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LE NEWSLETTER

July 1, 2010

HAPPY CANADA DAY!!
Hope you are all enjoying yourselves somewhere today with a BBQ, patio or pool or all three!  Please enjoy safely.  And Happy Pride weekend!  Seems to have snuck upon us this year - probably because of all the G20 drama and chaos next week.  Check out the news and calendar of events below with lots of LIVE MUSIC on downtown streets this weekend! 

Special CD GIVEAWAY again this week. 
Sheryl Crow's newest release, 100 Miles from Memphis!  Don't be disappointed by not including your full mailing address - if you don't, I cannot consider your entry.  If you can tell me where you can pre-order this CD, then you could be a winner.  Enter contest HERE.  The answer is HERE.

 


Tons of news this week ... scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


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

::SCOOP::

Sheryl Crow’s ‘100 Miles from Memphis’

Source: Universal Music Canada

For
Sheryl Crow, the title of her seventh album isn't just a location; it's a state of mind. "I grew up in a small town 100 miles from Memphis, and that informed not only my musical taste, but how I look at life," she says. "The drive to Memphis is all farmland, and everyone is community-oriented, God-fearing people, connected to the earth. The music that came out of that part of the world is a part of who I am, and it's the biggest inspiration for what I do and why I do it."

SHERYL CROWS's '100 Miles From Memphis' will be released everywhere on July 20th, or you can pre-order it on iTunes now and receive a bonus track HERE.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ‘100 Miles From Memphis’!

Sheryl Crow explains that the way 100 Miles From Memphis was recorded is crucial to its slinky grooves and rolling rhythms. Produced by Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley ("I knew they could get that old soul feeling with authenticity," she says), and cut mostly live with a regular crew of musicians, the album presented a new set of challenges for her as a singer and a songwriter.

"This wasn't like any other record I've made," she says. "We cut two, three, sometimes four tracks a day, for ten or twelve days. We wrote a lot of music, and then I had to write lyrics later, to catch up. That was definitely a new experience, feeling like I had to do homework. It was super-daunting."

What emerged was a set of songs that are unusually open and direct for someone often celebrated for the care and craft of her writing. "This music called for emotion, a place of sensuality and sexuality, and that's a little challenging for me," she says. "Sometimes it's easier for me to hide behind more intellectual lyrics. So it was a great stretching experience to show more vulnerability in my writing."

Though the album features a tighter focus on Crow's voice than ever before, a few high-profile guest stars did stop by the sessions.  When she cut "Eye to Eye," with its loping reggae groove, there was only one guitarist she could imagine adding his signature slashing riffs to the mix-her old friend Keith Richards. "He has been such a champion for me, and the Stones gave me so many breaks along the way, from very early on," she says. (When Richards recorded his part at Electric Lady studios, the New York City facility built for Jimi Hendrix, he started reminiscing about the incomparable guitar wizard; "we were all like little kids at story hour," says Crow.) Citizen Cope appears on a hazy, impassioned duet of his "Sideways," a song Crow says she has long wanted to record and one of several string-heavy arrangements on 100 Miles From Memphis.

Another guest confirms her appeal across generations. A Memphis native named Justin Timberlake dropped by one of Crow's sessions at Henson Studios in Los Angeles (the former A&M studio), and offered to contribute background vocals to a version of Terence Trent D'Arby's 1987 smash "Sign Your Name" that was being recast in the style of Al Green, right down to the distinctive thud of the Hi Records drums. "He's hysterical and super-smart, and he knows a lot about a lot of different kinds of music," Crow says. "I'm totally impressed in every way."

The final surprise, for both the singer and the listener, came out of a run through of an obscure Marvin Gaye song called "It's a Desperate Situation." The melody reminded Crow of "I Want You Back," the Jackson 5's breakthrough 1970 hit, and she started singing those words. Her natural vocal range sounds uncannily like Michael Jackson's, and when Bramhall and Stanley heard it, they insisted on recording the song then and there. The album's "bonus track" was done in one take; they even had to add the song's introduction afterwards because they had gone straight into the lyric.

Crow, of course, first reached the spotlight as a back-up singer with Michael Jackson, and adds that "I Want You Back" was the first single she ever bought.  "It wasn't a conscious choice to do an homage, but it wound up being a very bittersweet thing," she says. "Michael's death brought a lot of stuff back for me, so it was nice that we could include this."

For Sheryl Crow, 100 Miles From Memphis is the right album at the right moment. "My last record (2008's Detours) was pretty political, extremely personal, and more lyric-driven," she says, "so it seemed like a great time to do something soulful and sexy and more driven by the music." It took a lot of years, but with this set of songs, she finally made it back home.

::TOP STORIES::

Pride Toronto To Hit This Weekend

Source: CityNews.ca Staff

(June 30, 2010) The big parade won’t hit Toronto until Sunday but there are still plenty of Pride events around the city.

The festival, organized by
Pride Toronto, has been running since 1981 and an estimated 1.2 million people are expected to attend this year.

Last year, there were worries that a strike by municipal employees would cancel the party – but it went off without a hitch.

And despite money woes – Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled $400,000 in federal funding from the organization – the parade and other events are still going strong.

All week long, “Spotlight Series: A remount of the National Portrait Collection of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives” has been free to the public at 34 Isabella Street.

On Wednesday, it was women’s golf day at Angus Glen.

Friday will see Gay for Comedy, hosted by former Kids in the Hall player Scott Thompson, at the Panasonic Theatre.

On Saturday and Sunday, Family Pride – including bouncy castles and face-painting – will take place at Church Street Public School. There’s also a fundraising race, the Pride & Remembrance Run, on Saturday.

And the Dyke March, a Toronto institution since 1996, will hit the streets on Saturday.

Finally, all flags come out on Sunday for the big, bold, 30th Annual Pride Parade. It starts at 2pm at Bloor and Church with Grand Marshals are Amanda Taylor and Todd Klinck.

Lauryn Hill on Performing Again: ‘I Think It’s Just Time’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 28, 2010) *Lauryn Hill gave a rare interview to National Public Radio’s Zoe Chace following her performance in Santa Rosa, Calif. over the weekend.

The singer-rapper, known for her work with the Fugees and Grammy-winning solo album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” has been largely off the scene since 1999. She’s only released one album since 1998′s “Miseducation”: 2002′s “MTV Unplugged,” and some have wondered if the artist had suffered a nervous breakdown.

Why did she stop recording? “There were a number of different reasons,” she explains to Chace for NPR’s “50 Great Voices” segment of All Things Considered. “But partly, the support system that I needed was not necessarily in place. There were things about myself, personal-growth things, that I had to go through in order to feel like it was worth it.”

Hill also takes aim at the music industry, suggesting it didn’t nurture her with enough care or patience.

“Oftentimes, the machine can overlook the need to take care of the people who produce the sounds that have a lot to do with the health and well-being of society,” she said. “And it’s important that people be given the time that they need to go through, to grow, so that the consciousness level of the general public is properly affected.”

As for what’s she’s been doing for the past 11 years, Hill said: “I don’t know if you know this, but I have five children. Their father is Hill’s longtime love Rohan Marley, son of the late reggae legend Bob Marley.

“The youngest is 2 now, so she’s old enough that I can leave her for a period of time and know she’s going to be okay.”

“I think it’s just time,” to start performing again, she adds. “I’m starting to get excited again. Believe it or not, I think what people are attracted to about me, if anything, is my passion. People got exposed to my passion through music and song first…And I think that can be infectious.”

Russell Peters Awards The Inaugural $20,000 Russell Peters North Peel Scholarship

Source: Sonya Bhatia, Publicist

(June 29, 2010)   Toronto – Russell Peters presented graduating student, Randy Adams with the first Russell Peters North Peel Scholarship at tonight's commencement at his Alma Mater, North Peel Secondary School .  The award worth up to $ 20,000 is intended to finance up to three years of college to a graduating student with strong academic standing and attending a college in the fall.  Adams has been accepted into the Electrical Engineering Technician program at Georgian College .
 
Peters attributes much of his success to having attended North Peel Secondary and wanted to find a way to give back to the community and to a deserving student.  "When I was a teenager, North Peel was the best thing that ever happened to me," says Peters.  "I finally felt like I belonged."
 
Listed on the Forbes list of the highest earning stand-up comics in the US in 2009, Peters donated almost half-a-million dollars to the Brampton Civic Hospital last year.  He continues to tour and just set a new attendance record in Australia for the largest comedy show in Australian history with over 13,300 people attending his show at Sydney 's Acer Arena. Peters first book, 'Call Me Russell' will be released by Doubleday Canada this fall and he has just announced that he'll be hosting two galas at Toronto's Just For Laughs on Friday, July 9th at Massey Hall.  Tickets on-sale Wednesday, June 30th at 10 AM.
 
North Peel is the largest vocational school in Ontario , with 750 students.  Through 20 hands-on programs including auto service, chef training and horticulture, it prepares students to enter the workplace, college and apprenticeship programs.  The school is located at 1305 Williams Parkway in Brampton .

Video: Prince Honoured at BET Awards

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 27, 2010) *Sunday at the BET Awards in Los Angeles veteran funk-rocker Prince got his props and was given a lifetime achievement award. Prince watched in the audience as Stevie Wonder paid tribute in a video, and onstage Janelle Monae gave an energetic rendition of his “Let’s Go Crazy” while disco diva Patti Labelle pumped out a rousing “Purple Rain.” Wearing white trousers and turtleneck, Prince took the stage, thanked the crowd and said, “I do believe the future is in good hands, I’ve seen so much talent here tonight. “I was pretty wild in my younger days and you don’t have to do what I do,” he said, with a smile. “You don’t have to make any of the mistakes that I made. The future is in your hands.”

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Bermuda On A Budget? WestJet May Make It Possible

Source: www.thestar.com - Heather Greenwood Davis

(May 19, 2010) SOUTHAMPTON, BERMUDA—The man approached me as I sat waiting just south of the local craft market at the Royal Naval Dockyards for a ferry. I’ve been to many islands and I was sure the scenario about to unfold would end the same as the others: Do I want to buy something/try something/give something?

So from the moment the man with the old baseball cap and grizzly salt-and-pepper beard made eye contact with me I knew what was coming.

I was wrong.

“Are you enjoying your stay?” he asked casually in the lilting Bermuda accent that is a strange mix of American, Caribbean and English. “Do you need help with the ferries?”

He wasn’t a vagrant or a seashell seller. He wasn’t interested in braiding my hair or selling me a made-in-China picture of Bermuda. He was retired, out for a casual stroll and probably much more likely to be throwing change my way than vice-versa.

This is the difference of Bermuda. Yes, it is an island — a beautiful one of pink sand beaches and waters that are shifting shades of blue at that — but the poverty found in the Caribbean islands to the south doesn’t exist here.

Director of tourism William “Billy” Griffith told me the average salary on the 54.4-square-kilometre island that boasts “full employment” (population 65,000) is $75,000 (U.S.) per year.

My tour guide advises that the government-subsidized “low-income” housing, the cheapest on the island, will cost you $500,000 to buy. I overhear a conversation between locals about $5 million being raised in a single night for an event at a church.

Bermuda is one of the most affluent countries in the world.

Even the taxi drivers are different.

The taxi that took me from the airport to the Fairmont Southampton hotel was driven by Garry. On our ride, he talked about his many trips abroad, lamented the relaxed jacket-and-tie-at-dinner rules that were once a mainstay on the island and had a copy of Ted Kennedy’s biography on his dashboard. The taxi driver that drove me back to the airport when it was time to go? A retired chief of police. They drive because they want to, not because they have to.

The money that is at play on this island, as much as the beaches and beautiful hotels, is why I’m here. Bermuda’s reputation as an expensive island is true and its dependence on imports for almost everything will keep it so, but the launch of WestJet flights to the island may at least make it cheaper to get there.

After five years of planning, WestJet became the first new airline in 70 years to commit to flying to the island. Daily non-stop flights began last week and will continue until at least the end of October. The introductory rate from Toronto is $99 one-way for the under three-hour flight. Now a round-trip fare, with taxes, costs $350 (Canadian) instead of the almost $700 round trip a few weeks earlier. It’s a difference that is expected to open the doors to Bermuda to a larger group of Canadians.

Air Canada also has been offering a similar $99 flight to the island, which should add even more tourists. But don’t expect the island to become one of all-inclusives and half-price shooters. It’s not their style.

Bermuda has always marched to its own luxurious drum and change for tourists’ sake isn’t likely to go over well. This is a place where men still rise when ladies enter the room and hold the doors of an elevator to allow women to exit first. Customs aren’t easily removed. In fact, a fierce debate is underway among locals over whether to bring casinos to the island, which has more than 50 brightly hued churches representing more than 40 faiths.

Griffiths isn’t anticipating that the cheaper flights will have any negative effect on the island’s status.

“All it has done is afforded the opportunity for more Bermuda vacations,” he says.

Along with the rum cocktails and beautiful island flora, what will likely work most in Bermuda’s favour is the very thing that surprised me at the ferry dock: A kindness, elegance and generosity of spirit that has no connection to whether I buy something from the craft market or not.

Heather Greenwood Davis is a Toronto-based freelance travel writer. Her trip to Bermuda was subsidized by WestJet and Bermuda Tourism.

Just the facts

 •  “Sizzling Summer Specials” are being offered on the island with up to $600 off accommodations for stays between May and October 2010.

• There are no car rentals on the island. Tourists can rent motorized scooters, hire taxis, take buses, ferries, bicycles or travel by horse-drawn carriage.

• This is where Bermuda shorts were born. To wear them right, men should remember to also don high, black knee socks, match their tie to the colour in their shorts and top it off with a dark jacket.

• Bermuda has more golf courses per square mile than anywhere in the world. Courses include Mid Ocean Club, Port Royal Golf Course and Tucker’s Point Cub; all among Golfweek magazines’s 2010 “50 Best” courses list for Mexico and the Caribbean.

• A Dark and Stormy is the island’s most famous drink. To make it authentic you’ll need Barritt’s Ginger Beer and Goslings Black Rum. The storm cloud look in the glass miraculously turns to sunshine in your body once consumed.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Toronto Jazz Festival Was Musical Oasis During G20 Mayhem

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 27, 2010) Getting the
24th annual TD Toronto Jazz Festival off the ground in the midst of the G20 summit has been the event’s “toughest ever” challenge, says executive producer Pat Taylor, but the downtown concerts provided a musical oasis throughout a weekend of uncertainty and mayhem.

It wasn’t surprising that tickets sold out for piano legend Herbie Hancock’s show at the Nathan Phillips Square mainstage Saturday night, but it was impressive that in spite of transit restrictions and official exhortations to stay away from the downtown core, every ticket holder seemed to be in attendance — along with about 200 fans who endured the rain to watch from outside the tent — not far from routes taken by protesters and hooligans. With just a couple of uniformed officers on site, the only indication of conflict unfolding near the square were the occasional sounds of sirens and helicopters.

Having purchased his ticket 10 days earlier, Vincent Fearon didn’t let the mayhem prevent him driving in from Leaside.

“We’ve got to support our local artists and not be cowed by those guys,” said the management consultant as he enjoyed the opening act, Toronto bassist Brandi Disterheft.

Hancock, 70, took the stage at 9:30 p.m., dancing and clad in copper Nehru silk shirt and black slacks. After showcasing with his dazzling skills on both acoustic and electric keys on standards like “Watermelon Man” and “’Round Midnight,” he referenced the summit, but not the violence, to introduce John Lennon’s “Imagine,” from his new cover album The Imagine Project, which champions global unity.

“This CD is about peace and that’s what the G8 and G20 are all about,” said the jazz legend. “I’m not waiting for them to show me, to show us, we have to do that in our hearts.”

Asked if he considered cancelling the Saturday concerts, Taylor, who was in constant talks with city authorities and police, said, “Of course, at every moment.”

“We had worked on an emergency plan that involved police telling me if we should evacuate. There were lots of discussions about if we would activate it or not.”

He’d reassured Hancock’s representatives that the square was outside the security zone when they called from L.A. Friday evening concerned that Toronto was embroiled in “chaos and earthquakes.”

Though Hancock’s show sold out, other tent shows — Maceo Parker, Taj Mahal — ran 60-70 per cent capacity; and sales for Harry Connick Jr. at the 2,200-seat Canon Theatre on Sunday hovered at about 1,700.

“Sales should’ve been lot better,” said Taylor. “It’s such a hot show, an easy show to book. But he attracts a lot of people from out of town and the Americans told their people not to come. And we’ve had a lot of calls from people who couldn’t get hotels.”

The festival, which survived SARS and a city garbage strike, had to shell out an unbudgeted $80,000 to accommodate musicians at 11 hotels across the city, instead of the two or three normally used, once they lost a $100,000 Sheraton Hotel sponsorship because the Queen St. W. facility was designated a G20 hotel.

Drake Still Flying High

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Katie Hewitt

(June 30, 2010)  Call it a bit of turbulence. Last week, Playboy filed a suit against the Toronto rapper Drake for copyright infringement on his 2009 song Best I Ever Had. Earlier this month, he had the hip-hop community buzzing after an offhand remark that “he feels unsafe at all times” in his hometown since being held up at gunpoint (so much for that street cred).

But none of that stopped BET from recognizing Drake last weekend as Best Male Hip Hop ArtistAward. His album continues to top the charts.

And in case there are still doubts that he’s still flying high despite a bump in the air or two, check out the plane that landed in Toronto on Tuesday with the words “Air Drake” printed below the cockpit windows, and a picture of his face behind the wings.

Sir Richard Branson gives the thumbs up after arriving at Pearson International Airport.

It was all part of a promotion for Virgin America’s new routes to Toronto from Los Angeles and San Francisco. The California-based airline launched its first international destination June 23, but postponed their celebratory flight – which included an invite to one of the hottest stars in music to come along for the ride – until after the G20 Summit.

On board with Drake was Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson – no stranger to the ups and downs of the music business himself. They were joined by throngs of media and special guests. Plus some lucky fans won a contest to join Drake and Sir Richard in the air as part of a West Coast vacation package.

Red-carpet guests waited an hour for the delayed plane, which pulled up after a water cannon salute.

Sir Richard was the first passenger visible upon landing on the tarmac in Toronto. He stuck his blond head out of the cockpit window to wave a Canadian flag, before Drake joined him.

Drake said at his red-carpet arrival that he was happy to be in Toronto. Showing off his Canadian passport, he talked about how great the airline’s new service would be for the local economy, as Sir Richard positioned himself strategically in front of cameras so that his hair would blow behind him (there were strong winds).

Sir Richard told The Globe from a seat on the plane that he was only in Toronto for a brief time this visit, but that he was happy to have arrived just after the G20 had shut down the city.

As for working with Drake, he said he enjoyed listening to his album during the flight. “He’s one of the most successful Canadians – Torontonians, so he bridges the gap successfully.”

And Drake? “I’m smiling,” he told press of his reaction to seeing his name on an aircraft.

Esthero Is Still Working On It

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(June 27, 2010) The drought is almost over.
Esthero admirers who have been jonesing for some new music ever since 2005’s Wikked Lil Grrrls will finally get some relief in 2010: first with Sunday’s Lee’s Palace gig featuring the dazzling hometown girl and her 10-piece band, and then a new album called Everything is Expensive that she’s intent on finishing in time for Christmas.

But 72 hours before she hits the stage, the 32-year-old singer and songwriter born Jenny-Bea Englishman still hasn’t finalized the set list. “I’m struggling a bit emotionally, because the show’s really, really important to me — it’s my first hometown show in a year and my intent is to debut as much new music as possible,” says the Stratford-born musician. “I want people leaving this show saying, ‘Wow, not only is she really the best bitch to hit this town, but she’s ours.’

“My intention is to walk people down memory lane and give them a bit of the first album (1998’s Breath From Another), the second album, and take them on a bit of a journey and then play the new stuff. I wanted to cover a lot of ground.”

However, with only 36 hours of rehearsal under the band’s belt, the notorious perfectionist is keeping it open. “My band keeps asking me how long the set is, and it depends on how good the tunes are,” she explains. “It could be an hour, but if it all sounds great, I’ll go up there for three hours — I’ll play until I fall over. I was hoping to introduce five new tunes, but I think maybe I’ll only play like three or four.”

She asserts that the new tunes are markedly different in style, even though she’s kept her public profile up recently with contributions to Timbaland’s new Shock Value II (singing “Undertow’ with The Fray) and Kanye West’s recent 808’s and Heartbreak (co-writing the Top 3 Billboard hit “Love Lockdown,” as well as “Robocop” and “Street Lights”). Contrary to her sensuous and soulful jazz-inspired polyrhythmic and trip-hop/dancehall-inspired pop gems like “That Girl,” “Half a World Away” and “Fastlane,” Esthero describes her latest material as “really simple, pretty songs.”

“There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles,” she continues. “There are no beats on this record. Everything is live. It’s mainly bass, guitar and drums, upright bass and cello. There are no horns. There aren’t tons of harmonies. It’s really border singer-songwriter and it’s got a bit of ’70s vibe.”

Esthero has lived in L.A. the past four years, and starred in the “Yes We Can” music video inspired by Barack Obama’s campaign slogan along with Scarlett Johansson, Common, John Legend and many others. How does she feel Obama is faring?

“I think he’s doing his best,” she says. “I think he’s doing well. I love that he’s a total rock star for president and actually getting people caring and interested in politics again in America — especially the youth. With Obama, people need to be really patient with him. He has a really, really big mess to clean up.

“My hope for Obama is that he has the opportunity of a second term, and that they’re not looking for him to solve the world’s problems in a four-year span, because it’s impossible.”

Esthero performs a sold-out set at Lee’s Palace Sunday night as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

Peterson’s Piano Lives On In Ottawa

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(June 29, 2010)  Duke Ellington once called Oscar Peterson “the maharajah of the keyboard.” And Wednesday is the day the Queen of Canada will pay her respects to the maharajah.

The official festivities, including a free concert as well as speeches, are set for 1 p.m., as a prelude to Canada Day, on a prime Ottawa corner, Albert St. at Elgin St., in front of the National Arts Centre. Thousands are expected to turn up for the unveiling of sculptor Ruth Abernethy’s warm and imaginative bronze salute of the great jazz pianist, who died at 82 in December 2007.

On Monday, I jumped the queue and got a glimpse of this key member of jazz history’s royal family, seated beside a wonderful fanciful and rounded grand piano, smiling at the audience with pleasure and relief at the end of a performance.

In order to do so, I had to climb a ladder to reach a vantage point above the sculpture, which has been hidden behind a wall to keep it a surprise until the moment of its unveiling.

That turned out to be a trek well worth taking.

This piano is like none you’ve ever seen, though it is based on Peterson’s favourite, an Austrian model with 97 keys instead of the usual 88 — and in that extra octave, keys that would normally be all white had black tops.

“From the beginning, the piano was a constant in Oscar Peterson’s life,” Abernethy told me afterward. “He was a man who asked to reimagine the piano. So I thought it was important to use it as a metaphor for his musical inventiveness.”

She had no interest, she confesses, in duplicating the real piano, which happens to be 275 centimetres long. That would have been tedious, expensive and excessively literal-minded. This is not for people who want to count the keys.

Instead, she wanted to create the illusion that we are seeing this image through a fish-eye camera lens, with the piano as a tongue-in-cheek enhancement.

The effect is not just enhancement but enchantment: a sense of an everlasting moment of joy as the jazz master smiles at the audience just after the music has stopped.

Like her Glenn Gould sculpture in front of the CBC’s Broadcast Centre in Toronto, this keyboard legend is on a bench with room for a passerby to sit down and join the icon for a duet. But unlike her Gould bronze, this Oscar does not project stony solitude; he welcomes company.

“Jazz is like seafood,” quips Abernethy: “the fresher the better.”

It’s a wonderful breakthrough that just steps from Parliament Hill an artist will forever loom, getting the kind of honour that the nation’s capital has more often reserved for politicians and military leaders.

Spearheaded by Peter Herrndorf, CEO of the National Arts Centre, who was also a guiding force for the 2008 memorial tribute concert to Peterson at Roy Thomson Hall, this project was completed through a successful $300,000 fundraising campaign.

Among the major donors were the Slaight Family Charitable Foundation, created by Standard Broadcasting pioneer and jazz fan Allan Slaight, Fred and Anne Ketchen of Mississauga, TD Bank Financial Group and Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion’s Foundation for Arts, Culture and Heritage.

Supporters also included former Ontario premier Bill Davis as well as two of the capital’s best-known current political leaders, Stephen Harper and Bob Rae, both of whom have played the piano at the National Arts Centre.

Among those performing at Wednesday’s unveiling will be pianist Oliver Jones and the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir.

Meanwhile, by a wonderful coincidence, on the same day in Toronto, one of the world’s other great jazz pianists, Keith Jarrett, will play at the Four Seasons Centre as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

BET Awards (Video): Chris Brown, T.I. Kanye and More

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 27, 2010) *It was a night of comebacks at the BET Awards, and none more unexpected than Chris Brown performing an emotional tribute to Michael Jackson.

The embattled pop star has mostly kept a low profile since pleading guilty to felony assault for beating up Rihanna in February 2009. But here he was, center stage, mimicking Jackson’s signature dance moves with almost eerie accuracy. Introduced by Jermaine Jackson, Brown embodied the King of Pop, wearing his fedora and spangled glove and moonwalking across the stage to “Billie Jean.”

Then, as Brown grabbed a microphone to sing “Man in the Mirror,” he broke down in tears. His voice cracked, he couldn’t sing, and at one point he crumpled to the stage in apparent agony. It was a moving moment made even more so by the song’s lyrics and Brown’s recent past.

The 21-year-old returned to the stage later in the show when he won the AOL “fandemonium award.”

“I let you all down before, but I won’t do it again. I promise you,” he said.

Sunday’s ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium began with a comeback: Kanye West opened the show atop a volcano onstage in his first TV appearance since dissing Taylor Swift at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards.

T.I. also made a triumphant return to television in his first TV performance since being released from prison in December. Backed by Travis Barker on drums, T.I. performed “Yeah Ya Know,” and later returned to the stage to sing “Hello, Good Morning” with Diddy-Dirty Money, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj, who won for female hip-hop artist.

Read the FULL report on the awards HERE.

Watch Chris Brown’s performance and breakdown here:

Jazz Trumpeter Dave Douglas Tackles Frankenstein

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 24, 2010) Trumpeter/composer
Dave Douglas has paired up with indie filmmaker Bill Morrison for an intriguing new multimedia work that will mark its third performance and Canadian debut at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival next week.

Spark of Being purports to be a reimagining of Frankenstein with an original score from Douglas and his electronic sextet Keystone, previously noted for generating new scores for classic movies.

Unlike most soundtracks, written after a film’s completion, Douglas and Morrison worked in tandem on sound and images.

The music has been collected on three discs: the newly released Spark of Being: Soundtrack/Expand, straightforward versions of the theme music, comes out in August, followed by Burst, extra songs that didn’t make the film, in September.

Douglas, the artistic director of the Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music at the Banff Centre and multiple Grammy nominee, spoke with the Star by phone from his home in New York ahead of Tuesday’s appearance at the Enwave Theatre.

Q Who initiated the collaboration with Bill Morrison?

A I guess I did. I had this invitation from Stanford University “to do something I wouldn’t be able to do under other circumstances,” so I said what I would really like to do is work with a living filmmaker who was working with art film in formats where they were looking to collaborate with a composer, with musicians.

Q Was he already working on this retelling of the Frankenstein tale?

A He hadn’t really done anything, but Bill is a filmmaker who works with abandoned, distressed film stock, so he’s always got a bunch of things in his back pocket, floating around waiting for a project; and I had some sketches of the kind of music I wanted to write. So we began together that way and the project was more about the collision of technology and humanity, arts and invention, than specifically the Frankenstein story. It was only later that we found that was a really good metaphor for the work that we were doing and then we were able to funnel everything into a framework of this incredible story.

Q Will the entire film and soundtrack play at the Toronto show?

A What I’ve found is that for live audiences, it’s really fun for us and I think for them that we play some music without film, so they can watch us play and get the feel for what it is that we’re doing and then dim the lights and play significant excerpts from the film — enough to give the sense of the flow of the Frankenstein myth. We’re not going to play the film from start to finish, because it would be too long for a standard jazz set.

Q How should this project rank in your catalogue?

A I think in the larger scheme of things, people who are aware of my work will know that I’ve been pursuing this avenue of mixing acoustic improvisation with electronic sound for a long time and I think at this point in my career this is sort of a culmination of what can be done with that. I would hope that that would be the contribution. As in any musical endeavour, one also hopes that the melodies are wonderful, and I’m working with harmony and rhythm and timbre, all the other standard elements of music as well.

Saturday’s Best Bets

 • Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre hosts a sizzling Latin jazz double bill comprised of the Miguel Zenon 4tet and Hilario Duran Big Band. 7 p.m., $35

Acclaimed alto saxist and composer Zenon, 33, is a recent MacArthur and a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient. His Grammy-nominated 2009 release, Esta Plena, found him applying his native Puerto Rico’s plena — African rhythmic syncopations with European harmonies and melodic cadences — to contemporary jazz. He’ll be accompanied by pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig and drummer Henry Cole. Though Juno-winning, Havana-born, Toronto-based pianist Duran, 57, has a sumptuous new trio release, Motion, this concert will showcase the explosive Afro-Cuban sounds of his large ensemble. Trio members, bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Mark Kelso, will be featured.

 • Of course, Herbie Hancock is the big draw at Nathan Phillips Square, but he’s got some dazzling accompanists, including guitarist Lionel Loueke. Educated in classical and jazz at leading Ivory Coast, Paris, Boston and L.A. institutions, the Benin-born, Brooklyn-based musician is an erstwhile percussionist who didn’t pick up a guitar until he was 17. Noted for a polyrhythmic finger-style approach, Loueke, who also sings in his native languages, has become an in-demand sideman. His sophomore Blue Note disc Mwaliko features countrywoman Angélique Kidjo, bassists Esperanza Spaulding and Richard Bona. “I flipped,” said Hancock, recalling the moment he first heard Loueke, whom he has praised as “a musical painter. I'd never heard any guitar player play anything close to what I was hearing from him. There was no territory that was forbidden, and he was fearless!” 8 p.m., $63.25

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival runs through July 4. Visit www.torontojazz.com for tickets and information.

El DeBarge Debuts Music From New Album ‘Second Chance’ on ‘BET Awards’ Show

Source: Shorefire Media – Marilyn Laverty, mlaverty@shorefire.com

(June 27, 2010) *El DeBarge’s triumphant return to the stage at the 2010 “BET Awards” on June 27th was only the beginning of life’s second chance for one of R&B Pop’s most distinctive and popular voices.

[Scroll down to watch a short film on the making of 'Second Chance']

On the star-studded show, DeBarge performed the title track from his forthcoming aptly titled album Second Chance, to be released this fall by Geffen Records, and a medley of his R&B smash hits “All This Love, “I Like It,” Time Will Reveal,” and “Rhythm Of The Night.”

The soulful performance by the charismatic DeBarge opened an exciting new chapter for the man whose emotional, uplifting music has romanced one generation of fans and is set to do the same for another.

“I want the world to know that everybody deserves a second chance,” says DeBarge.

His long-awaited fifth solo album, Second Chance tells his story of redemption, which followed a period of personal turmoil for the immensely talented singer and songwriter.

Earlier, his tender falsetto and smooth love songs resulted in 16 Top 10s both with his family group DeBarge, one of America’s most popular young R&B Pop acts of the ’80s, and as a solo artist. But El continued to be heard even after exiting the scene following 1994′s Heart Mind And Soul, a collaboration with Babyface.

Everyone from The Notorious B.I.G. and Ashanti to Mariah Carey and Patti LaBelle has covered or sampled hits featuring him as lead singer, many of which he also wrote and produced. Now the original is back-refreshed, rededicated and ready to take his place once more among the genuine stars of R&B.

Songs on Second Chance were co-written and co-produced by some of music’s most notable hitmakers, including Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Babyface, Mike City, Michael Angelo, Mishka, the Avila Brothers and Ron Fair.

Watch a short film on the making of ‘Second Chance’ HERE.

Visit El DeBarge here: http://ElDeBargeMusic.com/

Songbirds Draw Festival Crowds

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 27, 2010) If the G20 frightened anyone from venturing out to opening night of the 24th edition of the
TD Toronto Jazz Festival, it was the male headliners who were shortchanged.

Songbirds Nikki Yanofsky and Martha Wainwright drew sold-out crowds to their Friday concerts (albeit at venues located further from the summit epicentre), while instrumentalists Maceo Parker and Sparks, League & Thomas performed to smaller audiences than they deserved.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Yanofsky, 16, whose first ever Toronto performance was in 2007 at the festival and who has since blossomed into a national recording star.

During the introduction to the youngster's 90-minute show, festival executive producer Pat Taylor encouraged attendees to check out other concerts over the weekend, insisting, “All our jazz venues are open for business.”

The 10-day festival offer more than 300 shows at 30 venues — most of them at nightclubs and theatres away from the security zone.

At Nathan Phillips Square, where the mainstage tent was 60 per cent full for Maceo Parker's $35 show, there appeared to be no access issues for patrons and plenty of parking below City Hall and neighbouring lots.

Similarly, around the nearby Rex Jazz and Blues Bar, where Sparks, League & Thomas's $10 gig was full but not jammed packed (as festival launch nights usually are), traffic moved freely. Though parking was restricted out front on Queen St. W., side streets and above-ground lots were wide open.

Fortunately, said the Rex manager, the venue's 30 rooms upstairs were sold out, a result perhaps of G20 demand for city hotel space.

Maybe it's all just a matter of taste. Only standing-room tickets were available for keyboard master Herbie Hancock's $55 Saturday night show, while $50-$150 seats could still be had for the equally popular Harry Connick Jr.'s Sunday night show at the Canon Theatre.

“People are nervous about paying high prices for tickets and then not being able to attend the show, which is a definite effect of G20 being in town,” said Taylor, who reported Martha Wainwright's $30 show at the Great Hall pulled “the biggest house” Queen St.-Dovercourt Rd. venue has ever seen.

Committed music lovers were well rewarded.

With the accompaniment of a crack eight-piece band, including four horns, Yanofsky opened her show, this year's inaugural festival performance, with jazz gems “Sunny Side of the Street,” “God Bless the Child” and “Lullaby of Birdland.”

The bubbly Montreal native, in contrast to similarly young pop talents like, say, Miley Cyrus, very much acted her age or younger — clad in skinny jeans, white blouse, sequined black jacket and turquoise sneakers and delivering girlish patter that defied the maturity and power of her singing voice.

Imbued with impeccable enunciation and timing, she held her own with sidemen who appeared to be up to 20 years her senior.

Inside the NPS tent, Maceo Parker, “the funkiest saxophone player in the world,” played and sang the crowd into a call-and-response dance frenzy with ministrations reminiscent of former employers James Brown and George Clinton and an exciting band highlighted by trombonist Dennis Rollins and guitarist Bruno Speight.

Clad in grey suit with black shirt and tie, the 67-year-old North Carolina native delivered a few bars of “Satin Doll” as “an example of the kind of music we don't do” before segueing into his theme song, “Make It Funky.” He even played a snippet of “O Canada” on flute.

Over at the Rex, local pianist Stu Harrison had a Cinderella moment as a last-minute sub for Dallas tunesmith Bobby Sparks, whose flight to Toronto was delayed.

Harrison, 29, a University of Toronto music grad and full-time piano salesman, who plays with four local bands, including the Justin Bacchus Group, got the call two hours before the 11 p.m. kickoff of funk jazz outfit Sparks, League & Thomas's two-night stand.

So well did Harrison perform with bass player Michael League and drummer Jason “JT” Thomas on far=-out versions of standards such as “Caravan,” “So What” and “Blue in Green” that anyone unfamiliar with the band wouldn't have known he'd just met them.

But there was no chance of Sparks being upstaged when he arrived at 12:45 a.m. for the second set. And that's not merely because he was the modest, polo-shirted Harrison's physical opposite — African-American, chunky, tattooed, hoop earrings in both ears, bushy Afro, comic T-shirt, camouflage pants, flip-flops and thick silver jewellery.

Sparks, a vet of bands headed by Roy Hargrove, Marcus Miller and Prince, and whose keyboard abilities are mentioned in same breath as icon Herbie Hancock, was mesmerizing to watch as he operated seamlessly on piano, Fender Rhodes, organ and synthesizers.

Joshua Redman Performs With New Band At Toronto Jazz Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 28, 2010) Since graduating from Harvard in 1991, turning down Yale Law School and winning the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition that same year, Joshua Redman has been acclaimed as one of the most talented horn players of his generation. With 11 albums to his name, the California tenor — son of late legendary saxman Dewey Redman — is a popular headliner, so it’s surprising to find him downplaying his brand as part of the leaderless James Farm, which makes its Toronto debut at Enwave Theatre on Wednesday for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.

The group includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Eric Harland (Ari Hoenig will sub in Toronto), all 10-15 years younger than the 41-year-old Redman.

The Star spoke with the saxophonist by phone from his Berkley, Calif., home. .

Q What’s the impetus to be part of a collective like James Farm when you can draw sellout crowds on your own?

A I’ve been incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to have what’s ended up being a relatively successful career in jazz, but never have I gone about my life or my work as a jazz musician trying to build a career for myself as an individual. I’ve tried to make choices which are based on what is inspiring me musically, what’s challenging me musically at a particular time. I really felt like there was an opportunity to do something a little bit different and a little bit special with this band, particularly because of the strength of the musical personalities and also because the strength of everyone, not just as individual improvisers, but as composers and musicians who also had a vision for being part of a band and for helping to organize a band.

Q Were there historic bands or contemporary groups that served as a model for James Farm?

A Not specifically. I think we are trying to model ourselves more off a rock band than a jazz band, partly because there aren’t that many band bands that you can think of in the history of jazz, maybe Weather Report, Modern Jazz Quartet or a band my father played in called Old and New Dreams, but these are few and far between. Most of the bands were led by individuals. Great rock bands, whether it’s The Beatles or the Stones or Led Zeppelin, or The Police, or Radiohead, that’s kind of the model for us.

Q What are the hallmarks of your collaborators?

A Aaron is a pure improviser with a real sense of fluidity, a natural storytelling, lyrical, melodic, very flexible approach; and he’s one of those musicians who has been most successful integrating elements of rock and even electronic music into what he does as an acoustic pianist. Matt is one of the most in-demand bassists in jazz today and that’s because he has impeccable musical instincts and he can do anything: he can swing, he can rock, he can funk, he can play in odd meters . . . Eric is one of the most soulful and natural and organic musicians out there, he hears everything that’s being played on the bandstand and he immediately reacts to it in an exciting but also supportive way.

Q How have they contributed to your own evolution?

A I’m getting my ass kicked on the bandstand every night. I’m the old guy. I’ve always felt pretty comfortable rhythmically and I’ve always written a lot of odd meter compositions, but these guys write really difficult odd metered things based in some rhythmic territory that maybe I’m less familiar with; so its really challenged me in that respect and I’ve grown a lot and continue to.

Wednesday’s Best Bets

 • School’s in at the HMV store at Nathan Phillips Square where renowned clarinettist and bandleader Phil Nimmons, 87, is the Ken Page Memorial Workshop Series’s guest speaker (free, 2 p.m.).

 • The Old Mill Inn’s Jazz Festival Within the Jazz Festival continues with Toronto-born, L.A-based vocalist Carol Welsman joining singer Heather Bambrick & the Russ Little Quintet ($25, 7:30 p.m.).

 • American guitarist Charlie Hunter hits Hard Rock Café ($20 in advance, 9 p.m.) with drummer Eric Kalb and trumpeter Michael Williams.

 • New York-based saxophonist Rudresh Mahantappa kicks off a two-night stand at The Rex in duo with bassist Rich Brown ($10, 11 p.m.). Thursday he plays in trio with bassist Justin Grey and drummer Adam Teixeira.

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival runs through July 4. Visit www.torontojazz.com for tickets and information.

Kenny G: He’s A Soul Man

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

(June 30, 2010) Over the years, soprano saxophonist Kenny G’s music has drawn a lot of different listeners. He’s been played on Top 40 stations and smooth jazz outlets, and classified as everything from easy listening to adult contemporary. Heck, his version of Auld Lang Syne even cracked the U.S. country charts.

But his most enduring audience has been R&B fans. His first hit singles were on the R&B charts, way back in the early eighties, and he has recorded with a host of soul stars, including Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Whitney Houston and Chaka Khan. His current album, the just-released Heart and Soul, finds him working the R&B vein with Babyface and Canada’s Robin Thicke.

How did that happen? By comparison, Michael Bolton, who was one of the sax man’s frequent duet partners in the nineties, was roundly derided when he took a stab at soul singing. So what does Kenny G have that Bolton didn’t?

Roots, it turns out. “I grew up in a very multi-ethnic neighbourhood, and all the bands I played in were predominantly black bands,” says G, who was born Kenneth Gorelick 54 years ago in Seattle. “The music that I grew up listening to and playing was R&B, so it’s just natural for me to play the way that I play.

“It’s not something that I’m trying to do in order to fit into a certain genre, or because I think it’s going to sell records,” he adds. “I think that the R&B community can tell when a guy has it in his soul, or doesn’t.”

Saxophonists have long been welcome in R&B, from the pioneering hits of Louis Jordan through King Curtis in the sixties and Grover Washington in the seventies. But where the traditional role for R&B saxophonists has been generating bluesy excitement (think of the incendiary shrieks of Junior Walker’s tenor), Kenny G has always taken a more melodic approach, offering instrumental lines that made their point not through rhythmic intensity but tuneful lyricism.

“I like everything to feel like it means something, that it’s not just a bunch of technique,” he says. “When you hear us live, there’s a lot more fire and power, musician stuff that sax players would listen to and say, ‘Wow.’

“But on my CDs, I tend to want the melodies, the solos and the improvisations to all mean something.”

To ensure that his sax parts add something meaningful to the track, he goes through a process that’s much closer to composition than improvisation, even though he usually starts by winging it. “When I [record], I usually just put in my mind that I have a blank canvas, so anything might go,” he says. “So when I’m playing, I just go with lots of different things that wouldn’t necessarily make any sense.

“But when I listen back, something will strike me, and lead me to different things, and I go with that. That’s why it takes me so long to make a CD, because that takes time. I might think that I’m going to nail a song in an hour or two, but it could take me a week.”

The effort pays off, too. There’s a lovely moment on the current single, Fall Again, where Robin Thicke is singing, “I can leave, I can breathe, I can die in my sleep/ ‘Cause you’re always there in my dreams.” As the melody descends in a syncopated rhythm, the saxophone shadows the vocal line, then exaggerates it into ascending triplets that effortlessly set up the key change into the next verse.

“All the notes that I play, and the notes that he sings, work out really well,” says G. “It’s like a perfect puzzle that came together.”

Not that the average pop fan notices any of that. For one thing, the whole thing sounds utterly effortless, and as the saxophonist points out, there are few better measures of technique than making something sound easy.

Mainly, though, the music is tuneful and direct, which is precisely what G intends. His playing “needs to follow a melody for me to feel good about it,” he says. “That’s another reason people like what I do. They like that melodic sense that I just naturally have.”

There are, of course, those who don’t like what he does, and moan about his alleged sins against jazz, as if G’s albums needed to be measured against those of John Coltrane. But there are also those who consider him a certified pop classic. The French Canadian rap group Radio Radio, in fact, so idolize the saxophonist that they include a tribute to him, Kenny G Non-Stop, on their latest album.

“I heard them rapping about me,” says G (who has a cottage near Lake Joseph in Ontario). “I thought it was pretty cool. Just to be on the radar of people doing that kind of music makes me feel good.”

Kenny G plays the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on July 2 and 3. For details and tickets, visit www.rhythmtix.com.

Foul Times For Lilith Fair

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 25, 2010)
Ask Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan, separately, to offer up a particularly wild and crazy antic from back in the Lilith Fair day and each recounts the same story: “I flashed Chrissie Hynde onstage,” McLachlan says. “She fell onto her knees. I brought Chrissie Hynde to her knees.”

It was Hynde’s last show with the tour and McLachlan was wearing a red sequined tube top. McLachlan’s back was turned to the audience, but Hynde’s drummer was quite stunned by the move. “His jaw dropped and everything stopped.”

Crow remembers the moment well and says the tour was filled with such pranks. “Stuff like that, where you’d just go: Okay, this is the funnest tour I’ve ever been on.”

Eleven years after shutting down the all-female festival that helped launch her to superstardom, McLachlan is remounting the mammoth estrogen fest, this time simply as Lilith. But there is a real danger she could lose her shirt once again, and it won’t be any fun at all this time around.

It was the first time that you saw women selling tickets on their own. — Sheryl Crow

Ticket sales for Lilith have fallen far short of expectations. Dates have been cancelled and some shows have been moved to smaller venues.

It’s a shocking, frustrating turn of events for the co-founders of what had been a groundbreaking festival. Tube tops and ta-tas aside, Lilith Fair marked a seminal moment for women in pop music: female stars and emerging artists, crossing genres and entertaining (and perhaps even empowering) the masses, female and male.

Famously born out of a gender imbalance on the concert scene, Lilith Fair was proof that women could be headliners and supporters on the same bill, and then some. From 1997 through 1999, it was one of the highest-grossing touring festivals in the world, with more than 1.5 million people attending.

 “At the time that Lilith [Fair] happened … it was hugely impactful,” says Crow. “because many promoters didn’t want to stack a bill with women, because they felt that it ruled out the largest portion of the record-buying public which were men, and it really defied that. It was the first time that you saw women selling tickets on their own.

“But [Lilith 2010] is sort of more of a celebration, because since then, we’ve really come so far. … Some of the biggest artists in the world are women.”

That may be so. But in a summer during which concert promoters are struggling, even Lilith, with its nostalgic, almost mythical allure, is in trouble: Two shows have been officially cancelled, and there are more on the chopping block: Norah Jones’s management says that all of her dates – West Palm Beach and Tampa, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Houston and Dallas – have been scrapped. Meanwhile the venue for another August date, in Austin, Tex., is still reading “TBA” on Lilith’s website and it’s not possible to buy tickets for it.

It was empowering for me and just really, really inspiring to go to this and to see all these females really doing their thing and making music. — Hannah Georgas

It appears the entire back end of the tour is being axed. While Terry McBride, Lilith's co-founder and CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, would not confirm any of the unannounced cancellations, he did indicate earlier this week, after only the Phoenix cancellation had been announced, that more shows could be cut.

McBride says he is surprised by the tour's struggles. “I think we have phenomenal talent. You don't get this sort of talent all on the same bill [unless it's] a Bonnaroo or something of that nature, but those are destination events. Unless you're lucky enough to live in that city, it's probably going to cost you $1,000 just to get there.”

The Lilith line-up is a movable female feast: With the exception of McLachlan, the ultimate headliner, no artist is with Lilith for the entire tour. So you might get Crow and Erykah Badu headlining (Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver) or Mary J. Blige and Kelly Clarkson(Montreal and Toronto) or Queen Latifah and the Bangles (Las Vegas).

The idea for such a festival developed some 15 years ago, when McLachlan wanted to tour with Paula Cole as a supporting act, but was told by promoters that putting two female artists together would be box-office suicide.

Around the same time, McLachlan, burned out from endless touring to support Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, was encouraged by McBride (who is also her manager) to get back out and play live. She said she would, but didn’t want to headline. It was a challenge for McBride, who got her an opening slot for Sting, but other than that, he was at a loss. “About three weeks in, trying to find something, I went ‘Sarah, they’re just not out there. You’re too big for what this is.’ ”

They started kicking around the idea of multiple-artist bills when McLachlan issued what McBride calls the ultimate challenge: “ ‘Okay, make them all female.’ It’s almost like she didn’t think we could actually do it,” he says. “But at the same time, when she said it, she knew that we could.”

They did. After a few test shows in 1996, Lilith Fair officially launched the following year. For three summers, the all-female bill packed houses, bringing in millions – some of which went to women’s charities across North America – and sending out a female-positive message.

“It was empowering for me and just really, really inspiring to go to this and to see all these females really doing their thing and making music. That just hit me on an emotional level,” remembers musician Hannah Georgas, now 26, who caught the tour in Toronto when she was a teenager and who on Monday will share the bill in Edmonton with some of the women she has idolized since that time. “It was a huge inspiration for sure. It gave me the encouragement [that] I could do this myself, too. It has had a huge effect on my life.”

Now based in Vancouver, Georgas has just released her first full-length recording, This Is Good. She’ll play the smaller stage at about 4:20 in the afternoon, hardly top billing, but still a huge opportunity for an emerging artist. “It’s another stepping stone, another way for people to hear my music.”

The first Lilith Fair helped launch the careers of women now well-established in the music industry, including Beth Ditto and Canadian twin-sister duo Tegan and Sara. And McLachlan fondly remembers the musical bonding. “There was a whole lot of playing. We made music together. That was the connection for me.”

But after three years, McBride says it was time to move on. “We pretty much tapped the talent available at that time. If we had done a fourth year, I think it would have become a bit worn. It wouldn’t have been as special. There were maybe a half-dozen major female artists who hadn’t played it at that point.”

With McLachlan putting out her first album of new material in seven years this month, it felt like a good time to revisit the storied festival. But while Laws of Illusion, released last week, debuted at No. 2 on the Nielsen SoundScan top-albums chart, Lilith sales have obviously been disappointing.

Could it be that in the era of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, a music festival with feminism as a guiding principle is simply not relevant?

Abby Herlin, who is pursuing a PhD in women’s and gender studies at the University of British Columbia, says this is not an indication that the time for a feminist music festival has passed; it’s a failing grade for the line-up.

“The same artists appear on the bill that were [part of Lilith Fair before]. They are now less popular and definitely not cutting-edge or interesting the way Gaga is,” offers Herlin, who attended Lilith Fair twice but won’t be back this summer. “…Everyone loves music festivals, and I think it is paramount to have an arena to showcase female talent. However, I think the brushstroke that the Lilith model paints with is too uniform and dull. [They need] to change it up, brighten it up, and surprise us a bit more.”

McBride insists Lilith’s troubles are tied to the economy and a North America-wide downturn in concert sales. “This is not a Lilith phenomenon. This is a summer recession-finally-being-felt phenomenon.”

It’s clearly upsetting for the music-industry veteran, but he’s been around this block before. “In 1997, we honestly did not know what was going to happen. Did we think that we were gonna lose our shirts then? Probably not. But we knew that that was [a possibility]. Could we lose our shirts [now]? Yeah. Could we not? Yes. It’s always a chance. When you’re putting together something this big with that much talent, there’s definitely risk.”

Still, he says tickets for a number of shows are moving well, and he predicts some sold-out dates, including Toronto. Fans that do come out, he says, will be glad they did. “The show’s going to be spectacular. That’s the one thing I 100-per-cent know.”

And he declares the storied festival will live on. “There will be a Lilith 2011.”

Lilith kicks off in Calgary on Sunday June 27 and will be in Edmonton June 28, Vancouver July 1, Montreal July 23, and Toronto July 24.  

Macy Gray Tries Again

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(June 30, 2010) Whatever the reception to Macy Gray’s new album, she’s just happy to take responsibility.

The background material accompanying The Sellout, which was released last week, refers to the singer’s “long, soul-numbing journey through the music biz’s star-making machinery” and quotes her as saying this fifth album “tells the story of how I found my salvation in just being myself instead of who other people thought I should be.”

It’s surprising to learn that the Ohio native — who came to the fore with 1999’s “I Try” on the strength of a unique sound and untamed aesthetic — was ever anything but authentic.

On the phone from New York, ahead this Saturday’s free TD Toronto Jazz Festival show, the songstress is initially vague about compromises previously made.

“At some point a lot,” said Gray during the early afternoon call, in that trademark croak and a distracted manner that makes later claims of having just woken up believable.

“Being in show business, there’s a lot of people in your ear telling you what you have to do all the time . . . especially if, say, your record doesn’t sell as fast as everyone wants it to. Suddenly, everybody gets desperate and they have all these ideas, things that need to be changed.”

Even though Gray has sold 15 million albums, her debut On How Life Is was the only disc to crack the Top 10 of Billboard’s decisive 200 Album chart and the Grammy-winning “I Try” remains her only crossover hit. Subsequent albums, The Id, The Trouble With Being Myself and Big, found her on ill-fated collaborations with the likes of Fergie, Natalie Cole and will.i.am in the search for success.

“I’m an artist, not some big record executive, so I think maybe they know what they’re talking about and that’s when you get confused, because you start trying to please people and then all of a sudden you wake up one day and you’re totally off track,” she says.

Pressed about specific concessions, Gray said label executives once suggested she straighten her hair.

Did she?

“No. I started wearing wigs though. That was my identity crisis moment.

“On this album I just got back to completely being myself. I got back to doing what I wanted to do and I didn’t have to worry about what other people said and so I ended up making the album that’s completely honest and pure for me.”

The recording process, which began with her own money and handpicked collaborators, has yielded an upbeat, pop-dance album with a title track that mocks her industry missteps.

Lyrically, there’s a lot of love gone wrong, exemplified by tunes such as “Kissed It” — “Oooohh you treat me like a dog/Tell me all I do is wrong” — and “Still Hurts” — “Got your bags at the door/And now you’re leaving again.”

The 42-year-old mother of three teens, who co-wrote every tune, said the heartbreak themes have real-life origins.

“I’m very committed to saying that you write what you know,” she said. “It’s definitely a challenge to know how to love someone . . . some people it comes very natural to, but a lot of people, like myself, have to really work at it.”

Already penning songs for her next disc, Gray isn’t paying too much attention to critics.

“I had stopped reading reviews and then I started reading my reviews on this record and now I’ve stopped again. I just think a lot of people don’t get it.”

JUST THE FACTS

WHO: Macy Gray, with Chaka Khan and Lost Fingers

WHEN: Saturday, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Yonge-Dundas Square

ADMISSION: Free

Ne Yo Sets Pre Libra Scale International Tour Dates

Source: www.eurweb.com


(June 27, 2010) *
Ne Yo is taking his “Beautiful Monster” show on the international road for the summer.

He’ll be stopping in Australia and South America. He may even be sneak peaking some of his new music on his fourth album, “Libra Scale.”

The tour will kick off July 6 in Kazahkstan and will move on through Perth, Sydney, Melborne, and Brisbane. Then off to South America mid-July through August.

Ne-Yo’s fourth studio album, “Libra Scale,” is slated for release later this
year via Island/Def Jam.

2010 International Tour Dates (*subject to change)

July 6 – Performance in Kazahkstan

July 24 – Performance in Perth at Burswood Dome

July 28 – Performance in Sydney at Acer Arena

July 29 – Performance in Melbourne, Australia at Rod Laver Arena

July 31 – Performance in Brisbane at Brisbane Ent Centre

August 13 – Performance in Sao Paolo, Brazil at Anhembi Arena

August 14 – Performance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at Ginasio do
Maracanazinho

August 15 – Performance in Belo Horizonte, Brazil at MineiroinhoNe
Yo Sets Pre Libra Scale International Tour Dates

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 27, 2010) *
Ne Yo is taking his “Beautiful Monster” show on the international road for the summer.

He’ll be stopping in Australia and South America. He may even be sneak peaking some of his new music on his fourth album, “Libra Scale.”

The tour will kick off July 6 in Kazahkstan and will move on through Perth, Sydney, Melborne, and Brisbane. Then off to South America mid-July through August.

Ne-Yo’s fourth studio album, “Libra Scale,” is slated for release later this
year via Island/Def Jam.

2010 International Tour Dates (*subject to change)

July 6 – Performance in Kazahkstan

July 24 – Performance in Perth at Burswood Dome

July 28 – Performance in Sydney at Acer Arena

July 29 – Performance in Melbourne, Australia at Rod Laver Arena

July 31 – Performance in Brisbane at Brisbane Ent Centre

August 13 – Performance in Sao Paolo, Brazil at Anhembi Arena

August 14 – Performance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at Ginasio do
Maracanazinho

August 15 – Performance in Belo Horizonte, Brazil at Mineiroinho

Steven Tyler: I’m Back, And ‘I’m A Dancing Fool’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, The Associated Press

(June 28, 2010) NEW YORK —Steven Tyler can laugh about it now.

The fall off the stage that caused the cancellation of Aerosmith’s 2009 summer tour. His stint in rehab for prescription drug abuse. The fights with his bandmates, and the talk of replacing him as lead singer for Aerosmith.

That’s because now that he’s back at the helm of the group – belting out songs in front of thousands of fans – nothing else matters.

“The band has never been better, I’m singing better,” an energetic Tyler said in a recent phone interview. “It’s been beautiful, and I realized when I was taking care of my problems that the band is all I really care about.”

Tyler – who is on tour with Aerosmith in Europe and starts a U.S. tour with the band on July 23 in Oakland, Calif. – talked recently about his battle for sobriety, putting the discord behind him and being a “dancing fool” at 62.

What has it been like to play with the band after the tumultuous last year?

It’s been a great tour. You know, it’s a little hard for me. Being in Aerosmith is like living on the tail of a comet. I’ve had a lot of injuries over the last couple of the years. I had ACL reconstruction on my knee… operations on my feet. My mom passed away. A lot of things came to play that made it easy for me to abuse some things… . Even though some of the people in the band were going public with some of the stuff which turned very ugly, I managed to pull it all back together again and say, “Look, let’s just get out there and be the band that we know we are and not argue about this crap any more.”

How easy was that after the ugliness?

I realize that certain people that decide to go in the press with dirty laundry, I just have to look the other way and realize I need to keep my side of the street clean, and they do what they do. It’s really unfortunate that certain people were Twittering and going to the press. It got really ugly, but you know, again, I just went back to them and I said… “More than anything, I really want to play with this band. I really love this band and I love who I’ve become because of the band.” ... Everyone’s got their problems and their demons, but when we get onstage and play as five, that really all goes away, and that’s really all I look at now.

There has been tension in Aerosmith throughout the years. Are you still able to be friends as well as bandmates?

I’m doing a book called Does the Noise in My Head Bother You, and I will be speaking about what it’s like to be married to four other guys, and what I’ve had to put up with. There will never be another band like Aerosmith, and I just don’t want to do anything to hurt that. I love the band so much.

You are in pain and have battled back from an addiction to pain medicines. How do you prevent yourself from falling into past patterns on this new tour?

I realize that the best part of me is who I am sober so that’s all there is to it. … I don’t know whether I will use tomorrow, but today I’m happy. … There’s a 500-pound gorilla on my back waiting in the parking lot for me that wants to take me down, and I won’t for any reason go out there and deal with that. I have to get a knee replacement, I have to have another operation on my feet, and I’ll let a nurse take care of my stuff. I just can’t be around that stuff any more. I need to be a power of example for my bandmates, don’t I? (laughs)… I’m still in Aerosmith, so the circus is still in town. So when it comes to dealing with the band, I take it a day at a time with these guys.

Is a new Aerosmith album coming?

The truth is, I’ve never stopped writing. I’ve got 12 songs I’m sitting on right now for a solo record. Aerosmith has to finish a studio album; we’re gonna do that first.

Do you feel that you are more careful onstage now? Are you tentative?

Tyler: I’m a dancing fool out there. I’m my own worst enemywhen it comes to risk-taking, but I do what I do… I am [more careful] when it’s raining. I don’t do anything… I’m real careful when it comes to that. But ordinarily, I’ve gotten real strong jumping over all the pedals my guitar players have out there in the middle of the stage and the monitor wedges. It’s like a little hurdle out there for me.

Can you see yourself doing this 10, 15 years from now?

I’ll be doing this 20 years from now. I’ll be doing this as long as sound comes out of my mouth. 

MUSIC TIDBITS

Drake’s Big Party In Town Aug. 1

Source: www.thestar.com

(June 29, 2010)  The moment local hip-hop fans have been waiting for is here: Drake has announced an Aug. 1 concert at the Molson Amphitheatre. Fellow rapper Young Jeezy and the New York synth band Francis and the Lights open. Tickets ($30-$90) go on sale Saturday via Livenation.com, Ticketmaster and the amphitheatre box office.  Drake guested at touring act’s Toronto concerts, and played a remarkable show last spring at Sound Academy. Selling 2,300 tickets — at $40 a pop — is a remarkable feat for an artist who at the time didn’t even have an album out. Now his disc Thank Me Later has hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart, but the amphitheatre date is unmistakably a coming-out party of sorts for the local here.

:FILM NEWS::

Twilight 3 Is Feeling Like Same-Old

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
(out of 4)
Starring Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Bryce Dallas Howard. Directed by David Slade. At theatres throughout the GTA. PG

(June 29, 2010)
Twilight is still at the kissing stage, and a bad case of “bite-us interruptus” is starting to take hold.

As with most third instalments of a franchise (Toy Story 3 being a notable exception), Eclipse suffers from an excess of characters and dialogue and a shortage of real plot changes, even with Hard Candy’s sharp-eyed David Slade at the helm.

Much of the ludicrously florid dialogue (“I’m going to fight for you until your heart stops beating . . . and maybe beyond”) causes unintentional fits of laughter.

But you can’t really blame Slade or the movie for staying true to the book — fans demand it — and Stephanie Meyer’s overripe novel is more of a wheel-spinner than a page-turner. This latest screen adaptation should satisfy the rabid faithful even while leaving viewers not born female in the 1990s more mystified than ever about the series’ appeal.

Watching Eclipse is like studying the middle moves of a painfully slow chess game, even though there’s marginally more fighting for the bloodthirsty to sink their teeth into. (Parental alert: that PG rating is awfully tolerant. Heads really roll in this one.)

When we last left our hormonal heroes, moody Bella (Kristen Stewart) was dithering over whether she loved her brooding vampire beau Edward (Robert Pattinson) or her jealous werewolf suitor Jacob (Taylor autner).

She’s still pulling those daisy petals, causing both the terminally square Edward and the shirtless Jacob to go more than a little squirrelly.

Bella is additionally vexing Edward by parrying with his marriage proposal while also insisting that he change her into a vampire.

In the second (and better) Twilight film, New Moon, Bella’s loves-me, loves-me-not deliberations were violently interrupted by the Volturi, an Italy-based clan of vampires led by the suavely evil Aro (Michael Sheen). The Volturi police the affairs of other bloodsuckers, and they’re prepared to sic ruby-eyed Jane (Dakota Fanning) on rebels. This pup is small, but her bite is definitely worse than her bark.

Reckless Edward has flagrantly disobeyed two Volturi rules: you don’t let humans know your real identity, and you don’t fall for a mortal.

But that’s not all that’s keeping pale Edward awake days, as we see in Eclipse.

He has to contend with jealous Jacob and his shape-shifting wolf pack cronies, who also have trouble keeping their shirts on.

But both Edward and Jacob find common cause in protecting Bella from vengeful vamp Victoria (Bryce Dallas Howard, replacing the cruelly dumped Rachelle Lefevre) and her army of “newborns,” freshly minted junior Draculas who really want to draw first blood.

The unfortunately named newborns have been terrorizing nearby Seattle as they expanded their ranks, and they’re now headed to Forks, Wash., the dampest town in America, to tussle with the respective clans of Edward and Jacob and to chase Bella, who understandably seems to be getting bored with the whole thing.

“A bunch of vampires is trying to kill me,” she complains to Jacob.

“Same old, same old,” he replies.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Eclipse gets by, just barely, but the decision to split the fourth and final Twilight novel, Breaking Dawn, into two films now seems more than ever as just a craven attempt to suck more cash out of gullible “Twihards.”

Anthony Anderson F.A.C.E.S Diabetes: Actor Gets Candid About Deadly Disease

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(June 29, 2010)  *Anthony Anderson, if you knew him, would be one of the funniest people you have ever met. Quick with a joke, a pun or a funny story. You don’t know him? There’s a high probability that you do not, but our Lee Bailey does.

EURweb.com had the chance to talk with Anderson about a subject that is not funny at all.  In fact, it is as close to a living nightmare that many of us will ever get. Anderson, along with singer Angie Stone, is now part of F.A.C.E. (Fearless African Americans Connected and Empowered), an initiative from Eli Lilly and Company that is dedicated to getting the word out to young Blacks in particular about this horrid monster of a disease. Why is a comedic actor best qualified to tell this dreadful tale?  

“Well, about seven years ago I was diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes,” Anderson explained. “I was the first person in my family to be diagnosed with diabetes so it came as a shock. Then, last year, my mother was diagnosed with it. Also my stepfather, who was my daddy growing up, he passed away from complications caused by it a few years ago.”

Though some cannot smile in spite of their pain, Anthony Anderson was full of smiles before, during and after the interview, one can only imagine the type of strength it takes for one not be discouraged in light of such a triple play.  But Anderson tells our Lee Bailey that he is on a mission and doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself.  

“I just wanted to bring awareness to it seeing how it has a affected me and my life and then watching programs and advertisements about it, I never saw anybody who spoke to me,” he continued. “You had Wilford Brimley, you had B.B. King and you had Patti LaBelle. I never saw anybody speak to me. Nobody’s speaking to the younger generation.  Nobody’s speaking to the younger black male about this disease. If you watch programming about it you think it’s something that old people get. That’s what I grew up thinking. I just wanted to be a part of the initiative to bring the awareness to the African American community because there’s a fifty percent possibility that a child born today will be diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes in the black community. I’d like to try to change that.”

Type 2 diabetes, like many diseases, is sneaky.  As we go about our daily lives we, especially black males, ignore our aches and pains, our chronic coughs and so forth and are sometimes stunned when we find out the true cause of our maladies.

“It’s crazy. I’ll tell you how I realized I had it,” he said. “I was feeling lethargic one day, actually not one day but over a period of time. I’m taking these mid-afternoon naps, something that I never did. I just thought that I was overworked.  We were moving, I had a couple projects going on at the same time and I’m thinking I’m just wearing myself down. So, I’m drinking all this water and constantly going to the bathroom, but I’m not really taking notice of that until one night I drank a whole five-gallon Arrowhead water thing. I drank a whole five-gallon jug by myself, over a couple hours, in one night. I would drink some water then go to the bathroom. The next thing I knew the whole jug was empty. Then my wife told me I needed to go to the doctor for that because those were symptoms of a diabetic. So I went and my glucose levels were elevated and [the doctor] told me ‘you’re a type 2 diabetic.’”

OK, so you find out you have a disease that has the potential to cripple you and, if left uncheck, can ultimately destroy you. What do you do?  Anderson tells us he tried to do that “black man” thing, take his burden, hoist it on his back and keep on trucking like it was no big deal.

“In the beginning I can’t say that it really affected me at all,” he explained. “I just thought this was just something I was going to have to deal with. I hadn’t had any major problems or complications dealing it.    I had a few friends that were, consequently, diagnosed with it, or had already been diagnosed as type 2 diabetics who were younger than me or around the same age.”

Anderson says that his good friends’ combined dilemmas, though both being extreme situations to be certain, did open his eyes to the possibilities in his future if his diligence ever lapsed.   

“I had a friend who lost his big toe on his right foot and I was like ‘I’m not gonna let that sh*t happen to me.’ I had another friend who had been dealt a bad hand genetically. He had a triple bypass heart surgery at the age of 36.  And I’m like ‘OK, not gonna let that happen to me.’  And the same friend suffered temporary blindness for about 45 minutes one day before he was diagnosed as a diabetic.”

“These are things that I can avoid because I know what’s going on with my body. Personally, I haven’t had anything effect me like that, but it’s effecting people around me.”

How does one deal with being diagnosed with the very same disease that caused the death of a loved one?  Anderson says he is using his stepfather’s death as an example of what not to be.  

“I think my father had been living with it for quite sometime and just didn’t know,” he said. “You know, a good ol’ country boy from Arkansas.  But finally he went to the doctor and found out that’s where a lot of things that kept ailing him came from. He was a diabetic and had been letting it go for quite sometime.  He got on his medicine and subsequently I was diagnosed. Because he let the disease go on for so long, unnoticed and un-medicated, he had developed all these problems. Ulcers in his calves and swelling in his feet and things like that and he wasn’t getting the best medical attention.

Anthony tells EURweb.com that when he realized his beloved father had been diagnosed with diabetes, and was suffering severe complications, he immediately sprang into action.

“I was overseas filming a project and when I came home he seemed to be content with the doctor telling him he was going to have to get one of his legs cut off. I was like ‘hold on Pop! We ain’t got to do it like that.’   I took over his medical health and got him with the best doctors that I could get him with and things were going well. Then he was in the hospital for a couple of months. He had to be incubated a couple times, he had a pulmonary embolism twice, the ulcers in his legs were so severe that they were leaking out of the back of his calves.  He had the compression stockings and he could barely walk. That’s why he was hospitalized.  He needed 24 hour care. We did that for a while and he got better and he was out of the hospital and into an in-care facility.  He was there for a few months then they released him to go home and he was bedridden for a while. I had somebody there taking care of him.  But he just got to the point where he was tired of fighting.  He had a heart attack early one night and it was all due to complications of diabetes and it going unnoticed and un-medicated for as long as it did in his life.”

Anderson says his father was in his 60s when he passed and feels like he is armed with knowledge that his Dad did not have.    

“I was thinking, I can’t let this happen to me. I can’t let this happen to my children. I was thinking that I don’t want to put my children through this. That’s when I did a complete 180 with my life style change, not that I hadn’t been taking care of myself before, it’s just that I started taking better care of myself.  
For years I’ve been joking about getting down to my Denzel weight, now I’m down to it. This is directly the result of being a type 2 diabetic, getting a nutritionist and giving up certain foods. It’s not that difficult at all when you consider the alternatives.

“Either I was going to continue down this path that I was on, eating these rich foods that were high in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in sodium and have my heart explode, like my buddy, and ultimately dying because of that. I’m not even 40 yet! I have a lot more living to do. I have a lot more things that I want to accomplish. I have a lot more living to do with my family and my children. I don’t want to rob them of that. I don’t want to rob myself of that. That’s what keeps me on the straight and narrow. I had to say ‘you can continue to eat pork chops and hog maws and all the other kind of stuff or switch it up and eat a nice little salad and a nice little grilled chicken breast or nice little baked fish.’ It’s still just as good, just as tasty and that much healthier for you.”

Anthony Anderson says he has a lot more living to do, and a whole lot more work on the big and little screen to pass the time as well. Not only has he been a main character on “Law and Order” as Detective Kevin Bernard, but he has recently been cast in “Scream 4″ as well. To learn more about F.A.C.E. log on to www.FACE-diabetes.com.  We will have more from our interview with Anthony Anderson in a future EURweb.com article.

Cyrus: A Boy’s Best Friend Is His Mother

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Cyrus
(out of 4)
Starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, Jonah Hill and Catherine Keener. Written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass. At the Varsity. 92 minutes. 14A

(June 24, 2010) The most sincere moment in any movie you are likely to see this year comes in the twitch of an angry neck vein.

It’s the involuntary reaction of John C. Reilly’s put-upon character, John, as he suddenly realizes that diplomacy is getting him nowhere. His massive mitts are near the neck of his tormenter and someone may stop breathing. This could be John, if his bulging vein finally explodes.

The object of his ire is
Cyrus (Jonah Hill), the 21-year-old son of John’s new girlfriend Molly (Marisa Tomei). The baby-faced boy-man is the title character and pointed focus of Cyrus, the latest minimalist study in maximum emotions from the talented brotherly team of Mark and Jay Duplass.

Cyrus has what might politely be called mommy issues. He still lives at home – dad is long gone — and he’s not happy about another man entering Molly’s life. He understands that he’s difficult to get close to (“I get overly excited sometimes”) but he can’t help himself.

Neither can John, who is also operating on an instinctive and self-destructive level. He recognizes a lot of Cyrus in himself, a major reason why he finds his nemesis so vexing.

The Brothers Duplass find humour and a lot of truth in those moments between spoken words, when the flick of an eyelid, the pulse of a vein or the purse of the lips can betray things that might otherwise not be stated.

This is the brothers’ third feature, after the well-received The Puffy Chair and Baghead, and the first to have anything resembling a Hollywood budget or cast. But don’t expect one of those brightly lit confections that offer low-wattage insights.

The Duplass siblings retain their devotion to restless camerawork, relentless (and revealing) attention to detail and an almost religious fervour for improvised acting and emotional encounters. They cast well, supply a sturdy story framework (but not all the dialogue) and then trust their talent to deliver the goods.

Which everyone does with vein-popping glory in Cyrus, even when it looks like it might kill them or just embarrass them down to their britches. Reilly’s John is the first before the firing line, greeting the viewer, and his ex-wife Jamie (Catherine Keener), as she accidentally walks in on a session of self-love.

Jamie has come to John’s unkempt home to tell him of her impending marriage to the humourless Tim (Matt Walsh), news that John doesn’t take well. It’s been seven years since he and Jamie split — she just couldn’t handle his dark moods anymore — but to John it’s been like seven minutes.

He reluctantly accepts Jamie’s invitation to get out of the house and go to a party, planning to drink himself into a stupor and make a fool of himself, as per usual.

But then he meets the beguiling Molly, who sees not a loser but rather a kind and funny man, and before you know it, the two are off the dance floor and into the sack.

He’s careful, though, not to push his luck. In one of those telling moments that the Duplass bros. do so well, John goes to a drug store to buy condoms and hesitates over the extra-large box of Trojans before settling for the smaller one.

Everything goes so amazing well, John starts to worry that he’s in one of those western movies where it’s just too quiet out there. Sure enough, trouble arrives in the hulking person of Cyrus, the grown son Molly neglected to mention off the top.

Cyrus pretends to be okay with John sleeping over, even supportive of it. He wants his mom to be happy. But then things start to happen, such as John’s shoes mysteriously vanishing.

This could almost be a horror or suspense movie, and in some ways, it is — the soundtrack often takes on the rapid-pulse aspects of a thriller. Cyrus obviously has emotional and possibly mental issues, but they’re not clearly defined and there is apparently no limit to what he’s prepared to do to keep his mommy to himself.

This is the first film I’ve seen Hill in where he inhabits a difficult character instead of just using it as a springboard for smartass one-liners. His Cyrus could have been a cartoon character in an escalating series of violent exchanges with John, as some directors would have wanted. Instead we get a wounded human whose demands for attention seem all too real and not completely without merit. Cyrus finally and firmly establishes Hill as an actor.

Reilly, Tomei and Keener don’t need to prove anything, but they respond to the opportunity afforded by the film to really let it all hang out, veins included.

No necks were harmed in the making of Cyrus, but many tired relationship clichés were, and let’s raise a glass to that. 

Helen Mirren: Queen Of The Madams

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(June 28, 2010) Helen Mirren is the opposite of royalty in her new film, Love Ranch, playing the madam of a Nevada whorehouse. Yet she can’t escape her most regal role.

When her character, Grace, gets too uppity for Charlie (Joe Pesci), her husband and brothel co-owner, he impatiently asks her, “Who do you think you are, the Queen of England?”

Mirren, on the line from L.A., chuckles at how she struggled to keep a straight face at Pesci’s ad-libbed jibe, referring to her Oscar-winning portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.

“That was an improvised line. And I said, ‘Oh no, we have to keep it in, it’s great, it’s fabulous,’ ” she said.

Mirren, who turns 65 next month yet retains the milky English complexion of her youth, has played all types of women in her 45-year career on the stage and screen, from madams to monarchs, babes to businesswomen and schoolteachers to spies.

Yet she realizes that her take on Her Majesty will define her forever more. Queen Elizabeth herself apparently can’t get enough of the royal side of Mirren, whom she invited around for tea at the Royal Ascot racecourse near Windsor Castle.

The Queen being the Queen, of course, she never actually told Mirren she’d seen the film, or what she thought of Mirren in the role.

“She didn’t say it to me, but she did say to the Sheik of Bahrain or something (Mirren imitates the Queen’s voice): ‘This Helen Mirren, she played me, you know, in the movie.’ ”

The Queen vividly, yet sympathetically, imagines the high drama within Buckingham Palace following the road accident death of Princess Diana in 1997. For the first time in her reign, Elizabeth found herself on the opposite side of public opinion, because she objected to the lavish state funeral given for her former daughter-in-law.

Wasn’t Mirren dying to ask Her Maj what she thought of the performance?

“Of course I was . . . but really, why should she have to comment on it, on top of having (the film) done to her and her family? She’s not a film critic, you know. It was an incredibly kind and graceful thing to do to invite me to tea. That was enough for me.”

Before making The Queen, Mirren had written the monarch a note, essentially asking for permission to play her. She received a polite reply from a Buckingham Palace official that she took to be the Queen’s tacit approval.

“I just grew more and more respectful of her as I did my research, and grew to genuinely love her. I’m not a royalist, but I think, well, bloody hell, if you have to have a monarch, this is about as damned good a monarch as you could ever have!

“This is an amazing woman who’s never put a foot wrong, except maybe at this moment in time (Diana’s death). And then she did put a foot wrong, but for the very best of reasons.”

Mirren did actually get the thumbs-up from one member of the Royal Family. Princess Anne came up to her not long ago at a gala function and simply said, “Thank you.”

“That was huge,” Mirren said, “and it was very interesting, because I sort of babbled, ‘No, no, I was just doing what I felt was right,’ and she said, ‘I know, but thank you.’ ”

One wonders what the Queen and Princess Anne might think of Grace, the brothel boss of Love Ranch. Opening Wednesday, the film is based on the true story of the late Sally Conforte, the woman who ran the Mustang Ranch, Nevada’s first legal whorehouse.

If Mirren were in Canada this week, she could possibly ask the Queen herself, since a royal tour begins Monday in Halifax.

It seems likely that the Queen and Princess Anne would hold as dim a view of brothels as Mirren did when her husband, Taylor Hackford, who directed Love Ranch, first asked her to take the role of Grace.

“When I mentioned to her this role, she said, ‘Well, that’s what you think of me? You want to make me a madam in a brothel!’ But I think she saw the potential of the role,” Hackford chuckled in a separate interview.

“And, from that moment on, it wasn’t that she was blithely going into it.”

Indeed, Mirren embraced the role with such fervour, she even paid a visit to the new Mustang Ranch, which opened in a different location outside of Reno under new management about a decade ago. She met the brothel’s new madam, Susan Austin.

“She’s a remarkable woman, actually,” Mirren said.

“And she’s a wonderful madam, just like a great madam! If there’s an Oscar for madams, Susan should win it, definitely.”

Mirren said she’s very much against sex trafficking, in which sex workers are bought and sold as chattel, usually against their will. She has a far more tolerant view of legalized brothels like the Mustang Ranch, where the rules of conduct are strict and doctors are available to prevent the spread of disease.

“Prostitution will never leave us, that’s for sure. My concern is only for the safety of the girls. That’s the only thing I’m interested in.”

In Love Ranch, Mirren’s Grace embarks on a wild and dangerous affair with a young boxer named Armando, played by Spanish actor Sergio Peris-Mencheta.

It’s based on the true story and the legend of the Mustang Ranch, which have become intertwined over the years.

Has Mirren ever had as wild and reckless a romance as Grace and Armando have at Love Ranch?

She paused a moment before giving a reply worth of a monarch:

All romance is wild and reckless,” she said, and you could almost hear her smile.

Katie Holmes, Suri Spotted Berry Picking In Markham

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Black

(June 28, 2010)  Katie Holmes, actor and wife of Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, was spotted at Whittamore’s Farm, in Markham this weekend.

Her arms were full, laden with a bag containing fresh fruit pies and, of course, her 4-year-old Suri.

Holmes, who is here making a TV mini-series on the Kennedys, took her daughter berry picking around 3:30 Sunday afternoon.

But the pair didn’t stay long, said Taylor Whittamore, who is the supervisor at Whittamore’s Farm, which claims to have the largest farmer’s market and pick-your-own farm in Ontario.

Holmes’ driver and security guard later told staff at Whittamore’s that Suri had become cranky while out in the field picking.

The mother and daughter, decked out casually, only picked $1.14 worth of strawberries before they headed back to their car.

Holmes was wearing a checked shirt, skinny jeans and brown biker-style boots. Suri was shoeless, wearing a pink dress.

Holmes, whose husband Cruise is promoting his movie Knight and Day, was apparently anxious to get back to the car because she didn’t want to be recognized and appeared to have forgotten to pay for the strawberries she and her daughter picked.

Staff from Whittamore’s had to chase after them for the money, Taylor said. But it was soon clear that they had intended to send the driver or security guard back to pay. And indeed, the driver came back in a black Escalade and paid.

Initially, some of the staff wasn’t sure it was Holmes and Suri when the mother and daughter first arrived.

They thought maybe it was her, but then didn’t think it could actually be her.

“It was very exciting,” said Taylor, who asked if she could take a picture of Holmes and Suri. The request, however, was denied. But a paparazzi photographer captured their picture as she left Whittamore’s Farm.

“We haven’t had anything like that happen ever,” Taylor said. “It was a blur.”

Later Holmes and Suri stopped at the Whittamore’s Farm market where they bought some more goodies. Holmes bought a couple of fresh fruit pies, including a strawberry pie, as well as a cup of strawberry ice cream.

Holmes spent some time wandering around the store, looking at the fresh produce, said Suzanne Whittamore, who runs the farmer’s market. “She came into the market and purchased strawberry ice cream for Suri. She browsed around the store and she picked up a couple of pies.”

Suzanne said she kept to herself while she was in the market. “She didn’t look at anybody directly. She had a bodyguard with her.”

Holmes was maybe in the store for about 10 minutes Suzanne said. And while the cashier who cashed her out didn’t recognize her, everyone else in the store did but left her alone.

Holmes and Suri left after that, missing the children’s play area and the animated singing chicken show that’s on offer.

Earlier in the weekend Holmes was spotted at a restaurant on Baldwin St.

Holmes is playing Jacqueline Kennedy in the History Channel’s mini-series The Kennedys. Jackie Kennedy, considered one of the most stylish women in the world, eventually married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis after her first husband, U.S. President John Kennedy, was assassinated.

Michael Douglas: Facing Act 3 Of His Famous Life

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 25, 2010) After being romanced by Kathleen Turner, stalked by Glenn Close and flashed by Sharron Stone, you might think that nothing could faze
Michael Douglas.

Think again. In his latest film, Solitary Man (opening in Toronto July 2), the 65 year-old Oscar winner finds his life being destroyed by a young woman just out of her teens.

The fact that she is his girlfriend’s daughter and he sleeps with her on the weekend he’s supposed to be chaperoning her college admission tour might have something to do with it. Douglas takes a longer view of the issue.

“Nah, it’s not about screwing somebody he shouldn’t have,” he snarls, using that tough-guy stance his father, Kirk Douglas, built a whole career on, although the son applies it with a lot more selectivity. “It’s about how one wrong choice can totally bring your life down. You make a single bad decision and bam! It’s all over.”

Douglas and I are having this conversation at the top of the Park Hyatt last September, during the Toronto International Film Festival.

“That’s the crazy thing about youth. They take no prisoners and they think they can get away with it.”

It’s obvious he’s also thinking about his son Cameron, 31, who was sentenced a few months before our talk to five years in prison for drug dealing and who admitted during his trial that his presentencing time in jail “was my longest sober stretch since I was 13.”

Douglas shakes his head angrily.

“But nobody gets away with anything. We may think we’re just doing something to ourselves, but we drag down our family, our friends and the ones we love with us.”

In Solitary Man, Douglas plays Ben Kalman, a hotshot car dealer with wealth, prestige and a picture-perfect family. When faced with some disquieting medical news, he self-destructs, throwing away everything he had and borrowing money from his daughter to live on.

At a time when most men are working on their golf and waiting for their pension checks, Kalman becomes a compulsive womanizer.

“He was such a schmuck!” says Douglas with a laugh. “But I love the salesman quality of his life, trying to sell everyone he knows and, finally, trying to sell himself.

“Making that score, making that deal on the car was the only way he had of acknowledging his existence. Not an elevated way of thinking. But he has to sell something, so he sells his dick. There’s a level of desperation and loneliness that sets in.”

Douglas speaks with the conviction of a man who knows what he’s talking about, but — on the surface, at least — his own life has seemed relatively blessed.

The son of a big Hollywood star, he grew up in the lap of luxury and went to the best private schools. He landed his career-making series, The Streets of San Francisco, when he was 27 and went on to do numerous high-profile, successful movies, even winning an Oscar for his 1987 performance as the sleazeball tycoon supremo, Gordon Gekko, in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street.

For the longest time, Douglas seemed to have a magic touch when it came to determining the zeitgeist, tapping into what was on the public’s mind even before they knew it.

He produced the giant hit One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, riding the counterculture wave at its height. He captured the environmental paranoia that came with Three Mile Island in The China Syndrome.

Eighties greed was grist for his Gekko in Wall Street and The War of the Roses tapped too perfectly into the yuppie culture folding in on itself in disillusionment.

“Hey, don’t make me sound smarter than I am,” he protests. “Sure, I’m a current affairs guy and I stay plugged into what’s happening but I never saw myself as a prophet.”

Fair enough, because a leavening measure of darkness has peeked through Douglas’s golden curtain of success on more than one occasion.

A near-fatal skiing accident in 1980 kept him off the screen for three years when he was in his prime. He underwent treatment for alcoholism in 2000. When his 2003 film It Runs in the Family, which starred three generations of Douglases, bombed at the box office, he fell into depression for several years, unable to work.

“Look, let me tell you how I feel about these so-called defining moments in your life,” asserts Douglas, every bit as intense as when he was trying to stop a nuclear meltdown in The China Syndrome.

“I had one of those near-death experiences in college. I was swimming in the ocean when an undertow grabbed hold of me. I struggled for a while, but there was nothing I could do, so I relaxed. I saw the white light, I heard the angels sing and then somebody pulled me out. But you know what? It didn’t change me at all afterwards.”

Still, he’s a man who’s made a lot of big changes in his own life over the years, leaving his first wife after 23 years of marriage, then marrying Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is 25 years his junior.

He doesn’t think about the age difference between them, declaring that “numbers are in your mind,” but he does pay heed to the fact that he turned 65 last September.

“My old buddy Jane (Fonda, his China Syndrome co-star) says that we reach Act III of our lives at this age and it’s up to us how the play finally resolves itself. So I’m now a lot more aware of how we conduct ourselves in this final act. I look at my mother and father, who are such strong, fantastic people, and I hope I can summon up one third of their dignity at that age.”

He grows quiet.

“There’s one scene in Solitary Man that really hits home. It’s when Ben’s daughter is telling him that he’s got to turn his life around, and I can remember having that same conversation many times with my son, Cameron. Sure I use that stuff, because your vulnerability is all you really have as an actor, so you better take advantage of it.

“The rest? Man, you just do the best you can and then f--- it.”

FIVE MOVIES THAT CAPTURED THE TIMES

The China Syndrome: “When Three Mile Island happened 12 days after the movie opened, it was the kind of luck that nobody wanted to have. From prophetic, we went to reportorial overnight.”

Fatal Attraction: “The sexual revolution had gone just too far and this was a perfect cautionary tale about how there can never be such a thing as ‘safe’ adultery.”

Wall Street: “Gordon Gekko was a brilliant creation. All the greed of the ’80s wrapped up in one man. I just looked at the world around me and put that man onto the screen.”

The War of the Roses: “By 1989, all the fault lines were starting to show in the Yuppie dream. We wouldn't live forever, love forever and somebody was going to have to pay the price.”

Solitary Man: “What happens to a guy who used to be an Alpha-type businessman after he loses his powerbase? The only thing left to promote or sell is himself.”

::TV NEWS::\

New Comedies Aren't Corner Gas, But I'll Give Them Another Shot

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 27, 2010) Neither one has turned out to be the next Corner Gas — despite CTV’s best efforts to convince us otherwise. But all the building-sized billboard images of
Hiccups reunited Brent Butt and Nancy Robertson, together with Dan for Mayor’s Fred Ewanuick, cannot change the fact that both these new sitcoms have fallen considerably short of Gas’s admittedly unattainably high standard.

They end their first joined-at-the-hip season Monday night in somewhat better shape than their uneven, nascent state 13 episodes ago. Almost two million curious viewers tuned in to the double debut last March and, though the ratings have precipitously dropped since then, both shows have already been pre-emptively renewed for a second CTV season.

I am somewhat ashamed to admit I am one of those viewers who opted out. It wasn’t as much disinterest as it was disappointment. I am also one of the million-plus who loved and admired the dry, understated, perfectly balanced simplicity of Corner Gas. I really wanted both spinoff shows to succeed, well aware of the unlikelihood that either could ever approach the original.

I was particularly disappointed with Hiccups, by far the better of the two, a tailor-made vehicle for the incomparable Robertson, giving full reign to her particular comic brilliance as a volatile children’s author with next-to-no social skills and a somewhat tenuous grip on reality.

Created and produced by her husband and Corner Gas co-star/creator Butt, Hiccups’ promise was immediately and ironically compromised by the on-camera presence of the very same Butt — very much, I am sure, against his own wishes and no doubt insisted upon by short-sighted CTV suits.

Butt’s shoehorned-in role as a bumbling life coach (originally intended, in less prominent proportion, to be played by another actor) only further crowded an already over-charactered cast, forcing him to steal focus from his own, incredibly gifted wife.

That being said, there is no denying the couple’s considerable comic chemistry. Their diametrically opposite high/low energies balance and complement perfectly, their obvious intimacy only enhancing an innately accomplished shared sense of timing.

Monday’s fragmented season-ending episode is a good case in point, not so much specifically the Butt distraction, but the attempt to equally, individually split the spotlight between each and every member of its unwieldy ensemble.

Undeniably, it’s a group of very talented folks. Too big a group, or so it feels, though a workplace sitcom like The Office seems to effortlessly and effectively juggle double their number. And the plot line of Monday’s final Hiccups of the season — Robertson’s author in the running for a prestigious literary award — is something the venerable Mary Tyler Moore Show handled almost annually with considerably more aplomb.

Much to my delighted surprise, Dan for Mayor seems to be on the opposite trajectory. I really did not expect much from the show and anticipated audiences having a much tougher time accepting Ewanuick’s new leading-man character over Gas’s endearingly uncomprehending Hank.

I probably found the transition easier than most. My problem was warming up to the other, more one-dimensional characters and getting a strong, consistent sense of tone.

Both, I am delighted to report, have vastly improved since then. The other characters have solidified and come into their own, acquiring a somewhat more specific deadpan edge — nowhere near the level of, say, a Less than Kind, but very much in the same ballpark (or should that be rink?).

The Dan season winds up Monday night with the resolution of several connected ongoing storylines, not the least of which is the titular election campaign, which comes down to . . .

Ah, but that would be telling. If you’ve been watching the show, you can probably guess. Suffice it to say it neatly sets up an entirely different dynamic for Season 2, one that may actually reclaim some of the viewers that have fallen by the wayside since its debut.

I’m certainly willing to give it another shot. Meanwhile, previewing the Hiccups season closer reminded me of how much I love watching Robertson in action, bouncing off the other characters and spinning hilariously out of control, like a tiny, wired Lucy with ADD.

Heaven forbid Butt’s life coach ever actually helps her. I say, spin him off onto his own show, where he and his character will surely thrive.

And CTV will have another Corner Gas-fuelled comedy to add to all those giant billboards.

It's About Time: A Canadian Edition Of Survivor

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(June 27, 2010) Fire up the tiki torch and pass the Doritos. The No. 1 show in Canada for the 2009-2010 TV season wasn’t American Idol, wasn’t a red hot newcomer like Battle of the Blades or Glee, wasn’t popular imports Grey’s Anatomy or House. It was a decade-old series in its 20th edition —
Survivor.

The granddaddy of reality shows celebrated 10 years at the top by averaging three million viewers a week in Canada on Global. So could there be a better time to launch Global’s Reality Channel?

The new specialty service, which launches July 1, will feature past editions of Survivor — starting with the Richard Hatch’s march to victory in 2000 — along with several other franchise shows like The Apprentice and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.

Global is bullish on the new channel — carried on Rogers cable systems — despite the recent failure of a similar reality channel on Fox, which folded this spring after five seasons.

Why will Global’s Reality Channel succeed? “It’s all about the content,” says Mark Burnett, executive producer of Survivor, The Apprentice and many other hits. “I don’t think people are channel loyal at all,” he says from his office in Los Angeles. “I think if you did a survey of young people and chose a bunch of shows, I don’t think they’d know what channel it’s even on.”

Murtz Jaffer, host of TVTropolis’s Reality Obsessed and the new channel’s resident reality expert, also insists that the genre will thrive in reruns. “It doesn’t matter if it’s new or it’s something that debuted in 2001,” says Jaffer. “People like to see other people suffer.”

While that may be true, even hits like Survivor or American Idol rarely get repeated on network television. There doesn’t seem to be much of a market for off-air DVD sales of part editions, either. Still, as Jaffer points out, reruns of shows like Wipeout draw strong audiences on Canadian specialty channels.

Compare ratings over the past decade, he suggests. They show Canadians are more into reality than Americans. “No matter how much they try to work Grey’s Anatomy and stuff, Canadians watch reality more than scripted,” he says.

One surprising reason for that, he suggests, is that Canadians generally cannot compete in big-money U.S. network reality shows. “The closest they can get to Borneo and Thailand and Fiji and Nicaragua is watching these shows,” he says. “It is our way of living vicariously through the players.”

Still, why hasn’t there ever been a Survivor Canada? Other countries have done it. There have been highly rated Canadian editions of American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Deal or No Deal, Who Wants to be a Millionaire and, coming this fall, Wipeout. Surely viewers would cheer fellow Canadians currently not allowed to participate in the CBS version.

All it would take, says the man who created the series, is a call from Canwest.

“Have them step up,” Burnett told The Star. The executive producer emerged as a reality-show kingpin after shooting his earlier adventure series Eco-Challenge on B.C. mountain slopes. He still uses Canadian crew members and would love to shoot a Survivor in the Great White North.

CBS is never going to trade the bikini appeal of the tropical island set series for parkas and igloos. The U.S. network also wants winners to keep coming from Texas, not Toronto. Burnett knows this, and knows there’s only one way to get Canadians in on the game. “Maybe Canwest would want an original up there,” he says.

Canwest’s top programming executive, vice president Barbara Williams, says that with revived interest in the series — driven perhaps by a new ratings system that seems to favour “event” kind of shows like Survivor — the idea has more merit today than even two or three years ago. With the imminent takeover of Canwest by deep pocket owners Shaw Cable, a Canadian tiki torch could be closer than ever to being lit.

But could we find a Canadian as nasty as Russell Hantz? Over the past two editions, the 37-year-old Texan has emerged as the baddest dude on television. “Casting is everything and Russell just drove that show,” Williams says of Survivor’s bounce back to the top.

Still, despite controlling both games right to the final day, crafty Hantz couldn’t win either edition of Survivor. That’s not right, charged Hantz, who made an impassioned plea at the most recent post-Survivor reunion show to allow viewers at home to determine which player wins the million-dollar prize.

Never going to happen, says the man in charge.

“That’s not the show,” says Burnett, busy prepping two more Survivors for CBS and two more editions of The Apprentice for NBC. He sees no reason to monkey with a winning formula. “I understand Russell’s point of view in letting America vote, but that’s not the show. The core value of Survivor is that it’s a game where you have to eliminate others and then you have to ask them to give you the money.”

Bottom line, says Burnett: “The prize is a gift from the jury.”

Burnett has a busy summer coming up, including plans to produce the eight-part documentary series Sarah Palin’s Alaska for TLC. But if Canwest needs him to throw together a Canadian Survivor for their new reality channel, well, they have his number.

Oprah Tops Forbes Annual List Of 100 Most Powerful Celebs

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(June 29, 2010)  Tennis has its player rankings. Soccer has its World Cup standings. Celebrities have Forbes magazine's top 100 list of The World's Most Powerful Celebrities, which this year has turned younger in flavour.

Few will be surprised to see Oprah Winfrey, with her personal media empire and an estimated $315-million in earnings in 2009, move up from second to top spot, usurping last year's first-placed Angelina Jolie.

But a little further down the list, a young contingent includes Lady Gaga(fourth place) and two stars from the Twilight movie franchise, Robert Pattinson (50th spot) and Kristen Stewart (66th), all making their first appearances on the Forbes ranking. The top Canadian is Avatar director James Cameron, who came in third behind Winfrey and pop phenomenon Beyoncé Knowles.

But how does Forbes quantify and rank that sparkle of mass appeal that constitutes fame and power?

First, a celebrity's estimated earnings from myriad media deals and endorsements are calculated. Tiger Woods, for instance, who rounded out the top five after Lady Gaga, earned an estimated $105-million during the ranking's timeline of June 2009 to June 2010 with his ongoing deals with Nike, Electronic Arts and others.

But his personal life has, of course, caused many companies to pull their endorsement deals, so his ranking is expected to drop precipitously come next year. Forbes also admits to adjusting its earnings estimates with figures from other sources such as Billboard, Pollstar and different research groups.

Fame is then calculated simply by the number of web hits on Google and other databases like LexisNexis and the press aggregating service Factiva, along with simply the number of times the celebrity's face appears on the cover of any one of 25 consumer magazines.

That kind of notoriety helped Madonna, who still manages to drum up attention, leading to her 10th-place ranking, down from third last year.

Finally, social rank is added to the mix, measured by the number of Facebook friends and Twitter followers, according to Forbes. Madonna in fact ranked first in socal media and web presence.

The big losers? There is Jolie's drop from first to 18th. However, actor Will Smith (11th last year) and rapper 50 Cent (coincidentally or not, 50th last year), both with no big hits last year, slid from the top 100 altogether.

Larry King To Leave Nightly CNN Show After 25 Years

Source: www.thestar.com - David Bauder

(June 29, 2010)  NEW YORK, N.Y.—Larry King, who interviewed statesmen and stars from a prime-time perch at CNN for 25 years but has faded in ratings and influence lately, said Tuesday that he will step down this fall from his nightly show.

“It’s time to hang up my nightly suspenders,” King said in a message sent to fans via Twitter.

King said he will do occasional specials for CNN. He marked his 25th anniversary on the air this month and takes pride in a Guinness Book of World Records citation for hosting the longest-running show on the same network in the same time slot.

The longtime radio host was a pioneer in cable television. From the first show where he interviewed then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, King’s desk was considered a valued spot for anyone interested in talking to the nation. King’s interview style was plainspoken and critics would suggest occasionally ill prepared, but he was good at making his guests feel comfortable.

“He lured so many people to this new frontier of cable back before anybody understood what it was all about,” said CNN U.S. President Jon Klein, who called King a “living, breathing Hall of Famer who is still doing the work.”

King said he felt no pressure from CNN to leave. He said he began thinking about stepping down as his 25th anniversary weekended earlier this month, on the airplane home after interviewing basketball star LeBron James. During that week, he also spoke to Bill Gates, President Barack Obama and Lady Gaga — an apt example of the mix that he always sought on his show.

“I said, ‘I can’t top this,’“ King said in an interview Tuesday.

“I’m tired of the nightly grind,” he said. “I do want to do other things but I want to stay at CNN in some way ... There’s a case of great mixed emotions.”

King told his staff during a conference call Tuesday that he called “one of the saddest 10 minutes of my life.”

CNN is in the midst of remaking its prime-time line-up and last week announced that former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and conservative columnist Kathleen Parker would co-host an 8 p.m. EDT show on politics and current events.

The network will now begin concentrating on potential successors. Klein said he wanted to continue with provocative newsmaker interviews in the time slot.

“Nobody else does it,” he said. “It’s an important tool in the arsenal and we want to keep it going.”

CBS News anchor Katie Couric has long been considered a potential successor, given her interviewing skills. That talk has cooled lately with suggestions that Couric may be reluctant to take responsibility for another network with ratings troubles; Klein would not discuss specific candidates. Recent published reports have suggested that America’s Got Talent judge Piers Morgan could be a candidate. King said if it were up to him, Ryan Seacrest would be the best choice to fill his shoes.

As cable news audiences gravitated toward politically pointed shows and newsmakers found many more outlets for interviews in recent years, King slipped behind Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in the ratings. During his interview with Lady Gaga, the 76-year-old broadcast veteran had people wondering if he was really connecting with a pop star a half century his junior.

King got some sympathy from comic Bill Maher, invited as a guest on Larry King Live on Tuesday specifically to be there on the night of the announcement.

“I heard people say Larry didn’t understand Lady Gaga,” Maher said. “Who understands Lady Gaga?”

King estimated he’s conducted some 50,000 interviews during a 53-year broadcasting career. He said he always tried to ask short questions and to never come in with an agenda. “I left my ego at the door,” he said.

“I never learned a thing while I was talking,” he said. “That would be my motto.”

He dismissed a series of stories this spring questioning his future and speculating about possible successors.

“You can’t worry about things you can’t control,” he said. “I can’t control if a newspaper is going to speculate about something or if a blog is going to speculate ... If I let it get me, I’ll go nuts. So what I try to do, and I’m not being morbid, I just try to do the best show I can. If it works, it works.”

King said he was able to see the baseball all-star games of his sons this weekend. If it was during the week, he’d miss them.

“I’m never going to see these again,” he said. “They’re not going to repeat themselves. They’re 11 and 10. They’re not going to be 11 and 10 again.”

Besides work with CNN, King said he’d also be interested in working in comedy.

“I think I speak for a lot of people in America that I will miss you terribly at this hour,” Maher said on the show.

Hangers-On And Humping Hunk Return

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 27, 2010) The HBO comedies Hung and Entourage return Sunday night for, respectively, their second and seventh seasons — proving once and for all that there are no small parts, but there are small actors.

Together, they add up to the most misogynist hour — 90 minutes, if you lump in Monday night’s Californication — of comedy currently on
television.

Dealing first with the part of the first part, Hung enters its sophomore season with the divorced and depressed Ray Decker (former Punisher star Thomas Jane) still awkwardly supplementing his meagre teacher’s salary working covertly as an upscale prostitute, whose generous natural endowment puts him in high demand by women wealthy enough to afford it.

And again, the show isn’t really about the man’s ample if unseen appendage — which is best left to the imagination, anyway — or even about the man himself, who, let’s face it, exhibits all the personality and evident sexual technique of a wooden carousel pony.

The show’s most damaged, and thus most interesting characters are its women, in particular Tanya (Jane Adams of Frasier), Ray’s mousy erstwhile “pimp,” and a perfectly cast Anne Heche as his scattered and increasingly conflicted ex-wife.

This season, as Ray and the ex begin to bond over bowling, Tanya forges an odd professional kinship with a street pimp, played with considerable funky charm by Lennie James (Jericho, The Prisoner). At the same time, her escalating power struggle with the snidely patronizing “life coach” Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) leads to petty theft and dognapping.

(One of the two dogs involved was also Frank, the talking pug from Men in Black.)

There are next to no women in Entourage, though again, the few there are, are vastly more formidable and substantial personalities than any of the more prominent “men” involved.

Though given comparatively limited screen time, Perrey Reeves continues to fascinate as Ari Gold’s long-suffering, still intriguingly unnamed wife, as does Debi Mazar’s caustic publicist and, albeit to a lesser extent, E’s serene fiancée, Sloan.

Also stealing some of the spotlight this season is sweet-faced barracuda agent Lizzie Grant (Autumn Reeser), who spars with Ari over an NFL TV deal.

Jeremy Piven’s Emmy-winning Ari Gold continues to be the show’s manic focal point, as opposed to Adrian Grenier’s deliberately vanilla matinee idol, Vincent Chase. I mean, seriously, the guy is so dull, just giving himself a bad haircut constitutes a major character arc.

Meanwhile, Kevin Dillon continues to provide deadpan comic relief as his unemployable older brother, Johnny “Drama” Chase — essentially playing himself, as older brother to the more successful Matt, crossed with executive producer Mark Wahlberg’s elder actor sibling, Donnie.

That leaves the two remaining members of the Entourage entourage, the nascent agent Eric, sliding benignly into wedlock, and tubby entrepreneur Turtle, who gets more than he bargained for when he considers firing one of his limo-driving hotties.

Were it not for Piven and Dillon, who both bring vastly more to their characters than could ever have been on the printed page, this one-note joke about privileged party boys would have jumped the proverbial shark seasons ago.

As it is, producer Wahlberg has wisely decided to pull the plug, with one final, six-episode semi-season after this one, to be followed by the inevitable feature film.

By which point, hopefully, Hung will have hung it up, too.

And HBO will start to pay closer attention to the more sophisticated little hen party they’ve got going at Showtime, with the femme-fuelled Nurse Jackie and United States of Tara (both of which run here on HBO Canada).


TV TIDBITS

Tyra to Create Beauty-Themed Media Brand

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 30, 2010) *Tyra Banks has added another venture to her expansive media portfolio. The former supermodel and talk-show host has reached a deal to create a Web-based media brand focused on fashion and beauty, reports the New York Post. The entertainer’s New York-based company, Bankable, is partnering with Los Angeles-based Demand Media on ventures that will include creating an Internet site, producing online video segments and developing a series of apps for smartphones. In a statement, Banks said she’s looking to create “an engine that would provide my audience with inspirational and instructional content to help them look and feel their best.” Since retiring from modeling, Banks has been busy building an empire in the mold of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart — publishing books and hosting a talk show, in addition to the popular “America’s Next Top Model” series. Banks recently quit her five-year-old talk show to pursue the online venture.

::THEATRE NEWS::

The Show Does Go On, But Not Without Incident

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(June 30, 2010) Since its premiere in 1979, David French’s Jitters has become a beloved part of the Canadian canon and made a splash beyond our borders as well – so much so that critics have used the words “perfect” and “comedy” in the same sentence when describing it. This behind-the-scenes, backstage farce about the pitfalls of putting on a play does have serious overtones about the life of a performer, but it mostly goes down right because everything that can go wrong does go hilariously wrong.

In the spirit of first-night jitters and things gone awry, James Bradshaw pried some favourite and true tales from the Soulpepper team’s trunk of memorable mishaps.

ALBERT SCHULTZ

Artistic director, Soulpepper

“This is almost 25 years ago. Dream in the Park, Romeo and Juliet: I wasn’t in the show. Stuart Hughes was playing Romeo and Henry Czerny was playing Mercutio, and on a Monday night I got a call saying, ‘Henry Czerny is deathly ill’ – luckily he came out of it – ‘he’s got some horrible virus, he can’t stand up and our sponsors are coming. Can you play Mercutio tomorrow night?’

And I was 22 years old and said, ‘Of course.’ All 22-year-olds think they can play Mercutio tomorrow night.

So I learned the part before I went to sleep and went in the next day, learned all my blocking, learned the fight, everything went swimmingly well … And we literally got to the final scene, the death scene, and just before Mercutio dies, he grabs the back of Romeo’s head, puts a big lip lock on him, pulls away and says, ‘… your houses,’ coughs up blood and dies. That’s how his performance ends.

So I’m doing my final scene, I’ve kind of scaled these Herculean heights, and I got to my last line and said ‘a plague on both your houses.’ And suddenly I noticed something really weird in Stuart’s eyes because what he’s supposed to have done is take the blood capsule from the back of his mouth and bring it right up to the tip of his lips so that when I come in for the kiss, I quickly pull it away. Well, he was so absorbed in this performance that he’d forgotten to do that.

When it got to the moment, I saw panic in his eyes but I didn’t know what that was, so I went in for my kiss and the capsule wasn’t there. So I went digging. I’m in there, in deep as I can get and Stuey’s trying to find it with his tongue and this went on for I don’t know how long before someone in the audience went: “Oh, gross!”

At which point, we pulled apart and I died an ignominious death, with no blood capsule, having just done the biggest, cheek-expanding, disgusting French kiss for about 10 seconds with Stuart Hughes.

That’s a pretty good one.”

TED DYKSTRA

Director of Jitters

“In Fire, there’s a scene where me and my brother cut each other’s thumbs and put our thumbs together and lick each other’s blood and become blood brothers. And the actor playing my brother forgot the knife. So he said, ‘I want to swear an oath with you,’ and I said, ‘Okay,’ and he had a cigarette and he said, ‘I’m going to burn your thumb.’ So I went, ‘Ahhhhh,’ and the audience went, ‘Oohhhh,’ and then he goes, ‘Now you burn mine,’ so I burned his. Then we were puss brothers, I guess – we sucked each other’s ashy, burnt thumbs. And then he did it again later in the run, this is Ron Lee, he forgot the knife again! So he said, ‘Now I bite your thumb and you bite mine,’ and then we had to suck each other’s blood. That was bad.”

C. DAVID JOHNSON

Actor, plays Patrick

“I was doing a Norm Foster play down at the Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia, and the guy that I was working with was on stage at the beginning of the second act, and the phone rings. They’re playing the sound cue and the phone is ringing, and he’s looking around the set and there’s supposed to be a cordless phone, and there’s no phone. They forgot to set the phone at the intermission.

So he’s walking around and he’s trying to ad lib, not very well, going ‘Gee, I think that phone’s around here somewhere. …’ It’s really lame.

Now the audience by now has figured out what’s going on and, from the front row, a lady reaches up and very quietly slides a cell phone onto the stage. He looks down with huge gratitude and mouths, ‘Thank you’ to her, and takes the cell phone and goes, ‘Hello!’ and does the scene, and then very quietly takes the cell phone back to her.

And then about 30 seconds later, I have to enter, so I ring the doorbell and I had the phone in my hand, so I said, ‘Here, were you looking for this?’ ”

ABENA MALIKA

Actor, plays Susi

“My jitters story is bad. Years ago, I was in a comedy troupe – we did sketch comedy and that sort of thing. We had a couple of weeks of rehearsals, everything was going great, and it was a one-off. The morning of the show I woke up and I had absolutely no voice: I couldn’t talk. And it’s interesting how the psychology of nerves works, because I was nervous but I thought I was okay. So I go down to the theatre, and they just gave me a handheld mic and hoped for the best. Luckily, the character I was playing had kind of a raspy voice so I could play it up, and I was kissing the mic the whole time. And at the end of the show, within an hour, my voice came back. The next day I was totally fine. That hasn’t happened to me since. I must have been totally terrified.”

Choreographer Helps Cirque Du Soleil Find Their Feet

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 29, 2010)  Everyone knows that the heart of Cirque du Soleil is in Montreal, but did you realize that its feet are in Brantford?

That’s the home of Debra Brown, the multi-talented choreographer who has staged the musical numbers for 13 of Cirque’s shows, including Alegria, which opens in a new, arena-style staging at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night.

“Fans of the show shouldn’t worry about it being too different,” she cautions from her home in Brantford. “It’s still the same wonderful piece it always was, but you have to dress it up differently for the giant space. Everything has to get bigger and that can be very exciting!”

Besides her Cirque stagings around the world, Brown has done concert gigs for the likes of Madonna and Aerosmith, worked on films such as Van Helsing and Catwoman, while finding time to do operas in Chicago, New York, Vancouver and Toronto.

Then there are the special events, which are too numerous to mention, but it all began in a tiny kitchen in Brantford.

“I was just a dreamer, living in my own little world,” says Brown, “but music was my escape. We had a tiny AM radio and it was the source of all my fantasies.”

Think 1966 and the Troggs’ “Love Is All Around.” Brown ramps up to high energy as she sings, “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes . . . ”

Then she’s zapping through a personal greatest hits mix-tape that includes “Bad Moon Rising,” “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and “Penny Lane,” ending with a breathless sigh.

“I grew up with the word freedom and I always imagined communicating with the world.”

Her preliminary studies took her to Western for gymnastics, but she rates the two years she spent later at York studying dance as “the major influence in my life.”

After graduation, she moved to British Columbia and worked on fusing gymnastics and dance.

“I trained gymnasts using a lot of choreographic principles. I worked for eight years with the same team of eight gymnasts for 25 hours a week and got to travel all around the world with them, exploring the artistry in sport.”

Brown’s career was going extremely well and she had staked out a name for herself as a major innovator in her field, but then one of those fortuitous life events took place.

“It was 1986 and there was a children’s festival in Vancouver, and a friend said, ‘You’ve got to see this new group called Cirque du Soleil.’ So I went and I was knocked out. They were doing the same thing in circus that I was doing in sport.”

Brown and Cirque formed a partnership and have been working together ever since.

“It’s all about communication to me and about dealing with uniqueness. Because I began by making up things as a child, I keep that same childlike wonder today and treat every job as if I were still dancing around my kitchen, responding to the music coming out of that old AM radio.”

Alegria will be at the Air Canada Centre from June 30 through July 4. For more information go to www.cirquedusoleil.com

Stratford Summer Music to honour Maureen Forrester

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(June 28, 2010) Stratford Summer Music is planning to pay tribute to Maureen Forrester at the 2011 instalment of the festival.

According to a news release, the tribute concert will honour Forrester's “life and art.”

Organizers say a “likely” date for the show is July 25, 2011 – which would have been Forrester's 81st birthday.

The contralto opera singer died earlier this month at age 79.

This summer, Stratford's music festival is dedicating its 108 concerts to Forrester and presenting the 10th year of the Maureen Forrester Next Generation Canadian Artists series.

Full details of the tribute will be announced later this year, organizers said.

They also noted that the Forrester family has requested a shuttle bus service to bring the late Forrester's friends from Toronto to Stratford, Ont., to watch the show.

“We are looking forward to this beautiful tribute to our beloved mother to help us say goodbye to her because a farewell to her voice and extraordinary legacy cannot be done in private,” said a family statement from Forrester's five children: Gina Dineen, Paula Berton, Daniel Kash, Susie Whaley and Linda Kash.

“This will be an occasion that can involve all who loved her and the nation that she adored.”

Rock Of Ages Wins People’s Choice Best Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(June 29, 2010)  The hard-working and talented cast of Rock of Ages must have felt vindicated on Monday night when they didn’t walk home from the Dora Awards empty-handed. Despite the jurors’ bizarre decision to only give the hit show one grudging nomination (for choreography), the theatregoers of Toronto spoke loud and clear by writing in the show as the unquestioned winner of the 2010 People’s Choice Awards as Best Show of the Year.

“We put on shows for the public,” said John Karastamatis, Mirvish’s director of communication, “and so we’re glad when they get to have their say, not only by buying tickets, but by voting in a popular poll like this.”

Rock of Ages continues working its groove on the Toronto public, with a new performance schedule that gives you a chance to see it five mind-blowing times each weekend. For tickets and information, call 416-872-1212.

WHEREFORE ART THOU, ROMEO? Here’s a piece of advice to any young actors looking to play Shakespeare’s greatest young romantic hero: Get a job first at the Shaw Festival.

It seemed to work for Jeff Irving, who opened on Tuesday as the star-struck lover, after having spent five years in the Shaw Company.

And Jeff Lillico (recent winner of a Dora Award for his performance in The Light in the Piazza), will be playing the tragic swain in the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet, opening in the Windy City this September.

Lillico spent four seasons at Shaw, some of them overlapping with Irving, but the two insist they never worked on the balcony scene together.

But if similar Shaw veteran Jeff Madden runs off soon to play Romeo for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I’ll get suspicious.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING AMERICAN? Who’s starring opposite Brian Bedford in the Roundabout Theatre’s “Stratford production” of The Importance of Being Earnest opening this December? To date, the only cast member signed has been Bedford, leaving such Stratford colleagues as Ben Carlson, Mike Shara and Sara Topham wondering what’s happening.

Stratford announced its playbill and casting on Monday, making it clear that someone like Carlson, for example, would be free to be in both the American and Canadian shows. So come on, Roundabout, no more excuses about how Stratford’s scheduling is stopping you from hiring our fine Canadian actors.

Don’t tell me John Stamos wants to play Algernon?

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Most Promising Video Games At E3 2010

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(June 25, 2010) So many games, so little time.

Such is the dilemma at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo, or “
E3,” the world's biggest video game trade show that takes place in Los Angeles each June.

More than 45,000 attendees from more than 90 countries pack into the L.A. Convention Center to lay their hands on video games and accessories scheduled to debut over the next six to 18 months.

There's a lot to see and play, and only three days in which to do it, but now that the thumb-swelling has subsided, the following are a few highlights from last week's show.

Best Shooter: Bulletstorm (People Can Fly/Epic Games/Electronic Arts)

This over-the-top sci-fi shooter features enormous weapons, a variety of combat moves (such as kicking, sliding and leashing enemies) and a “skill shot” system that rewards players for destroying enemies in creative ways. Use points awarded for these ridiculous alien kills to buy more weapons and other upgrades from the “drop shop” depots on this planet. Great fun — but for mature players only. This first-person shooter will debut by February 2011 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PCs.

Runners-Up: id Software/Electronic Arts' Rage, Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops, Sony's Killzone 3 and Microsoft Game Studios' Gears of War 3 and Halo: Reach.

Best Action/Adventure: Epic Mickey (Disney Interactive Studios)

Designed by industry veteran Warren Spector, this Nintendo Wii exclusive stars Mickey Mouse in his biggest and most ambitious adventure to date. Use paint and thinner to add or remove parts of the world, but be aware both actions each come with consequences. Played primarily from a third-person view, this action-heavy story also borrows elements from role-playing games and platformers. When it debuts in December, keep an eye out for references to more than 80 years of Disney.

Runners-up: Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, EA's Dead Space 2, Sony's Infamous 2, Capcom's Dead Rising 2 and Nintendo's Zelda: Skyward Sword.

Best Racing Game: Gran Turismo 5 (Sony Computer Entertainment America)

Play this eagerly anticipated driving game for just five minutes and one thing is for certain: it was well worth the wait. Slated for a November launch, the oft-delayed racing simulation for PlayStation 3 features more than 1,000 authentically modelled vehicles (yes, you read that correctly), all rendered in high-definition and with accurate physics — plus those with a 3DTV can play the game with an extra layer of immersion. Tight handling, multiple game modes and myriad track options had driving fans drooling at the wheel at this year's E3.

Runner-up: Electronic Arts' Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit.

Best Music Game: Dance Central (Harmonix/MTV Games)

Introducing the Next Big Thing from the makers of Guitar Hero: dancing. Taking advantage of the upcoming Kinect motion-sensing peripheral for Xbox 360, Dance Central challenges players to dance in front of the television in order to master more than 600 moves and nearly 100 routines. Kinect monitors your body's movements in real-time and shows how you compare to the onscreen dancers. Great music, multiplayer modes and the ability to download extra tracks all measures up to a hot November 2010 for music fans.

Runners-up: MTV Games' Rock Band 3 and Ubisoft's Child of Eden.

Best Role-Playing Game: Star Wars: The Old Republic (LucasArts/BioWare)

It's good to see when gameplay lives up to awesome teaser trailers — which is the case with Star Wars: The Old Republic. This upcoming massively multiplayer online (MMO) role-playing game for Windows lets you play as a variety of races and classes (yes, including Jedis and Siths), each of whom can be customized in many ways. And hey, you get your own spacecraft, too. The deep, story-driven adventure takes you to umpteen planets to fight, solve puzzles and team up with other players for major objectives. Expect a spring 2011 release for this MMO of the show.

Runners-up: Bethesda Softworks' Fallout: New Vegas and Microsoft Game Studios' Fable III.

Best Hardware: Tie: Nintendo 3DS and Kinect

Both Microsoft and Nintendo managed to impress with their new hardware — Kinect for Xbox 360 and Nintendo's 3DS, respectively — not just because the technology is innovative but because it works, has a lot of software support and offers fresh gameplay experiences. Due out Nov. 4, Kinect is Microsoft's accessory for Xbox 360 that lets you interact with games without requiring to hold a controller; the plug-in peripheral has multiple cameras, 3D depth sensors and a microphone. Available by March 2011, the Nintendo 3DS is the company's first portable gaming system that lets you see games and other content in 3D — without needing 3D glasses. And it looks amazing.

Honourable mentions: EA Sports' NBA Jam (Best Sports Game), 2K Games' Civilization V (Best Strategy Game) and Valve Software's Portal 2 (Best Puzzle Game).

::SPORTS NEWS::

Raptors Select North Carolina’s Ed Davis With 13th Pick

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(June 24, 2010) NEW YORK, N.Y.—The Toronto
Raptors selected University of North Carolina forward Ed Davis with the 13th pick in the NBA draft Thursday, a replacement perhaps for all-star Chris Bosh and the first piece of an uncertain roster puzzle in an off-season marked by questions.

The six-foot-10, 225-pound Davis led the Tar Heels in rebounding, with 9.6 per game, blocked shots (2.8), and was second in scoring (13.4) in his sophomore season at North Carolina, but suffered a season-ending injury on Feb. 10 when he broke a bone in his left wrist.

The 21-year-old, who strode up on the stage at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York dressed in a charcoal grey suit, was asked what he knew about his new Canadian home. He answered: “My favourite player Chris Bosh plays there.”

Maybe not for long. Bosh is set to become a free agent July 1, and hasn't so much as hinted at what his future plans are.

Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo said earlier this week that with so many questions surrounding his roster, he planned to take the best player on the board rather than necessarily pick a replacement for Bosh. Still, the similarities to Bosh are obvious, including their size.

Davis, the son of former NBAer Terry Davis, is known for his rebounding at both ends of the floor, and uses his length to block shots.

He was leading the ACC in field goal percentage (.578) and blocked shots, and was second in rebounding and 15th in scoring when his wrist injury ended his season.

The Raptors never had Davis at the Air Canada Centre for a pre-draft workout.

Just who Davis will play alongside in Toronto remains to be seen with this murky off-season hinging on Bosh. Disgruntled forward Hedo Turkoglu has said he wants out of Toronto, further complicating things.

The Washington Wizards, meanwhile, selected Kentucky point guard John Wall with the No. 1 pick. The Philadelphia 76ers took NCAA player of the year Evan Turner from Ohio State at No. 2, while Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors went third overall to the New Jersey Nets.

Rounding out the top five, the Minnesota Timberwolves took Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson at four, while Kentucky forward DeMarcus Cousins went fifth to the Sacramento Kings.

The Raptors selected Southern California swingman DeMar DeRozan with the No. 9 pick last year. They went on to have another disappointing season, finishing second in the Atlantic Division with a 40-42 record to miss the playoffs.

LeBron Triggers NBA Free Agent Quake

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(June 28, 2010)  The landscape of the NBA and the competitive balance for perhaps half a decade is at stake when the likes of Cleveland’s LeBron James, Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Atlanta’s Joe Johnson offer themselves to the highest bidder starting Thursday night.

Fun? For fans, perhaps. For executives around the league it is equal parts frustrating and worrisome, fear of the unknown at the heart of their concern.

“It seems to be an unprecedented scenario,” said Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo. “There could be significant moves and significant change throughout the league.”

The league has been waiting for Thursday for three years now, ever since James, Wade and Bosh took shorter contracts to stay with their teams, all with an eye to this summer of free agency. And it will be an auction like none other. James will stay in Ohio and entertain prospective suitors, who can start talking with him a minute after midnight Wednesday night.

Bosh, who has given no indication the Raptors are trying to retain his services after seven seasons in Toronto, is expected to travel around the continent listening to pitches.

Wade, who has maintained all along his first choice is to remain with the Heat, is in the unique position of being able to attract players to his team without having to join someone anywhere else.

If James wanted to stay in Cleveland, he’d have to convince someone to join him in a sign-and-trade transaction, the same with Bosh in Toronto and Johnson in Atlanta although there’s been no indication either of those franchises is interested in making such a move.

It could be a time-consuming process as well.

Almost everyone connected with the league thinks nothing will happen until James makes his decision. It will then be up to other free agents to decide if they want to join him, and there’s been no indication James is in any hurry. If, as reports indicate, he will listen to pitches from up to six teams, it could take days to even gather enough information to decide what he wants to do.

“I don’t know, it’s out of our hands,” said Colangelo. “If it were up to teams in the league, they’d like it to happen quickly.”

Since James can only go to one team, leaving jilted suitors to move to Plan B with other high-profile players, those even further down the pecking order will have to wait. So a free agency market that usually dries up after a couple of weeks could go for a month this time around before all the key players are signed.

Isner Wins Record-Breaking 11-Hour Wimbledon Match

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(June 24, 2010) LONDON—The longest match tennis has ever seen finally came to an end on Thursday when American
John Isner beat France's Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set of their titanic battle at Wimbledon.

Isner triumphed 6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6 70-68 on Wimbledon's Court 18 in a match which lasted 11 hours and five minutes. The final set alone lasted eight hours and 11 minutes.

Isner and Mahut split the first four sets Tuesday, before it became too dark to play. They began the fifth set Wednesday at 2:04 p.m., and play was halted at 9:10 p.m., because of darkness.

The 118 games already in the fifth set is longer than the previous record for most games in a full match, 112.

“Feel like a million bucks” Isner Tweeted on Thursday hours before he was due back on Wimbledon’s Court 18.

Just how Isner could feel anything but sore, tired, ragged or delirious is anyone’s guess.

The world waited to see Chapter III of this most compelling of matches on a day Queen Elizabeth was visiting the championships for the first time in 33 years.

But with their battle taking place away from the main Centre Court, where the Queen was in attendance, former champion John McEnroe quipped: “It’s a good thing Isner and Mahut don’t have to bow because if they did, they wouldn’t be able to get up again.” It was so long and gruelling, and with no end in sight, McEnroe also suggested doctors should have been on standby to run to the players’ aid.

“I thought Isner was getting delirious and was worried for his health,” McEnroe said after watching his fellow American barely being able to put one foot in front of the other between points.

The match reached such epic proportions, that the battling gladiators were breaking records with almost every shot they made during the course of the fifth set—which has already lasted a surreal seven hours and six minutes.

With records for the longest match, longest set, most games in a set at 118, most games in a match at 163 and most aces at 193 already set by the end of play on Wednesday—it was little wonder that the courtside scoreboard could not keep up with the antics and broke down at 47-all.

Technology might have given up the ghost but there was no stopping the human spirit that kept Mahut and Isner going on and on and on.

When Mahut lay sprawled face down on the ground after diving after a Isner volley at 58-all, for a few seconds it seemed as if the Frenchman simply wanted to fall asleep.

In fact had Mahut’s coach run over to tuck a pillow under his head, few would have blamed him.

British bookmakers were even offering odds of 100-1 on whether Swedish umpire Mohamed Lahyani would fall asleep during the match.

The unprecedented nature of their plight meant no one could offer them much advise on how they could prepare for Thursday’s challenge. “How in the world can they possibly walk, let alone play?” said McEnroe.

“There is nothing we can fall back on to even begin to think what they should do other than to make sure there are plenty of experienced medical people around. It gets unhealthy.

“I sat next to John’s mum and she was close to having a heart attack. It’s great to see the will of these two guys but should we think about at least maybe a tiebreaker at 30-all.

“These poor guys. This kind of match will set them back weeks and months. This is debilitating... these guys will not be able to walk for a month.”

While the match will no doubt revive the debate about tiebreaks in the fifth set here, as they do at the U.S. Open, perhaps Wimbledon should also break with protocol and rename the 782-seater Court 18 after the two heroic protagonists.

Serena Williams Advances, Sister Venus Loses At Wimbledon

Source: www.thestar.com

(June 29, 2010) WIMBLEDON, UNITED KINGDOM—There will be no all-Williams final at Wimbledon this year.

Defending champion
Serena has a good chance of playing for her fourth title on Saturday, but big sister and five-time winner Venus will be a spectator this time.

Venus was ousted in the quarterfinals Tuesday, losing 6-2, 6-3 to 82nd-ranked Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria.

Venus, seeded second, had reached the Wimbledon final in eight of the past 10 years. This time, she was undone by a slew of unforced errors and double-faults in her worst loss at Wimbledon in terms of games won — five.

In another surprise, 21st-seeded Vera Zvonareva of Russia rallied past two-time U.S. Open winner Kim Clijsters 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to reach her first Wimbledon semi-final, where she will face Pironkova.

Serena Williams avoided the wave of upsets, beating China’s Li Na 7-5, 6-3 and moving closer to her 13th Grand Slam championship. The top-seeded Serena had 11 aces to take her tournament total to 73, breaking the record of 72 she set last year. She had 21 winners and just six unforced errors.

“I always serve well at Wimbledon, but this is the first time I’ve ever served this well so consistently,” Serena said.

Her semi-final opponent is 62nd-ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, who saved five match points before beating Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 7-6 (8), 8-6.

“I’m very happy,” said the 20-year-old Kvitova, her voice shaking. “I can’t believe it. It’s something incredible.”

It’s the first time two unseeded players have reached the women’s semifinals at Wimbledon since 1999.

The Williams sisters have played each other in four Wimbledon finals, with Serena winning for the third time last year. With Venus out, Wimbledon is guaranteed at least one first-time Grand Slam finalist among the three other contenders.

With all the other big names gone, Serena Williams is the overwhelming favourite for the title.

“It’s not mine to lose, it’s mine to win if I can get it,” she said. “There’s three other people that are vying to win it. They have just as good a chance as I do.”

Serena said she’s not surprised the left-handed Kvitova got this far.

“She’s a really tough player, especially on grass,” she said.

Kvitova doesn’t give herself much of a chance.

“She won here I don’t know how many times,” she said. “I lost against her in the Australian Open. It was very quick. I’m not favourite, so I can play just my game and just play and enjoy.”

Venus never got going against the 22-year-old Pironkova, who is the lowest-ranked player remaining in the women’s draw and had never previously passed the second round in 18 previous Grand Slam appearances.

“I just didn’t get enough balls in today,” said Williams. “I let it spiral and didn’t get any balls in. I had a lot of opportunities, a lot of short balls and I seemed to hit each one out.

“If there was a shot to miss, I think I missed it. ... I didn’t bring my best tennis today.”

Pironkova also beat Venus Williams in the first round of the Australian Open in 2006, but few gave her a chance of replicating the feat on the grass of Wimbledon, where Williams has dominated for a decade.

But Williams was clearly off her game, committing 29 unforced errors compared to just six for Pironkova. Williams had five double-faults, including back-to-back doubles in two games.

She also hadn’t lost at a Grand Slam to a player outside the top 80 since that defeat in Australia to Pironkova, then ranked No. 143.

“Honestly, I think no one expected me to play semi-final in Wimbledon and to beat Venus Williams like that,” said Pironkova, who denied Williams her 200th career win on grass. “Coming here I really just wanted to play a good game, to maybe win one or two rounds.

“I still cannot believe that I reached the semifinals. This is truly like a dream to me.”

Pironkova became the first woman representing Bulgaria to reach a Grand Slam semi-final in the Open era. Bulgarian-born Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere was representing Switzerland when she reached the U.S. Open semifinals in 1992 and 1993.

Pironkova broke Williams twice in the first set, winning four straight games after a 2-2 tie, finishing the set with a backhand passing shot down the line.

After Williams broke to go up 2-1 in the second set, it looked as though she might be able to take command. But Pironkova broke right back in the next game, which included the shot of the match. After Williams hit a forehand drop volley, the Bulgarian raced forward and flipped a backhand lob winner over Williams’ head. Pironkova swung her arm in an uppercut celebration.

Down 5-2, Williams saved two match points, but Pironkova served out the match in the next game. After Williams missed a forehand volley, Pironkova squealed and fell on her back on the turf.

In Serena’s match, the momentum swung the American’s way after Li’s game fell to pieces while serving at 5-5, 40-love in the first set. Li hit a forehand into the net, a forehand wide, had two straight double-faults and a forehand volley error to hand Williams the break. Serena served out the set in the next game.

Serena was broken while serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set, but broke right back in the next game to close it out.

Zvonareva rallied for her first win over Clijsters in six meetings.

Clijsters, returning to Wimbledon for the first time since 2006 after coming out of retirement, beat fellow Belgian Justine Henin on Monday and was viewed as a potential title threat.

The eighth-seeded Clijsters looked in command after sailing through the first set, but the match turned in the Russian’s favour after she broke to go up 3-1 in the second.

Clijsters finished with 36 unforced errors, compared to 19 for Zvonareva.

“It’s too bad I wasn’t able to come up with my best at the important time in the match,” Clijsters said. “She did. She was very consistent, didn’t give me any easy mistakes. I gave her a few too many.”