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July 29, 2010

Caribana Week!  Hope you all are ready to get your 'jump up' - the pic is from the concourse level of Scotiabank - the sponsor of this year's Caribana.  Check out a special prep exercise class called Socacize in my FITNESS section.  If you're not into Caribana then there are many, many events happening around Toronto this weekend, including Drake's homecoming concert on Sunday night at Molson Amphitheatre - who went 

PLATINUM this week in the U.S.  Check under TOP STORIES for more!

Calling all
multicultural actors!!  Check out this OPEN CALL for diverse actors by NBC - August 5th here in Toronto!  Look under SCOOP

As an aside, you can look forward to a very special and exclusive interview in next week's newsletter.  I was granted a fantastic opportunity this week to interview Canada's Sol Guy, formerly of the Canadian hip hop group Rascalz, then music executive and manager and now a pioneer in social justice circles using mass media (www.4real.com

) to make a global difference - not to mention being K'Naan's manager!   Look out next week for the interview! 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


NBC Universal Open Casting Call Seeking Ethnically Diverse & Multi-Cultural Actors

Source: NBC Diversity

Talent representatives from
NBC Universal, Los Angeles, will be in Toronto to meet diverse actors for non-specific roles. Specifically seeking actors from ethnically diverse groups, including but not limited to First Nation actors, East Indian, Black, Hispanic, Asian and other actors of colour. This open call is designed to add diverse, new faces to production entities of NBC Universal and its expanding talent pool for film and television. NBC Universal’s production entities produce such shows as Warehouse 13 and Covert Affairs.
DATE:                Thursday, August 5th
TIME:                 9:00am-12:00pm
LOCATION:      Cinespace Studios
                        Carlaw Production Offices
                        345 Carlaw Avenue (Dundas St.)
                        Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M2T1
                        *Please use Dundas St. Entrance
*Please bring picture, resume and demo (if available)
For more information on NBC’s Diversity Initiatives go to www.diversecitynbcuni.com


Drake Goes Platinum, Maps Out Fall Tour

Source: www.rap-up.com

After only five weeks in stores,
Drake’s debut album has gone platinum. To celebrate the achievement, he has announced dates for another headlining tour.

Thank Me Later has sold over one million copies in the U.S. since its June 15 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Drizzy showed his appreciation for those who supported him. “Thank you to everyone who allowed us to go platinum on a debut album! WOW,” he tweeted.

The Canadian rapper has announced dates for a fall tour. “AT&T Presents The Light Dreams and Nightmares Tour” is scheduled to kick off on September 21 in Miami and travel to major cities, winding down November 4 in Los Angeles. Virginia duo Clipse will serve as the supporting act on the Live Nation production.

AT&T Presents The Light Dreams and Nightmares Tour

Sept. 21 – Miami, FL – James L. Knight Center
Sept. 28 – New York, NY – Radio CIty Music Hall
Sept. 29 – New York, NY – Radio City Music Hall
Oct. 2 – Washington, DC – Dar Constitution Hall
Oct. 6 – Atlanta, GA – Fox Theatre Atlanta
Oct. 13 – Chicago, IL – The Chicago Theatre
Oct. 14 – Chicago, IL – The Chicago Theatre
Oct. 19 – Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre Detroit
Oct. 21 – Wallingford, CT – Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre
Nov. 2 – Denver, CO – Wells Fargo Theatre
Nov. 4 – Universal City, CA – Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk

*Additional dates may be announced.

Canadian Musicians Rise To Challenge Of Lilith’s Return

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(July 25, 2010)  When opportunity knocked, Canadian women answered.

The departure of several headliners from the
Lilith tour — Kelly Clarkson and Norah Jones among them — meant that space had opened up for several domestic acts to demonstrate their creative wares at Saturday’s rain-drenched concert at the Molson Amphitheatre.

Whether it was the surprising choice of synth-pop-driven Lights or the rich piano-centric Chantal Kreviazuk assigned to the main stage; or country blues pop songwriter Melissa McClelland, heartfelt tunesmith Tara MacLean, Winnipeg rock duo Ash Koley or Perez Hilton discovery Darrelle London designated to the side stages, the sisters that did it for themselves not only won many new admirers among the respectable 13,142 ticket buyers, but more than compensated for the lack of marquee headliners that Toronto — one of the biggest concert markets in the world — merits.

The whole eight-hour estrogen embrace was anchored by the den mother of Canadian female singer-songwriters, Lilith co-originator Sarah McLachlan, who ended the evening with an inspired set that found her more carefree, charismatic and engaging than previously remembered.

Perhaps it was the presence of a superb band — including guitarists Luke Doucet and Peter Stroud, bass player Butterfly Boucher, former Grapes of Wrath keyboard player Vince Jones, drummer Matt Chamberlain, Melissa McClelland and cellist Kevin Fox — that relaxed her enough to free her from the piano a bit, or maybe it’s just enjoying the stage catharsis from the drama of her recent divorce, but McLachlan has never seemed more comfortable or playful.

“Sweet Surrender” was paced with a livelier tempo, and her stratospheric pitch that peaked with a lengthy note on “Possession” was fuelled by the enthusiasm of a standing, cheering crowd that were happy to have her back in their presence after a lengthy absence.

Even the songs played from her new album Laws Of Illusion — the exuberant “Loving You is Easy” and the, as she called it, “sucker punch” of “Forgiveness” — had an extra spring, as if McLachlan has rediscovered the joy of performance and is lapping up every minute of it.

That McLachlan managed to hold her own momentum during her 50-minute set was particularly impressive, because Mary J. Blige blew the roof off the venue an hour before with an ear-splitting soul revival that was as uplifting as it was intense.

Blige may not be the most technically brilliant singer on the planet — when she gets into certain runs, she often veers from pitch, as she did on a few occasions Saturday — but she certainly works harder and more earnestly than most.

“I feel the warmth, Toronto!” she yelled after singing her heart out on “Real Love,” a gale-force arrangement fully powered by a 10-piece band that included four female backing singers and a kick drum that bored through the skulls of those patrons sitting back in the lawn section.

“No More Drama” and “I Am” were soulful and muscular, and her take on U2’s “One” was particularly spirited. The only misstep: a complete rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” — yes, the Led Zeppelin classic — that really didn’t add anything new or particularly different, even though Blige sang it as inspiringly as she could.

Still, that didn’t stop the crowd from giving her repeated thundering ovations — one of several that she earned throughout her 45-minute sweatfest.

Another main stager who really awakened the crowd to a new level of energy: Chantal Kreviazuk. Assisted only by cellist Kevin Fox (and he was everywhere on Saturday, also assisting Tara MacLean earlier), Kreviazuk coaxed a rich tapestry of colours from her grand piano and encouraged the crowd to stand up and sing along, particularly to her popular cover of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

A warm, friendly and spontaneous hostess, Kreviazuk injected her earlier hits like “In This Life” and “Weight of the World” with energetic panache. A special set-ending rendition of “Feels Like Home” with guest singers McLachlan, McClelland, Boucher and London was simply icing on the cake.

Great performances as well from Court Yard Hounds, the Dixie Chicks side rock and country project featuring sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, and, on the side stage, Australian “The Facebook Song” semi-operatic sensation Katie Miller-Heidke, also helped keep minds off the lousy weather.

While the consistent downpour may have dampened spirits, it was the emotional outpour of Lilith participants that uplifted everyone in the end. Whatever problems the fest itself may be experiencing financially and logistically, it’s got nothing to do with spotty talent.

Canadian Actor Maury Chaykin Dies At Age 61

Source: www.thestar.com

(July 27, 2010) TORONTO — Maury Chaykin, a mainstay of Canadian film and television who established himself through such iconic roles as a faded rock star in Whale Music, has died at age 61.

The Gemini and Genie Award-winning actor died Tuesday morning after battling kidney problems, said Mark McKinney, who produced Chaykin's most recent series, the HBO Canada sitcom Less Than Kind.

“He was one of our greatest actors,” said McKinney, adding that the cast was devastated by the death.

Maury’s an actor of unparalleled gifts, you cannot learn what he had in spades — you could study for 1,000 years. He had an incredible gift, an instant quickness.”

Chaykin’s agent Paul Hemrend said the actor died at Toronto General Hospital surrounded by family but would not elaborate on the cause of death.

Chaykin was born July 27, 1949 in New York to an American father and a Canadian mother before later moving to Toronto.

His extensive resume spanned 35 years, his legacy as one of Canada’s most beloved performers cemented with a celebrated turn as a has-been music star in 1994’s Whale Music.

Other roles included a memorable turn in Dances with Wolves, as well as the eccentric TV detective Nero Wolfe, and an acerbic movie studio honcho in Entourage. Other appearances on U.S. shows included C.S.I. and Boston Legal.

His role in Whale Music earned him a Genie for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in 1994, while he picked up Geminis for guest spots on La Femme Nikita in 1998 and At the Hotel in 2006.

In Less Than Kind, Chaykin played a diabetic father who struggled to run a driving school in Winnipeg.

The close-knit cast was shocked by the news given that he seemed to be recovering well from a kidney ailment, McKinney said.

“The last time I saw him he was looking great, considering, and looking forward to doing the (upcoming) season with us,” said McKinney, who said he spoke with Chaykin just weeks ago.

“He wasn’t ailing, he’d had a dip, definitely, but you only have to take a look at the first episode he shot with us in Season 2 (to see how well he was).”

Chaykin’s illness was written into the show and he delivered an “incredible performance,” McKinney said.

“We had him laid up in hospital and he was fantastic, he hadn’t lost a step as an actor, at all, and we were really looking forward to seeing him again this year.”

In October 2008, Chaykin said he was “bowled over” by Less Than Kind’s frankness, cutting edge, sensibility and heart.

“It comes from pain of the heart, it comes from desire, it comes from wanting to do the right thing and not really being able to,” Chaykin said.

“The pain of that, of wanting to be a good father, of wanting to be a good mother, and not being able to or not knowing quite how to, but trying and not giving up. Being relentless.

“That's where the joy of the show lies and it is a joyful show, it has a lot of pain in it, a lot of laughs.”

McKinney said it’s too early to think about how his death will affect the next season. “This is still pretty fresh and people are still kind of reeling and reaching out to each other,” he said.

“He was a teacher and for us to be able to work with him, particularly in the second year, which was a tricky year for him as he was coming back from his illness, it kind of knit us together in a way that you don't get to do on other shows.

“He was wonderfully complex and warm and I'm going to miss him a lot.”

Chaykin is survived by Susannah Hoffmann and their daughter, Rose.

Canadian Actor Maury Chaykin Dies At Age 61

Source: www.thestar.com

(July 27, 2010) Gemini and Genie Award-winning Canadian actor
Maury Chaykin has died at age 61.

His passing was confirmed by fellow actor Mark McKinney, a producer of the HBO Canada series Less Than Kind, in which Chaykin had a reoccurring role.

Chaykin was born in New York to an American father and a Canadian mother before later moving to Toronto.

While Chaykin was perhaps best-known for his role in the 1994 hit “Whale Music,” his extensive resume spanned 35 years. He’s often remembered for a role in Dances with Wolves, and also performed parts in a number of major American shows in recent years, including Entourage, C.S.I., and Boston Legal.

His role in Whale Music earned him a Genie for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in 1994, while he picked up Geminis for guest spots on La Femme Nikita in 1998 and At the Hotel in 2006.

In Less Than Kind, Chaykin played a diabetic father who struggled to run a driving school in Winnipeg.

The actor said he was “bowled over” by the show’s frankness, cutting edge, sensibility and heart.

“It comes from pain of the heart, it comes from desire, it comes from wanting to do the right thing and not really being able to,” he told The Canadian Press in October 2008.

“The pain of that, of wanting to be a good father, of wanting to be a good mother, and not being able to or not knowing quite how to, but trying and not giving up. Being relentless.

“That’s where the joy of the show lies and it is a joyful show, it has a lot of pain in it, a lot of laughs.”

Last March, he also played a newspaper baron in the TV pilot Abroad, based on Globe and Mail writer Leah McLaren’s experiences as a London-based reporter.

Caribana Cellphone Fun For The Big Day

Source: www.thestar.com - Star staff

(July 22, 2010) 
Caribana visitors with smart phones that have a camera and GPS have access to a free application they can download to turn the festival into an interactive experience. The Scotiabank Caribana Navigator app. for Blackberry, iPhone and Android platforms will enable users to map key festival locations and view the festival guide; submit and share festival photos and videos; enter contests, including voting for best male and female Mas band costume, and make music along with the festival theme song. For info on downloading, go to www.caribanafestival.com. The application is free to download, but carrier or network charges for use apply.


Travel Tips To Stay In Touch On The Road

Source: www.thestar.com - Pauline Frommer

(July 27, 2010) Postcards are passé. In this wired world, loved ones and (unfortunately) work colleagues expect quicker communication when you’re on the road. Below are the three primary methods for staying in touch, with some suggestions on how to minimize your communications costs.

1. Cellphones: Using your cellphone as you travel is doable in many destinations (check with your service provider to find out if you’ll have coverage), but you have to be very, very careful in how you use it abroad, or you can be hit with unexpectedly high charges for roaming fees, incoming calls, text messages and e-mails. Those phones that automatically connect to the Internet can be particularly dangerous to your wallet. If you decide to stick with your cell, make sure you check e-mail via Internet and not through 3G networks to avoid ugly fees (checking this way should be free, if you can find a free source of Wi-Fi — see below).

2: Finding free Wi-Fi: If you tote your laptop with you when you travel, as so many of us do, hunting down free Wi-Fi can become an obsession. In general, the pricier the hotel you pick, the pricier the on-site Internet will be. Oddly enough, most motel chains and less-expensive hotels don’t rook you in this way. Check into a Best Western, a Baymont Inn and Suites, a Microtel, La Quinta or numerous other middle- to lower-range lodgings, and you should be able to surf the Internet gratis.

Outside of hotels, popping in for a java is a sure way to get online without paying, thanks to Starbucks, which is now offering free Wi-Fi across Canada and the U.S. (though not yet in other parts of the globe). For other locales, I like the website www.jiwire.com, which features a highly interactive map, listing some 300,000 free and paid Wi-Fi spots in more 140 countries (the map also comes as a phone app).

3: Downloading Skype Before You Travel: A terrific and absolutely free way to phone friends, you want to get the system set up before you hit the road. This will allow you to figure out which members of your inner circle are on Skype and can be contacted in this way. (Skype members can only call other Skype members for free.) It’s important to note that some travel entities, most notably cruise ships, block travellers’ abilities to download Skype on site. Last fall, I sailed the Caribbean aboard Royal Caribbean, and while I could use my Skype to phone home, my travel companions found that downloading it once onboard ship was impossible (they spent a lot of time on my laptop!).

4. Going Mobal. Many road warriors I trust ditch their usual phones when travelling abroad in favour of a Mobal phone. It works in 190 countries, has no minimum or monthly fees and is relatively inexpensive to buy ($49 U.S.). Once you purchase, you’re assigned an international phone number for life. While calling fees will vary greatly from country to country (in the UK, incoming calls are free), incoming text messages are always free to receive, meaning friends at home can reach out to you without you having to incur big fees. Another perk: Only those people who you give this number to can get in touch with you (not everybody who has your cellphone number), so you may actually get to feel like you’re on vacation!

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the award-winning Pauline Frommer’s Travel Guides series. She co-hosts the radio program The Travel Show with her father, Arthur Frommer. Find Pauline’s books online at www.frommers.com/pauline. Order your copy of Frommer travel guidebooks at www.StarStore.ca.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate


King Of East York Reigns In Trinidad

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Taylor

(July 26, 2010)  Hardly anyone in East York knows it, but there’s a carnival legend in their midst, almost single-handedly making magic in a rented warehouse on a quiet street off O’Connor Drive.

Curtis Eustace is likely still to be there at 3 a.m., enjoying the solitude and letting his mind wander and the creative juices flow.

“My kids keep cussing me out: ‘How come you’re always the first one here and you never come home?’ At 3 in the morning, you can think your thoughts and not be confuffled.”

And, fair play to the man, the TV might be on, but he’s not watching As the World Turns.

That doesn’t stop Dustin Sobers from giving Eustace a hard time as he arrives to help out.

“What’s Curtis like?” he says. “You see him. He’s got the soaps playing!”

Eustace’s only response is a half smile. He’s a low-key guy with nothing to prove, especially in Toronto where he won’t be appearing in this year’s Caribana parade “because it wouldn’t be fair for me to compete.”

“I consider this a training ground. Trinidad’s where the big boys play.”

In February, Eustace, 41, beat nine opponents to seize Trinidad’s 2010 King of Carnival title. The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported it as his 10th win. Eustace says it’s only nine. Either way, it’s more than anyone else has ever won.

He did it in bravura style. The carnival was battered by high winds and some of the costumes - they’re typically about six metres tall, seven metres wide and weigh 100 kilograms - were blown over, with one participant needing medical help.

But Eustace told the Guardian he’d turned the wind to his advantage the way a surfer would ride a tricky wave.

“Experience,” he says. “You gotta know what you’re doing.”

He may not be on the street, but he will be a presence at this year’s Toronto parade. He’s working on two costumes for Mas bandleader Louis Saldenah’s 13-section entry, “Portraits.”

Saldenah is a Caribana legend in his own right, with 30 years of involvement and 15 “Band of the Year” titles.

“I thought it would be fun to find some time for Saldenah,” Eustace says. “I like to build big pieces. Even in a place like this.”

The sign may call it a Mas camp but a three-month warehouse rental is far from ideal, he says. Everything he needs, from fabrics to aluminum, has to be ordered and delivered.

“I have a permanent camp in Trinidad,” says Eustace, who figures he returns there up to 20 times a year. “I could build a costume just from what I have on the shelves.”

The two “floor-piece” costumes - which the wearers don’t actually carry but wheel along - are a man’s, “Portrait of India,” all red, orange and gold; and a woman’s, “Portrait of Indonesia,” in peach, yellow and gold.

Eustace’s daughter Christina, 7, and son Johnathan - “11, going on 20,” says his father - are gluing beads on to strips of golden aluminum that will be part of the wings on the Indonesia costume.

Even the little elephants on the India costume have hand-made sequined outfits. Costumes are expensive.

“You can be looking at 8 or 10 grand apiece,” says Eustace. “If you win? You get nothing close to that. We do this for the love.

“I can’t not do this. It’s like breathing. And while there’s breath in me, I’ll continue.”

He and his brother Marcus, 40, grew up in Trinidad with carnival in their blood. Their father, Teddy, was a noted figure.

“He died in ‘01,” says Eustace. “But his name still echoes.”

Do his own kids love it in the same way? He laughs. “No. It’s all computers and Facebook with them. My daughter does this ‘cause it pleases me. My son . . . well, he doesn’t even come to Caribana.”

“I don’t much like coming here,” says Johnathan. “But I guess I don’t mind it.”

They were born in Toronto, their father points out. “And I was born in Trinidad. Every Trini loves carnival. But I don’t like snowboarding or skiing.”

When he’s not doing this, he’s a technician. “I fix wheelchairs and stuff.” He’s involved in as many as 16 carnivals a year, as far away as England. He’s just back from one in Florida.

He and Marcus work together in Trinidad and “everywhere but here -too many chiefs, no Indians.”

Marcus is with another Caribana Mas camp. Curtis likes to keep his own camp small and handpicked, even in Trinidad, where it’s traditional for people to offer their services to help.

“People don’t help me,” he says. “I work alone with people I trust. Just a few.”

Sobers is one of them. He says again, “What’s Curtis like?

“He knows what he’s doing, that’s for sure.”

A mix of artistry and brute strength

What does it take to be a carnival king?

A combination of inspiration, perspiration, artistic ability, charisma, stamina and brute strength.

Because you not only have to be a dancing fool, you have to be able to step it out in the blazing sun while hauling along a costume that weighs around 100 kilograms and has wheels – you’d never be able to lift it.

Add to that an acrobat’s sense of balance coupled, perhaps, with the instincts of a glider pilot.

For when Curtis Eustace picked up yet another King of Carnival award – either his 9th or 10th, depending on who you talk to – in Trinidad earlier this year, he wasn’t just battling nine opponents but also the elements.

Strong winds threatened to reduce the carnival to chaos. But, in a spangled red creation – Spirit of Mandingo, An African Legend – a good seven metres across and with enough material to get airborne, Eustace coolly kept his feet on the ground and rode the gale to victory.

Afterwards, he told reporters, with some understatement: “I think I pleased the crowd. I think I did a good job.”

The standard of Toronto’s Caribana is getting close, Eustace says, to Trinidad, “whereTrinnies’ grow up with carnival in their blood.”

He’s not competing here but will be carefully watching the two costumes he’s designed and built – Portrait of India, for a male dancer; and Portraits of Indonesia for a female.

And all that it takes to be a carnival king? That goes for a queen, too. Of Eustace’s two costumes this year, the woman’s is slightly bigger and heavier than the man’s is.

Wanna dance?

Lanois’ Neil Young Project Proceeds With Caution

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(July 26, 2010)  “He called me out of the blue. He said ‘I could use your help, my friend.’ ”
Daniel Lanois is speaking on the phone from the hilly Silver Lake district of Los Angeles, where he’s recuperating from the severe injuries caused by a motorcycle accident in June. The mishap, involving his sporty, street-legal BMW HP2 Megamoto, not only broke many of his bones but put a dent into his latest projects, including a new album he produced for Neil Young.

“We’ve made a fascinating record,” said Lanois, whose previous work with the Cinnamon Girl singer was limited to Farm Aid concerts and Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit shows. “It doesn’t have a band – it’s all him. But I tell you, man, we’ve got a massive sound on his electric guitar.”

“ I’m allowing myself a little time away from the console.”

Lanois knows all about massive sounds. The Canadian producer, famous for his collaborations with Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson and the Dublin superstars U2, is a musician and sonic searcher – his work is marked by dazzling aural tones and studio trickery. The record with Young began as an acoustic project, but developed into what Lanois calls “electro.”

“What I do is quite complex,” he says, referring to the looping manipulation of sound samples. “There are sounds on here that have never been heard before.”

The album was recorded at Lanois’ house in Los Angeles. (He also has studios in Toronto and Jamaica.) The recordings with Young were almost completed by the time of the accident – a wreck that left Lanois shattered Evel Knievel-like, with six broken ribs, a snapped collarbone and fractured pelvis showing up on the X-rays.

After three weeks of intensive care and ongoing physiotherapy, Lanois is mobile. The bones are healing, but a partially collapsed lung may never come back completely. Still, after such destructive accident – “I almost died” – Lanois was back to work in a surprisingly short time. Two final tracks were recorded with Young, and now the complete album is almost mixed. “I’m allowing myself a little time away from the console,” he says, pouring himself a whisky as he talks.

Due for a fall release, the record’s working title is Twisted Road, a follow-up to 2009’s Fork in the Road. Young is showcasing some of the new material on his current solo tour.

Lanois will premiere four tracks at Toronto’s sunset-to-sunrise Nuit Blanche arts festival on Oct. 2. Those songs – Walk With Me, The Hitchhiker, Sign of Love and the environmentally concerned Rumblin (“The Earth is talking to me / I hear a rumblin' in her ground / Don't you feel that new wind blowing? / Don't you recognize that sound?") – will be presented on tape, accompanied by “striking visuals” that were filmed as Young recorded the album.

Young and Lanois, according to the latter, have been enjoying each other’s Canadian-ness. “We share a similar sense of humour.” Not only that, both were paperboys in their youth. “We laugh about it,” says Lanois, 58. “We attribute our work ethic to having delivered the morning Globe and Mail newspaper.”

Because of the accident, Lanois’s summer tour with his soul-jazzed Black Dub Collective was postponed. Current plans call for an album to be released in November, with a tour to follow in 2011. “It’s still very much alive,” says Lanois. “It just got pushed back six months.”

The Quebec-born musician, who has ridden motorcycles since his mid-teens, has no immediate plans to get back in the saddle. “I might try four wheels for a while,” he laughs, but not too hard. “Let’s see how that works out for me.”

Chinese Composer Has Canadian Connection

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(July 23, 2010) Pick up an object in any room of your home, and you’re likely to find a label that says “Made
in China.”

There’s no reason for it not to be the same with music.

Fuhong Shi, her friends and colleagues believe that China is at a point in its evolution where the United States was a century ago.

“Right now we have energy, we have good students, we have good concert halls,” she says from her home in Beijing. “Now we need good compositions and active curators and foundations to help emerging composers grow up.”

As Shi finishes up her first year of teaching at the Central Conservatory in China’s capital city, she has already had three premieres of new works in her native country.

But her biggest boost has come from Canada, where she earned her master’s degree at the University of Victoria in 2005, and her doctorate in composition from University of Toronto last summer.

The list of Canadian organizations that have commissioned and performed new works by the young Shenyang native is a who’s who of this country’s new music scene. And the Toronto connection is as strong as ever.

On Thursday, Queen of Puddings Music Theatre offers the world premiere of Shi’s Spring, River and Flowers on a Moonlit Night, one third of a chamber opera titled Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour.

The other two sections of the new stage work are the title piece, from composer John Rea, based on an Italian baroque text, and Jeux à vendre, a set of medieval French poems set to music by Pierre Klanac.

Centred on the slippery nature of love, the new chamber opera is sung by soprano Xin Wang and mezzo Krisztina Szabó, accompanied by accordionist John Lettieri. It is being staged in the atmospheric Tank House, at the Distillery District, by director Ruth Madoc-Jones and designer Michael Gianfrancesco.

Shi came to the attention of Queen of Puddings co-artistic directors Dáirine Mheadhra and John Hess when she entered — and won — the Generation 2008 competition held by Montreal’s avant-garde Ensemble Intercontemporain.

According to the composer, they began with two singers and accordion. Shi contributed a set of 1,000-plus-year-old Tang Dynasty poems for inspiration.

Hess and Mheadhra chose Spring, River and Flowers on a Moonlit Night. “It is considered a masterpiece among masterpieces,” says Shi. “This is the epitome of Tang Dynasty poetry.”

The composer has adapted the poem into four parts. Shi admits to tinkering with the final section of text, turning it into a dialogue between a husband and wife: “This way, it is more dramatic.”

The moon is the thread that holds the poem together. “It gradually rises from the horizon, is suspended at its apex, then slips over the top and finally falls into the morning light,” Shi explains.

The composer says she spent a long time thinking about the mini-opera before sitting down with pencil and lined paper — her favourite means to translate musical ideas into a recognizable structure. The physical writing took a month, during time snatched between her new professorial duties at the Beijing Conservatory.

Shi grew up surrounded by music. Her father, a tenor, taught at home every day. Her parents started her on violin lessons when she was 6, and piano lessons a short while after that.

But it was her first exposure to music theory, at age 13, that changed her life. “From that point, I knew I was a composer,” she says emphatically. “I have ideas and I want to express them, and music is the best way. It’s abstract, emotional and passionate. I am passionate and I love composition very much.”

So far, Shi has not committed to a particular musical style. An energetic piece she contributed to Toronto pianist Gregory Oh’s recent P*P Project is alive with the clangour of Peking Opera. Some of her other recent works, which are much more atmospheric, owe their inspiration to the classic I Ching texts, which are more than 2,000 years old. A couple of other compositions contain references to the music of Tibet.

The common theme here is how Shi’s voice encompasses both past and future. “I’m very open and I always try to fuse the aesthetics of Chinese music and art with the compositional techniques of Western music,” she says.

For Spring, River and Flowers, Shi explains, “The musical gestures or the musical phrases are inspired by Chinese calligraphy. The way I use glissando and use breath are inspired by Chinese traditional art.”

Who wouldn’t want to go hear a pretty picture?

Just the facts

WHAT: Beauty Dissolves in a Brief Hour – A Triptych

WHERE: Tank House Theatre, Distillery District, 55 Mill St.

WHEN: July 29, 30 & 31 @ 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $20-$29 @ 416-866-8666 or www.youngcentre.ca

Trumpeting Miles Davis

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

(July 23, 2010)  Miles
Davis was not an easy man to know.

A towering figure in jazz, he started winning magazine polls in 1947, when he was a 21-year-old playing bebop with Charlie Parker, and stayed at the top almost to his death, in 1991. Although he made no attempt at being entertaining – indeed, he often played with his back to the audience – he was at least as well known as Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington.

But he was also an enigma, with a guarded personality and a penchant for self-mythologizing, ensuring that neither his friends nor his biographers ever fully understood what made him tick.

If you walk into We Want Miles at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal expecting to understand the mystery behind the man, you may be disappointed (though you’ll surely learn things). Instead, the show takes what is, in many ways, a more difficult tack: helping us to understand the man’s music.

Music is not easily enshrined in a museum. We go to look at things, to stare and contemplate. Music is neither visible nor stationary; we need to hear it, to feel it move. That’s particularly the case with the music of Davis, whose career covered an enormous amount of ground.

Where other jazz giants are lucky to have been linked to a single stylistic revolution, Davis is credited with at least four: cool jazz, which grew out of a 1949 nonet he led with Canadian-born arranger Gil Evans; hard bop, the soulful, blues-grounded style that has largely defined mainstream jazz since the mid-fifties; modal jazz, a scale-based approach introduced on the 1959 album Kind of Blue (and which provided John Coltrane with the toolbox for his subsequent recordings); and jazz fusion, the rock-inflected style popularized by his million-selling 1970 album Bitches Brew.

The challenge facing an exhibit like We Want Miles isn’t simply to find ways of illustrating that much music history;
it’s to make it comprehensible to the musically untutored without boring serious fans. A tough task, but one We Want Miles handles surprisingly well.

Take, for example, the way it presents Kind of Blue, a major touchstone in Davis’s career and one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time. Rather than try to reintroduce the album to us, this section of the exhibit takes us behind the scenes. The sound system plays bits from the session that include incomplete takes and studio chatter. Displayed on the wall are three sheets containing Bill Evans’s hand-written liner notes, and a one-bar sketch of So What marked “After Paul Bass” indicating the horn part after Paul Chambers’s opening bass figure. It’s not often you get to reimagine a masterpiece as a work in progress.

We Want Miles doesn’t shy away from the technical end of music-making. Around the corner from the Kind of Blue exhibit is a case containing a Martin Committee trumpet and a Selmer Balanced Action tenor saxophone. The former was Davis’s horn in the mid-fifties; the latter had belonged to Coltrane. Five other Martin trumpets belonging to Davis are on display, most with exotic colour finishes, as well as the extremely rare Martin Magna flugelhorn he used on such albums as Porgy and Bess.

Even instruments that belonged to his sidemen are included. Among them: a Gretsch drum kit that Tony Williams played in the mid-sixties, and the Fodera Monarch bass guitar Marcus Miller played on Tutu. Gearheads will be in heaven.

Music is featured throughout the exhibit, of course, and not just recordings. There are handwritten parts from two of the arrangements used on the Birth of the Cool sessions, assorted parts from Evans’s arrangement of the Porgy and Bess number Gone, Gone, Gone (the lead trumpet part is simply marked “Miles”), as well as handwritten lead sheets by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock. When I was there, pianist Robert Glasper, in town for the jazz festival, spent several minutes studying Shorter’s Dolores.

Although we hear David more than see him, the show’s visual component can be stunning. Gazing at blowups of Davis onstage with saxophonist Lester Young may not be the same as having been there, but seeing the affection in the trumpeter’s eyes is priceless. There are album covers by the score, paintings both inspired by Davis and made by him, and even some clothing designed for Davis by couturier Kohshin Satoh.

Naturally, there’s also video. Some of it seems a bit silly – for instance, footage of Davis and his wife Frances arriving in Paris in 1963. Some, such as the footage of the trumpeter working out in a boxing ring, is unexpectedly illuminating.

Mostly, there’s some sublime performance stuff, such as the large-screen display of his 1970 performance at the Isle of Wight festival (his band then included Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette), and an appearance at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal in 1985.

One room of the exhibit is devoted to the 1958 Louis Malle film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, for which Davis recorded the soundtrack. It’s interesting to see footage of Davis improvising music for the movie. But the size of the display compared to other films Davis made music for – Jack Johnson, for example, or Dingo – says more about the show’s bias toward Davis’s French connections than anything else. But then, We Want Miles was organized by Cité de la Musique in Paris, so a certain degree of chauvinism might be expected.

We Want Miles: Miles Davis vs. Jazz continues to Aug. 29 (www.mbam.qc.ca


Natalie MacMaster - Pack up her bow? Fiddlesticks!

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

(July 23, 2010)  Lakefield, Ont. — It’s a bit before 9 o’clock on a sunny Thursday morning, and a bright, chipper
Natalie MacMaster is in the chapel of the Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ont., leading an advanced fiddle class at the Leahy Music Camp. She’s standing by the altar, fiddle in hand, with 15 fellow fiddlers, from precocious grade schoolers to grey-haired seniors, sitting in a semi-circle around her.

For most of the last half hour, she’s been teaching them a strathspey, a Scottish style of dance tune that’s common in Cape Breton, N.S., where she grew up, but relatively rare elsewhere in Canadian fiddling circles. She leads them through the tune one bar at a time, playing a few notes, then listening as the students echo it. Although she promises to have sheet music available for them later in the day, the instruction is entirely by ear, and a couple phrases take several passes before the class gets both the notes and the rhythm right.

I’m always shocked when someone of a high calibre or quality of musicianship and ability is attracted to what I do.

Once they’ve learned all 16 bars, MacMaster teaches what, to her, is the heart of the music: the dance step. “We don’t get together to play tunes,” she says. She has everyone stand, and demonstrates the kick step used to dance a strathspey. Starting with the left foot, it’s hop, out, hop, back, and then switch to the right. It’s a simple step, and one the class seems to master quickly.

But they haven’t got it quite right. “Try and make it even,” says MacMaster, who points out that they’re syncopating the step, when it should be clockwork steady. She dances barefoot, so they can hear the rhythm, and once they do the step to her satisfaction, she has them sit, and takes them through the tune again.

Natalie MacMaster gets ready for class in Lakefield, Ont., July 8, 2010.

The playing is notably improved, although how much of that can be owed to the dancing, and how much to MacMaster’s bubbly enthusiasm, is hard to say.

There aren’t many fiddle greats who would include a bit of dance instruction in a master class, but there aren’t many fiddlers whose gifts are as singular as MacMaster’s. Internationally acclaimed for her virtuoso performances of traditional Cape Breton fiddle tunes, MacMaster, 38, has performed and recorded with some of the best in the world – not just such Celtic music giants as the Chieftains and Eileen Ivers, but stars as diverse as rock guitarist Carlos Santana, country violinist Mark O’Connor, bluegrass ace Alison Krauss, jazz banjo player Béla Fleck, and classical cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

“I’m always shocked when someone of a high calibre or quality of musicianship and ability is attracted to what I do,” MacMaster says after the class. She isn’t a trained musician – “The only lessons I took were from [Cape Breton fiddler] Stan Chapman, when I was 10 and 11,” she says. “But it’s not structured teaching, like Suzuki or a classical method.” – yet she knows enough about string technique to recognize that the rough-edged Cape Breton sound is miles away from, say, O’Connor’s Paganini-inspired flights of fancy.

“I think what they’re attracted to is the fact that it’s got this great feel, and that it isn’t about the other, technical side,” she says. “People maybe aren’t used to hearing that so much.”

Her husband, fiddler Donnell Leahy, has a different take on what makes MacMaster’s playing so attractive. “Honesty,” he says. “Honesty in her music. It’s confident, honest and humble. And that’s her – that’s her playing, that’s her attitude.” She is, he adds, “one of the most musical people I’ve met.”

Unlike most virtuosos, however, MacMaster leads a life that is not defined by music. She and Leahy have three children, with a fourth on the way, and they consider that just a start. “The children are our No. 1 priority,” she says. “He comes from 11 siblings, surrounded by family, and we’re very focused in that direction. We’ve always wanted to have kids, and we’re so happy that we’re able to have more than one.”

That she’s able to balance touring, recording and teaching with three children under 5 is a constant source of amazement to her fans. “I get this question a lot these days from other mothers,” she says, chuckling. “ ‘How do you do it?’ they say, and I say, ‘I don’t know. I have no answers. All I know is that I know no time is a good time, so any time works.’

Every weekend, the kids have just one of us, and there’s one weekend where they don’t have either of us.

“We’d have no kids if we were trying to wait for the right time. And who’s going to sit and wait for life to have its right moments? Life is a ball that just rolls, and you just get on it. And sometimes you’re going to get squished, and sometimes you’re going to be at the top.”

MacMaster isn’t of the you-can-have-it-all school of motherhood, and freely admits that she considered putting her musical career on hold while raising her ever-growing brood. “I struggled with this about a year and a half ago,” she says. “How important is it for me to keep up music, as opposed to the importance of being home all the time with the children?”

Ultimately, she decided that the most important thing was to be true to who she is. “I might say I’m wrong in a year, or 10 years, but I think it’s important for our children to have their mother and father doing what their gift is, and doing it really well. Doing it in moderation, but so that they see it and hear it.”

Letting their children “see it” means often bringing them along on tour. “I call myself ‘a stay-at-home mom on the road,’ ” says MacMaster. “We take our children with us everywhere. There are occasions where neither myself or Donnell are with the children – like six days out of the whole year – and we have the grandparents or somebody staying with them for the night.”

Even those small absences are hard for MacMaster. “Oftentimes, we are with our children physically but not mentally, and that’s the part that bothers me,” she says. “They’re here today. I’ll see them for lunch, then I’ll teach in the afternoon, and I’ll see them for dinner. But I wouldn’t want to be doing this all the time.”

MacMaster and Leahy, who live in Lakefield, are building a new house for their family, which has led to the opportunity for a bit more touring than usual. “We had a lot of offers coming in this year for me to do festivals and things,” she says. “I’ve shied away from that the last few summers because I’ve wanted to stay home. But this year, Donnell said, ‘You know, we’re not really settled in any place anyway. You might as well go.’

“I think there’s one weekend where Donnell is playing and I’m playing. Most other weekends, I’d say it’s probably 60 per cent me away, and 40 per cent Donnell away. So every weekend, the kids have just one of us, and there’s one weekend where they don’t have either of us. But that’s okay.”

Both MacMaster and Leahy come from musical families. His band, Leahy, consists of him and seven of his siblings; her fiddling relatives include uncle Buddy MacMaster and cousins Ashley MacIsaac and Andrea Beaton. Both MacMaster and Leahy grew up in households where instruments were almost constantly in use. “Natalie’s mother made a comment, which was also true in our house, that you never had to get the fiddle out of its case,” says Leahy. “There was always one sitting on the piano, and maybe one on the kitchen table.”

Not surprisingly, they look forward to their children becoming involved in what they do. Although their own children aren’t quite old enough to take up the bow, they still participate. “Every time we pull out the fiddles and start practising at home, they start dancing,” says MacMaster, beaming. “They start playing, they start singing.

“When we’re on the road, they see us performing,” she adds. “I think that’s more healthy than me not doing that, saying I’m giving up my career for the next however long, and being at home all the time. I think they’re getting more the other way, even though it requires a little more flexibility. We have to be on the go a lot. They’re travelling a lot. But I think the pros outweigh the cons.”

Still, motherhood has clearly affected her musical output. Her last album came out four years ago (although there’s a new disc due this fall), and even though she has continued to perform and record – most notably on Yo-Yo Ma’s Grammy-winning Songs of Joy & Peace – there has been a bit of a lull in her career of late.

That will definitely change this fall. In addition to the as-yet-untitled album and accompanying tour, MacMaster is putting out a book of photos and reflections entitled Natalie MacMaster’s Cape Breton Aire that looks at her attachment to the distinctive culture in which she grew up.

Cape Breton is “a very powerfully influential scene, especially on the East Coast,” notes Robin Elliott, who holds the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music at the University of Toronto. “A lot of that is thanks to Natalie MacMaster and Ashley MacIsaac, who in the mid-nineties really put Cape Breton fiddle music on the map internationally.”

Musically, there are several things that set Cape Breton apart, adds Elliott. Its fiddling is “quite different from the way most other fiddle players [play], especially the right-hand ornaments,” she says. “It gives it a very distinctive sound that not many other fiddle traditions would try to imitate.”

There’s also an unusually strong connection to centuries-old Scottish traditions. “Because the Scots in Cape Breton came over in the 18th century, and were isolated from what was happening in Scotland, the thinking is that they sort of preserved traces of what was happening earlier in Scotland,” Elliott explains.

Even today, Cape Breton fiddlers don’t take too kindly to fiddling around with a tune. “In fact, the allure of the music – which sounds totally boring – is that you play the tune the way it was written,” says MacMaster. “In most other cultures, it’s all about getting the improv, all the little changes that you make to the tune. Not at home. That’s discouraged.”

That enforced fidelity comes with its own burdens at a Cape Breton square dance. “I told my class the other day, ‘When you’re playing at a Cape Breton function, you have to have stamina, and you have to have memory,’ ” MacMaster says, “because you’re changing tunes every minute, and you’re playing for four hours without a break. How many tunes is that? I mean, there’s going to be a few minutes here and there when you’re putting rosin on your bow and retuning, but it’s a pile of tunes.”

Even so, MacMaster didn’t study music so much as pick it up through osmosis: It was, she says, “part of a way of life, and there was a purpose behind it.

“Now, when I travel, I’m performing. We’re onstage, it’s quiet, people paid a good ticket, and they better get their money’s worth. So we deliver our show. We have the outfit, which we don’t at home. We’ve got the sparkles and the hair and we’ve got the arranged ending. And all that is to present it to the crowds, which is a great thing.

“But it never used to be about performing, you know? And still it isn’t in Cape Breton. You play some music, and people receive it and enjoy it, and they chat, and they – it’s a casual thing, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Sting’s Tunes, With A Class-Ical Twist

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(July 23, 2010) It’s not every former punk rocker who can offer you an intimate, sultry summer’s evening by the lake with his favourite orchestra.

Sting is not your average former punk rocker. In a career that now spans 3½ decades, the son of a Newcastle upon Tyne milkman has shown himself to be an unusually versatile and adventurous musician.

After a recent foray into the 16th-century world of English composer John Dowland, as well as a tour with his old band, the Police, the man once known as Gordon Sumner has organized the ultimate in retrospectives. With a twist.

Sting has ordered up three-dozen orchestral arrangements from his Police and solo catalogues, going back as far as 1977. He is performing two dozen on each stop in a massive North American tour that launched in Vancouver last month.

“This is the biggest band I’ve ever had in my life,” declared a beaming Sting on Friday night, as he stood in front of 45 members of England’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and veteran pop conductor Steven Mercurio, at the Molson Amphitheatre at Ontario Place.

Dressed in a tailored, buttoned-up black jacket for the first half, and comfortable loose white cotton shirt after intermission, Sting was clearly having a great time.

The artful musical arrangements gave the evening a whiff of nostalgia, casting the singer as seasoned balladeer and amiable storyteller. Besides the orchestra, there was able backup vocal help from Jo Lawrey and guitarist Dominic Miller, as Sting crooned a wry “Englishman in New York,” “Roxanne,” “Straight to My Heart,” “When We Dance” and “Russians,” among other favourites.

The moms in the audience — a cross-section of every demographic you can imagine — sang along or screamed as loudly as their daughters and granddaughters might at the sight of Justin Bieber.

Except that this concert was came off with infinitely more class.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

It is not unusual to see symphonic musicians backing up pop acts such as Josh Groban or Il Divo. But you don’t often hear arrangements that take full advantage of all the sounds and textures strings, woodwinds and brass can bring to a concert.

Founded in 1946, the Royal Philharmonic has long made a point of bringing classical music to a broader audience. The 45 members on tour with Sting are only part of the full orchestra, which also plays a season of summer concerts back home.

The sound system at the Molson Amphitheatre was turned down to showcase the orchestra’s abilities – except for the one piece, “Russians,” which was meant to showcase its power. Opening with a portentous excerpt from Modest Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov before morphing into a quotation from composer Sergei Prokofiev, the Royal Phil’s blasts were cranked up electronically, distorting them beyond recognition.

At other moments, individual clarinet, cello and violin solos were given their full due, with Sting stepping out of the spotlight to give the classical musicians a chance to shine — and rack up substantial cheers from the audience.

Wyclef Jean's Camp Can't Say Whether Music Star Will Run For Haitian Presidency

Source: www.thestar.com - Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

(July 25, 2010)  MONTREAL - A spokeswoman for
Wyclef Jean isn't saying whether the hip hop star has plans to run for the Haitian presidency and wouldn't confirm a Canadian newspaper report that the musician is ready to throw his hat into the ring.

"We don't have anything to talk about at this point, that's for sure," Adrienne Jacoby told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview Saturday.

"I know there's always rumours flying (around), but we don't have anything definitive on our end, so if anything were to change, I'm sure a press release would be issued."

Jacoby, of Jean's charitable Yele Haiti Foundation, was responding to a report Saturday in an Ottawa-based newspaper that says the Haitian-born musician is poised to run for president.

French-language newspaper Le Droit reported that a source close to the Haitian government is "sure" the singer and producer will be a candidate.

Asked if Jean has ruled out a campaign for the president's office, Jacoby replied that she doesn't have the answer. But she didn't deny it, either.

"I don't really have that kind of association with him, so I don't get to ask him those questions," she said.

"As far as I know, no — I have no comment."

Jean's charity helped with relief efforts following January's devastating earthquake, work that prompted many to ask him if we would consider leading the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Jean, 37, was asked Friday in an interview with Fox Business if he would run in the Nov. 28 presidential election.

"I would say right now, currently at this minute, no," responded the former member of the now-defunct Fugees.

Earlier in the week, the Haitian-American, who grew up in New Jersey, addressed the issue on his Twitter page.

"Just to Clear up the rumours I have not announce (sic) to the Press that I'm Running for President of Haiti," his tweet says.

The newspaper report said Jean is taking steps to formalize his candidacy, which must be registered by the first week of August.

It also says he is consulting his entourage and law experts to assure that his eventual candidacy is legal.

"They've asked me over again," Jean told Fox business when asked about rumours he was going to run for the Haitian presidency.

Jacoby said Jean's constantly asked about presidential aspirations because the people in Haiti love him.

"That's probably why the rumours always start flying around about him," she said.

The country is still struggling to recover from the massive earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and reduced cities to rubble.

Last week, a key U.S. senator criticized Haitian President Rene Preval in a paper, saying he has "demonstrated marginal capacity to lead his country's reconstruction."

Preval has been president for nearly 10 of the last 15 years. His tumultuous term is scheduled to end in February, when he will be replaced by the winner of November's vote.

We Remember: Singer Al Goodman (Ray, Goodman & Brown) Passes

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 26, 2010) It is with immense sorrow that we inform SoulTrackers that Al Goodman, one-third of Ray, Goodman & Brown as well as the Moments ("Love on a Two Way Street"), has died.  Part of two of the most underrated soul groups of the past half century, Goodman provided the "bottom end" on hits such as "Special Lady" and "Take It To the Limit."  We had gotten to know Al here at SoulTracks, and he was a wonderful man and a consummate entertainer.  He often wrote to us to tell us about the newest happenings with the group and always expressed a deep love for the audiences who had supported him throughout his career. All of the deaths of soul music greats so far in 2010 have hurt, but this one brings particular pain to us.

Ray Goodman and Brown.   Part of the generation of soul music groups that arose in the late 60s and early 70s, the combination of Harry Ray, Al Goodman and Billy Brown became most notable as perhaps the greatest live performing group of that elite bunch.   While many groups of that era had more successful recording careers, few have equalled the stage presence and consistent crowd pleasing shows of R&B.

Ariel Kwan - Teen Spends Summer Just Playing Around

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(July 28, 2010) No personal obstacle is too great for an overachiever.

Four years ago, at age 14,
Ariel Kwan was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic condition where the joints and other body tissues can swell up painfully. But that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her passion for music, on both violin and piano.

Having completed her final year at Huron Heights Secondary School in Newmarket last month, Kwan is now touring the country with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada for the third summer in a row. Not just another member of band, the teenager was singled out this year for one of six Leadership Awards, bestowed on the group’s most accomplished musicians.

Quebec conductor Jacques Lacombe is leading the orchestra in its 50th anniversary season, which included a concert in Stratford with tenor Ben Heppner last Sunday.

The ensemble arrives in Toronto on Tuesday to perform at Koerner Hall. The program includes the Petrouchka ballet suite by Igor Stravinsky, La Valse by Maurice Ravel, Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and a piece the late Quebec composer Jacques Hétu dedicated to Lacombe: Sur les rives du Saint-Maurice (On the Banks of the St. Maurice River).

This year, the orchestra received 623 applications for the 94 spots it grants to Canadians aged 16 to 28. Because of stiff competition and high standards, these young musicians sound like pros.

Sitting in the Kwan family’s music room, in a spacious house on the northern fringe of Newmarket, I notice a score for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on a nearby table.

“That’s mine,” says Kwan quietly, smiling. She’s not just learning it; she knows it. “I have a dream to play it with an orchestra someday,” she offers with a smile.

She completed the highest level of examinations offered by the Royal Conservatory of Music — earning ARCT diplomas in both piano and violin — two months before being diagnosed with her potentially debilitating disease, which can be controlled with proper medical attention.

The teen has also entered just about every music festival and competition within commuting distance. “I find it very exhilarating,” she says of entering a competition. “There is a lot of adrenaline going into it. Performing and sharing a gift of music with other people is an amazing feeling.”

Because her school didn’t have strings in its band, she learned to play percussion, and she accompanied the school choirs on piano.

Abandoning any of this because of painfully swollen joints was not an option.

“My arthritis didn’t start until my first year of high school — until after my ARCT exams. So, by then, I was already so attached to my instruments that it was almost impossible for me to stop playing,” she declares.

Kwan does admit that, even with medical treatment, she has had to limit her practice time during the worst episodes.

“There is no real pattern as to when my joints are going to become inflamed, so it’s not very predictable,” she says.

Although her mother, a veterinarian, is not musical, she insisted on a daily diet of music. Violin lessons at age 4, and piano a year later, were predetermined.

“My older sister played both, so the quarter-size violin was sitting here, the Steinway was too, so it was just expected that I would start both as well,” Kwan explains.

“It’s been drilled into me since the first day I started practising: In the morning, you get up early, practise one instrument, go to school, come home and finish any extracurricular activities and homework, and then finish practising and go to bed.”

The young musician says that the ideal amount of time to practise daily would be two hours. “But with schoolwork and all the other activities piled on top, it usually only gets up to one or 1½ hours a day.”

The musician says that the national Youth Orchestra has been the best experience of all, because she has been able to spend summers working and learning full-time with like-minded young people.

“I think it’s made me even more passionate about music,” Kwan says.

In September, the teen is off to the University of Western Ontario, where she intends to pursue biological and medical sciences as well as music, aided by a $10,000 admission scholarship for the next four years.

“I always had an urge to help other living beings, whether it’s animals or humans,” says Kwan of her choice of disciplines. “Music, I think I’ll always keep up. It’s something I love too much to give up.”


WHAT: National Youth Orchestra of Canada

WHERE: Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.

WHEN: Aug. 3, 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $20 & $40 at 416-408-0208 or www.rcmusic.ca

German Baritone Delivers Full-Bodied Song Experience At Koerner Hall

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(July 27, 2010) Normally, a song recital is about music and poetry. With baritone Matthias Goerne, it became
a whole-body experience at Koerner Hall on Tuesday night. In the company of fellow German, pianist Andreas Haefliger, the singer gave one of those rare performances that propelled 19th century Lieder into a whole new realm.

For this recital organized by the Toronto Summer Music Festival, Goerne wrapped an unfailingly musical artistic craft and a rich, full voice around Romantic poetry set to music by Robert Schumann in 1840 and Johannes Brahms in 1864, using every note, every phrase – and every silence – toward the singular aim of conveying love, longing and loss in the most directly meaningful way possible.

The dozen poems set by Schumann became a sort of mini opera. At one point, while singing about walking under the trees in a wood, Goerne grabbed on to the lid of the concert grand piano, hugging it as if it was his faraway love.

It might sound strange to imagine a classical singer being so demonstrative, alone on the stage with his accompanist, but this German wonder had allowed the song to become him, and himself to become the song. Even without the full texts and translations supplied with the program, it was always clear exactly what each song was trying to convey.

Haefliger, a highly respected solo pianist, made for a sensitive as well as frustrating accompanist. He and Goerne stayed in lock-step throughout the recital, but while the baritone never wavered from a focus on clarity, Haefliger’s accompaniments often sounded a bit muddled, their edges blurred by a too-heavy foot on the sustaining pedal.

After intermission, Haefliger refocused the enthusiastic audience’s energy with three intimate Intermezzi by a 60-year-old Brahms. Any audience might seem too much of an intrusion into this introspective musical world, and the pieces themselves pose many interpretive challenges for the pianist, so they’re not heard in concert all that often.

Haefliger gave a very personal interpretation, which you could call quirky, if not downright self-indulgent. He played the first of the pieces so slowly that its delicate musings stretched into infinity. The other two had their musical ideas come in and out of focus randomly, awash in a soup of sustaining pedal.

It was a relief to have Goerne re-emerge to sing a group of nine Op. 32 Lieder by Brahms, turning our attention again to his masterful musical storytelling.

Recitals this fine don’t come around very often, which makes each one all the more valuable.

The Black Eyed Peas: Easy On The Ears, Fun To Watch

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(July 28, 2010) You’d never know the Black Eyed Peas have been on tour for nearly a year, given the verve and vigour the foursome brought to the kickoff of their two-night stand at the Air Canada Centre Tuesday night.

Witnessed now by nearly a million fans, The E.N.D. World Tour, named for the group’s 13-month-old fifth disc (the third with Fergie), has been rolling since September. will.i.am, Fergie, apl.de.ap and Taboo seem none the worse for wear.

From the opening track, appropriately “Let’s Get It Started,” through a 90-minute set list stacked with The E.N.D., it was an exciting, energetic display. Multiple video panels, laser lighting, inventively clad dancers, live band and futuristic costumes evoked a massive sci-fi nightclub and kept the audience on its feet.

The expensive, intricate production is the biggest outing yet for the group. De facto leader will.i.am recalled how far the group had come since making its Toronto debut in the late ’90s, on the Smokin’ Grooves and Vans Warped tours and as openers for Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.

More dance-pop oriented than their funky hip-hop beginnings, they are a deft, playful unit. Individually, will.i.am and Fergie shone while apl.de.ap and Taboo’s solo forays amounted to breakdancing and flying over the arena on a tricked-out motorcycle during an inconsequential song.

Sure, Fergie played up the T&A. She stalked the catwalk extension like a model, jiggling her lovely lady lumps and doing the splits to a trumpet solo – not as part of any choreography, but just to demonstrate that she could. She also spit a fierce verse on “Imma Be” and delivered a triumphant version of her power ballad, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

will.i.am was more of a challenge in the ‘love him, he’s annoying’ department. What was the point of bringing out a pretty crimson piano for him to play one chorus on? Oh yeah, to show that he could. His freestyle segment was not so captivating lyrically – he rhymed Toronto and pronto – but the rapid-fire tempos were impressive. Then there were the 20 indulgent minutes of him dressed in a sort of Iron Man outfit spinning Michael Jackson, Usher and Eurhythmics tunes on a laptop. Wasn’t this a live show, an opportunity for him to perform his music? At the same time, it was kinda cool how, in those moments, the arena felt like an intimate nightclub.

The quartet closed with The E.N.D. hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling,” the latter the best-selling digital song in SoundScan history and of the love-it, hate-it variety, like the band.

They may be prone to trite, nonsensical lyrics, but the Black Eyed Peas are easy on the ears and fun to watch. Apparently, there is a lot more to come: will.i.am told the audience that the group is taking advantage of a rare four days in one city to make new music in Toronto.

“The stuff that we recorded last night, I got a feeling is going to be crazy,” he said in the outro.

Will.I.Am Wants You To Rock Modern Gear With Retro Edge

Source:  www.thestar.com - David Livingstone

(July 28, 2010) On the afternoon of Monday, June 26, on the lower level of the Harry Rosen store on Bloor St. W., will.i.am was kept hopping between two two-seat conversational groupings. It was like musical chairs, with music replacing the thankless rhythm of 10-minute interviews, one after the other.

As frontman of hip hop band the Black Eyed Peas, in town for two shows at the Air Canada Centre, will.i.am didn’t have to do this.

He has enjoyed the type of success that means he no longer has to make nice with media. But, as a celebrity debuting i.am, his barely one-year-old line of menswear, at Harry Rosen, he finds the time.

Face-to-face, will.i.am proves not to be a huckster with spiel on his speed dial. He settles in slowly, pauses thoughtfully, even gives his purpose a philanthropic air when he’s asked, why fashion?

After high school, he did a semester at fashion college, but there’s more to it than that. “Guys are very square. There are not that many things that are available out there to express yourself. And I’d like to fill that void and help lead — not lead, but help navigate guys to be a little bit more open-minded about how to rock their gear.”

On this day, will.i.am’s own gear includes a messenger bag made of the tabs of cola cans by a fair-trade designer from Brazil; goggle-like shades by Carrera and a Blackberry in a diamond-studded case the rock star designed himself.

His white T-shirt with diagonally buttoned neck and grey vest with hook-and-eye fasteners are from the i.am collection. The baggy cropped black pants are Rick Owens. The black high-tops that zip up the heel are Dior.

The i.am line ranges from a T-shirt printed with a plugged-in tree of life for $75 to a windbreaker in perforated leather for $635. A blazer in a grey wool-polyester blend distinguished by black piping goes for $355. A pullover in a wool/acrylic combo has both a hood and a rolled collar; it’s yours, for $205.

“It’s an item-driven collection,” explains Ted Rozenwald, owner of Manhattan International, the Montreal manufacturer that has partnered with will.i.am to produce the collection.

And those items are driven by trends. What’s big right now, Rozenwald says, is “lightweight outerwear.”

“Ted is just awesome,” says will.i.am, pointing out that he and his partner share “a desire to win.”

In other ways, they are different. What Rozenwald calls “lightweight outerwear,” will.i.am calls the line’s dope jacket with a band collar and snapped flap. It looks like the Members Only jackets that were iconic in the 1980s and worn well into the next decade by will.i.am’s Uncle Faye.

When will.i.am, 35, was a young man growing up in the projects of Los Angeles, Faye was his hero. From his James Brown perm to rock’n’roll boots, Faye, a teacher who has since died, Faye, stood by his look.

“How come you don’t change?” his nephew would ask. And now, will.i.am proudly repeats his uncle’s answer, saying with a cool growl, “I’m not changin’ my style.”

While the dance between fashion and music can make for a precarious combination —ask Jennifer Lopez or André Benjamin, whose lines were short-lived — will.i.am has Faye to thank for setting a fine example in persistence that could give i.am a future.


Alicia Keys Stays with EMI

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 24, 2010)  *
Alicia Keys said good-bye to Jeff Robinson, her manager who has been guiding the singer since she was just a young 14-years-old. But, in another career move, she decided with the status quo.  She has resigned with EMI Music Publishing. She was originally working with them as a 15-year-old. “EMI and I have formed an incredible partnership over the years,” Keys said in a press statement. “It’s wonderful to have a home here that supports my artistry.” EMI is definitely thrilled to keep her. “Alicia Keys is without doubt one of the most important and accomplished songwriters of her generation, writing music that connects with fans across the world,” added Jon Platt, the president of North American creative at EMI Music Publishing. “We’re proud to have worked with her throughout her career to date, and to continue to represent such an incredible catalogue of songs.”

Kevin Liles Receives Honorary Citizenship

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 24, 2010)  *The BoomBox.com recently reported that rap mogul
Kevin Liles has become an honorary citizen of Paris! He must have a way with the French. He was given the Médaille de la Ville de Paris, the highest award anyone can receive for his or her contributions to Parisian culture. The award was given at the 5th Annul Paris Hip-Hop Awards that took place from June 22-July 4. “I am profoundly honoured to receive the Médaille de la Ville de Paris, especially for my role in helping to make Hip-Hop a mainstream art form globally,” Kevin Liles said. “Spreading the message of Hip-Hop and what it can mean to anyone has long been a personal passion of mine. To be given such a special honour in one of the world’s best cities for just that purpose is genuinely overwhelming.” Vice Mayor of Paris, Christophe Girard, expressed his gratitude. “Kevin Liles represents for me hope and talent, energy and commitment. He never gave up his battle for hip-hop and today hip-hop is a fully recognized art,” said Girard. “He is an example for the new generations and now he is my friend and a friend of Paris.”

John Legend and The Roots Revive ‘Wake Up Everybody’

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(July 27, 2010) Teddy Pendergrass gave us a beautiful song in the 70s called “Wake Up Everybody” that has not been revisited in such a soulful way until now. 
John Legend, Common and Melanie Fiona breathe new direction and life into the track.  But the two have also opened up a lot of the 60s and 70s classics on a new album entitled ”Wake Up Everybody” dusted them off and made them their own. The album will be out soon, but they have given a first sneak hear through People magazine. The mix of Melanie Fiona and John Legend is an acquired taste, but both are great artists that we love and somehow they make it work.  Check it out here.

Video: Lauryn Hill Performs in Rwanda

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(July 27, 2010) *Former Fugees member
Lauryn Hill took the stage at the FESPAD Festival in Kigali, Rwanda on Sunday – the same day her new track “Repercussions” leaked onto the Internet. [Listen below.]  Sporting a blazer, red stiletto booties and African-inspired harem pants, L Boogie performed a handful of notable tracks, including The Fugees’ “Ready or Not.” [Watch clips below.]  Hill will be part of the Rock the Bells tour launching next month featuring Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest and Slick Rick, among others.

Video: Kanye Performs for Facebook Employees

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(July 28, 2010) *For some reason,
Kanye West chose to preview material from his upcoming album at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, where he performed for employees from atop a conference table. [View clips below.] Based on a leaked track list of his album “Good Ass Job,” the rapper – dressed in a suit and tie – appeared to perform portions of “Devil in a New Dress,” “Chain Heavy,” and “Sweat on My Face,” along with “Momma’s Boyfriend,” which wasn’t on the leaked list, and other tracks whose titles weren’t clear. According to the YouTube footage, lyrics on “Good Ass Job” target everything from guys who dated his late mother, to racists on Twitter. The album is due Sept. 14.

Common to Play Freed Slave in AMC Pilot

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(July 28, 2010)
*Rapper-actor Common is moving from film to television with his first TV role in AMC’s pilot “Hell on Wheels.” The show is described as a contemporary western that centers on the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Common will play Elam, a freed slave who goes West to work on the railroad and find his place in the world. As a half black, half white man, he does not completely belong to either world. Common — whose real name is Lonnie Lynn — recently appeared in the movies “Just Wright” and “Date Night.”


Free Classic Movie Screenings Mark 35 Years Of TIFF

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(July 27, 2010) The
Toronto International Film Festival is celebrating its 35th anniversary by offering free screenings of classic movies in its new Bell Lightbox complex.

The new "TIFF for Free" program, details of which will be announced shortly, will include showings of The Big Chill, Roadkill, Water, Crash and other "films that made us who we are," TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey announced Tuesday.

Bailey and fellow co-director Piers Handling also unveiled the first 20 per cent of the line-up for the fest's Sept. 9-19 run, which will also include a return to a full day of screenings on the final day.

The announcements included 15 Galas and 35 Special Presentations, with 25 of them being world premieres.

Highlights include Robert Redford's The Conspirator, Ben Affleck's The Town, Mike Leigh's Another Year, Richard J. Lewis' Barney's Version, Rowan Joffe's Brighton Rock, Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go, Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe and Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

Absent from the announcement was Jodie Foster's The Beaver, starring Mel Gibson, which TIFF had been considering for inclusion prior to Gibson's recent outbursts and public shaming.

Handling declined to confirm or deny whether the film might be included in future announcements.

Redford’s The Conspirator is about a woman accused of aiding her son in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. It stars James McAvoy and Robin Wright.

Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard appears in Guillaume Canet’s film, Little White Lies, about a group of friends who are forced to own up to the little white lies they have been telling each other.

In Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman teams up with Aaron Eckhart to portray a couple devastated by the loss of their son.

Other films bound for the fest include Beginners, starring Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer. It’s about a man forced to examine his relationships when his 71-year-old father comes out of the closet.

Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan star in Never Let Me Go, Steve Coogan stars in the comic road movie The Trip, directed by Michael Winterbottom, and David Schwimmer directs Clive Owen and Catherine Keener in Trust, about a family rocked by their daughter’s new online friend.

An estimated 500,000 moviegoers attended last year’s fest, which is considered to be one of the world’s most important film festivals.

Other big names with films at this year’s festival include Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Javier Bardem, Colin Firth, Juliette Lewis, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Natalie Portman, Ryan Reynolds, Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank.

Canadian Director Goes To The Dogs

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(July 26, 2010) Brad Peyton, 31, has moved from CBC claymation monsters to a megalomaniacal Hollywood
feline, but he says his dark sense of humour remains consistent.

So, too, does his “work ethic and maybe my blind stupidity of just putting your head down and pushing through it,” adds Gander, Nfld.-born Peyton, whose first big-budget movie, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, opens Friday.

It’s quite a leap for a young producer-director probably best known to hip Canadian TV viewers as the creative force behind the darkly funny stop-motion claymation What It’s Like Being Alone, which ran on CBC in 2005. Its animated cast of freakish orphaned kids earned a loyal following.

Peyton spoke to the Star last week while visiting Toronto.

Q: Did you have to tone the darker elements of your sense of humour down to make a studio picture?

A: I showed the movie to a friend of mind and he said, “It’s very much a family movie but it’s very much you.” I have a dark sense of humour and they don’t want a whole lot of that in Cats & Dogs (he laughs). But when you have someone like Bette Midler as Kitty Galore on your side and she is going to these fun, dark places, then you have a partner in crime. I really liked working with Bette and I really liked the character of Kitty Galore — a hairless cat who accidentally fell into a vat of bikini cream. It’s ridiculous and a little twisted and that’s very much me.

Q: Did you do much writing on the movie?

A: I had input and worked with the screenwriters a lot. I feel as a director on a big movie you constantly work with them. When the actors come in to voice record, you want to give them some freedom. I don’t know if there’s one line from Bette that stayed the same. I also liked what Katt Williams (the comic who voices Seamus the Pigeon) did. It was just him being him. He made the stuff up. I’d shot the scene and then run the scene with their lines and you tweak it as you go.

Q: How did you get former James Bond Roger Moore to voice Tab Lazenby, the head of MEOWS?

A: We called him! That was a real moment of excitement. For me, Roger Moore was James Bond when I was growing up. My dad and I argued about who was Bond — he’d say Sean Connery and I’d say Roger Moore. I hadn’t seen him in a movie for a while and I love his voice and he agreed. For me, as a total movie nerd, I loved it.

Q: You’ve gone from small Canadian projects to helming a big-budget Hollywood movie. How did that happen?

A: It’s funny, everybody asks that. Is it that shocking? (He laughs.) I think most of it speaks more to my work ethic than anything else. I don’t feel I’m close to anywhere in my top form as a director and I want to just get better with everything. I took this project knowing it was going to challenge me every day and I was going to learn a lot about aspects of moviemaking I hadn’t done before, like animatronics and pyrotechnics ... All I know how to do is go my hardest and give myself over to it fully, whether it’s an independent music video for a Toronto band, I’ll work as hard on that as I do a Warner Brothers movie. I don’t know how to do it any differently.

Q: You have another big movie in the works: a Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel. Brendan Fraser has left the franchise, Anything you can tell us about casting?`

A: We’re casting now, but I can tell you that Josh Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), who was 13 in the first movie, is now 17 and what we decided to do is for him to go out and have his own adventure. Which I could totally relate to when I was 17 in Gander.

Bruce Greenwood Is No Fool

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Dave McGinn

(July 27, 2010) Bruce Greenwood couldn’t say no. When the Canadian-born actor known for dramatic roles received a call from the director and producer of some of the most well-known comedies of the decade asking if he would like a starring role in Dinner for Schmucks, his new laugh fest, Greenwood jumped at the offer.

“When the call comes from Jay Roach, you go, ‘Yeah, are you kidding me?’ ” he says.

“ I was literally weeping into a napkin, I was laughing so hard.”

Roach has produced Borat and Brüno, and his directing credits include the Austin Powers movies and Meet the Fockers. “I’m a huge fan,” Greenwood says. “He’s made some incredibly funny movies.”

In Dinner for Schmucks, based on the French farce Le Dîner des cons, Greenwood plays the boss of an investment banking company who hosts a monthly dinner where select employees are required to bring along the most pathetic, ridiculous idiot they can find. When Paul Rudd gets invited to the dinner, he sees his chance of moving up the corporate ladder thanks to a fateful run-in with an accountant played by Steve Carell who makes dioramas out of dead mice. If the comedic star power of Rudd and Carell weren’t enough, the movie also features Zach Galifianakis as a U.S. Internal Revenue Service agent with a penchant for capes and a belief he can control minds.

With all the funnymen in the room, Greenberg found himself dealing with a much different challenge than the serious roles he is traditional known for playing. “The burden was not to blow a take by laughing. The first day, I was literally weeping into a napkin I was laughing so hard,” he says.

It’s safe to say that wasn’t much of a concern during the filming of 13 Days, a film about the Cuban missile crisis in which he plays U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Nor is it likely that he had to worry about busting out giggling during the filming of the Atom Egoyan movies he has appeared in, including Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and Ararat. He probably had a few chuckles playing Captain Christopher Pike in the latest instalment of the Star Trek franchise, but if he did, they happened off camera.

After a long career in dramatic roles, Greenwood savoured Schmucks. “It was really fun for me to be involved in something that’s as openly, intentionally funny as this, because I’m not often called to be in that gang,” he says.

Still, it wasn’t just the promise of enjoying a laugh riot that drew Greenwood to the movie. However farcical Dinner for Schmucks might be, he says he ultimately wanted to do the movie because it avoids being mean. “Right from the credits you get the sense that it’s wacky but it’s full of heart at the same time,” he says. “You’d think on its face it’s a mean-spirited premise, but it ends up full of soul.”

Which is nice, but that wasn’t the best part for Greenwood, who was born in Quebec and is now based in Vancouver. The best part, he says, was having a front-row seat to watch Rudd and Carell improvise. “Watching Steve completely pulling ideas out of the stratosphere and Paul fielding them as though it’s not bizarre and rolling it back to him in a way that advances everything and keeps it funny, I have such respect for those guys,” he says. “It was like going to school.”

While Greenwood freely admits that he is “used to doing stuff that is dead serious,” the lessons he learned during the filming of Dinner for Schmucks can certainly be used in the world of drama, where the impulse often is to try to control every part of a character’s words and actions.

But when it comes to funny business, it’s essential to open up and take some chances, Greenwood says. Working with Rudd, Carell and Galifianakis offered a master class in that part of comedy.

“In the comedy world, not every instant is going to be funny, and you just forgive yourself for the stuff that wasn’t funny a second ago and relax and let the next thing come. That applies for drama as well,” he says. “You have to just be more willing to let stuff happen.”

Off With Its Head (And Everyone Else On The Board)

Source: Elizabeth Renzetti

(July 27, 2010) Britain’s new coalition government is sharpening its axe and one of the first to feel the blade is the
UK Film Council, which culture minister Jeremy Hunt is proposing to close within two years.

In the view of Mr. Hunt, the move would ensure "greater value for money," although predictably not everyone agrees. Director Mike Leigh, who’s been the beneficiary of film council support in the past, called the decision "remarkable and extremely worrying." The Deadline London blog, which broke the story of the council’s demise, quotes writer-director Armando Iannucci calling the decision-makers "wangpots." (If you want even more inventive cussing, you should rent, or even better buy, Iannucci’s terrific political satire In the Loop. Yes, it too received film council funding.)

The film council, which employs 75 people, supports and promotes the UK movie industry by dispersing £15-million ($24-million) worth of lottery funds for feature films every year, as well as supporting British cinemas, festivals, and money for foreign films to be shown across the country. By its own reckoning, it has spent £160-million ($257-million) in its ten-year history on movies from Bend it Like Beckham to this year’s hit Streetdance 3D. (The film council does not trumpet its contribution to 2004’s non-hit Sex Lives of the Potato Men, although its critics do, often and loudly.)

The council has been controversial pretty much from the first frame, and a quick glance at any number of message boards reveals that its death isn’t unanimously condemned.

For one thing, the government has said it’s committed to maintaining film funding, and a popular production tax credit (at least for now; nothing is sacred under the approaching spending review, in which government departments are being asked to outline cuts of between 20 and 40 per cent.)

Some filmmakers complain that the UK Film Council is cliquey, that it’s too bureaucratic and its application processes are unnecessarily complex. It has also been slammed both for being too populist in taste and too obscure, which is perhaps a sign that it’s doing the right thing. It gave funds to Leigh’s Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky, for instance, two films which could not be more different in tone and outlook.

One person in the film business I spoke with compared the council’s role to Telefilm Canada’s in providing invisible but important support for the industry, and said, "it’s not a lot of money so it must be a symbolic move – they’re trying to show there’s a new sheriff in town." (Hunt, the culture minister, has said axing the council will mean savings of £3-million, or $4.8-million). Another film producer told me that while the council sometimes seemed out of touch with independent filmmakers, it had undoubtedly helped put British movies on the map and that he was sorry to see it go.

The next few months will certainly be filled with similar announcements. Anyone interested in conservation will not be happy to hear, for example, that English Heritage may also be facing the chop.

(Photo: Parminder Nagra and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Bend It Like Beckham. Credit: Christine Parry)

Documentary Probes A New Generation Of Nuclear Dangers

Source: www.thestar.com - Olivia Ward

(July 24, 2010)  When Moscow company director Vladimir Kaplun collapsed and died from massive internal bleeding, doctors were at a loss for a diagnosis.

But the firm’s engineer spotted signs of radiation sickness and alerted investigators from the former KGB. They found contamination throughout the office building and in the street below. Its source: radioactive material planted inside Kaplun’s chair in an act of reckless murder.

That was in 1993, after the breakup of the Soviet empire, which was bristling with nuclear weapons and waste. Nearly two decades later, deadly radioactive material is heading for the hands of shadowy new players who plan to kill on a much more ambitious scale.

That, say activist film producers Lawrence Bender and former Torontonian Jeff Skoll, means we should be afraid. Very afraid.

Next weekend, the pair’s documentary,
Countdown to Zero, opens in Toronto, and it promises to be a bigger summer chiller than a frozen margarita.

First conceived by Democratic politician Matt Brown and Bruce Blair of the World Security Institute, and directed by Britain’s Lucy Walker, the film features a critical mass of former world leaders, experts, spies, officials, activists — and one of the most cold-blooded weapons smugglers in history.

Its message is meant to put a new generation of anti-nuclear campaigners back on the peace path their grandparents pioneered as Cold War protesters in the days when grade schoolers had to “duck and cover” in anticipation of a Soviet nuclear attack.

Now things have changed — and not altogether in a good way.

“There’s pretty broad agreement that the No. 1 threat the world faces is nuclear terrorism,” says Joseph Cirincione a non-proliferation expert with the Ploughshares Fund who is among more than 80 people interviewed for the film. “There are apocalyptic groups who wouldn’t hesitate to build, and use, an atomic bomb.”

And Cirincione is not just talking about a homegrown “dirty bomb” combining low-level nuclear material with ordinary explosives — which would cause alarm and confusion but few casualties. Increasingly likely is a crude, Hiroshima-style weapon that could devastate a city, melt down an economy and throw the world into nuclear chaos.

Are you gnawing your knuckles yet?

The filmmakers hope so. They know that in the 21st-century fear-stakes, there’s stiff competition. Global warming, deadly pandemics, a double-dip global recession — issues that can make nuclear attack seem like something from the distant, pre-iPhone past.

But Dr. Strangelove isn’t dead, he’s just moved to a city near you, say the experts who monitor loose nukes. And the evidence is convincing.

Although the film traces the horrific history of the atomic bomb, from its early days to the present, there’s little doubt that ours is an age of qualitatively different nuclear insecurity, with enemies who have no adult supervision.

“There are three ways to acquire a nuclear weapon,” says former CIA operative Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. “You can steal a bomb. You can buy a bomb. And you can build a bomb.”

To underscore the point, there’s Oleg Khinsagov, a jailed Russian black marketer from the northern Caucasus who cheered for the 9/11 hijackers and told Walker his stated goal “was to kill 4 million Americans using a nuclear device.”

Khinsagov’s attempt to sell weapons-grade uranium to Al Qaeda was foiled by a Georgian sting operation, and his 2006 arrest made few headlines worldwide.

But while they often slip below the media radar, reports of nuclear smuggling are far from rare. Since 1991, numerous plots have been tracked and halted — and those are only the incidents we know about.

In one of the biggest, three St. Petersburg men were arrested for trying to sell three kilograms of highly enriched uranium stolen from a Russian nuclear production facility in 1994. Some of the hazardous stuff was stashed in a refrigerator.

Two years earlier, a Russian research lab worker spent months stockpiling 1.5 kilos of highly enriched uranium in hopes a wealthy buyer would come along. Scientists say about 10 times that amount is needed for a small atomic bomb.

What makes some of the world’s deadliest material so vulnerable to smugglers?

For one thing, says Cirincione, dozens of countries now use weapons-grade uranium to fuel research reactors and “it’s about as well guarded as library books.” The countries include Ghana, Vietnam and Argentina, places not on anyone’s nuclear outlaw list.

But the biggest problem is in Russia, where control over massive amounts of nuclear material loosened in the free-for-all that followed the crumbling of the Soviet regime.

In the early 1990s, the West missed the chance to work with Moscow on an inventory of nuclear materials that would have charted its vast stockpiles and helped figure out how to secure them.

But in spite of the current suspicion and mistrust, Cirincione says, “we do have a history of cooperation over the last 20 years, and we have secured about 60 per cent (of the material). We shouldn’t wait another 20 years to finish the job.”

With North Korea defiantly declaring its nuclear weapons program, Iran edging closer to capacity to build a bomb, Israel harbouring an undeclared arsenal and nuclear-armed India and Pakistan facing off across unstable borders, there are new worries on the horizon. The danger of both nuclear warfare and unsecured nukes has increased.

U.S. President Barack Obama was uneasy enough to lead a global campaign to secure loose fissile material within four years, to join Russia in cuts to the world’s largest nuclear arsenals, and to announce that nuclear weapons could one day be history.

His initiatives, and hope for rolling back climate change, convinced the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to move their famed Doomsday Clock back from five to six minutes to midnight.

But Countdown to Zero points out, the possibility of proliferation is still as alarming as ever, and richly funded terrorists remain convinced that nuclear material gives more bang for the buck.

The good news is that an increasing number of opinion leaders are beginning to think the once-unthinkable: that the best way to lower the threat is to get rid of all the world’s nuclear stockpiles and put their deadly legacy beyond use.

The film gives a boost to the two-year-old Global Zero campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons, which has Obama’s backing. Dozens of campus chapters have sprung up and grassroots enthusiasm is building. Can those old “Ban the Bomb” T-shirts be ready for a comeback?

“The sense people had 20 years ago is that ‘now we have it under control, and we don’t have to worry any more,’ ” says Metta Spencer, editor of Peace magazine and a veteran anti-nuclear campaigner. “There’s an inertia about the nuclear issue. This film may alarm people, but it’s a wonderful way of getting them mobilized and energized. It’s a wake-up call that needs to happen.”

Steve Carell: More Mr. Nice Guy

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 23, 2010) 
Steve Carell is living proof that nice guys don’t necessarily finish last.

How nice he is he? He actually uses the phrase “my gosh” repeatedly in our conversation, and not a single f-bomb escapes his lips, which must put him in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Least Potty-Mouthed Comedian”.

As for success, not only is he the star of hit series The Office (he recently announced he’s leaving after next year’s seventh season), but he’s already had two successful movies this year (Date Night and Despicable Me) and Dinner with Schmucks, opening next Friday, could make it a hat-trick.

In his latest film, he plays Barry Speck, the loser of all losers, who spends every waking hour away from his job with the Internal Revenue Service constructing dioramas that eerily reflect sequences from his own life, which are peopled with dead mice he finds on the street.

Paul Rudd is the opportunistic young businessman who (literally) runs into Carell and takes him as his guest to a sadistic meal his evil boss regularly hosts, where upwardly mobile executives are obliged to bring the biggest “schmuck” they’ve met in their travels.

“But in the end, the fools wind up being the wise ones, the ones who are celebrated, that’s what I love about the movie,” insists Carell. “I tend to think that people who live on the fringes, people who are outside of the norm, add quality and spice and fun to life.”

All well and good to say that in 2010. But when Carell went to work as a correspondent for The Daily Show in 1999, wasn’t he hired to shoot segments in which he would mock the “schmucks” of the world?

Carell rushes in with Nobel Peace Prize earnestness to correct the misapprehension. “That was a concern for me. I didn’t feel right mocking people just because they were eccentric. I said that I was apprehensive. I don’t think it’s funny to make fun of people.”

But then Carell’s colleague and friend from his Second City days in Chicago, Stephen Colbert, who had brought Carell to the show, offered a suggestion.

“Steve told me that if I felt uncomfortable doing it, I should create a character instead. So I did. And my character was much more ridiculous than anyone I ever interviewed, and somehow took the onus. My gosh, I mean, who am I to mock them or anybody else, other than myself?”

At first, that seems a bit much to accept, but when you look back the extent of Carell’s work, he’s been true to his school. He is the butt of the jokes, the schlump who slips on the banana peel.

True, there’s method to his madness and he usually emerges (as in Dinner with Schmucks) as the sanest one in the room, but he never lashes out. “Plays well with others” has been written on his professional report card by everyone from Tina Fey to Will Ferrell.

But he also offers the air of being “a manila envelope glued to a beige wall,” to quote a favourite Colbert insult. During this interview, I spoke to him at a New York hotel where he was registered under a pseudonym that was so resolutely bland, you’d swear that if you looked up “Ordinary WASP” in the dictionary, it would say “See Steve Carell.”

And that’s funny, because he’s actually of Italian heritage, with a grandfather whose name was “Caroselli” until he shortened it to “Carell”.

The future comic star was born in Concord, Mass., on Aug. 16, 1962, the youngest of four brothers. While normally that could be expected to create a scenario where Baby Steve was bullied or ignored, the exact opposite happened.

“My brothers looked out after me,” he explains. “I was much more protected than put upon. They didn’t put a chip on my shoulders and my mother and father treated me great as well.

“I know some people think a troubled childhood is a prerequisite for being a successful comedian, but, sorry, mine was perfectly happy.”

When his father bought Carell a Super-8 camera and projector, he discovered the genie of comedy that he would wind up following.

“As an afterthought, they threw in some assorted reels of old films, the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, stuff like that and they opened my eyes. I used to sit and watch the Three Stooges with my brothers, but this was something different and it was something I thought I might want to do with my life.”

Carell did a lot of comedy, theatre and music through high school and college, but he always thought he was finally go to law school.

“But when I had to fill out that form explaining why I wanted to go,” he says now, “I just couldn’t. So my parents let me follow my dreams with their blessing.”

He moved to Chicago in 1985, and worked his way up through the baroque system of comedy clubs and groups there until he succeeded making it onto the main-stage company of Second City in 1989, where he stayed as a performer and teacher for seven years.

“That was really where I learned everything about comedy, about performance, even about life.”

It was also where he met two people who would influence him heavily: his wife, Nancy Walls, and his comedic vis a vis, Steven Colbert.

“Second City meant a lot to me and when I went back for the 50th anniversary reunion in December, it was like high school and college and family all rolled into one. I was a little overwhelmed by it all.”

Carell is very clear that “I don’t think of comedy as therapy. I’m not into that whole ‘I need to play this character so I don’t become this character’ kind of thing. I try not to overthink it too much. I just always enjoyed doing it. If something makes you laugh hard, it’s a very great gift to receive. I believe that part of is therapeutic.”

He’s amazingly open about his craft, calmly stating, for example, his reason for leaving The Office by saying, “The time was right, that’s all. I’d taken the character as far as I thought he could go.”

But if you try to dig too deeply into his personal life, he holds the door firmly shut, as though keeping out an unwanted traveling salesman.

In a recent interview in The New Yorker, Jon Stewart, in discussing Carell’s seemingly unclouded life, observed, “Maybe Steve’s lack of wound is his wound.”

So I ask Carell, point-blank, what the unhappiest moment in his life has been.

My gosh, Richard, I would never even talk about that kind of stuff in an interview!” he exclaims, shocked that I would even ask. But then, feeling he might have gone too far, he adds, “Maybe some people get comedy out of the pain they’ve experienced. I don’t.

“I’m happy. I’m really happy, but more importantly, I’m very thankful. I just can’t believe any of this has happened to me.”


The Marx Brothers: The first people I ever saw who made me laugh. They were very physical, but they also had great economy. That’s something I always strive for.

Peter Sellers: He’s my biggest hero. He could play an idiot without ever making you feel that he thought the character was an idiot, which is a very important distinction.

The Three Stooges: I remember watching them with my brothers and looking at Larry, the odd man out. I’ve always identified with the loner.

Steve Martin: From him I learned that you could be as crazy as you wanted as long as you acted like you were perfectly sane.

Steven Colbert: He’s given me so much over the years, but what I respect most of all is his incredible sense of right and wrong. And his energy.

French First Lady Starts Woody Allen Movie

Source:  www.thestar.com - Elaine Ganley

(July 28, 2010) PARIS—France’s first lady, a former supermodel turned songstress, is making her debut as an
actress, filming this week in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

Even her busy husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy, wasn’t about to miss the action. He showed up on the Left Bank set Tuesday, in dark suit but no tie, to watch his spouse in her latest creative venture.

Allen, beloved by the French, recruited
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy last fall for what is said to be a small role in the romantic comedy which follows a family travelling in Paris for business. France’s first lady reportedly plays a museum director.

Tuesday’s scenes were shot in the heart of the Left Bank, near the Pantheon, the resting place of many of France’s luminaries.

In November, when she announced her plans to accept Allen’s offer of a role, the 42-year-old Bruni-Sarkozy had said she was unsure of her acting skills.

“I’m not at all an actress. Maybe I’ll be absolutely terrible,” she said in an interview with Canal Plus TV station.

However, she said she couldn’t pass up the chance to play in a Woody Allen film.

“I’d like to — you know — when I’m a grandmother, to have done a Woody Allen film,” said Bruni-Sarkozy, who has a son from a relationship before Sarkozy. “I cannot in my life miss an opportunity like this.”

Bruni-Sarkozy had a small role playing herself in the 1994 Robert Altman film Pret-a-Porter (Ready to Wear) and the 1998 move Paparazzi, by Alain Berberian, each time playing herself. Her sister Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is an actress and director.

Allen is clearly a fan of the first lady.

When he was asked what famous person he would like to see act, the Dalai Lama or the queen of England, he replied: “Carla Bruni”, according to the first lady’s website. “She has charisma and she’s used to appearing on stage. I could give her any role at all,” the site quotes the director as saying.

As first lady, Bruni-Sarkozy has kept her artistic life and star status mostly on the back burner. She did release a new album two years ago, though refused to tour and gives royalties to the Foundation of France.

It was not clear whether she was being remunerated for her film role, or if her payment was in thrills.

Bruni-Sarkozy is not the only French actress in the film, which also features Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard. Other stars are Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Kathy Bates.

Allen, in his usual self-deprecating style, warned the French movie-going public in April that “I’m going to kill myself” if his biggest European boosters don’t like this movie, or his You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, screened at the Paris Film Festival.

Getting Guys To See Chick Flicks’

Source:  www.thestar.com - Robert W. Butler

(July 28, 2010) For several years, The Walt Disney Co. has worked on an animated version of “Rapunzel,” the fairy tale about a beautiful, lonely girl with long hair who has been condemned to live in a high tower.

But when the trailer hit theatres this month, the movie had been renamed “Tangled.” And Rapunzel was hardly seen. Instead, the trailer focused on a roguish, wise-guy thief named Flynn Rider.

What gives?

’Chick flick.’ Those are dirty words to most men,” said movie industry analyst Paul Degarabedian of Hollywood.com. “Here’s the problem: Girls will go to see guy movies, but guys don’t want to see girl movies. That’s been a truism throughout the history of cinema.”

Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Missy Schwartz noted that after Disney’s animated “The Princess and the Frog” failed to attract boys and grossed a disappointing $104 million, “the studio is emphasizing ‘Tangled’s’ male character at the expense of anything remotely girly. Somewhere Ariel and the rest of the Disney princesses are weeping.”

The runaway success of this summer’s “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” can be traced at least, in part, to an advertising campaign that downplayed the film’s romantic triangle of human Bella, vampire Edward and werewolf Jacob in favour of fangs, fur and furious action.

From the “Eclipse” trailer you might not even realize that the movie is part of an epic love story.

Which was fine with Kansas City moviegoer Andy Kyser—described by his wife, Emily, as a man who “doesn’t watch crying movies unless it’s ‘Rudy.’”

Kyser, 32, who works in sales for UPS, was familiar with the whole “Twilight” phenomenon because his wife was a big fan. He knew he would be expected to attend the new film with Emily, but admitted the “Eclipse” trailer piqued his curiosity in ways the two earlier instalments had not.

“What got me going was the fight scenes,” he said. “It looked really exciting.”

The effort to attract male viewers worked. Not only did “Eclipse” have the fourth-highest-grossing Independence Day opening weekend ever, but, said Degarabedian, “I’m hearing that audiences for ‘Eclipse’ are 35 percent male. That is about double the numbers of the first two ‘Twilight’ movies.”

While “Twilight” fans are not exactly weeping over the male-oriented advertising for “Eclipse,” some are disappointed, saying that the approach taken by Summit Entertainment reinforced stereotypes about entertainment geared mostly to women.

“We understand that there’s a financial incentive to attract men to the franchise,” said Jennifer Aubrey, an assistant professor of communications at the University of Missouri-Columbia and a co-author of a new book, “Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, & the Vampire Franchise.”

But attempts to make the movie “boyfriend worthy” undervalue its diehard female supporters, Aubrey said.

“Girl culture is routinely dismissed as schlocky and unworthy. Pop music, soap opera, chick lit ... all are culturally devalued when compared to forms that men tend to enjoy.

“In our research we heard from ‘Twilight’ fans who had been mocked for their enthusiasm. We talked to boys who are embarrassed to call themselves ‘Twilight’ fans. They were so ridiculed by their peers that they had to renounce the books and movies.”

By appealing to the guys, Aubrey said, Summit may have created a short-term boost in ticket sales. But it also missed a long-term opportunity to “develop the terms for future female franchises.”

“The media won’t confer cultural legitimacy on an entertainment until it is accepted by men,” she said, adding that “Twilight’s” success was just as valid as that of the “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” series. “Why not sell the movie for what it is?”

Movie marketing has come a long way since filmdom’s golden era, when the content of studio films had to conform to the moralistic dictates of Hollywood’s Production Code and every movie was deemed suitable for everyone. It didn’t matter if you were a grandmother or a 5-year-old ... one trailer fit all.

But today’s movie-going audience is splintered—kids, action fans, grown-ups, women, sci-fi and comic-book geeks, tweeners. “Eclipse” suggests how the same movie can be effectively marketed to different audience segments.

“For the ‘Twilight’ series you don’t even need the guys to have a huge box-office hit,” Degarabedian said. “But why not go for the guys? To do that they just had to focus on things guys want to see.”

Tailoring movie marketing for specific audiences is a fairly new development. In recent years, studios have often turned out two trailers for a forthcoming movie—one to play before G, PG and PG-13 films, another featuring more disturbing/shocking/lurid material to be shown before R-rated features.

Now there are so many delivery systems for movie advertising—TV, specialty magazines and websites, not to mention the in-theatre trailer—that it pays to create slightly different ads for different audiences, said Paul Pflugof Principal Communications Group, a consulting firm that works with many Hollywood studios.

The same movie can advertise in Playboy and McCall’s, he noted, but smart marketers will recast the message for each magazine to be more attractive to the readers of those very different publications.

With these new opportunities come some risks. For example, did any of those men who bought tickets to “Eclipse” feel that they had been lured in by advertising that misrepresented the film’s tone and content?

Pflug said the instantaneous nature of modern communications made it dangerous for movie advertisers to play too fast and loose with the truth.

“For several years we’ve been seeing movie trailers that contain scenes that aren’t in the finished film,” he said. “But now it’s unwise to do that, and the reason is texting. After the first showing on the East Coast on opening day, audience members will be texting, telling their friends about the movie. And they will call you out if they feel the trailer misrepresented the movie they’ve just seen.”

An attempt by movie marketers to mislead ticket buyers may backfire, creating a viral storm that hurts rather than helps the film, Pflug said.

“It keeps you honest.”

Perhaps the last word on the subject should come from Kyser, who reported that “Eclipse” got to him a bit more than he was comfortable with.

“I actually got a little angry when Bella kissed Jacob before the big battle,” he said. “Not that I like Edward a lot—I’m not on anybody’s ‘team.’ It’s just that the movie got me involved. Despite my manliness.”


A Bit Of Camelot In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Star staff

(July 22, 2010)  You might have looked twice if you’d been walking past the Toronto set of the miniseries The Kennedys earlier this week, where
Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear were impersonating assassinated U.S. president John F. Kennedy and his first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy. Splash News photographed the pair on set with the unnamed little girl who is playing Caroline Kennedy (UsMagazine.com says the child has become good friends with Suri Cruise, 4, Holmes’s daughter with actor Tom Cruise). Holmes and Kinnear are the stars of the eight-part series, a $30 million co-production of Canada’s History Television and the U.S. channel AETN, which has been shooting in the GTA since last month. Other stars include prolific English actor Tom Wilkinson as Joe Kennedy Sr. and Canadian actor Barry Pepper as Robert Kennedy. The show is scheduled to air in 2011.

Rihanna Tries Acting

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 27, 2010) *Rihanna will be making her big screen debut on Universal’s latest idea, “Battleship,” alongsideAlexander Skarsgard and Taylor Kitsch. The news was announced Monday evening, with director Peter Berg expected to begin shooting shortly the live-action film, based on Hasbro’s naval combat board game. The movie is expected to release May 25, 2012. “Battleship” takes place across the seas, skies, and land in a battle for planet survival against a stronger force. Kitsch stars as a Naval officer who leads the fight and Skarsgard will play his brother in the film.

Willow and Jaden Smith Fashion Lines?

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(July 27, 2010) *Will Smith’s children
Jaden and Willow may soon have their own fashion line in stores, according to Rihanna’s stylist Mariel Haenn, who is teaming up with the famous siblings to develop a signature style. “With Rihanna, pretty soon after she came on the scene, you started seeing designers from Forever 21 to Gucci coming out with styles mimicking her look,” Haenn told Hollywoodlife.com. “We hope the same thing happens here, but I think the ultimate goal is for Willow and Jaden to have their own line.” Mariel also believes Willow has similarities to her other client Rihanna – who is well known for her offbeat style. “Willow is definitely inspired by Rihanna’s style,” she said. “We make an effort to give Willow her own style, so as not to be a mini-version of Rihanna, but Willow really knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like and she’s vocal about it.”

Old Spice Guy Joins Jennifer Aniston Film

Source:  www.eurweb.com

July 28, 2010) *Isaiah Mustafa, the former NFL player whose fame skyrocketed as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” has just been cast opposite Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in Warner Bros. upcoming comedy “Horrible Bosses.” The film follows three friends who conspire to murder their awful bosses for standing in the way of their happiness. Mustafa will portray a police officer. “It’s a smaller role, but who wouldn’t want to be in one of these funny, irreverent comedies?” Mustafa tells the Hollywood Reporter. “The cast is great. I’m playing a cop because I play these authoritative characters well. I don’t know exactly who I’m in the scene with — maybe Jennifer Aniston.” The casting in “Horrible Bosses” follows parts in Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf,” as well as an upcoming guest spot on NBC’s action-comedy “Chuck.” All this comes on the heels of Nielsen data indicating that sales of Old Spice body products are up a monumental 107% in the past month as a result of his Emmy-nominated spots, and the Old Spice YouTube channels have been viewed more than 58 million times. Mustafa’s second ad for the company premiered in recent weeks, and it could be his last. “As far as commercials, I don’t think there are any more lined up,” he says. “They could always change their mind and want more. I signed on to be their spokesperson for a year, so I still have a few months left.”

::TV NEWS::\

Sportsnet Adds Another Channel To Its Roster

Source:  www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(July 28, 2010) Just when you thought there were enough sports channels in the television universe, another one will be popping up soon.

Sportsnet ONE will launch next month, the network confirmed Wednesday. The new digital channel will include games involving the Blue Jays and Raptors, as well as other properties.

“We are confident that Rogers Sportsnet ONE will be a must watch for Canadian sports fans, and a great addition to the sports broadcasting landscape in this country,” Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth said in a statement.

The new channel, which promises 800 hours of live sports a year, will also have NBA, NHL, English Premier League soccer and Major League Baseball games aired nationally.

In addition, it will carry 13 regional Vancouver Canucks games as part of another deal announced this week.

That deal is in addition to a 45-game Canucks package on Sportsnet’s Pacific channel. All 58 Canucks games will be available only to viewers in B.C. and the Yukon.

Sportsnet ONE will launch Aug. 14 with an English soccer match followed by a game between the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants. They will lead up to the broadcast of a Blue Jays-Los Angeles Angels game.

Many of the Raptors and NBA games are part of a new three-year deal that was also announced Wednesday.

The new channel will carry at least 23 Raptors games next season, with Sportsnet’s main channel taking the remainder of the 35-game package. Sportsnet’s share of Raptors broadcasts means that the CBC and The Score will no longer be carrying Toronto basketball games.

As part of the Raptors deal, Sportsnet ONE will also take 35 regular-season NBA games and 22 playoff games.

The arrival of the channel started back in March when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved Sportsnet’s application for a new channel. Sportsnet had hoped to launch earlier and avoid showing Blue Jays games on a preview channel, but couldn’t get things in place early enough.

Canadian TV Viewers Read About Buzzy U.S. Shows, But Often Can't Watch Them

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press

(July 25, 2010)  Can Canadians ever get too much
American TV?

While the local television industry struggles to crack our own schedules, Canadian consumers often seem more vexed when they can't see an American show. Especially after they've seen it hyped on entertainment magazines, talk shows or even over the Internet. Canadians, after all, complain every year about not being able to watch American commercials on the Super Bowl broadcast.

The thirst for American fare was demonstrated again this summer when Canada was briefly out of the Betty White loop. The spunky sitcom legend, after a triumphant turn on "Saturday Night Live," made a much-hyped weekly TV return last spring on "Hot in Cleveland." The comedy, which also stars sitcom veterans Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick, originated exclusively on the U.S. cable version of TV Land.

For a week or two, no Canadian broadcaster announced they had picked up the series. Then CTV came to the rescue and nearly two million viewers flocked to the summer comedy. Its Canadian debut was the seventh most-watched show in the land the first week of July, topped only by FIFA World Cup championships, "Big Brother" and "The Big Bang Theory."

Not every pick up of an American show is as rewarding for Canadian networks. While the process of "simulcasting" (airing a show at the same day and time as it airs on a U.S. channel) is generally an automatic way to boost ratings in Canada, picking up shows beyond the U.S. network base is often a gamble.

CTV had great luck poaching U.S. cable fare several years ago with "The Sopranos" and "The Osbournes," but found fewer takers a few years later with one of the most acclaimed shows on American TV, "Mad Men." The fourth season of that series returns Sunday night on AMC and AMC alone. While that specialty channel does cross the border, not every Canadian household subscribes to it, a disparity CTV was counting on when they acquired rights. What they found was that people who wanted to see what Don Draper and his ‘60s-era ad men were up to were already AMC subscribers. Paying a premium to import it day-and-date just didn't divert enough eyeballs CTV's way. When the recession last season cut ad revenues across the board, this show about the ad industry was among the first import casualties.

A similar dilemma now faces Canwest and "Damages," a quality drama almost as rich in industry accolades as "Mad Men." The New York-based courtroom saga, which stars Emmy-winner Glenn Close (and featured a star turn by Canadian-born Martin Short last season), is a critical favourite but does not draw a huge audience, even in the States. After three seasons, in fact, the U.S. cable network FX has walked away from the series, allowing DirecTV — a U.S. satellite provider — to take over production costs. The new deal will ensure that the series continues for a fourth and fifth season — but so far, there are no guarantees it will air in Canada.

Critical acclaim for a U. S. import doesn't always translate into Canadian viewers. For years, Global tried to find a timeslot for "The Shield," another FX series that saw a breakthrough Best Actor Emmy award win for lead Michael Chiklis. While "The Shield" had its fans in Canada, Global found them few and far between and could never place the series in an optimum timeslot. "Monk" was another U.S. cable show that seemed to bounce around Canadian schedules.

One irony is the number of shows shot in Canada that never air in Canada. "Covert Affairs," a spy drama currently shooting on the streets of Toronto and starring Piper Perabo and Peter Gallagher, premiered earlier this summer exclusively on the USA Network. Kari Matchett and other Canadian-born talent are in the cast—but can only watch their show if they travel to the United States. "Warehouse 13," a Toronto produced drama airing Stateside on Syfy and featuring Canadian-born lead Joanne Kelly, does air in Canada on Rogers'-owned Citytv stations but a week or two after the U.S. premieres.

Other U.S. cable fare sometimes gets lost on channels that are only available at a premium cost in Canada. The pay service Super Channel has Canadian rights to Ray Romano's "Men of a Certain Age" (which originates on U.S. only cable network TNT), "Party Down" (Starz) and "Sons of Anarchy" (FX) but few Canadians enjoy that service, which has struggled to break through on Canadian carriers.

Other shows just take longer to get on the more popular channels. This fall, Showcase will finally air new episodes of "Burn Notice," a two-year-old USA Network spy drama.

The cross-border confusion now reaches Canadian TV fans across several media platforms. Comedy Central in the U.S. recently premiered the long-awaited new episodes of "Futurama," a series that had been out of production for several years. Robust DVD sales of earlier seasons drove the Matt Groening-produced animated gem back into production. No Canadian network, as of yet, has announced a pick up of the new episodes, a point driven home when you try to watch a clip on Comedy Central's U.S. web site. Canadians are automatically redirected to the Canadian Comedy Network website, even though that specialty channel isn’t currently showing the new "Futurama" episodes or the web clips.

As cranky "Futurama" robot Bender would say, somebody at the Canadian networks is "pending for a bending."

Mad Men World Makes The ’60s Feel New

Source: www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere

(July 23, 2010)  Of all the reasons one might offer for the epidemically gripping nature of AMC’s
Mad Men, which begins its feverishly anticipated fourth season Sunday night, the best and simplest might be this: the more time you spend with its characters — all of whom orbit, like blinking Sputniks, around the Manhattan advertising industry of the early 1960s — the less you know.

Take Don Draper (Jon Hamm), the show’s nominal leading man, driving dramatic concern, beleaguered moral conscience and rogue B-52 sexual threat. Although smoulderingly charismatic and fortified by a teasingly doled-out back-story concerning his impoverished childhood, shattering combat experiences, assumed identity and pathological inability to reveal any more of himself than a situation demands, Draper, a brilliant ad man, remains a shimmering cipher.

If anything, his past confirms only that he’s capable of anything, a tightrope walker inching the wobbly line between supreme control and animal impulse. And therefore the program’s desert-silo atomic secret.

There’s power there. The question is, how much? And how will it be unleashed?

This climate of sustained, mathematically calibrated uncertainty not only makes for compelling television — and Mad Men, if nothing else, is one captivating TV show — it also taps something that runs through the program like a energy-generating undercurrent. By making its early ’60s ad man hero (and his world) so vividly yet humanly unaccountable, Mad Men is up to something remarkable. It’s making the 1960s feel new again.

Remember that when Bob Dylan first sang about a-changin’ times, he did not know what they were a-changin’ into. And it is this sense of suspended hindsight, of lives being lived in the intimacy of present moment, that Mad Men nails.

Making this most pre-packaged of decades unfold is no mean feat and it is unsurprising that it has riveted, among a few million others, the attention of American political historian Rick Perlstein.

Perlstein’s two celebrated epic volumes tracking the rise of conservatism in his country — Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America — converge with Mad Men. They see the decade freshly and without prior judgment, bringing it alive in startlingly fresh forms.

For Perlstein, the most conspicuous omission in popular thinking about the ’60s is the rise of the right. As he writes in Before the Storm, “America would remember the sixties as a decade of the left. It must be remembered instead as a decade when the polarization began.”

The surge of conservatism, as embodied by the candidacy of hardliner Barry Goldwater in 1964, is every bit as rooted in the period as was the emergence of the countercultural left. The decade split the country along lines so divisive that it made Richard Nixon’s return from political limbo possible, the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan understandable and the neoconservative-driven administration of George W. Bush inevitable. For Perlstein, too many histories of the era have only told half the story. Unfortunately, it’s not the half that fully accounts for the present.

“I think a lot of this is generational,” says Perlstein, who is at work on a history of the 1970s called The Invisible Bridge, from his home in Chicago.

“I was born in 1969 and I had an editor once who observed that people are often most fascinated with the period right before they were born, that kind of formed their parents’ identities,” he said. “I have parents who were married on August 2, 1964, the day of the first Gulf of Tonkin attack. My dad was a single man in Washington in 1963, a navy bureaucrat when the Kennedy assassination happened. And a big part of kind of my own existential quest is to figure out who these people are to figure out who I am myself.”

Like Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner, who was born in 1965 and whose experience of the decade would therefore be primarily second-hand, Perlstein belongs to the generations considering ’60s from a detached perspective.

Other recent works in a similar light include the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man, which revisits the classic issue of suburban conformity as a Jewish male mid-life crack-up; Sam Mendes’s adaptation of Richard Yates’s 1960 novel Revolutionary Road (which renders the book’s harrowing study of marital implosion as a 21st-century Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf); and Tom Ford’s film of Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man, first published in 1964, which views the period through the guarded, poignantly repressed horn rims of a grieving gay man.

In each case, the story is viewed through a contemporary social prism — middle-class Jewish identity, feminism, gay consciousness — that permits a fresh perspective on lives lived before such clarity even existed.

To appreciate what’s a-changed here, consider the way in which the 1960s experience has tended to transmitted through Boomer-generated media. For the most part, the decade has been seen as a struggle between virtuous, if naïve, youth culture in collision with the intolerant, and inarguably oppressive, values of the parent generation.

In protesting Vietnam, practising free love, trancing to psychedelic rock, crying over the Kennedys and marching shoulder to shoulder with every group — blacks, feminists, antiwar demonstrators, gays — a generation looks back through the lens of vindication.

It is this perspective that defines nearly half of the movies of Oliver Stone (Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors), any movie or documentary concerning The Beatles, anything bearing the Rolling Stone imprimatur and any mainstream media event marking yet another boomer-era milestone: the Beatles’ first U.S. Tour, the Kennedy assassination, Woodstock, rock star-death anniversaries, the debut of Star Trek.

For a historian such as Perlstein, these are the kind of myths that cling to a generation that was galvanized during a period. The boomers don’t just want to understand their past, they want to make a story out of it, one with dramatic shape and coherence. That process is selective, and it inevitably undergoes re-examination as new generations look back.

Asked what he considers to be the most predominant and persistent myths clinging to the 1960s, Perlstein responds: “I think one of the most persistent and misleading myths was that most of the violence in the ’60s came from the left. Not so. It was actually pretty evenly divided between the left-wing extremists and right-wing extremists. Also, the idea that it was fun, that it was enjoyable. I think, for most people, the period was actually quite traumatic. And the fact that America has never really sort of reckoned quite honestly with that trauma is a lot of what the current backlash is about.”

As the very idea of who speaks for the past is handed — or just falls — from one generation to another, both the voice and the story change. The result is a story that isn’t tied to, as Perlstein calls them, “veterans of a certain part of the ’60s. People who had been in the left and counterculture, baby boomers, who had told the story from engagement to disillusionment. That was kind of the big sweep of the story.”

But for Perlstein, a young liberal confronted by the ubiquity of the hard right during the 1990s, it was obviously only part of the story.

“I was fascinated with where these conservatives had come from in the middle of the ‘90s when I was watching the rise of Newt Gingrich,” he recalls. “And the idea that there are million of Americans who live alongside me, so to speak, who see the world completely differently than I do as a liberal, was fascinating.”

Perlstein suspected there was another tale out there, one that, for whatever reasons, had not been fully written.

“It was obvious to me as a person in my 20s in the 1980s,” he says, “as I was coming into adulthood, that the dominant political story of the ’60s was the rise of the right. Generationally, right when I was kind of looking to tell a big story, that was the big story that was out there to be told.”

As Weiner most likely would, Perlstein strenuously resists the idea that his pursuit of the “big story” of the ’60s was motivated by a generational agenda. In what he calls his “existential quest” to figure out who he was and how the past shaped his present, he tracked the story of America’s second great civil war: the one that pitched conservatives and liberals in a cultural battle of traumatic proportions, the fault lines of which still crack the country at the seams.

His is really the story over whose voice would prevail in defining America’s self-identity, the nation’s own “existential quest” that finds its most enigmatic and revealing pop culture corollary in the grey-flannel figure of Don Draper.

Draper, not in any way incidentally, is an ad man, licensed to understand and exploit people’s ideals, secret desires and fantasy projections of who they wish to be. As well as his psychological state, duality is Draper’s stock in trade. Like the politicians examined by Perlstein, he’s a myth peddler. In advertising as in politics, he who pitches the best myth wins.

While Perlstein is struck by Mad Men’s handling of such issues as the emergence of feminist consciousness, the rise of youth culture and the almost imperceptible way in which culture changes — what he calls “the fidelity with which they capture the texture of why the first week of April of 1963 was different from the last week of April of 1963” — Draper’s crisis is what Perlstein describes as the series’ “most intimate story.”

“But that’s also a historical story,” he adds, “because if you look at the social criticism of the era – The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, The Organization Man, David (The Lonely Crowd) Riesman’s work on other-directed, inner-directed men — the idea that, let me put this quite precisely, the ideal that society provided for a successful man turned out to kind of ring false on a kind of existential level.”

This is the key to both Draper and the decade in which he exists: they are trying to find themselves as they go along. They’re making it up in real time. They do not know what we know, and our fascination springs from this sense of inevitability deferred. The mythologies do not apply because they do not yet exist. The ’60s rendered in Mad Men isn’t The Sixties yet.

In describing the most profound achievement of Mad Men’s take on this most over-mythologized period of the past American century so simply, Perlstein might also be referring to his own approach to writing history:

“It has a point of view. It’s telling a story about this period. It’s not trying to be the story of the period.”

Barack Obama To Appear On The View

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(July 26, 2010) ABC's
The View has welcomed many notable guests, but none more prominent than President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to visit for Thursday's edition.

In making the announcement on Monday, executive producers Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie said this marks the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited a daytime talk show.

They said the majority of the hour will be devoted to Obama's appearance, which will touch on topics including jobs, the economy, the Gulf oil spill and family life inside the White House. It is scheduled to tape on Wednesday.

“We are so pleased and honoured,” Walters said.

Walters will make a special return to the studio for the occasion, joining co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd. Other than a brief segment broadcast from her home this month, Walters has been off the air since undergoing open-heart surgery in May and had not planned to be back until September.

Obama's appearance is part of the show's continuing “Red, White & View” campaign, which is committed to political guests and discussions. The show welcomed Vice-President Joe Biden in April.

Obama was last a guest on
The View in March 2008 when he was a U.S. senator.

The program airs weekdays on ABC at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

A ‘Fan For Life’ Brings Ramona To The Big Screen

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Dakshana Bascaramurty

(July 22, 2010)  Hollywood producer Alison Greenspan is thankful her mother is a packrat. If she wasn’t, Greenspan’s latest feature film
Ramona and Beezus – which opens Friday – might never have made it to the big screen.

Six years ago, the 37-year-old producer was having a hell of a time trying to convince Newbery-award-winning children’s author Beverly Cleary to let her adapt her books about Ramona Quimby into a film.

For decades, Cleary, who wrote the books from 1955 to 1999, rejected multiple feature film and cartoon series proposals (though she approved of a short-lived Canadian live action TV series starring Sarah Polley, which was produced in the eighties).

“ I know that Hollywood producers have a reputation for being somewhat slimy.”

“When we looked into it with the publisher, we were told, ‘Oh you know Mrs. Cleary never will sell the rights,’ ” Denise Di Novi, Greenspan’s co-producer, said in an interview from Monte Carlo. Still, she and Greenspan courted the author for three years.

But Cleary stood her ground. She’d seen too many beloved literary characters appear half-baked on the big and small screens.

 “There were offers for cartoon series, and I did not accept them because to me, Ramona is a real little girl and not a cartoon,” Cleary, 94, explains in an e-mail interview from her home in Portland, Ore. “Her intentions are mostly good, but life takes different directions that she didn’t foresee, because she’s young and inexperienced.”

The pursuit of Cleary was more personal for Greenspan than any previous projects. During a trip home to see her parents, she found a box of elementary school projects her mother had saved and retrieved her secret weapon from it: a book report she wrote about Ramona and her Father when she was in Grade 4.

“I know that Hollywood producers have a reputation for being somewhat slimy, so I got out my childhood book reports to prove to [Cleary] that actually I was a fan for life, basically, and was going to take the utmost care with her books,” Greenspan says from France.

The plan worked.

“She zeroed in that I got an A- for spelling errors. That was very Ramona,” she says with a laugh (Ramona is regularly scolded for her unorthodox spelling in the book series).

That sentimental tactic, as well as a persuasive letter by Di Novi (whose two sons grew up reading the books), won Cleary over.

“She didn’t want Ramona portrayed as a kind of Eloise or a Madeline: just a naughty little girl. I think she saw that we appreciated that,” DiNovi says.

The author rented some of DiNovi’s previous film adaptations: Little Women and James and the Giant Peach.

“After watching them, I felt that she could be trusted with Ramona,” Cleary says.

While few authors are much involved with film projects after they sell the rights to their work, Cleary was invited to pore over every draft of the screenplay – which incorporates storylines from all eight books in the series – and offer suggestions, all of which she says were taken, before a single scene was shot.

The feature was filmed last year in Vancouver and, in contrast to the low-budget TV series of the eighties, producers cast big names such as John Corbett, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sandra Oh and Selena Gomez.

But Greenspan and Di Novi were taking a gamble with this project, since fantasy and science fiction literature for children and young adults currently dominate the bestseller lists (and their film adaptations do, in turn, at the box office).

“Today we have very dark stories for kids. Whether it’s Lemony Snicket or the teenage books like the Twilight series, there’s nothing that sort of is both realistic and inspiring,” Di Novi says. She and Greenspan wanted to fill that niche.

Last month, Beezus and Ramona (published in 1955) returned to the New York Times bestseller list. It’s no surprise to Cleary, who says the universality of Ramona’s childhood experience has helped her grow a multi-generational fan base.

In one key scene in the film, the heroine, played by 10-year-old Joey King, overhears her father, who has just been laid off, mention that “the bank might take the house.”

Ramona’s literal, fanciful translation of that phrase blossoms onscreen when the long arm of a construction truck lifts her home off its foundation and drives away with it, while the Quimby family helplessly watches. It’s the dramatic interpretation that any fourth-grader who doesn’t understand foreclosure would have – which the film’s star appreciated.

“I loved her spunkiness and uniqueness,” Joey says in an interview from her home in Los Angeleshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif. “She wasn’t afraid to be out there and her imagination was huge and her personality was big and bubbly.”

To prepare for her role, she read all the books in the series, developing an adulation of her own for Cleary. More exciting for her than the premiere, she says, was her first meeting with Cleary.

“I just could not wait to meet her. When we were outside of her door it was like, ‘Oh my god. Oh my god.’”

While Cleary had read the final draft of the script, the production crew was still anxious about the whether the author would approve of their realization of the film.

Greenspan didn’t even have to wait till the credits for her answer.

“When she cried a couple of times during the screening, there couldn’t be a greater pleasure to experience as a producer to know that we had done right by Beverly.”

New MTV Show Takes On High School Stereotypes

By Alicia Rancilio, The Associated Press

(July 27, 2010) NEW YORK, N.Y. - Jocks, nerds, burnouts and stoners: The names may vary, but students at almost every high school know the labels.

A new show on MTV attempts to help students look past such stereotypes. The network hypes "
If You Really Knew Me" as a real-life version of "The Breakfast Club."

Each episode focuses on a different school, where students go through a program called Challenge Day. They share experiences with each other in exercises designed to cut down on bullying and gossiping.

The cameras follow five students before, during and after the program. One self-professed jokester realizes how much his words hurt when he picks on an overweight student. Classmates are surprised when they hear a popular cheerleader talk about how she doesn't feel pretty or cool enough.

Another student, 18-year-old Leikin Poppino, attended Challenge Day last year at Freedom High School in Oakley, Calif., and said it works.

"It was such a positive experience," said Poppino. "It changed people for the better."

But a big question is whether the change lasts.

Freedom High had a "miraculous change" for about a week after the program, Poppino said. After that, the responsibility fell on those kids who took part to keep the momentum going.

"There would be moments when somebody would say something in class and it would be the kid who went through Challenge Day to say, 'Hey, you shouldn't say that or do that.'"

Students are surprisingly in touch with their emotions, said Sela Gaglia, who has worked for Challenge Day for 11 years.

Even when students are resistant, once they understand that the Challenge Day leaders are genuinely concerned, "the walls come down," Gaglia said.

Gaglia is optimistic about the impact the show could have on viewers and believes it will give hope to students who "really do believe that they're alone."

"If You Really Knew Me" airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m. Eastern.

Online: http://www.challengeday.org/mtv/

Talking Love With The Cast Of The Big Bang Theory

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(July 28, 2010) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.- The TV critics fall preview tour started off with a Bang Wednesday morning with the cast and creators of the hit CBS sitcom, Big Bang Theory.

The network kicked off its show sessions with its strongest returning comedy — so strong in fact that they are moving it from its Monday-night berth to anchor a new Thursday-night comedy block.

Creator/producer Chuck Lorre seems quite deliberately ambivalent about the move. “It’s not my job and nobody asked my opinion,” he said flatly (but then, Lorre says everything flatly).

“Frankly, you know, one assumes they’ve given it a lot of thought and it’s a good thing for the show. I mean, given where we are now after three seasons, I’d be crazy to argue with the choices that CBS has made along the way.

“Our job is to make a good show. It’s not to program the show. You know, we grow the crops. We don’t drive the truck that brings it to market.”

The Bang move is clearly intended to prop up what many consider to be the worst new sitcom of the season, the unfunny William Shatner vehicle, $#*! My Dad Says. That will also effectively eliminate any possibility of a Shatner guest cameo on the nerd-centric Bang.

“That’s complicated now, because now he’s playing a fictional character,” said Lorre. “There’s William Shatner the actor. There’s William Shatner the character on, I believe, $#*! My Dad Says. And then there’s Captain Kirk. So there’s a reality issue there that might become difficult.”

Apple founder Steve Wozniak is a definite possibility. Star Trek: The Next Generation star Wil Wheaton will return as Sheldon’s arch-nemesis, as will Mayim Bialik as his potential “love interest” — in as much as that concept could even apply.

“I think I might have said no for sure six months ago,” allows Jim Parsons, Sheldon’s real-life alter-ego. “I wouldn’t hold anything past anybody at this point. I never thought we’d even stumble upon a female that he communicated with. And we did that.

“Is he going to get it on?” he asked Lorre.

“They’ll have a very specific . . . a very unique relationship,” the producer offered enigmatically.

But when it comes to Sheldon love, you will find none more passionate than that of the fans at last weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con, where at least a dozen different T-shirts bearing his likeness were being bought by the bushel.

“That’s disturbing,” Parsons confessed. “It’s really odd.”

When the Bang cast first came to the convention at the end of their first season, they weren’t sure what to expect. They needn’t have worried. The show’s quartet of geek poster-boys — and one pin-up girl — were immediately embraced by the faithful as some of their own.

“We didn’t know what our reception would be,” admitted Parsons. “And the second and third times . . . I find that I underplay it in my head: ‘Oh, it will be nice again.’ And then it’s always a little bit overwhelming.

“I think it is distinctive of our fan base. They’re the sweetest, least psychotic bunch of people I’ve ever met. You know, it’s never disturbing to run into these people. For me, at least.”

He turned to co-star Kaley Cuoco. “Have you been okay?”

She hesitated before answering. “I . . . survived.

“But no, it was great. I mean, honestly, we do get extremely touched when we do that panel there.”

“Literally,” injected Parsons. “Someone jumped through security . . . ”

“And was actually touching you,” Cuoco confirmed.

“But not in a bad way,” he insisted.

“But really,” she said, “they’re just so touching. They really are amazing. They love the show. And we’ve all promised that we would go back every year that we’re on.”

“It’s like a pep rally,” suggested Parsons.

“It's a great way to start each season, you know, being shot out of that,” added Johnny Galecki, Parsons’ onscreen roommate and Cuoco’s on-again, off-again onscreen boyfriend.

The question of the romantic status of Cuoco and Galecki’s attracted opposites is one that consumes the fans of the show.

“They are very different.” Lorre conceded. “So it was built into their characters that it would be a difficult relationship. It seemed natural that the relationship would perhaps come together, fall apart.”

“I think it was super realistic,” Cuoco said, suddenly sounding very much like the perky Penny. “I mean, relationships are up and down, and people get together and they break up, and they’re not friends and they’re friends. I mean, you know, this stuff happens all the time. You never know what's going to happen with them.”

“Maybe it might come together again,” offered Lorre. “We don’t know. We really are not that far ahead.”


Halle Berry Booked for 'The Simpsons'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 26, 2010)  *
Halle Berry is headed toward the animated town of Springfield, USA. The Oscar winner is set to make a guest-appearance on “The Simpsons” when it returns for its 22nd season in September, the show’s executive producer Al Jean revealed to Entertainment Weekly. Berry will appear as herself in an episode where Homer and Bart win an Academy Award of their own. Other upcoming Simpsons guest stars include Paul Rudd, “Flight Of The Conchords” duo Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

SYTYCD’ Star ‘tWitch’ Lands Two Films

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(July 28, 2010) *”So You Think You Can Dance” alum Stephen “
tWitch” Boss has just booked two new roles for Trimount Pictures. In the first, “Perfectus,” Boss will play Marcel X, a superhero mutant who sets out to save what is left of the destroyed planet. Malcolm McDowell, Tom Savini, Elise Avellan, Electra Avellan and Danny Trejo also star in the project, which is scheduled to begin production in the fall. Boss then will star in Trimount’s “Ushers.” Boss next appears in Disney’s “Step Up 3D,” which opens Aug. 6, and “Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming,” which comes out on home video in September. The runner-up on Season 4 of Fox’s “Dance,” Boss now appears as an all-star in the current season.


Love, Loss And What I Wore: Awesome Women, Funny Stories

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

Love, Loss, and What I Wore
(out of 4)
By Nora and Delia Ephron. Directed by Karen Carpenter. Until Sept. 4 at the Panasonic Theatre, 651 Yonge St.

(July 28, 2010)  Clothes may make the man, but they define the woman.

That’s just one of the truths you’ll take home with you from the often hilarious, often touching, always enjoyable show called
Love, Loss and What I Wore that opened at the Panasonic Theatre on Wednesday night.

It all began with a woman named Ilene Beckerman who decided to tell her life history in terms of the various clothing she had worn at key moments in her life. She drew pictures of the dresses, wrote down the stories and put them into a book.

Her tale is a charming one, just tart enough to be different, but sweet enough to be familiar, and Louise Pitre is the one who delivers it on and off during the evening, with her familiar knowing smile and instant ability to access emotion making her the perfect narrator.

But it doesn’t end there, because Nora and Delia Ephron took Beckerman’s original work and used it as the jumping-off point for a witty and wise examination of how a woman’s wardrobe serves as the way she remembers her life.

There are four other equally awesome actresses sharing the stage with Pitre, who deliver a whole antiphonal series of choruses about the role of different items of clothing in their lives: the sweater, the prom gown, the high heels, the wedding dress.

And there’s also a series of individual stories that run the gamut of ages, classes and types of sexuality.

None of the women move from their stools, where they refer occasionally to the scripts on their music stands. It’s not a stilted reading, but a full performance, placed in a format that allows the material to stand out.

Andrea Martin is front and centre, using both her well-known comic skills to make a monologue about buying the perfect bag come to hilarious life. Her lock-jawed imitation of a friend who spends close to $6,000 on a “Grace Kelly” Hermes satchel, only to have it ruined in the rain, is priceless.

But Martin is also a performer of more subtle skills, as when she turns her speech about the loss of a favourite shirt into an unmistakable parable about the perfect man who got away.

And throughout, it’s sheer delight to see the way Martin can raise one hand and bring down the house with laughter.

Mary Walsh also has a nice commanding presence, not being afraid to confront some of the script’s edgier material, both funny and serious. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Walsh describe visiting a lover in prison with pants equipped for dalliance courtesy of a hand-designed slit.

But, just like Martin, Walsh is good for more than a good time. She delivers one of the show’s final telling speeches, about how a woman survives a complex mastectomy and reconstruction by concentrating on the wire-cup uplift bra a friend has purchased in advance: the first she’ll ever need in her life.

“I started out with A-minus cups,” her character says, “but I wanted to go all the way to Baywatch.”

Sharron Matthews plays a subtler game, showing us a whole world of characters who aren’t happy with the body they’ve been given and wish that whatever dress they’re wearing came in a different style, a different size, or preferably in black.

She has her finest moment in the sun when she plays a difficult young woman whose well-meaning but interfering mother searches the country for the right wedding dress, ending in a moment that’s as real as it is warm and fuzzy.

Paula Brancati completes the quintet, demonstrating her gift for quiet sarcasm and throwaway humour, flipping us with zinger after zinger about problems with wardrobe.

But she, too, finally turns the tables with a seemingly breezy speech about a girl who was hopelessly, superficially in love with her boots and miniskirts, until one tragic night ended it all. Brancati can switch the mood instantly, and brilliantly.

Is Love, Loss and What I Wore terribly profound? No. Its observations are ones that everybody in the audience has noticed or known before.

But they’ve probably forgotten them over the years, which is why it’s good to rediscover that the whole wealth of human experience can be summed up and shared by the communal attitude to a poodle skirt.

It’s a show that wears well and leaves a pleasant glow, but on the way home, my wife suddenly snapped to the realization that no one had coped with one of the truly dark issues.

“Bathing suits,” she said. “They didn’t dare do those.” 

Send In The Clowns

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Matthew Hays

(July 23, 2010)  Montreal — Not so long ago, suggesting someone should run off and join the circus constituted a pejorative one-liner.

How times have changed. Now, people associated with the highest of art –
Robert Lepage is the most obvious example – are routinely working in the circus form. This is nothing short of revolutionary, given that a quarter of a century ago the circus was at best an anachronism, at worst a couple of hours of low-rent kitsch that parents were obliged to tolerate. And the recuperation, rehabilitation and reinvention of the circus has happened in large part due to innovations that were Quebec-born.

The province is now showcasing a broad range of international circus talent in the inaugural edition of Montreal’s latest summer festival,
Montréal complètement cirque (MCC). Created by the Montreal-based circus umbrella group TOHU, the festival runs to July 25 and features the work of over 100 circus performance artists from across North America and Europe.

One of MCC’s organizers and an executive from Cirque du Soleil, Gaetan Morency, says the establishment of such a festival was inevitable, given Quebec’s high profile in the international circus milieu.

“The Cirque du Soleil tours a great deal,” he says. “This is a way of turning that around. We wanted to show other circus companies and the public just how diverse the circus acts have become. This is a good way to develop the art – through synergy.”

Morency says that Quebec has become intricately connected to the international nouveau-cirque movement – a new breed of circus acts that have pushed the art in novel directions: “The absence of traditional circuses here has meant that people felt freer to innovate and experiment. There were no traditionalists – there was no one to tell anyone what to do or what not to do.”

Jeannot Painchaud, founder and general manager of Cirque Éloize, points as well to Quebec’s broad penchant for cultural innovation. He suggests that a turning point in Quebec’s commitment to circus arts came in 1981, when the National Circus School opened in Montreal.

“With the work that the school did, that allowed many people to recognize the circus as an art,” says Painchaud, who is himself a graduate. “The circus isn’t really just about entertainment,” he adds. “Circuses can be a way of revitalizing a community. The circus is halfway between sports and art, so if children are having trouble choosing, they don’t have to.

“The circus is an easy way for kids to express themselves. If they learn to juggle a few balls, for example, that can be good for their confidence. It’s easy and fun to put a routine together. … When I was a teenager, I lived in a small community. I wasn’t into hockey. I wasn’t into dance, either. The circus was something in between that I could enjoy working at.”

And of course, Quebec’s circuses have moved beyond the fusion of art and entertainment: They have also become big business.

Famously started by a group of street performers who managed to receive a small government grant in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has morphed into a world-famous franchise that reigns over Vegas, where it has seven shows. It has even inspired a Simpsons parody (in which Homer complains about the absence of animals at Cirque’s circuses).

It is a bigger cultural export than Celine Dion, with 21 permanent and touring shows performing simultaneously, attracting 15 million spectators a year, and generating $800-million in sales (and approximately $100-million in tax revenue). All in all, a potent argument for the value and potential of government funding to the arts.

“Montreal has become a capital for the contemporary circus, or the nouveau cirque,” says Painchaud. “This is a good time to show the public circuses from abroad, and to bring tourists to Montreal to see what our circuses are doing. Eighty per cent of the shows the Cirque Éloize does are touring outside of Canada. It makes sense to have some reciprocity.”

Painchaud points out that international delegations are frequently sent to Quebec to see how the rise in popularity of circus arts has changed the local economy and culture. “People seem to arrive every couple of weeks from various governments, all of them curious about how things are done here,” he says.

“In Buenos Aires, they are converting some abandoned factories into a circus space. They are doing this based on our model. It is a very good way of helping poor communities reinvent themselves.”

Special to The Globe and Mail


Glee Coming Soon To A Wii Near You

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(July 23, 2010)  While you may not be a hardcore Gleek, it’s hard to deny a karaoke-based video game based on the hit television show
Glee sounds like a perfect idea.

This week, Konami and Twentieth Century Fox confirmed
Karaoke Revolution: Glee (konami.com/kr/glee), a Nintendo Wii exclusive coming this fall that lets you interact with the music, characters and performances found in the first season of the mega-popular TV series.

I had some hands-on time with the game back in May, but was told they’d sick Coach Sylvester on me if I wrote about anything before the embargo lifted.

As you’d expect from such a game, Karaoke Revolution: Glee, which will ship with a wired microphone, lets you sing along to familiar songs from the show, and you’re graded on your performance. While a video plays in the background, you’ll see the lyrics appear on the screen, along with a pitch and rhythm meter that shows when to sing higher or lower and when to take a breath. Price, with microphone, will run about $50.

Belt out tunes sung by your favourite Glee characters, such as overachieving Rachel Berry (played by Lea Michele), football hunk Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), and of course, the Glee Club’s fearless leader, Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison). Konami says “up to” 35 songs will be in the final game, which suggests the exact number hasn’t yet been determined.

At Konami’s L.A. offices, I played around with the various game modes, which includes a quick one-song game, a story option that follows a character of your choice, and a couple of multiplayer modes, such as one that gives two players the chance to sing to sing as a duet or with harmonies.

As a bonus for hardcore Gleeks, the game will also have unlockable content, including video clips and information from the show.

Rock on (and on and on)

Speaking of music games, Rock Band 3 is ready for jamming on Oct. 26, according to an announcement from publisher MTV Games and developer Harmonix.

The third major sequel in this series (The Beatles: Rock Band notwithstanding) will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii ($59.99 apiece) and Nintendo DS ($29.99).

But this price is for the game only, for those who already own a guitar or drum peripheral or microphone from a previous (or compatible) game. No word yet on how much the keyboard peripheral — the biggest out of the new features — will cost, or if there will be a hardware bundle that includes one or more of the plastic instruments with the game.

Rock Band 3 will include 83 songs and will support all previous Rock Band songs and downloadable song packs.


Rodney Ramsey, Clifford Myers A Quick Burst Of Laughter

Source: www.thestar.com - Garnet Fraser

(July 23, 2010)  The biggest, and maybe the best, gig of his short stand-up career awaits
Clifford Myers on
Sunday. It couldn’t possibly be the worst.

“It was last year, at the Christmas party at my work,” says the 24-year-old. “They were told before I went on that they couldn’t have dinner until I finished,” he explains, recalling 20 minutes of booing “from very hungry, very angry telemarketers.”

Mostly, it’s been better news than that for the hirsute and heavy-set Hamiltonian. In less than a year of stand-up, he’s progressing from the nervous guy at a Yuk Yuk’s amateur night to the guy gracing the fabled Second City stage as part of an up-and-comers line-up called NBA Comics. Established headliner Rodney Ramsey follows a group of less heralded youngsters such as Nicholas Reynoldson, David Andrew Brent and Myers.

“I wanted for two years to have the courage to go on stage,” says Myers, who now has the poise to tackle crowds in stages around the GTA, armed with goofy material such as recounting his love for watching the show MythBusters:

“Me and my friends, we got a little drunky-drunk and decided to bust a few myths of our own, and no: Cats do not have nine lives. Some other myths we busted that night: beer before liquor does not make you sicker, but a shawarma before liquor does. And there’s no such thing as a bouncing baby boy.”

NBA Comics is Brent’s creation and it’s been putting on occasional showcases for “on the edge” new talent for a year and a half; Myers concedes his stuff is not really daring, unless you thought he was serious about the baby. He’s getting polished, though: he says he takes the stage three to five times a week, honing his stuff and, he hopes, nearing the day he quits the call centre. “That’s the goal right now.”

Just the Facts

What: NBA Comics Summer Fest 97

Who: Rodney Ramsey, Clifford Myers and more

When: 9 p.m. Sunday

Where: Second City. 51 Mercer St.

Tickets: $15 in advance at secondcity.com, $20 at the door


Comic-Con: Fewer costumes but too much to see

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(July 24, 2010)  Whether you have come to the
San Diego Comic-Con to work or to play, by the time you are barely halfway through your brain is well and truly fried.

There is just so much to see and do, so much of it so relentlessly pitched and so avidly consumed.

As the convention winds down Sunday, in an effort to give those who were here some perspective, and those at home a vicarious sense of the event, I offer the following quantifiable highlights:

Most popular costume: This is, of course, officially decreed at the must-attend annual Comic-Con Masquerade. It is less clear down on the convention floor, which seemed a little more sparse than in previous years, where Spider-Men, Ghostbusters and Pirates of the Caribbean crowded the hallways and meeting rooms.

This year, the Star Wars Stormtroopers seemed to have commandeered the Con. There were also original-era Star Trek uniforms of every official hue. There seemed to be an infinite number of Batmen and many pinafored Wonderland Alices and dippy, Depp-y Hatters. And of course the customary colourful subsect of styrofoam-enhanced anime heroes and sailor-suited schoolgirls.

Prurient Internet interest would seem to have heightened the demand for hot girls in skimpy superhero Spandex, adding to the already sizeable contingent of gold bikini Princess Leias.

Most popular T-shirt By far, the variant images of Jim Parsons' Big Bang Theory ubernerd Sheldon Cooper. Personal favourite (and yes, I bought one), the Comic-Con exclusive “Sheldon Cooper: One lab accident away from being a supervillain.” Honourable mention to the promo tee for the Blu-ray Alien box set: “Need a Hug?”

Wackiest freebies: The Eastbound and Down baseball cap, complete with curly mullet attached. Props again to the Alien campaign, with its handout face-hugger on a stick. Honourable mention to the incredibly goofy-looking yet undeniably popular purple Galactus cardboard crown.

Hardest Working Men at Comic-Con: Oddly enough, the stars of our current video clip, Will Ferrell and Seth Rogen, each with two films being showcased, the former with Megamind and The Other Guys, the latter with Green Hornet and the Comic-Con road comedy Paul.

Honours and anniversaries: Tribute was paid to genre icons Ray Bradbury, Roger Corman, Stan Freberg, Jerry Robinson and children's TV pioneers Ruby & Spears and Sid & Marty Kroft. Birthdays were celebrated for Krazy Kat (100), DC Comics (75) and Peanuts (60).

Weirdest con-floor collectible: Star Trek colognes such as Shirtless Kirk, Sulu pour homme, Vulcan Pon Farr and one specifically for the doomed red-clad security officer, “Because tomorrow may never come.”

Coolest car: The Tron light-cycle was sexier, but all eyes were on the Green Hornet's authentically retro matte-black 1966 Chrysler Imperial (although, to borrow a phrase from Kick-Ass, “in the picture it didn't have Gatling guns”). Incidentally, 23 of these cars were apparently destroyed during the making of the film.

Most ubiquitous signageTron had the concession on lamppost con co-promotion; Spartacus cornered the pedicabs; and Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World was the dominant building billboard. But Showtime took to the buses with an inventive campaign for their in-house “anti-heroes” — Dexter (Splat!), Nurse Jackie (Pop!), Californication (Bang!) and Weeds (Puff!).

Special acknowledgment must be made of San Diego's civic initiative to have street signs in the vicinity of the convention centre all translated into Klingon.

Fan-favourite TV series: A four-way tie: Dexter, Doctor Who, True Blood and Big Bang Theory.

Most anticipated movie:Tron, only slightly ahead of Scott Pilgrim. Most dubiously dreaded: Green Hornet.

Most ambitious off-site event: Jackass 3D and Piranha 3D added a new dimension to hardy partying, and Green Hornet gets points for inventive venue, converting an old candy factory into a garage filled with vintage cars. But Robert Rodriguez did them one better with an outdoor Machete screening in a parking lot.

Worst-kept secret: Angelina Jolie's “surprise” opening-night appearance; Saturday night's official unveiling of the entire Avengers actor line-up.


We Remember: NFL Great Jack Tatum Dies at 61

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(July 28, 2010)
*Ferocious NFL safety Jack Tatum, the three-time Pro Bowler with the Oakland Raiders who once said “I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault,” died Tuesday of a heart attack, according to reports. He was 61.

Known as “The Assassin,” the Ohio State alum had battled diabetes and other health problems for years, according to his college teammate John Hicks.

Despite three Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl victory with the Raiders, Tatum will perhaps be best remembered as the Raider off whom the ball bounced to Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the “Immaculate Reception” [see clip below] and as the player who delivered a hit to Darryl Stingley during a meaningless 1978 exhibition game that left the New England Patriots player a quadriplegic for life.

The hit led directly to the league’s emphasis on safety that continues today.

Even before the incident, Tatum was known for his vicious hits on a Raiders team – run by Al Davis and coached by John Madden – that thrived on its fearsome image.

Tatum grew up in Passaic, N.J. and had little interest in organized sports until high school. He grew to love football and was offered a scholarship to Ohio State under coach Woody Hayes.

Tatum was drafted in the first round by the Raiders in 1971. In nine seasons with the team, he started 106 of 120 games, had 30 interceptions and helped the Raiders win the 1976 Super Bowl. He played his final season with the Houston Oilers in 1980.