20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883


February 18, 2010

Just coming off a long weekend ... and Valentine's at that!  I attended
Andrew Craig's Celebrate Love last weekend and it was an amazing night of Canadian talent.  Spent the rest of the weekend trying to shake my winter cold!  Hope the rest of you are in good health!  And guess what?  There IS some other things going on in entertainment that are not related to the Olympics!  But bless our hard-working Canadian athletes ... not a bad start at all!  (Am I the only one that actually leans into the curves in the speed skating competitions!?)

Check below for a great offer from my friend Art Jackson of Smooth Jazz Magazine out of Los Angeles!  Could YOU be the winner of a
Corinne Bailey Rae CD!?

I'm off to St. Maarten in a couple of weeks to attend the 30th Anniversary of the
St. Maarten Heineken Regatta.  While I'm there less for the amazing boat race and more for the island concerts every night.  This year is being headlined by Maxi Priest and Rupee.  Should be a great week. 

So, there's lots of new entertainment news so have a scroll and a read.   

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


Sweepstakes Give Away featuring Corinne Bailey Rae new CD "The Sea"

Source: Capitol Records and  Smooth Jazz Magazine

Courtesy of Capitol Records, Smooth Jazz Magazine will give away several new CD's by Corinne Bailey Rae "The Sea" to randomly selected entries who enters "The Sea" sweepstakes for the last two weeks for the month of February. 

How to enter to win:

1.            Just go to our websites: http://www.smoothjazzmag.com

2.            Just simply click the “Subscribe” tab

3.            Then click Promotion and just fill in the form to enter into this promotion and maybe you will get “Closer” with Corinne Bailey Rae this month.

Anyone else Like Contemporary/Smooth Jazz?  If you know of anyone else who would like to be on this list, feel free to e-mail us and we'll be happy to put them on our list ! 


Olympic Luger Dead After High-Speed Track Crash

Source: By Terry Bell and Jeff Lee, Canwest Olympic Team, Canwest News Service

WHISTLER, B.C. — The track on which a Georgian luger died in a fatal crash Friday is as much as 20 kilometres an hour too fast, an international sport official said Friday as Vancouver Winter Olympics officials launched a probe into the shocking accident which killed Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run, only hours before the Games’ opening ceremonies.

The RCMP and the BC Coroners Service have completed the scene investigation, VANOCsaid Friday night. However, the Whistler Sliding Centre was to remain closed and the Federation Internationale de Luge was to “examine the track and ensure it is safe to reopen,” VANOCsaid in a release.

VANOC officials said an update on the track’s status would be provided Saturday morning.

“The track is too fast,” Joseph Fendt, president of the World Luge Federation, told London’s Daily Telegraph.

“We had planned it to be a maximum of 137 kilometres an hour, but it is about 20 km/h faster. We think this is a planning mistake.”

The head of the Georgian Olympics delegation agreed.

“I don’t know how he died but I can tell you one thing, the track was really very bad,” Irakly Japaridze told the New York Times.

Kumaritashvili, 21, was taken to hospital Friday after a crash that saw him fly off the track near the bottom of the course at the Whistler. He died in hospital.

The fatal crash occurred near the bottom of the course.

Kumaritashvili hit the track’s inside wall, flew up in the air and over the outside wall and struck the girder. His speed was estimated at 144 kilometres per hour.

Medical staff were on the scene and applied CPR. Kumaritashvili was then taken to hospital by ambulance. Volunteers were in tears as medical staff worked on the luger.

At a packed and sombre news conference, an emotional Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee president, said an investigation has begun into the circumstances around the accident that killed Kumaritashvili.

“Sorry, it is a bit difficult to remain composed,” he said as he started to speak. “This is indeed a sad day. I have no words to say.”

“We are so heartbroken to be in this position,” said John Furlong, the CEO of Vancouver Organizing Committee. “Our team has been devastated by this.”

At the opening ceremony at BC Place Stadium, the Georgian team, wearing black arm bands, removed their hats and were greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd of 60,000-strong crowd. The team also was to place a black patch on the Georgian flag raised immediately following the parade of athletes. The Olympic and Canadian Flags were lowered to half-mast and a minute’s silence was observed.

The training run — the second of two scheduled for Friday and the final one before the event’s scheduled start on Saturday — was suspended.

“All Canadians were deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of Georgian Olympic team member Nodar Kumaritashvili . . . His competitive spirit and dedication to sports excellence will be remembered and honoured during the Games,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a media release.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Laureen and I send our deepest sympathies to Mr. Kumaritashvili’s family and friends and the entire Georgian Winter Olympic team.”

Kumaritashvili comes from the town of Borjomi.

He was coached by his father, Feliqs. He took part in five World Cup races this season and is 44th in the overall standings.

According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Kumaritashvili is the sixth athlete to die while competing or training for competition at an Olympic Games.

During the Summer Games of 1912, Portuguese marathon runner Francisco Lazaro, 21, collapsed from sunstroke and heart trouble and died the next day.

In 1960, Danish cyclist Knut Jensen died during the Olympic road race as a result of ingesting amphetamines and nicotinyl tartrate, supposed performance boosters.

During the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, Australian downhill racer Ross Milne, 19, was killed when he flew off the course during a training run and slammed into a tree. Just before those same games began, Polish-born British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski was killed during a trial run on the Olympic course.

More recently, Swiss speed skier Nicolas Bochatay died in training during the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, when speed skiing was a demonstration sport.

Japaridze said the Georgian team was reconsidering its participation in the Games Friday night.

“We are all in deep shock, we don’t know what to do. We don't know whether to take part in (Friday’s) opening ceremony or even the Olympic Games themselves,” he told the Times.

“Our first thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of the athlete. The whole Olympic family is struck by this tragedy, which clearly casts a shadow over these Games,” said Rogge.

“We are deeply struck by this tragedy and join the IOC in extending our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of this athlete, who came to Vancouver to follow his Olympic dream,” said Furlong.

Fendt said: “This is a terrible accident. This is the very gravest thing that can happen in sport, and our thoughts and those of the luge family are naturally with those touched by this event.”

The head coach of Canada’s luge team said he was devastated.

“It’s terrible. I’m in shock and I can’t really say anything right now,” said Wolfgang Staudinger. “This is the first time I’ve seen this (a death). It’s very sad.

“I want to meet with my team before I say anything more.”

Staudinger said there would be a meeting with International Olympic Committee and Vancouver organizing committee officials Friday night to discuss the event’s future at the 2010 Olympic Games.

Asked if the luge event might be in jeopardy, he said: “Honestly, anything is possible.”

This track had been a challenge. Shortly before the crash, American luger Bengt Walden, who had just crashed in his run, said that international luge federation officials had already expressed concerns about the speed of the track.

“I don’t think they’re going to build more faster tracks than this,” he said when asked if this one was at the outer limit of how fast a track can be. “The (federation) was almost unhappy with how fast the track turned out to be but we’ll see.”

Moments later, Kumaritashvili crashed.

Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler, the 2002 and 2006 Olympic champion, crashed in his first run Friday but wasn’t hurt. His sled seemed to slide from beneath him on Corner 11 and he slid for about 200 metres. He was able to hold his sled to keep it from crashing into his body. He did his second run and seemed fine.

The announcement cast a pall over the last hours before the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics. What was supposed to be a happy day marking the start of 17 days of competition turned has turned bleak, even as thousands of people turned out in Vancouver to watch the last day of the Olympic torch relay.

Rogge was scheduled to hold a closing news conference marking the end of the 122nd Olympic session, where the IOC debated many sport issues. But Kumaritashvili’s horrific crash, captured on video and film, quickly derailed the conference.

Beauty And The Face Of Change

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Sarah Milroy

To see oneself as beautiful is to be empowered – a state of mind that was hard to come by for African-Americans in the aftermath of slavery and discrimination. The current exhibition Posing Beauty in African-American Culture at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, tells the tale of how black Americans, from celebrities to unnamed citizens, came to express their own sense of self-worth, preparing themselves for the camera's gaze. Notably, the show gathers the work of the many black photographers too long overlooked, as well as the work of white photographers who took on black subjects across the divide of race. Organized by Deborah Willis, a professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, the show opens up a new field in the history of photography.

The argument over beauty can be heard in the earliest moments of the struggle for black equality. Writing in 1926, the Harlem Renaissance poet and playwright Langston Hughes declared: "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. ... "

But how would that beauty be defined? One of the most historically significant works in the show is Edward S. Curtis's portrait A Desert Queen, taken in Seattle in 1898. Curtis, a white American photographer, is known to Canadian audiences principally for his staged portraits of the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast, and he has been much criticized for imposing cultural stereotypes on his photographic subjects. In this show, we observe Curtis up to his usual tricks. The woman's bosom is half unveiled to the camera and she's costumed in a traditional African headdress and heavy ornamental jewellery. You can't help but wonder who she was, and how she came to sit in front of Curtis's lens.

The new century brought a proliferation of images of black men and women out test driving the new-found trappings of upward mobility. In 1932, James Van Der Zee, a black New York photographer, created a striking image of a fashionable black couple clad in their matching raccoon coats, posing with their luxury car. African-American photographer Eve Arnold brings us a view of the black debutante ball at New York's Waldorf Astoria, shot in the 1960s, the gauzily clad girls arranged in prim rows alongside their suitors. As Willis's catalogue explains, an industry sprang up around black coiffeur and fashion, with magazines and newspapers arranging beauty contests for the "modern Negro woman," implicitly rewarding black women who complied with white beauty norms.

With the sixties and the civil-rights movement, though, the tide turned. The crimping iron was out, the afro was in. Posing Beauty includes a number of photographs from these glory days, like Anthony Barboza's image of two couples stepping out in Harlem, the women in hot pants and thigh-high boots, the men in dandy attire, sporting their fedoras.

Male beauty has a place here too. The black celebrity photographer Todd Gray captured Michael Jackson in a quiet moment in 1981, his face yet to be deracinated by plastic surgery. Shooting in the 1970s, white Berkeley photographer Stephen Shames photographed Huey Newton at home, bare-chested and holding the album cover for Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Behind him, a leafy tropical plant spreads its branches. A Black Panther newsletter lies folded on the table. In the background, a white length of chain emerges upward from behind his head, suspending something that we cannot see, but the eye registers it a ghostly echo of the lynching rope. For all his well-muscled virility, Newton appears here as a vulnerable figure stranded between cultures.

Willis includes just one video work in the show, but it’s a doozy. The Teenth of June, Part 1 (2006), by black Californian artist Lauren Woods, is an extraordinary document of American racial anxiety, marking a moment not to be found in the history books. Reformatting seven minutes from the conclusion of the Miss Texas pageant of 2006 – the first year a black woman won the crown – she has added a horror movie soundtrack. We watch the elimination of the final contestants until the moment of truth, when the final white and black contestants stand hand in hand all a-twitter, waiting for the axe to fall.

When the black girl wins, however, all hell breaks loose. Woods slows down the footage here to scan the horror and incredulity on the white contestant's face as she turns to flee. The winner's face, however, flares in a momentary convulsion of triumph. This has been a long time coming. Before the obligatory tears of dainty gratitude and displays of simulated self-effacement, you can't help but love her for sinking her teeth into the moment.

Posing Beauty in African-American Culture continues at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until May 9, then travels to Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Mass., the Newark Museum in New Jersey and USC Fisher Museum of Art in Los Angeles. Deborah Willis will speaking about the show at the Art Gallery of Hamilton at 7 tonight.  

First Week Sales of ‘Soldier of Love’ Look to be Impressive

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2010) *It should come as no surprise that
Sade has a smash on her hands with the release ofSoldier of Love.” After all, it’s been 10 years since her fans had new music from her

According to industry trade magazine Hits Daily Double, based off of her debut sales effort on Feb 9, it’s predicted that “Soldier” will sell anywhere from, 400,000 to 425,000 copies within the first week.

Keep in mind that those numbers are an estimate that could be more or less affected depending on the recent winter blizzards occurring in the Mid-Atlantic region and this weekend’s bad weather in the South. No
matter what, it looks like Sade will come out on top. BTW, vying for second place is Jaheim’s latest release “Another Round.”

Even the hip hop community can’t resist the charms of the now still gorgeous 50-year-old smooth operator. 24hiphop.com pointed out that Sade is getting mad love from hard head Busta Rhymes and even Kanye West.

“This is why I still have a blog…,” West wrote. To be a part of moments like this … New Sade … How much better this than everything else?”

Busta to Twitter to show his love for Sade:

“Sade is unbelievably incredible … Soldier of Love in-stores Feb.9th…Watch what happens…”

Canadian Women Steamroll Into Hockey Semis

Source: www.thestar.com - Paul Hunter

(February 17, 2010)  VANCOUVER – Team Canada, women’s version, has been steamrolling through the competition as expected at this Olympics.

But this was actually something of a shocker.

Facing a Swedish squad that had also won its first two games – albeit not by the 28-1 cumulative total by which the Canadians laid waste the Sovaks and Swiss – and that had beaten Canada at the 2008 Four Nations Cup, this was expected to a decent game.

Maybe not a nailbiter but certainly not the 13-1 crowning our nationals laid on Tre Kroner today.

After sweeping their games in the preliminary round, Canada gets a bye to the semi-final on Sunday against a victim yet to be determined.

The Canadians looked jaw-droppingly good. They twisted the Swedes into circles with their passing and scored some lovely goals – a roofed backhand on a breakaway by Marie-Philip Poulin after a blueline to blueline stretch pass from Hayley Wickenheiser was a thing of beauty.

The efficiency and ruthlessness with which they eviscerated a decent women’s team was stunning.

It was 5-0 after one period – a stanza in which featured five different scorers as the Canadians outshot their opponent 23-2 – and then it was 12-0 after two. After 40 minutes the shots were 43-4.

Leading the onslaught was Meghan Agosta who continued to dominate here. The 23-year-old from Ruthven, Ont. had three goals and two assists. It was her third Olympic hat trick and second at this Winter Games. Veteran captain Wickenheiser also had a five-point game with a goal and four assists.

Cherie Piper had two goals and two assists. Gillian Apps also had and added a helper. Haley Irwin, Sarah Vaillancourt, Jayna Hefford, Tessa Bonhomme and Poulin had singles.

Present in Swedish line-up were the heroes of their shocking silver medal performance at Turin that included a semi-final upset of the United States. Diminutive goaltender Kim Martin, the media darling of Turin, was between the pipes for Sweden and rangy forward Maria Rooth was up front. They and their compatriots were no match for Canada’s march to the semi-finals.


Bermuda Spa Offers Up A Honey Of A Treatment

Source: www.thestar.com - Janie Robinson

(February 13, 2010) TUCKER'S POINT, BERMUDA–There are three things you need to know about Bermuda honey bees.

Dark, delicious
Bermuda honey gets its distinctive flavour from the Mexican Pepper tree.

A Bermuda honey spa treatment makes skin silky smooth.

And a Bermuda honey bee sting hurts like hell.

Bermuda's Beekeeper No. 5 honey is a sticky ingredient on the spa menu at the island's new Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa.

And the honey is harvested from the hives of bad-tempered bees right on the grounds of the luxury resort's 80-hectare seaside property, but secreted away in a forest well away from the guests.

"We wanted to make something truly authentic and unique for Bermuda, using honey from bees kept here and aloe picked on the property" says Paul Telford of Tucker's Point Hotel's signature spa treatments.

"Most Bermudians know to use the local aloe for sunburns and to hydrate the skin. They'll just take a leaf of aloe from the garden, cut it in half and out comes this gel which is used for the skin.

"The idea was to draw on what Bermuda has to offer ... our British ancestors and the African slaves brought their native cultures and customs to this island in the middle of nowhere, and used what was here – the local plants and marine life – for healing and medicine."

Tucker's Point's popular Bermuda Collections spa treatments include a Citrus Refresher Facial, using local lemons, oranges and grapefruit.

Light essential oils of Bermuda cedar and juniper are used in the Cedar Warming Massage. A splash of Bermuda rum goes into a Swizzle Manicure/Pedicure.

Locally harvested aloe and honey are used for the Tribe Road No. 1 Natural Aloe Massage, and Beekeeper No. 5 Honey and Cane Sugar Scrub.

"The Tucker's Point bees are our best producers, but they're also our most aggressive," warns Dejuan Seymour, swathed safe and sound in his beekeeper garb, smoker in hand to calm the bees buzzing busily around their hives.

I'd been warned, so can't really blame the bee for protecting its territory from some tourist who's bugged the beekeeper to tag along.

"A bee sting is said to treat ailments from cancer to multiple sclerosis," says Seymour, giving the stinger still stuck in my hand a quick swipe away, while explaining all about apitherapy – the medical use of honey bee products.

There is evidence that Egyptians used honey to treat wounds 5,000 years ago, and Aristotle later wrote of honey's healing properties.

In fact, honey was used to treat wounds up through World War II, and is still a treatment for various ailments in Africa, India and the Middle East.

Beekeeping in Bermuda goes back to 1616 – six years ahead of the American colonies.

"The bees that you sent do prosper very well," notes Mr. Robert Rich in a letter mailed from Britain's new island colony back to his brother in England.

"Because it's made in Bermuda, it's the best honey in the world," declares Randolph Furbert.

The 75-year-old Beekeeper No. 5 has been keeping bees for 38 years "with 200 hives in 40 locations," including that hard-working but nasty bunch at Tucker's Point.

"I was the first Bermudian to wear a beard of bees," boasts the `Bee Man,' proudly displaying photos of his face-full of bees at the 1986 Bermuda Agricultural Fair.

"I did that purposefully to prove that bees would only sting if they feel threatened," says Furbert, who has been honoured by the Queen for the work he's done to promote the beekeeping industry in Bermuda.

"They do a much, much bigger job than just producing honey for us to eat," says Furbett, sharing his beekeeping knowledge with groups of local school kids.

"As a matter of fact, a third of what we eat on our table every day is a direct or indirect result of the honey bee ... they're vital to our survival."

Furbert travels the world telling sweet stories about Bermuda's honey bees.

But most days, you can catch up with Bermuda's amiable Beekeeper No. 5 at his Honey House on Fractious St., or Saturdays at the Farmers Market in Hamilton.

"Seldom does anyone walk away without buying some of my honey," he says proudly.

Janie Robinson is a Barrie-based freelance writer. Her trip was subsidized by the Bermuda Department of Tourism and Tucker's Point Hotel & Spa.


Video: Drake Finds Inspiration in Sprite’s ‘Spark’ Campaign

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2010) *
Drake has teamed up with Sprite for the first commercial of its recently launched “Spark” campaign, aimed at giving teens a platform to express their creativity through music and film.

The campaign is the brand’s first-ever global marketing push as well as Drake’s first worldwide deal, reports Billboard.com.

“My management brought it to me and explained the initial idea and the message behind it and I was all for it,” Drake tells the Web site. “The campaign is really about creativity through music and film and promotes fresh thinking and originality. I guess they recognized my potential based off what has happened with my music career in the last year. I think it’s a great thing to be responsible, in a way, for exciting young kids.”

Drake’s commercial, titled “Unleashed,” features the MC struggling to find inspiration in the studio while recording his hit song “Forever.” Drake drinks a Sprite and morphs into an animatronics model with the Sprite traveling through his body and exploding through his heart, which is in the shape of a large speaker. The model reassembles, helping unleash Drake’s lyrical prowess with the delivery of the song’s intro line: “Last name Ever/First name greatest.” [Watch commercial and behind-the-scenes footage below.]

“It happens all the time — it’s the beautiful struggle,” says Drake of having similar real-life experiences like the one depicted in the commercial — which will air in a 30 and a 60 second version. “For an artist who’s a perfectionist — much like Lil Wayne, who I take my inspiration from — you may sit there for 20 minutes or three days writing. I’m working on a song right now with such a strong hook that I’ve been trying to match the energy of what I have so far for days.”

Drake is also partnering with Sprite for its “Step-Off” competition in Atlanta, which awards $1.5 million in college sponsorships. The program has been running since last fall and takes place at historically black colleges. Drake will be a judge and will also perform at the finale.

Additionally, Drake will also judge and perform as part of the first-ever Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown being held tonight as part of this year’s NBA All-Star game. Drake will judge alongside NBA player LeBron James and former NBA player Darryl Dawkins. He will perform live after the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown.

“Unleashed” will run in four markets — Phillipines, Turkey, South Africa and the U.S., where it debuted during the pre-Super Bowl broadcast. Other general consumer “Spark” ads will run this weekend during the Sprite NBA Slam Dunk Showdown.

Songwriter On The Cusp Of Stardom

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(February 15, 2010) VANCOUVER -
Dan Mangan's dad is worried about him. The Vancouver singer-songwriter has been going full tilt for months; he figures he'd slept in his own bed maybe eight or nine times between September and the morning last week that we met for coffee. His father, a real estate lawyer, fears his son is going to burn out.

"Last night my dad was just ragging on me," Mangan says in between sips of an Americano. "He was like: ‘You need to slow down.'"

Mangan, who is touring like a madman on the strength of the rave reviews for his album
Nice, Nice, Very Nice, knows his father has a point, but he can't help himself. "Fortunately and unfortunately, I was graced with a totally relentless and tireless work ethic when it comes to music and career, and a kind of blind, naïve optimistic sense of ambition," he says. "But at the same time I do feel like if I keep up at the pace I've been doing, I'm just not going to last."

Mangan - born in Smithers, B.C. and raised in Toronto and Vancouver - was booking his own shows a year ago, and as recently as September was working as a waiter at The Keg on Granville Island to make ends meet. Now it's safe to say he's become something of an indie superstar, so much so that, after he leaves the coffee shop, the barista gushes about the celebrity in her midst.

And the pace is pretty staggering. He toured Australia last month, then Alberta and B.C., made a stop in Los Angeles to play at a Canadian showcase coinciding with the Grammy Awards (and where he was thrilled to meet Leonard Cohen). Tuesday night he's the big draw at the Cultural Olympiad's New Songs, New Voices showcase. Then there's a show at Surrey's 2010 Celebration Site, private concert at the athletes' village in Whistler, and the Frostbite Music Festival in Whitehorse on the weekend.

Since its release last August, Nice, Nice, Very Nice has earned him attention and accolades, including CBC Radio 3 Bucky Awards for Song of the Year and Best Vocals - both for Robots. He was also named best new artist by iTunes Canada in the singer/songwriter category for 2009, and artist of the year at XM's Verge Music Awards. And at Christmas, he signed a management deal with the prestigious Arts & Crafts label. "He has this very rare kind of duality as an artist where he's both artistically creative and talented and incredibly self-motivated," says Arts & Crafts' Kieran Roy.

The rest of 2010 looks promising too. Mangan will perform in Toronto during Canadian Music Week and at South by Southwest. The album should be released this summer in the U.S. and Europe. But the sudden fame hasn't changed his life much. Yes he's leaving his cramped apartment over a grocery story on Vancouver's east side for a two-bedroom place a block from the beach on the west side - but the new apartment is the basement suite in his sister's house, renovated by his mother (a former United Church minister) and her wife. Indie popularity doesn't necessarily translate into a big paycheque.

"I'm totally poor and scraping by," he says. "The bank statements aren't pretty right now."

But he has paid back the $8,500 he borrowed from family and friends to make Nice, Nice, Very Nice. He went $35,000 in debt to make the record, running up his credit card and extending his lines of credit. It was a decision he made in desperation after a long tour supporting his first album, Postcards and Daydreaming, and a feeling that he was spinning his wheels trying to get the second album made.

"I kind of felt very alone in the effort," he says. "I'd applied for a bunch of funding; I kept getting turned down. I was stagnant and I was feeling: ‘What can I do to change this moping cycle that I was in?' I was just so bummed and unsure."

On the advice of family and friends, he put together a business plan, borrowed the money and spent six weeks in Toronto making Nice, Nice, Very Nice.

The breakthrough hit has certainly been Robots, a catchy tune about robots needing love too. But songs like Basket ("We are old / And our son took the dog away / And fair enough / guess we're tired all the time. / All the time") suggest a maturity - and an obsession with aging - beyond Mangan's 26 years.

According to family lore, the first hint of this came at the age of 18 months, when, an early talker, he blurted out: "Before I was a baby, I was an old man with a red house and a dog." It made his father wonder about reincarnation. Maybe it was just the beginning of a long career coming up with memorable lines.

Mangan is now writing material for his next record, which he figures will come out mid-2011. He is hoping to emulate artists like Radiohead and Beck, who he says make every album a bit of a surprise. "I really don't want to make the same record twice," he says, promising something "noisier and weirder."

"I think part of wanting to change and do something different is a little bit of a security thing too," he adds. "Because what if I do something similar but not as good? That's gonna suck."

Dan Mangan plays New Songs, New Voices at the Roundhouse in Vancouver tonight at 8 p.m., the Surrey 2010 Celebration Site at Holland Park on Friday, the Frostbite Music Festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 20 and 21, and CMW in Toronto on March 11 and 12.

Bronze-Medal Performance - Maybe

Source: www.thestar.com - David Ebner

(February 17, 2010) Whistler, B.C. — When Leslie Feist sang her rock anthem I Feel It All on an Olympics stage, fans might have been expecting her to set the mountains in Whistler on fire.

After all, Canada’s indie rock darling is an Olympics vet by now – she was one of the Calgary kids who danced at the opening ceremonies for the 1988 Winter Olympics and she headlined the Olympic countdown concert in Vancouver two years ago.

But on Tuesday night – after medals were awarded to rifle-toting cross-country biathlon skiers – the singer’s gig was a cool ember at best.

Some might blame the setting. Whistler Medals Plaza was almost cut by Olympics organizers because of budget constraints; the bare bones venue that did go up had a strong security detail but what came across as a weak sound system.

Still, Feistdid little to turn up the proverbial volume. Although she’s best known for her upbeat song 1234 scooped up by Apple for an iPod commercial and performed live on the Grammys – her set list tended toward dirge rather than celebration here.

The former member of Toronto’s hipster collective Broken Social Scene was accompanied by a seven-person band – four singers, a bassist, a keyboardist and a drummer. Even with that backup, though, the show didn’t feel calibrated to the setting.

I Feel It All, for example, is a raucous song – about broken hearts. Mushaboom, from her breakout 2004 album Let It Die, was performed almost as spoken word. And the lightness of Brandy Alexander didn’t connect with the audience of several thousand, aside from a cohort of fans up front who cheered every song.

Feist performs at the Whistler Medals Plaza in Whistler, B.C. Feb. 16, 2010.

There wasn’t much stage banter to liven up the mood either. It wasn’t until late in the show that Feist coaxed fans to ask their sweethearts to slow dance to her music. “You’ve got eight more seconds to get up the gumption,” she announced, “and then I’ll play your wedding.”

There were some treats for the devoted: The 34-year-old singer gave the crowd a sneak preview of a new song about “what happens after the slow dance” – and, on one listen at least, it ranks among Feist’s best work.

Even that song’s main refrain, though, which ended with a line about women “enslaved to their husbands the rest of their lives,” felt out of touch with the mood of the Games.

Among the more dedicated Olympic fans in the audience was 30-year-old Rob Newman. The Aussie has earned himself the nickname Pink Sasquatch for the sparkly pink feather boa he’s been wearing every day of the Games – both at snowboarding events on the mountains and concerts.

Feist, he said, wasn’t quite what he’d hoped she would be. But, hey, the Games continue – along with more musical acts. And what’s not to like about that?

“Devo’s going to be awesome,” he said.  

Film Tells Civil Rights History In Song

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(February 15, 2010) From rappers lambasting George Bush's government in Hurricane Katrina rhymes, to will.i.am's Obama-boosting Internet music video "Yes I Can," to Quincy Jones' and Lionel Richie's new remake of "We are the World" for Haiti quake victims, contemporary African American musicians occasionally turn to song to express political and social solidarity.

However, a film making its Toronto debut this week recalls a time when music and black activism were enjoined.
Soundtrack for a Revolution, which screens at the Bloor Cinema on Wednesday, tells the story of the American civil rights movement through the songs protestors sang as they fought for racial equality.

Produced by actor Danny Glover, the documentary combines archival footage, fresh interviews with civil-rights stalwarts such as Harry Belafonte and Congressman John Lewis, and new renditions of freedom songs – "Wade in the Water," "Eyes on the Prize," "We Shall Not be Moved," etc. – by youthful entertainers and veteran artists including as John Legend, Joss Stone, Blind Boys of Alabama and Richie Havens.

Co-director Bill Guttentag, who also co-directed the Oscar-winning
Twin Towers, said Soundtrack's music angle was a novel way to highlight a significant period he believes is "slipping from people's memories."

The 82-minute film revisits events such as the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and Selma to Montgomery March, as blacks fought the system that denied them the right to vote and kept them in subpar schools and hospitals.

"I've shown the film now everywhere, from elementary schools to some of America's finest colleges, and people don't know the story," said Guttentag by phone from his California home.

The filmmaker will introduce the movie and answer questions at the Bloor screenings as part of the Doc Soup series.

"It's not like they're bad students, it's just the march of time. I think it's an amazing story, a powerful story, and one that should be told again and again. That's why we were looking for a way of telling it that would hopefully be innovative and get another generation to come and see the film.

"Music was completely part of the DNA of the movement; they sang on marches, in churches, all the time. It helped empower them. They sang things they couldn't say. Almost 100 per cent of the people we interviewed start singing at some point (during the interview)."

A big challenge was lining up the musicians who recorded their performances separately and were encouraged to deliver personal interpretations of the songs.

"We wanted people who would draw an audience," said Guttentag of the singers.

"Teenagers may not want to see a film on the civil rights movement, but they may want to see film that has The Roots and Joss Stone or Wyclef Jean. Sometimes people think going to a documentary is like going to a root canal and we made a huge effort to make a film that really moved."

Soundtrack for a Revolution screens Wednesday at 6:30 and 9:15 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W. Tickets: $12 at www.hotdocs.ca or at the door.

The Knack Lead Singer Doug Fieger, 57, Dies

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(February 15, 2010) Los Angeles — The Knack's lead singer Doug Fieger, who co-wrote the 1979 hit song My Sharona, died on Sunday, aged 57, after battling lung cancer for six years.

His family said in a statement that Fieger passed away at his home in Woodland Hills, California, after outliving his doctors' prognoses “for many, many years.”

“Doug did not suffer. He is in a better place. And wherever he is, his love and music will continue to shower down upon all of us who remain in this mortal coil, forever,” said his brother Geoffrey Fieger and sister Beth Falkenstein.

The other members of the new wave rock band The Knack, that was formed in 1977, paid tribute to the Detroit-born singer/songwriter.

“Our hearts are broken, we will miss you Doug,” they wrote on the band's website Knack.com.

Fieger was one of four founding members of The Knack which built a large following in the Los Angeles club scene of the late 1970s. The band's debut album, Get The Knack, which included My Sharona, was recorded in 11 days for $17,000. It was the first of six studio albums.

Capitol Records, home of the Beatles, pulled out all the stops promoting the album and Rolling Stone magazine referred to the band as “the new fab four.”

Billboard named My Sharona the No. 1 single of 1979 after it held the No. 1 slot for six weeks.

The song has been covered by numerous artists and returned to music charts in 1994 after it was included on the soundtrack for the hit movie Reality Bites.

Fieger co-wrote My Sharona with bandmate Berton Averre after being initially rebuffed by a teenage girl of that name in 1978. She was 17 and at high school at the time and he was 26.

Fieger told People magazine in 1995 he had hoped she would be flattered by such lines as “I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind.”

She eventually dumped her boyfriend, joined Fieger on tour, graduated from high school and became a rock-star girlfriend for three years.

The woman, Sharona Alperin, has been selling real estate to entertainment industry clients in Los Angeles for over 20 years.

Feiger's family said a memorial would be held in Los Angeles for relatives and close friends.

Guitar Gods, Back Together At The Crossroads

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(February 16, 2010) Jeff Beck is born outside London, June of 1944; ditto Eric Clapton in March, 1945. Both aspiring guitarists attend art school. Clapton joins the Yardbirds in 1963, quitting in 1965 because of the band’s musical direction. He’s replaced by Beck, who quits in 1967 for similar reasons. Clapton forms the blues-rock group Cream; Beck forms the blues-rocking Jeff Beck Group.

Post-Cream, Clapton develops a taste for Americana. With Derek and the Dominos, in 1970 he releases the southern-rock and blues classic Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, thought to be his finest musical moment.

Post-Jeff Beck Group, Beck develops a taste for jazz fusion. His first solo album, 1975’s Blow by Blow, is an instrumental-rock classic, considered to be his finest musical moment.

During the 1980s and 90s, Clapton collaborates with Phil Collins, makes beer-commercial soundtrack music, achieves pop success, discovers Savile Row suits, and has a adult-mainstream hit with the sappy Unplugged disc.

During the 1980s and 90s, Beck, the prototypical guitar star, works as a hired gun, popping up on recordings by Mick Jagger, Roger Waters, and Jon Bon Jovi. His own albums, including Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop from 1989, are not usually successful critically or commercially.

In February, 2009, Clapton and Beck perform a pair of concerts in Japan, headlining a major arena show for the first time. The shows are a success, and now Rolling Stone magazine’s fourth-ranked guitarist (Clapton) and No. 14 (Beck) reprise the experience for four upcoming concerts, including throw-downs at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (Sunday) and Montreal’s Bell Centre (Monday).

Cash-Strapped EMI To Sell Famed Abbey Road Studios

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jill Lawless

(February 16, 2010) LONDON—Cash-strapped music company EMI Group Ltd. is seeking a buyer for Abbey Road studios, where The Beatles recorded some of their most famous songs, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

The person said talks had been going on for several months, but a buyer had not yet been found. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

A spokesman for EMI refused to comment on the sale bid, which could raise tens of millions of dollars for the label.

EMI, whose artists include Coldplay, Lily Allen and Robbie Williams, has struggled financially since it was bought in 2007 for 2.4 billion pounds by private equity firm Terra Firma Capital Partners.

Several big-name acts, including Radiohead and the Rolling Stones, quit the label amid the cutbacks and restructuring that followed Terra Firma’s takeover.

An audited report released last week revealed that Terra Firma needs a huge cash infusion by June to avoid defaulting on its loans from Citigroup Inc. and may require more than $165 million (dollar figures U.S.) to last through this year.

If funds can’t be raised and the loan goes into default, Citigroup could seize EMI and cause it to be sold or broken up.

Abbey Road is one of the company’s most high-profile assets, as both a recording studio and a tourist attraction for Beatles fans.

EMI bought the Georgian townhouse in London’s residential St. John’s Wood neighbourhood in 1929 and turned it into one of the world’s most sophisticated recording studios.

Since the 1960s, it has been one of the world’s most famous rock music studios. Albums recorded there include Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Wings’ Band on the Run and Radiohead’s OK Computer.

It is most closely associated with The Beatles, who recorded most of their albums there. The crosswalk in front of the north London studio was immortalized on the cover The Beatles’ final studio album, 1969’s Abbey Road.


Janet and JD Finish Theme Song for Perry Film

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 16, 2010) *
Janet Jackson used her Twitter to announce that she and ex-boyfriend Jermaine Dupri have teamed up to record the theme song for her next film, “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?” “Hey u guys, Jermaine n I just finished the theme song for the film. I hope u like!” she tweeted. Titled “Nothing,” the song also features Bryan-Michael Cox as a producer. In “Married Too?” due in April, Janet reprises her role as Patricia Agnew. She is also in the studio working on a new album with Dupri and Cox.

Kevin Eubanks To Leave “Tonight Show”

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 16, 2010) *”Extra” has confirmed that Jay Leno’s longtime bandleader and sidekick, Kevin Eubanks, is quitting “The Tonight Show.” A source tells the TV news magazine that Eubanks “wanted a change” and will not resume his post when Leno retakes hosting duties on following the Winter Olympics. Eubanks reportedly wants to pursue other opportunities, according to Extra. Another source says he will make an appearance on the “Tonight Show’s” March 1 return. Eubanks, also the bandleader on “The Jay Leno Show,” joined “The Tonight Show” band in 1992. He replaced Branford Marsalis as bandleader two years later.

Earth Wind & Fire Members Headed to Songwriters Hall

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 16, 2010) *The key members of Earth Wind and Fire will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame during a ceremony this summer. Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Verdine White are being honoured in addition to producer-composer David Foster and Leonard Cohen, according to an announcement Tuesday. Also up for honours are Johnny Mandel, Jackie DeShannon, Larry Dunn and Al McKay. The Hall of Fame celebrates composers and lyricists. The ceremony is set for June 17 in New York City.

Rihanna to Play Vanity’s Role in ‘Last Dragon’ Remake

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 17, 2010) *Rihanna has reportedly been cast in the upcoming remake of “The Last Dragon,” Berry Gordy’s 1985 cult film about a teenaged martial arts student. As previously reported, Samuel L. Jackson will play the role of Sho’nuff, originated by the late Julius Carey. Rihanna will play the female lead made famous by Prince protégé Vanity in the first film. While Vanity played Ms. Charles, a famous singer who hired the martial arts student as a bodyguard, Rihanna will play “a super sexy, super kinky dominatrix,” a source tells WENN. John Davis of Davis Entertainment and Gordy’s son Kerry Gordy, along with the RZA are set to produce. Penning the screenplay as well as producing is Dallas Jackson, who heads up the urban family label DJ Classicz with Davis.  Below, a clip featuring stars Taimak and Vanity from the original 1985 film.


Ashanti Working on American Idol-Style TV Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 17, 2010) *Ashanti is reportedly set to produce and host her own version of “American Idol” that will likely seek talent for her new record label. According to WENN, the R&B star has signed a deal with the Reveille Productions, the producers of “Ugly Betty” and “The Office,” to create the as-yet-unnamed reality TV contest. Details of the show are being kept under wraps, but Ashanti’s manager/mother Tina Douglas gave a brief overview. “It’s an unscripted television show that is definitely music related. We’ll be revealing more in the coming weeks,” she said. “She has her own record label, called Written Entertainment, and the show is going to revolve around her label… It’s going to be really big.”


Hughes Bros. In Talks for ‘Akira’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2010)  *Warner Bros is reportedly in early talks with the
Hughes Brothers to helm the sci-fi epic “Akira.”

Allen and Albert Hughes also directed the “The Book of Eli” for Warner Bros. Thus far, the Denzel Washington-led thriller has grossed $93 million worldwide.

“Akira” is based on Katsuhiro Otomo’s widely praised six-volume manga (or Japanese comic book). Originally set in a post-apocalyptic Neo-Tokyo, the new feature story line takes place in the rebuilt New Manhattan, where two friends in a biker gang struggle with the after-effects of an accident that gives one of them psychic powers, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“Iron Man” and “Children of Men” writers Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby have drafted the new “Akira” script with Gary Whitta, who wrote “Eli.” Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson Killoran of Appian Way are producing with Andrew Lazar.

Otomo will serve as an executive producer. He directed an anime version of his manga in 1988. (Watch trailer below.)

Cherien Dabis' Film Fuelled By Family And Identity

Source: www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(February 12, 2010) You’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen writer-director
Cherien Dabis’s debut feature Amreeka before. But, trust me, you haven’t.

On the surface, this bittersweet, audience-pleasing comedy about a Palestinian family’s adjustment to life in small town America looks like a typical “immigrant experience” product. All the elements are there: A young boy who must adjust to American pop culture and morals, a worried mother who finds herself woefully underemployed, the already settled relatives whose apparent comfort and satisfaction with life in the United States is only that, apparent. And, yes, the characters are exposed to typical racism, typical xenophobia and typical family battles.

What makes Amreeka so much more fun than the above précis is the fact that Dabis refuses to let her characters become clichés. The film does not present the new arrivals as noble innocents, or entirely likeable, nor does it make the locals look like yokels. The family of new and not-so-new arrivals makes poor choices and good choices, like any family. Furthermore, the film is set in 2003, on the heels of the U.S. decision to invade Iraq – the racial tension portrayed is palpable and, more important, somewhat understandable (not forgivable, understandable), and flows in all directions.

Dabis’s characters mix befuddlement with keen wit and a believable determination (her tenure as a writer for The L Word is evident in the sharp dialogue). The characters are also so natural that anyone who has ever felt out of place, for any reason, will find common cause with this displaced family.

The U.S. Midwest has a large and long-standing Arab-American community, but their experiences have not been well documented. Why?

I think it’s extremely difficult to find the financing to make this kind of movie, and that’s probably one of the things that prohibited filmmakers from doing it before. And, also, within our own community, people aren’t always encouraged to pursue the arts. So that’s probably another reason why other young people haven’t come forward to try to make movies, or tell stories about Arab-Americans.

Is there some magical community where people are encouraged to take up the arts? How do I join?

Ha! Yeah, I know. But I think that some communities are more discouraging than others. … Within the Arab-American community, it’s particularly bad.

Where did you find your fantastic lead, Nisreen Faour? Did you know her work in Israeli cinema?

No, I didn’t know her, I wasn’t familiar with her work. I found her in a casting session in Haifa. She’s a well-known theatre actress there, and she had only done four films, when I met her, four Palestinian films by the same director, and Amreeka was her first international film, and her first English-speaking part. But the casting process was quite extensive. I travelled for six to eight months, all over the Middle East, the U.S., Canada, and I even did a casting session in Paris. And I watched a ton of movies.

What were you looking for?

It was incredibly important to me to have Arab actors. In fact, my fist concern making this movie was authenticity. Because I’m an Arab-American myself, I felt that one of the problems is that people don’t ever really get to see us authentically depicted, in anything. It was also just really important to me personally to depict the story in a truthful way.

This film reminds us how deeply traumatized the U.S. was by Sept. 11, 2001. Not to excuse racist behaviour, but your film gives us a context for it.

Hmm. That’s good to hear. The film in some ways was inspired by my family’s experience in the first Gulf War, in 1991. I really wanted to try to understand why people would react in a certain way, rather than judge them. I wanted to, as much as possible, create real people, who are motivated because of their own reasons, and are not just bad or evil.

And yet, this is not an angry film.

That was kind of easy, because at the centre of the movie is this character, Muna [Faour] who is full of light, and has incredible faith in people, and believes in people, to a fault almost. And I definitely come from a place of wanting to have hope and wanting to understand. I definitely have a bit of Muna in me. I’m very optimistic. I’d like to channel any kind of anger I have into something productive. More than anything, the movie for me was about family, family love and pride – all of the things that keep you together during the difficult times.

You’ve mentioned your family twice now. What happened to them during the first Gulf War?

My dad’s a physician and he lost a lot of patients because people didn’t want to see an Arab doctor. We got death threats on a daily basis. The Secret Service actually showed up at my high school because there was a rumour that my sister had threatened to kill the president. My mother wasn’t allowed to shop in certain places, because customers were threatening to boycott the stores. It was a really hostile time. I was 14 years old, so by the time I was making Amreeka, I had had many years to process that experience. Making the movie was quite therapeutic, and I didn’t want to make an angry movie, I wanted to make a hopeful movie.

A Whistleblower’s Call To Arms

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(February 14, 2010) Before Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, he paid a fateful visit to a New Mexico prison, not far from the Arizona border.

The now-notorious American whistleblower went to see Randy Kehler, the imprisoned draft dodger whose speech at an anti-war rally in August, 1969, sparked an epiphany in Ellsberg. The loyal Pentagon strategist wanted Kehler to know what he had inspired – so, in the prison’s visiting room, sitting across from Kehler, he revealed his plan: To leak all 7,000 pages of a top secret government study on the Vietnam War to the press, proving successive U.S. presidents had lied to the American people, and hoping to stop the “unjustified killing” of scores more Vietnamese.

“When I left I thought, Jesus Christ, that visitors centre could be bugged. I've just told the federal government what I'm going to do,” says Ellsberg, 78, over breakfast at a Toronto hotel. He was in town for the world premiere of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, a documentary by California filmmakers Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Lucky for him, no one at the New Mexico Corrections Department was listening. And in fact, a sign he spotted in the vice-warden’s office, titled “Federal Code of Ethics” provided assurance that he was doing the right thing.

“The first thing on it was that every federal employee, 'shall put loyalty to the highest moral principals and to country above loyalty to government persons, part or department.’ My first thought was, that's what I'm doing,” he says. “But that was an absolute contradiction of the bureaucrat’s operating code: agency first, then person. [An authority] higher than the president? Unthinkable.”

The documentary, in which Ellsberg features prominently, has since been nominated for an Academy Award and includes interviews with several key players, including a surprisingly contrite Egil Krogh. Krogh is the presidential aide who helped forge the “White House Plumbers” - a covert investigations team that later became famous for the Watergate break-ins - to dig up dirt on Ellsberg. Ehrlich is the first to say the documentary paints Ellsberg as heroic for helping turn public opinion against the war - but it also makes it clear that many saw him as a traitor.

Once a top military strategist entrusted with high-level security clearance, Ellsberg is Oppenheimer-esque, a man who put his tremendous intellect to work that ultimately proved destructive. When he was still a loyal Pentagon analyst in the mid-1960s, he knew what the public didn’t: Though the Johnson administration was saying otherwise, an escalation of the Vietnam War was in the works. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara ordered Ellsberg to find evidence to help sell the expansion and, Ellsberg remembers, “an order from McNamara was like an order from God.” He became the war’s unseen planner.

In 2004, with the U.S. embroiled in two sprawling wars, Ehrlich and Goldsmith arrived at the same conclusion: “[Ellsberg’s] story was just so obviously relevant now,” Goldsmith says.

On his flight to Toronto, Ellsberg began compiling a list of parallels between the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars. He even woke in his hotel room at 4 a.m. to add to it. At breakfast the next morning, he pulls a yellow pad of ruled paper from his briefcase, flipping through page after page of small, neat script.

“I got to number 97,” he says matter-of-factly. “Number one,” he says derisively, “we can’t back down now, the stakes are too high. The investment has been made.”

Ellsberg now encourages others in government to bring greater transparency to the way wars are conducted, and over breakfast offered a disheartening take on present-day escalations. Less than two weeks before our interview, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had handed President Barack Obama three scenarios for a surge, ranging from 10,000 to 45,000 new troops. (Obama ultimately settled on 30,000.)

“I'll say this as certain as I can be: There isn't a chance in the world McChrystal is telling him that 45,000 [troops] will achieve any kind of significant success. All that will do is prolong the stalemate,” Ellsberg said. “I'm certain Obama is hearing figures of hundreds of thousands to achieve any significant or lasting success there.”

“When President Johnson said in 1965, 'I'm sending 50,000 men,' he knew that all of his militaries had recommended 500,000 to one million,” Ellsberg added. “What we need [now] is for somebody [on the] inside to take his career in hand, kiss it off and say, ‘No, the truth is, Congress, here's the estimates the President is really seeing.'”

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers opens Friday in Toronto and airs next month on PBS.

Ordinary People, But Extraordinary Film

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Jennie Punter

(February 16, 2010) With only three shorts and two features to her name, British writer-director Andrea Arnold is firmly established as an exciting talent to watch, thanks in part to an impressive track record of prestigious international awards for her low-budget observational dramas.

Fish Tank, her second feature, a volatile coming-of-age story set in an Essex housing project, arrived at the Toronto International Film Festival last September with the Cannes Jury Prize in hand and a slew of prizes and nominations on the horizon.

Her drama Wasp, about a single mother who leaves her four hungry children outside a pub while on a date, won over 30 international awards including an Oscar for best live action short in 2005.

And Red Road, her Glasgow-set first feature about a surveillance camera operator who develops an obsession, attracted a lot of interest as being part of a Dogme-95-inspired trilogy of films, each using the same set of characters. The film went on to win the Cannes Jury Prize in 2006, and was recently named one of the best British films of the last 25 years by The Observer Film Quarterly.

But the director is wary of putting too much stock in such acclaim. “When my daughter comes home with a piece of art and the teacher said it should have been done differently it angers me,” says Arnold, a children’s television presenter for several years before turning to filmmaking. “There is no right or wrong in art, there is only whatever you feel the passion to produce. I try to be my own judge and ask myself if I’ve fulfilled my intentions.

“But for small films like mine, ultimately prizes mean more people get to see them and what more do you want than that,” says Arnold, who exudes a cheery, warm-hearted intensity in a conversation sprinkled with funny anecdotes from tours of duty on the festival circuit.

“When we were doing the translation [of Fish Tank] for Cannes I was asked what ‘butters’ means — it’s Essex slang for ‘butt-ugly ’— so they had to find a word for it in French,” Arnold laughs, adding, “Some people have had difficulty with the broad accents, but even if you don’t understand every word, I like to think dialogue is irrelevant anyway, it’s not really what’s going on.”

Indeed, were it not for the importance of a single song, Bobby Womack’s soulful 1968 cover of California Dreamin’, “the emotional arc of Fish Tank could be understood with the volume down low. The film follows surly 15-year-old loner Mia (Katie Jarvis), who finds refuge from constant battles with her uncaring single mother (Kierston Wareing) by practising hip-hop dancing. Mia slowly warms up to her mother’s new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender), who lends her a video camera to record an audition tape. Connor’s tender fatherly demeanour toward Mia and her younger sister softens the household strife until the story takes a darker, more complicated turn.

Arnold, who is frequently compared to well known British directors of social realism Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, always casts “real people” alongside pros. Jarvis, whose character is on screen virtually every second, was discovered at an Essex youth club. “I wanted to try a couple of new things, so I decided the actors wouldn’t read the script ahead of time and that I would shoot in sequence,” Arnold explains. “For [Jarvis], who had never acted, that was one of the biggest things that worked. As the story unfolded she began to understand what was happening, and this mirrors Mia’s journey. Of course, I did tell her certain things because I couldn’t have her be surprised by something that might be difficult to do.

“I’m really looking for performances that feel genuine, like life.”

For Fish Tank, Arnold filmed in and around the dreary working-class housing projects of Essex, which lies just across the estuary from her hometown Kent. “Essex is less crowded than Kent and has more wilderness, these wonderful wide open spaces,” she says adding with a laugh, “There must be some psychological reason but, when I’m writing, if my characters are inside I’m always trying to get them outside.” This attraction to wild spaces, not to mention stories of ill-fated passion, should serve her next project well; Arnold was recently tapped to take the helm of a new adaptation of Emily Bronte’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights.

Fish Tank opens this Friday in Toronto, with other Canadian dates to follow.

Special to The Globe and Mail.

He's Just That Into Chick Flicks

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(February 17, 2010) Watching 30 chick flicks in 30 days led to more kissing and less dissing in his marriage, says a 28-year-old Oklahoma man who took on the unusual experiment to get closer to his wife.

"My wife has told me she notices I have changed," said
Nick Waters, who posted his impressions of the movies at www.30chickflicks.com. "I am much better at picking up her body language and she notices an improvement in the way I read her. I have learned what not to do in our marriage from watching these movies."

And there's more kissing at home – a lot more – Waters said.

Waters asked the web community, friends and family to suggest chick flicks made after 2007 for his study. He watched a movie a day with his wife, family and sometimes on his own. He started Jan. 15 with Waitress, starring Keri Russell, and wound up Feb. 14 with He's Just Not That Into You. His favourite was Jane Campion's Bright Star. And the worst? Indian call centre romance The Other End of the Line.

"I cringed when I watched that movie," Waters said.

As for future movie-going, Waters said he wants a few days off before seeing another. But he's not ruling out chick flicks in the mix.

"Watching this concentration of chick flicks has not put a bad taste in my mouth," he said. "If anything, there are movies we did not get to watch that I still want to see."

No Boring Oscar Speeches, Academy Vows

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(February 17, 2010) Little gold Oscar will be on the run and without a song in his heart if the producers of the 82nd annual Academy Awards have their way.

In two blockbuster announcements this week, one official and one leaked via a Hollywood blog, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled a tough new "don't bore us" edict for the March 7 Oscars telecast.

On the chopping block: lengthy acceptance speeches and performances of nominated songs.

Oscar nominees received a stern warning Monday at their traditional pre-awards luncheon in Los Angeles that they must keep their acceptance speeches to 45 seconds or less, or risk having everything short of a trap door whisk them from the stage.

"Thank-you speeches, which just recite an endless list of names that the public doesn't know, (aren't) just boring – it's the single most hated thing on the show," Oscar show co-producer Bill Mechanic told his celebrity guests at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

"We want you to think about this more seriously than you have in the past. I can tell you from experience that being `laundry-listed' didn't exactly make me feel great. I would rather have heard how much an award meant to somebody than have my name be one among many," he added.

Adam Shankman, the other Oscar-cast co-producer, said winners who really want to thank God, their grandmother, their primary school teacher and "your Facebook friends" can do so via a backstage "thank-you cam," similar to the parting shots used on TV's American Idol and Survivor.

Mechanic said the 45-second rule, which has been widely flouted in past years, would be policed much more aggressively this year, beginning with a discreet orchestral send-off and building from there if necessary.

"Our favourite was a trap door, but we were talked out of it," he joked.

"Please let this be a kinder, gentler show where we never have to use any of those devices."

In previous years, academy officials have tried to use the carrot rather than the stick to get winners to curtail their kudos. In 2001, they offered a high-definition TV to the winner with the shortest acceptance speech – and back then, hi-def TVs were rare and very expensive.

But when Julia Roberts stepped up to accept her Best Actress Oscar for Erin Brockovich, she waved off the orchestra and kept talking, declaring, "I already have a TV."

Guinness World Records lists the longest Oscars acceptance speech as the five minutes and 30 seconds notched by Greer Garson, when she accepted the Best Actress award for Mrs. Miniver in 1942.

Olivia de Havilland didn't take quite as long, but she thanked a record 27 people in her 1947 Best Actress acceptance speech for To Each His Own.

Television ratings for last year's Oscar-cast were up slightly after organizers radically changed the show, and they're hoping to build on that for this year's big event.

They also need to find time to present 10 nominees for Best Picture, instead of the usual five.

To that end, word leaked Tuesday via Nikki Finke's blog Deadline Hollywood Daily that Mechanic and Shankman are also planning to ditch performances of the five tunes nominated for Best Original Song.

The performances are part of Oscar tradition, but they're a love-it-or-hate-it thing. Some people consider the ditties essential viewing; others use them as an occasion to visit the washroom or fridge.

The person most affected by this change, which the academy hasn't yet officially confirmed, would be singer-songwriter Randy Newman, who has two nominated songs from The Princess and the Frog: "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans."

The other nominees are Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett (for "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart), Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas ("Loin de Paname" from Paris 36) and Maury Yeston ("Take It All" from the musical Nine).

Mechanic and Shankman think Oscar viewers will thank them for delivering a shorter and punchier show, but longtime Oscar watcher Sasha Stone thinks the gambit will backfire.

"There is too much desperation in the air and viewers are going to wonder why," said Stone, who keeps tabs on all awards seasons activity on her popular blog www.AwardsDaily.com.

"(The academy) is overreacting to the dip in the ratings over the past year and they are trying too hard to be like the MTV Movie Awards or American Idol. Those shows are filler. The Academy Awards are well worth preserving in terms of substance and class."


Airline Apologizes After Asking Kevin Smith To Leave Plane

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jill Lawless

(February 16, 2010) Southwest Airlines has apologized to director Kevin Smith for kicking him off one of its airplanes, but the weighty argument appears to be far from over. Smith, who was asked to leave a flight from Oakland to Burbank, Calif., on the weekend because of his size, has challenged Southwest to bring its seats to the set of Jon Stewart's Daily Show. If Smith is able to fit in them, the airline must retrain its staff and, according to Smith, "admit you lied," the Los Angeles Times says. Meanwhile, talk shows are reportedly tripping over themselves trying to get Smith as a guest. Since Smith reported the incident on his Twitter page, spurring anger from fans, Southwest has apologized repeatedly, on Twitter, on its website (where it titled the apology "Not So Silent Bob," in reference to the Silent Bob character Smith plays in many of his films) and in a phone call in which the airline promised to refund Smith's airfare. Smith bought two seats for his original flight from Oakland (not, he says, because of his weight, but to avoid conversation with fellow passengers), but he tried to catch an earlier flight on standby and only one seat was available. Smith, who described himself as "way fat," insisted that he was still able to put both armrests down and buckle his seat belt, which is Southwest's safety requirement. And he said the plane took off with a fatter guy than him on board.

Djimon Hounsou Nabs ‘Elephant’-Sized Role

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 17, 2010) *
Djimon Hounsou and Kevin Bacon will star in the new action thriller “Elephant White,” the English-language directorial debut of Prachya Pinkaew (“Chocolate,” “Ong-bak”). The Thai filmmaker will begin filming the screenplay by Kevin Bernhardt in Thailand on March 8 for Millennium Films. Hounsou will play a mercenary, while Bacon portrays an old acquaintance of Hounsou’s character whose allegiance can’t be trusted, according to the Hollywood Reporter.


Jason Priestley Is Still A Teenager After All These Years

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(February 12, 2010)
In making the raunchy sitcom Call Me Fitz, there was no humiliation Jason Priestley would not endure.

Playing a slimy used-car salesman, for three months he was slapped, kicked and called every filthy name in the book. To top it off, he spent the better part of his time during filming in Nova Scotia forced to prance about in tighty whities decorated with tractors and cars.

And he loved it. He revelled in the lewdness – downright relished playing a bad-boy loser with a potty mouth, a drinking problem and a dysfunctional family. In fact, the B.C. native describes Call Me Fitz one of the most entertaining and challenging acting experiences of his 20-year-plus career. “You know what they say, dying is easy … comedy’s hard,” says Priestley, who at 40 still has the boyish good looks that brought him fame in the early nineties as do-gooder Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210.

“The hardest thing for me was finding the right comedic moment, and holding onto it: playing it straight, keeping it real,” adds the actor, dressed in a brown sweater, jeans and construction boots, and sharing a table at a Toronto restaurant with Call Me Fitz writer/producer Sheri Elwood. “Getting kicked around and crashing cars was the easy part. Hell, I’ve been doing that since I was old enough to walk.”

It was Priestley, Elwood is quick to add, who came up with the idea of having the lay-about lead, Richard Fitzpatrick, strut about in nothing but his gitch – which were the brand Ginch Gonch, an underwear manufacturer in Montreal. “Ginch Gonch helps to symbolize the little boy that Fitz really is,” Priestley says. “They’re perfect for Fitz, a guy who is arrested as an adolescent, and has never really progressed past 15.

“Fitz always just does what he thinks is his next-best move, without ever thinking about the future consequences or ramifications. But he’s fun. And he’s doing the best he can, like all the rest of us who are just trying to muddle through.”

Shot in the Annapolis Valley village of New Minas, N.S., the 13-part Call Me Fitz – slated to air on The Movie Network and Movie Central this summer – begins after Fitz botches a test drive and puts his customer in a coma. He then encounters a new salesman on the lot, Larry (Ernie Grunwald), who serves as Fitz’s moral conscience. Carnage ensues.

“If you put The Hangover on the psychiatrist’s couch, that’s what this show is,” says Elwood, who also wrote and produced the CTV series Defying Gravity. “It’s a raunchy show that is really about eviscerating this man’s psyche. Larry forces him to take a look at what’s going on in his life, and Fitz doesn’t like what he sees.”

Elwood, who grew up on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, wrote Call Me Fitz several years ago as a comedy sample. Approached several times to turn the pilot script into a series, she balked until now because “all the pieces never quite fit.”

When TMN signed on, even finding the right Fitz was a dilemma – one Elwood didn’t resolve until she happened upon a YouTube interview of Priestley with CBC Radio’s Jian Ghomeshi. “I think you’d stumbled in from the night before, in an old T-shirt and a couple days’ worth of growth,” she ribs Priestley. “It was filmed with a hand-held camera and posted on the Internet. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s my guy.’

“The writers and I tried our damnedest to embarrass Jason during the shoot, but nothing fazes him,” says Elwood of her star, who also plays in multiple sex scenes (including one where he is exuberantly spanked). “This is a true cable show in every sense of the word. And TMN gave us the artistic freedom to take it far as we thought it needed to go. So we [went] for it.”

Since 90210 went off the air, Priestley has worked consistently in Los Angeles – as an actor, director and producer – on shows such as My Name is Earl, Hollywood & Vines (Priestley is a real-life wine lover who has a stake in the Okanogan, B.C.’s Black Hills Winery) and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

He says he took the part of the bumbling Fitz because Elwood’s script was laugh-out-loud funny. “The show also has a lot of heart, a lot of pathos, so it was a pretty easy decision,” adds Priestley, who came up to Nova Scotia to start filming last October, accompanied by his wife, Naomi Lowde, and their two young kids.

“The locals loved us,” says Priestley, adding that 1,500 auditioned for various parts. “It was refreshing to come to a place where people were actually happy to see you. So often now, people see the trucks roll in and they say, ‘Crap, traffic’s going to be backed up.’ Here, they appreciated the business, and the work.”

Elwood says she brought her show home to the Maritimes for a simple reason: It “made the most financial sense.”

But there were other factors that made it appealing as well. “We found a wonderful location in a small, working-class town that fit perfectly for our ugly/beautiful aesthetic. Plus, my mom got to stop by with her homemade cookies, made with 17 pounds of butter, that the cast and crew devoured.

“All except you,” she adds, jerking her head at Priestley. “Because you had to be in your underwear all the time.”

Much as he loved those Ginch Gonches, Priestley says, he left his 20 pairs with wardrobe. It was a gesture not of generosity but of convenience, he explains: “I’m going to wear them when I go back for season two.” 

Medical TV Shows Not Always Accurate

Source: www.thestar.com - Sheryl Ubelacker

(February 15, 2010) Television medical dramas can be misleading when it comes to the proper way to deal with epileptic seizures or convulsions, say researchers, who have found that small-screen doctors and nurses do it incorrectly more than half the time.

In a study by Dalhousie University, researchers screened all episodes of the top medical shows, including
Grey's Anatomy, House, Private Practice and the last five seasons of ER.

Of 327 episodes, there were almost 60 examples of patients experiencing seizures or convulsions, said lead investigator Andrew Moeller, a third-year medical student at the Halifax university. Of those, most took place within hospital settings on the shows and were treated by "nurses" or "doctors."

The study found that in 25 cases – about 46 per cent – the story line had health providers giving first aid for seizures in an inappropriate manner, said Moeller, who screened all 327 episodes of the medical shows.

Proper treatment was shown in 17 seizures, or about 29 per cent of the time, while appropriateness could not be determined in 15 cases, or about 25 per cent of the total.

"What we characterized as inappropriate handling of it was trying to stop someone's seizing movements, trying to hold the person down or sticking something in their mouth," he said from Halifax.

"What you should be doing is clearing the area of harmful objects. If it's possible, rotate the person onto their side to keep them from hurting themselves – it's called the recovery position – and if possible put something soft under their head."

Moeller, who conducted the study with Halifax neurologist Dr. Mark Sadler, said the concern is that viewers who are unaware of the proper way to give first aid to someone having a seizure will take their cue from what they see on TV.

"And (they could) inadvertently hurt someone when they're actually trying to help someone."

Moeller said holding a person down or trying to stop their seizing movements can cause bruises or cuts, and in rare cases serious muscle damage.

People having seizures can bite their tongues, he agreed, but stressed it's far more dangerous to stick an object like a stick or pencil in their mouths.

Sandra de Castro Buffington, director of Hollywood, Health and Society at the University of Southern California, said she understands the concern about some viewers acting on what they see on TV dramas.

"I totally understand that, because we know from ... survey data that nearly two-thirds of regular viewers of TV – defined as viewers who watch two or more times a week – say they learn something new about health from television shows."

"When I say learn something new, they learn something new about a disease or how to prevent it," she said. "And one-third of those viewers take action on what they've learned."

Hollywood, Health and Society is an independent, non-profit program created eight years ago to serve as a free resource to the entertainment industry.

The organization connects scriptwriters and producers with medical experts to "increase the accuracy and timely portrayal of health topics in TV, health story lines, and film and new media," she said.

It works or has worked with all four medical dramas assessed by the Dalhousie study, both through proactive outreach to writers and also by responding to their inquiries.

But when it comes to the researchers' take that nearly half of the portrayals of seizures were inaccurate, De Castro Buffington said she "would flip this on its head and come up with a very different conclusion."

"What that says to me is over half of the portrayals of seizure were accurate – over half. Now that's pretty impressive." (The 25 per cent that researchers could not determine may have been done correctly.) She pointed out that the job of TV writers is to tell compelling stories, not to be health educators.

"That’s not their job. And we respect that."

Moeller said a more detailed analysis from the study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting to be held in Toronto in April.

We Remember TV Personality Bo Griffin

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 16, 2010) Radio and television personality Bo Griffin has died following a short battle with intestinal cancer. She was 51.

According to BV Buzz’s Jawn Murray, “Griffin apparently was unaware she had cancer and after feeling some pain back in January, she went to the hospital to have it checked out and received her grim diagnosis.”

The Greenville, SC bred entertainer had recently been guest-hosting the Game Show Network’s “GSN Live” and was due to begin working as a correspondent for the news magazine show “Extra,” where she had worked before.

Griffin was perhaps best known for her “Knock Knock Makeovers” on the nationally syndicated “Good Day Live,” where she worked alongside anchors Dorothy Lucy, Steve Edwards and Jillian Barberie. She also did segments for the show’s Los Angeles version, “Good Day LA.” [
View clip below.]

Additionally, Griffin served as a co-host on the short-lived nationally syndicated talk show, ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” in 2000 with co-hosts Cristina Ferrare, Sam Phillips, Dr. Drew Pinsky and Rondell Sheridan. [View clip below.]

Before moving to television, the self-described “southern girl” worked extensively in radio, earning the Glass Ceiling Award from Black Radio Exclusive magazine.

According to Murray, Griffin owned a successful boutique called Goddess in Greenville that she recently sold because of her plans to move back to Los Angeles full-time. She had gotten engaged last year and she and fiancé Grover were anticipating getting married this September.

Griffin is survived by her father Rev. David L. Hellams, Pastor Emeritus of Mt. Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville; her fiancé; two sisters Polly Peterson and Cindy Griffin; and a host of other family and friends.

Below, an Aug. 2007 clip of Bo Griffin on “Good Day LA,” and a clip from “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.


‘Billy Elliot’ Heading To Toronto

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 16, 2010) Billy Elliot is finally coming to Toronto.

The hit musical version of Stephen Daldry’s heart-warming 2000 film about a young lad in an embattled British mining town who winds up in the world of ballet will open in February 2011.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning by David Mirvish, director Daldry and producers Jon Finn and David Furnish, former Torontonian and partner of the show's composer, Elton John, at a press conference held at the Panasonic Theatre.

Billy Elliot The Musical has already proved to be a huge hit in London, New York and Australia, and a North American touring company will be launched in Chicago on March 18.

Although the show’s arrival as part of the 2010-2011 Mirvish subscription season is 100 per cent firm, what isn’t known yet is the nature of the cast.

Daldry and Finn admitted that they weren’t certain yet whether the Toronto run would simply feature a transfer of the Chicago production or involve a whole new company, which might be largely from Toronto.

There’s already a history of Canadian involvement with the show, which includes Montrealer
David Alvarez’s Tony Award-winning performance as one of the original Broadways Billys, Toronto’s Kate Hennig, starring in New York in the leading role of dance teacher Mrs. Wilkinson, and one of the Billys of the Chicago company, Cesar Corrales, also from Montreal.

The film of Billy Elliot had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2000. “It’s funny how Toronto has always been involved with Billy Elliot,” director Daldry said Tuesday.

“It’s no secret that we wanted to open the North American production here, but we just weren’t able to make it work financially. I’m glad it’s finally coming to the city where I always hoped it would play.”

Catherine Zeta-Jones Back On Stage And Loving It

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 13, 2010) These days,
Catherine Zeta-Jones is grateful for many things, but high on her list is the good cellphone reception at Mont Tremblant, Que., where she and husband Michael Douglas have built a home.

"There I was last summer, hitting golf balls out on the driving range, when I got a phone call from Trevor Nunn asking me if I wanted to star in his production of
A Little Night Music on Broadway."

Zeta-Jones, foxy and fabulous at 40, is relaxing between performances in her dressing room at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where her performance as Desiree in the hit revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical has made her the toast of Manhattan.

"I told Trevor I needed a little time to think," continues Zeta-Jones, "then I bashed out a few more balls and the phone rang again. This time it was Stephen Sondheim, saying he really wanted me to do the show as well."

She gives a low wolf whistle of admiration – the kind of sound she's used to hearing from men as she walks by – but then suddenly turns into a little girl again. "You know, I grew up dreaming of people like that phoning me, and there it was, actually happening."

It's something we tend to forget, now that the Welsh-born beauty is thought of as a movie star. But she was a theatre animal first and that's where her heart has always really been.

Born in Swansea, she started acting in amateur musicals at the age of 10; by the time she was 14, she had appeared professionally in Annie and Bugsy Malone. And in the kind of this-is-too-good-to-be-true story you only find in show business, she took over the lead in the West End production of 42nd Street after both the star and the understudy fell ill.

42nd Street, you may recall, is all about the unknown who steps into the lead, and features the classic line, "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

That isn't quite what happened to Zeta-Jones. She stayed with 42nd Street until it closed, but when she went out to audition for Trevor Nunn as the ingénue in the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Aspects of Love, he turned her down flat.

"Trevor is always charming," she recalls, "and he tried to be as nice as possible, telling me I was just a little bit too old and a little bit too pretty.

"I wasn't even 20 at the time and I remember telling him that I could be as not pretty or as not old as he wanted, but it didn't do any good."

She gives that wicked laugh that turned Antonio Banderas into mush in The Mask of Zorro, and made Renée Zellweger tremble in Chicago. "That's something I never let Trevor forget. Whenever he'd start giving me trouble this time around, I'd say, `Remember, you turned me down once!'"

You definitely get the feeling Zeta-Jones hasn't been turned down many times in her life. She radiates supreme confidence, along with a quick wit, a smashing sense of style and an almost palpable sensuality that she can click on or off like a personal spotlight whenever she chooses.

After finding that the theatre world wasn't as welcoming as she would have liked, she switched to television, making a strong impression in the series The Darling Buds of May, and soon segued into the film career where she has been successful ever since.

"You know, it has been 20 years since I've done theatre," she says about her role in A Little Night Music, "and quite frankly, I was scared. I thought that all my instincts would have turned into film acting techniques, but I was wrong.

"Once I got onto the stage, it all came back to me. Like they always say about riding a bike or making love ... although I have no idea what all of those things are supposed to have in common."

As she gets more comfortable, her devilish sense of humour peeps out with increasing frequency. "At one point in rehearsal, Trevor cautioned me, `Now, darling, I know you've been a dancer and I don't want to see too much of that in your performance.'

"Well, I snapped right back, `What did you think I was going to do, Trevor? Do a split on the settee or break into some jazz hands during the waltz?'"

At that moment, she seems very close to the character of Desiree Armfeldt, 40-ish actress, single mother, superbly theatrical.

"Every time I'd discover the humour in a scene, Trevor would say `That's it! You're her!' and I have to admit that I always do find the funny things in life. I mean, what's the point of moaning about how the world has treated you badly? It has treated me very well. Yes, I've had my down moments, but I keep them in perspective."

And she uses them as well. When asked how she summoned up the subtle look of total loss that sweeps across her face when she realizes her plan to ensnare her former lover isn't working, she says quietly, "I always delve into myself. You just do. That's the great thing about acting. Your life experiences help your work and you get to make use of the things that you once thought were so painful."

All of which leads her to the heart of Desiree's performance, the great song "Send in the Clowns."

"Knowing that I'd have to sing that was the most intimidating thing about playing the role," she confesses. "I know that I could not compete with all the great singers who have recorded it, Streisand, Sinatra, my God, what a list!

"When I was in rehearsals, I only spoke the lyrics for a very long time. I wanted to understand what it means to that woman in the context of the particular scene she was living through."

Zeta-Jones has been rightly praised for the delicate pathos of her rendition, but when reminded of that, she becomes surprisingly, blushingly modest.

"I can't take any credit for that. It's such a magnificent piece of writing. The lyrics are a continuation of her character and the music flows so simply and beautifully that it's just a treat to sing it every night."

So now that she has dipped back into the world of live performance again, does she want to continue?

"Oh God, yes! In a minute. The theatrical community in New York and the audiences have all been so welcoming that I'd come back again tomorrow."

Catherine Zeta-Jones and the theatre. Isn't it rich? Are they a pair?

Playwright Finds Her 'Dark Night Of The Soul'

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 15, 2010) Ask playwright
Rosa Laborde why four years have passed between the opening of her hit show, Leo, and Wednesday night's Tarragon Theatre opening of Hush and she responds with a catalogue of reasons in rapid succession.

"Well first, Leo kept touring and being revived and then I got into a lot of acting and I also spent a lot of time working on a short film script that's about to go into production and..."

She runs out of air and excuses at the same time.

"Okay, to be honest, I was scared," admits the 31-year-old author, with a rush of breath that combines relief and panic.

Terror is at the root of Hush.

"It's about a man who has a daughter who is just about to become a woman," Laborde says. "She's having night terrors and her father soon discovers that he's dreaming the same dreams she is and it terrifies him. He starts to fear she might be unstable and that reminds him of elements in his past."

No wonder the whole idea came to Laborde in a dream, after which she woke up trembling, but realized this was something she had to write.

"This play has really come from a dark night of the soul. A lifetime of seeking, a desire for love and an inability to receive it. And yes, an inability to reconcile certain aspects of my familial past. How can I put this? This is the play my parents can't see."

That's a strange thing to say, because her initial show, Leo, was inspired by her family, imbued from top to bottom with the experience they had known in Chile during the tumultuous Allende years.

It was that show that launched Laborde into the theatrical firmament, spawning a national tour and several revivals.

So why was she experiencing "a dark night of the soul?" Wasn't Laborde just coming off the kind of success with her first play that many authors wait a lifetime for and still never get? Wasn't her acting career thriving and wasn't she in a personal relationship?

"Yes to all of those things," she admits. "But what I discovered in the last four years is how little all that matters. The funny thing about success is that it doesn't make you happy. That was a beautiful gift to learn."

She laughs, suddenly. "It would be a lie to say I didn't like being appreciated by my colleagues, the critics and the audiences, but it didn't change anything about my inner life."

And that's where Laborde increasingly found trouble.

"Nothing out there seemed to make everything in here peaceful. And that was a scary disillusionment to hit. Oh my God, nothing in my life taught me to cope with that.

"I was in a really long-term relationship, a common-law marriage, actually, and I realized that wasn't working out either. One day we were looking at houses and the next..."

She lets the sentence hang in the air and is silent a long time before speaking again.

"The hardest couple of years in my life have also been the biggest gift of my life. Now I realize that."

Laborde has also been made aware from that paradox of many similar conundrums that govern people's lives – both onstage and off.

"In Hush, a man is trying to protect his daughter, but in so doing, causes her more harm. And in our personal relationships, we're always hiding things and say that we're doing it to protect people we love from pain.

"But what we're really doing is blocking ourselves from love, because we're not allowing things to be the way they really are."

Now that opening night is near, Laborde admits that although she is "much happier inside," there are different terrors that haunt her.

"It's always dangerous to follow a hit. I'm worried about the `can she do it again?' syndrome. The other night I lay in bed and asked myself if it was too late to go to medical school.

"And I finally realized it was. The theatre is my life. It's where I'm going to stay."


MAG: A Massively Addictive Game

Source: www.thestar.com -
Darren Zenko

(out of four)
For PlayStation 3. $59.99
Rated T for teen

(February 06, 2010) Confession time, dear reader: I am a diehard single-player gamer. I game as George Thorogood drinks – alone. I do understand online gaming, its lingo and guilds and raids, but I understand it in the same way a beer-league defenceman understands pro hockey.

The last multiplayer game into which I put a significant amount of time (200-plus hours) was Duke Nukem, back in the '90s. It's with this thin background that I stepped into the multiplayer martial meat-grinder of

I ought to explain my beef with multiplayer. It's not that I don't like it, but that I like it too much. I know my psychology and know where my potential addictions lie, having felt their touch. Late nights shading into mornings with text-based dungeon crawls in the early `90s, the aforementioned Duke death-match kick, flirtations with Ultima Online and Fantasy Star Online ... so seductive. If I let myself get too deep – God forbid I install World of Warcraft – I'm gone. Even after a relatively scanty 15 hours with MAG, I felt those hooks in my heart.

This despite my relative newbiedom. MAG is, in fact, quite a newbie-friendly game. The "M" in the title stands for "Massive" – the rest is "Action Game" – with up to 256 virtual mercenaries duking it out in some battles, and with this much going on the focus is on group tactics rather than individual deathmatch-style heroism.

For a rookie, there's something liberating in being just one of dozens of nearly anonymous pieces of meat rather than a sore-thumb liability/victim. Follow-the-leader is the name of the game, and you learn quick.

And even when you cluelessly blunder into a firing lane, you're kind of helping out: those five snipers that shot your green butt off just gave their positions away.

So, I had a lot of fun. The maps that support so many players are big and varied, filled with tunnels and lookouts, tactical opportunities or liabilities depending on where you're standing, and moving through them is smooth and solid. MAG's no-frills first-person-shooter controls don't get in the way of all the crouching, crawling, dashing and shoot-shoot-shooting you'll be doing.

It's a good gateway – or re-entry – drug.

And this is a problem.

The good gameplay and unexpected friendliness of the "massive" style combine with a role playing game-style character development system to really get my addiction-ready dopamine receptors howling. Add a hook – a global mercenary war in which your efforts may turn the tide – that makes play feel like responsibility, and a player culture that seems pleasantly light on the racism/misogyny/homophobia that's turned me off death-matching in the past, and MAG has the makings of a life-wrecker.

If only there was a single-player campaign to take the edge off.

Bioshock 2: Undersea Dystopia Real Star Of The Show

Source:  www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

BioShock 2
(out of 4)
For Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Rated M

(February 13, 2010) Critically acclaimed and multi-million-selling, 2007's
BioShock must necessarily spawn a sequel – even a whole new "franchise." Equally axiomatic was that said sequel/franchise would be following a pretty tough act. But BioShock 2 manages to pull it off by being what a proper sequel ought to be: an heir to what was great in its predecessor, an exploration and expansion of its themes, and – most importantly – a work that stands up on its own.

The cornerstone of BioShock 2's getting it right is its development of the setting, the fallen undersea utopia of Rapture. Make no mistake – for all the iconic visual power of the series' pro/antagonist Big Daddies and their creepy/pathetic Little Sisters, for all the intrigue and ideological wrangling of its storyline, the real star of the show is Rapture itself. Crumbling, creaking, leaking, rusting, its former Art Deco-meets-steampunk grandeur encrusted with the filth and Mad Max improvisation of decades of occupation by biodrug-addled zombies, Rapture as an architectural character is one of the most compelling in games.

BioShock 2 gives us the Rapture we remember – or maybe re-experience in our nightmares – and kicks it up the proverbial notch. As a geometric space for first-person-shooter action, the level design is excellent, but the real triumph is in the details. This is a masterpiece of virtual set decoration, exceeded only by Fallout 3. As in Fallout, every square inch of Rapture expresses the central theme of a paradise lost, an almost archaeological layering of the world of today on top of the past. Details, details, wonderful details, beauty and horror and humour taking turns kicking at your visual cortex with every door you open, every corridor you explore.

Rapture, though, is not only a physical space but a social one. Again, this sequel does right by its heritage by maintaining the ideas of the original while elaborating on ... well, not loose threads, exactly, but those elements of theme and setting that were ripe for elaboration. Once again, the voices of Rapture speak to the player through found diary recordings (Rapturites were spectacularly profligate with their tape recorders), weaving a history of conflict in which opposed philosophies – collectivism vs. individualism, etc. – with only ends-justify-the-means evil in common, clash and leave mere humans crushed between them. Especially welcome is BioShock 2's willingness to further explore the glaringly obvious gender theme – Big Daddies, Little Sisters, "Adam" and "Eve" as the twin currencies of power – that BioShock introduced but didn't have a lot of time for.

Of course, all this beauty and design and middle-brow philosophizing is in support of a game, an action game with shooting and ammunition and tactics and superpowers and what have you. BioShock 2 is a good game. Fights play out quickly and desperately, with a huge matrix of weapons, abilities and environmental factors creating unlimited tactical choices, enhanced by a joyous palette of personalized upgrades. Especially notable is how, given the almost infinite ways players might kit themselves out and fight their battles, the developers managed to tune the gameplay to an almost perfect pitch for maintaining adrenaline flows. You always feel tough, but you never feel invincible; you always feel capable, but you're never not worried.

Fun, engaging, gorgeous and deep in multiple dimensions, BioShock 2 pretty much pays off on everything that a sequel to a game that didn't need a sequel could possibly pay off on. Return to Rapture, the terrible, beguiling place you never want to stop wanting to leave.  


Mo’Nique to Headline Comedy Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 12, 2010) *Returning to her stand-up roots, Oscar-nominated actress
Mo’Nique will take a break from her BET late night talk show to embark on a 20-city comedy tour beginning in March.

Dubbed “Mo’Nique Spread the Love Tour 2010,” the trek will also feature her talk show sidekick Rodney Perry, comedian Tone-X as the tour’s “Man on the Street” and DJ Ant.

“On this tour people can expect the kind of laughter that makes the bottom of their stomach hurt, and the type of love you’ll never forget,” says the comic, an Academy Award nominee for her role in the film “Precious.”

The tour, presented by AEG Live, will kick off in New Orleans at the Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena on Saturday, March 19 and will conclude on May 22 in Bridgeport, CT.

Tickets go on sale in select cities beginning Friday, Feb. 19 via aeglive.com, all Ticketmaster locations, online at ticketmaster.com and at the respective venue’s box offices.

Tour information is listed below:

March 2010
19  New Orleans, LA (Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena)    
20  Washington, DC (DAR Constitution Hall)
26  St. Louis, MO (Fabulous Fox Theatre)
27  Detroit, MI (Fox Theatre

April 2010
2  Los Angeles, CA (Nokia Theatre – LA Live)   
3 Oakland, CA (Paramount Theater)   
9  Newark, NJ  (Prudential Center)   
10 Augusta, GA (James Brown Arena)   
16 Kansas City, MO (Midland Theatre by AMC)   
17 Houston, TX (Reliant Arena)   
23 Boston, MA (Agganis Arena at Boston University)   
24 New York, NY (Theater at Madison Square Garden)   
30 Charlotte, NC (Bojangles Coliseum)   

May 2010
1  Norfolk, VA (Constant Convocation Center)   
7  Birmingham, AL (BJCC Arena)   
8  Milwaukee, WI (Milwaukee Theatre)   
14 Minneapolis, MN (U.S. Bank Theater at Target Center)   
15  Chicago, IL (Arie Crown Theater)   
21  Philadelphia, PA (Temple University – The Liacouras Center)   
22  Bridgeport, CT (Arena at Harbor Yard)  


Maelle Ricker's Gold Puts Turin Nightmare To Rest

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

(February 17, 2010) VANCOUVER–Maelle Ricker was helicoptered off the hill at her last Olympics.

This time, she needed no help to soar.

Ricker has no recollection of the spectacular crash in the final at the 2006 Turin Games that left her with a concussion, but what happened Tuesday at Cypress Mountain will be etched in her memory forever.

It started off inauspiciously. The weather was so dodgy that it looked like the women's snowboard cross might have to be postponed. But Ricker, who grew up in North Vancouver, looked out the window and saw opportunity.

"I'm a West Coast girl so I absolutely love that weather. It's in my blood," she said. "So when I actually woke up this morning and saw the rain and fog, it actually brought a huge smile to my face and I was ready to go."

In reality, it took her a while to get going. She fell in her first qualifying run and rode stiffly and tentatively in the second to advance to the quarter-final.

But once that was out of the way, the 31-year-old put on one heck of a clinic on a technically demanding course that set the stage for a battle of attrition.

It was quite something to watch Ricker in the start: her calm demeanour and focus, the way she lowered herself like a sprinter, preparing to launch like a loaded spring.

Crouching tiger, inner dragon.

"She's quiet," said Canadian coach Tim Milne. "She's not that outgoing sometimes. Inside, she's got the fire of a champion. When she gets into that start gate and grabs the handles, it's absolutely amazing the transformation that takes place. And man, she was on fire today. That was such a dominant performance."

Indeed, Ricker led from wire to wire in both the quarter-final semi-final, and then did it again in the final to capture Canada's second gold medal of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

There was one close call in the semi-final when American Lindsey Jacobellis and Ricker almost bumped while going for the same line on a turn, but the Canadian held her position and the American went off course. Jacobellis became infamous in Turin for crashing after doing a hot dog move near the finish when the gold was hers for the taking.

Ricker wrapped herself in the Canadian flag afterwards. Wearing a big toque with oversized goggles propped on top, she looked very humble and gave a shy smile as she stepped to the top of the podium during the flower ceremony; she gets her medal Wednesday in downtown Vancouver.

Ricker grew up snowboarding on Cypress and Grouse mountains, having taken up the sport at 12 because she wanted to emulate her older brother Jorli, who was in the stands Tuesday with her parents.

"It's crazy," she said. "Indescribable. I'm going to pinch myself. It's some crazy dream."

For Ricker, the Olympic gold was quite a reward for persevering through eight knee surgeries and her difficult experience in Turin.

"Coming home from Torino, I was already thinking about what I was going to do to perform today," she said. "I was already feeling motivated, I was looking forward to doing some free riding, hanging out with some friends and finishing the season. I really knew at that point in Torino that I wanted to keep going, keep racing and hopefully throw down a day that I actually managed to pull it off."

This has been an incredible season for Ricker, who leads the World Cup standings with four medals, including three gold.

Her teammate, Dominique Maltais of Montreal, has also been having a great season and was on the podium all four times during the World Cup with Ricker. But she was nervous coming in after suffering a hyper-extended elbow in a crash this week. Another nasty crash in training just before the race left her coughing up blood.

"I didn't like what I saw and I freaked out a little bit," said Maltais, who as a firefighter is no shrinking violet. "But I'm all right. That's boarder cross."

The course claimed a lot of victims.

"The truth is, people love a bit of carnage," said Australian Stephanie Hickey. "I think it makes it exciting for the spectators."

Ricker did a pretty grand job of that, too.

Alexandre Bilodeau Pure Moguls Magic

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk, Sports Columnist

(February 15, 2010) VANCOUVER–On the path to becoming the first Canadian to win Olympic gold on Canadian soil,
Alexandre Bilodeau, like any athlete, had his setbacks.

He suffered his crises of desire and dedication. He finished a disappointing 11th at the Turin Olympics four years ago, when he acknowledged he was ill-prepared for the grand stage. But when he needed inspiration, it was always close at hand.

So it was touching on Sunday night, after watching Bilodeau scream down the moguls run at Cypress Mountain to claim an historic victory, to hear him using softer tones to speak admiringly of his older brother, Frederic.

"He's been an inspiration for me since I was so young," said Bilodeau, 22. "He's 29 right now. February 18th is his birthday. He's handicapped. He's got cerebral palsy. And growing up with a brother that's handicapped, you learn so much.

"... Going into those schools where everybody could complain, but the only thing on their face is a smile. They're enjoying life.

"It puts everything back into perspective. I've got that chance to train, and maybe one day will be an Olympic champion, and I'll take it. Even if it's raining, I'll take it. I'll go train. (Frederic) doesn't even have that chance, and he has a smile. Every morning he wakes up, and he's got all the right to complain, and he never complains. ... We can learn from those people."

There's a nation of young athletes who'll be learning from Alexandre Bilodeau for years to come, of course. It took more than 33 years from the moment the Olympic torch was ignited in Montreal for Canada to finally triumph at a home Games. And Bilodeau's lesson, as simple as it seems now that it's been taught so compellingly, didn't seem so obvious in the decades of waiting. But here it was: It can be done. And, he said, it can be done again and again.

"It's just the best feeling ever," said Bilodeau. "I've been so prepared for that (run). I have such a good team behind me. ... There's more to come. The party is starting for Canada.

"I'll be in the stands cheering for all the Canadians that will win gold in the upcoming days."

Bilodeau was generous in handing out credit for the greatest success of his young career. (At 18, he became the youngest competitor ever to win a World Cup gold in his chosen event). He credited Jenn Heil, who won silver in women's moguls a night earlier, for being his mentor and, in his words, his "big sister."

"She inspired me. She inspired all Canadians. And she's a great athlete," said Bilodeau. "I train every day with her. Every day she's an inspiration for me.

"She's, for me, the best athlete I've ever seen. She makes so many sacrifices. I've got that thing, you learn from the best. And Jenn is the best."

And Bilodeau, too, credited his competitors for pushing him to become a better competitor.

"The level of skiing went up a lot of notches in the last couple of years," he said. "There's many guys, there's probably 10 guys, that could have been on top of the podium today. And I'm glad it was me."

It was him, despite a great performance from Dale Begg-Smith, the defending Olympic champion who is the product of Vancouver but who has long competed for Australia.

Bilodeau's great run down the course, some 23 seconds of artistry that was four years in the painting, knocked Begg-Smith from the top spot. Begg-Smith won silver. American Bryon Wilson took the bronze.

"I think it was great that Canada won gold," said Begg-Smith. "The crowd was really happy with it. Everybody went crazy. We're out there to put on a show, and obviously everybody enjoyed what they saw."

Bilodeau, who came into the final run having put up the fourth-best score in the qualifying round, claimed in the immediate aftermath of his victory that he couldn't necessarily believe what he saw.

"Too good to be true," is how he put it.

But it was true, and Frederic Bilodeau, not to mention a large cadre of Alexandre's friends and family, were there at the bottom of the hill to confirm the results with joyous hugs and kisses.

"I was nervous, but I was comfortable. And I was just (thinking), `Whatever will happen, will happen. I've got no regrets. Just let it happen.' I went for it."


Canadians Advance To Men’s Snowboard-Cross Final

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk,
Sports Columnist

(February 15, 2010) WEST VANCOUVER, B.C.—Four out of four Canadian snowboard-cross racers have advanced to the men’s final atop Cypress Mountain.
Mike Robertson of Canmore, Alta., grabbed third in qualifying to move on to the sudden-death elimination round. Rob Fagan of Cranbrook, B.C., came 10th, Drew Neilson of North Vancouver, B.C., finished 11th and Francois Boivin of Jonquiere, Que., came 15th. Thirty-two of the 35 riders qualified for the next round where four riders will bomb down the narrow course at the same time. The top two boarders in each heat move on. The Canadian riders drew huge cheers from the thousands of fans in the grandstand. Australia’s Alex Pullin was the fastest rider in the qualification round. Pierre Vaultier of France, the World Cup points leader, also advanced with a sixth-place finish.

Lainey Lui: The Nicest Celebrity At The Games

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - By Lainey Lui

(February 16, 2010) Every day, the Armed Forces and the Mounties block off a section of downtown Vancouver to escort a VIP motorcade. Every day the crowds are lined five deep along the streets hoping to get a glimpse ... of Oprah!? As the fleet drives by, people scream her name at the top of their lungs, hoping a free car will fall out of the sky.  Of course, it never ends up being Oprah Winfrey. But for some reason, even with the presence of royalty, foreign dignitaries and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Vancouver the past few days, all anyone ever thinks when they see a long row of SUVs is Oprah. She was actually planning a short visit here last week to shoot a segment for her show. Logistics ended up being too complicated and the trip was canned.  Nicest celebrity so far?  Donald Sutherland - the voice of the opening ceremony, who's also been spotted at short track speed skating and other events with his family - is always sweet and obliging to fans and supporters asking for photos and autographs.  And notorious germaphobe Howie Mandel dropped by the HBC celebrity gift lounge the other day for some Team Canada gear. Things are cleaner when they're free.

Olympics Makes History with First Black Ice Skating Couple

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 16, 2010) *Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur of France on Monday became the first black couple in history to compete in Olympic pairs skating. The couple met each other three years ago through an Internet site for competitive pairs skaters seeking partners. “I didn’t search for a black girl in the first place, just a girl who wanted to try and work for it,” Bonheur, 27, told reporters, according to Reuters. James, 22, was born in Canada, but competed for Britain as a single. She was granted French citizenship last year. She said her performance with Bonheur at the Winter Games showed the door had finally been opened for black pairs skaters. “We hope that in the future we can win many medals and have a black coach and officials in pairs skating,” Bonheur told reporters after the performance. Although the duo finished in 14th place, their series of high-flying jumps and high-risk lifts made them crowd favourites at the Pacific Coliseum. Previous black Olympic skaters competed as singles. Debi Thomas of the U.S. won a bronze medal at the Calgary games in 1988, and Surya Bonaly of France competed in three Olympics in the 1990s. Below, Vanessa James and Yannick Bonheur skate to Bjork’s “Oh So Quiet” at  Courchevel Galain in 2009.