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July 16, 2009

Thank you to all who sent me their condolences on the passing of my cousin's daughter,
Megan Park. Megan passed at the tender age of 21 this past weekend after struggling with illness for much of her young life and as you can imagine, the family is still shocked.  Your prayers and support are appreciated and I dedicate this edition to our lovely Megan.

I keep forgetting that it's
July ... why is that?  Oh I remember - it's the crap weather!  I mean, isn't July the month that Toronto has two weeks of humid weather and you hope every place you enter has the air conditioning cranked?  Seems like May weather out there ... but I digress ... Torontonians are known to talk about the weather since it's so extreme.

This week's SCOOP is about the actor/singer
Kate Voegele.  Did you know how talented this young person is?  If you can tell me what TV show Kate stars in, you could win her newly released CD, A Fine Mess.  Enter HERE and don't forget your full name and mailing address!


Kate Voegele Multitasks with Music and Acting

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(July 9, 2009) You could say
Kate Voegele is an overachiever. At 22 years old, the Cleveland , Ohio native has spent the better part of the last two years juggling life as a full-time singer-songwriter, part-time actress and a college student, rarely pausing to take a breath. "Multi-tasking has always been my thing," she says.
Ridiculous in the sense that Voegele went from being a complete unknown to a TV star, and from a girl writing songs in her dorm room to a bonafide recording artist with legions of loyal fans, all in less than a year. Voegele is still pinching herself just to make sure it's really happening.
Now the huge star of the hit TV series One Tree Hill, Kate Voegele has released her new album ‘A Fine Mess’ after it was the incredible musical soundtrack to the show’s latest season. Kate’s sophomore record is flying off the shelves across Canada, with stunning songs like 'Lift Me Up', '99 Times' & 'Angel'.
KATE VOEGELE is a new and very bright star in music right now - check out her music at: www.myspace.com/katevoegele & pick up 'A FINE MESS' wherever you buy music!


Tim Horton’s Wins Fans In Big Apple

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

(July 14, 2009) NEW YORK–Albert Wells stood for a long time at the counter of the newly opened Tim Horton’s at Penn Station in Manhattan, looking puzzled.

The 48-year-old postal worker, an American who had never heard of Timbits, had read about the iconic Canadian coffee chain's maple-glazed doughnuts in the newspaper and was eager to try one. But after two attempts in one day, none were available at that site. He consoled himself with a coffee – free yesterday on the opening day for the chain's 12 locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

"This coffee is good. But I'm disappointed about the maple glazed," he said.

It's not every day Canadian cuisine, in any form, shows up en masse in New York City, but Tim Horton’s Inc.'s arrival here, the company's first foray into this most costly and competitive of locations, was heralded by lengthy stories in the New York Post and New York Times.

The stores are taking over sites formerly occupied by Dunkin' Donuts, causing some consternation for its long-time, loyal customers.

There are three Tim Horton’s sites within Penn Station alone, the bustling train station that welcomes thousands of commuters every day.

Regulars, expecting to find Dunkin' Donuts, their regular coffee-and-carb fix, in its usual spot, were a little disoriented, even suspicious.

"Who's this Tim Horton guy and why's he taking over my Dunkin' Donuts?" asked Melanie Skunca, 32, a media buyer who rode the subway with two colleagues, one a huge Tim Horton’s fan.

"This morning I was so excited!" said Elizabeth Oberlin, 21, a junior ad buyer who has been a three-times-a-week Horton’s fan in her native Rochester. "This is awesome. Their iced cappuccino is the best."

A regular commuter who heads for that site bleary-eyed each morning, Skunca said it would be a little tough to alter her routine and switch allegiance.

Tim Horton’s is opening its Manhattan locations in conjunction with franchisee Riese Organization, which runs more than 100 restaurants in New York, including TGI Friday's, KFC and Pizza Hut. Riese will be the franchisee of 12 Tim Horton’s restaurants – 10 in Manhattan and two in Brooklyn. The sites were all formerly Dunkin' Donuts restaurants operated by Riese that closed July 10.

"There's a lot of excitement, a lot of buzz," said Tim Horton’s' regional marketing manager Anne Pritz, who flew in from Ohio for yesterday's openings. "There are a lot of Canadians ecstatic to see us. Dozens have come up to us. It's a little piece of home."

Kevin Gamble, a 34-year-old Vancouver native working in New York, happily waved a small Canadian flag attached to the end of his pencil and had his photo taken at the counter. "I was very excited to come down," he said.

"It means my frantic runs to Canada to buy tins of Tim Horton’s ground coffee are over. Everything in New York is fantastic except the coffee. It's dreadful. It's watery."

Russell Peters Breaks The Forbes: 10 Top Earning Comedians List

Source: Sonya Bhatia

(July 14, 2009)  Comedian superstar Russell Peters is listed in Forbes: 10 Top Earning Comedians with estimated earnings of 10 (USD) million dollars. The in–demand comic is currently in the middle of his 20th Anniversary Tour, with over 100,000 tickets sold between the summer and fall tour dates. On Friday, July 24th he’ll perform as part of Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival with the largest in-door show in their history at the Bell Centre.  On Saturday, July 18th Peters is scheduled to host a free outdoor show as part of Toronto’s Just For Laughs festival at Yonge-Dundas square.
Arguably one of the biggest comedians in the world, Russell Peters sells out theatres and arenas from San Francisco to Sydney .  With over 30 million hits on Youtube and Google Video and sales of over 250,000 units of his DVD’s – Outsourced and Red, White and Brown, Peters’ is setting records. Peters was the first comic to sell-out the Air Canada Centre in 2007, the first comic to perform an all arena tour across Canada in 2009 and sold an unprecedented 9,000-plus tickets in a single day to his 20th Anniversary Tour show at London 's 02 Arena. Now at home between Las Vegas and Los Angeles , Peters is developing new sitcom projects, a romantic comedy with Billy Crystal and executive producing television specials. 
For more information on Russell Peters’ tour dates visit www.russellpeters.com.
Russell Peters' new DVD/CD Red, White and Brown available in Canada , US and the UK .

For more information on Forbes: Top Earning Comedians visit www.forbes.com.

The Many Faces Of Jamaal Magloire

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Duane Watson

(Summer Issue) Standing at 6'11" and 265 pounds, Jamaal Magloire often gets the "Do you play basketball?" question from strangers. And while he's an NBA veteran, playing in the league for the past eight seasons, he hardly lets his skills on the hardwood define him as a person. Magloire is an old soul, and at the golden age of 31, he's a throwback for his generation. From his style of play on the court, to the pride he takes in his Trinidadian heritage, and to the importance he places on giving back, he is a man with an old-school ethic. He's not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, yet if you slowly take the time to peel away the many layers of Jamaal Magloire, you uncover a man who prides himself on his family, his culture, his community and his city.

Coming off the bench for the Miami Heat in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, the Scarborough native takes the court with his usual game face. The rigid, emotionless lines of his face and his stoic demeanour give little hint of what lies beneath. Executing his role on the team with workmanlike efficiency, he makes a solid contribution and plays his position with little glamour or glitz. It's that quiet approach that made him the last player from Toronto to be drafted, an approach that has defined his play in the NBA for almost 25 years. Nowhere was the effectiveness of his understated style more evident than at the 2004 All-Star Game in Los Angeles, where he quietly led his squad in scoring, outperforming flashier teammates Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter.

Magloire by nature is a low-key guy. Sitting on the couch thumbing through his Blackberry, he's wearing a navy blue t-shirt, blue jeans, a black baseball cap and a pair of Air Jordans. So how does he transform from a calm, mild-mannered giant to a boisterous band leader for a vibrant, colourful and electric band like the Toronto Revellers?

"I've played in Caribana every year, for the most part, from the age of five," he says. "My mother and father were involved in a band called D'Regulars. They were usually the last band at Caribana and would close the parade," he says. "I just began to fall in love with the experience from there and all those things contribute to what you see today in my band." Easily the tallest and quite possibly the youngest band leader in Caribana history, he's also been effective in the role: the Revellers have been crowned Band of the Year for the past two years in a row. Magloire attributes their success to good character: "The unit that we have is so focused and so together that it translates into everything that we do. They are a part of our family, and when you take care of people they will take care of you."

Citing his first J'ouvert experience at Carnival in Trinidad as his "baptism," Magloire has a sincere desire to ensure that a steady diet of BET doesn't dilute the island flavour from the youth of today. "One of the reasons I got into Caribana is because I feel like this generation is starting to stray from their Caribbean roots," he says. "All we see on TV and hear on the radio is hip-hop and R&B and there's nothing wrong with that. I just feel we've still got to embrace our culture. My son participates in Kiddies Carnival every year and he's an American, so I'm teaching him about it. And I just want this to go on forever." Noting that soca makes up about 50 per cent of his iPod library, it's readily apparent he takes his music very seriously.

Another thing he takes quite seriously is community. While he hasn't spent more than a few months at a time in the city during the past 10 years, he's very familiar with the gun violence in Toronto. Magloire's younger brother was fatally shot eight years ago. "Gun violence is unacceptable. There are other ways of handling problems than shooting and killing. I think that the way to curb gun violence is to provide opportunities for young people." A man of his word, Magloire has been providing opportunities for young people for some time, with the Jamba Cats boys and girls basketball clubs, his annual basketball camp and the Miss Queen of the Islands Pageant. He started the pageant three years ago to promote cultural awareness and unity amongst the Caribbean Islands, and facilitate growth and development of character in young women. "When we address young people, we often talk about men; I think so many times women are forgotten," he says. "It's a 12-week life skills program that began as a competition; I think they learn a lot and take a lot away and it's a great confidence booster for them."

While many applaud Jamaal for his connection to the community, some would argue that he's in the mix too much. During the summer, sometimes he can be found dropping in for games in local men's basketball leagues, at concerts, in the club, or just being out with his boys.

However, he views it differently. "I think I'm very accessible," he says. "I think that's what people like. Sometimes you have guys in positions of fame, and you can't talk to them and you can't reach out. I think what separates me is that I'm just like everybody else. I was born and raised in Scarborough and it's hard to change that now." As the old expression almost goes, you can take the man out of Scarborough, but you can't take Scarborough out of the man.

"I owe it all to the support that I've gotten over the years. I feel obligated to do whatever I can in my power to stay involved with Toronto and be a part of the grassroots, a part of the kids and the adults, because these are the people who are watching my games and praying for me when I'm not around."

As an NBA free agent this summer, Magloire is a player for hire. Would he consider coming home to play for the Toronto Raptors? "Yes, I want to leave all my options open," he says. "Toronto is a great place and I see myself as one of the ambassadors of this city. I'm just going to focus on the things I can control and work as hard as I can on my body over the summer and see what happens in the fall." If Magloire ends up playing for the home team, he won't have to endure those "Do you play basketball?" questions as often. In this city, many people are already well aware that he does that, and so much more.

Caribana Kicks Off Today

Source: www.thestar.com

(July 14, 2009) With more than a million people expected for Caribana this year, there are concerns the strike by City of Toronto workers will ruin the celebration.  But so far organizers say they have had to make only a few alterations to the two-week festival, billed as the largest cultural event of its kind in North America. "Everything we're doing is going ahead," said Stephen Weir, a spokesperson for Caribana. "We're doing it – no matter what." At this point, there are no plans to cancel or relocate the King and Queen Show at the city-run Lamport Stadium on July 30, despite concerns the venue would be shut down, Weir said. And despite the strike, the city says that garbage removal and EMS will be on hand for the Aug. 1 all-day Caribana parade along the lakeshore and at Exhibition Place.  There were also worries that, with ferries docked during the strike, the Aug. 2 concerts on Olympic Island would be cancelled. But discussions are underway to move the event to a new venue on the lakeshore.  Toronto's 42nd Caribana festival kicks off today at noon at Yonge- Dundas Square.

Caribana Festival Unfazed By Strike

Source: www.thestar.com - Dan Robson,
Staff Reporter

(July 15, 2009) Calypso beats overpowered the downtown din, as thousands packed into Yonge-Dundas Square for the launch of Caribana yesterday afternoon. And the 42nd opening carried an optimistic tune, as early concerns about the city strike ruining this year's celebration are starting to subside.

"We'll pick up garbage after the parade if we have to," said Merlyn James, a teacher who has spent 12 hours a day and more than $2,000 preparing her costume for the King and Queen competition.

This year's launch was moved from Nathan Phillips Square because of the strike. The stage burst to life with a Calypso rendition of "O Canada" and the party began.

Mas dancers took to the stage in vibrant costumes of bright colours and many feathers, moving their hips in impossible ways. The crowd cheered and danced along, some as skilled as the colourfully feathered, others preferring a standard head bob.

More than a million people are expected to take part in this year's celebration, with 30 to 40 per cent coming from outside the country.

At this point, there are no plans to cancel or relocate the King and Queen competition at the city-run Lamport Stadium on July 30, despite concerns the venue would be shut down.

There was also worry that, with ferries docked, the concerts on Olympic Island would be cancelled, but discussions are underway to move the Aug. 2 event to a new venue on the lakeshore.


St. Lucia's Jade Mountain Ranks Caribbean No. 1 and World No. 3 In Travel + Leisure Awards

Source: Jade Mountain / Anse Chastanet

(July 10, 2009) SOUFRIERE, St. Lucia - St. Lucia's Jade Mountain has been named Number One in the Caribbean and Number Three worldwide based on the results of a 2009 Travel + Leisure "World's Best Awards" readers' survey, once again hoisting the island nation on the winners' plinth for quality accommodation.

Travel + Leisure magazine announced the winners of their elaborate survey on the NBC Today Show this morning and on their website on www.travelandleisure.com/worldsbest.

To be featured in their upcoming August issue, Travel + Leisure's prestigious annual World's Best Awards survey asked readers to select their favourite hotels, cruises, airlines, outfitters, cities, and islands around the world.

They selected Jade Mountain (www.jademountainstlucia.com) as the top resort in the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Bahamas category. The resort also ranked third out of the Top 100 hotels worldwide.

Jade Mountain's owners, Nick and Karolin Troubetzkoy expressed their joy with their rankings. "Our resort team has worked very hard since Jade Mountain opened more than two years ago, to perfect and fine tune every aspect of the resort experience. We cannot thank them enough for their commitment and enthusiasm throughout," Karolin Troubetzkoy said in a statement prepared for reporters this morning.

The Troubetzkoys were equally delighted to report that Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain's sister property, placed fourth in the Caribbean's Top 25 category. "Our teams at Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet have a healthy competition going among themselves at all times - the guests definitely are the beneficiaries of this drive and ambition. We are very pleased to see both resorts register top marks from the Travel + Leisure survey today," Karolin Troubetzkoy added. 

Jade Mountain and Anse Chastanet enjoy one of the most scenic settings in the Caribbean, overlooking St. Lucia's twin Piton peaks, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Nestling in a 600-acre estate with two soft sand beaches bordering pristine coral reefs, Anse Chastanet is in complete harmony with its natural surroundings and offers excellent diving facilities plus many other activities. 

In the fall of 2006, Anse Chastanet's architect and owner Nick Troubetzkoy completed construction of Jade Mountain. His bold architectural design - individual bridges leading to extravagant infinity pool sanctuaries and rugged stoned-faced columns reaching towards the sky - have established Jade Mountain as one of the Caribbean's most unique resort experiences.

More sculpture than structure, Jade Mountain has been called by many as the Eighth Wonder of the World and many argue it should be on everyone's Top Places to see before departing the planet.

For more information visit the resort websites www.ansechastanet.com  and www.jademountainstlucia.com, or call + 1 800 223-1108 or + 1 758 459-6100, or email  jademountain@ansechastanet.com.


Ben Harper, Nails Top Roster

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

(July 15, 2009) After much speculation and some premature announcements by participating artists, the lineup and new location for Virgin Festival Ontario have officially been released.

As previously reported, it's taking place on the Aug. 29 weekend at Burls Creek, just outside of Barrie, and Nine Inch Nails is headlining the second night of the two-day concert, but the full list of 24 artists is quite impressive.

Highlights include Ben Harper and Relentless7 headlining the Saturday portion, with the Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, Grizzly Bear and Sloan also playing. On Sunday, the Pet Shop Boys, Our Lady Peace, Thunderheist and Coeur de Pirate will play with Nine Inch Nails.

The new location provides the opportunity for camping, something that hasn't been available on the Toronto Islands.

"It's kind of a coming age for us, as we think we're going to be providing a true U.K. festival experience," says Andrew Bridge, director of Virgin Festivals. "We loved the islands, it was an amazing venue for the festival, but we wanted to grow a bit and the island has some constraints as it stands in terms of size. And we saw this venue that we loved and it offered camping, and one of the things that if you've been to any European festivals, camping is a big part of it."

In addition to the announced list of performers, who will play on two stages, there will be a third stage for more acts being put together by Virgin Radio. The Ontario instalment will be the 10th Virgin Festival in Canada.

As for the premature announcements, Bridge just laughs off the leaks.

"The line I always say is it's rock 'n' roll, these things happen. We'd like to announce our lineup in its entirety and there's always lots of speculation, and to have an artist so excited to play, we're thrilled to have that come out and create some real excitement."

Tickets details are available at virginfestival.ca.

A Penny For Your Diss? Here's 50 Cent!

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(July 11, 2009) He's a typical 14-year-old from Vancouver with a full set of braces and a plan to join his school's wrestling team this fall. In the slightly nasally voice of an adolescent boy, he also posts simple webcam critiques from his house onto YouTube – under the tag Pruane2Forever – about the latest video games, Hollywood blockbusters and rap music.

And now he has rapper
50 Cent describing him as a “secret weapon.” That big reveal came in a Web video clip posted a few days ago that has spread like wildfire across the Internet. The rapper, obviously in his element on a high-rise balcony in Manhattan, talks about his latest music video as he would on any other promotional Web clip. But then he changes gears and introduces that “secret weapon.”

Then, the camera pulls back to reveal young
Pierce Ruane sitting next to him, looking a little less in his element.

“Hello, it's Pruane2Forever, and I flew out here from Canada to meet Fiddy. Just kickin' it old school, bitchez,” Ruane says, a touch self-consciously, as any Vancouver kid would who suddenly found himself sitting next to one of rap's biggest stars.

Fifty continues by making a crude, though benign, comment about Ruane's prowess with female fans, welcoming him into the hip-hop fold. And Ruane does well playing along. “G-G-G-G-Unit” he exclaims, referring to 50's rap group and imitating a turntable scratch.

Fifty falls back onto the seat laughing. The clips ends in less than a minute, but has sparked reams of commentary, suddenly elevating Ruane to lofty levels of Internet attention. (He now has a Facebook fan page devoted to him.)

How did it all start? With a webcam commentary Ruane posted in February on YouTube. In it, he ridiculed reports of 50 Cent's latest branding schemes: a line of men's cosmetic products, and condoms and sex toys marketed to women. Known for his business sense as much as his rapping, 50 was going too far with all this, Ruance said in the clip.

“I guess he wants to just mooch off his fame as much as he can while it lasts,” Ruane speculated on camera. “Fifty Cent, shame on you. Whoring yourself. I had a little respect for you 'cause I like some of your songs. But now, that little respect is gone ” he shouts.

Fifty Cent's people eventually sent Ruane a message through his YouTube channel a couple of months ago, asking to get the Vancouverite's e-mail address and phone number.

But it was the rapper himself who phoned Ruane's house. The teen's mom answered. “I almost hung up on him because I thought it was a prank call,” says Ellen Ruane. “He said, ‘I'd like to speak to the kid who does the YouTube videos.' And I said, ‘Who is this?' And he said, ‘This is 50 Cent, ma'am.' He called me ma'am, even though I had been rather rude. So I was quite embarrassed when I realized it was really him. And my son said [to 50], ‘Sorry about my mom.'”

The teenager and his father were flown to New York a few days ago to meet 50. When the time came to get face-to-face with the rap star in a Manhattan office, “I was kind of a bit nervous,” Ruane, now back home, recalls. One of 50's people assembled some chairs on the balcony. The rapper was talking with someone else out of view. “Then he came out there and we talked a bit. And he gave me a hug, yeah.”

Fifty joked only a little about Ruane's critical remarks. “He kind of just found it all funny. I had a line in one of my videos, and he said it a lot because he really liked that line: ‘What is he going to do next? 50 Cent diapers for your little gangsta?'”

Ruane wasn't trying to start a rap feud. “I was just critiquing him on certain things. It doesn't mean I hate him as a person, yeah. I did enjoy a bit of his music, but I hadn't really listened to that many songs. … Then, when I met him, I started liking [one of his albums] because I found out that he was a really nice guy.” In fact, Ruane noted that it was 50 Cent's people who posted the clip of the New York meeting on YouTube, attached to Ruane's original February clip.

Ruane acknowledges that 50 Cent may have invited him to New York partly as a way to thwart any groundswell dissing of the rapper's credibility. Rap is grounded in boasts and battles between MCs, so quelling opposition, even light-heartedly, is par for the course.

“I think his uncle [who lives on Long Island and came along] and his father were more thrilled than [my son] was, but he was very thrilled,” says Ruane's mother, who had to hear about the trip second-hand. (She couldn't go because the family dog suffers from separation anxiety.)

“They were so impressed with 50 Cent. He was very gracious and really great about it,” she says, adding that she feels positive about her son posting his Web critiques – although the ugly comments written by some “haters” (as they are called in Web lingo) have been upsetting.

At the same time, people have been cashing in on Ruane's relative fame, including those behind the site Pruane2Forever.com, which isn't run by Ruane but features his videos and makes money by selling ad space. Ruane, meanwhile, gets some income from Google for the ads sold on his YouTube channel. And her son is mature enough to take it all in stride, his mother notes.

She also thinks, given how hospitable 50 Cent was, that maybe the rapper was also trying to provide a little consolation. “I'm just guessing here, but maybe he noticed that Pierce had a lot of haters, and he could kind of empathize. And he sort of wanted to help out.”

Urban Gospel Is On The Rise With Canton Jones' Newest CD, 'Kingdom's Business'

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(July 9, 2009) *“A lot of dudes doing Hip-Hop are my friends,” Urban Gospel artist Canton Jones said about his genre and style of music. “Mainstream...or Christians. Most times (people) are quick to judge...I'm not a person to judge.”

Not judging is something I also try not to do for I believe only God can judge a person. But judging by the sound and message of Canton Jones' newest CD release, “Kingdom Business,” is a hot hot hot project. The album is released on his “indie” label CAJO International and distributed by Arrow Records/Universal/Fontana.

Jones said that mainstream radio and television has been very acceptable to his music. Canton's voice is reminiscent to me of a cross between the soulful vocals of Sisqo and the Urban vocal style of Chris Brown. Can't imagine that, well then you need to get the CD and hear for yourself.

When the album combines Canton's Urban vocal style with his guest rappers, such as Big Ran on “Living Clean (My Life)” and “Pimp Hard;” Joey on “The Professional;” Mouthpiece on the title track “Kingdom Business;” Messenja and M Eazy on “24's;” and Ramona Jones on “Vacation,” it makes for a rocking CD.

Executively produced by Dr. Creflo and Taffi Dollar (Arrow Records), with Canton as co-executive producer, the “Kingdom Business” CD offers 15 tracks.

“The Bible is a book I live by,” Jones said about his obvious love for Gospel.

A loving husband of eight years to Ramona Jones, Canton is certainly about doing the “business” of getting God's message of salvation out to his listeners. “Kingdom Business” is his fourth album with “20 Years, Three Months, 12 Days,” “Love Jones” and “The Password: Access Granted” released previously resulting in Grammy, Stellar and Dove Award nominations and three Gospel Choice Awards.

Not new to the music industry Canton has shared the stage with such mainstream heavyweights as  T.I., David Banner and Ludacris, and has collaborated with such Gospel icons as Kirk Franklin, Smokie Norful, KiKi Clark-Sheard and Dr. Bobby Jones.

My favourite cuts on the “Kingdom Business” CD include the title track “Kingdom Business,” “Living Clean (My Life),” “I Won't Stop,”  “Nobody Cared” which is an awesome testimony and “My Walk,” a hot number that will make you want to get up and dance with the Holy Ghost.

For more on Canton or to hear more of his “Kingdom Business” CD log onto www.CantonJones.net or www.myspace.com/therealcantonjones

Chrisette Michele Joins Maxwell On Tour


(July 9, 2009) *Chrisette Michele has been chosen as the opening act for Maxwell during his sold-out 14-city U.S. tour in support of BLACKsummers'night, his comeback album that was released on July 7.The trek opens July 12 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and concludes at Miami's Waterfront Theater on July 31. The tour immediately follows Michele's most recent 17-city May-June itinerary with fellow Grammy winner Anthony Hamilton and neo-soulman Musiq Soulchild. The soulful, jazz-influenced vocalist is promoting her brand new second album "Epiphany," which debuted at No. 1 following its arrival in the physical and digital marketplace on May 5th. The album built on the success of its Top 10 Adult R&B title hit "Epiphany (I'm Leaving)," co-written by fellow Def Jam artist Ne-Yo and producer Chuck Harmony. The second single was "What You Do" (featuring Ne-Yo), whose video co-starred Pooch Hall of the CW sitcom The Game.

Below is the tour itinerary for Maxwell and Chrisette Michele July 2009

12  Nashville, TN  Ryman Auditorium
13  Louisville, KY Louisville Palace Theatre
15  Columbus, OHPalace Theater
16  Cleveland, OH  Allen Theater
18  Pittsburgh, PA Heinz Hall
19  Buffalo, NY Shea's Performing Arts Center
21  Albany, NY  The Palace
22  Newark, NJ  NJ Performing Arts Center
24  Atlantic City, NJ Borgata Events Center
25  Ledyard, CT Foxwoods Casino
27  Norfolk, VA Chrysler Hall
28  Savannah, GAJohnny Mercer
30  Clearwater, FL Ruth Eckerd Hall
31  Miami, FLWaterfront Theater  

Clandestine Creativity In The Ruins

Source: www.thestar.com - Adrian Morrow,
Staff Reporter

(July 11, 2009) The abandoned building was a mess.

Broken glass from the front windows littered the floor. Chunks of the ceiling had fallen down, leaving heating ducts exposed. Even toilets in the bathrooms were smashed.

But for one night in May, two guerrilla event organizers covertly turned the grimy four-storey building into a venue for an eclectic mix of indie bands, avant-garde installations and performance artists.

In one room, artist Rebecca Fin Simonetti tied bedsheets to the walls, forming a fort, and sat in the middle of the room reading Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar aloud with a flashlight.

Disembodied heads, made of papier mâché, hung in the stairwells. Large ink-blot images etched onto paper were stuck to walls. More than 500 people milled about, taking it all in.

The event, at the former Kodak plant on Eglinton Ave. W., near Weston Rd., was the latest edition of
Extermination Music Night. For the last four years, organizers have taken their mix of live music and art to vacant buildings and out-of-the-way spaces in the city for clandestine late-night gatherings.

Venues have ranged from the Leslie St. Spit to an empty 10-storey office building. The idea is to reclaim derelict places and encourage people to explore Toronto's forgotten nooks and crannies.

At least one of the organizers is also motivated by a rebellious streak.

"Doing things without permission is important to me. I react badly to bureaucracy, especially in the realm of art or music," says Daniel, who asked that his last name and that of his co-organizer, Matthew, be withheld. "It's also about exoticizing the local."

What began as a small event, publicized only by word of mouth and an online message board, has ballooned into a night that attracts hundreds. The pair launched EMN in October 2005 at the Don Valley Brick Works.

"It was very cool, it was exciting. I'd never done that kind of thing before on that scale," says Jeremy Strachan, who played the saxophone, accompanied by a bucket-drum player, while attendees explored the vacant site.

The final band performed on a nearby hill around 6:30 a.m., and burned a straw scarecrow as they played.

The second EMN took place in summer 2006 at an abandoned factory near Keele and Dundas. They staged four EMN shows in each of the following two summers.

While it began as primarily a concert series, installations have become a bigger part of the event, Daniel says. And artists have let the venues themselves inform the art.

At an EMN event under the Bloor Viaduct in September, Vanessa Rieger hung blue, orange and white tarps, illuminated by small lights, from rafters under the bridge, referencing both people who have jumped off the bridge and homeless people who live in the Don Valley.

"It's about reclaiming the city you live in," Rieger says. "You create art in unlikely places."

That same night, a musician hooked up an amplifier to the bridge and broadcast the rumbles of subway cars as they passed by, giving the bridge itself a voice.

During the event at the Kodak building, one group transformed a derelict room into a functioning office, using a generator to power the overhead lights. They dressed as office workers and pretended to work at the desks, pour coffee and answer phones.

"It's a really community-oriented thing ... It's like taking your best friends and setting up a barbecue at two o'clock in the morning," says Tomas Del Balso, whose percussion duo Romo Roto played an EMN show in August on an old bridge near the West Don Lands. "It made it feel like Toronto belonged to the artists."

Jubal Brown, who organized similar events in the late 1990s, says other groups, including fans of techno music, hold illegal midnight parties under bridges and in abandoned buildings. But he notes that Toronto hosts fewer such events than other large North American or European cities. This, he says, might explain EMN's popularity.

"Toronto's pretty repressed and that's part of why there's so much interest in Extermination Music Night," he says.

As attendance at the shows has increased over time, the large crowds have sometimes got out of hand. Police raids have become more frequent, too.

"You get people who don't even know that what you're doing is illegal. You get people who just think it's a party," says Daniel.

At the former Kodak site in May, the first band hadn't even finished its first song before police arrived and ended the show. In the confusion, the organizers' generator was stolen. Officers began clearing out the art, Simonetti says.

"They were taking down people's installations and throwing them out the window, which just seemed totally destructive," she says. Police spokesperson Const. Tony Vella could not confirm her account.

In the end, nobody was charged, and police sent the participants on their way. Police say they shut down events like EMN because it's dangerous to enter derelict buildings and illegal to perform in public without a permit.

The organizers say they'll have to keep a lower profile in future. They won't be posting the location of the next gathering on Facebook, instead spreading information by word of mouth and an email list.

Rieger says the police response to the events has been heavy-handed – by her count, 20 cars showed up to bust the gathering under the Bloor Viaduct – and that EMN's intentions are not destructive.

"There's never been any violence," she says. "What we're actually doing is revitalizing these spaces."

Ledisi Back With All-Star Producers And New CD

Source: Nathalie Levey, ThinkTank Marketing, nathalie@thinktankmktg.com, www.thinktankmktg.com

(July 10, 2009) *Soul singer/songwriter Ledisi promises to keep it "raw, spiritual, uninhibited, and aggressive, and tell it all" with her new album 'Turn Me Loose' (out Aug 18th on Verve Forecast).

2007 GRAMMY Best New Artist nominee Ledisi (rhymes with legacy) took the world by storm with her chart-topping Verve Forecast debut 'Lost & Found', but says the new record is all about "the desire to be free and embrace change."

Ledisi wrote and produced along with an all-star cast of producers of Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Raphael Saadiq, Chief Xcel, Chucky Thompson, Ivan and Carvin, Lorenzo Johnson, Fyre Department, and 'Lost & Found' producer Rex Rideout to give her that "freedom sound" she was looking for, something she's already known to bring to her live performances.

**Though many have praised Ledisi's sound, "a mix of contemporary urban, but her training and love of classic jazz and R&B show through, and her love of scatting has become signature," (LA Times, 2/6/08), she says 'Turn Me Loose' was heavily inspired by listening to the raw soul/funk music of Buddy Miles' 'Them Changes' over and over again for two months.

"I cried when I first heard this album in 2008. I cried because I heard and felt the pain, the spirit in his voice it moved me. I wanted that freedom I heard in his voice. I wanted to scream and give my all without thinking," she explains adding, "I studied Buddy's life and his music, which led me back to Mr. Jimi Hendrix, Mr. Prince, Mr. Sly, Mr. Fela Kuti and Mr. James Brown. I heard FREEDOM in their music."

Of the fourteen tracks on 'Loose', Ledisi wrote or co-wrote all but the cover of Buddy Miles' "Them Changes."

Ledisi's 2007 major label debut 'Lost & Found' garnered the Bay Area resident two GRAMMY nominations including Best New Artist. The recognition led to a series of high-profile appearances in 2008 including performances at the JVC and Monterey Jazz Festivals and the Essence Music Festival where she performed with Patti LaBelle, a role in the George Clooney film Leatherheads, a song in the Tyler Perry film Meet The Browns, a performance with Prince at Coachella and on the Tonight Show, and a BET award nomination. Her powerhouse voice and stories of everyday struggles and triumphs have made such a strong connection with fans.

Listen to a sample of the new song "Alone" here: http://tinyurl.com/LedisiAlone

Check out Ledisi's online countdown to 'Turn Me Loose'! Visit this site each week to preview 2 new songs from the forthcoming album: http://www.ledisimusic.com/countdown/

Are you Ledisi's ultimate fan? Prove it and win an iPod Nano or a trip to see Ledisi live in concert! Find out how right here: http://www.ultimateledhead.com/

MORE ...

'Turn Me Loose' - Available Everywhere August 18th!
Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/ledisi

Taylor Bares His 'Heart And Soul'

Source: www.thestar.com - Frank Matys,
Special To The Star

(July 11, 2009) Beatles or Stones? The debate that has pitted followers of the Fab Four against devotees of the "world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" was a no-brainer for a young Mick Taylor.

"I'd been more of a Beatles fan," the former Stone admits candidly in advance of an upcoming swing through Ontario and Quebec. A fleet-fingered guitarist who more than knows his away around the neck of a sunburst Gibson Les Paul, Taylor was just 21 when he was tapped to join the band in 1969.

Fresh off a stint with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers – a training ground for up-and-coming virtuosos like Eric Clapton and Peter Green – Taylor was already a seasoned sideman with a wealth of chops under his belt when the Stones came calling. "It was a big step in terms of the fact that they were a band that was universally popular and famous and had hit singles, but nevertheless still came from the same English blues scene of the early '60s," he says, speaking over the phone from the U.K.

Taylor and his band arrive in Ontario this coming week for a string of shows that will see him draw on material from an extensive, if underappreciated, solo career, while dipping into the Stones' archives for a few chestnuts culled from his years with the group.

Recent choices have included "Stop Breaking Down," a grinding blues number from the 1972 classic Exile on Main Street, and "Love in Vain," a Robert Johnson cover that was treated to Taylor's soulful, vibrato-laden slide playing on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, a 1970 live LP that memorably featured his fluid and fiery finger work on romping cuts like "Midnight Rambler."

"It felt great, so natural for me," he says of the decision to revive the Johnson song. "It is part of my consciousness, part of my history."

Taylor's first – and undoubtedly most intimate – performance gets underway on Tuesday at Peter's Place, a 100-seat venue in a converted garage attached to the rear of promoter Peter Swanek's Gravenhurst home. (Audience members are politely encouraged to bring slippers so they can shed their street shoes at the door.)

Johnny Winter, James Cotton and Colin Linden are among the luminaries who have lit up this cozy room since Swanek opened the doors in the spring of 2008.

Taylor's band, which has the equally adept Denny Newman sharing guitar chores, plays consecutive gigs in Gravenhurst July 14 and 15, before moving on to blues festivals in Ottawa, Mont Tremblant, Windsor and London.

While the crowds that turn out to hear him these days are a far cry from the audiences who filled stadiums during his time with the Stones, he says his group has been warmly received in England, France, Germany and Japan.

"I can't really think about contemporary trends," he says of his approach to the material. "I can only play what is in my heart and soul and hope people will like it."

When it is suggested that the albums produced during Taylor's years with the Stones are widely considered among the band's best – think 1971's Sticky Fingers and Exile – he doesn't disagree. "Everything about that particular period of time in the music business was right. We were all in our 20s. Mick Jagger was still writing great songs and so was Keith (Richards). And Keith and I played well together."

Taylor, however, left in '74, after wrapping up It's Only Rock and Roll. With marriages and children added to the mix, the year had been a difficult one for all involved, he says. "It did become a bit more of a strain because of various people's problems, including my own, sort of getting in the way of coming up with the goods in the studio."

Life in the band "was a bit decadent, really," he says. "When you have a lot of success and money at an early age, it's bound to go to your head, and it went to mine as well."

His decision to leave created "a lot of animosity," he says, "because they never expected anyone would leave. But I don't know, they haven't done so badly, and I haven't really done so badly."

Taylor has recorded several solo albums and toured extensively under his own name, as well as alongside artists ranging from former Cream bassist Jack Bruce and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After fame to Bob Dylan, whose 1983 album Infidels features Taylor's deft touch.

While he'll readily acknowledge that "some of the best stuff I've ever done was with the Stones" – his jazz-tinged solo on "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" comes to mind – he remains determined to "get back in the loop and make people aware of the fact that I am a very good guitar player and a reasonable singer."

As for his former bandmates? "I am proud I was part of it and hope we can remain friends, even if somewhat distant friends. They move in different circles. I don't have a house to go to in Bermuda in the winter."

Taylor plays Peter's Place July 14 and 15. Tickets: petersplayers.com. Other shows: Ottawa Bluesfest (capitaltickets.ca) July 16; Tremblant International Blues Festival (tremblantblues.com) July 17; Bluesfest International in Windsor July 18 and Bluesfest International in London July 19 (thebluesfest.com).

Stevie, Aretha, Alicia For Mandela Day Gig


(July 10, 2009) *The Nelson Mandela Foundation and 46664 and are calling on people around the world to support the creation of an official Mandela Day, to be held annually on his birthday, July 18. 

 The annual celebration is intended to serve as a global call to action for people to recognize their individual power to make an imprint and help change the world around them for the better.

 The Mandela Day campaign calls upon people around the world to commit 67 minutes of their time to make an imprint and help change the world around them. Tim Massey, International Director of 46664, said, "Mandela Day is about creating a movement for positive change and establishing one day to reflect upon, celebrate and make manifest the values that guide Nelson Mandela."

 A series of special events will take place in New York City this year involving many of the charity's global ambassadors from the worlds of entertainment, music and film. 

 An exhibition will take place in New York on Mandela's life and the work of his charitable organizations. Celebrities like Robert De Niro, Christy Turlington, and Morgan Freeman have also shown their commitment in a film. Everyone can get involved as viewers can edit themselves into the film alongside the celebrities of their choice to share with friends and family. 

 Also, newly available tickets are available in VIP locations for the Mandela Day Concert at Radio City Music Hall on Saturday, July 18 at 8 p.m.  The limited ticket quantity for 'Mandela Day: a 46664 Celebration' are priced from $95 - $250 and are now on sale at http://www.ticketmaster.com, www.livenation.com, www.thegarden.com and charge by phone at 800-745-3000. 

 Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Josh Groban, Alicia Keys, Will.i.am, Queen Latifah, Wyclef Jean, Dave Stewart, Lil' Kim, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Jesse McCartney, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Gaynor, Zucchero and African artists such as the Soweto Gospel Choir, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Chris Chameleon, Angelique Kidjo, Baaba Maal, Freshlyground, Emmanuel Jal, Loyiso, Sipho Mabuse, Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Suzanna Owiyo will be among the star-studded lineup of artists performing. 

 Special guests Whoopi Goldberg, Forest Whitaker, Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon and Susan Sarandon will also be in attendance.

 Aretha Franklin will be performing with Josh Groban; Cyndi Lauper and Lil' Kim will duet; Will.i.Am and Jesse McCartney will team; and Alicia Keys will join Angelique Kidjo.

Thousands Gather For McCartney Concert

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Steve MacLeod and Elizabeth McMillan, The Canadian Press

(July 11, 2009) HALIFAX —More than four decades after his music helped turn the pop world on its ear, Paul McCartney can still pack them in like few else.

Tens of thousands gathered on the Halifax Common on Saturday night as McCartney performed his lone Canadian concert of the year.

From the opening chord of Drive My Car , the 67-year-old former Beatle and his crack backup band had the crowd eating out of his hand.

Middle-aged couples, teens and children cheered as McCartney walked onto a massive stage erected in the giant green space in the centre of Halifax to play some of the most revered songs in all of pop and rock.

Angela Loughead, a lifelong Beatles fan from Truro, N.S., reminisced about listening to her older brother's albums of the pop foursome.

“I would have gone anywhere in Canada to see him,” she said.

In the end, Loughead only had to travel an hour to Halifax to see McCartney in person — a fact that was still hard to grasp Saturday.

But without John, George and Ringo, she noted McCartney's concert would be bittersweet.

“I never dreamed I would actually be able to see him,” she said. “It will be emotional because it's just him instead of all of them as it should be.”

Hours before McCartney was set to take the stage, thousands of fans lined up outside the park anxiously waiting for the gates to open.

Even people without tickets stopped to watch McCartney as he treated the crowd to a lengthy sound check that included songs like “Yesterday” and “Lady Madonna.”

Marcia Ward, who secured one of the first spots at the front of the line, said she'd been waiting all her life to see McCartney.

“I was born on his ninth birthday and I've been a fan since I was 13 years old,” said Ward, 58.

Ward said she flew in from Indiana on Thursday night and went straight to the concert site where she camped out for two nights. She said the ground was hard, but a couple of uncomfortable nights were well worth it.

Before McCartney's performance, Halifax rockers Wintersleep warmed up the massive crowd under a bright, cloudless sky.

They were followed by Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett.

As the hours wore on before McCartney's big entrance, fans shared their memories of the Beatles and spoke of their favourite songs.

Adele Johnson of Stellarton, N.S., said she vividly recalls watching the Beatles' first North American television appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, while an undergraduate living in residence.

Johnson said she and her husband, Jim, don't usually attend outdoor concerts, but they made an exception for 'Paul.'

“It's our generation, it's the Beatles for heaven's sake, what else can you say,” said Jim Johnson. “I'm sure this place will just be rocking.”

Jesse Melanson, 13, of Moncton, N.B., could barely stand still he was so excited.

“I'm pumped. They're my favourite band — the Beatles — and (McCartney) has a bunch of Wings songs that are really good,” he said.

Brent Randall, 21, echoed that sentiment.

Teena Marie’s Latest 'Square’ Biz'

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

(July 13, 2009) “I love New Orleans, and I always have since the moment I got off the plane years and years ago when I did my first concert there. It seemed to be familiar to me instantly,” Marie said of the home of her inspiration. “The air seemed to call me and the food, the culture, the people. I just felt like I had been there before and I’ve never felt that so strongly when I went to a place. So over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time there. I was actually looking for a second home before Katrina hit.”

*They call her Vanilla Child and the Ivory Queen of Soul, but
Teena Marie is much more than a blue-eyed soul singer. The Grammy-nominated artist, labelled as the premiere “multi-ethnic R&B singer,” has graced the soul charts for more than three decades with hits such as "I'm Just a Sucker for Your Love"  and “Square Biz.” Her new album, “Congo Square,” celebrates her 30-year recording career with a plethora of influenced soul, funk, jazz, and blues sounds.

“I’ve been in the business since 1963,” Marie said, though her recording career spans a mere 30 years. “I was seven years old. I don’t know anything else. I’ve seen so many things, though. I remember 8-tracks. And when I was at Motown I used to go to the record pressings and watch them press the wax out. That was an awesome experience.”

The singer told EUR’s Lee Bailey that she has certainly embraced the technology shaping the music industry today, but she definitely keeps it old school.

“Unfortunately, young people don’t have the experience of what we had; to have a beautiful record album,” she continued talking about the joys of vinyl albums. “It’s a nice size, not the size of a CD, so you really get to see the artwork and all the writers, the producers. The inside has amazing liner notes that you don’t really see any more – and if they do have them, they’re so tiny.”

Marie confessed that she visits the local record store often, picking up albums of her favourite artists – original and new pressings – including herself.

“I have so much of my own stuff,” she said. “It’s really nice at concerts. I sign an original album and put it with the other stuff that we sell, they just eat it up. But it’s sad to me that [the younger generation] doesn’t’ have that experience. I try to spread all that knowledge and history to anyone who comes through [my] door. I’m happy that [they] are so far in technology. It’s great in both ways.”

She admitted that working with new technology in composing and readying her album gets a little boring, so she ultimately ends of going to her piano or guitar for her projects.

“That’s where I’m the best at what I do,” she said. “You can get too much into [technology], and that’s not good either.”

 Teena Marie’s new disc is titled “Congo Square,” inspired by the open space/park just north of the French Quarter in New Orleans. According to history, in the early 1700s Congo Square was a place where slaves were commonly allowed to gather on Sundays and they would set up markets, sing, dance, and play music.

“I love New Orleans, and I always have since the moment I got off the plane years and years ago when I did my first concert there. It seemed to be familiar to me instantly,” Marie said of the home of her inspiration. “The air seemed to call me and the food, the culture, the people. I just felt like I had been there before and I’ve never felt that so strongly when I went to a place. So over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time there. I was actually looking for a second home before Katrina hit.”

For the new disc, Teena said she was inspired by the history of the historic site.

“A majority of the slaves in New Orleans were from the West Indies. So I thought about the sound, the drums and the chanting and the call and response and the joy that was intertwined with the pain; the pain they got to throw away on Sundays. I thought how amazing that must have been,” she said. “I thought about the jazz era and Louis Armstrong and I thought about Billie Holiday who got her vocal styling off of the way he (Armstrong) played his horn. And I thought about all the musicians that have come through there.”

Interestingly, upon completion of the disc, she found that she was in fact connected to the Big Easy, perhaps explaining her bond to the city.

“My second cousin came and found me about four years ago. I was signing autographs and this young woman walked up to me. She looked just like my uncle. Her father and my grandfather were brothers. I called her mother, who lived in Washington State. She came down right when I was finishing this record and she told me, ‘You know, our people are from [Louisiana].”

All of her life, Teena Marie was under the impression that her family (on her father’s side) called home a Texas city on the coast of the gulf of Mexico. However, her family was actually in Louisiana before migrating west.

“She told me my great-great grandmother was married at the cathedral right next to Congo Square,” she said. “I was blown away. I could’ve found this out ten albums back, but I found it out right as I was completing this record, ‘Congo Square.’”

Even before realizing her own connection to Congo Square, she felt it would be great to consider this place “the address” of all the musicians and singers who ever came through or were inspired by those that came through, and her album highlights some of those artists.

“Every song on the record is dedicated to someone who inspired me when I was coming up.”

While the disc pays homage to the likes of music legends such as Marvin Gaye, Gamble & Huff, and her mentor Rick James, the project features some of contemporary music legends including MC Lyte, Faith Evans, and Howard Hewitt.

For more, check out www.officialteenamarie.com.

'Reggae Gold'

Source: www.eurweb.com - Fiona McKinson

(July 14, 2009) *Reggae Gold is a glittering slice of the Caribbean - a tropical soundscape representing the diversity of reggae music.

Mavado's So Special is a taste of the raw fruity end of the spectrum, complete with controversial lyrics.

While Serani's massive radio hit, Playing Games, and Etana & Alborosie's Blessings, demonstrates a sweeter drop of romance.

The sizzling standout tracks include Estelle featuring Sean Paul on the international smash Come Over, and Jazmine Sullivan's Need You Bad - very refreshing!

The compilation features music direct from the native sons and daughters of the Jamaican Island from where reggae hails. The Jamaican Tourist Board (JTB) and VP Records have partnered to re-create the iconic "Welcome to Jamaica" image for the album cover.

In cooperation with Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), JTB and Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery, VP Records will launch an extensive marketing campaign around the release of Reggae Gold 2009 that extends until the end of the year.

All details of the campaign's phases will be announced on www.myspace.com/reggaegold and www.vprecords.com

Since 1996 this compilation has featured the biggest songs of the year in reggae/dancehall but has also included music from international artists and crossover recording acts. Reggae Gold is renowned for featuring reggae and dancehall hits, this year, includes Elephant Man's Nuh Linga - another Jamaican dance craze you're likely to see Usain Bolt do, as well as tracks from up and coming artistes, which on this offering include Laden, Jah Vinci and Prodigal Son.  Bask in the sound of sunshine, but prepare for some spicy lyrics and hot rhythms!

Tracklisting (US) for Reggae Gold 2009:

So Special - Mavado
Playing Games - Serani
Nuh Linga - Elephant Man
Blessings - Etana & Alborosie
Come Over - Estelle featuring Sean Paul
Need U Bad - Jazmine Sullivan
Love Is Wicked - Brick & Lace  (Cdn.)
Watch Your Friends - Jah Vinci
Protected - Chino featuring Stephen 'Di Genius' McGregor
See You Again - Beres Hammond
Start A New - Tarrus Riley
Far Away - Queen Ifrica
Head Cyaan Hot So - Prodigal Son
Praise and Worship - Busy Signal
Money Over War - Laden
Dance and Sweep - Elephant Man
Couple Up - T.O.K. 
Leave If You Want To Leave - I Wayne

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

Conductor Downes And Wife Die At Assisted Suicide Clinic

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

(July 14, 2009) LONDON–He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras but was almost blind and growing deaf – the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together.

Downes – Sir Edward since he was knighted by the Queen – and his wife ended their lives last week at a Zurich clinic run by the assisted suicide group Dignitas. They drank a small amount of clear liquid and died hand-in-hand, their two adult children by their side. He was 85 and she was 74.

The deaths were a poignant coda to Edward Downes' illustrious musical career, and have reignited a debate in Britain about whether people should be able to help ailing loved ones end their lives.

The couple's children said Tuesday that they died "peacefully and under circumstances of their own choosing" on Friday.

"After 54 happy years together, they decided to end their own lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems," said a statement from the couple's son and daughter, Caractacus and Boudicca.

"They wanted to be next to each other when they died," Caractacus Downes told London's Evening Standard newspaper. "They held hands across the beds."

"It is a very civilized way to be able to end your life," he added.

Downes' manager Jonathan Groves said the couple were inseparable and would have reached the decision together.

"Sir Edward would have survived her death, but he decided he didn't want to. He didn't want to go on living without her," Groves said.

One of Britain's most renowned conductors, Downes had a long and eminent career, which included years as head of the BBC Philharmonic and a five-decade association with the Royal Opera House.

In recent years he had become almost blind and nearly deaf, increasingly relying on his wife for support.

Joan, a former ballet dancer, choreographer and television producer, had devoted years to working as his assistant, but she was recently diagnosed with cancer of the liver and pancreas and given only weeks to live.

Groves said he was shocked by the couple's deaths but called their decision "typically brave and courageous."

The double suicide is the latest in a series of high-profile cases that have spurred calls for a legal change in Britain, where assisted suicide and euthanasia are banned.

Under British law, assisting a suicide is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. But courts have become reluctant in recent years to convict people. No relative or friend of any of the Britons who have died in Dignitas clinics has been prosecuted.

The Metropolitan Police force said it had been notified of the deaths, and was investigating. Charges are unlikely.

Despite evidence of changing attitudes, parliamentary efforts to change the rules have all been defeated – most recently last week, when Parliament's upper chamber, the House of Lords, voted down an amendment that would have relaxed the prohibition on assisted dying.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of campaign group Dignity in Dying, said the Downes' deaths showed the need to regulate assisted suicide.

"This problem is clearly not going to go away," she said.

"People should be able to make such decisions for themselves, but safeguards are the key."

Peter Saunders, of the anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing, argued that loosening the law could "put vulnerable people, many of whom already think they are a financial or emotional burden to relatives, careers and the state, under pressure to end their lives through a change in the law."

More than 100 Britons have died in Swiss clinics run by Dignitas since the organization was established in 1998. The organization takes advantage of the country's liberal laws on assisted suicide, which suggest that a person can be prosecuted only if they are acting out of self interest.

Roughly 100 foreigners – most of them terminally ill – come to Switzerland each year to end their lives. Some are healthy except for a disability or severe mental disorder. Typically they go to a room run by Dignitas, which provides them with a lethal drink of barbiturates. In five minutes they fall asleep – and never wake up.

Other countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, and the states of Oregon and Washington in the United States, allow the incurably sick to obtain help from a doctor to hasten their death.

Only Switzerland, in a law dating back to 1942, permits foreigners to come and kill themselves. Other organizations provide such services for Swiss residents, but Dignitas is the main organization for foreigners.

Critics accuse Dignitas of promoting "suicide tourism."

Dignitas charges 10,000 Swiss francs ($9,200) for its services, which include taking care of legal formalities and arranging consultations with a doctor willing to prescribe the barbiturates.

Edward Downes is one of the most prominent Britons to have travelled to Switzerland because of its open attitude toward the practice.

He was born in 1924 in Birmingham in central England. He studied at Birmingham University, the Royal College of Music and under German conductor Hermann Scherchen.

In 1952, he joined London's Royal Opera House as a junior staffer – his first job was prompting soprano Maria Callas. He made his debut as a conductor with the company the following year and went on to become associate music director. Throughout his life he retained close ties to the Royal Opera, conducting almost 1,000 performances of 49 different operas there over more than 50 years.

He also had a decades-long association with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, where he became principal conductor and later conductor emeritus. In the 1970s, he became music director of the Australian Opera, conducting the first performance at the iconic Sydney Opera House in 1973.

Edward and Joan Downes are survived by their children and grandchildren. The family said the couple had no religious beliefs, and there would be no funeral.

Meet Brandon Burrows

Source: Rick Scott, Great Scott P.R.oductions, www.greatscottpr.com

(July 15, 2009) Despite being only 14 years-old, Brandon Burrows is going places. The soulful pop crooner recently released his debut disc, On The Move.

The title track has received radio spins across the nation and reviewers are beginning to notice the talented teen that possesses the poise and passion of an old soul. 

The seventeen-song collection, produced by Amber & Rob Whitlock, is comprised of compositions by iconic singer-songwriters Stevie Wonder, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens, Bob Marley, Ray Charles, and Kenny Loggins along with a pair of originals, including one co-penned by Burrows ("Chase Your Dreams"). 

On The Move was recorded in New York City where the city's finest session players helped Burrows realize his dream including keyboardist Rob Whitlock (The Jazz Crusaders), guitarist Chuck Loeb (Kirk Whalum, Metro), bassist Will Lee (David Letterman's Late Show Band, Sting), bassist Anthony Jackson (Steely Dan, Madonna), bassist Alex Al (Herbie Hancock), drummer Cliff Almond (Michel Camilo), trombonist Andy Martin (Natalie Cole, Pussycat Dolls), trumpeter Wayne Bergeron (Christina Aguilara, Ray Charles) and saxophonist John Rekevics (Checkfield, Big Mountain) along with vocalists Amber Whitlock (Max Bennett), Jim Gilstrap (Stevie Wonder) and Dorian Holley (American Idol vocal coach). 

To launch the album, Burrows performed with a full band in a packed club in San Diego, his hometown since moving from Guam at the age of four.  He's looking forward to taking the stage again for additional Southern California shows. 

Meanwhile, some critics have hailed Burrows as a gifted artist to watch.  "He's got depth, range and a lot of heart and soul…You will definitely hear more from Brandon, one of the best young talents we have heard in a long time!" (O's Place Jazz Newsletter).  "It takes major confidence to tackle some of the biggest pop, gospel and R&B songs…But Burrows gets the job done in fine fashion…On The Move is an impressive debut and now sets the stage for what should be more great music from this rising star." (N2Entertainment.net)  "This is timeless stuff…all delivered with gusto and an authority that belies Brandon's age.  Comparisons will be made to early Michael Jackson (Brandon's cover of the Jackson Five's 'I Want You Back' will definitely take you back and aback.), so get aboard the early fan-base.  Believe me, this kid has talent to spare!" (SmoothJazz.com) 

Rakim Looking To 'Seal' The Deal


(July 15, 2009) *Rapper Rakim – best known as half of the rap duo Eric B. & Rakim – sat down with Billboard to discuss the fall release of his anticipated new album, "The Seventh Seal," a project he says is fueled by "consciousness and spirituality."

The rapper signed with Dr. Dre's Aftermath label in 2001, but later parted ways without having ever released an album. In fact, Rakim has not released a new studio project since 1999's "The Master," save for 2008's mostly live set, "The Archive: Live, Lost & Found," which included four previously unreleased songs.

The new album is being released on Rakim's Ra Records label in a joint venture with Tuscan Villa Entertainment. Its first single, "Holy Are You," will hit shelves July 28.

Billboard: What's the story behind the title, "The Seventh Seal?"

Rakim: The seals are from the Bible -- Revelations and the coming of the Apocalypse. But Islam, Judaism, Christianity: All have a version of the same events. The Lion of Judah breaks the seven seals one by one, each imparting knowledge and inflicting catastrophe, ending with seven trumpets announcing the end of Times. After the Apocalypse, God rises from the ashes to re-create the Kingdom, taking only the greatest elements from the past with them.

When you look at Hip-Hop, I want to do that: to spit fire and take our best from the ashes to build our kingdom; to recognize all the regional styles, conscious lyrics, the tracks, underground, mainstream, the way we treat each other. Lose the garbage and rebuild our scene. I've always tried to insert consciousness and spirituality in my records, interpreting the writings of all cultures and religions and how they apply to life in modern times.

Billboard: Does this album contain any material from the unreleased album you did with Dr. Dre, or is it all new music?

Rakim: No, that's locked down in the lab for now. This is me live from New York City, everything brand new.

Billboard: Who produced the album? Are there any guest features?

Rakim: I'm going to keep that cat in the bag for one more minute. But you'll see names you know and names you don't recognize yet but will after this drops. We've got our New York dudes on there, but we reached out to everybody. We have some features too; special cats in the right places but not everywhere.

Billboard: Are you concerned at all about reaching the new generation of hip-hop fans who aren't necessarily familiar with your music?

Rakim: I don't accept that the new generation is looking for anything different than what we've always been looking for. Depending on the moment, they want bangers that make them crack their neck, they want tracks that put them in a zone where they can sit back and chill. The ladies want something that makes them feel sexy and loved. And everyone wants something that makes them think a little bit -- at least sometimes. Every generation wants that real hip-hop. And I've always been able to bring that.

Billboard: Is there a chance that you and Dr. Dre may work together again in the future?

Rakim: No doubt, if the project and the timing are right. He's got his thing going on and I got mine. But I know our camps will look for ways to mix things up.


Living Colour Returns With New Album


(July 10, 2009) *Funk-rock band Living Colour is preparing to release their 11-song album "The Chair in the Doorway," the group's first set of new material in nearly six years.  Due Sept. 15 on Megaforce Records, the project was recorded in numerous locations over the last few years, with a majority of the sessions taking place at Sono Studios outside Prague in the Czech Republic, reports Billboard. According to lead singer Corey Glover, most of the material came to fruition after the band was asked to re-record "Cult of Personality" for "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock." From there, the group fleshed out songs when on tour and while Glover had time off from touring duties as Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar."  "We recorded everywhere. We even recorded during shows -- ideas that came up during shows turned into songs," Glover told Billboard.com. "(Bassist) Doug (Wimbish) made up a lot of grooves; we took a lot of grooves we had from soundchecks and gigs -- and he sort of codified and made a library of that stuff."  In 1988, Living Colour made its mark in the rock world with its multiplatinum debut, "Vivid," an album that yielded a Grammy for "Best Hard Rock Performance" for the song "Cult of Personality." In 1990, the follow-up album's titular track, "Time's Up," won in the same category. The group slowed down considerably after 1993's "Stain," but all the members have been active with various projects over the years.

Island Records Saluted At Montreaux

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 13, 2009) *Baaba Maal and Angelique Kidjo joined a number of musicians with ties to Chris Blackwell's Island Record label for a 50th anniversary musical tribute on Friday that lasted into the wee hours at the
Montreux Jazz Festival.   "Without Mr. Chris Blackwell you wouldn't have me before you tonight. That's all I have to say," Kidjo, the Grammy Award-winning Beninese singer-songwriter discovered by Blackwell in 1991, told the audience, according to Reuters.   Congolese pianist and songwriter Ray Lema kicked off the tribute at the packed Stravinski Auditorium with a blend of Congolese rumbas, township jive and reggae. .  "I know you are a man of passion. In other people this passion dies away," Lema told a visibly moved Blackwell, sitting in the audience. "So I just want to thank you for your passion, Chris Blackwell."   Among the highlights was Jamaican pianist/band leader Monty Alexander and his Michael Jackson tribute. In a short improvisation he moved smoothly from Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" into the King of Pop's "Billy Jean" and "Thriller" before Alexander's piano launched back into a full-out reggae finish to the Marley track.   Kidjo, who recorded four albums for Island before Blackwell stepped back from the label in 1997, joined Alexander onstage for rollicking renditions of "Tumba" and "Afrika."   The last was dedicated to legendary South African singer Miriam Makeba, who was a key influence on Kidjo's muscular singing style and sassy stage persona.   On Saturday, the festival paid tribute to jazz singer Nina Simone with performances by Kidjo and Wyclef Jean before further celebrations of Blackwell and Island Records including Sly and Robbie on Sunday and Marianne Faithful today.

Badu Working On 'New Amerykah 2'


(July 13, 2009) *
Erykah Badu is back in the studio recording a promised follow up to her fourth studio album "New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War," which was released a little over a year ago.   The second instalment, tentatively titled "New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return Of The Ankh," will feature input from long-time collaborator James Poyser ("Love Of My Life," "Danger"). No release date has been announced yet, according to Billboard.   Additionally, Badu, who recently performed alongside the Roots on the "Jimmy Fallon Show," has embarked on an international tour which started July 8 in Milan and ends on Sept. 10 in Memphis. Stops include Stockholm, Sweden; Atlantic City, N.J.; and Detroit.  

Here are Badu's confirmed tour stops: 

Jul. 13: Copenhagen (Vega)
Jul. 15: Oslo (Santrum Scene)
Jul. 17: Pori (Pori Jazz Festival/Kirjurinluoto Arena)
Jul. 19: Stockholm (Stockholm International Jazz Festival)
Jul. 21: Nice (Nice Jazz Festival)
Aug. 6: Atlantic City, N.J. (TBA)
Aug. 7: Detroit (TBA)
Sept. 10: Memphis (Orpheum Theatre)     

Picking Up The Broken Pieces

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 14, 2009) Acclaimed Canadian indie band Broken Social Scene is teaming up with director Bruce McDonald and screenwriter Don McKellar to produce a concert film that will include amateur footage shot by fans. A publicist for the feature-length project, tentatively titled This Movie Is Broken, says the experimental film will be anchored by a love story written by McKellar. Stephen Lan says the story follows a lovestruck boy who goes to a Broken Social Scene show with his romantic crush, but things don't turn out as he planned. Shooting took place last weekend when the band held a free show in Toronto. Lan says concert footage was captured by several professional camera crews, but McDonald is also inviting fans through the film's website to upload footage "to create a portrait of a hot July day in Toronto." In a video address on thismovieisbroken.com, he calls on fans to shoot "things that make Toronto special." "Nothing is too small, nothing is too big," McDonald says, adding that fans shouldn't include footage of the band; he's taking care of that himself. "Turn your cameras on the city, turn it on your friends. We like faces, we like kissing ... and any format: Super 8, 16-millimetre, digital, cellphone footage." A spokesman for Broken Social Scene's label, Arts and Crafts, said the film is not related to the recently released book This Book is Broken, about the band's sprawling, influential history.


Paul Gross Aims Due West

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Fiona Morrow

(July 11, 2009) Osoyoos, B.C. — Under a burning sun, a bedraggled cowboy hangs half off his horse. He's facing backward, a noose around his neck, hands tied behind his back. Amid the whirling desert dust, the animal comes to a standstill in front of a ramshackle building. The cowboy begins to slide slowly toward the ground. Then – thwack – he hits the dirt head first.

There's a collective wince as various cast, crew and assorted onlookers feel the stuntman's pain. Not least because he has to climb straight back up and do it all over again.

We're in Osoyoos, in British Columbia's desert country, on the set of
Gunless , a comedic western starring Paul Gross and co-produced by Niv Fichman, who also teamed up with the actor on last year's First World War epic, Passchendaele . Gross plays the Montana Kid, a hard-boiled American gunslinger who finds himself across the border in the sleepy Canadian hamlet of Barclay's Brush: population, 17; number of pistols, 0.

Right now, though, Gross – unlike his stunt double – is keeping a low profile.

The veteran Canadian actor and filmmaker didn't fancy taking on this particular shot himself? “Absolutely not,” he smiles from behind a pair of rectangular specs perched on the end of his nose.

Sensibly – considering his ankle-length Driza-Bone-style coat, and the sweltering temperature – Gross prefers to hang out with the wardrobe mistress under a jaunty umbrella. “Some stunts I'll do, sure,” he shrugs. “But being dropped directly on your head? No. That's someone else's job.”

Written and directed by William Phillips ( Treed Murray , Foolproof ), Gunless is a Canadian enterprise, co-produced by Rhombus Media and Brightlight Pictures, and the first beneficiary of the Arrowleaf Fund, a private-equity venture-capital investment group based in the Okanagan Valley. Niv Fichman of Rhombus brought Gross to the project, having produced the actor's labour of love: the First World War drama, Passchendaele – a movie with a budget thought to be around $20-million, that grossed $4.4-million at the Canadian box office.

The $10-million budget for Gunless may not sound like much but, as Phillips points out, it's a “very solid budget for a Canadian film,” and it's enough to afford to shoot on location on a custom-designed set. “It's more expensive and more strenuous and less convenient,” concedes Fichman about the challenges of a location shoot, “but in the end, we are actually in the Wild West and it will be a better film for it.”

It's ironic that Gross – known for his very Canadian career in projects such as TV's Slings & Arrows and Due South and such feature films as Men With Brooms – is Gunless 's only American character – and a bad guy, to boot. “I'm more of the straight man,” Gross says, over lunch in the catering bus. “The lunacy orbits around me.”

The actor describes Gunless as a “gentle Canadian comedy” – Bill Forsyth's Local Hero is invoked as inspiration by Phillips, Fichman and Gross over the course of the day – and says he's still grappling with the right tone for his character. “I don't really know what I'm doing yet,” he concedes. “I'm scratching my head in every scene. Light comedies like this are extraordinarily difficult to decide where to pitch. It's kind of delicate, and if you get it wrong, it can fall apart.”

The film's 1890s set was 90-per-cent prefabricated, and trucked in from Vancouver, along with the majority of the crew, who are billeted in the Osoyoos Holiday Inn. The cast – Gross, Britain's Sienna Guillory ( Inkheart ), ex-professional wrestler Tyler Mane – and key crew have been put up in the rather swankier surrounds of the Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort, a short drive from town. (While enthusiastic postshoot investigations into the B.C. wine industry take place on the terrace of the Spirit Ridge restaurant, in downtown Osoyoos, karaoke until the early hours is the entertainment of choice at the local pub.)

If it's no longer exactly a one-horse town, Osoyoos boasts a single taxi in the off season: a distinctive red car that drives back and forth along the main drag at all hours. “There's a vacation feel about it, for sure,” says Phillips, a man with a permanent giggle in his voice. He's enjoying himself despite the relentless tornadoes of thick dust, extreme temperatures and the twin stresses of working with animals and children.

One of the kids on the set today is his seven-year-old son, Edward. Phillips awarded him a small role in honour of his early influence on the script. “I wrote the first draft of Gunless standing at a dresser, with him as a newborn strapped to me in a Snugli.” His early memories of the experience aren't all fond ones. “Maybe it was the stresses of life at that point, but I hated it when I wrote it,” he sighs. “I thought it was awful.”

It took him years to finally pull the screenplay out of a bottom drawer and take another look. Surprised that it wasn't the disaster he remembered, he passed it to his agent, who promptly sent it off to Rhombus. The timing proved fortuitous: Up to his knees in mud, icy rain careening down his back, Fichman stood on the set of Passchendaele , turned to a visiting Stephen Hegyes of Brightlight, and said: “How about a western?”

The fact that Gross, the creative force behind Passchendaele , had always fancied playing a cowboy also helped. “The reason we have this film is Paul,” says Fichman. “Without him, we would have most likely had to sign up a star from America or Britain.”

Fichman, like Gross and Hegyes, sees what he's doing as part of a longer-term goal of creating a vibrant domestic movie industry in Canada. “We want to make wide and expansive films for Canadian audiences,” he says, “not television films that just happen to be screened in the cinema.”

Gross is less inclined to talk grand schemes today, caked as he is in thick makeup, with half the desert coming along for the ride. “You can't get it off,” he shrugs. “It was the same on Passchendaele . I don't think I was clean until about two weeks after that. It's staggering how dirt grinds into you.”

Still, in contrast to Passchendaele , which he wrote, directed and starred in, Gross is kicking back and just enjoying himself on Gunless . “This is like a holiday,” he says. “I just have to act. I don't really care if the sun's going down. It's not my responsibility if someone screws up, or to decide where to put the camera. It's very liberating.

“And,” says the former Due South RCMP officer, “I think it's very funny that the Kid's rival is a Mountie. I just look at the costume and think, ‘Thank God I'm not wearing those brutal outfits any more.' ”

Finally, the time has come for his pickup shot. He may not have to actually fall from the Kid's trusty steed, but Gross must lie between its legs and hope it doesn't decide to step on him or administer a hefty kick. In the event, the horse gets rather – one might say – overexcited, to the guffaws of the crew and to the abject shock of a little girl playing one of the townsfolk. It hardly gets less of a spectacle when a wrangler steps forward with a stick and switches the offending display of affection into submission.

Gross, writhing on the ground below, can hardly contain himself. “Okay, that still happens to me occasionally,” he shouts to hoots of laughter. “Don't anyone ever take a stick to it”

Off-Screen Tempest Brewing At TIFF

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(July 13, 2009) Tomorrow is Bastille Day, and that is the date, perhaps suitably if unintentionally so, that the Toronto International Film Festival has chosen for its kick-off press conference.

No doubt there will be lots of hoopla and some news of tantalizing galas, as well as a spiffy new branding logo, when details of the 34th annual festival start being revealed.

As usual at these affairs, there will be an upbeat mood and many kissy-kissy turns of phrase. But it would not take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that one of the most riveting dramas is unfolding off-screen, with tense TIFF tiffs behind closed doors.

This is the moment, my spies say that aggrieved Canadian film distributors are finally going to the barricades after years of quiet grumbling about what they regard as the outrageously high price of doing business with the festival.

"There have been a number of issues, and we are still in discussion, but I think the problems will be resolved," Patrice Theroux, spokesman for the distributors, said yesterday. "I'm not sure when we will come to an agreement."

Meanwhile, among film industry insiders there has been less talk about the new movies themselves than the ongoing struggle between the festival and these independent distributors (i.e. not Hollywood studios) – which release not only movies made in this country but also foreign films and prestigious non-studio movies from U.S. producers.

They propose to rewrite the terms under which the festival gets to screen their upcoming gems, often months before their theatrical release dates. Tense negotiations escalated into standoffs and ultimatums.

As the Sept. 10 festival opening night looms nearer, the two sides have moved closer to a settlement, averting any threat of a boycott.

A long-held gripe of distributors is that TIFF makes them pay for costs – such as airfare, hotel bills and special handling for stars of the movie – they feel should be covered by the festival. In some cases, the bills run into six figures. At least one prominent industry figure has suggested that TIFF should share the revenue it rakes in by paying distributors a rental fee for each movie it screens.

According to Theroux, one major issue is the sheer number of films, about 75 that the festival takes each year from members of his group. He is chairman of the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters, which represents his own company, Entertainment One, as well as such other players as Alliance Films, Mongrel Media and Maple Pictures.

Expect a peace treaty to be signed before Aug.4, when at its second media bash of the summer, TIFF will finally announce the full slate of Canadian movies selected for the 2009 festival – a month later than usual.

But another controversy could erupt over the festival's stated policy of giving donors to its fundraising campaign preferential treatment over the general public when it comes to choosing which movie tickets they will get.

According to a letter to TIFF patrons from CEO Piers Handling, "benefactors" who give $250 or more before Aug.7 will have their ticket order processed through an advance procedure ahead of the general public. And those who give $500 or $1,000 will enjoy increased priority access to screenings.

It remains to be seen how this policy will be received by non-gala-going, sneaker-wearing, hardcore cineastes who count their pennies and make a serious business of selecting the films they most want to see.

Bruno Tops Weekend Box-Office

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
David Germain, The Associated Press

(July 12, 2009) Los Angeles —Gay Austrian fashion devotee Bruno has landed the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office, though it's uncertain how much staying power he has.

Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno started big on opening day Friday but had a huge drop the rest of the weekend, with the Universal Pictures mock documentary finishing with $30.4-million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The movie took in nearly half of its weekend total — $14.4-million — on Friday, then tumbled with just $8.8-million Saturday and an estimated $7.2-million Sunday.

Revenues for hit movies typically go up on Saturday, so the nosedive for Bruno could be a sign that it lacks the shelf life that made Baron Cohen's Borat a $100-million smash.

“Normally, you expect the film at least to be even on Saturday or above compared to Friday, because Saturday is the biggest moviegoing day of the weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “It's going to be interesting to see how it does over the long run.”

Bruno , which features Baron Cohen as a wannabe going to extremes to achieve celebrity, finished ahead of 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs , which took second with $28.5 million. The Ice Age sequel raised its domestic total to $120.6 million.

Finishing third after two weekends in the No. 1 spot was Paramount's sci-fi blockbuster Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with $24-million, raising its domestic haul to $339-million. The sequel passed the $319-million total of 2007's Transformers .

The weekend's other new wide release, 20th Century Fox's romantic comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper opened weakly with $5-million, finishing at No. 7. The movie centres on a high school valedictorian who uses his graduation speech to declare his love for a bombshell classmate (Hayden Panettiere).

Bruno outpaced the $26.5-million opening weekend for Baron Cohen's surprise 2006 hit Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan . Borat started with $9.2-million on opening day Friday then climbed to $10.1-million Saturday, a sign that fans were talking it up to friends.

That good word-of-mouth propelled Borat to a long run at theatres, the movie climbing to a $128.5-million domestic total.

Borat also scored its big opening weekend in far fewer theatres. Bruno debuted in 2,756 cinemas, more than three times the number for Borat .

Nikki Rocco, head of distribution at Universal, said comedies such as Bruno typically drop off over opening weekend this time of year, while Borat opened in November, when audiences are less fickle than summer crowds.

The studio will have to wait until next weekend for a sense of how well Bruno can hold up for the long haul.

“I don't know. That crystal ball just isn't on my desk this morning,” said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal. “Zany comedies tend to be like that, so I'm hoping that in the scheme of things, it just plays out the way zany comedies will play out.”

Reviews on Bruno were not as strong as those for Borat , which critics generally liked. There also had been questions about whether Baron Cohen's flamboyantly gay persona might prove off-putting to audiences.

Bruno did most of its business in cities on the East and West coasts, while revenues were “softer, much softer in middle America,” Rocco said.

Even if revenues continue to plunge, Bruno is well on its way to turning a profit for Universal, which paid $42.5-million for rights to distribute it domestically and in eight other territories. Bruno took in $25-million in overseas markets so far, including $20 million in those Universal acquired, among them Great Britain, Australia and Germany.

Modi Wiczyk — co-chief executive officer of Media Rights Capital, which financed Bruno — said the movie exceeded the company's expectations. Wiczyk said he had anticipated Bruno would finish in the range of $25 million domestically for the weekend.

“We don't have talking robots or karate in our film,” Wiczyk said. “For that increasingly small subset of films that don't have robots, we did terrific.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. Bruno , $30.4 million.

2. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs , $28.5-million.

3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen , $24-million.

4. Public Enemies , $14.1-million.

5. The Proposal , $10.5-million.

6. The Hangover , $9.9-million.

7. I Love You, Beth Cooper , $5-million.

8. Up , $4.7-million.

9. My Sister's Keeper , $4.2-million.

10. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 , $1.6-million.

Initially, Travolta’s performance feels over the top, but it improves as the movie progresses.


Universal Pictures and Focus Features are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.; Sony Pictures, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount and Paramount Vantage are divisions of Viacom Inc.; Disney's parent is The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is a division of The Walt Disney Co.; 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures and Fox Atomic are owned by News Corp.; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a consortium of Providence Equity Partners, Texas Pacific Group, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp., DLJ Merchant Banking Partners and Quadrangle Group; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC Films is owned by Rainbow Media Holdings, a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.; Rogue Pictures is owned by Relativity Media LLC; Overture Films is a subsidiary of Liberty Media Corp.

Tracy Morgan : The “G-Force” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Native New Yorker
Tracy Morgan was born in Brooklyn on November 10, 1968 and raised in the Bronx where he attended De Witt Clinton High School. He started doing standup as a teenager and was discovered in 1984 at the Apollo Theater on Amateur Night which kick-started his showbiz career on the comedy circuit. He eventually landed a recurring role on the Fox sitcom “Martin,” which by 1996 he had parlayed into a gig as a member of Saturday Night Live’s ensemble cast.

Over the course of his seven season tenure on SNL, the irrepressible funnyman introduced a variety of colourful characters, including Brian Fellows, Astronaut Jones and Woodrow. He also became known for his impersonations of pop culture icons like Al Sharpton, Mr. T, Star Jones, Aretha and Mike Tyson. In 2003, he left SNL in order to star on his own sitcom, The Tracy Morgan Show. Meanwhile, he began appearing on the big screen in such films as Head of State, The Longest Yard, Little Man and First Sunday.

Currently, Tracy is co-starring opposite Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on the hit NBC series “30 Rock.” And back in January, he delivered the most memorable speech of the awards season at the Golden Globes when he accepted the Best Comedy Award on behalf of the entire cast, explaining that “Tina Fey and I had an agreement that if Barack Obama won, I would speak for the show from now on. Welcome to post-racial America ! I am the face of post-racial America . Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!”

Here, Tracy talks about his new movie, G-Force, where he does the voice of Blaster the guinea pig, an animated character. The film revolves around a crack squad of FBI-trained animals called upon by the U.S. Government to put a stop a diabolical billionaire bent on world domination.  

Kam Williams: Hi Tracy, thanks for the time.

Tracy Morgan: Wassup?

KW: What interested you in doing G-Force?

TM: [Chuckles] Let’s see… Walt Disney… Jerry Bruckheimer… Nicolas Cage and everybody else involved.  I thought it would be cool.

KW: Was it hard on you playing an animated character and being restricted to doing a voiceover?

TM: No, actually it wasn’t. People recognize my voice, and that’s what you want. And I’m not the first person to ever do this. I mean, Eddie Murphy’s done it… Martin Lawrence has done it… Seinfeld’s done it… Chris Rock has done it… so I wanted to make the most of my opportunity to do it. And I had fun!

KW: Laz Lyles was wondering who you based Blaster on.

TM: I wanted Blaster to be a part of Tracy Morgan. So, I just kept it simple. 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman points out that a PG-rated kiddie adventure marks a bit of a departure for you, since most of your comedy shtick has been adult-oriented. How did you enjoy the change of pace?  

TM: I loved it because I have nieces and nephews, and little cousins, and it’s not often that you get a chance to be the cool uncle. So, I made this for my nieces and nephews and other young people I know.  

KW: Did you spend any time on the set during the shooting of the film’s live-action sequences?

TM: Actually, no I didn’t. They would just fly me in and I’d go into the studio to lay down my vocal tracks and mix it up with Hoyt [Director Hoyt Yeatman]. He would direct me and share his vision of the film with me. But I never visited the set of G-Force. We kept it simple like that.

KW: How did you like the final cut when you saw how Hoyt had blended your voice and all the animation in with the live-action?

TM: I just went to see the movie yesterday, and I thought it was beautiful. And in 3-D, the special effects were awesome.

KW: What is G-Force’s message?

TM: That at the end of the day, family is everything.

KW: What type of audience do you expect it to attract?

TM: Kids! Families! Young adults! Older adults! It’s universal.

KW: Are you planning to do a Brian Fellows movie, or to make a spin-off of any of your other SNL characters?

TM: No, absolutely not. I’ve been off Saturday Night Live for seven years. Why would I do that now? I have a very busy career. Whatever I did on Saturday Night Live is going to stay and remain on Saturday Night Live

KW: I understand. I see that you’ll soon be starring in a remake of Death at a Funeral with Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence. 

TM: I think it’s going to be awesome. Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence are a couple of my heroes in terms of show business and comedy. I’m grateful just to get to work with them again because they’re both brilliant guys. I really appreciate their allowing me to be funny in the movie.

KW: Yeah, it’s like a reunion for you, because you worked with both of them earlier in your career.

TM: Yep, it’s cool.

KW: Bobby Shenker wants to know which character you’ll be playing in Death at a Funeral?

TM: My character’s one of the close friends of the family.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

TM: [Thinks about it] No, reporters ask you pretty much everything. They’ve pretty much covered the bases with me.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

TM: I’m happy, but then sometimes I’m not. I’m a human being. I feel all emotions. I’m not just happy all the time. Sometimes, I’m sad and feel the blues. Sometimes I even want to feel the blues. Sometimes, you want to feel down. I’m human, and human beings change more than the weather. So, sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad. I’m just honest about my feelings. 

KW: I loved your Golden Globes acceptance speech. How did you come up with the idea for what you said? 

TM: It wasn’t pre-planned or anything like that. It was just a speech that came from the heart, and I just wanted to share how I felt at that moment.

KW: Bobby Shenker also had a couple of questions about 30 Rock. He asks how working on it is different from SNL and what it’s like working with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin?

TM: First of all, it’s prime time and single camera. We tape it everyday, while SNL was live. As for working with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, I had already worked with both of them on SNL. 

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

TM: Yeah, I’m afraid sometimes. I’m a human being. I feel all the emotions. I think it’s good that I get scared, because if you never get scared, you don’t have any need for guts.  

KW: Teri Emerson would like to know, when was the last time you had a good laugh?

TM: The last time I had a good laugh? Hmm… [Pauses to reflect] I’d have to say the last time I read something about me that wasn’t true in the [ New York ] Post.

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays? 

TM: Right now, I’m listening to Bob Marley.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

TM: I’m not much of a reader. I don’t read books. Most of the time I’m reading people, because I’m from New York City .

KW: Are from Brooklyn or the Bronx ? I’ve read articles saying both.

TM: I was born and raised in Brooklyn, but I grew up in the Bronx once my parents divorced. My father lived in the Bronx while my mother lived in Brooklyn .

KW: I went to high school in Bed-Stuy near Nostrand Avenue and Eastern Parkway .

TM: Yeah, I know where that’s at.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

TM: Racism! The politics of it, man. More than the racism, the politics. And there’s politics in any and everything.

KW: Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

TM: My father, Jimmy Morgan. He’s my hero. He died in 1987.

KW: I’m sorry to hear that. The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

TM: By just laughing. They don’t have to do much. Just open up and laugh.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TM: What do I see when I look in the mirror? I see Tracy Jamal Morgan. I see my history, I see my present. And I like to think I’m looking at the future. I’m looking forward to the future, because I have a lot to look forward to.

KW: What is your favourite meal to cook?

TM: Cowboy food. Pork and beans, and franks.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

TM: Don’t follow in my footsteps. Make sure to blaze your own trail.

KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States ?

TM: As long as he’s a strong powerful leader who can take the people in the right direction, I’m with it. I’m not really hung up on black or white, as long as he’s a good leader, not just a politician. And so far, I’d say he’s proving he’s a good leader. 

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

TM: As a funny mother-[expletive. “Here lies a funny mother-[expletive].” That’s it. That’s what I want on my tombstone.  

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan was wondering, where in L.A. you live?

TM: I don’t have a place in L.A. I live in New York .

KW: Are you still doing standup comedy?

TM: Absolutely! Why would I ever let that go?

KW: We’re out of time, but I had so much more ground I wanted to cover with you.

TM: Look, you’re not going to find out everything about me in one interview, dude! I’m 40 years-old. It would take you 40 years. I think we’re good.

KW: True, I appreciate the time, Tracy . Thanks.

TM: I appreciate it, too.

KW: Best of luck with the film.

TM: Alright, later.

To see Tracy Morgan’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, GO HERE.

To see a trailer for G-Force, GO HERE.

Summer Film Series Celebrates Italian Cinema

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

(July 10, 2009) The great Italian actresses of the 1950s and '60s made movie history and arguably opened the door to feminist interpretations of the world as seen through the camera lens.

Signore and Signore: Leading Ladies of the Italian Cinema, a series originally curated by Piera De Tassis for the 60th anniversary of the
Locarno film festival, brings 18 films to the Cinematheque Ontario screen in the Art Gallery of Ontario from tonight to Aug. 21.

The films, from Mario Soldati's 1941 period piece Old-Fashioned World, starring Alida Valli, to Lina Wertmuller's 1972 The Seduction of Mimi, span an era in which women dominated Italian cinema, and not just as objects of the male gaze.

Giulietta Masina, Anna Magnani, Silvana Mangano, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Tina Pica, Gina Lollobrigida, Monica Vitti — these were the muses to the Italian auteurs. These actresses were not handed roles; they created them. Earthy and soulful, lusty or repressed, they magnified elements of the society they existed in: a spirit of survival after a war that left Italy poverty-stricken and damaged, a sense of determination to rebuild and renew the country's culture.

Claudia Cardinale broke through as a complex character, part femme fatale, part fallen woman, in Valerio Zurlini's The Girl With a Suitcase (1960). Cruelly dumped by Marcello, a rich playboy who abandons her after taking her away from her nightclub singing job, Aida seeks him out and catches the sympathies of his 16-year-old brother Lorenzo (Jacques Perrin).

Cardinale shows an incredible range of character in this picture, shot in brooding contrasts of black and white in Parma and the resort town of Rimini. She's the aimless drifter and budding con artist one minute, the tender, motherly figure comforting Lorenzo the next.

Three years later, in Luchino Visconti's The Leopard, Cardinale makes one of the most dramatic on-screen entrances as Angelica, the little girl of the local squire who is presented to Prince Fabrizio of Salina (Bert Lancaster) as a now-mature knock-out. Angelica captivates Fabrizio and his nephew Tancredi (Alain Delon), whose engagement to the young beauty is arranged by his uncle.

The Leopard frames Angelica as the free-spirited woman of the future. Cardinale's unending laugh at the formal dinner party and her dance of pure joy in the famous ballroom scene make this one of her most irresistible performances.

The Italian neo-realist filmmakers also made comedies that carried bits of social satire.

Lollobrigida emerged as a natural beauty and a force to be reckoned with in Luigi Comencini's 1953 light-hearted village romance, Bread, Love and Dreams. She plays Frisky, the poor, barefoot mischief maker, who catches the eye of the Marshal, played by middle-aged Vittorio de Sica. By 1968, another form of cinema had overtaken the neo-realists. Pier Paolo Pasolini's Teorema (Theorem) is a menacing, symbolic allegory of a mysterious stranger (Terence Stamp) who arrives at the home of Milanese industrialist to destroy their upper-middle-class contentment. One by one, he seduces maid, mother, father, son and daughter, only to disappear. Silvana Mangano plays the mother, Lucia, with a studied blankness that makes her every bit as mysterious as her seducer.

Few films have had the impact of La Strada, Federico Fellini's 1954 drama of an unredeemed, angry street artist and his sidekick. The violent and yet pathetic Zampano (Anthony Quinn, in probably the best performance of his life) buys himself an assistant, Gelsomina, taking her off her mother's hands for the price of a meal.

Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, gives one of the most amazing performances ever as the waif who finds a way to love the man who treats her with nothing but brutality. Masina is ageless and unforgettable as the young woman whose heart is burst in the face of senseless violence and death.

Masina took on an entirely different role as the eponymous heroine of Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits in 1965. But there is something of the same innocence and purity in this mature housewife, who is coming to understand her husband's adulterous ways amid a phantasmagoric procession of friends, bizarre neighbours and a visions of a frightening kind of hell.

No film better expresses the neo-realist vision of Italy’s suffering during World War II than Vittorio De Sica’s 1960 Two Women, starring Sophia Loren as Cesira, a widowed shopkeeper escaping the German bombing of Rome with her adolescent daughter, Rosetta.

The two women come to symbolize Italy itself with a brutal rape scene in a deconsecrated church that is a shocking demonstration of the inhumanity of war. Loren herself admitted that this was the role that brought her to acting maturity.

Go to cinemathequeontario.ca for details and tickets.

Tinseltown Talk: Nia Long Lashes Out At Music Stars Who Act

Source: Jawn Murray

(July 13, 2009) "If you're a singer not an actress, you should sing. If you're a rapper, you should rap," is what actress
Nia Long told the U.K. magazine Pride.

In the July issue cover story written by Jessica Huie, the 'Are We There Yet?' star was also asked what she thought about Beyonce Knowles' performance in 'Obsessed.'

"I didn't see 'Obsessed,' so I can't comment, but it's just not about how talented you are anymore. It's about, 'How much box-office revenue will this person generate?' When you see certain people – we won't name names – they just don't have the skill, and no one in their team has said, 'You need acting classes,'" Long replied.

The 38-year-old actress, who last starred on the ABC series 'Big Shots,' does believe there have been some exceptions in Hollywood.

"If you take time to develop your craft, God bless you. Jamie Foxx is an example of both [actor and singer]," she added.

Long also vented to the glossy about the quality of roles Hollywood offers Black actresses.

"If you were able to take all the Black actresses and the choices we've made collectively, it's a pure reflection of what you see on film. People need to work. But the content? The opportunities for Black actresses are more widespread today, but the quality has suffered," she offered.

For more information on Pride magazine, visit them online at www.PrideMagazine.com.

Harry, Horror And Hormones

www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
3 Stars
Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon and Jim Broadbent
Classification: PG

(July 13, 2009) As we've been saying every year or so for the past decade, Harry's back. Even more than the James Bond series, the Potter movies are a modern movie institution, distinct from most current cinematic trends but never going below a high standard of state-of-the-art execution. Sticking closely enough to J.K. Rowling's fictional vision to satisfy her readers, the Potter movies maintain a characteristic blend of quaint humour, CGI-created fantasy and richly Dickensian characters against the background of an extended coming-of-age story.

The experienced team behind the Harry Potter movie series is comfortably in the groove with the sixth film, which plays down the fantastic elements and introduces contrasting playful teenaged romance and a new tone of adult gloominess with the death of a major character. Director David Yates, who made the fifth film, returns, joining screenwriter Steve Kloves, who wrote the first four Potter films. They are aided by two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel ( Amélie , A Very Long Engagement ), who adds a more intense metallic flair to the Potter visual palette. Collectively, they manage to blend a succession of narrative and mood shifts from ominous foreboding to humorous romantic growing pains to flat-out gothic horror over a 21/2-hour running time. Like all the movies in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has an occasionally enervating sequential quality, though the filmmakers eventually build to a decisive Lord of the Rings -style climax.

As the years roll by, the acting is constantly improving from the younger stars – Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and especially Emma Watson's piquant performance as Hermione Granger. As usual, the performances of the Hogwarts faculty – Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane and Maggie Smith – are first-rate, coming from a couple of gifted generations of British theatrical stars who make these over-the-top characters gravely credible.

There has been more than the usual pent-up tension among the Potter cult for this film. It was pushed back from its original release date last Christmas when Warner Bros. was still earning revenue from The Dark Knight . Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a transitional movie that builds toward the series showdown, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows , which has been split into two movies, to be released in 2010 and 2011.

Life in Hogwarts is the usual mix of school rivalries and supernatural threats. The evil Lord Voldemort (who only appears in his adult form very briefly in a montage) is on the rise. His agents, the Death Eaters, invisible but leaving inky trails across the London sky, are attacking, destroying Hogwarts students' homes and mangling the Millennium pedestrian bridge over the Thames. Harry's rival, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), has been designated to commit an evil task in preparation for Voldemort's return, and the ambiguous Severus Snape (Rickman) pushed by the evil sorceress Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) has vowed to protect the boy. One of the ancillary pleasures of the Harry Potter movies is that you can always sit back and savour the nuances of Rickman's mordantly deliberate delivery.

Harry, now about 17 but looking as short and boyishly bespectacled as usual, is about to pick up a waitress from a local café when Professor Dumbledore (Gambon) spirits him away on a special mission. They must recruit Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent as an antsy, vain pedant) to come work for Hogwarts. Slughorn, a weak character with a shady past, has certain key memories of Voldemort's days at school, which Harry must help recover.

Because the kids are in their late teens now, there's an explosion of romantic entanglements. Harry has a crush on Ron's tomboyish sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright). Hermione still carries her inexplicable torch for Ron and watches with increasing exasperation as he is swept away by the simpering Lavender Brown (Jessie Cave). Being teenagers, the kids experiment freely with mind-altering substances; Harry finds an old potion textbook with useful notes in the margin from its previous owner, the “half-blood prince” of the film's title. Hermione gives Ron a supernatural boost during an excitingly shot Quidditch match.

The movie's climax takes Harry Potter into territory that is much more like epic horror than most of what the series has seen before. There is more obvious religious symbolism and apocalyptic violence as Harry emerges into his role as “the chosen one.” Yates is scheduled to return for the final two instalments and his climax here seems designed to set up the grander battle of good and evil for the final films. Think of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince then as the last glimpse of innocence lost.

CanCon Not On Guest List For TIFF Gala Opener

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(July 15, 2009) Is it a slap in the face to the Canadian movie industry?

Or is it a welcome sign the
Toronto International Film Festival has grown out of the flag-waving parochialism that sometimes made visitors from New York and L.A. roll their eyes?

I confess I'm of two minds. But whichever view you take, there is no doubt that TIFF's choice of Creation as its opening night gala, announced yesterday, will have people arguing for months.

"We just fell in love with this movie," explains festival co-director Cameron Bailey, who has snagged its world premiere.

It remains to be seen whether the glittery opening night audience on Sept. 10 will also fall in love with this movie, directed by Jon Amiel and produced by Jeremy Thomas, and described as part ghost story, part romance.

What is bound to cause shock waves is not the theory of evolution espoused by Charles Darwin, whose story this movie tells. It's the fact that this movie is 100 per cent British, with zero Canadian content.

So why should that be a problem at a decidedly international festival?

Well, for as long as most of us can remember, opening night has been reserved for celebrating the home team. Indeed, it's the night notable players in the Canadian film industry dress up and take their seats at Roy Thomson Hall.

The tradition of celebrating Canada on the big screen on the first Thursday after Labour Day has never been officially written into the Bill of Rights, but it has become an almost sacred tradition.

If you have been attending this event for longer than you'd care to admit, you may recall that in 1983, what was then still called the Festival of Festivals opened with The Big Chill from Hollywood. But over the past 26 years, finding a Canadian movie for this slot has been every fest director's mission. It's TIFF's way of saluting our own cinema industry and attracting more worldwide publicity than you get any other way, short of winning an Oscar or Palme d'Or.

On two occasions since then, boundaries were crossed. In 1989, the opening movie was a U.S. film, In Country, but it was directed by Norman Jewison, one of our own town's most revered screen veterans. In 1996, Carroll Ballard's Fly Away Home was the opener, acceptable because it concerned geese with Canadian passports.

Fast forward to 2009. TIFF execs had a few other problems on their minds, such as the millions yet to be raised for Bell Lightbox; the steep drop in sponsorship money as a result of the recession; and an unnerving squabble with Canadian distributors (finally settled on Monday) over the cost of having their films included in the festival.

I'm sure they tried to come up with a Canadian movie for opening night and couldn't find the right one.

The perfect choice might have been Chloe, which isn't officially a Canadian production but was filmed in Toronto by one of TIFF's cult heroes, Atom Egoyan.

But Ivan Reitman, the producer from Canada who moved to California years ago, does not want to screen the film on opening night, precisely because the U.S. distributors whose cheques he hopes to attract regard that night as an exercise in dull Canadian self-congratulation.

My prediction: Chloe will be a gala presentation a day or two after opening night.

What about contenders like Mr. Nobody (a sci-fi epic with a Belgian director but lots of Telefilm Canada money and Sarah Polley in a starring role) or The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (a London tale with Canadian co-production status and Christopher Plummer in the title role)?

Well, perhaps Bailey and Handling didn't fall in love with them.

But these and other Canadian films are likely to show up somewhere in TIFF's 2009 lineup.

Meanwhile, opening night will cease to be a ghetto, and we can all look forward to falling in love with Creation.


Will Smith Reteaming With 'Legend' Director


(July 10, 2009) *"I Am Legend" director Francis Lawrence will reteam with the film's star Will Smith to direct him a new project for 20th Century Fox, titled "City That Sailed."  The story centers on a father and daughter living on opposite sides of the ocean whose love is so strong that it causes Manhattan to split off and float across the Atlantic.  The film is being developed as a potential star vehicle for Smith, who is producing with his Overbrook Entertainment partner James Lassiter. "Ocean's Thirteen" writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien will rewrite a script that originated from "Truman Show" scribe Andrew Niccol.

Michael Clarke Duncan In Van Peebles Film


(July 9, 2009) *Michael Clarke Duncan will star opposite Morgan Simpson in the Mario Van Peebles-directed indie drama "Bailey." Simpson wrote the script and will play the title character in the film, which centers on spiritual redemption against the backdrop of Memphis blues. Production will begin in August in Nashville, reports Variety.  Heavy Duty Entertainment's Jeff Balis and Rhoades Rader are producing along with Charlie Poe. Simpson scripted and will play the title character. Van Peebles recently wrapped Yari Film Group's "Kerosene Cowboys," starring Cam Gigandet, Bill Pullman and Rachael Leigh Cook. His credits include "New Jack City" and "Badasssss!"; he has also recently helmed episodes of "Damages," "Sons of Anarchy" and "Law and Order."

Robert Redford Marries German Girlfriend

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(July 15, 2009) HAMBURG – A German church says its pastor presided over the wedding between Robert Redford and his German partner. Renate Massfeller, of the St. Catherine Church in Hamburg, said Wednesday that Pastor Frank Engelbrecht presided over the ceremony Saturday between the 71-year-old U.S. actor and artist Sibylle Szaggars at the luxury Louis C. Jacob Hotel. The Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper said 30 friends and family members attended the service. The 51-year-old Szaggars is an abstract artist whose work has been exhibited in Britain, Germany, the United States and elsewhere. She moved to Sundance, Utah – where Redford's Sundance Institute is based – in the 1990s. A message seeking comment from Redford's publicist in New York was not immediately returned.

Janet Jackson Reportedly Back To Work

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 15, 2009) *Two weeks after the death of her brother Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson is reportedly back in Atlanta to begin work on Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married, Too?"  Malik Yoba, Jackson's love interest in the original 2007 film, took to his audio blog Saturday while on location for the sequel, saying that Jackson was back on set. "For those of you who are curious about the state of Ms. Jackson, all seems well," Yoba said, according to Radar Online. "She's here at work and we've got a couple of serious scenes to shoot today." Yoba also indicated that the cast will shoot for another week in Georgia, then head to the Bahamas for more filming.


Winnipeger Is Canada's Top Model

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 15, 2009) From Manitoba to Milan: Meaghan Waller has won the third season of Canada's Next Top Model.

The 19-year-old Winnipeg native – a first-time model who had never participated in a photo shoot before joining the reality TV competition – was named the winner during last night's season finale on CTV.

Waller beat out Linsay Willier of Edmonton and Calgary's Nikita Kiceluk, who finished third.

After hearing the news, a stunned Waller covered her mouth and cried quietly before looking down at her trembling hands. Now, months after the finale was taped, Waller said in an interview just before the show aired that she still couldn't quite believe it.

"Honestly, I think my initial reaction was: 'Where is Ashton (Kutcher)? I think I'm being Punk'd,' " Waller said.

Waller wins a modelling contract with Elmer Olsen Model Management, a spread in Fashion magazine and a $100,000 beauty contract from Procter & Gamble – money she said she plans to invest in a retirement fund.

For now, she plans to continue living in Winnipeg and otherwise says she's open to whatever comes.

"I'd most definitely like to make a huge name for myself as well as walking for designers like Karl Lagerfeld."

Vince And His Pals Are Back For A Sixth Season Of Shallow And Sexist Behaviour In Entourage

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

(July 12, 2009) The boys are back in town. It's been almost eight months since we got to hang out with upwardly mobile aspiring matinee idol Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his party posse Entourage – returning tonight at 10:30 on HBO Canada.

Nothing much has changed, which is pretty much business as usual in the rarefied real-life world of high-living Young Hollywood, who typically transcend their career crises and scandals to emerge unscathed, with nary a perfectly coiffed hair out of place.

Not that Vince and his pals haven't had their share of setbacks – which is kind of the point. Big bro Johnny (Kevin Dillon) has reclaimed his own lost fame; homeboy dogsbody Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) has hooked up with "Meadow Soprano" (as he reportedly has in real life with actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler); manager "E" (Kevin Connolly) has begun to establish a life and career independent of Vince; and obnoxious agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) is, if possible, even more obnoxious, and thus still at the top of his game.

Vince, who has had more professional ups and downs than the ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier – is currently bouncing back from an extended downward spiral with a hot new Martin Scorcese film.

Which does not leave a lot more room for further plot or character development. And yet the five-year-old cable comedy has still managed to squeeze just a little more wiggle room out of its limited premise.

The first two episodes of this new sixth season focus primarily on E's continued professional emancipation, and the impending meltdown of Ari's pet reclamation project, Andrew Klein (Gary Cole).

In a much more refreshing and welcome development, Ari's put-upon and relentlessly patient assistant, Lloyd (Rex Lee), would finally seem to have grown a backbone, summoning a kind of half-hearted indignation over not being considered for promotion.

But how much longer we can continue to invest in the other characters' shallow, self-indulgent and patently sexist shenanigans remains to be seen.

Harris Confirmed As Host Of Prime-Time Emmys

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Christine Kearney, Reuters News Agency

(July 14, 2009) New York — Neil Patrick Harris, who won critical acclaim hosting last month's Tony Awards, will fill the same role for the prime-time Emmys. He had been rumoured for more than a week to have the job, and CBS made it official yesterday. "After having had such a hoot hosting the Tonys, I was thrilled to get the call about the prime-time Emmys," said Harris, adding that he looks forward to "adding my own voice" to the ceremony: "But which voice to choose? I'm torn between gangsta, foppish Brit and robot. Really proud of my robot. We'll see what happens on the night." Harris, 36, will also serve as a producer for the U.S. broadcast, which will air live Sept. 20 from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Harris, who begins his fifth season on the comedy How I Met Your Mother in the fall, has landed a Golden Globe nomination and two Emmy nominations for his role.


Top-Notch Casting Makes The Devil's Disciple Heavenly

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew,
Special To The Star

The Devil's Disciple
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
By Bernard Shaw. Directed by Tadeusz Bradecki. Until Oct. 11 at the Festival Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

(July 10, 2009) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont.–One of Bernard Shaw's more attractive and accessible plays,
The Devil's Disciple seems to get an outing at the Shaw Festival about once every decade.

And in the sure hands of Polish director and Shaw regular Tadeusz Bradecki, the 2009 vintage proves to be an absolute delight from start to finish.

Unusually for GBS, the play is set in America – in Massachusetts during the War of Independence. And the form he chose to parody was melodrama.

The year is 1777 and we are in the home of Mrs. Dudgeon, a Dickensian character who is about the most unchristian Christian you're likely to meet in a month of Sundays.

Her husband has died and her son Dick, the black sheep of the family, arrives for the reading of the will, with the local minister Rev. Anthony Anderson and his attractive young wife Judith also in attendance.

But later, when British troops arrive to arrest the minister, they mistakenly put the handcuffs on Dick and take him away to be hanged. In a glorious, Shavian inversion of roles, Dick – the Devil's Disciple – finds that his natural instinct is toward goodness and that he cannot betray another man to his death. Meanwhile, Anderson – the priest and supposed man of peace – discovers his true, warlike nature and is reborn as a man of action.

The trick in this play is balance: first of all between the natural "Christianity" of Dick and the bitter hypocrisy of his mother, then between the minister and the black sheep, and finally between Dick and the intelligent, pragmatic General Burgoyne, the key figure at Dick's trial.

And happily, the festival has played to one of its strengths and come up with some all-but-perfect casting. Donna Belleville dominates the opening of the play as the sanctimonious mother, bringing the role to life with almost indecent relish; Evan Buliung is an appropriately dashing Dick Dudgeon, self-aware and filled with raffish charm and charisma, while Peter Krantz provides a rock-solid counterpart, with a performance that's grounded and detailed.

Jim Mezon's Burgoyne? Simply one of the best performances you will see anywhere this summer. His snuff-sniffing general is a treasury of sarcastic humour – a gentlemanly military man – guided by the realities of the situation but all too aware of its human costs.

Outstanding work.

Of the major characters, only Fiona Byrne's Judith, a woman torn between two very different men, has a little more to find. (The play opened last night; I attended the final preview on Wednesday).

There also are some delights among the more minor roles, notably a promising debut by Lucy Campbell (the latest of the acting Campbells) as Essie, Jonathan Widdifield as a clownish Christy Dudgeon and Lorne Kennedy's sharp Lawyer Hawkins.

It's both romantic and sardonic, an irresistible mix of heart and mind. Make sure it's on your list of must-sees.

A High-Class Noel Coward Trio

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew,
Special To The Star

Play, Orchestra, Play
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of four)
By Noel Coward. Directed by Christopher Newton. Until Oct. 31 at the Royal George Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-7429

(July 13, 2009) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE–The title is, perhaps, a touch misleading.

"Play, Orchestra Play" is the latest in the series of the 2009 Shaw Festival revivals of Noel Coward's 10 "Tonight at 8:30" playlets and consists of Red Peppers, Fumed Oak and Shadow Play.

And while the first and last of the trio have strong musical components, the underlying theme is that of marital discord – husbands and wives (from three very different levels of society) at a moment of crisis in their relationship.

In Shadow Play, for example, the upper-class Gayforths' marriage has turned sour. Simon Gayforth (Steven Sutcliffe) is having an affair and wants a divorce. After a night at the theatre, wife Victoria (Julie Martell) takes an extra pill to help her sleep, and is plunged into a series of hallucinatory flashbacks to happier times – courtship, honeymoon and so on. – complete with singing and dancing. It's an extraordinary piece of writing, unexpectedly modern in feel and approach.

In Red Peppers, a husband-and-wife song-and-dance act (Patty Jamieson and Jay Turvey) squabble about their stale comedy routine but unite under threat from outside forces, in the shape of the show's musical director and the variety theatre's pompous manager.

And in Fumed Oak, Coward – unusually for him – turns the spotlight on lower-middle-class life in the suburbs. Henpecked Henry Gow (Sutcliffe) listens silently as mother-in-law (Wendy Thatcher), wife (Jamieson) and daughter (Robin Evan Willis) spend what seems like an eternity in vicious and pointless bickering, until finally the worm turns.

Few know this period, these people and this playwright better than director Christopher Newton and the festival's director emeritus does an immaculate job conveying the atmosphere and tensions in each of the pieces.

It also gives a talented ensemble a chance to stretch their acting muscles with a variety of challenges. Sutcliffe and Jamieson, for example, are both dazzlingly effective in their different roles while Wendy Thatcher has fun as the awful mother-in-law and as an imperious actress in Red Peppers.

Musically, the shows are lovely, with direction by Paul Sportelli and inventive choreography by Jane Johanson.

Any quibbles are minor. The ensemble seems to have mastered upper-class English accents but one or two have problems with regional dialects. And there may be some who find Cameron Porteus's designs, with their heavy emphasis on back projection, overly distracting; they worked well for me.

The absorbing "Play, Orchestra Play" is a fine showcase for the company, and for the master himself, Noel Coward.

Broadway Hungry For Stories About Black Culture

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Christine Kearney, Reuters News Agency

(July 14, 2009) NEW YORK —When U.S. President Barack Obama took his wife, Michelle, to a Broadway play by black playwright August Wilson about a black father's search for freedom, ticket sales spiked for Joe Turner's Come and Gone.

As the presidential visit cast a spotlight on Wilson's revival, playwrights and theatre observers say both Obama's election and more open theatres and audiences have helped bring more
stories of black culture to the New York stage this year. Both on Broadway and off-Broadway, plays and musicals about black culture or issues of race are being praised and more productions are in the works.

"Now is the time to strike," said playwright Tracey Scott Wilson, whose play The Good Negro about the civil-rights movement had a successful off-Broadway run this year.

The election of the first black U.S. president is having an enormous influence on culture and theatre, Wilson said. "Obama is everywhere," she said. "This is a seismic event."

Some plays shown off-Broadway include Ruined by New York playwright Lynn Nottage, about rape in a Congolese brothel; Inked Baby by Christina Anderson about environmental racism; and Carlyle Brown's Pure Confidence, a drama set in the world of Civil War-era horse racing.

On Broadway, August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, sold well; a musical revival of Dreamgirls, about a group of black musicians, opens in November; and a new musical, Memphis, that opens in October looks at the roots of rock 'n' roll set against the segregation polices of the 1950s U.S. South.

And, in one of the most anticipated events, American playwright David Mamet premieres a new play in the fall called Race.

"You can't underestimate the importance of Obama on this theatre season," said Joe DiPietro, who wrote the book and lyrics for Memphis.

Others said Obama had influenced the theatrical landscape but a combination of factors had contributed to the current crop of stories about black culture and experience.

"With Obama coming to office there is a desire to see work that is more expansive and more inclusive," said Nottage, whose play won a Pulitzer Prize this year.

"But it isn't just a reflection of him but also of the ... last eight years that we have lived here - politically, socially and economically," she said.

Carlyle Brown, who has been called one of the more significant U.S. playwrights to not regularly stage his plays in New York, said one reason there were more such works was "maybe a greater acceptance on the part of the audience."

"Certainly the quality of writing by African-American writers nowadays is great and diverse and interesting," said the 63-year-old playwright.

Others, like theatre director Bartlett Sher, who directed Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, said stories by black writers were now viewed as more mainstream. "The opportunities for African-American artists and their stories and the place it has in our consciousness is all slowly and fundamentally changing," he said. "The African-American story is the American story."


John Cleese: A Towering Force Of Funny At Just For Laughs

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

(July 12, 2009) The third annual Just for Laughs Toronto festival, spinoff sibling of the prestigious Montreal event, runs Tuesday through Sunday, featuring various themed all-star comedy showcases at various major Toronto venues.

Notable among these is the British Comedy Gala Saturday night at Massey Hall, hosted by industry icon
John Cleese, who talked exclusively to the Star about the local appearance, some exciting plans and a few highlights of a storied, if often very silly, career.

He is, in every sense, a comedy giant; a towering talent who has influenced and inspired the succeeding generations who grew up in his shadow.

A man who looms so literally large – just one inch shy of 6  1/2 feet – that the set of Fawlty Towers, his much admired Britcom classic, had to be built with extra clearance to accommodate his unnatural height.

Before that, of course, John Cleese was known as the tall, gangly standout of the Monty Python comedy collective. Really, can you imagine anyone else with the mantis legs and upper-class demeanour to pull off the "Ministry of Silly Walks?"

His post-Python career has been astonishingly varied: a lucrative sideline as a business speaker and producer of industrial instructional films; the co-author (with therapist Robin Skynner) of two books on relationships; the writer/star of the hit ensemble comedy A Fish Called Wanda; a popular and frequent guest on U.S. sitcoms (Will & Grace, 3rd Rock from the Sun) and a recurring presence in franchise films (James Bond, Harry Potter).

John Marwood Cleese emerged fully formed from Cambridge University's fabled Footlights Revue – a breeding ground of such comedy contemporaries as Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Frye, Emma Thompson and Cleese's long-time writing partner, Graham Chapman, along with fellow future Python, Eric Idle.

It was while writing for yet another Cambridge alum, David Frost, in the mid-1960s, that the trio hooked up with Michael Palin, Terry Jones and the American-born animator Terry Gilliam.

And the rest is hysterical.

Q: So what are your specific responsibilities this weekend?

A: Well, I'm doing almost exactly what I did three years ago ... at least I think it was, wasn't it? But this year, unlike last time in Montreal, we start in Toronto with a couple of shows, and then on to Montreal for the 22nd, which I believe is being televised.

I sort of present the show, which means I do a monologue at the beginning and I do a little piece somewhere halfway through, and I do a little piece at the end. And the rest of the time I am introducing what I am told are English comics.

That I have to work at all at my advanced age (he's 69) is just pitiful, but I need the money. I've been married three times. That's a million a year in alimony. That's got to come from somewhere.

Q: But surely you have a piece of Spamalot (the Broadway musical based on 1975's Monty Python and the Holy Grail).

A: Well, yes, but I don't think it amounted to very much. It didn't help.

I saw it a couple of times, twice in New York ... I missed it in London. I assumed it was meant to stay on for ages. So when it came off, it was a surprise. I think it's an expensive show, so if it's not pretty much filling the theatre, I think it starts running into deficit.

Q: You do know it's come through Toronto twice.

A: No. My friends don't tell me anything. They don't keep you up to date about what's going on. And why should they?

Q: You've worked extensively on both sides of the pond. How does the British sense of humour differ from the American? And what about Canada, which I'd like to think falls somewhere in between.

A: Do you think so? As it happens, I was having lunch yesterday with a very distinguished woman in the world of British publishing, and she had no idea how many great comedians operating in America had been born in Canada.

But I do get asked that American question a lot. The problem is, the sense of humour often differs greatly within the same country. There are people in Britain who love Benny Hill, and there are people who like Monty Python, and there are some strong differences between them.

In fact, I grew up more or less on American humour, which slightly surprises people. But if you watched BBC in the '50s, as I did, then you got George Burns, you had Jack Benny, in the summer there was Danny Kaye, go back a bit and there's the Marx Brothers ... there was an enormous amount of terrific American humour around, and there always has been.

Q: And how about now?

A: I'll tell you one thing that Americans do much better than the English ... they get a very good series, like Frasier, like Cheers, like Taxi, like Will & Grace, and they can keep it going, year after year, and standards remain high.

Q: Even when they're cranking out a couple dozen episodes a year? Fawlty Towers was, what, a total of 12?

A: Yes. We did six in 1975, and then we got divorced and ...

Q: I've always wondered about that. In the three years between the first and second series, you and (co-writer, co-star, then-wife) Connie Booth split up. And yet you continued to collaborate, seamlessly, from our perspective, on another set of six shows.

A: Yes, well, we always got on there. We just found eventually we couldn't live together. But we still have a great deal of affection. We remain very good friends. We talked just a couple of days ago.

Q: Do you have a sense of the impact you've had, and continue to have, on contemporary comedy? SCTV and Saturday Night Live particularly acknowledge their debut to Python.

A: It's funny. Years ago, I remember some of the people on Saturday Night Live telling me that someone had suggested to them that "Monty Python copied your style."

But I don't particularly notice, no. Maybe occasionally. There's this one English comedian I like a lot, who I realized is using my inflections. But a lot of the time I'll see somebody doing something quite funny, and then I'll kind of think, "Yeah, that's good, but it's Python."

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I have two or three projects in my hat. I am slowly working on a musical based on A Fish Called Wanda ... I'm working with my daughter Camilla, who actually played my daughter in the film, and she is terrific and we are having good fun together.

I have also almost finished the treatment for a film about the extent people will go to avoid paying taxes. It's based on personal experience.

But I am, as I said, working gently. And I do mean gently, because the divorces take a lot of reorganization. I mean, I have now moved in and out of at least three houses, and that takes a bit of time.

I'm teasing. I'm a terrible tease. I think I shall go to my grave teasing.

And now I'm coming over there to tease some Canadians.

Leguizamo Cherishes `Emotional Enema'

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson,
Special To The Star

(July 12, 2009) Even after making it big in the movies, some actors never lose their love of the stage. Sometimes it's that special electricity that passes between a performer and an audience when they're sharing the same room. There's greater creative latitude in circumstances that don't require so many crew members or studio execs.

While those reasons certainly apply in the case of
John Leguizamo, the star of Moulin Rouge! and The Happening has a more colourful way of explaining why he's treading the boards in the latest in his series of one-man shows. "It's kind of an emotional enema," says Leguizamo in a phone interview last week from New York, where the Bogota-born performer was raised. "It's helped me find peace and perspective on things that might've otherwise done me in."

Now 44, Leguizamo has become a familiar presence in movies and television in the years since his screen debut in a Madonna video. He made another early appearance on Miami Vice before scoring bigger parts in movies by Brian De Palma, Baz Luhrmann and Spike Lee. (He can currently be heard reprising his role as Sid the Sloth in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.)

Audiences outside New York have had little opportunity to enjoy his frank and funny autobiographical shows, in which he divulges everything from his experiences growing up in a mixed Latino family to stories of sexual misadventures.

Appearing at the Berkeley Street Theatre Tuesday to Saturday, Leguizamo makes his first Toronto stage appearance as part of Just for Laughs. (His tour also includes stops in New Haven, San Francisco and Indianapolis.)

Though he got his start as a comic in New York, he describes what he does as "a crazy hybrid of one-man stage show, play and stand-up." Dubbed John Leguizamo Live!, the new show has a more prosaic title than Spic-O-Rama, Mambo Mouth, Freak and Sexaholix: A Love Story, the other solo works Leguizamo has written and performed.

He says it's another set of "99 per cent completely true" tales. Some were recounted in his 2006 memoir, Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life. "This show is about my career," he says. "It doesn't gloss over or fluff off or get Pollyanna about it. I'm just trying to say exactly how it is."

The stories of family life that enlivened the early works are still in the mix. But the new show is "more about the trials and tribulations, the ins and outs, the ups and downs of being in this crazy showbiz life and wanting to be an artist."

Lest he be mistaken for other stars who expose the darkest corners of their past and their psyches in order to prolong their fame,

Leguizamo has nobler intentions.

"Hopefully I have some integrity as to what I'm doing," he says. "I'm trying to do something here that's self-eviscerating but not to the point of selling myself short."

Leguizamo displays little vanity in his stage work. Instead, it's the most adventurous and liberating part of his varied career. He particularly appreciates the degree of creative control he enjoys.

"I don't have that anywhere else," he says. "In movies, you put yourself in the characters and there is a piece of you in them. But it's not completely your point of view or your opinions. It doesn't make you examine yourself and figure out what you're trying to say, what you want to give the world."

He's also witnessed what can happen to performers when they no longer venture out of their comfort zones lest they get too far from an easy paycheque. "You do get scared and those doors close up for you," he says. "People start seeing you more as a commercial whore."

Success can become a trap. "You do see those actors who have made choices that have given them great financial security," he says, "but they're kind of dead. They're not the exciting, dangerous artists that they used to be. There's a price you have to pay.

"But you also see a lot of great, creative people who are busted broke – that's also a tough way to go."

Speaking of tough, the effects of the economic recession on the film business have made Leguizamo especially thankful that he kept this door to the theatre world open. The indie film scene where he finds his best roles has "dried up," he says. "There are very few independent films going and the big A-listers are fighting for the parts they'd never go for before. It's a much rougher market – it's like a UFC cage match out there."

While he admits that he likes it that way – "it keeps you honest" – he's also happy to be avoiding the heavy weather by heading back onstage. "I'm in a great place," says Leguizamo. "I'm like, `Wow, I can't believe I have this amazing thing that I do, this one-man show thing that I got.' It also makes me think, `Holy cow...what are other people doing?'"

John Leguizamo Live! runs Tuesday to Saturday at the Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St.

Bo Knows Musical Comedy

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

(July 12, 2009) Like most teenagers, Bo Burnham has been enjoying some time off this summer.

However, unlike most other teenagers, the 18-year-old is basking in the glow of being the youngest comedian ever featured in a Comedy Central special, watching his YouTube page views continue to climb ever higher into the millions, and toiling away on a movie-musical script that über-hot director Judd Apatow is waiting to see.

The Boston native is the latest to live the now-clichéd story of becoming a burgeoning celebrity by posting funny Web videos from this bedroom. Toronto fans can catch his star at next week's
Just For Laughs Festival, which will mark his first show after a month-long break.

He's another kid who's riding the musical comedy wave, but even though it's his bread and butter he's not really sure why it's so hot. "I think the fact that all mediums are being sort of melded together is one thing, so I think it's just natural now to throw genres together, and honestly I think musical comedy might appeal a bit more to the ADD generation.

"It's like ring tone comedy," he muses. "I get why that makes sense nowadays. Everything is about your ring tone and your phone and what I can fit on my iPod. Also the musical comedy you're seeing nowadays is not like the musical comedy of yesteryear. It can sort of stand on its own as music and as comedy. Sort of like how YouTube is a bit of the Internet and a bit of television."

Best known for videos like "High School Party," his rap, "Bo Fo Sho," and his zeitgeist-capturing "This is YouTube," Burnham is a piano-playing master of the unexpected aside. He says he avoids choruses in his songs, because, as he says, why bother repeating something when you can just throw in another joke? He can be off-colour, but often in a devilishly cute way, and his youth makes the content seem somehow innocent.

Still, he's not the same comic who once wrote a lewd song about Helen Keller being the perfect woman. He's evolving, and recently expressed frustration about having to repeat some material that after two years, to his mind at least, is getting a little tired.

"I respect the fact that people like (the older material) – it's the stuff that got me here," he says. "But I'm just getting too old for it. I mean, the two years from 16 to 18 are huge. The way I must have thought when I was 16 years old, I'm just now understanding that I have no idea how the world works, and I think when I was 16 I actually thought I knew. Sometimes there's a part of me (that asks), `why the hell did you do a Helen Keller song?' But people like it. I was 16, I didn't think this would go anywhere but my bedroom, so it gives me good room for growth."

In some ways, he's now transitioning to more traditional comedy, and has a small cameo in Funny People, the new Apatow film starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, which also features appearances by many of today's hottest comedians.

Burnham says he picked up some pointers on set. "It was fun. It was fun being able to sit around and watch how everything works. They're all just so smart and so funny and quick, it was just really cool."

He's hoping his next collaboration with Apatow is more extensive, which, due to the fact that it's a movie musical based in a high school, invites comparisons to a certain blockbuster Disney franchise.

Burnham proposes a sort of true-to-life musical, if that's possible. "I think a musical is a great vehicle to show high-school comedy that can be very real, raunchy, and even sometimes violent like (high school) really is. I think musicals, by being really clean by their nature, can actually show the contrast, like when you have a little kid calling someone a fa--ot, it's a little off-putting, but if he's singing it, it's even more off-putting," he says with a laugh.

Burnham is postponing college for now, and possibly forever, even though he admits that it would be ripe with material.

"I'm learning a lot right now," he says. "If I ever feel like `Oh God, I don't know anything,' then I will, but I don't need to right now. But you know, these days I do enough college shows that it's like I'm practically at college anyway."

Bo Burnham plays Second City Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m. For tickets call 416-343-0011.

Sarah Silverman Always Stirs The Pot

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Michael Posner

(July 15, 2009) Is there something about the water in New Hampshire that makes Jews funny?

Consider this: Jews constitute less than 1 per cent of the state's population. But in this generation alone, the Granite State has managed to turn out Adam Sandler, Saturday Night Live star Seth Meyers and his older MADtv brother Josh, and the envelope-pushing
Sarah Silverman, and her older sister Laura. And it's not just in this generation. Earlier, Manchester and environs was home to no less than singer-comedian Fanny Brice and the Marx Brothers.

Sarah Silverman noted this unlikely constellation of Jewish jokesters from a small pocket of New England in a recent interview. She'd spent her morning doing a read-through of a new script for her recently renewed third season of The Sarah Silverman Program (on Comedy Central), and was planning, she said, to spend the afternoon working on a book – a series of autobiographical essays and musings that she hopes to deliver to HarperCollins by the end of November.

The schedule doesn't leave a lot of time for stand-up, but she's due in Toronto on Friday to host two galas (on the same evening) at the third local instalment of the Just for Laughs comedy festival. The lineup of acts at the Silverman galas includes some serious notables such as Louis C.K., David Cross and Todd Glass.

“I'm really looking forward to it,” she says. “These are some of my oldest friends in the business.”

Silverman, 38, has been here twice before – to promote movies at the Toronto International Film Festival including School of Rock and her own concert film Jesus Is Magic – but never as stand-up act. And we probably won't see enough of her edginess on this trip either – her comic mandate as host is basically limited to 15 minutes at the top of the show and another eight to 10 minutes at the opening of the second act.

Too bad. More than most comics today, she does like to stir the pot.

Her most recent controversy was the four-and-a-half-minute YouTube video The Great Shlep , in support of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential candidacy. Shot in her living room in L.A. (where all her videos have been shot), Silverman warns all the bobbas and zaidas living in Florida that their vote is critical to the outcome of the election race, and that if they don't vote for Obama, their grandchildren will stop coming to visit. The video has received about 1.4-million hits.

Then there was her even more shocking 2005, Emmy-winning video in which she, actor Matt Damon and a group of dancers sing a song dedicated to Silverman's then-boyfriend, talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel. The song, titled I'm [expletive] Matt Damon , had almost nine million hits. Making a cameo appearance in Paul Provenza's 2005 comedy classic The Aristocrats , Silverman deadpans to the camera that she was once raped by Joe Franklin, another living talk-show host. Franklin was so incensed by the routine that he threatened to sue.

And hosting the 2007 MTV Movie Awards , Silverman referenced Paris Hilton's jail sentence, saying, “I heard that to make her feel more comfortable in prison, the guards are going to paint the bars to look like penises. I think it is wrong, too. I just worry she is going to break her teeth on those things.”

The youngest of four daughters, Silverman began making these kinds of subversive waves as a three-year-old. Her father, a retail clothier and amateur comic, taught her a rich vocabulary of swear words and encouraged her to say them aloud in public, just for their shock and comic value. “It became addictive,” she has said. “It became something I was constantly seeking out.”

Later, he gave her truly tasteless joke books, the first of which she still remembers, about the wolf stopping Little Red Riding Hood in the woods, and saying, “Eat, eat, eat – doesn't anyone [expletive] any more?” But her childhood was otherwise unhappy. Her parents divorced when she was 6, and by early adolescence she was being treated for depression. On her first visit to a therapist, she was given a prescription for Xanax (Alprazolam) and told to take one whenever she felt sad. The following week, she was waiting for her appointment when another professional emerged from the same doctor's office in tears and screamed that the therapist had just hanged himself. The 13-year-old Silverman sat patiently for the rest of the hour, until her mother arrived to pick her up. By 15, she was taking 16 Xanax tablets a day.

She describes her malaise at the time as a pervasive feeling of homesickness – even when she was home. It wasn't until she moved to New York at 17 that she began to feel a sense of belonging. Silverman made her first comic appearance in a restaurant, singing a song she had written called Mammaries . Eventually, she joined the cast of Saturday Night Live , but virtually none of her work survived the editing process and she lasted one season – fired, she is fond of noting, by fax.

Later, she landed on The Larry Sanders Show , and credits that show's Garry Shandling with making an enormous contribution to her development as a comic and as a human being. Long since weaned off Xanax, she still takes Zoloft, a serotonin reuptake inhibitor used to treat depression, every day. “It saved me,” she says. “It was the perfect fit.”

Her on-again, off-again romance with Kimmel, however, ended last year, and she doesn't welcome questions about it.

Living in L.A. with her 15-year-old dog Duck (he's a regular on her show), Silverman is clearly riding a strong professional wave. After a little contretemps about money – she and co-executive producers Dan Sterling and Rob Schrab threatened to quit after Comedy Central told them their series' budget would be slashed by more than 20 per cent – the show was saved by an infusion of money from the gay-oriented cable channel, Logo.

When they finish shooting the 10 episodes, Silverman intends to plunge more or less full time into finishing the book. “I need to go into a stand-up cocoon,” she says. “It's a struggle to get the nuances [of writing] right, to find the fun and not write with a furrowed brow.”

Is Obama doing as well in the Oval Office as she had hoped, given the moribund economy, and continuing problems with Iran, Iraq and North Korea? Give the man a chance, she says. “He's doing the best he can. He's not magic.”


U.K. Pair Turn Time Into Romp

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko,
Special To The Star

(July 11, 2009) Once upon a time, the graphic-adventure genre ruled as one of the queens of the game industry.

Series like Sierra's Quest (King's Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest) and the LucasArts adventures (Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion) had millions of peons eagerly awaiting their next boxful of floppies so they could point, click and converse their way through another fantastic odyssey.

But shooters, sims and real-time strategy games ascended as the industry grew and mouseless home consoles made the genre's mechanics awkward. Graphic adventure shrunk to nichehood.

It never went away, though. The classics lived on in the hearts of nostalgic gamers and development continued on the fringes of the mainstream.

Now, the genre is on the cusp of a renaissance, thanks to the grassroots.

The Ben and Dan adventure series, from U.K.-based Zombie Cow Studios, is a great example. The series' first game, 2008's
Ben There, Dan That, is packed with references and homage to the old point and click games.

Co-written by programmer Dan Marshall and pal Ben Ward, BTDT is a playfully teasing love letter to its genre. While it skewers adventure-game conventions – the characters' bottomless pockets, the Rube Goldberg puzzles, the "pick it up if it isn't nailed down" ethos – it deploys those very conventions to provide what adventure games have always provided: an involving, entertaining romp through strange worlds where any kind of crazy crap can happen.

Best of all, it's dead hilarious.

Adventure games have always excelled at delivering comedy (and tragedy, for that matter), and BTDT lives in that proud tradition. It's available as a free download.

Marshall and Ward's Time Gentlemen, Please!, recently released, takes things further, moving through (but not, happily, all the way past) genre-winking as a more fully realized game. The puzzles are more challenging, as is usually the case when time travel comes into the picture.

The writing, already fine, takes a big step up – though whether you're into it or not will depend on your personal offence threshold. Marshall and Ward don't do much to filter what comes out of their comic id. Best of all, Time Gentlemen, Please! has the right feel. Puzzles and plot intersect in that mysterious sweet spot that is the hallmark of classic adventures – say, the leprechaun encounter in King's Quest. Goosebumps.

Grab the free demo and see what I mean, or be a big shot and gamble $5 on the full game.

The really interesting thing, though, is in considering where Ben There, Dan That and Time Gentlemen, Please! come from. Both games were created using Adventure Game Studio, a freeware tool for graphic-adventure development.

Look on the AGS site (adventuregamestudio.co.uk) and you'll find a thriving community and links to hundreds of homemade adventures. Sure, lots of them are incomplete or crummy, but there are also real gems – top-quality labours of love.

There's one of the beauties of adventure games: a full, near-commercial-quality game can be produced (relatively) easily by an individual or small team. No other genre is as amenable to the hobbyist.

Watch for the mainstream industry to take another look at the adventure game, too. This week's release of Telltale Games' Tales of Monkey Island on WiiWare and Windows, and the availability of a basketful of Lucas- Arts classics via the Steam distribution service, are just the beginning.

Nobody has forgotten that the second-best-selling game of all time, after The Sims, was Myst, a puzzle-heavy graphic adventure.

Ubisoft Move To Toronto Cheered

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

(July 11, 2009) In case you missed the big news this week, Ubisoft, one of the world's most successful developers and publishers of video games, has announced plans to open a Toronto-based development studio by the end of the year.

Ubisoft Toronto will join the company's Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver facilities in Canada, together employing more than 2,300 people. The France-based firm is responsible for such bestselling game franchises as Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia, Rainbow Six, Assassin's Creed and Rayman.

The Toronto studio will generate roughly 800 new jobs over the next decade, the company said, supported by a $500 million investment from Ubisoft and $263 million from the government of Ontario over a 10-year period.

In explaining the move, Yannis Mallat, CEO of Ubisoft Montreal, told the Star that Toronto is "rich with creativity and innovation, and home to a unique pool of experienced video-game industry and film industry talent." He said Ubisoft's goal is to create brands "with universal appeal that extend well beyond the world of video games."

Toronto, he noted, is home to some of the world's best training facilities, universities and colleges for game design, 3D animation and computer engineering.

"We are excited to see some of that talent become part of the Ubisoft organization and expect to see some exciting contributions to the group's ambitious objectives in the next two years," he said.

Jason MacIsaac, a journalist who covers video games and also owns the Cerebral Vortex Games development studio in St. Catharines, says the announcement is great news.

"First, Ubisoft designs great games out of its Montreal studio and I'm sure they can make equally great games in Toronto. And the presence of a huge, world-class developer in the GTA can only mean other game companies large and small will soon follow – and that means more games and more jobs for Ontario."

MacIsaac praised Queen's Park's contribution, noting that British Columbia and Quebec give game developers and publishers financial incentives, and Vancouver and Montreal have thriving game development communities as a result.

"Ontario, however, has lacked that support, and our schools were training employees who left the province to go work in Vancouver, Montreal or California."

Victor Lucas, host of Canadian video-game television shows Electric Playground and Reviews on the Run, is equally excited.

"There are thousands and thousands of eager video-game fans in Ontario and in the Toronto area, as well as some really terrific education programs catering to this industry in and around the city," he said, "so to see such a huge commitment from Ubisoft and the Ontario government for this job creation is just outstanding news."


Sway Sweeps Across The Country

Source:  By Matt Semansky

(July 15, 2009) SWAY magazine, a quarterly lifestyle publication geared to black Canadians, has ventured out from its home base in Toronto in search of a national audience.

The magazine has been distributed free in the Greater Toronto Area since its inaugural issue in late 2006. Beginning with this year’s annual Caribana-themed issue, which is scheduled for release tomorrow, readers outside the GTA, or city residents unable to pick up a FREE copy, can purchase the magazine for $4.95 from one of 150 stores across the country, including Chapters and Indigo.

Sway will continue to be distributed free in the Toronto area, and the magazine will also continue to offer $16 yearly subscriptions through Swaymag.ca.

Alan Vernon, associate publisher and editorial director at Sway, said he hopes the move will establish Sway as Canada’s answer to black-focused U.S. lifestyle magazines.

“The black community is the third-largest visible minority group in Canada, and the GTA makes up about half of it. But half of them don’t live in the GTA, and they should also have access to Sway,” said Vernon. “My goal is to make it a national entity that the black community knows, and basically make it our own Essence or Ebony in Canada.”

Vernon said going national and adding a paid model on top of free distribution allows the magazine’s brand to maintain a higher profile between issues. Currently, he said, copies of Sway are snapped up almost too quickly.

“The problem we have, and it’s a good problem, is that within days of the magazine dropping it literally evaporates into thin air,” said Vernon. “I want the branding still out there, because we’re only quarterly, and if after the first week [the copies] are gone, we have no presence for another three months.”

Vernon said the move has been met with interest from advertisers and agencies wishing to connect with a Canadian black community he describes as both fast-growing and brand-loyal.

“We’ve got more national advertisers than we’ve ever had in the current Caribana issue,” said Vernon, listing Blackberry and Kraft among the marketers who have bought against the first national edition of Sway.

Sway, which is owned by Star Media Group, has also been announced as a sponsor for this year’s Scotiabank Caribana festival in Toronto.

Caribana Connection : From Vancouver To Montreal, Caribbean Festivals Are Alive And Thriving

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Simona Siad

(Summer edition) "Wherever you find Trinidadians, you will find a carnival."

That's according to Henry Antoine, president of the Montreal Carnival Development Foundation, who is chatting with me on the phone from Montreal. Antoine decides to prove it to me.

He asks me who else I've interviewed and I tell him I just talked to the chair of the Caribbean Days festival in Vancouver who told me he is also from Trinidad.

"What's his name?" he asks me.

"Rudolph Marshall," I reply, not quite sure what he is hinting at.

"I know him," he says, howling in laughter.

He dials his number and within seconds we are in a three-way, cross-country conversation as the two men laugh and reminisce over the "old days" of carnival in Montreal, ask each other how their wives are doing and lament the difficulties of finding festival sponsorship.

While our country may be vast and wide, the Caribbean community and festival circuit certainly isn't. And it seems almost everyone who puts on such events, from Vancouver to Montreal, knows someone involved in another city or has a cross-Canada festival connection.

Despite this, Caribbean festivals in many provinces remain relatively unknown to the larger general Canadian public. For example, many people do not know that the Caribbean Days festival in Vancouver is the largest cultural event of its kind in B.C. and has been around since 1988. Or that Edmonton has thousands of people frequenting its Cariwest festival, self-described as the "hottest fete in de West," every summer.

Organizers say because of a lack of nationwide attention, many Canadians do not realize the history of these festivals and how ingrained they are in their respective cities' cultures. "Our parade in Montreal — just like Toronto's — goes on for five hours on the road. It was first begun in 1974 by a man named Winston Roberts from St. Vincent," says Antoine, who is also the president of the World Carnival Commission.

"The Union United church was having its 50th anniversary and they asked him what they could do to celebrate. He put a truck on the road with music, and out of that came the big idea for carnival. There were steel bands, everyone came out from the different islands and it was a big thing. Now we have over 250,000 people coming out every year to celebrate."

The Montreal festival, says Antoine, is in a process of change this year. They have changed the name. The old moniker, Carifiesta, was used under the Caribbean Cultural Festivities Association. The new, bilingual name, Carifete, came with the creation of the Montreal Carnival Development Foundation.

He says they have been using Toronto's Caribana as an example of what can happen when you build your infrastructure, receive corporate sponsorship and employ a year-round staff.

"In putting the foundation together we are going to be doing much more than a parade once a year. We want to give scholarships to young people, find a way to teach them, build costumes and teach them the art of Carifete," says Antoine.

"We are going to be out there, looking for sponsors. Right now we have nothing in terms of infrastructure. We have to set up our own infrastructure and become self-sufficient."

In Vancouver, the emphasis is very much on multiculturalism and being inclusive to culture, according to Marshall, who is the Chair of the Caribbean Days Festival Committee.

He explains how you're likely to see groups from the Middle East, China and various islands taking part in the Caribbean Day parade and their festivities. "The whole idea is to show our culture. So what we did in the early days was have arts and crafts, show videos and try in the process to introduce other cultures," says Marshall. "It's grown to be one of the biggest multicultural festivals on the B.C. mainland at the moment, but it's a lot of work. We have so many things to take care of: the finance committee, the venue and approvals, the street parade, the beer gardens, the volunteers and performances."

Despite their struggles with sponsorship, the long volunteer hours and the hard work it takes to continue, both men agree they see a strong reason for moving forward and promoting Caribbean culture across Canada.

"I was born into a culture. I come from a cultural background. In 1967, I immigrated to Canada and I felt it was important to preserve our cultural heritage while we are away from home and do it in a way that can be representative of the tourism industry in Montreal," says Antoine. "I will always be involved in celebrating culture. If you don't have culture, you are lost."

Carnival Across Canada

Name: Carifete (formerly known as Carifiesta)
City: Montreal, Quebec
Date: July 4, 2009
Known for it’s larger-than-life parade put on by Quebec’s Caribbean community, the festival has grown and adopted groups of Haitian origin and some groups from the Latin community to make it representative of the Montreal community.
Contact: info@carifiestamontreal.com or carifiestamontreal.com

Name: Caribbean Days
City: Vancouver, British Columbia
Date: July 25-26, 2009
Known for being multicultural and inclusive, the event draws crowds of exuberant fun-lovers to North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park for a weekend of parading, dining and dancing in the sunshine.
Contact: info@caribbeandays.ca or caribbeandays.ca

Name: Cariwest
City: Edmonton, Alberta
Date: Aug 7-9, 2009
Known for being the “hottest fete in de West,” Cariwest is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year with a colourful “Costume Extravaganza,” West Indian cuisine and its entertainment-filled Caribbean Village.
Contact: cariwest@shaw.ca

Name: Caribfest
City: Barrie, Ontario
Date: Aug 14-16, 2009
Known for it’s dinner and dance cruises, and diverse range of Caribbean music, this summer Barrie will come alive as the masqueraders dance around the grounds of the Barrie Event Centre.
Contact: info@caribfest.ca or caribfest.ca

Turning Pages, Reluctantly

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

(July 10, 2009) There are cheerier ways to mark a 30th anniversary than by going out of business, but that is the prospect facing Pages Books if the eternally hip Queen St. W. independent bookseller can't find a new location by the end of August.

Owner Marc Glassman, who founded the store in 1979, cites escalating rents as the reason for his decision to close the store on Aug. 31, adding that a two-year search for an alternative home has turned up nothing.

"It's not like I'm closing because I want to close," said Glassman, 59. "Obviously, if a white knight on a charger magically showed up and gave me a beautiful space somewhere, of course I'll keep the store going."

Pages, which has 10 employees, is losing money, with a rental and property tax outlay of about $250,000 a year. That could rise by 30 per cent or more when the lease expires at the end of next month. Glassman negotiated a six-month extension on the lease earlier this year, figuring the delay and the expected downturn in the economy might buy enough time to land a new location.

"With the recession coming in, it seemed a reasonable assumption on my part that I would find something. And it hasn't happened," said Glassman, who doesn't fault landlord Pinedale Properties for charging what the market will bear. "There hasn't been much of an economic downturn in Toronto, which is great, but the reality is that landlords aren't lowering their rents."

Pages survived the Chapters/Indigo box-store tsunami of the 1990s that washed away a raft of independent booksellers, including Edwards, Britnell's, Longhouse, the Book Cellar and others. Although the store sells contemporary fiction and non-fiction, as well as popular magazines, its stock in trade is small press publications, cultural theory studies, books on contemporary art and other subjects outside the mainstream.

"We're a major player in the Toronto book industry for the kinds of things we represent," said Glassman, who also edits the film periodicals POV and Montage.

"It has been very much about the unique product mix. It's still a very lively space, so it's kind of frustrating to see that the numbers don't work."

The departure of Pages would leave art book lovers in an even greater quandary, after Mirvish Books closed its Markham Village outlet this year to operate exclusively online. Ballenford Books, which specialized in titles on architecture, also closed this year.

Glassman has scoured an area bounded by Parkdale in the west, Leslieville in the east, King St. in the south and College St. in the north. And, he said, he is willing to look beyond those parameters if he can find a space big enough to host literary and other artistic events.

As it stands, the Pages-sponsored This is not a Reading Series, a literary soirée that meets regularly at the Gladstone Hotel and other locations, will survive the store's closing.

"If you had great cultural events happening on a regular basis, then you could imagine moving into an area that maybe isn't so obvious because you would at least get people to come in the evening," Glassman said.

One thing he isn't interested in is opening a generic, run-of-the-mill bookstore.

"That's not what Pages has been about. That's not what I've been about. I know it sounds crazy to say this, but I opened the store because I loved books. I never had a business plan. And I'm lucky I didn't because, if I did, it probably never would have happened."

Rural Family Doc New Surgeon General Nom

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 14, 2009) *President Obama announced Monday he has chosen Dr. Regina Benjamin, a family practice doctor from the Gulf Coast, to serve as the country's new surgeon general. 

The rural family physician has long provided medical care on the Gulf Coast. In 1990, she founded Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in the fishing village of Bayou La Batre, Alabama – the shrimping town best known as the birthplace of Mykelti Williamson's character Bubba in "Forrest Gump."

Benjamin's clinic was heavily damaged by Hurricane Georges in 1998 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but Benjamin rebuilt it each time and continued to offer medical care to the village's 2,500 residents.

Many of her family practice patients are uninsured, according to the MacArthur Foundation, which last year awarded her one of its $500,000 "genius" grants. Her patient population includes immigrants from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, who make up a third of Bayou La Batre's population.

Benjamin received a bachelor's degree in 1979 from Xavier University of Louisiana, attended Morehouse School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982 and received a doctor of medicine degree in 1984 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

She completed her residency in family practice at the Medical Center of Central Georgia in 1987 and has served as CEO of the Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic since its founding in 1990.

She earned a master's degree in business administration in 1991 from Tulane University. Benjamin also served as the associate dean for rural health at the University of South Alabama's College of Medicine and as president of the State of Alabama Medical Association from 2002-2003.

She is the first woman, first African-American woman and first person younger than 40 to sit on the board of trustees of the American Medical Association, serving from 1995 through 1998.

The position of surgeon requires Senate confirmation.


Yes, They Can Dance

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo,
Toronto Star

(July 15, 2009) Let's just get one thing out of the way off the top: they can dance, all 10 of them. There's no "think" about it.

In fact, it's been one of those seasons when you often sit with mouth gaping in front of the TV, wondering, "How do they do that?"

That's particularly true of Brandon, my personal favourite on
So You Think You Can Dance, and not just because he looks good without a shirt on. He hasn't yet met a dance style he can't lick.

As for the women, don't make me choose between Melissa's grace and sass, the purity of Kayla's movement and Janette's sizzle.

Can't say I've envied the judges in this, the show's fifth season, having to choose a guy and girl from the top 20 to eliminate week after week. But I've agreed with their choices pretty much every show.

Now, we're down to the real meat of the matter.

The top 10 have been picked and will be eliminated weekly until the season finale on Aug. 6.

The show airs on Fox in the U.S. and on CTV here in Canada. Performance episodes are Wednesdays at 8 and results shows on Thursdays at 9, but check your listings.

Without further ado, here's our So You Think You Can Dance Top 10 primer:


Full Name: Ade Obayomi
Age: 20
Hometown: Chandler, Ariz.
Dance Style: Contemporary
Highlights: Contemporary in Episode 6; jazz in Episode 8; rumba in Episode 10.
Comment: "What a difference Ade makes": judge Nigel Lythgoe commenting on Ade's "absolutely incredible" rumba.


Full Name: Brandon Bryant
Age: 19
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Dance Style: Contemporary
Highlights: Disco on Episode 8; cha cha in Episode 12; Argentine tango in Episode 14.
Comment: "The Michelangelo of the dance floor": judge Nigel Lythgoe commenting on Brandon’s cha cha.


Full Name: Evan Kasprzak
Age: 21
Hometown: West Bloomfield, Mich.
Dance Style: Broadway
Highlights: Jazz routine in Episode 6; contemporary routine in Episode 10 (the one about “the booty”)
Comment: After the contemporary routine, judge Mary Murphy says she can finally see Evan as a leading man.


Full Name: Janette Manrara
Age: 25
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Dance Style: Salsa
Highlights: Disco in Episode 8; cha cha in Episode 12; Argentine tango in Episode 14
Comment: "For a ballroom routine on this show, that is as close as I’ve seen to perfection on this stage ever": judge Nigel Lythgoe commenting on the tango


Full Name: Jason Glover
Age: 21
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
Dance Style: Lyrical/contemporary
Highlights: Bollywood in Episode 6; foxtrot in Episode 14
Comment: "A little force of nature in this competition": guest judge Adam Shankman commenting on Jason in the Bollywood routine.


Full Name: Jeanine Mason
Age: 18
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Dance Style: Contemporary
Highlights: Hip hop in episodes 6 and 12; tango in Episode 8; Broadway in Episode 10
Comment: "You’ve been stellar this whole competition ..... You look phenomenal”: judge Mary Murphy on Jeanine’s Broadway routine


Full Name: Kayla Radomski
Age: 18
Hometown: Aurora, Colo.
Dance Style: Jazz/contemporary
Highlights: Samba in Episode 6; pop jazz, Episode 8; contemporary, Episode 14
Comment: "Not one wrong step since the day we first saw you. You're still on the Hot Tamale Train": Mary Murphy on the pop jazz routine


Full Name: Kupono Aweau
Age: 23
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
Dance Style: Lyrical/contemporary
Highlights: Jazz in Episode 6; contemporary in episodes 12 and 14
Comment: "I don't feel like I watched a dance, I feel like I had an experience": Mary Murphy on Episode 14.


Full Name: Melissa Sandvig
Age: 29
Hometown: Los Alamitos, Calif.
Dance Style: Ballet
Highlights: Contemporary in Episode 6; jazz in Episode 8; pas de deux in Episode 12 (show’s first dance en pointe); disco in Episode 14
Comment: "That was friggin' great": guest judge Tyce Diorio on Episode 14.


Full Name: Randi Evans
Age: 23
Hometown: Orem, Utah
Dance Style: Jazz
Highlights: Jive in Episode 8; contemporary in Episode 10; hip hop in Episode 14
Comment: "Randi, I know this isn't the easiest thing for you, to have ..... everybody in the world now, 10 million viewers looking at your butt": Mary Murphy on Episode 10


Former Boxing Champ Canadian Arturo Gatti Found Dead In Brazil

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(July 11, 2009) SAO PAULO–Officials say former world boxing champion Arturo Gatti has been found dead in a hotel room in northeastern Brazil.

A spokeswoman for the public safety department of Pernambuco state says the body of the former junior welterweight champ from Montreal was discovered on Saturday morning in the posh seaside resort of Porto de Galinhas, where he arrived on Friday with his wife and one-year-old son.

She said it was unclear how the 37-year-old Canadian died.

"There were no bullet or stab wounds on his body, but police did find blood stains on the floor," she said, adding that his wife and son were unhurt.

The spokeswoman, who did not provide further details, declined to be identified because she was not authorized to comment on the case.

Gatti who had a career record of 40-9, is a former IBF super-featherweight champion and WBC light welterweight champion.

The boxer known as "Thunder" was born in Italy but raised in Montreal. He turned pro in the U.S. in 1991 but moved back to Montreal after retiring in 2007.

Franchitti Wins Honda Indy Toronto

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Norris McDonald , Motorsport Reporter

(July 12, 2009) Dario Franchitti, an Indianapolis 500 winner who's also the husband of Hollywood actress Ashley Judd, won today's Honda Indy Toronto at the CNE grounds — his third victory of the Indy Racing League season.

Ryan Briscoe was second and Will Power capped an amazing comeback after he suffered a flat tire on the very first lap to finish third.

Both Canadians who started the race finished well back.

Paul Tracy of Scarborough was eliminated when he collided with Helio Castroneves and was classified 19th.

At a post-race press conference, Franchitti said he'd been hoping Tracy would be able to finish second.

"When I won this race here 10 years ago, P.T. and I were teammates (at Team Kool Green) and we finished one-two that day. I was kind of hoping that would happen again."

It was not to be.

Tracy's car was bashed into the wall at Corner 4 on Lap 66 of the 85-lap event when "the Thrill from West Hill" was trying to pass the Dancing With The Stars celebrity and three-time Indy 500 champion Castroneves.

If Tracy had been able to complete the pass, he would have moved into second place behind then-leader Franchitti.

Boos rained down on Castroneves when he got out of his damaged car in the pits. The Penske driver told an interviewer that it was the first time he can remember when he'd been booed. He also said he hadn't done it on purpose.

"I wouldn't do that to a Canadian in Canada," he said.

After Castroneves said he didn't think that the accident was his fault, Tracy — who won the race twice in 1993 and 2003 — also said it just might have been a racing accident.

"That's why they call me the 'thrill,' I guess," he said.

Alex Tagliani of Montreal was running near the front toward the end of the 85-lap race when he tried to pass both Mario Moraes and Tomas Scheckter at Corner 3 and collided with Moraes, collecting Scheckter.

Scheckter showed his displeasure by throwing his gloves at Tagliani's car the next time the Canadian drove past. When the race ended, Tagliani was ninth — a satisfying result for the part-time driver.

Danica Patrick recovered from a poor starting position — 18th in the 23-car field — to finish sixth.

Franchitti, as the result of today's win, moved into first place in the Indy Racing League standings. Scott Dixon is second, Briscoe is third, Castroneves fourth and Patrick is fifth.

Franchitti won the race from the pole. He didn't lead the whole race but was never far from the front of the pack.

It was a barn-burner of a race right from the start and one of the most competitive Indy car races on a street course seen in years. There was lots of passing and lots of tire-rubbing and car-to-car contact.

In short, there was never a dull moment.

For instance, for eight laps prior to the halfway mark, fans were delighted that the race leader and the second-place runner were Canadians Tagliani and Tracy.

Tagliani inherited the lead when Franchitti went to the pits for tires and fuel. Tracy barged his way all the way up to second from his 15th-place starting position and he did it in typical Tracy style.

He passed Mike Conway at Corner 3 on one lap and the next lap he passed Scott Dixon at the very same place. Both times he was on the inside and the pass was made with the back-end of the car wiggling and the brakes locked up tight.

Both Tagliani and Tracy dropped back in the field when they made regular pit stops.

Earlier, pole-sitter Franchitti had led the field of 23 thundering Indy cars into Corner 1 shortly after 1:15 p.m.

A car driven by Power, who won the last Indy car race in Toronto in 2007, was unable to make the turn and he had to limp around to the pits with a flat right-rear tire.

Graham Rahal also had to take his car to the pits as a result of colliding with another racer during a hectic first lap of the narrow street course.

Rahal, who hoped to win his first race here just like his dad, Bobby Rahal, won the first Toronto Indy back in 1986, eventually retired after colliding with another car.

The first yellow flag of the afternoon took place on Lap 9 of the 85-lap contest when Dan Wheldon, driving a car sponsored by the U.S. National Guard, was bumped by another car and spun into a tire wall at Corner 3 at the end of Lake Shore Blvd. W.

Wheldon was able to continue but could only finish 14th.

A second yellow flew shortly after on Lap 13 when Ed Carpenter lost control and spun. He was straightened out by safety workers and his car was restarted but the best he could do was 15th.

The start of the race came after dramatic opening ceremonies that culminated with a flyover by three Canadian Forces CF-18 fighter jets and a fireworks display.

Franchitti, who missed the drivers' parade, was accompanied to his car by Judd, who then watched the race from the pits. She said she kept her nerves under control by texting friends and family.

Earlier, when the Indy car drivers took to the track this morning for a 30-minute warmup session in advance of this afternoon's race, Team Penske driver Castroneves gave himself a thrill by missing his braking point at Corner 7.

He had to continue past the turn and down an escape road running behind the Ricoh Centre, where he promptly stalled his car.

But the driver/celebrity thrilled hundreds of fans who were arriving for the race via GO and TTC by firing up his engine and executing a 360-degree turn — an explosion of sound and smoking rubber — to get back on course and resume practicing.

At the end of the session, pole winner Franchitti was fastest with a top speed of 102.381 miles an hour. Moraes was second at 101.577 mph and fastest Canadian Tagliani was third with a speed of 101.402 mph.

Hometown favourite Tracy was ninth fastest of the cars that took warmup with a speed of 100.901 mph. Patrick was 17th at 100.169 mph.

In brilliant sunshine, thousands of fans poured into the Exhibition grounds. This contrasts with Friday, when there were fewer people than expected, and yesterday when inclement weather put a damper on much of the proceedings.

There were several support races held this morning in advance of the big race. Alain Lauziere won the Touring class race of the Canadian Touring Car championship while Greg Pootmans finished first in Super Touring class. John Farano won the Vintage GT race.

Tracy Glad To Be Back On Home Turf

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

(July 11, 2009) It had the feel of the good old days.

IndyCars were speeding through the course at the Canadian National Exhibition for the first time in two years, and a couple of Canadians –
Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani – were the centre of attention.

But it wasn't quite the same. Attendance was sparse, and the Canadians didn't dominate as they once might have.

Brazil's Rafael Matos, a rookie, had the day's fastest time at the Honda Indy Toronto, making it around the 1.755-mile course in one minute 1.4739 seconds, registering a top speed of 102.775 miles an hour.

Britain's Justin Wilson was second fastest (1:01.7627, 102.295 m.p.h.) and Australia's Will Power was third (1:01.7722, 102.279). Both Wilson (2005) and Power (2007) have won the Indy Toronto.

For a while yesterday, however, you couldn't wipe the smile from Tracy's face.

The Thrill from West Hill – who drives only part-time this season – had a fairly successful day of practice, and was giddy signing autographs and posing for pictures.

"It came back right away for me," said Tracy of his need for speed. "Obviously, knowing the track and having the experience in knowing that helps a lot.

"Today it just came back right away."

Tracy was the fifth fastest around the Exhibition Place circuit in the morning run, but the smile was gone after the afternoon session when he spun out.

He was already ahead of his morning time, and had been hoping for better.

"We're right there, we've just got to keep working at it," said Tracy. "We tried a few things (in the afternoon) for the race setup that didn't work for the car, so we lost our way a little bit. But that was what the practice session was for."

Ultimately, Tracy posted a time of 1:02.3653 (101.306 m.p.h.), 13th best. Tagliani was the 17th fastest (1.01.6923, 100.728) in the 23-car field.

There was a time when Canadians were a force in open-wheel racing. But those Canadians have fallen on hard times. Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve says he wants to race Formula One again, and is racing in a stock car series this weekend.

Tracy, a former CART champion, and Tagliani feel lucky some weekends just to have a ride. The merger of CART with IndyCar cost rides for drivers, while the recession knocked some owners out of the game.

"None of us have a full-time ride," said Tracy. "We're currently the best group of Canadian drivers the country has had, but none of us are in cars full-time."

That, says Tracy, puts Canadian drivers at a competitive disadvantage. Tracy likens it to a hockey player taking a year off, then trying for a comeback.

Drivers like Tracy jump from sponsor to sponsor. This week, it's the Ontario Honda Dealers Association and woundedwarriors.ca.

Tagliani, the rookie of the race at the Indianapolis 500, has been in only four of nine races so far.

"I'm quite thankful I'm here, able to get back in the car and show what we can do as a driver," said Tagliani.

He's hoping potential sponsors are watching. He said the frustrating part for him is the misconception of auto racing as an expensive sport. It might have been at one time that teams would need between $10 million and $20 million a year to run a successful program.

But the Indy Racing League has controlled costs, with all teams using similar Dallara chassis, Honda engines and Firestone tires.

"People think it's inaccessible, but the cost are reduced," said Tagliani, "If you have a $4 million deal, you can ... be very competitive."

But good crowds and good buzz are what's needed if sponsors are going to pony up. And crowd size was an issue yesterday. The stands were mostly empty.

"Friday, people are working. I'd say 80 per cent of the people who are going to come don't have Friday off," said Tagliani.

Anthony Parker Leaves Raptors For Cavaliers

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(July 13, 2009) CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Cavaliers announced today they have signed veteran free-agent Anthony Parker to add depth to the backcourt.

Parker, 34, played in 80 games for the Toronto Raptors last season and averaged 10.7 points and 3.4 assists.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Cavs general manager Danny Ferry said Cleveland went after the 6-foot-6 guard-forward for his shooting and defensive skills.

Parker likely will be one of the first players off the bench, behind Cleveland starting guards Mo Williams and Delonte West and small forward LeBron James, the NBA's MVP.

Parker is the latest addition to a Cleveland team that had the best regular-season record in the NBA last season but lost to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference final. Cleveland's biggest addition since then has been Shaquille O'Neal, 37, the dominating centre who came to the Cavs from the Phoenix Suns for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round pick in 2010 and $500,000 (U.S.).

Parker started 71 of his 80 games with Toronto last season.

"Anthony will be a solid addition to our roster," Ferry said. ``He is a very good, intelligent all-around basketball player."

Half of Parker's pro career has been overseas. He has played six years in the NBA, averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 27.9 minutes in 290 regular-season games with Philadelphia, Orlando and Toronto. He played five seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv (2000-02, 2003-06) and one with Virtus Roma (2002-03).

McNair Is Finally At Rest

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 10, 2009)  *Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young didn't expect to speak Saturday during his mentor's funeral. He wound up summing up the emotional day with just a few words.

"Steve was like a hero to me, and heroes are not supposed to die," Young said before stopping to rub his eyes as he talked about the man he knew from football camps as a teenager and called "Pops" —
Steve McNair, his predecessor with the Titans.

McNair was shot and killed on the Fourth of July by his girlfriend, 20-year-old Sahel Kazemi, who then shot herself in the head.

Nearly 5,000 turned out to say goodbye to the 36-year-old during one of the biggest funerals in the recent history of Mississippi, McNair's home state.

Fans and old friends filed into the Reed Green Coliseum on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, and McNair's family rented buses to haul in most of the people from his hometown of Mount Olive. Not far away sat men who competed against McNair or coached him on the field.

The high school football team McNair's son plays on wore their jerseys in honour of the man they often saw smiling from the sidelines.

"Mississippi has lost a tremendous legend," said Cardell Jones, McNair's college coach at Alcorn State.

The hearse carrying McNair's silvery-gray casket was escorted 30 miles down Highway 49 by nine police officers on motorcycles and several vehicles carrying family members. After the two-hour service, the procession headed back down that road to Mount Olive for a private burial.

Police escorted McNair's wife, Mechelle, and his mother, Lucille, into the stadium beforehand. Near the end, a handful of people surrounded his mother and his sons, waving them with fans and programs and giving hugs.

For MORE of this AP report, go HERE.