, dark themes lyrically and timeless cabaret. Imagine Louis Armstrong, Tom Waitsand Chavela Vargas downing shots in a Barcelona bordello. “One of these days I'm going to pick up and walk these blues away, just as soon as I get my feet back on the ground,” Ribera croons in an 80-proof way on the sultry, brush-drummed Songsmith . “Until then, the rafters are where I am bound.”

Her Tattoo: A tattoo on the inside of her right wrist reads “Escuchame,” which, translated from Spanish, means “listen to me.” It is a version of a string on a finger – a reminder to herself to stay grounded because, as a girl, Ribera was restless: “I was very aware that there was a time-frame called childhood, and eventually it would be over. I couldn't wait for that day to come, and I would spend a lot of my time in my head, escaping through imagination, because I didn't want to be where I was.” Escapism is fine, until the whimsical retreats become more real than the reality. “The tattoo,” the 27-year-old singer explains, “is really me saying ‘Okay kiddo, get back to earth, be in the moment.'”

Her Heroes: Ribera grew up listening to Mercedes Sosa (the Argentine folk singer known as the "voice of the voiceless ones”), and she performs on stage without the feel of shoes on her feet, much like the “barefoot diva” Cesaria Evora. Her actual influences, though, are not predictable: the dramatic Montreal pop singer Rufus Wainwright, the curious Bjork, the Scottish raconteur Billy Connolly and the effervescent Bette Midler. “These are performers who, to me, carry a genius,” says the trilingual Ribera. “Every moment, every thought, every lighting cue, every bit of costume and clothing is conscious.” What she admires about them is their devotion to the audience, an artistic selflessness with which she identifies. “I don't do this for me, I don't do this as a form of therapy – I'm trying to be of service, through music, to people.”

The Future:  She's a bit difficult to define, genre-wise, which makes it difficult for listeners to latch on to Ribera. It's like she's using the wide end of the megaphone, where she might be better to turn it around, devoting herself to one identifiable style before broadening out later, after she's established. “It's definitely a possibility,” she says, “but it's not a choice I would make lightly, and it's not one I would make without a producer on board to help shape that sound.” So, if there's someone out there who wishes to push her as the next Feist or a ranchera singer or a northern Norah Jones, she's open to the idea. “I'm up there singing Spanish, jazz and folk anyway. As long as it's good, I don't care.”

Alejandra Ribera continues at the Cameron House in Toronto Dec. 22 and next Dec. 29, before playing Hugh's Room Jan. 17, to be taped by CBC Radio for later broadcast.  

Mary J. Blige Releases 9th album

Source: Interscope Records

(December 22, 2009) *New York, NY - Matriarch Entertainment and Geffen Records are proud to announce the release of Stronger with Each Tear, Mary J. Blige's ninth studio album.

The first single from the album is titled "I Am" and was produced by Stargate while the video for the song was directed by famed lensman, Anthony Mandler.

Stronger with Each Tear represents knowing that the work we do on ourselves is never done, but we do get stronger through the trials, the tribulations, and the tears. Lending a hand of expression to MARY'S work are some of the best producers and artists in the business.

They include: Rodney Jerkins who produced the first song to be heard from the album, the single, "The One," featuring newcomer Drake.

The Runners produced "Tonight," and Ryan Leslie produced "Said and Done" and "Closer." "Good Love" features T.I. and is produced by The Stereotypes. Trey Songz appears on "We Got Hood Love" which is produced by Bryan-Michael Cox. The Dream and Tricky Stewart produces "Kitchen" while D' Mile brings us "In The Morning." Hit maker Neyo worked on "Good Love" with Stargate and the incredible heart-wrenching "I Can See In Color" produced by the soulful Raphael Saadiq, is featured on both Stronger and The Precious Soundtrack that Mary co-executive produced and released on her label Matriarch Entertainment.

In support of the release of Stronger with Each Tear, today, Tuesday, December 22, fans have the opportunity to meet Mary and get signed autographs of the CDs they purchase at Best Buy in Union Square in New York City (52 E. 14th St) @ 8pm.

As one of the greatest singers of our time, MARY J. BLIGE'S accomplishments are beyond impressive. A multi-faceted mogul and philanthropist, with a career spanning 15 years - including nine Grammy awards, eight multi-platinum records, over 40 million albums sold and unrivalled love from fans and critics alike. Mary co-executive produced the soundtrack to the critically acclaimed film, "Precious" through her music, TV and film company, Matriarch Entertainment and made star turns in Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad By Myself," "30 Rock," and "Entourage."

Co-owner of the successful beauty line, Carol's Daughter, Mary is set to put out a new fragrance line called "My Life." Not only an entrepreneur and entertainer, she is a dedicated philanthropist. Through FFAWN (Foundation For The Advancement of Women Now) Mary's mission is to inspire women from all walks of life to gain the confidence and skills they need to reach their fullest potential.

Mary is set to promote Stronger with Each Tear with a barrage of television show appearances. She has already appeared or performed on The American Music Awards, Oprah, Extreme Home Makeover, Lopez Tonight, So You Think You Can Dance, Leno and Kimmel. She is set to do A&E Private Sessions, Tavis Smiley, Home for the Holidays, Christmas In Washington, The Today Show, The View, and others around release.

Meet Trueful: His 'Taste Of Class' CD Coming In 2010

Source: Eugenia Wright, ISA Public Relations, eugeniawright@isapublicrelations.com, 818.552.9459

(December 22, 2009) *Los Angeles, California -- Pop/R&B/Hip Hop Singer Trueful has had a smashing year and as the new decade approaches he is set to release his sophomore CD entitled "Taste of Class" in February 2010.

The title of the album describes the singer's style. Trueful, who just turned 21 wants to reflect a clean and sophisticated image, which stands apart from the norm. It is not unusual to see Trueful performing in a fully suited white tuxedo, which distinguishes him among today's young generation.

But, it doesn't stop there, Trueful is "clean" in thought and deed and demeanour and his music can be described as smooth and crisp. Trueful you might say is GQ all the way. Both his name and the name of his album speak volumes about the young artist whose career started as a competitor in the national Uplifting Minds II talent competition in 2007. It was a great beginning performing in front of an array of top-named music industry professionals from record label execs to legal experts at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

This "American Idol" type of constructive critique from savvy entertainment notables proved valuable and was a gigantic platform. His confidence securely in tact, Trueful was placed in the spotlight and received wide recognition. The same year, Trueful was recognized by the Las Vegas Music Awards and received "Best Male Vocalist of 2007" a prestigious honour. With such an impressive accolade Trueful was able to garner qualifications for a 2008 Grammy Award nomination.

Trueful is not only an artist but he has the academic backbone to support his music persona.  He is a student in music engineering, songwriting and business at UCLA. Trueful strives to be a good role model for young people. During his free time away from the studio and school activities, Trueful engages in many charitable events. During the holiday season, Trueful will attend a Toys for Tots Christmas fundraiser in the company of the US Marines and also attend the yearly Norwood Young "Feed His People" special Christmas celebration (for complete schedule log on to www.myspace.com/BeTrueful).

Trueful is excited about the upcoming release of his album "Taste of Class" and the success of the single "Feeling You" which is generating world-wide interest especially in Japan which reflects impressive numbers on iTunes. Trueful is feeling real good about being on track with his career.

Trueful wants fans to know that he intends to live up to his name in every facet of his life.

"Taste of Class" is co-produced by Apt 6 Productions (www.apt6Entertainment.com) - twins Dwayne and Dwight Madison and James Robinson, executive produced by Trueful and French Royalty Records.

The music video to the single "Feeling You" featuring Israeli model Gita, premiers at UrbanNetwork.com and is currently available at iTunes, Amazon and Rhapsody.

Trueful is signed to French Royalty Records spearheaded by Debrah French.

For a sneak listen and view of his new single "Feeling You" music video, booking and an updated calendar schedule of Trueful's upcoming performances and award shows, log on to www.myspace.com/BeTrueful.

Jared Leto: Fighting The Enemy From Within

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(December 22, 2009) By their third album, some musicians might be forced to manufacture drama to feed their work.

But 30 Seconds to Mars frontman and lead songwriter
Jared Leto didn't have that problem: the muse for This is War was their record company EMI, which launched a $30 million lawsuit against the trio when they tried to change labels after their sophomore disc.

"It was an intense time," said Leto of recording the album, their most politically charged, in 2008. The group includes his brother, drummer Shannon Leto, and guitarist Tomo Milicevic.

"Not just in our world and our battle with our record company, but the entire world went through this and is still going through this historically brutal time; I'm talking about the financial crisis, the housing meltdown, the climate challenges ..."

The band's fight with "corporate earth" was rooted in "an age-old, clichéd story," said a jet-lagged Leto, trying to stifle yawns during an interview at a Toronto hotel on Monday.

"We sold a few million records around the world and (were subsequently told), `Oh, nope you're not going to get paid a dime; not only that, you're still in debt millions of dollars.'

"So we chose to fight and that fight went along quite some time throughout the entire making of the record. This album was really us holed up in a studio in the Hollywood hills in California, self-financed and self-produced."

With lead single "Kings and Queens" well received on rock radio, This Is War is benefiting from heavy promotion by their label, EMI.

"At a certain point, EMI made a decision to address our concerns and we felt that it was appropriate to move forward and put the music out," said Leto.

"We weren't fighting with the people we were working with day in, day out. It was more the status quo we were fighting."

The 37-year-old actor, who has appeared in movies such as Fight Club and American Psycho, laughed off suggestions that he could've given up all the music angst in favour of his lucrative film career.

"Let's say creatively rewarding. I tend to make art movies and I've made minimum wage on many of these films."

The Louisiana native, who plays bass, guitar and piano, said he and Shannon grew up "food stamp poor" with their single mom in a creative art community.

"I'm self-taught at pretty much everything and I really don't want to have too much information. I like the naïveté.

``I want to be able to pick up any instrument and not be so familiar. I like the surprise of it.

"With this album it was great, because I arranged a lot of strings as well. It was fun to be completely ignorant of any classical education or information. It's music at the end of the day; if you approach it with the ear and the eye of an artist anything is possible."

This Is War was heavy on fan participation, allowing thousands of people around the world to record their voices and faces for the recording and cover photo.

Art or good marketing?

"It's creative expression," said Leto. "It's curiosity. It's the journey. I don't think of it as marketing, I leave the label to do that. It's fun. I enjoy doing things that are unique: going to the Arctic and shooting on glaciers and icebergs for a music video; or putting 2,000 people from around the world on covers of records. I like putting a face to the crowd. It enriches the experience for me."

Norah Jones Is Breaking Away

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(December 22, 2009) Word is Norah Jones' new album, The Fall, is a treatise on the demise of her relationship with longtime boyfriend and collaborator Lee Alexander.

Support for that theory may be found in the home-alone lyrics that permeate the disc on which Jones is the lead writer.

Among the examples: "I won't cry for you/When the night grows long/And I won't lie for you/Because you done me wrong/So tell your mama/I said `Hello'" ("Tell Your Mama").

"If you could hear my voice crack/over the phone/then you'd know I need you ... to love me" ("I Wouldn't Need You").

Then there is the torn-between-two-lovers suggestion of "Back to Manhattan": "What a fool I was to think I could live in both worlds."

New Yorker Jones seemed to confirm that perception when she told Rolling Stone magazine, "We're still friends, and we really want to play music again together someday. But the breakup record is probably not the one to start on," referring to bassist Alexander, who produced her last album.

But when the Star sat down with the singer recently, two months into album promotion, she downplayed notions of The Fall as a musical diary.

"I don't really think in the end that it's fair to call it a breakup album," said the friendly, pixiesh Jones, 30. "I was kinda just kidding. I talked to one journalist and he said `You know, everybody keeps calling this a breakup album. I listened to this album and I loved it, and then I kept hearing the word breakup from other people and then all I could hear was breakup on the album; and it's not fair to tell people what it is before they listen.' So, I'm going to go with that now."

She concedes autobiographical aspects to some songs – "It's a little bit more personal; every record represents where you are either musically or lyrically or both" – but adds: "There's a lot of borrowed or faking it; making it more interesting by putting something that's not real in there."

Fans are probably more intrigued by the sonic departure that marks the performer's fourth disc. Experimenting with a textured, grittier sound and playing more guitar than piano, Jones's rock overtones on The Fall are a long way from her 2002, eight-Grammy-winning jazz/country debut Come Away With Me.

Besides Alexander, she also replaced her erstwhile band with a diverse array of musicians assembled with the help of producer Jacquire King, noted for his work with Kings of Leon and Tom Waits.

"It was so hard to find the right producer, it took six months," said Jones. "We reached out to people who were either too busy, or it didn't work out, or they weren't interested because the songs were already written. I didn't expect it to take that long and I was getting a little bit frustrated.... The songs were written and I wanted to record them and move on. That's how I write: I go in cycles; once I get a batch of songs, I stop writing until I figure out what they're doing. I probably won't start writing until I go on tour again."

It was a cinch once she connected with King.

"When we met we just clicked," said Jones, who plays Massey Hall on March 23. "He just seemed to understand what I meant and he liked the songs, and he thought he could really help figure it out. I wanted to try something radically different: I wanted to use real groove-based drummers and bass players. I wanted to experiment with keyboards ... I just wanted to see how far these songs could go without being somebody I'm not.

"And I don't feel I am somebody I'm not on this record. I feel very comfortable with it and I feel really good about it."


Alicia Keys Prepares Spring Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 18, 2009) *Alicia Keys is putting together a spring arena tour to support her newly-released album, "The Element of Freedom."  The trek, as outlined on the Web sites of concert promoters AEG Live and Live Nation, launches Feb. 28 in Montreal, with the singer mapping nine additional dates in March and early April, including an April 6 appearance in Los Angeles. Additional dates will be added in the coming weeks.  "The Element of Freedom," which Keys co-produced alongside a bevy of well-known hit-makers, follows 2007's triple-platinum "As I Am." The set's first single, "Doesn't Mean Anything," was released to radio in September. A second single, "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart," hit in November. The album also features a collaboration with Beyonce called "Put It In a Love Song."  Below are Keys' announced tour dates:

February 2010
28 - Montreal, Quebec - Bell Centre

March 2010
1 - Kanata, Ontario - Scotiabank Place
3 - Rosemont, IL - Allstate Arena
8 - London, Ontario - John Labatt Centre
10 - Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
11 - Quebec City, Quebec - Colisee Pepsi
17 - New York, NY - Madison Square Garden
19 - Newark, NJ - Prudential Center
22 - Boston, MA - Agganis Arena

April 2010
6 - Los Angeles, CA - Staples Center

Essence Honours Latifah, Saldana, Blige And Sidibe

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 18, 2009)  *Queen Latifah, Zoe Saldana, Mary J. Blige and Gabourey Sidibe are this year's honourees at the annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, to be held during Oscar Week on March 4, 2010 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  "Our annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon is taking on special meaning in 2010 as we are celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Essence magazine by paying homage to phenomenal women throughout the year," said Essence editor-in-chief Angela Burt-Murray. "We are proud to carry the Essence legacy into the future by honouring the accomplishments of such brilliant performers as Latifah, Zoe, Mary J., and Gabourey, whose incredible talent and sheer grit are serving to change the face of Hollywood." Queen Latifah will receive the Power Award, Zoe Saldana will be given the Star to Watch Award, Mary J. Blige has earned the Songstress of the Year honour and Gabourey Sidibe will be awarded Best Breakthrough Performance.  The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon is an annual event to honour African-American women, who through their work in Hollywood—both in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes—have helped to change and inspire positive images of black women in television and film.

Charlie Wilson's Very Good Year

Source: Shannon Jones, Shannon.Jones@sonymusic.com

(December 17, 2009) *Jive Records recording artist Charlie Wilson has had a phenomenal year. Coming off the heels of receiving two 2010 Grammy nominations, Wilson has just been crowned Billboard Magazine's Artist of The Year on the Urban Adult Contemporary chart as well as having the #1 most played single of 2009 on the same chart with his hit single "There Goes My Baby." The single, spending 51 weeks on the UAC chart this year, is from his critically acclaimed sophomore album Uncle Charlie which has been on the UAC albums chart for over 42 weeks. Digital sales of the track has sold over 270k since its debut. Wilson has been nominated for two 2010 Grammy awards, Best R&B Album for Uncle Charlie and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "There Goes My Baby" which was written by multiple Grammy winner Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Calvin Richardson and produced by Gregg Pagani.  "I want to congratulate Charlie Wilson on his two Grammy Nominations," says Babyface. "Charlie is an amazing artist and entertainer who has more than earned these two Grammy nominations."  "The first time I heard this song, I knew it was a hit," stated Wilson."It has become so popular that the fans request that I sing it twice at concerts." In addition to the two Grammy nominations, Wilson also received a 2009 Soul Train Icon Award from BET in a star-studded television show which aired in late November. For more information on Charlie Wilson, go to www.unclecharliewilson.com.

Tegan and Sara

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(December 21, 2009) Tegan and Sara at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, tonight. Tegan and Sara kick off the North American leg of their Sainthood tour tonight with a close-to-home show (Tegan lives in Vancouver; Sara has a second home there). Love Tegan and Sara's music though you might, probably the best thing about their live shows is the banter. These women can talk. Listen for their thoughts on politics, the arts, some childhood stories (they're twins) - you name it. Not the same old rehashed "Hello Victoria! How ya doin' Victoria?!" fill-in-the-blank type meaningless chatter you'll get from some other acts.

Ndegeocello To Plug 'Halo' In Cali

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 22, 2009) *Singer/songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello has set up a handful of intimate California club shows this winter to support her recent album, "Devil's Halo."     The trek, dubbed "The Best of Bitter & More," begins Feb. 10 in San Diego, and is followed by three Los Angeles shows (2/11, 2/18, 2/25) and a two-night stand in Oakland (2/16-2/17), the second night of which will be dedicated to covers. More dates will be added in the coming weeks, according to a press release.      The German-born musician will be joined onstage by guitarist Chris Bruce, bassist Mark Kelley, drummer Deantoni Parks and keyboardist Keefus Ciancia.     "Devil's Halo," Ndegeocello's eighth studio set and first for Mercer Street Records, surfaced in October and follows her 2007 release, "The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams."   Details of her tour are listed below:  

February 2010
10 - San Diego, CA - Anthology
11 - Los Angeles, CA - Largo
16, 17 - Oakland, CA - Yoshi's Oakland
18 - Los Angeles, CA - Largo
25 - Los Angeles, CA – Largo   

Beyonce, Peas, Maxwell To Perform At Grammys

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 23, 2009)  *Beyonce, The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Antebellum, Maxwell and Taylor Swift are the first performers booked for the
52nd Annual Grammy Awards, to be broadcast live on CBS, Jan. 31 (8-11:30 p.m.) from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.   Already a ten-time Grammy-winner, Abeyance leads with 10 nominations, including Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Halo"; Album Of The Year and Best Contemporary R&B Album for "I Am…Sasha Fierce"; Song Of The Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."   The Black Eyed Peas and Maxwell each are up for six awards: The Black Eyed Peas with Record Of The Year and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for "I Got to Feeling," Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for The E.N.D., and Best Dance Recording and Best Short Form Video for "Boom Boom Paw"; and Maxwell with Song Of The Year, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song for "Pretty Wings," Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Love You," Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Phoenix Rise," and Best R&B Album for "Black summers' Night."  As previously announced on "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!" on Dec. 2, fans can upload a 20-second video of themselves singing along to a portion of The Black Eyed Peas "I Got to Feeling" for a chance to have their video appear as part of the Peas' Grammy performance.   Videos may be uploaded to www.cbs.com/specials/grammys/upload/ and www.bepgrammys.dipdive.com/extrapages/11896/ through Jan. 15, 2010.

Flo Rida Has Decade's Top-Selling Digital Song

Source: Atlantic Records

(December 23, 2009) *NEW YORK - Congrats to
Flo Rida for his hit single "Low" being the top-selling digital song of the decade, with more than 5.2 million downloads!  His 2009 single, "Right Round," ranks No 11, with nearly 4 million, and is also the highest-selling digital debut of all time, with more than 636k sold its first week. The former one-week record was held by Flo Rida’s "Low," which ranks No 2 all-time with more than 467k digital downloads sold in a single week. In addition, "Right Round" is the fastest-selling digital single ever, with 1 million downloads sold in just two weeks! Flo Rida received worldwide acclaim and popularity due to the chart-topping success of his first single, "Low", featuring T-Pain. It was his first official single from his debut album Mail On Sunday and the soundtrack to the movie Step Up 2 The Streets. The single was a hit worldwide and the longest running number one single of 2008. With five million paid digital downloads, it was certified 5x Platinum by the RIAA, and is the most downloaded single in history, measured by paid digital downloads. It was also performed live with the band Simple Plan at the 2008 Much Music Video Awards. There is also a clean version remix of the song by Radio Disney. This song is also featured on DANCE! Online, a multiplayer online casual rhythm game. OK sorties, it's time to hit the flow' and get 'Low' with Flo Rida & T-Pain:


Mariah Carey: The 'Precious' Interview With Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams

(December 17, 2009) *Forget the JFK assassination, I can actually remember where I was the first time I heard that beautiful voice so many moons ago.

I was sitting on a hilltop, high above a sprawling dairy farm, having a picnic with a friend who played “Make It Happen” for me on a big boom box which echoed down into the valley below.

Of course, I was blown away and I’ve been a fan of
Mariah Carey’s ever since. That unforgettable introduction flashed through my memory and flooded my thoughts while preparing to conduct this interview.

Mariah was born in Huntington, Long Island on March 27, 1970 to Patricia Hickey, an Irish-American opera singer, and Alfred Roy Carey, an engineer of Afro-Venezuelan descent. Her parents separated when she was just 3 years-old, which was also around the time that Mariah took to singing like a fish to water.

She got the nickname Mirage during high school, because she skipped so many classes to hone her craft at local recording studios. After graduation, she moved to Manhattan where she bounced around between jobs, supporting herself as a beautician and a waitress until her big break arrived when Columbia Records’ executive Tommy Mottola heard her demo tape. Mottola soon signed Mariah, thus launching a storybook career which has netted the silver-throated songbird 5 Grammys and 18 #1 hit singles over the years.

During our tête-à-tête, I couldn’t help but notice the enchanting, musical lilt to Mariah’s voice, as if she can’t help but always be musical. I asked her many of my stock questions, learning that the last book she read was a delightful tale she and her co-stars Gabby Sidibe and Paula Patton shared aloud with kids during a visit to an inner-city grammar school. She also told me that her favourite meal to cook was a linguini dish that her late father liked to make, and that she’s listening to a lot of different hip-hop nowadays.

But far more significant than any of the factual answers she gave was the overall sense I got of Mariah, the person. She came across as a grounded, sincere, vulnerable and deeply spiritual soul truly interested in having a quality conversation, not as a vain diva who expected to be placed on a pedestal. When I focused narrowly on her vocal talents during our conversation, she gently reminded me that she is not merely a singer, but equally proud of her work as a songwriter who composes virtually all of her own tunes.

As for her private life, in 2008, Mariah married Nick Cannon, star of such movies as Drumline and Roll Bounce. Here, she discusses her new movie, Precious, Lee Daniel’s tour de force where she is very impressive as a NYC social worker investigating a serious case of child abuse.

Kam Williams: Thanks for the time, Mariah, I’m honoured to be speaking with you.

Mariah Carey: No, thank you.

KW: I loved the film. You did such a great job.

MC: Thank you.

KW: What interested you in Precious?

MC: Well, I’ve been a fan of Sapphire’s and “Push” which I’m sure you know is her novel that inspired Precious. I read the book a really long time ago. A friend gave it to me, and I read it twice in a row. It was tough but it was also so incredibly inspiring and amazing.

KW: This wasn’t your first time collaborating with Lee Daniels.

MC: He and I had just worked together on a film called Tennessee, which didn’t get the right shine, but I don’t think it was the right project for either of us. He wasn’t directing, only producing it. So, I couldn’t listen to him as a director, The thing is, I ordinarily can’t help but listen to Lee, except he couldn’t really fully direct me in this case, because he was the director. I don’t think the country thing was necessarily either one of our bags, if that make sense.

KW: Yeah. I understand Lee was lucky to get the rights to Precious, because Sapphire didn’t care if it was ever adapted to the screen.

MC: Before he got “Push,” she had basically turned everybody down. When he got it, I was so excited for him because we had become really good friends, not thinking, “Oh, I’m going to be in this movie.” Do you know what I mean?

KW: Yep. How did you end up playing Mrs. Weiss, then?

MC: He said, “Look, I’m going to make you under and over, your hair and whatever, and you’re just going to have to deal with it. I’m going to put you under fluorescent lighting. That overhead lighting was not my friend, and neither was the hair. Someone who normally does my makeup described it as a Maria Carey nightmare. But in the end, it turned out to be a great gift Lee gave me to be able to go that far away from who I really am.

KW: How did you get along with Gabby [Sidibe], who played Precious, and the rest of the cast?

MC: Working with that talented young lady, and then to add Mo’nique who is such a powerhouse in the film was incredible. I really have to thank Lee for giving me this opportunity.

KW: Speaking of powerful, talk a little about the revealing scene you share with Mo’Nique towards the end of the picture.

For full interview, go HERE.

Q&A With Lucius Baston: Up And Coming Actor Landing Hot Roles In Hollywood

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Brooklyn James

(December 18, 2009) *A few years ago he was a disk jockey at a local radio station in Tampa, Florida. Now he’s on the big screen in theatres all over the country. How did Lucius Baston get so much play in the film Industry, so fast?

Simple: An amazing personality and some of the most intense acting we’ve seen. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Baston is an incredibly dedicated actor. And asked Werner Herzog, director of "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" who told us that Baston ends an audition so forcibly, it’s hard to forget how right he is for the screen.

“The cameras love him.” said publicist Billie Jordan.

That’s why in just this year alone, Baston shook hands and made deals with a few of Hollywood’s most credible directors, including Tom McLoughlin, Tyler Perry and Werner Herzog.  Plus, he worked side by side with Hollywood stars Eva Mendes, Julia Ormond, Alan Thicke, Michael Winslow, and Nicolas Cage; one of Hollywood’s highest paid movie stars. 

While Baston is proving his chops by going toe-to-toe with the heavyweights in film and ending the year with a bang by playing the role of Leroy Williams in the season finale of Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” curiosities surface. Just who is Lucius Baston, and what’s next for this actor?

To get the answer, writer Brooklyn James sat down with him for this exclusive EUR Q&A:

Brooklyn James: Hello Lucius, I’m glad I caught you. I know this has been an exciting and busy year for you.

Lucius Baston: Yes, it was incredible! I am truly thankful. It’s amazing how well I’ve been received.

BJ: How are you booking these roles; It seems like you came from out of the blue, how do you do it, Is it luck?

LB: You know, that’s a good question, there might be some amount of luck, but I think it’s more than that. I’ve worked hard this year scouting for the best roles, and I study the characters hard. Plus, I have a road map so to speak; this time last year I pictured myself in a role working for Tyler Perry. I put it on my radar, and then I went after it. And thankfully I got it.

BJ:  How did you feel when you got the role?

LB: When they told me, it felt surreal for a moment, but just a moment.  Every one’s been asking how I feel about this whole year, and I guess I’ve been so busy living it I haven’t had a chance to really take it all in. When I think about it, it feels like it was supposed to happen.

BJ: Where are you from?

LB: South Richmond Hill Queens, NY. But I live in Tampa, Florida now.

BJ: I thought I sensed a slight New York accent, wasn’t sure though. So that’s where you get your swagger.

LB: I’ll accept that. Yes. I’m originally from Queens.

BJ: How did you get into acting?

LB: It was really a fluke.  I was working in electronics and I was unhappy with my job. A co-worker had some headshots, so I asked about them. She told me she wanted to be an actress. That hit me like a lightning bolt.

BJ: What did you do next?

LB: I started asking around and found a photographer who suggested I start with film training and so that’s what I did.

BJ: Suddenly you’re becoming very popular and you seem to be souring to success, who do you look to for inspiration?

LB: So many people; From Sidney Poitier to Venus & Serena Williams, I’m into people who find themselves, endure and overcome.

BJ: With so many filmmakers taking you seriously in such short amount of time, obviously you’re good with acting. Where did you get your training?

LB: The Performers Studio Workshop in Tampa Florida. I’m grateful to the coaches there. Definitely they taught me a few things that work. 

BJ: What was it like working with Nicolas cage in Bad Lieutenant Port of Call New Orleans?

LB: I cannot say enough about what it was like to work with Nicolas Cage and also the world renowned director, Werner Herzog.  Watching Nicolas prep for a scene was method confirming. He was going around snorting up this harmless concoction to get him in the right frame of mind for a scene. If you didn't understand his method, you might not have known what to think. From my training, I knew he was prepping to shoot. It was amazing experience to go toe -to-toe with him. Just awesome!  And Werner Herzog is one of the kindest men you could ever meet.

BJ: What is your role in the LifeTime Movie Networks "The Wronged Man," and when does it air?

LB: I play the role of Shelton. Shelton is the guy everyone knows in the neighbourhood. He’s a friend of the rape victims mother, and helps the attorney, Prissy - played by Julia Ormond with information to find the true rapist. “The Wronged Man airs January 17, 2010.

BJ: How did you get selected for the roles in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” and also in “The Wronged Man”?

LB: Initially, I put myself on tape and submitted my auditions through my agent.  Amazingly enough I received a call back for each one. The call back for Bad Lieutenant was in New Orleans.  I drove up to save money. When I got there I wasn’t aware that director Werner Herzog was in the room. They called for me and I went into character, and did my thing.  When I finished, Werner stood up to shake my hand and thank me.  I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I stayed in character, and told them "Yeah, f**k all y'all!" as I was leaving the room. I got the call the following week that I booked the role!

BJ: That’s funny. What's next for you?

LB: I have a short film, “The More Perfect Yellow” that made the top 16 out of 186 films for the 2009 National Film Challenge, we’re still competing and it’s up to the general public who wins. And I’m still hitting the road auditioning for some great roles in other really awesome projects.  I’m going after roles in stories that mean something, make you think, and entertain.

BJ: Thanks Lucius, for your time, you’re awesome. I’ll be looking forward to talking to you again in the future.

LB: Ok, thanks. That was fun!

For MORE on Lucius Baston, go here: www.imdb.com/name/nm2137633/

Watch Lucious Baston's acting reel:

Rachel McAdams Gets Down And Dirty With Sherlock Holmes

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(December 19, 2009) Rachel McAdams went back to her Southwestern Ontario childhood – when she was a little girl fascinated with competitive figure skating – to help her with the elaborate fight "choreography" in the artful Victorian thriller Sherlock Holmes, opening Christmas Day.

As daring femme fatale Irene Adler, the mysterious siren who holds Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) in thrall and can more than hold her own in a scuffle, the star raised in St. Thomas, Ont., had to put some hustle in her Victorian bustle.

"I loved the fight scenes and the action stuff," McAdams, 31, said from New York, before walking the red carpet for the Gotham premiere of the movie. "(Director) Guy Ritchie is a great fight choreographer and I don't know if it's just from my old figure-skating days, but it was fun to map out all the graceful – albeit violent – dances."

The American-born Adler is described in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Holmes story A Scandal In Bohemia as having "the face of the most beautiful of women, and the mind of the most resolute of men."

McAdams actively pursued Ritchie to cast her for the role of a 19th-century globetrotting spy who is dubbed as being "dangerously alluring" on the Sherlock Holmes publicity poster.

"I was really excited about her," McAdams said. "There was lots to do in the story and I felt like in Guy Ritchie's hands, this woman would be really interesting. He does feisty characters so well."

So does McAdams, who first caught filmgoers' eye in 2004's Mean Girls, where she starred as the bitchy Regina George, leader of a gang of self-absorbed high-school queen bees.

She earned solid notices in the romantic drama The Notebook (starring opposite ex-boyfriend Ryan Gosling) the same year.

McAdams followed that up by playing Claire in The Wedding Crashers in 2005, and her role as acerbic Amy Stone in The Family Stone drew critical raves. Even in movies that draw more jeers than cheers (State of Play, The Lucky Ones, The Time Traveler's Wife), there is praise for McAdams' acting chops. In April, she was named the Female Star of the Year by the National Association of Theatre Owners at the 2009 ShoWest Convention in Las Vegas.

Irene more than holds her own against Holmes and his sleuthing partner, Dr. Watson (Jude Law) in the movie. But Watson isn't thrilled to have her around. Jealousy, perhaps? And Holmes reacts similarly to Watson's fiancée, Mary (Mrs. Henderson Presents' Kelly Reilly).

But that doesn't deter these determined women, who have their own agendas. "She's a little bit elusive and so it's hard to know where she's coming from," added McAdams of Irene.

"She has these ulterior motives and she's a very spontaneous creature and ... struggles to get by in a man's world."

McAdams said she thoroughly enjoyed working with Downey and Law.

"It's kind of cute; they have this really great relationship," she observed of Holmes and Watson, who are prone to the kind of bickering seen between old married couples. "Jude and Robert collaborate with each other well and it was so much fun to watch on set."

McAdams also had fun playing with her character's effect on the usually overconfident Holmes. "She turns the tables on him and Robert played that really well. It's the only time you see him at a loss for words," she says, laughing. "He becomes a bit bumbling. He turns more like Watson, who's not great with women."

The amount of action in the movie meant McAdams was called on to do some demanding physical work – and it started in her dressing room. She was laced into a very constrictive corset each morning, which was in turn topped with a dress with voluminous skirts and a bustle.

"It was very Scarlett O'Hara," she said of the ritual to lace up her stays. "I started to cheat, to push my stomach out or eat a big breakfast of oatmeal so it wouldn't be as tight. But they caught on to me."

Every morning after getting dressed, it was time to get dirty, McAdams joked. When the makeup crew finished, she ended up looking like an urchin from Oliver Twist. "Victorian London was just so dirty and grimy and I was covered in fake dirt and mud and blood. I came to really enjoy it."

As laborious as it was to dress for her role, McAdams was thrilled with the experience. "It was really fun. I love dressing up and the costumes really informed the character."

She's all dressed up in another kind of high style for the January cover of Vogue. Inside, she's a stunner in a skin-tight floral print Dolce & Gabbana dress with ruby stilettos. In another, McAdams wears a gauzy crimson blouse with black bra underneath.

"That's not something I could have ever foreseen," she said of the high-fashion cover and pictorial. "It was really exciting for me. I still can't believe it happened."

McAdams, who has graced plenty of other magazine covers before, is perhaps most famous for the one she didn't appear on: she bowed out of a Vanity Fair cover photo with Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson when she discovered they would all be nude. Designer Tom Ford stepped in, fully clothed, and took her spot.

McAdams, who is something of a hair-colour chameleon, has adopted a wide range of shades from platinum to red (she's brunette in Sherlock Holmes). She's blond for the Vogue shoot.

"I don't know any more," she laughed when asked what her natural hair colour is. "I started out blond and graduated to something more in between blond and brown."

If McAdams sounds grounded, it's because she is. She was thrilled that her family – including her parents – would be in New York to join her for the Sherlock Holmes premiere. "They've always been really supportive," said McAdams, recalling that "it was pretty dramatic" the day her folks dropped her off at York University to start school.

The family's premiere plans included getting red-carpet ready together at the hotel, and then enjoying champagne after the movie.

McAdams admitted she still has to do a reality check sometimes when she ponders her success. She never thought when she was growing up in a small town, a self-confessed soap opera addict who loved to skate and was in high-school shows, that one day her dreams of being a Hollywood star would come to pass.

"It's pretty phenomenal. I pinch myself, yes," McAdams said.

Judi Dench: Capturing Life's Every Facet

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 19, 2009) NEW YORK–Art keeps imitating life for Dame Judi Dench, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

The 75-year-old Oscar-winning British star of stage, film and television is bringing her unique combination of earthy honesty and sophisticated flair to the role of Lilli in
Nine. She plays a costume designer who's also the best friend of film director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis), and it's a role that resonates for her on several unexpected levels.

"I had always wanted to be a costume designer when I was young, but I had never told many people and they certainly never knew it when they cast me in the role," says Dench, sitting in a cream-and-gold suite in the slightly faded elegance of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

But that connection was insignificant compared with the shocking memory that the film revived. Back in 1989, Dench was playing Gertrude opposite Day-Lewis's Hamlet at the National Theatre in London. One night during the run, Day-Lewis suffered a complete nervous collapse and withdrew from the show. There was a rumour at the time, later confirmed by the actor, that he had seen the ghost of his own father, poet C. Day Lewis, during the scene where Hamlet encounters his father's spirit.

In Nine, Contini flees from the film he is supposed to be starting, haunted by the ghosts of his life, especially that of his mother.

Dench readily admits that the similarity between the two situations occurred to her, but adds: "Daniel and I never discussed it at all. We know what happened at that time. I knew him then and I've known him all the years since. It's a relationship that leads to shorthand you can bring to your work together, but you don't have to speak about it."

She's positive that "Daniel must have drawn on his memories" to fuel his performance. That's a necessary thing, she says. "You have to have experienced, observed or read about any emotion you put onto the stage or screen."

Dench is one of the most respected members of her profession, known among the theatrically savvy for her great classical performances, but also beloved by the film-going public for roles like her Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth or her continuing role as M in the last six James Bond films.

When confronted with the variety of characters for which she's known, she laughs. "I think it's wonderful that everybody has a different Judi Dench in their mind," she says.

It's all grist for the mill. "It's the same process, exactly the same, whether you're playing a queen or a beggar sitting on the street with a couple of lines. That same process, that life inside. You recognize that character and figure out what makes them tick."

But having set that clockwork mechanism successfully in motion, the one thing Dench has no interest in doing is recycling it elsewhere.

"You do a wonderful part and succeed in it and everyone likes it so much that they send you scripts that are just the same, but that's the last thing you want to do, the very last thing you want to do.

"I'm always ringing up my agent saying, `Isn't there a part for someone who's working in a circus and has to learn how to walk a tightrope? Isn't there somebody who dresses up as a bear?' I long for the challenge of something very new. I just long for it!"

That kind of energy has driven Dench ever since she was born in Yorkshire on Dec. 9, 1934. She came into the theatre at an early age, working on the remounting of the York Mystery Plays and making a heralded appearance as the Virgin Mary.

This lead to her first professional engagement with the Old Vic, where she played Ophelia in 1957 opposite the Hamlet of John Neville, former artistic director of the Stratford Festival.

Dench's famous speaking voice, which has the raspy warmth of freshly grated nutmeg, takes on a softer edge when speaking of Neville. "Dearest John, what a great actor, a great man and a great friend. I learned everything you need to know about the craft of acting from him: the energy required, the quality of danger you have to bring to everything you do, the importance of vocal and emotional clarity...he understood it all.

"Later on, when he took over the Nottingham Playhouse, he proved to be a wonderful leader of a company as well."

I tell Dench a story about working with Neville on a production, when one actress suddenly exploded, saying, "John, I'm sorry! I'm not good enough, but you have to forgive us all for committing the unforgivable sin of not being Judi Dench."

Her eyes fill with tears. "I loved him very much."

Despite her great stoic presence on stage and screen, Dench admits that she still breaks down in private over lost friends and the untimely passing of her husband of 30 years, Michael Williams, in 2001. "In the quiet moments at home, I look through my remembrances of the past and sometimes I come across a single photograph and it makes my insides turn over."

She pulls out a tissue, blows her nose and shakes her head to dispel the sorrows. "But there's so much good happening now that I can't dwell on the sad stuff. My daughter (actor Finty Williams) just opened to tremendous notices in a revival of Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce, and you won't believe what I'm going to do next!

"In January, I start rehearsing for Peter Hall as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a role I first played for him in 1962. I could go on stage and do it again tonight. I've never forgotten the part."

This particular production, it must be mentioned, is set around the concept of the aging Queen Elizabeth I taking part in the show, so Dench's casting makes sense. And even though she wishes that "there was more of Shakespeare I could do, but I've (already) played Mistress Quickly and all those old queens," she's not about to venture into transgender casting as Lear or Prospero.

"Good God, no!" she roars. "Me as Lear? I think it would be hysterical. I do not want to go the Sarah Bernhardt route just so everyone can have a good giggle at my expense."

And you know that whatever she chooses, wherever she goes, whoever she plays, it's Judi Dench who will always have the last laugh.

Cast 'Anxiety' Fuels Nine's Sexiness

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 19, 2009) NEW YORK–What makes Nine, the new movie musical from Rob Marshall, so damn sexy?

Ask its leading man, Daniel Day-Lewis.

"Anxiety is a great aphrodisiac," quips the two-time Oscar winner during a press day at the Waldorf Astoria, and his seven female co-stars burst into empathetic laughter.

They're a pretty damn enticing group themselves: Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, Fergie, Sophia Loren and Judi Dench.

And, with the exception of Fergie and Hudson, every one of them has an Oscar on their mantelpiece, which gives this whole enterprise a golden glow as well as an erotic shimmer.

So, what kind of project brings so much star power together? The original property was a 1982 musical by Maury Yeston (song) and Arthur Kopit (book), based on Federico Fellini's acclaimed 1963 autobiographical film, 8 1/2.

Both versions tell essentially the same story: famous movie director Guido Contini is having a mid-life crisis that causes him to have a complete artistic block, although he has got the cast and crew of a new project standing around waiting for him to start.

All the various women in his life – mother, whore, wife, mistress, muse, critic, friend – gather around him to simultaneously fuel his obsessions and try to help him break through them.

Why the change of title?

Some cynics claim it's because Fellini wouldn't allow a musical to share the same name, but Yeston has always offered two reasons: One is that the addition of music raises 8 1/2 to Nine, and the second is that young Guido undergoes his traumatic and transforming first sexual experience at the age of 9.

The show ran for nearly two years on Broadway and won six Tony Awards, including one for Best Musical. It was produced around the world but it took nearly 20 years for it to get back to New York, which it did in an acclaimed 2003 revival starring Antonio Banderas.

Just like 2002's Chicago, another Broadway musical that director Marshall brought to the screen for Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the idea of a film version of Nine had been kicking around for years.

But in 2007, Marshall's name was officially attached to the project and work began in earnest. Various leading men were discussed, including the star of the stage revival, Banderas, but Javier Bardem was finally announced.

Then, suddenly, only a short time before rehearsals were to start, Barden withdrew, citing exhaustion.

No one connected with the film will say otherwise, but it's possible to read between the lines in something said by John DeLuca, who is not only the film's co-producer and choreographer but Marshall's partner as well.

"Rob insisted that everyone in the film do their own singing and dancing, no doubles at all, and created a lot of tension for a lot of people. I guess, for some, the tension might have been too much."

During the entire press day, this stressful theme was repeated by every cast member, although they all seemed to have emerged with confidence intact.

Kate Hudson, who plays a fashion reporter, makes her professional singing and dancing debut with a chorus of pretty boy models in a new song called "Cinema Italiano," and makes it look like she'd been doing it all her life.

"You can thank Rob and John for that," she says.

"They take what you've got to offer and make it look better than you ever dreamed it could be. I would do anything for them."

Penélope Cruz, the sexually available mistress, not only had to provide full erotic oomph during her phone sex number, "A Call from the Vatican," but also had to do it while perched upside down on a giant aerial swing, bound with pink velvet ropes.

"There were times I did not know what I was doing," Cruz says, "and I would keep bursting into tears and thinking, `That's not very sexy.' But Rob was always there to tell me I was beautiful, I was fine."

The big surprise was rock superstar Fergie, who aggressively went after the role of the prostitute Saraghina. "I believe you shouldn't do something unless you really want it, and I wanted this part. I went online and studied clips of how other actors had done it. I learned everything I could. I knew I could learn so much from these people, and I did."

Nicole Kidman plays the goddesslike actress, Claudia. "I've sung on screen before," she says shyly, "but Rob wanted me to perform differently, out of my comfort zone, and I took the chance for him." The end result is on display when she uses a powerful but unfamiliar "belt" voice in the climax of her solo, "Unusual Way."

For Marion Cotillard, who had never sung or danced on screen, "it was all like performing in a foreign language. But, then, I've learned to do that, so why not learn something else new?"

Judi Dench had been in London stage versions of Cabaret and A Little Night Music but "at first I was terrified of performing on screen. I mean, it's there forever to haunt you if you get it wrong. But Rob let me do my sequence in front of an audience, which relaxed me enormously."

And, sometimes, the stars' own qualities caused the material to change. Composer Yeston says the original character of Mama was played by a high soprano, "so I wrote the song for just such a voice. But when you hear Sophia Loren has been cast in the role, you don't just change the key, you write a whole new number that fits her better," which he did, with the haunting "Guarda la Luna."

For the frighteningly intense Day-Lewis, singing and dancing must have seemed the greatest challenge of all.

"I had eight weeks of rehearsal and I've never been so exhausted in my life," he concedes.

"But I believe, if you do something, you have to do it completely, no holding back."

That might be the understatement of the decade.

Day-Lewis was up to his typical "immersion" tactics during Nine, staying in character every moment, on and off the set, wearing his costume each day, coming to work even when he wasn't called.

"He had stationery printed up with `Guido Contini' on it," reveals Cruz, "and he would leave us notes. One day, I received one that said, `You were superb, Carla. Love, Guido.' I've kept it still."

There's one bittersweet note that hangs over the film. Anthony Minghella was brought in to do a polish of Michael Tolkin's original screenplay and, as DeLuca recalls, "he delivered the final version the night before he went into the hospital," where he would pass away on March 18, 2008.

Tolkin speaks movingly of his colleague. "The last word in the screenplay was the last word that Anthony ever wrote, and it couldn't have been a better one: `Action!'"

"Sex and death," concludes DeLuca, "those are two powerful themes."

The Year Big Ideas Met Big Box Office

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(December 23, 2009) A half-dozen films released in 2009 entered the list of the
Top 50 box-office movies of all time. Those were Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; Ice-Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; 2012; Up; and Twilight Saga: New Moon. That doesn't include Avatar, which was released last week and appears already on its way to setting new box-office records.

That would seem to be good news for movies as a business, as Hollywood studios work to perfect the blockbuster formula. A majority of those films were sequels. One of those films, Up, is almost universally regarded as an artistic triumph. And all of them speak to the viability of movies as a cultural force and industry.

On the other hand, this past year made it clear that what used to be called “cinema,” as a collective artistic experience of film going, is either an anachronism or a specialized interest along the lines of poetry readings or philately. This is the first year in memory that two films that ended up on several critics' Top 10 lists – Lucrecia Martel's The Headless Woman and Claire Denis's 35 Shots of Rum – weren't even released in commercial theatres in English Canada.

Cinephilia is flourishing, though, thanks to DVDs and especially the Internet. The opportunities for experiencing the history of film have never been better. And yet, while much has been gained, something has been lost. Once, a reasonably culturally literate person would know Federico Fellini, whose challenging, subtitled movies were hits in the early sixties. Now, we get our Fellini pre-digested and dumbed-down as a tarted-up Christmas movie, Nine.

The result is that we have two different scales for measuring the importance of any movie: artistic quality, which has become something of a private literary pleasure; and the real cultural impact, which is inevitably tied to box-office success. The latter is the measurement generally used by critics, who parse the plots of films to find the post-Obama themes of collective responsibility and the psychic cost of war and economic crisis.

Here are my Top 5 “important” films of the year – those that had both a good-sized topicality and a sizable commercial impact.

1. Avatar. Though it has been in theatres less than a week, James Cameron'sAvatar is the most important movie of the year, because it's a mass entertainment that makes sometimes abstract social issues – the war in Iraq, the environment, the destruction of aboriginal peoples – immediate and compelling. With its breakthrough 3-D technology, it also will change the way we watch movies, and emphasize the immersive experience of public cinema.

2. Up in the Air. One of the year's few successful grown-up films, Jason Reitman's corporate satire addresses the grief and anger over lives damaged by the worst economic recession in decades. It's a repudiation of the me-first attitude of the George W. Bush years, created by a card-carrying political libertarian, writer and director.

3. Up. Topically, it became the template for Balloon Boy, the media hoax of the year, and is emblematic of the disease of fame. It's also a nostalgia-filled celebration of film culture, quoting silent movies, The Wizard of Oz, even Werner Herzog. It's a remarkable corporate model for how the popular and intelligent can co-exist, a phenomenon for which Pixar even has a word: “simplexity.”

4. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. An up-from-the-bottom cultural phenomenon, this small movie about an obese, illiterate black teenager abused by her mother and twice impregnated by her father is a study in misery so thorough that it's hard to imagine an audience for it. Yet the push by producers Oprahand Tyler Perry to bring it into the mainstream, and its audience awards at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, indicate a desire for an empathetic reaching out that was missing from American culture during the Bush years. The character of Precious, by every measure, is a loser; and the movie, in its raw, ungainly way, asks what that social category means.

5. Inglourious Basterds. This was the headline in The Village Voice: Makes Holocaust Revisionism Fun. Quentin Tarantino's skilful, amoral movie has Jews terrorizing Nazis; a brutal SS officer (Christoph Waltz) is its most appealing character. A liberal film without liberal pieties, Inglourious Basterds is a juvenile, intellectual shocker, and an action film that's one big, long talking point.  


De Niro, DiCaprio to laud Scorsese

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(December 19, 2009) Los Angeles —Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio are set to celebrate Martin Scorsese at next month's Golden Globe Awards. The two actors and long-time Scorsese collaborators will present the director with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 67th annual Globes ceremony. The DeMille award recognizes outstanding contributions to entertainment. Past winners include last year's recipient, Steven Spielberg, along with Warren Beatty, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Douglas. The Golden Globe Awards will be presented Jan. 17 at the Beverly Hilton Hoteland broadcast live on NBC.

Mo'nique, Sidibe, 'Precious' Collect Sag Noms

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 18, 2009) *The film "Precious" joins "Up in the Air" and "Inglourious Basterds" in leading the Screen Actors Guild Awards with three nominations each, including honours for actresses Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe.   The Harlem-based "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' By Sapphire" and the WWII drama " Inglourious Basterds" will compete for the guild's overall cast prize, along with the 1960s British drama "An Education," the Iraq War tale "The Hurt Locker" and the musical "Nine." "Precious" earned a lead-actress honour for Sidibe as an illiterate, abused teen determined to make a better life. The other best actress nominees are Sandra Bullock as foster mom for a future NFL star in "The Blind Side," Helen Mirren as the wife of Leo Tolstoy in "The Last Station," Carey Mulligan as a teen involved with an older man in "An Education," and Meryl Streep as chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia." Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick of "Up In the Air," Penelope Cruz of "Nine" and Diane Kruger of "Inglourious Basterds" are nominated for supporting actress against Mo'Nique, who plays the horrific mother of Sidibe's character in "Precious." The best actor field includes Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus," "Up in the Air's" frequent flyer George Clooney, Jeff Bridges as a boozy country singer in "Crazy Heart," Colin Firth as a grieving gay academic in "A Single Man" and Jeremy Renner as a daredevil bomb technician in "The Hurt Locker." The SAG Awards will be handed out Jan. 23. The show will include the guild's life-achievement award for Betty White.  Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Film Critics gave its best supporting actress award to Mo'Nique and its best actress honour to Sidibe. The San Francisco Film Critics also crowned Mo'Nique in the supporting actress category.

Antoine Fuqua Bringing 'Prisoners' To Conn.

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 21, 2009) *Director
Antoine Fuqua will start shooting the suspense thriller "Prisoners" in the Connecticut cities of Derby and Shelton , with Hugh Jackman possibly in the lead, according to local reports.   Connecticut's Valley Independent Sentinel says local officials are hearing that Jackman will star in the film, but the casting has not been confirmed. Shooting will begin in February.   The film revolves around two families who live on opposite sides of a street. The lifelong friends are thrust into turmoil when their two youngest daughters go missing.   The story centers on the family’s desperation in finding their children with the help of their neighbours and local police force, particularly one police detective.

Filmmaker Takes On Homophobia In The Bahamas

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

(December 23, 2009)  *The sixth annual
Bahamas International Film Festival opened earlier this month with a full-length feature that tackles the subject of homophobia, which the director argues is widespread throughout the island.    Kareem Mortimer said he initially conceived his movie "Children of God" in purely romantic terms, but it turned darker following the murders of five gay men over a few months in 2007-08.    "Two of them I knew personally," he tells Reuters. "One was the subject of a documentary I produced -- he had AIDS and was killed very violently near where I live. He was almost decapitated. Another guy, a fashion designer, was stabbed multiple times in his house."    As a gay Bahamian, Mortimer adds, "I felt really afraid. I can't even express how I felt, and one politician said things like 'the only good homosexual is a dead homosexual' that went unchallenged in the country. Bahamians are very generous, loving people, but it was an act of great shame."    To show Bahamians another side of the issue, Mortimer focused his story on three very different characters: the wife of a secretly gay pastor, a homophobic firebrand; a young black man who is trying to hide his sexuality from his family; and the conflicted white man he becomes involved with.    Despite its controversial subject, "Children of God" had no trouble finding backers. Also, the cast was made up largely of Bahamians and a crew that mixed both locals and outsiders.    The festival's executive director Leslie Vander pool was proud of the locals' response to the film.    "There was no negative reaction at all, and that's because people were ready for it," she says. "I really want Bahamians to be exposed to these types of stories -- and then move on." 


We Remember: Alaina Reed Hall-Tamini

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 18, 2009) *EUR has learned that actress/singer Alaina Reed Hall-Amini has died. She was 63.

At press time, details of her death, on Thursday, Nov. 17, are still sketchy, but the Afrobella blog quotes the cause is believed to related to breast cancer.

Hall-Amini was best known for her roles as Olivia, Gordon's kid sister, on the long-running children's television series Sesame Street, and Rose Lee Holloway on the NBC sitcom

Born in Springfield, Ohio, Hall began her career in Broadway and off-Broadway productions. She was among the original cast members in the 1974 off-Broadway production of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road. Hall also appeared in productions of Hair, Chicago, and Eubie!

In addition to stage and television work, according to Wikipedia, Hall has also appeared in several films including "Death Becomes Her" (1992), opposite Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep, "Cruel Intentions" (1999), and the 2007 independent feature "I'm Through with White Girls" (The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks).

Hall-Amini was married 3 times. Her first marriage, which produced two children, ended in divorce. In December 1988, she married actor Kevin Peter Hall after meeting him when he guest starred on "227." She was widowed in 1991 after her husband died of pneumonia-related complications after contracting AIDS. At the time of her death, Hall was married to Tamim Amini

Condolences/cards should be sent to her husband: Mr. Tamim Amini at 10044 Woodley Ave. North Hills, CA 91343

Apparently Alaina Reed Hall-Amini also had a cooking show called "A Whole Lotta Soul" that looks like it was a whole lotta fun. Check it out:

And The Year's Most Watched Youtube Video Is...

Source: www.thestar.com - Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(December 16, 2009) Chances are, you were part of the phenomenon that turned Susan Boyle into a celebrity in 2009.

Boyle's surprise star turn April 11 on Britain's Got Talent is at the top of YouTube's
most watched videos list for 2009, with 120 million-plus views. By the end of the year, she had released a bestselling album, I Dreamed a Dream, and had her own YouTube channel.

The second and third spots are also videotaped events that crept from nowhere to global fame: David After Dentist with 37 million views and JK Wedding Entrance Dance, with 33 million views. David, who was filmed by his dad, David Devore, when the 7-year-old was spaced out on anesthesia, now has a website with a line of merchandise capturing his memorably slurred phrase "Is this real life?" as well as a page for speaking engagements.

The July video of the St. Paul, Minn., wedding party arriving to a groovy dance version of Chris Brown's hit Forever at Jill Peterson and Kevin Heinz's church ceremony has also evolved in to a website that directs donations to the work against domestic violence done by the Sheila Wellstone Institute in St. Paul. The couple said they wanted to harness the "positive energy" spawned by the video to help battered women. Brown has been convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna., in February.

Talking about the videos, associate product manager Jamie Davidson said, "All of them inspired, entertained and connected millions of people around the world via YouTube."

YouTube released its lists Wednesday on its blog.

Here they are:

Most Watched YouTube videos (Global):
1. Susan Boyle - Britain's Got Talent (120+ million views)
2. David After Dentist (37+ million views)
3. JK Wedding Entrance Dance (33+ million views)
4. New Moon Movie Trailer (31+ million views)
5. Evian Roller Babies (27+ million views)

Most Watched music videos on YouTube (Global):
1. Pitbull, "I Know You Want Me" (82+ million views)
2. Miley Cyrus. "The Climb" (64+ million views)
3. Miley Cyrus, "Party in the U.S.A." (54+ million views)
4. The Lonely Island, "I'm On a Boat" (48+ million views)
5. Keri Hilson, "Knock You Down" (35+ million views)

Here are the global fasting rising search terms for each month:
January: inauguration
February: Christian Bale
March: The Climb
April: Susan Boyle
May: Pacquiao vs Hatton
June: Michael Jackson thriller
July: Michael Jackson
August: Usain Bolt
September: Kanye West
October: Paranormal Activity
November: Bad Romance
December: Tiger Woods
Read Twitter's hottest topics of 2009

Most Important Works Of The Decade No. 10: Mad Men

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(December 21, 2009) Each month for the past seven months, small teams of Star critics and editors have come together to determine the most important works of the decade in their fields: books, visual arts, the stage, video games, television, movies and music. The criteria for determining the "most important" (as opposed to the best) were always the same: Was a work popular? Did it start a trend? Did it have lasting artistic merit? And did it say something special about the decade we just passed through? Two weeks ago, we invited both our readers and our critics to look at all 70 of the works we'd selected and pick the 10 most important works overall. Then we tallied the votes (giving 50 per cent weight to our critics' picks, and 50 per cent weight to yours), and ranked everything. As we approach the end of the decade, read along as we count down the 10 Most Important Works of the Decade, as selected by us, and by you.

As much as it quite astonishingly inhabits its early-1960s setting,
Mad Men remains very much a product of this current ending decade, encompassing all the essential elements of the contemporary cable drama.

An inherently flawed, ambiguously amoral "hero" (The Sopranos, Dexter, Breaking Bad ... and on down the dial through Nip/Tuck, The Wire, Rescue Me, Nurse Jackie, etc.). A darkly dysfunctional family dynamic (the same again, plus Six Feet Under and Big Love). An uncannily accurate evocation of a very specific place and time (Deadwood, Carnivàle, Rome).

But it is most directly the representative result of a 21st-century renaissance in complex, character-driven, feature-quality series drama, largely unrestrained by the traditional broadcast conventions of content, presentation, volume (the quality-over-quantity, 13-episode season) and ratings-driven commercial advertising.

How doubly ironic then that the series is set during a period of the most profound creative upheaval in the history of the corporate consumer campaign, Madison Avenue in the go-go space-age lounge-act era of "Camelot" America, which of course came to an abrupt and unexpected end – as was so vividly depicted on Mad Men last season – with the national tragedy of the Kennedy assassination.

But resonating with nostalgic age-appropriate baby boomers is, however essential, only superficially significant. Indeed, half the fun of watching Mad Men, particularly in its first season, was the slack-jawed incredulity of the uninitiated at the sight of a mid-meal cigarette being stubbed out in an uneaten dessert, or culminating an idyllic family picnic by blithely flapping a blanket full of paper and plastic detritus out over the manicured grass.

There are essentially two things here, surpassing context, that keep us so inextricably glued to the screen. The first, of course, is character and its subtly vivid, largely unspoken interpretation by one of TV's most understated ensembles, from the unknown and perhaps unknowable depths of the enigma Don Draper – so perfectly embodied by '60s matinee-idol handsome Jon Hamm – to the tentative, apocryphal pre-feminist awakening of mousy aspiring ad executrix Peggy Olsen, also played to period perfection by a previously anonymous Elisabeth Moss.

The other distinguishing characteristic – again, apparent – is Mad Men's multi-layered, intricately interwoven plotting, a deceptively leisurely storytelling style that resolutely zigs when you expect it to zag. This was the lesson learned by writer/producer Matt Weiner at the feet of the master, David Chase, who hired Weiner to run his Sopranos writers room on the basis of his unsold Mad Men script, which he then tried and failed to help him sell to his HBO masters and finally, successfully, to the former all-movie channel, AMC. It rightly saw the unique undertaking as the perfect entree to rebranding itself as a destination for prestige series drama.

But Mad Men's greatest and most appropriate irony is its impact as a marketing phenomenon, capitalizing on and massively accelerating an existing trend in retro fashion and design toward a generally more formalized '60s style.

The real Mad Men of Madison Avenue would be suitably impressed.


Two Canadians Will Vie For New Bachelor

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(December 19, 2009) Toronto — Two Canadians are among the 25 bachelorettes looking for love on the next edition of the TV reality series The Bachelor.  CITY-TV says they include 25-year-old Jessie, a cosmetic sales manager from Oakville, Ont., and 31-year-old Tiana, a medical technician from Vancouver.  They follow in the footsteps of Vancouver interior designer Jillian Harris, the star of last season's The Bachelorette and a third-place finisher on the previous instalment of The Bachelor .  This year's hunk is Texan pilot Jake Pavelka, who failed to make last season's Bachelorette finale despite building a reputation as Mr. Perfect.  The salacious series revolves around a bachelor who chooses a potential wife from 25 contenders, a pool that is gradually whittled down week by week until just one woman remains. The new season kicks off Jan. 4.

Andre Leon Talley Joins 'Top Model'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 17, 2009) *Fashionista extraordinaire
Andre Leon Talley is coming to "America's Next Top Model" next season as the fourth judge, joining a panel that includes Nigel Barker, "Miss" Jay Alexander and the show's host and executive producer Tyra Banks.   Talley's permanent appointment comes a season after Banks fired former fourth judge Paulina Porizkova. A number of "guest" judges filled the spot during the show's most recent cycle.   Talley, Vogue magazine's editor-at-large, is currently in New Zealand with Banks shooting Cycle 14.

Boris Kodjoe Headed To NBC

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 21, 2009) *
Boris Kodjoe has nabbed the lead role in NBC's upcoming J.J. Abrams' pilot "Undercovers," according to the Hollywood Reporter.  The show, described as "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" meets "The Bourne Identity," revolves around spouses Samantha and Steven (Kodjoe) Bloom, who work together as spies.  Last week, veteran Gerald McRaney became the first actor tapped for the project as the couple's CIA boss. The role of Samantha is yet to be cast.   Best known for his starring role on the Showtime series "Soul Food," Kodjoe will next be seen in the film "Resident Evil: Afterlife."  

Fantasia Plugs Her New VH1 Reality Show

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

(December 23, 2009) *
Fantasia Barrio, the winner of "American Idol's" third season, returns to reality television next month as the star of her own series "Fantasia for Real," which will follow her family life, her love life and her career.   "In 2008, there were a lot of things going on in Fantasia's world," Barrio told the New York Daily News. "There was a lot of press about me - a lot of truth but also a lot of false. But everything was messed up, career-wise, and I wanted to allow people to watch me rebuild my dynasty."   Cameras will follow the 25-year-old as she juggles single-motherhood (her daughter, Zion, is 8), going back to school and her singing. Her family, including first cousins K-Chi & Jogo of Judaic, also plays a large part in the series.   "Me and my father, we don't have a really good relationship," Barrio said of dad Joseph, who made headlines in 2006 for suing the publisher of Fantasia's memoir "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale" for libel. "That is something that's been out in the press, and it's a very touchy situation for me to allow that to be seen, but it does show my growth. He's still my father at the end of the day."   But "Fantasia for Real" isn't all about fighting back rumours or dealing with family issues; Barrio says there's a lot of laughter in it, too.   "You see good moments! I'll have my glass of wine," she said. "I still find a way to have a good time and hang out with my girlfriends. We only have one life to live and I can't let all the cares in the world weigh me down. I'll be 40 years old before I know it."   "Fantasia for Real," premieres Jan. 11 at 10 p.m. on VH1.


Viva Elvis: Cirque Du Soleil's Tribute Faces New Delay

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(December 18, 2009) LAS VEGAS–Elvis has left the building, but it looks like he's not the only one.

The latest Cirque du Soleil offering,
Viva Elvis, was the subject of a news conference and mini-preview this week, which did little to offset the rumours swirling around the production. Cast replacements, major rewrites, delayed openings: all of these have turned out to be fact, not fiction.

Guy Laliberté announced that the show's opening was now postponed to Feb. 19, the third change. Originally, it was supposed to debut on Elvis's 75th birthday, Jan. 8, 2010.

Then, citing construction delays in the new theatre at the just-opened Aria Hotel and Casino, the date was pushed to Jan. 29. Now more time is being carved out.

"The show is not complete. It is not what we want," Cirque's senior vice-president, Gilles St. Croix, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. And Laliberté, after announcing the new date, vanished, refusing to talk to the media.

The show's executive producer, Stéphane Mongeau, verified reports that Elvis tribute performer Leo Days had departed from the production.

In contrast to other Cirque shows, Viva Elvis, at this point, features a fair bit of spoken narration. The one section seen in the 18-minute preview shown to the press on Tuesday was delivered by an actor portraying Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker. Originally there were four narrators, but that concept is being scrapped.

Director Vincent Paterson, best known for his work on concerts by Madonna and Michael Jackson, has mounted the segments shown to the media in a bold, colourful style, but they currently bear little resemblance to past Cirque activity, looking more like a straight-ahead tribute show.

The show Love provided an impressionistic view of the work of The Beatles without losing sight of the Cirque style, but judging from what's been seen so far, Viva Elvis isn't following that path.

Cirque has a history of delayed openings, last-minute changes and 11th-hour rescues of troubled shows, but it's possible that things are getting a bit fraught these days.

The most recent Cirque outing, its "vaudeville" entry Banana Shpeel, opened last month to negative reviews in Chicago and is currently doing business far lower than the average Cirque show. The company still plans to take it to New York for a February opening, but it means two shows need attention now.


3D's Bright Future Yields Shades

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(December 19, 2009) Still looking for something for the gamer who has everything? With all the 3D hype riding on Avatar's coattails, the gaming industry is picking up the thread.

Next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is going to feature a raft of announcements about new 3D gadgets and gizmos. One that's already here is Nvidia's Geforce 3D Vision kit, which might be just the thing for the hardcore PC gamer on your list.

One of the great things about this system is that it's compatible with a list of almost 300 games, so it's very likely to work with plenty of what's already in a player's library.

The kit comes with a pair of shutter glasses, an infrared emitter and software drivers, and it requires a special monitor (I was supplied with a Samsung Syncmaster 2333RZ 22-inch model) that has a 120-Hz refresh rate. By creating a stereoscopic image – basically, two images that overlay each other – the kit creates a 3D effect.

Rather than coming out at you, the image actually adds a field of depth going into the monitor and is definitely very cool. It's the type of thing that makes you notice a flatness in games that you didn't before.

I played it mostly with first-person shooters like Call of Duty, Bioshock and Halo, and it really does add something – namely, an initial freak-out moment when your enemies come right at you. There's a wheel on the back of the infrared emitter that you use to adjust the 3D effect.

The wraparound eyewear recalls that old infomercial for blue-blockers, and likewise comes with a few different sizes of nose clips so they can fit comfortably over regular glasses. I was a bit sceptical about this – I mean, how nerdy is wearing two sets of glasses? And I realize I'm writing about next-level PC gaming – but the clips actually worked fine.

I got a 3D-skeptical friend to come over and try it, but it didn't work for her. There seem to be some people who just can't see 3D – it's like those 3D posters, I guess – and she's one of them.

But it worked pretty well for me, the only caveat being that it provides something you didn't know you were missing.

It's also a bit pricey. The kit retails for about $299, and the Samsung 22-inch monitor has a MSRP of $399.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Retro Mini X Handheld System, a portable gaming system that plays old Nintendo Entertainment System games. It comes with a plastic pistol and two controllers, and can plug into a TV set so you can play on a bigger screen.

I've got to tip my hat to Now magazine's recent gift guide for highlighting this system, available at thinkgeek.com, as it's something that I really must have.

Judging from the pictures, it's hilarious that the old-school game cartridges look bigger than the device. It doesn't come with any games, although I picked some up at my local Value Village in anticipation of its arrival.

Priced at $49.99 (U.S.), shipping to Canada costs an extra $25 or so and it can't be marked as a "gift," so you'll be hit by duty fees, so the price quickly creeps up.


'SYTYCD' Winner Russell Explains Finale Injury

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 18, 2009) *Boston krump dancer Russell Ferguson literally hobbled his way toward winning season 6 of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" Wednesday night.

 At the beginning of the two-hour season finale, the show hit a dramatic pause when host Cat Deely's microphone died as she simultaneously watched Ferguson being assisted onto the stage in tears. Deely quickly learned along with the audience that Russell had injured himself in the previous dance routine.

 “I went to jump back up onstage during my three-man piece and I came down on my leg a little wrong and it got real numb and swollen and it felt like something maybe got sprained,” Russell explained to reporters after the broadcast.

 Even worse than the pain was the fact he didn't get the chance to perform his final routines onstage. "It hurt, but I was fine enough to walk, so I thought I could dance. After they tested me backstage, they told me I couldn't dance. That was the worst feeling, because my family came all the way from Boston."

 Ferguson spent the majority of the broadcast masking pain and appearing onstage on a stool to hear the results. When it was time to announce the winner, he limped out on his own and stood gingerly next to fellow finalist Jakob Karr.

 After Ferguson was announced the winner, his bum leg was a distant memory. He pulled off his shirt, jumped, screamed, knelt on the floor and jumped again.

 “It feels crazy, a dream come true [and] everything into one,” an elated Ferguson told People.com backstage after the results. “It feels like everything has just fell into place … everything is so perfect right now. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

 “I’m really happy with the result,” said executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. “I wouldn’t have minded Jakob or Russell. But for me and how I feel about dance — I want it spread everywhere — [Russell] does that for me more than Jakob would have done. Dancers will look at Jakob and go, ‘Wow, what a brilliant dancer,’ because he is. But America will look at the charismatic performer that Russell is and will say, ‘If he has done that, I can do that.’ And remember, he didn’t win by krumping. He only krumped once the whole season, as I remember. He won by doing other styles, and that opens up for street kids.”

Dance Doc Exposes Ballet's Pursuit Of Perfection

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet
Directed by Frederick Wiseman
Classification: PG

(December 19, 2009) Documentary master Frederick Wiseman's latest vérité epic is an exquisite behind-
the-scenes portrait of the Paris Opera Ballet.

The director positions his camera in the company's rehearsal studios to reveal thealchemy between choreographer and dancer. It is an intensely rigorous business: the constant striving for a perfect line, a deeper meaning in a step. More than once we witness the absolute concentration of a dancer facing a mirror, scrutinizing their performance for the merest hint of a flaw. Making art, Wiseman argues with every close up of a painstakingly taut muscle, is damned hard work.

The pursuit of perfection is also captivating, the aesthetics of a body in such precise motion, stunning to behold. And, just as the act of movement has its own internal logic to the dancer, so Wiseman layers and structures his film with a similarly opaque, intangible momentum.

He leaves no cog in the ballet company's machine unexamined - from the rooftop beekeeper to the flooded basement, the menu in the cafeteria to the V.I.P. fundraisers, and the costume seamstress to the maintenance crew filling the cracked ceilings.

And it is a machine run with military precision: "This is an extremely hierarchical company," artistic director Brigitte Lefèvre says, and you know she means business. The Faustian pact between art and commerce hovers constantly around the edges of
La Danse - not least the moment of schadenfreude when an administrator talks about selling $25,000 fundraising packages to staff at Lehman Brothers. It's an expensive business mounting any production, and the difficult works must be supported fiscally by the likes of The Nutcracker, the annual crowd-pleaser required of ballet companies everywhere.

At 158 minutes with no commentary or captions, this is not a film to be taken lightly. Don't expect any clues: Even the ballets being rehearsed, the dancers and the choreographers remain unnamed until the closing credits. This refusal to fulfill our thirst for narrative, though frustrating, ultimately leaves us free to revel in the purity of the dance itself.

Wiseman has stuck to his observational guns for almost four decades - he turns 80 on New Year's Day - steadfastly ignoring the populist, personality-driven approaches that have dominated the documentary genre of late. Whether his camera has been focused on juvenile courts, state legislatures, hospitals, public-housing projects or zoos, he is committed to the principle of show, don't tell. Submit to its rhythm, and La Danse is a visceral experience - a virtuoso study in the act of creating a work of art.  



Bollywood Star Brings Boyish Charm To Canada

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Grange

(December 19, 2009) TORONTO -- Moments before the arrival of Akshay Kumar - the most famous torchbearer whom many Canadians have never heard of - organizers were gazing at the eager crowd of thousands swelling Yonge Street and worrying if the Bollywood star had enough security.

"I don't think they comprehended this," said Andrew Clark, vice-president of market development for the
Canadian Tourism Commission. "I think it's going to be a little chaotic."

A crush of fans rushed to touch Mr. Kumar - India's version of Brad Pitt and the star of films such as Singh is Kinng and Hera Pheri. It was exactly the reaction the Canadian Tourism Commission was hoping for when it invited him to carry the flame in Toronto - an offer made personally by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his recent visit to India.

The presence of Mr. Kumar carrying the flame in downtown Toronto was part of a $26-million strategy by the federal government to leverage tourism opportunities presented by the
Vancouver Games. The tourism commission is a partner in the torch relay with VANOC and has 14 torchbearer spots that it is using strategically - offering turns to high-profile actors, athletes and dignitaries from countries that Canada is hoping to lure tourists. Other than India, those countries include Brazil, China, Japan, Australia and the United States.

"Canada is seventh as a preferred destination for India travellers right now," Mr. Clark said. "But it's a booming market and their travel to Canada increased by 7 per cent last year and we want that to grow."

Hence Mr. Kumar. His participation in the torch relay was just part of a busy day for the star of more than 120 Bollywood films, whose boyish charm and good looks have transformed the martial arts teacher-turned-model-turned actor into one of India's most bankable stars.

Wearing long johns under his white torchbearer's tracksuit, Mr. Kumar said he wasn't worried about the cold. He didn't run for long - just for the brief moments between when the crowd backed off enough to let him hold the torch to when a protest stopped him short. About 250 protesters loosely organized under the banner of Resist 2010 came up Yonge Street in the opposite direction, delaying the relay.

"I love sports," Mr. Kumar said, adding that he hoped to attend the Games in Vancouver to watch some hockey, his favourite winter sport and an interest he's picked up on his frequent visits to Canada. "And I remember watching the torch when I was a child. I'm very happy to do this."

The frenzy on the torch trail was merely bonus footage to video taken of Mr. Kumar shopping downtown and visiting the CN Tower on a bright sunny afternoon, clips of which were packaged and beamed to India for broadcast on news and entertainment shows. Mr. Kumar's travel expenses were paid but he received no appearance fee.

"We purposely saved Kumar for Toronto," Mr. Clark said. "This is an important market and the largest Indo-Canadian population in the country is here and this is a great way to leverage the torch relay."

In fact, the Toronto area for the torch relay saw a number of celebrities, including ballerina Karen Kain, Canadian Hollywood royalty Jason and Ivan Reitman, astronaut Roberta Bondar, Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano, among others - as organizers hoped to gain the same momentum for the torch relay in Toronto that Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope got in the Golden Horseshoe.

With Mr. Kumar, they got the enthusiasm they were looking for. Typical of the crowd was Tarandeep Malhi, a 24-year-old laboratory technician from Scarborough, who was fiercely guarding her position despite temperatures that dipped below -10 C. Armed with a video camera, she was warmed by the thought of seeing her favourite star, even if she admitted the significance of the Winter Games was lost on her.

"I'm not a big sports person, I'm not really sure what the difference is between the Winter Olympics and the regular Olympics," she said. "But you know it must be a big thing if he came all the way from India for this."

Brodeur Breaks 39-Year-Old Shutout Record

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Johnston

(December 22, 2009) PITTSBURGH – Martin Brodeur's teammates crowded around in the tiny visitors' locker room at Mellon Arena, eager to share in the celebration of a record that once looked as if it would never be broken.

The New Jersey Devils goaltender sat smiling in his stall, holding a puck inscribed with "104" – the record number of shutouts he reached with Monday's 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. It moved Brodeur past Terry Sawchuk on the all-time list and gave him the only major goaltending milestone missing from his resumé.

Even after three Stanley Cups, four Vezina Trophies and numerous entries in the record book, the weight of the latest accomplishment was felt by the 37-year-old late in the game.

"I don't get nervous, but today (I) was a little nervous," said Brodeur, who finished with 35 saves.

These record-breaking moments might not be new to the Devils, but there was no sense that anyone was taking anything for granted. Most of Brodeur's teammates watched as he posed for photos – and a few later jumped in to grab a souvenir shot of their own.

They seemed a little in awe of a goalie who has spent his entire career with the Devils.

"I don't think much needs to be said, it's pretty self-explanatory," said fifth-year forward Zach Parise. "All the winning that he's done, the shutouts, the Cups, it's unbelievable. It's great for a guy like me, and all of us at this time ... we're on the ice when all these records are happening.

"I mean, it's pretty fun. I'm sure it's fun for him but it's pretty cool for us, too."

The importance of helping Brodeur break the record could be seen late in the game, when the Devils did everything they could to tighten up defensively. It wasn't easy against the high-powered Penguins, who saw Sidney Crosby's shot ring off the post with less than two minutes remaining.

Brodeur could sense that his teammates were giving a little extra effort.

"It was almost like winning a playoff game," he said. "The guys kept chipping the puck out and everybody was blocking shots everywhere. It was a great effort from my teammates."

Bryce Salvador, Niclas Bergfors, Patrik Elias and Mark Fraser had goals for the league-leading Devils (26-8-1), who won all three visits to Mellon Arena this season.

Pittsburgh, which dropped to 25-11-1, was held off the score sheet for the third time this season.

The shutout mark was long believed to be the most untouchable of goaltending records and stood for more than 39 years after Sawchuk's last season with the New York Rangers. Coincidentally, his final shutout came against the Penguins on Feb. 1, 1970.

"This record was held so long by Terry Sawchuk," said Brodeur. "When you do break records and you see how long they've lasted, it's pretty cool. Tying it was pretty amazing in Buffalo a couple weeks ago and now surpassing it, it's a great honour for me to be in that position."

Brodeur is enjoying one of the best seasons in his 16-year NHL career. He leads all goalies in victories (23), is tied for third in shutouts (three) and boasts a 2.10 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.

When Monday's game ended, he celebrated modestly. Devils veteran Jamie Langenbrunner handed him puck after win.

"He just smiled," said Langenbrunner. "We had the home stand where he wanted to get it and it just didn't happen. I think it's a little bit of relief for him to finally just get past it."

It's been a pretty special season for a Devils team that is an impressive 13-2-1 on the road this season. Three of those victories have come here against the defending Stanley Cup champions.

And even now, Brodeur isn't sure if there are any more records out there for him.

"I don't know," he said. "You guys will tell me."


Canadians Capture Gold, Silver In World Cup Bobsleigh Competition

Source: www.thestar.com

(December 19, 2009) ALTENBERG, Germany – Canada captured a gold and silver medal Saturday at a women's World Cup bobsleigh event Saturday.  Kallie Humphries of Calgary and Heather Moyse of Summerside, P.E.I., posted a time of one minute 53.60 second to capture the gold, finishing 0.43 seconds ahead of Helen Upperton of Calgary and Edmonton's Jennifer Ciochetti.  Americans Shauna Rohback and Michelle Rzepka took third.  Humphries and Moyse posted a track-record time of 56.79 seconds in their first run. In their second round, the Canadians had a start time of 5.74 seconds to shave .03 seconds off the previous best. Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske of Germany won the men's event in 1:49.81. Compatriots Thomas Florschuetz and Marc Kuehne were second in 1:50.47. Lyndon Rush of Humboldt, Sask., and Lascelles Brown of Calgary were fifth with a time of 1:51.00.