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May 20, 2010

Not trying to wish life away but it's almost
JUNE, which means warmer weather, pools, bbq's, summer fun! 

Listen, why not kick it off  with a ticket to next week's
Hope House Fundraiser to help raise funds for 100 girls from the red light district of Calcutta. For the price of a ticket you have an amazing night of entertainment, food and fun, including artists Maestro Fresh Wes (Williams),

Ivana Santilliand DJ Rekha.  Did I mention that tickets will include two beverages, catering by Babaluu Supperclub, Cheesecake Lolli's and Couture Cupcakes?  Enter a world inspired by India's magic with Fantasy Lounge, Fortune Tellers and Tarot Card readers, a Maharani's Salon (Henna Beauty Bar & Make-up Artistry), Fashionistas Shopping Haven, Photography Expo, and much more!  Great date night while giving back! 

I sent you an eblast this week about a new artist (to Canada) called
Waylon who hails from Holland and the first Dutch artist to be signed to Motown.  Check out photos of his first Toronto show in my PHOTO GALLERY

I kept in my RECAP from last week as the theme and message are still resonating with me and Scot has had tons of positive feedback from kids who he's affected.  An incredibly powerful and healing experience -
Vision Warrior performance by Scot Robinson (New York). 

Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

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


Hope House Fundraiser With Academy Award Winners - THURSDAY, MAY 27th

Source:  Hope House

Special offer just announced!  $100 per ticket and BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE (2 tickets for price of one, one drink per person) for this sensational fundraiser! Just put your guest's name in the Box when you purchase your $100 and you will receive an extra ticket at the door. 

Basement Bhangra - Thursday, May 27th

I want to invite you to one of the most anticipated fundraisers and one in which I am personally involved. The
Hope House fundraiser was inspired by the Oscar winning film "Born into Brothels" and we are raising money to build a wonderful project to help 100 girls from the red light district of Calcutta (www.kids-with-cameras.org/school/). 

We have a terrific line-up for the evening including:
In Attendance
Join Born into Brothels Academy Award winning
Director Ross Kauffman and Executive Producer Geralyn White Dreyfous in helping to build Hope House and helping girls from the red light district of Calcutta.
Exclusive engagement with Hip Hop legend
Maestro Fresh Wes from Los Angeles performing classics and new music (Let your Backbone Slide!).

Rare appearance by Juno nominated singer
Ivana Santilli performing the latest from her upcoming album "Santilli"
World renowned
DJ Rekha (as seen on CNN and David Letterman) from New York City with Dhol Circle drummers.
Catering by Babaluu Supperclub, Palais Royale, Foodtrends, and Couture Cupcakes.
Includes two drink tickets.

And that's not all!  Enter a world inspired by India's magic with Fantasy Lounge, Fortune Tellers and Tarot Card readers, a Maharani's Salon (Henna Beauty Bar & Make-up Artistry), Fashionistas Shopping Haven, Photography Expo, and much more!
Facebook Page 
Join our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=118675501480585&ref=mf
VIP Indian Garden Party
Find out more about our VIP Indian Garden Party http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/toronto/ 
If you would like to make a donation in lieu of attendance, please visit http://torontohopehouse.eventbrite.com/ or complete the attached pledge card.

THURSDAY, MAY 27, 2010
Palais Royale
1601 Lake Shore Boulevard W.
8:30pm – 12:00am
Dress: Stylish and chic
To buy tickets visit HERE

$100 per ticket and BRING A FRIEND FOR FREE (2 tickets for price of one, one drink per person).


Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Protests Drake Video

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 17, 2010) *Jamaican tourism officials are a little upset with the new music video from Drake.

The clip for “Find Your Love,” which premiered this week, shows the rapper/singer being captured and presumably shot by a Jamaican gang whose leader is played by dancehall star

Edmund Bartlett, the Caribbean country’s Minister of Tourism, said artists should be mindful that the message that is conveyed about Jamaica is wrong.

 “Care has to be taken by all, including our creative artists, in portraying images of our destination and people,” Bartlett told the Gleaner. “Gun culture, while not unique to Jamaica, is not enhancing (the island’s image).”

The video, shot in April in sections of Kingston and St. Andrew, stars Drake as a foreigner who falls in love with a woman who is romantically linked with a gangster named Puffy, played by Mavado. The video begins with Drake being warned by an elderly Rastaman to stay away from her.  Drake, however, ignores the advice and continues to pursue the woman, eventually becoming intimate with her.

Puffy finds out about Drake’s transgressions and instructs his “dogs from the gully” to kidnap the rapper. Soon, Drake is surrounded by Puffy and his men — and the gangster instructs his woman, played by video model Maliah Michel, to “done him.”

The video ends with the woman apparently pointing the gun at Drake’s head before three shots are heard ringing out synched to the words “Find Your Love.” Drake is not actually shown being shot.

Mavado’s manager, Julian Jones-Griffith, said that while he understands the concerns of anyone who might have a problem with the video’s content, he believes Mavado is just playing a role and that the creators of the music video came to Jamaica with a concept.

“The concept that they came up with, where did they come up with that? If Mavado did not do it, another Jamaican actor would have done it,” Jones-Griffith told the Gleaner. “There are a broad range of issues which need addressing if people from California want to portray a love story like this.”

Teen TFC prospect Zac Herold forced to “retire”

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard

(May 17, 2010) Teenager Zac Herold, a second-round draft choice for Toronto FC last January, has announced his retirement from soccer after the discovery of a heart condition.

The 17-year-old American defender has Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM, which causes abnormal thickening of a part of the heart muscle, the club said in a news release.

Under strenuous exercise there’s a risk of developing a potentially fatal irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia. Significantly restricting exercise is the only way to cut the risk.

“Announcing my retirement from soccer at this age is something I never, ever thought would happen to me,” Herold said in a statement. “This news was very hard to take but I know it’s the best decision for me and my health.

“My parents have been with me every step of the way and it means so much to me that I’m able to retire as a Toronto FC player.”

The club announced Herold will be honoured in a ceremonial coin toss before Saturday’s game at BMO Field between TFC and the New England Revolution.

TFC general manager Mo Johnston said the condition was discovered early in the pre-season during routine screening. Follow-up tests were done in Canada and the United States to confirm it, he said in a statement.

“Our hearts go out to Zac and his family,” Johnston said. “It’s a very difficult situation.

“We felt it was the right thing to do by honouring him in front of our fans and give them a chance to show their support.”

Herold, a Floridian, was taken in the second round, 24th overall, of the 2010 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. He was a regular with the U.S. Under-17 national team, making 15 appearances, 13 as a starter. He also played for the U-15 and U-14 teams.

Bolt Wins 100 In 9.86 Seconds At Daegu

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(May 19, 2010) DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA—Usain Bolt won the 100 metres in 9.86 seconds in his season debut at the Daegu meet Wednesday while Canadian Perdita Felicien was third in the women's 100-metre hurdles.

Bolt's time was 0.28 seconds off the world record of 9.58 he set at last year's world championships in Berlin, but he shaved 0.08 seconds off Tyson Gay's 2009 meet record of 9.94.

Jamaican countryman Michael Frater was second in 10.15.

"That race was really wonderful," Bolt told South Korean television network MBC. "I really loved it and I'm looking forward to next year because it was full of energy."

He said he came to South Korea to run in Daegu Stadium and determine what he should work on when he returns to the venue for next year's worlds.

"There is a high possibility of me setting a new world record next year," Bolt said.

He skipped the opening Diamond League meet in Doha, Qatar, last week but has entered Sunday's Diamond League meet in Shanghai.

American Ginnie Crawford won the women's hurdles in 12.77 seconds while teammate LoLo Jones was second in 12.78. Felicien, a native of Pickering, Ont., was third in 12.80.

Carmelita Jeter won the women's 100 in 11.00 followed by Beijing Olympic gold medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica in 11.05.

Ryan Bailey of the United States won the men's 200 in 20.58, and two-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor won the 400 with 45.21.

German hammer thrower Betty Heidler came first with 75.28 metres, beating world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland, who was fourth with 71.86, more than six metres below her record. Sultana Frizell of Perth, Ont., was fifth with a throw of 71.23.

The meet, broadcast live in 3-D, was enjoyed by Seoul citizens on large television screens in city centre plazas.

A Tale Of Three Canadians

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(May 19, 2010) Halifax director Noah Pink was about one year old when Atom Egoyan made his first feature film, Next of Kin, in 1984.

When Egoyan had his third feature, Speaking Parts, invited to the Cannes Film Festival in 1989,
Xavier Dolan was about two months old.

This year, Egoyan returns for his ninth Cannes trip, this time as president of the festival’s Cinéfondation and Short Film Jury. Twenty-one-year-old Dolan is back for his second year in a row, with his new love-triangle film Heartbeats (Les amours imaginaires), and Pink, 27, has brought his film Zed/Crew, about a Zambian rapper trying to make it in New York, to the short program of the Directors’ Fortnight.

When there’s reaction to your film outside your country, it can make your country exist. — Xavier Dolan

On Tuesday afternoon,
the three filmmakers sat down at the Canada Pavilion to talk about what Cannes means to Canada. The event, moderated by Tom McSorley of the Canadian Film Institute in Ottawa, and sponsored by Telefilm Canada and the Canadian embassy in Paris, was titled "Speaking Parts: Atom Egoyan in conversation with the next wave of Canadian filmmakers.” Only in Canada, perhaps, would two filmmakers make a wave, but it was a rare opportunity to consider Canadian film from a multigenerational perspective.

Egoyan recalled living in an apartment at College and Spadina in Toronto, reading about Cannes in The Globe and Mail and thinking “that’s what I would love to do.”

Coming to Cannes, he said, “is a physical feeling to be surrounded by cinephiles and people who are excited about film. I watched the standing ovation for Xavier’s movie on YouTube. That kind of experience is overwhelming, and although films like this are having a hard time nowadays, while you’re here, it all seems possible.”

Dolan recalled watching films in Montreal that had screened at Cannes, “and they were these great, inspiring movies. That’s why I wanted I Killed My Mother to be at Cannes because I thought, ‘If I can get there, I can touch this dream.’

“When I got here and my first film was received warmly, I realized that such a little film with a little budget wouldn’t merely exist, and go to a DVD shelf, but it could really live.”

Pink: “I went to the Directors’ Fortnight and they showed Xavier’s photo and Atom’s name, along with Bresson, Scorsese and Coppola, and on and on, all these filmmakers who I aspire, one day, to be on their level. It’s beyond a big honour to be here, it’s surreal.”

Egoyan: “For all the perils around [Canadian cinema], we’ve made an incredible body of work. We should be proud of auteur cinema. It’s not a dirty word. There was a story in a Montreal paper, and the writer said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with making films like Avatar.’ Well, of course, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s almost cruel to suggest we should make films like Avatar when we don’t have the mechanism for it. We shouldn’t forget, James Cameron is a Canadian, raised in Kapuskasing, but for the kind of film he wanted to make, he had to go there [to Hollywood] to do it. If you have that dream you go there.”

Dolan: “When there’s reaction to your film outside your country, it can make your country exist ... its voice, its space, its art ... and I hope that over the years I can be part of this history.”

Pink: “People said, ‘Noah, don’t lose yourself when you’re there [in Cannes],' but I think exactly the opposite.”


Vision Warrior – Changing Lives

I have to tell you about the one-man show that had a drastic and changing affect on me.  Scot Robinson’s
Vision Warrior is a theatrical lecture presentation conceived and performed by film and television actor Scot Anthony Robinson.  Now, this is a dude that acted in such movies as Clockers, New York Undercover, Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, New Jack City and Mo' Better Blues.  Scot gives a graphic tour of his descent into a life of drug and alcohol addiction, a nightmarish downward spiral which left him homeless in 1992 on the streets of Los Angeles and New York. 

Here's a little taste of what his show is about in this recent commercial for a drug-free America:

I attended his most recent lecture, and first Canadian performance, in Oakville last Saturday morning at the Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID)’s annual conference.  I thought I was going to support my friend, Scot and his life-changing work for high school kids. 

What transpired was not only witnessing the re-enactment of his “raw, frightening, ironically funny” story but also an aggressive attempt to pierce your world with truth and love and accountability while confronting issues like ‘experimentation’ with alcohol and drugs, low self esteem and stress.  He immediately commands attention in the room by calling out those not giving him their complete attention.  It reflects the passion that Scot has for Vision Warrior and for the love he has for youth, while trying to save their lives with his message of how to avoid common yet dangerous missteps in life.

It became apparent quickly that this was NOT simply a message for youth.  I was deeply moved and affected by his message, applicable to every race, age group and demographic.

In the past 17 years over one million educators, young people and their families throughout the United States have shared the electrifying experience of
Vision Warrior.  It was a thrilling experience and one that I will not easily forget but instead apply to my life.  That is the challenge.

While his website is being completely redone, you can still check out and/or reach Scot at www.visionwarrior.com 


2010 World Cup: On ‘Africa’s Richest Mile’ Soccer Is King

Source: www.thestar.com - Adrian Brijbassi

(May 14, 2010) JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA—So you want to make sure your World Cup experience is a safe one?

No better way to do that than to follow Sepp Blatter.

The 74-year-old head of FIFA, international soccer’s governing agency, will set up at
Michelangelo Towers in Sandton, an opulent Johannesburg neighbourhood that’s been referred to as “Africa’s richest mile.” Blatter and 23 other executive members of FIFA will stay in the apartment-style rooms at the Legacy Hotels property whose smallest suite is 800 square feet.

Steps from them, 200 more FIFA members will lodge at the Michelangelo Hotel, another five-star gem attached to the Sandton City shopping centre, a massive complex with about 300 retailers. Sandton City is so big (1.5 million square feet and expanding) you could fit eight malls the size of Yorkdale in it.

You’ll find high-end retailers as well as global staples such as Toys R Us and Virgin Mobile; plus doctors, dentists, a trendy nightclub and a movie theatre. A rapid rail system, the Gautrain, is scheduled to have a new Sandton stop completed before the World Cup starts on June 11. When finished, the Gautrain will shuttle visitors from O.R. Tambo International Airport to Sandton City in about 20 minutes.

Once there, private security abounds. The mall’s guards are approachable and eager to help, as are the staff at the hotels and restaurants. Any visitors determined to take no risks while in Johannesburg never have to venture from the complex. Even if they’re in town for the World Cup, they can arrange for transportation to and from the hotels to either Soccer City Stadium or Coca-Cola Park (formerly Ellis Park Stadium), the two venues in Johannesburg that will host games. Both arenas are about a half-hour drive from Sandton City.

The mall is an example of a Johannesburg phenomenon. With the high crime rate and a downtown area that has gone the way of Detroit, people have few areas where they can walk without feeling guarded. Sprawling shopping complexes, with their contingent of private security guards, provide an alternative. Along with Sandton City, popular malls include Melrose Arch and the gambling-centered Montecasino.

“You find out where you can and can’t go at night, and the malls are one of those places that allow you to walk around where you don’t have to worry,” says Brian Green, an information technology manager for McCain Foods, which is headquartered in his hometown of Florenceville, New Brunswick, and has a branch in Johannesburg. Green relocated to South Africa in 2006 and says places like Sandton City give people a needed sense of security. “In general, though, if you just listen to the locals you’ll probably be safe.”

Sandton City adjoins Nelson Mandela Square, which has 10 restaurants that overlook the outdoor public space that’s dominated by a six-metre bronze statue of the patriarch of new South Africa. Not only are the restaurants well-regarded, they’re also bargains for North Americans thanks to the favourable exchange rate ($1 Canadian equals 7.34 rand).

The pad thai at Wangthai costs 79 rand ($10.75). Large and delicious, it had succulent prawns and peanuts mixed in with the noodles rather than loaded on top. The grilled baby Kingklip at Montego Bay was an eye-opener. Having never heard of the whitefish, I expected something flaky like cod or bland like haddock. Instead, it was buttery and sweet, easily sliding off the bone. Although not quite as tasty as halibut, Kingklip was still a culinary highlight.

I didn’t make it to the famed Butcher Shop & Grill, but no one I spoke to questioned its reputation as one of the finest steak houses in South Africa. During the filming of Invictus, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon were among the notable diners.

At Michelangelo Towers, the breakfasts at 8, the restaurant on the lobby level, were outstanding. Pancakes with poached eggs and smoked salmon came to 47 rand ($6.39).

While FIFA will hole up at the Towers and adjoining hotel, other World Cup guests will stay at Sandton City properties such as Rafael Penthouse Suites, another luxury hotel in the mall. InterContinental, Radisson and Holiday Inn locations are also part of the complex or within a few steps of it.

What Sandton City and Johannesburg’s other ritzy malls have accomplished is the creation of a resort feeling within a city of eight million. A visitor can stay ensconced in the posh facility and never have to encounter the blight and poverty of one of the world’s most notorious big cities.


Just the facts


Michelangelo Towers Phone: 011-27-245-4000; email: towers@legacyhotels.co.za

Rafael Penthouse Suites Phone: 011-27-245-6000; email: raphael@legacyhotels.co.za


Montego Bay Phone: 011-27-883-6407; email: montegobayrestaurant@mweb.co.za

Wangthai – Phone: 011-27-784-8484


Johannesburg will host 15 of the 64 games in the tournament, including the opener on June 11 between South Africa and Mexico, and the championship match on July 11.


Toronto Singer’s Glee Audition Catches Perez Hilton’s Eye

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 17, 2010) Things are pretty Glee-ful for Jeigh Madjus these days.

The 26 year-old Toronto performer thought he was just taking a cheeky crack at success when he posted a YouTube video of himself earlier this year as an audition for the popular TV show Glee.

(Catch it yourself at bit.ly/dgeU5R)

But he didn’t count on the power of chance, the Internet and Perez Hilton.

Hilton, the cybersnoop and entertainment guru, got wind of Madjus’s video and tweeted about it on May 10. Before then, Madjus’s family and friends had just squeezed the viewings into four figures, but by May 16, his cyber-audition had racked up over 20,000 hits.

Considering that Glee received 28,000 audition videos when it sent out the call and that the average one was viewed by only about 700 people on the net, Madjus must have hit some hot buttons with the viewing public.

The Filipino-Canadian’s turn co-opts the kind of high-school locker scene that Glee adores, allowing him to sing Jennifer Hudson’s “Love You I Do” to a picture of the character of Kurt (Chris Colfer), the only openly gay character on the program.

Considering that Glee was one of the works caught up in the hurricane started by the now-infamous Newsweek article about gay actors playing straight, Madjus’s choice to play gay in his audition was both bold and wise.

“As an artist you just have to put yourself out there,” said Madjus on the phone from Halifax, where he’s currently appearing as one of the Lost Boys in Neptune Theatre’s production of Peter Pan. “That’s why it’s called acting. Everyone will have an opinion about what I do and there will always be two sides to those opinions. I’m ready for it.”

Madjus hasn’t heard from the people at Glee yet, but his fingers as still tightly crossed.

“What I’m really banking on,” he giggles, “is for Ellen or Oprah to take me on. That would be fantaaaaaaaaaastic!”

Why does he want to be a part of Glee?

“What I get most from that show is the love of music,” he says, “and that’s what I feel stronger than anything else in my life. I want to be able to share that with people.”

And if he gets his wish, our loss will be Glee’s gain.

Jazz Musician Hank Jones Dies at 91

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 17, 2010)  Jazz pianist and composer Hank Jones, a musician who has made hundreds of recordings and played with the likes of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, has died, his manager said Monday. He was 91.

Jones, whose 70-year career included a 2009 Grammy lifetime achievement award and a 2008 National Medal of Arts, died Sunday night at a New York hospital after a brief illness, Jean-Pierre Leduc said.

Born in Vicksburg, Miss., and raised in Pontiac, Mich., he was influenced by such legendary pianists as Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Nat King Cole.

He began performing at age 13, playing with territory bands that toured Michigan and Ohio. During those tours he met saxophonist Lucky Thompson, who helped him land a job in trumpeter Hot Lips Page’s band in 1944.

After moving to New York in 1943, Jones embraced bebop and toured with Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic from 1947-51. As part of the ensemble, he became Ella Fitzgerald’s pianist, touring with her from 1948-53.

In 1962, he accompanied actress Marilyn Monroe on the piano when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. In a 2005 interview on National Public Radio, he described that day.

“She did 16 bars: eight bars of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ and eight bars of ‘Thanks for the Memories,’” he said. “So in 16 bars, we rehearsed eight hours. … She was very nervous and upset. She wasn’t used to that kind of thing. And, I guess, who wouldn’t be nervous singing “Happy Birthday” to the president?”

He also worked with such consummate musicians as Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Milt Jackson and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. He joined CBS as studio pianist, a position he held for 17 years, performing on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and others.

His most recent recordings were “Pleased to Meet You,” an album with pianist Oliver Jones and an as-yet untitled recording of spirituals with bassist Charlie Haden, due out next year, Leduc said.

Below, Hank Jones performs solo at Carnegie Hall — April 6, 1994 — as part of the Verve 50th anniversary celebrations.

Nas Meets Marley: Musical Cousins Make A Big Noise

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Distant Relatives
Nas and Damian (Jr. Gong) Marley

(May 17, 2010)  Music isn’t interested in celebrities or the status quo – thank god for that. On the anthemic My Generation, the most monumental of the 13 songs on this
Nas-Damian Marley collaboration, children clap a beat and sing, “my generation can make a change.” The track features the rap legend Nas, the reggae star Marley, the British soul singer Joss Stone and the gold-toothed hip-hop artist Lil Wayne. But it is the kid-chimed chorus that shouts the loudest and most stirringly, vividly recalling the grand and elegant “we can change the world” plea of Graham Nash’s Chicago, from 1969.

A whole lot has been made of the pairing of Nas, New York’s poet laureate of hip hop, and Jr. Gong Marley, the final son of Mister One Love. The duo memorably united on the 2005 track Road to Zion, and this full album has been profoundly hyped for its exploration into the shared African roots of reggae and rap.

Nas and Marley have made a truly collaborative effort. It’s extremely accessible and grandly preaching, but less ambitious than something like Troubadour from the Somali-Canadian K’naan (who makes two cameos here).

That being said, Dispear – which plays on “despair” and “this spear” – is audaciously done, with a sort of Lion King vibe but a brash beat, and a reoccurring sound effect of a sword being pulled from its sheath.

What’s fascinating about this record is the good cop/bad cop lyrical interplay – a thoughtful, almost seamless weave of Nas’s bold stances and Marley’s gentler brand of outrage concerning modern society and the much-considered situation of Africa, seen as a “black oasis” and a “sleeping giant” where land is plentiful and needn’t be fought for. Consider Dispear: While Marley points out that “this spear nah beg friends,” Nas answers with “I have no fear when I hold this spear.”

On the funky album-opening As We Enter, the two kings introduce themselves with swapped lines, horns, and a deliciously retro-Amy Winehouse organ. It deserves a place on the next Guy Ritchie soundtrack, applied to a party-starting scene with a hooded thug (“I got the gun” ) and the smiling Rastafarian ( “I got the ganja”). Later in the song, speaking to universality, the two swap pleasantries in Swahili.

The heavy-beat reggae of Land of Promise plods like a stylin’ fat man in dreads. Marley imagines a rich Africa, in terms Americans can understand: “Lagos like Las Vegas” and “Angola like Atlanta.” Nas is darkly prophetic, forecasting an apocalypse that will be survived (“pass around the bud and watch the flood”).

The chorus stresses that promises aren’t guaranteed, and won’t come without hard work. Nas and Marley have put in some righteous labour already, changing the world one culture-reuniting song at a time.  

Gay Radio Firings Spark Listener Protests

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(May 17, 2010) Toronto’s queer community is up in arms over the firing May 5 of four marquee stars of Proud FM 103.9, the world’s first commercial gay and lesbian radio station.

Fans of the popular hosts have set up a Facebook page, Proud FM The Shame Of Toronto, on which more than 1,600 listeners have vented their anger and protested against the station’s actions. The administrators of the page claim the firings “leave our LGBT community without a true voice on the radio.”

Dance artist Nancy Rancourt has also urged other musicians in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to join her “loyalties outweigh royalties campaign” and ask Proud FM to withdraw their music from the station’s roster.

On-air hosts Deb Pearce, Patrick Marano, Shaun Proulx and Mark Wigmore were sent email termination notices after refusing to meet individually with station executives over several issues they wanted to discuss, including pay raises and advertising policy.

They asked for a group meeting instead on May 3 but were turned down, Proulx told the Star. They were notified of their dismissal two days later.

The notices cited breaches of employment agreements, he added.

“I have never signed an employment agreement,” said Proulx, who co-hosted the afternoon drive show with Pearce for the past three years.

His fiancé, Marano, co-hosted the popular four-hour morning show, earning $24,000 a year.

“We still don’t know why this happened,” said Proulx, “We had a laundry list of radio basics we wanted to discuss with management, but they wouldn’t even hear us out.

“Money was only a very small ingredient in our list of concerns.”

Also on that list was a gripe about the insertion, without consultation, of advertorial content into their shows, Proulx added.

“It wasn’t just a list of complaints. We notified the program director that we had solutions to these problems as well, and wanted their input. I know the radio business is brutal, but I never thought it could be this brutal.”

Because the four hosts filed a joint wrongful dismissal suit against station owner Evanov Radio on Thursday, station management refused to comment, referring inquiries to the company’s in-house legal counsel, Sean Moreman.

Moreman did not return calls.

Proud FM applied to the federal broadcast regulator recently for permission to boost its signal from 50 watts to 128 watts, and asked listeners to support their plans. The station issued a statement last week refuting speculation that it was planning a format change.

“Ideas have been mentioned that the community has been duped, and that management intends to convert the station to a mainstream, straight format,” it said. “Rest assured these rumours are unfounded.

“Although it is understandable that there is confusion among listeners at this point, we are confident that once all the facts have been revealed to the public, (listeners) will be satisfied that there is no ulterior motive behind these staffing changes.”

Justin Bieber Needed Coaching To Be Swaggerific

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Warren Clements

(May 19, 2010) Justin Bieber, who has the power to drive hordes of girls into a frenzy, does things in a swaggerific way. At least, that’s how the 16-year-old Stratford-born singer described an element of his professional life a few months ago. “I have a swagger coach that helps me and teaches me different swaggerific things to do,” he said. The official title of the coach, Ryan Good, is road manager, but uni-named singer-songwriter Usher, who took Bieber under his wing, hired Good because, in Good’s words, Usher “thought Justin would benefit from being around a cool white boy.” And if there’s one thing the world of pop music needs more of, it’s performers who swagger.

Swagger appears to have derived from swag, which began life in Middle English as a bulging bag. By the 1700s, it was slang for a thief’s loot; in 1838, in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, Fagin said, “It’s all arranged about bringing off the swag, is it?” By the 1960s it referred to the promotional gift bags performers like Bieber would receive from sponsors or record companies. “Check out the fun bag of swag we gave our BTL Awards guests!” exulted the magazine Cosmo Girl! in 2006.

Fans of Banjo Paterson’s 1903 song Waltzing Matilda know about the Australian “swag,” a 19th-century coinage again springing from that early bulging bag. “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a coolibah tree.” The swagman is a tramp, and the swag is the bag containing all his earthly goods. Michael Donner’s palindrome encyclopedia I Love Me, Vol. I offers the phrase “Swag we gewgaws” – reads the same backwards and forwards – and translates it as, “Our Australian way of carrying baubles is distinctive.”

The unwieldy nature of the bulging bag led by the 1500s to swag as a verb, meaning to sway in an ungainly manner. “I swagge, as a fatte persons belly swaggeth as he goth, je assouage,” Jehan Palsgrave wrote in 1530. By the end of that century, Shakespeare was using “swagger” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the modern sense of parading oneself with overweening confidence or arrogance. “What hempen home-spuns haue we swaggering here/ So neere the Cradle of the Faierie Queene?”

If Bieber grows tired of learning to swagger, he could turn his attention to strutting, though he should make sure in hiring a strut coach that it’s not a structural engineer who deals with load-bearing bars and beams. Both strut the beam and strut the swagger derive from a Germanic root that meant project or protrude. Chaucer used the verb in the late 1300s in A Miller’s Tale, one of his Canterbury Tales, saying a man’s hair “strouted as a Fanne, large and brode.” The verb’s sense of bulging and protruding evolved by the 1500s into the image of a puffed-up human putting on airs and walking stiffly with a superior air. As an aside, strut has nothing to do with the archaic exclamation “’Struth!” That’s short for God’s truth, just as the expression “Gadzooks!” is a contraction of God’s hooks, referring to the nails on the cross.

In his public pronouncements, Bieber is less swaggering than he is suave, in its original sense of gracious and agreeable. Suave derives from the Latin suavis, meaning sweet and pleasant, and can be traced back further to the Indo-European base suad, which, like so many such roots, bequeathed a truckload of words to English and other tongues, including sweet and persuade. From suad the Greeks got hedone, pleasure, the source of hedonism, which many pop stars know all about. Suad also produced a word used in that earlier Palsgrave quote, assuage, meaning to calm, appease or relieve. It originated in the Latin ad (toward, signifying change) and suavis (agreeable): thus, to make more agreeable.

As for suave, between the 1500s and the 1800s the adjective evolved from sweet and agreeable to charming, urbane and sophisticated. Maybe it had a swagger coach.

Peggy Lee Is Hot Again

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(May 17, 2010) Music buyers still have the fever for Peggy Lee.

Perhaps best known for her smooth, sultry 1958 cover of the rhythm-and-blues hit “Fever,” the pop-jazz singer, songwriter and actress, who died in 2002 at age 81, has returned to the Billboard Top 200 album chart hit for the first time since 1970.

A Starbucks compilation of Lee hits and lesser-known tracks, Come Rain or Come Shine, sold 10,000 units the first week after its release April 20, and landed at No. 51 on the pop chart, and No. 2 on the jazz-album chart.

“She is also on the charts over in the U.K. right now,” added Lee’s granddaughter, Holly Foster-Wells, who is vice-president of Peggy Lee Associates, which supervises her grandmother’s estate. “A Serbian DJ named Gramophonedzie just did a remix of (Lee’s star-making 1943 smash) ‘Why Don’t You Do Right?’ and it is on the charts in the U.K., in Belgium and the Netherlands.”

Lee also provided the inspiration for a recent tribute album, Canadian jazz piano-vocalist Carol Welsman’s I Like Men: Reflections of Miss Peggy Lee, which USA Today critic Elysa Gardner picked as one of the five best albums of 2009.

Noted Welsman, “The reason why (Lee’s) music lives on is because she had this timeless thing about her that came through her music and also her look. She was hip then and she is still hip now.”

Foster-Wells said new collections of Lee-catalogue rarities are under construction, and that she’s hoping a big-screen Lee biopic will soon come to fruition.

“I just think she was sexy,” said Foster-Wells. “She understood a lyric. When she sang a song, you really believed what she was singing. That resonates with people today as well as it did 40 years ago.”

A Trophy Turns The Tide For Dominic Mancuso

Source: www.thestar.com - John Goddard

(May 15, 2010) “No clichés,” he vowed when recording the worn Italian classic, “O Sole Mio.”

The song almost demands to be performed grandly, operatically — a suitor comparing his lover's face to the sun — but
Dominic Mancuso interpreted it tenderly, like a lullaby.

He sang it as though to his newborn child, an astonishing rendition that helped him win this year's Juno Award for best world-music album, the only Italian-language disc ever nominated in any category.

“That piece was the most difficult of the whole record,” he says of the Neapolitan hit from 1898. “Just a delicate little touch on the guitar. I felt entirely exposed.”

At 41, born and raised in Toronto, Mancuso has been building an audience through a weekly residency at Lula Lounge, the city's premier world-music venue.

Every Friday since January, he has cultivated a following with his broad range of musical styles, variety of musical guests and energetic, almost boisterous, stage presence.

The Juno boosted his efforts.

Invitations to summer festivals have poured in — “from Kamloops to Charlottetown,” he says — and agents have dropped by to ponder his international potential.

“All I ever wanted to be was a hockey player,” he says of his teenage self one recent evening after a show, “until somebody ran a stop sign and I jackknifed on my motorcycle and fractured my seventh vertebra.

“I had to rehabilitate for a good year,” he says. “I took up an instrument to keep my sanity.”

Mancuso took up bass guitar. On finishing Grade 13, he played clubs in rock bands for six years. In 1994, he entered York University's music program, switching to acoustic guitar.

Three years later, he followed Tania Cologna, now his wife, to northern Italy where she studied piano and for several months he became a type of wandering troubadour.

“That's when I really started to play guitar and sing,” he says.

Making a record in Italian sprang from an urge to pay homage to his parents and their generation of Italian immigrants.

“They came here in the 1950s, post-World war II,” Mancuso says. “And they weren't just people from my (Sicilian) hometown. They were from various regions and that (Toronto) community was family to me.”

For the album, he chose songs in various Italian dialects. He picked nostalgic pieces, such as “O Sole Mio” and “Menamenamo,” and more contemporary numbers of singers he admires such as “Caruzo” by Lucio Dalla and “Je So Pazzo” by Pino Daniele.

But the album is North American, not Italian, Mancuso says.

“I'm embracing North American instruments like the B-3 organ,” he says. “I'm playing jazz harmonies. I'm doing little funk approaches and taking some New Orleans shuffle-funk meters and rhythms, and juxtaposing them on old Sicilian melodies.”

He titled the work Comfortably Mine. One of the first people to embrace it was Lucy Pillitteri-Friesen, of the Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and of Sicilian background.

“The whole feeling of his music, it wasn't something he had to explain to us,” she says of one reason why the company gave away 10,000 Mancuso albums in a wine promotion last year, getting it circulating.

After a Quebec tour, Mancuso's Lula Lounge residency resumes June 4.

Former Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead Tour Manager Writes Memoir

Source: www.thestar.com - Geoff Pevere

(May 14, 2010) On the morning of Dec. 5, 1969, Sam Cutler woke up in a hotel in San Francisco and realized it hadn’t been a dream. Altamont, the free concert featuring the Rolling Stones that Cutler had helped ‘organize’ — a loose term, under the circumstances — had indeed taken place. A gun-toting teenager had been killed by Hells Angels just feet from the stage, and Cutler had watched it happen. The Stones had hightailed it back to Europe within hours of leaving the stage, leaving Cutler, who had begun his gig as the band’s tour manager little more than a year before — a service he’d subsequently provide for the Grateful Dead — alone in the aftermath.

In his just-published memoir You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Cutler writes: “The following morning, I turned on the TV and every channel was full of the Altamont concert: the fact that four people had been killed and many others injured, the damage to the farmers’ livestock and the missing miles of fences, the wrecked and abandoned cars littering the highways, the missing, the injured.”

He knew he had to do something, and fast. And he did, observing tried-and-true rock ’n’ roll tradition: “My first decision was to sneak out of the hotel without paying.”

More than 40 years later, Sam Cutler grins over coffee and scrambled eggs in a Toronto breakfast joint. He knows the city well, or once did, having organized The Grateful Dead’s participation in the legendary Festival Express’ tour of 1970. That began here, and it did not end up well. Not quite so disastrously as Altamont perhaps, but a notch or two short of glorious. (The tour, which took a trainload of artists like the Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin and Buddy Guy from Toronto to Winnipeg in 1970, was plagued by poor ticket sales and negative publicity.)

At 68, Cutler is now a practising Buddhist who, aptly enough for someone so famously tied to the road, lives out of a van in Australia. And he is not only reconciled to such events— he was also rather unceremoniously bumped to the curb by the Dead, and never got a penny of the promised post-Altamont support from the Stones — he’s positively beatific. There is no rancour or resentment in his book, no determination to settle accounts or get his back. Instead, You Can’t Always Get What You Want is marked by a tone of wry acceptance, as though written by someone lucky enough to have had such a terrific front-row centre seat for the spectacle of his own life.

“I don’t mind going back to anything,” he says in a voice that itself sounds like several thousand kilometres of well-worn blacktop. “I don’t make a distinction between happy and unhappy memories, or sad or glad memories. I view everything that’s happened to me with a sense of a kind of bemused wonderment. One of the beauties of being an author is that you can choose the position you take in terms of your point of view. I think you can do the same thing in life.”

The reason it took Sam Cutler, who studied history in university in England, 40 years to provide his own account of what happened at Altamont, was this: the calming clarity of time. He needed to get the proper perspective on events, to divorce himself from the madness of the moment so that he might not only understand what really happened, but what it meant to him and why it had to happen. Although decades have intervened, he believes he can see more clearly now than ever.

“That comes about with the beautiful benefit of the time frame, you know what I mean?,” he says. “You don’t have that when it was only two days ago and you were watching somebody being f-cking murdered in front of you. You tend to be slightly hyper about the whole thing and it’s just too intense to be to absorb and process.

“It’s a bit like old love affairs,” he muses between forkfuls of egg. “Sometimes it takes a long time to get over them — if you ever do — and to learn from them.”

There was a time when Sam Cutler was held responsible: The debacle at Altamont had happened because he’d hired the Hells Angels for security — not remotely true, incidentally — and everything would have turned up Woodstock-rosy, if only Cutler hadn’t let the devil seep in through incompetence and mismanagement.

If those charges hurt, and they must have, Cutler now looks back on them as part of a necessary growth process. Altamont wasn’t his fault. Or anybody’s really: not the Stones, not the Angels, not the so-called ‘organizers,’ and certainly not the thousands of kids who simply indulged in their generational entitlement to get as wasted as possible. But maybe that’s where we might find some kind of accounting, not in a generation but in the myths that deluded it.

On this, as in many things in his book, Cutler is especially thoughtful and eloquent. Here he writes about that day and what it was like to witness it unfold: “The ‘peace and love’ my generation had so assiduously promulgated as the antidote to the violence and hypocrisy of ‘straight’ society was a hollow miasma. This was not a community intent on caring for and loving one another. Before me was the ugly truth of what we had collectively wrought, manifested in greed, blood, drug overdoses, spilled guts, and hatred. The peace and love generation was busy smashing itself to bits.”

Nevertheless, Cutler believes his world has turned exactly as it should. He has made his peace with all and everything – including the Stones, who he would not encounter for more than 30 years after that day — history has largely vindicated his role at Altamont, and he is now free to be what, in his heart of hearts, he always wanted to be: a writer. “I’ve seen everything that’s happened to me as a great kind of gift,” he says. “The gift of life. You know what I mean?”

Before excusing himself for a cigarette, Cutler extols one last time on the issue of making peace with the past. “The fact is,” he says, “You can’t always get what you want. Truer words were never spoken. Good old Mick.”

Talisker Players: Illumination Of The Highest Order

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Ken Winters

Talisker Players Chamber Music
Meredith Hall, soprano
Lawrence Wiliford, tenor
Stewart Arnott, reader
At Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre In Toronto on Tuesday

(May 14, 2010) The
Talisker Players ended their Toronto season Tuesday evening with an enterprising concert crowned, in a blaze of glory, by a 26-year-old Benjamin Britten’s soprano-and-string-orchestra setting of Les Illuminations, a set of verses by a similarly youthful Arthur Rimbaud, then the enfant terrible of French poetry. The soprano Tuesday in the Britten was Canadian Meredith Hall, in the full pride of her exceptional abilities.

The Talisker Players are a flexible group of string players formed to explore that intriguing but under-encountered niche of the chamber repertoire which blends their own instrumental art with the art of the singer. The title of their 2009 CD tells it nicely and names their sponsor: Where Words and Music Meet – Talisker Players at Massey College.

Tuesday at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre they gave us four works in which they -- and we – had the pleasure of their collaboration with two of the best singers around: Hall and tenor Lawrence Wiliford. Hers was the voice in the Britten and two of Harry Freedman’s Poèmes de Jacques Prévert; his, in Gerald Finzi’s Dies Natalis, settings of four lyrics by the 17th-century metaphysical poet and ecstatic Thomas Traherne, and Andrew Ager’s From the Rubaiyat to poetry attributed to the Persian philosopher and astronomer Omar Khayyam. Prefacing each of the works, actor Stewart Arnott read, with simple eloquence, aptly chosen excerpts from Teaching a Stone to Talk and For the Time Being by Annie Dillard, and from The Outermost Dream by William Maxwell.

To Freedman’s enchanting soprano and string-quartet settings of the Prévert poems, Hall brought limpid vocalism and a touching sense of the freed wonder and humour of childhood.

Wiliford’s singing of the Finzi cantata about the holy birth had all the articulately intuitive rapture the music longs to convey. The work itself strives humbly and with utter sincerity to inhabit the extravagant ecstasy of Traherne’s verses, and is often cited as Finzi’s masterpiece. But some shortcoming in the invention of its string-orchestral scoring inhibits the inspiration, the creative wish, and keeps it earthbound.

Despite solid attractions, Ager’s setting for tenor and string quartet of nine Rubaiyat verses in a single continuity suffers in a different way from a similar shortcoming, needing rhythmic variety, clear glimpses of space, strong contours of invention, glinting evidences of singular imagination, to give it memorability. Again, Wiliford brought his rare gifts to bear on the vocal line and the four Talisker core players could not easily have been improved upon, but the work disappointed a little.

But many works are doomed to disappoint a little in the dazzling company of Britten’s Les Illuminations. This work of crystalline genius recreates the string orchestra to encompass the astonishing poetic visions of Rimbaud, matching them with irresistible rhythms, stark, thrilling lines, fierce freshly imagined textures, amazing invention, distinctive profiles of sound, inspired alleviations of space and silence. You also never lose track of, or interest in, the revelations of the poet, the singer, the voice.

Soprano Hall entered fully into the wonders of her delectable role, which the young Britten designed for the Swiss-born soprano Sophie Wyss. In a note to Wyss, Britten wrote “Les Illuminations, as I see it, are the visions of heaven that were allowed the poet, and I hope the composer.” I think guest conductor William Rowson, Meredith Hall, the expanded string orchestra of the Talisker Players, and the gratified, glowing audience must have felt very much the same about them in Tuesday’s performance – a signal achievement in the group’s civilized, questing endeavour.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Taylor’s Swift Ascent

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(May 19, 2010) Unlike the depiction in her 2009 video “You Belong With Me,” Taylor Swift is no longer the lovelorn girl in the bleachers.

With a pair of 18,000-seat Air Canada Centre concerts this weekend that sold out within minutes of being announced, the 20-year-old native of Wyomissing, PA arrives in Toronto as one of the 21st century’s biggest — and bona fide — stars.

With only two albums behind her — 2006’s Taylor Swift and 2008’s Fearless — Swift has been one of the few who has managed to expand her devoted country music following into that of a global pop phenomenon.

Even if you just count North American sales, the figures provided Monday by Nielsen SoundScan, the computerized music retail tracking systems — 11.6 million albums in the U.S. and more than 27 million song downloads (with 639,000 of those CD sales and 937,000 of those downloads originating from Canada) — Swift has evolved into one of the most consistent retail anchors of a music industry struggling to remain relevant.

Although her supernova seems to be escalating by the minute — on April 30 she was named Proctor & Gamble’s newest CoverGirl and last week, the prestigious Songwriters Hall of Fame announced she’ll receive the Hal David Starlight Award next month for being a young songwriter who is making an impact — Swift has earned her laurels honestly.

The only daughter of Alison and Scott Swift first showed such ambition and initiative at the age of 11, visiting Nashville’s Music Row and dropping off tapes in the hope of gaining her first record deal.

It didn’t take her long to get interest: two years later, she signed an artist development deal with RCA Nashville (now Sony BMG).

“When she was signed to a demo deal, it was very apparent that Taylor — even at age 13 — had amazing potential and a unique style,” said Renee Bell, Sr. VP, A&R, Sony BMG Nashville via email.

Swift’s parents relocated their family to a Nashville suburb so their daughter could realize her dream, and Taylor pursued it in earnest. She was signed to Sony/ATV Music Publishing at 14 and then aggressively pursued older songwriters to partner with her.

Some balked at her young age, but Liz Rose, a 50-something songwriter, was an exception.

“I met Taylor when she was 14,” Rose recalled in an earlier interview. “We met at a writer’s round. She asked me if I wanted to write, and we started writing. Through that deal and through her label, we wrote every Tuesday at 4 p.m. after she got out of school.”

The partnership continued throughout the recording artist’s formative teen years, and Rose, co-writer of the Swift smashes “Tim McGraw,” “Picture To Burn,” “Teardrops On My Guitar,” “White Horse,” and “You Belong With Me,” says the duo just clicks whenever they’re in the same room.

“She just plays and starts singing words, and I just help her put it all together. I basically write down what she says and I move it around,” says Rose, adding that songwriting sessions usually lasted two hours.

The opportunity to land a full-fledged recording deal came at 15, with Swift signing to Nashville music executive Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records.

After Fearless began winning such accolades as the Academy Of Country Music Awards Album of the Year, Universal Music decided to give Swift an international push — and in a similar strategic move that helped make Shania Twain a worldwide superstar — released a hybrid version of Taylor Swift and Fearless throughout Europe, Asia and South America in 2009, with “Love Story,” cementing the deal as a global chart-topper.

With a knack for writing romantic confessionals that resonate with her following and a new album expected in October, Taylor Swift’s fairy tale existence shows no signs of abating.


Nina Simone Biopic to Star Mary J. Blige

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 14, 2010) *
Mary J. Blige is stepping up her acting resume after staring in Tyler Perry’s “I Can Do Bad All by Myself,” and will be capturing the essence of Nina Simone’s biopic.   The multitalented heroine of a singer will play the legendary jazz pioneer in Cynthia Mort’s “Nina,” according to reports.   The biopic will focus on Simone’s long lasting relationship with her assistant Clifton Henderson, who will be played by David Oyelowo.   Henderson was beside the legendary singer when she passed away at the age of 70 in 2003 at her home. He has also provided some of the biographical information that will be used in the film.  “She inspired other singers to do what they believed in,” Henderson said, saying the musician would also be remembered for her activism. “She’ll definitely be looked at as a civil rights movement leader.”  The film will be shot in France in September and has been allocated a budget of $10 million.

Jay-Z and Eminem Team for Hometown Shows

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(May 13, 2010) *
Jay-Z and Eminem have announced a pair of September shows to take place in both rappers’ hometowns. Hip hop’s power duo attended Wednesday night’s New York-Detroit baseball game at Detroit’s Comerica Park, Eminem’s home turf. They announced to the crowd they’d be playing a concert at Yankees Stadium on Sept. 13. Eleven days earlier, though, Jay-Z will be back in the Motor City to rock Comerica with Eminem. They made the announcement during appearances on several television broadcasts of Wednesday night’s game, according to the Associated Press. The New York gig will be the first concert to be held at the new Yankees Stadium. Jay-Z performed his New York-centric anthem “Empire State of Mind” before Game 2 of the World Series at the previous Yankee Stadium.

Nelly Recruits Usher, Foxx for Upcoming Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 17, 2010) *
Nelly has reportedly enlisted the assistance of Usher and Jamie Foxx for his upcoming album “5.0.” According to AOL, Janet Jackson, P. Diddy and Akon are also said to be featured on the rapper’s sixth CD. Earlier this year, Nelly revealed that he and Kelly Rowland have teamed up again to record a sequel to their 2002 duet “Dilemma.”

Drake, Hedley, Bieber Top MuchMusic Award Nominations

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 18, 2010) Drake has nabbed a leading seven nominations for next month's MuchMusic Video Awards. The June 20 awards show will be held only a few days after the Toronto rapper drops his long-awaited debut Thank Me Later on June 15. Vancouver's Hedley is close behind Drake with six nominations while 16-year-old teen-pop sensation Justin Bieber earned four nods. Other nominees include Adam Lambert, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, who will host the streetside bash with a team of Much VJs. Bieber, Cyrus and Perry are also set to perform at the show.

Canadians Score Several BET Nods

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(May 18, 2010) Toronto — Canada will be well-represented at this year's BET Awards. Toronto R&B singer Melanie Fiona nabbed four nominations for the 10th annual awards bash, while fellow Toronto native Drake took three nominations plus another for his Young Money group. Fiona's nominations include best female R&B artist, best new artist and video of the year (It Kills Me). Drake, meanwhile, is up for best male hip-hop artist and has two nominations for best collaboration (for Successful and Forever). He'll also perform during the show. Sixteen-year-old pop sensation Justin Bieber of Stratford, Ont., also landed one nomination (best new artist) while Somalian-born, Toronto-raised hip-hop artist K'Naan is up for best international act. Jay-Z has the overall lead with five nominations heading into the show, which will be hosted by Queen Latifahon June 27 in Los Angeles.

Boney James Injured in Car Crash

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 18, 2010) *Reps for Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist Boney James say he has canceled a show after being struck by a suspected drunken driver in Long Beach, Calif. James was said to be driving home from a jazz festival in Newport Beach on Saturday when his car was rear-ended while he was stopped in traffic on the 405 freeway, reports the Associated Press. Passers-by pulled him from the car. He was hospitalized with a fractured jaw, two broken teeth and a gash on his chin that needed 14 stitches. He has been released from the hospital but canceled a Friday show in Columbia, S.C. James is married to Lily Mariye, who played nurse Lily Jarvik on TV’s “ER.”

Music Insiders Not Feeling New Jennifer Hudson Tracks

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 18, 2010) *The New York Daily News is reporting that Jennifer Hudson has been forced back into the studio after her first round of new songs received lukewarm feedback at a recent industry event. According to the paper’s Gatecrasher column, J Records executive Larry Jackson played tracks from the Oscar winner’s sophomore CD at EMI Publishing’s recent upfront presentation for songwriters and producers in NYC. “The songs she recorded so far were mostly Euro-dance music suited for Rihanna or Lady Gaga,” according to a music insider who attended the event. “The producers and songwriters unanimously agreed the music didn’t fit Jennifer and encouraged Larry to send her back into the studio.” The dance-heavy musical direction reportedly blindsided the industry folk, who were expecting more of Hudson’s usual R&B flavoured material. The singer’s new sound was crafted by producer Rich Harrison, who’s resume includes hits for Beyoncé, ¬Jennifer Lopez and Mary J. Blige. “The consensus was that the songs were not so not J.Hud,” dishes the insider. A second source says: “She definitely had to go back into the studio. She’ll be adding some soulful, Aretha Franklin- and Gladys Knight-type songs to the CD.” Meanwhile a rep for Hudson insists, “We’ve received terrific feedback on the material,” and says the singer is only “in the beginning stages” of recording her album.

Bret Michaels Still Having Trouble Moving Lower Extremities

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 19, 2010) CHICAGO—Rocker and reality-TV star Bret Michaels says he's increasing his rehabilitation to twice a day after suffering a brain haemorrhage last month. Michaels said on Wednesday's episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, that he's still having trouble moving his lower extremities and has neck stiffness but that "each day gets better." The 47-year-old Michaels was recently released from a Phoenix hospital. He was admitted to a hospital April 22 complaining of a severe headache. The Poison frontman and Celebrity Apprentice finalist says he still has headaches but that they're to be expected. Michaels told Winfrey that after the haemorrhage he asked God "to let me live through this."

Wyclef, Kmart Treats Injured Haitians to Shopping Spree

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 19, 2010) *Wyclef Jean took three young Haitian amputees to $1,000 shopping sprees at Kmart after flying them to the United States to receive critical medical care. Earlier this month, the artist personally came out to welcome 17-year-olds Margarette Pierre and Chantal Mori, who each lost an arm, and 8-year-old Farah Maurice, who had her leg amputated, upon their arrival in New York. On Tuesday (May 18), he gave them an extra special treat when they were allowed to pick out whatever their hearts desired at Kmart up to $1000 apiece, courtesy of the retail chain.  “When you come from a country where you make $1 a day, giving them $1,000 is like giving them $10,000,” said Jean, a native of Haiti. “They need to know there are people like them and they’re normal. Today they’re not thinking, ‘I don’t have a leg.’ They’re just being kids and they’re happy.” The trio, whose trips are sponsored by Yele Haiti and the Global Medical Relief Fund (GMRF), will be flown to Philadelphia on June 3 to undergo complimentary treatment for their prosthetic limbs at Shriners Hospitals for Children.

VIDEO: The Dream Does Aaliyah’s ‘One in a Million’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 19, 2010) *Singer and producer, The-Dream will be releasing his cover of Aaliyah’s timeless slow jam, “One in a Million.” No word yet on where the song will make its debut, but rumours have it the song released on his upcoming mixtape, “Love Sessions.” Now, you may be frowning at the thought of Dream singing such a sweet melodic song. You are not alone. Bloggers wrote some bad reviews and aren’t too excited for the cover. So the singer took the time to Tweet a response to all his haters out there. “No one will ever [sing] Aaliyah’s ‘One in a Million’ like she did! Deff not me lol,” he wrote. “I did it because I [really] miss her still and it was out of respect! Ito her I’m still just a fan not a writer not an artist a Fan! Calm down the worlds not over. But [at least] y’all will remember how dope she was and still is to this day!” Listen to Dream’s ‘One in a Million’:


Jennifer Hudson’s Life Revealed on ‘Behind the Music’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 19, 2010) *VH1’s “Behind the Music” will be chronicling the life, music, and world of
Jennifer Hudson set to premiere June 28.  The hour long episode will be include commentary from Ne-Yo, Randy Jackson,  fiancé David Otunga, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Whitney Houston, Robin Thicke, and Clive Davis.   From Hudson’s humble beginnings and close knit family to her rise to stardom on American Idol, “Behind the Music” will uncover the singer’s ups, downs, tragedies, and triumphs.   For the first time on camera, the singer will share the painful memories of her life, including the triple murder of her mother, brother, and nephew. Now a mother herself, she will share the joys of raising her son.

Jay-Z to Release Another Greatest Hits Collection

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 19, 2010) *
Jay-Z has announced that he’ll release his fourth greatest hits album next month, although a track list as yet to be decided. The artist, who dropped his 11th studio album “Blueprint 3″ last year, used his official Web site to reveal plans for the new compilation, titled “The Hits Collection Vol. 1.” Jay-Z has previously released three official greatest hits albums: “Chapter One: Greatest Hits” in 2002, “Bring It On: The Best Of Jay-Z” a year later, and “Greatest Hits,” released in 2006. “The Hits Collection Vol. 1″ will be released on June 29. 


Quebec’s Xavier Dolan Shows He’s No Fluke With Second Cannes Film Festival Showing

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 16, 2010) CANNES, FRANCE - The love may be illusory in Quebecer Xavier Dolan’s (Heartbeats), but the applause at the Cannes Film Festival certainly hasn’t been.

The film received a lengthy standing ovation following its world premiere Saturday night in the Debussy Theatre, where it screened as part of the Un Certain Regard program in the festival’s official selection.

The clapping and cheering continued even as writer/director/actor Dolan, Canada’s main flag waver at Cannes this year, left the Debussy accompanied by his co-stars Monia Chokri and Niels Schneider. In just one year, Dolan has established himself as the country’s fastest-rising film auteur.

The 21-year-old Dolan might have been expected to take a break after winning three awards here last year with his debut feature, J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother), which he also wrote, directed and starred in.

Instead, Dolan plunged into another project, a film about obsessive love that he began writing while on the train to Toronto to promote J’ai tué ma mère at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival.

Advance word on Les amours imaginaires had it as the story of a ménage à trois between Dolan’s character Francis and friends Marie (Chokri) and Nicolas (Schneider).

This proves to be a bit of tease, but then so is the film, in the best possible sense. It is true that Francis, Marie and Nicolas are never far from a bed, but the permutations of their passion take many forms that don’t always add up to three.

The movie opens with a tone-setting quotation from French poet Alfred de Musset: “The only truth is love beyond reason.”

There is certainly no immediate reason why long-time pals Francis and Marie would fall under the spell of Nicolas, a curly blond Adonis type, resembling Robert Pattison of Twilight movie fame, whom they spot at a luncheon and wrongly assume to be something of a yokel.

Nicolas is from the country and grins readily at many jokes, while Francis, who is gay, and Marie, who is straight, are sophisticated cynics from Montreal.

It’s not long, though, before both Francis and Marie are imagining themselves entangled with Nicolas, who is far shrewder and more calculating than he appears.

He remains an obscure object of desire, making everyone guess as to what gets him off. Francis and Marie become increasingly determined to command his attention, marking time with one-nighters with other lovers who leave them unfulfilled and longing for Nicolas even more.

Nicolas does love spending time with Francis and Marie. The three engage in both city and country idylls, in which they smoke many cigarettes and make philosophical statements about life and love.

Dolan pulls off a nifty balancing act with Les amours imaginaires, which could easily have come off as a pretentious homage to such love-fixation classics as Truffaut’s Jules et Jim and Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love.

The past influences are clearly there, but Dolan makes his film his own with a lightness of touch that keeps the emotional turmoil from straying too far into despair. He and his equally talented co-stars are faster to smile than they are to pout.

Early on Dolan introduces the device of having other twenty something singletons talk to the camera about their own searches for love, which include online quests.

Dolan is making the point that everyone has or his or her own love fantasies that often don’t match reality, especially people who are still young enough not to have had their heart broken a few times.

Dolan adds art direction, costumes and editing to his bag of tricks this time, making Les amours imaginaires a real tour de force for him.

He gets excellent support, however, from cinematographer Stéphanie Weber Biron and sound technician Sylvain Brassard, who help managed the jumble of ideas, images, inventive camera angles and clever musical cues that seem to flow out of Dolan.

The filmmaker also gets a little moral support with a cameo appearance by Anne Dorval, who played his mother in J’ai tué ma mère.

Quite often with wunderkind cultural talents, you get a phenomenon known as the “sophomore slump,” where the follow-up to an acclaimed debut disappoints. With Les amours imaginaires, Dolan easily beats the jinx.

Expect to see the film later this year, most likely as one of the attractions at TIFF come September.

AVERTING ARMAGEDDON: Countdown to Zero, the latest gloomy forecast from the producer (Lawrence Bender) who brought the global-warming news with An Inconvenient Truth, is as depressing as a documentary can get.

Directed by Britain’s Lucy Walker, whose previous feature Waste Land was about finding art in garbage, Countdown to Zero is a grim catalogue of the many dangerous mistakes made during the nuclear age.

It is only a matter of time, the film’s many experts contend, before a terrorist, rogue government or careless military person sets off a nuclear holocaust that could kill millions of people in a matter of minutes.

It’s a lot easier now to make a nuclear bomb than it was in 1945, when Robert Oppenheimer’s Manhattan Project team successfully split the atom. The radioactive materials to fuel an A-bomb could be carried in a box the size of a six-pack of beer.

Efforts to stop clandestine shipments of uranium and plutonium around the world are largely fruitless, the film argues, because mechanical radiation detectors can be easily confused, even by something as benign as kitty litter.

The only good news in the film, which premiered Sunday, is that there used to be 60,000 nuclear warheads in the world and that’s now down to 23,000.

That figure could and should be reduced to zero, which is the aim of the Global Zero movement the film supports. Achieving that goal would ultimately make Countdown to Zero a feel-good movie rather than the scariest of predictions.

THE SECRET OF HIS SUCCESS: Woody Allen is back at Cannes again with a non-competing film about life foibles that he has entitled You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. His all-star cast includes Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Josh Brolin.

He told a news conference following Saturday’s premiere that the secret of his filmmaking success is all in the casting, not in his writing or directing. Allen’s actors essentially just direct themselves.

“If you hire the right people, you can give them the responsibility, and then keep your mouth shut and get your paycheque,” Allen said.

Common and Queen Latifah Are ‘Just Wright’ In New Film

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Ricardo Hazell

(May 14, 2010) *To watch some the celebrities that we enjoyed as young adults mature into full-fledged entertainers is a sight to see.  We’ve been witnessing Queen Latifah on the big and small screen for quite sometime and have been loving her music since before “Ladies First.”  

Common has been dropping conscious lyrics and waging artistic war against gangster rappers for the souls of the masses for well over a decade.  Honestly, his transition to film has been a bit more a surprise.  

EURweb.com was on the scene for the New York City press junket for “
Just Wright,” starring Latifah and Common in the lead roles.  It’s a crowd-pleaser as far as we’re concerned.  We asked Chicago’s Common why he felt the two meshed so well on the screen.

“I definitely felt that (Hip-Hop) helped us understand each other a little bit more,” Common told reporters. “But I really think Latifah and I had a special connection. Some things are just God given and I feel like we both have a certain sincerity about us and we both understand each other beyond Hip-Hop.  There’s certain things she’s interested in and I’m interested in and she’s just a beautiful person and it’s hard to not connect with Latifah.   I just wanted to make sure that I could come in a good creative place and just be natural with it.”

In Hollywood, most entertainers gush over their co-stars while the cameras and recorders are rolling even if they can’t stand the site of one another in reality.  But Common says he’s been feeling the love before Hollywood.  Heck, before he even had a deal.   

“I was here from Chicago, me and my guys. We were (in New York) for a new
music seminar and I had the name Common Sense at the time. We were
walking around and we saw a lot of different Hip-Hop artists that we saw on TV and we had a video camera at the time.  We were like ‘Man, that’s KRS-One and that’s Monie Luv’ and then we came across Queen Latifah and we asked would she say something on camera and she did.

“She was very nice and cool.  She was one of the only artists that did it and I remember it from that day and I still have the video tape.  It was one of those moments.  And I had already admired her from “Princess of the Posse” and “Ladies First” and to see her come from the sweet individual she was then to being even sweeter now?  She’s just a beautiful woman.”  

Common has the hood in his blood. He has Chicago in his blood to be more
specific and most kids in Chicago love basketball and dreamed of NBA glory.  Common says he was no different. In fact, he says “Just Wright” helped two of his dreams manifest.

“I grew up playing ball. I loved playing basketball.  My dream was to be in the NBA when I was young so this movie was like a dream come true because I really thought I was in the NBA for the 2 months I was doing this movie and to be a leading man in the film.  I got to have 2 dreams in one.”

OK, he did a movie about basketball.  But does that mean he truly has game?  We’ll let him answer that one.

“All the basketball scenes in the movie are me. I wanted it to be that way for many reasons.  For one, I wanted people to see my character and believe that he was a basketball player and I knew, for most guys, when they see guys playing basketball (on film) it needs to look real.  And, thank God, I’ve played my whole life so it was like preparation for this.”

Though Common considers “Just Wright” a shining moment in his basketball career, he was candid enough to remind reporters of a career low-light as well that took place on national television.

“I was in the celebrity NBA All-Star game two years ago.  It was like 5 seconds left and I got the rebound and I was turning around to shoot it to win the game and my shot got blocked by this girl.  So, after that happened and the buzzer went off, I just put my face in my shirt and my friends started texting me and saying ‘Don’t ever say you’re from Chicago no more!’  It was a WNBA player, and she was boisterous too.  I saw her downstairs in the parking garage and she was like ‘You need to work on your jumper.’  
That was an embarrassing moment.  That was the lowest point in my hoop career. This movie was like my redemption.  Now I’m like ‘Look at this 3-pointer I’m hittin’ on D-Wade right here.  

“When D-Wade came to me and was like ‘I’ve seen a lot of basketball movies
and you’re bringing it the realest right now’  my ego got kind of got swollen up at that point.  In my mind they were coming full defense, but they weren’t really coming at me.  There was also a part in the script that I kept scoring on Dwight Howard and one time he just batted the ball into the stands as if to say ‘In real life I’ll serve you.’”

Although Common seems to be tooting his own horn, and if you got to score on NBA All-Stars you would too, Queen Latifah tells EURweb.com that she actually had to convince him to be more cocky in the film.

“There’s certain scenes where I’m like ‘Man, you’re Common.  Girls throw
themselves at you! Be that dude!”  Sometimes I would just gas him up like that because he’s so humble.  I’m like ‘man, f-that! You Common!  Girls love you!’ You gotta be that dude sometimes and then you can turn back in to the other guy.  I would gas him up sometimes but he didn’t really need gassing because he’s so kind and sometimes he’s gotta be just a little bit cocky.   He really thinks he’s in the league now.”

Speaking of basketball, anybody who’s is a fan of The Queen knows of her love of the game.  She’s appeared in a few celebrity basketball games herself and, being from Jersey? C’mon son!  You know girls from New Jersey can ball!

“I did have the great fortune of playing on championship basketball teams when I was in high school.  For me, loving basketball and being a part of a basketball team taught me a lot about being a team player. What’s the difference between playing basketball and making a movie?  Well, you gotta get 150 people to work towards the same direction.  You can’t do that by being a despot. You gotta make everybody feel like they’re part of this whole effort.  You have to keep everyone motivated, or you can do it the booty way, but I’m not that person.”  

“Then there’s the other aspect of playing basketball and that’s composure.  
My coach always drilled that into me. We were a winning team.  We were like the Tennessee of Irvington, New Jersey when I was in high school.  You go through pressure situations but if you keep it together you can get through them.”  

“Just Wright” has been a labour of love for Queen Latifah and you have to love something if you’re going to wait as long as she did for it to get made.  Six long years, and a couple instances in which a yes slowly turned to a no.

“This film actually got green-lit twice at Disney.  Then it was a budget thing, then it was regime change.  Things would fall through, we’d go back, things would fall through then we’d go back again.  Then we took it to Fox Searchlight and they were like we get it. But then it was a budget thing again. I was like we gotta hurry up and make this move before I’m not sexy enough to make said movie.  We got it done.  We shot it last summer.”

And, fortunately for us, Queen Latifah has plenty enough sexy to pull it off.  The chemistry between the actors as very good, as we’ve stated before.  But you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about when you see the kiss.  You’ll know ‘the kiss’ when you see it.  What did she have to say about it?

“Mummy, the kiss was right.  It was just right!  It was juuuust right.”

OK, we supposed we can’t always get an in depth answer, so a straight answer will have to do.   

“Just Wright,” from Fox Searchlight opens this weekend in theatres nationwide. Starring Queen Latifah, Common, Paula Patton, Pam Grier and James A Pickens Jr., it’s more than just entertaining and is definitely worth a watch.

Mike Myers’ Second Act

Source: www.thestar.com - Pamela Chelin

(May 16, 2010) From the 1990s to the early 2000s, one couldn’t turn around without hearing a Mike Myers catchphrase like “No way!” “Way!” or “Yeah, baby!” Things are different now, and if that bothers Myers, it doesn’t show.

Myers, along with fellow Shrek cast members Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas attended the press conference for the fourth, final and 3D Shrek movie — Shrek Forever After — Friday afternoon in Los Angeles. Enthusiastic about the lovable ogre he plays with a Scottish brogue, Toronto’s own Myers reveals that it was the heart of the first Shrek film which captured his own.

“The first time I saw it with an audience,” he says, “And the line, ‘but, you are beautiful to me’ got a gasp, I was just blown away that an animated movie could move people. That it was something that people could invest in emotionally, that’s been the most satisfying thing.”

Sticking mostly to kid-friendly Hollywood projects could be seen as a retreat for someone known for his creativity, as Myers is. He conceived, wrote and starred in his Wayne’s World and Austin Powers projects, reaping huge stardom out of his playful comic vision. But he invested no less of his time and personality in 2008’s The Love Guru, rejected by the critics and the public alike.

As it happens, in the last eight years, Myers’ career, despite small appearances in films like Inglourious Basterds, seems to have taken a new turn anyhow, becoming an actor (voice and otherwise) for hire in big children’s films like The Cat in The Hat (2003) and the massively successful Shrek series (2001, 2004, 2007).

While Myers admits to being happy greasing the Hollywood machine to promote his films, the actor confirms both his need to draw a sharp line around his personal life and his underlying Canadian humility. “It’s hard to be super full of yourself in Canada because, if there was a motto of Canada, it would be, ‘Who do you think you are, eh?’

“I like my privacy and when I’m not doing stuff, I like to go away. I enjoy being a person a great deal. I think it’s very good training to just being a person is growing up in Canada. You know, people say a lot of things about Canada, ‘It’s boring’ and stuff but, if you look around the world, well, in praise of boring, I think it’s a very civilized place to grow up and I’m very proud of it.”

His home is apparently different now — Myers jokingly cited a lifestyle he has picked up from Shrek: “I do now live in a swamp.”

He’s just not at home in the gossip magazines. As to what might appear to be the dimming of his Hollywood star’s lustre, Movie City News editor David Poland says that it’s perhaps Myers’ distinctively Canadian approach to his career which may be a contributing factor. “Mike’s very successful for the most part. He’s not a part of our culture here in the U.S. in terms of People magazine and US Weekly.

“He doesn’t pursue being shot by paparazzi … I think a lot of Canadian actors are high-profile individuals who don’t seem to really want to be stars in the way that Hollywood makes stars. They don’t look to be on the cover of magazines except when the movie comes out.”

Just over a week shy of the actor’s 46th birthday, Myers, both vividly and fondly, recalls childhood memories of his hometown, expressing the utmost gratitude for his success.

“When I was a kid in Toronto, I had my nose against the window looking south to showbiz … Showbiznia, United States, and I feel like every day I get to do what I do is a dream day. It’s kind of an amazing thing.”

It’s All About The Arc – Big Or Small

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(May 14, 2010) The character arc – every writer tries to craft it, every actor wants to play it. But an arc that feels both significant and authentic is rare.

A big arc, the stuff of romantic comedies or glossy weepies, is almost always a cliché: A prissy executive needs to be loosened up, a grieving widower learns to love again. It’s as familiar as a bedtime story, and marches the audience toward a pot of gold we see coming for miles. On the other hand, an arc that feels true is often microscopic – a misanthrope learns a smidgen about himself, a lonely woman comes to feel a tiny bit less unhappy – and can send audiences out wondering what they paid their $15 for.

So I was interested to see that the new film
Mother and Child, which opened in select cities yesterday, contains both one of the smallest character arcs I’ve seen, and one of the biggest. It was written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, whose films Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her (2000) and Nine Lives (2005) have earned him a reputation as a great writer/director for women. And not only because he, you know, hires some – interesting ones including Glenn Close, Amy Brenneman, Holly Hunter, Robin Wright and Molly Parker. (Though, given our current screen era, The Golden Age of the 14-Year-Old Boy, simply hiring them could be enough.) But also because he writes women that you might actually know, nuanced and crabby, funny and complicated.

Mother and Child zeroes in on three, who are linked by their experiences with adoption: Karen (Annette Bening) never got over the guilt of giving up the babyshe had at 14. Elizabeth (Naomi Watts) is that now-grown baby, and she’s allergic to most relationships. And Lucy (Kerry Washington) yearns to adopt a baby of her own.

It’s Karen who has the enormous arc – over the course of the film, she changes everything from her living situation and happiness level to the way she holds her face. Elizabeth has the barely perceptible one; she keeps her emotions so coolly in check that she’s almost frozen. Yet Bening and Watts faced the same challenge: How do you make something so extreme feel organic?

“It was difficult to find those moments to latch onto,” Watts said in a phone interview. “This is a woman who is hell-bent on structuring her life so she never connects with anyone, and she doesn’t want surprises. So really, there were just a couple of beats where a sliver of emotion comes through.” Showing so little was “quite hard,” Watts admitted. “It was scary. Her level of power, it was intimidating.”

But Watts, 41 – who was born in England, raised in Australia, and went to school with Nicole Kidman, still a good friend – is drawn to characters in tough situations: a grieving mother in 21 Grams (2003); a midwife entangled with the Russian mob in David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises (2007); the victim of a violent home invasion in Funny Games (also 2007). “Because of Mulholland Drive” – the creepy David Lynch drama (2001) that introduced Watts to U.S. audiences – “I became the go-to girl for astringent and difficult stuff,” Watts said.

She’s in two films premiering in Cannes this week: Fair Game (she plays Valerie Plame, the CIA agent who was outed by the Bush administration) and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger – which is a comedy, “but wouldn’t you know it, I was the straight man,” Watts said. “I loved working with Woody. It was a career milestone for me. I would love to do more comedy. But I’m not drawn to formulaic romantic comedy. They’re a little bit of fun to watch, but I don’t get caught up in a script and go, ‘I burn to play this.’ If I’m not burning, I’ll be bad. So I hold out for the ones that are like, ‘Is there something in it for me?’”

Watts used to let herself be “haunted” by her work, but since having her two sons (Alexander, nearly 3; and Samuel, 1) with her partner of five years, the actor Liev Schreiber, “I’m not in that stage of living and breathing it any more,” she said. “Motherhood more than makes up for that loss. But sometimes I feel guilty, I wonder if I’m doing as good a job as I used to. I worry that they’re not getting their money’s worth.” She laughed. “But I’ll always find a reason to make myself suffer.”

When I told Bening, also over the phone, that I found her arc believable despite its being so big, she burst out laughing. “I hope so,” she said. “I found Karen so complex. She transcended any possible stereotype. She seemed like a real person to me, funny and impossible. She’s someone you meet in your daily life that makes you think, ‘What’s her issue?’ When a character has so many changes to go through, it becomes a question of curiosity: Can I find the right moments? I wanted her to be someone who gets it wrong for a while, yet I didn’t want to alienate the audience. So I gritted my teeth and tried not to back off on those moments.”

Bening, a classically trained theatre actress, believes that an actor should be in service to the director’s vision. On film, she has always put herself out there, from her nude strut in The Grifters (1990) and her splayed-legs sex scene in American Beauty (1999), to her more recent roles in Being Julia (2004), Mrs. Harris (2005) and Running with Scissors (2006), which required her to show every line on her face (she turns 52 in two weeks). But a big, splashy arc can make actors “inhibited,” she said. “Because once you do a take you can’t get it back. You just hope they’ll get rid of the takes you hate.” She laughed. “It’s just a movie, but when you’re an actor it’s very, very personal.”

In Bening’s next film, The Kids Are All Right, written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko (another champion of women’s stories), she and Julianne Moore play a lesbian couple whose teenage children want to meet their sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo). “Again, it’s very personal,” Bening said. “When you work on these kinds of stories, the characters become real. You care about them as much as you care about a real person. Which is your job, and a pleasure, the privilege you have as an actor.”

Film characters can experience such real arcs because, “a camera can find private moments in a way no other type of storytelling, not even a novel, can,” Bening said. “But it’s always kind of a miracle. When you’re making a movie, there’s so much to do, so much organizing. There are all these trucks and people, and then there’s a problem with the light or the microphone, and uh-oh, what time is it, we have to break for lunch. In the midst of all that, to make something that has guts and small, surprising moments – I’m like, ‘How did that happen?’”  

Biutiful: Innaritu Brings A Big Helping Of Sorrow

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(May 17, 2010) Cannes, France — Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Biutiful, the Mexican director's first project after his much-publicized breakup with former screenwriting partner Guillermo Arriaga after their Oscar-nominated Babel, is one large dose of sorrow.

That’s good news (in some sense) for fans who enjoyed Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel. They’ll find that Biutiful delivers more of the same: tragedy, grief and a story about the hold of the dead upon the living. Though less caught up in the time-twisting narratives of those previous films, Biutiful offers mysterious fragments of information that don’t entirely make sense until the film’s ending.

The director-writing team squabbled over the writing credits to Babel, leading to Arriaga being shut out from attending the first screening at Cannes in 2006. The film, starring Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, went on to earn seven Oscar nominations. But eventually it won just one, for its musical score by Gustavo Santaolalla, who returns here.

The new film, shot in Barcelona, is the first under a new production company, Cha Cha Cha, representing three Spanish-language heavyweights – Inarritu, along with fellow Mexican Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Spain’s Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth). While reaction to the film seemed divided after Monday’s press screening, there was a general feeling that Bardem has leapt to the fore as the leading candidate for best-actor prize.

Bardem plays Uxbal, a middleman between Chinese importers who bring in knock-off DVDs and fake designer purses to Spain and African street sellers who hawk the merchandise. Uxbal must make sure the Africans are safe from the law, which means regular, hefty payments to a cop. Almost scene by scene, Uxbal’s troubles increase – a diagnosis of prostate cancer, trying to care for his young son and daughter, dealing with his bipolar, promiscuous former wife, and his involvement in a shady scheme to import illegal Chinese immigrants. Though the film steers clear of the city’s famous architecture, the street scenes – including a police raid – are kinetic.

Because this is an Inarritu film, there’s a thread about our relationship to the dead, including the disposal of Uxbal’s long-dead father’s corpse, when he decides to sell the crypt and have the body cremated. And one of his means of making money is to visit funeral homes, where he offers the bereaved readings of their dead relatives’ last thoughts.

Ultimately, Inarritu’s habit of melodramatic piling-on risks becomes more wearing than moving, but Bardem, the first Spanish actor to be nominated for an Academy Award (for Before Night Falls) or to win one (for No Country for Old Men), is compellingly believable, as always, as father, street hustler and frustrated husband. Whether playing evil, as in No Country for Old Men, or almost saintly in his suffering, as he is here (and in The Sea Inside), Bardem crackles with an irrepressible energy that might be called life force. Even the combined forces of fate and a doom-laden script can’t wipe that out.

Abu Dhabi Could Jilt ‘Sex And The City’ Sequel

Source: www.thestar.com - Aisha Tariq

(May 16, 2010) ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES—Troubled relationships are nothing new for “Sex and the City” story lines. But this one takes it to a different level: a possible snub from the Gulf city that plays the exotic backdrop for the movie sequel.

Less than two weeks before the release of “Sex and the City 2,” it’s unclear whether the film will be shown in oil-rich Abu Dhabi — the scripted setting where Carrie and her chic New York posse swap their Jimmy Choos for sandals and kick some sand at Middle Eastern traditions.

It’s already been a rocky rapport. Emirates’ officials turned down a request to film on location, forcing the crew to head to Morocco and recreate the Abu Dhabi setting. In 2008, the original “Sex and the City” film was not shown in the United Arab Emirates, where censors routinely remove scenes such as kissing, nudity and expletives from movies and television shows.

And Shooting Stars, the UAE representatives for distributor Warner Bros., said Emirates officials have still not made a decision about bringing the film to cinemas in the Gulf state after its May 27 release date.

The National Media Council, responsible for oversight of films and other media in the UAE, declined to comment.

The film exposes some of the complexities for Gulf cities trying to compete on the international stage. Abu Dhabi has aggressively marketed itself as an emerging hub for film studios and production companies. But there’s a high sensitivity about plots perceived as too racy or politically charged about regional affairs.

The UAE’s refusal to participate in the film reflects a desire to “control their brand,” said Leila Hudson, graduate director of Near Eastern studies at the University of Arizona.

“To the Emiratis, that ‘city’ in the (movie) title sounds like it’s referring — logically enough — to their Abu Dhabi rather than New York. That’s a little too in your face,” Hudson said.

Candace Bushnell’s novel “Sex and the City” that formed the basis for the movies can be found prominently displayed among best-sellers in Dubai bookstores, however.

The trailer for the movie invites fans of the fashionable four to “discover how much fun forbidden can be,” but scenes depicting Abu Dhabi and the Arabian desert are actually 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometres) away in North Africa.

In real life, Abu Dhabi plays the role of more conservative patriarch compared with its flashier neighbour Dubai — and has increasingly sets the tone for the rest of the country in the slower economic times.

Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth has kept development chugging along, including satellite galleries of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. It also appears to have exerted more pressure on Dubai authorities to rein in the Western-style freedoms that can offend conservative Gulf values.

Last month, an appeals court upheld a one-month jail sentence to a couple convicted of breaking moral codes by sharing a passionate kiss in a Dubai restaurant.

A Dubai-based movie theatre manager said the “Sex and the City” sequel is still on the “tentative” schedule. She holds out hope it will be cleared for local theatres.

“Sometimes distributors and local censor board make changes at the last minute,” said Hyacinth Quijano, an assistant manager for Reel Cinemas in the Dubai Mall.

Stone, Douglas On Their Return To Wall Street

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(May 16, 2010) CANNES, FRANCE—Normally when Hollywood comes to Cannes, it’s not to preach the virtues of restraint or sober second thought.

This is the town where no one blinks at $1,500-per-night hotel rooms or $10 sips of espresso. There is also something incongruous about millionaire actors and directors pleading the cause of workers and common folk.

So there was a surreal quality about Friday’s proletarian news conference following the Cannes Film Festival world debut of
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Oliver Stone’s belated follow-up to his 1987 drama of corporate greed.

A lot of things have happened in the past 23 years, including 9/11 and an economic crisis or three. The thinking of Stone and his leading man Michael Douglas has changed. Their world view has broadened considerably, and they’re no longer snickering about the more venal aspects of Gordon Gekko, the corporate raider, played to sneering perfection by Douglas, who became an immortal villain with his “greed is good” boasting and ruthless money deals.

Now the older and more thoughtful Douglas and Stone seem almost guilty about Gekko, and how he became an unwitting symbol of success for many impressionable viewers of the original Wall Street.

“Well, I think Oliver and I both were pretty stunned, after the first one, how they perceived Gekko,” said Douglas, 65.

“He’s an insider trader, a guy who destroyed companies — a very, very well-written villain, and people are attracted to villains. We just never anticipated that all these MBAs, all these people in business school, would be ranting and raving that this was the person they wanted to be.

“And yet, 23 years later, I imagine that a lot of these MBA students are heading up these investment banking companies because the greed has not stopped. It’s become legal.”

Stone, 63, whose father was a stock trader, said he was initially reluctant to revisit Gekko and his era, “because I didn’t want to celebrate that culture of wealth … it just seemed to be getting worse and worse. There was no reason to make a movie.

“After the (2008 economic) crash, of course, all bets were off because, really, it was a major heart attack. It was a triple bypass. I think they put a stent in, but I'm not sure if they've solved it.

“So this is serious, and it puts the whole world in a new perspective. It’s time to come back and get Gordon Gekko.”

Rather than make a movie about Gekko exploiting the 2008 money meltdown, which the film does address, Stone wanted his Wall Street sequel to address the toll that unchallenged capitalism takes on families.

Gekko has a daughter, played by Carey Mulligan, who is involved with up-and-coming trader Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf), who seems almost a contradiction in terms: he wants to get filthy rich by peddling clean green energy technology.

Gekko’s motives aren’t immediately clear in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, but he’s not the obvious villain of the piece. He’s trying to get his life back together, and reunite with his estranged daughter, after spending eight years in prison on convictions for various financial crimes.

The real bad guy in the film is Josh Brolin’s Bretton James, a billionaire investment banker who seems to be picking up where his old pal (and now enemy) Gekko left off.

Brolin sees his character as a cautionary example of someone blinded by greed.

“The theme of the first movie is ‘greed is good’ and the theme of this one is ‘more,’ ” Brolin said.

“There’s no end to the possibilities of accumulation. Having myself traded, on a very small level, I understand what it is to get caught up in that moment of greed where you go, ‘I understand the kids are upstairs and they need to eat, but I need 15 more minutes because I may make that much more money. And then they'll be able to eat more’ …

“To tap into that greed and allow yourself to lose your identity and reconfigure your identity within that is, morally, completely bereft.”

Many people accused Stone and Douglas of celebrating the cowboy capitalism of the 1980s with Wall Street. That may have been true then, but it’s certainly not the case with the sequel, scheduled for wide release on Sept. 24. Stone in particular seems genuinely concerned about where the world is headed, and what it means to average workers.

“It seems we got drunk (on greed),” Stone said.

“In 1987, I thought (capitalism) was going to correct itself, I really did … but it got worse …

“Stock holders and CEOs made money, but working people did not. There’s tremendous inequality and injustice in that and that has to be corrected.”

In his personal life, as a happily married man with two young additions to his family, Douglas is anything but a Gordon Gekko. Outside of acting, he works closely with the United Nations as an official ambassador of peace, promoting nuclear disarmament. He’s not happy with the current slow pace of change, in all aspects of global renewal.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” Douglas said.

“The area I work on, which is the elimination of nuclear weapons, there seems to be some great movement going ahead but as you do look at the greed, at the oil spills, the volcanic ash, the Earth seems to be speaking back.”

Are people ready for a Gordon Gekko who wants to build rather than smash? We’ll see.

LIFE GOES ON, SLOWLY: Mike Leigh is back in the official competition here after a long absence — he won the Palme d’Or in 1996 for Secrets & Lies and returned with All Or Nothing in 2002, but he’s otherwise been MIA at Cannes.

The theme of his new film Another Year, which world-premiered here Saturday, might be expressed in two gloomy words: “Nothing changes.”

They’re uttered by Imelda Staunton’s depressed housewife character at the start of the film, setting the tone for the melancholy meanderings to come. Leigh holes up in the home of Gerri and Tom, a loving but rather smug couple played by regulars Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent, who offer tea and nice noshes as their family and friends struggle through alcoholism, loneliness and bereavement.

The main struggler is Lesley Manville’s aging singleton Mary, who is slowly drinking her good looks and sexiness away. Leigh breaks his film into four parts denoting the seasons, the whole point of which seems to be marking the dull passage of time.

By the time he reaches winter, the pace is so slow, you can almost hear your pulse, which the film doesn’t possess. Leigh gets his usual strong performances in Another Year, but “life sucks and then you die” isn’t the most uplifting or engaging of topics.

MARKET MADNESS: Running concurrently with the festival is the Cannes Market, in which thousands of movies are sold on a strictly commercial basis, many of them with no grander ambition that drive-in or direct-to-video sales.

Often the titles and ad lines of these films are the best things about them. My favourite so far is Mad Cow, which has the zinger, “While You’re Out For Lunch, Lunch Is Out For Revenge.” It’s a zombie/horror parody about a dead man with a cow’s head stitched onto him.”

Another zombie movie is Juan of the Dead, which is set in Cuba during the 1959 Revolution – does Castro also command the undead?

I’m not sure what Nude Nuns With Big Guns is all about, but the title seems to say it all.

And finally, just imagine trying to stay awake during a film with this title: The Sandman and the Lost Sand of Dreams. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it.


Zoe Saldana Targets Assassin Film ‘Columbiana’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 17, 2010)  *”Avatar” star Zoe Saldana is in early talks to topline “Columbiana,” a Luc Besson-produced drama set in Latin America and the U.S. Saldana The actress would play a young woman who, after witnessing her parents’ murder as a child in Bogota, grows up to be a stone-cold assassin. She works for her uncle as a hitman by day, but her personal time is spent engaging in vigilante murders that she hopes will lead her to her ultimate target: the mobster responsible for her parents’ death. The project is slated for late-summer start with Olivier Megaton (“Transporter 3″) directing, according to the Hollywood Reporter. In addition to starring in the mega-blockbusters “Avatar” and “Star Trek,” Saldana’s other recent credits include “The Losers” and “Death at a Funeral.” She next stars in Screen Gems’ “Takers.”

Terrence Howard Circles Marvin Gaye Role

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 18, 2010) *Terrence Howard is reportedly in talks for director Cameron Crowe’s planned biopic of Marvin Gaye for Sony Pictures reports Deadline. Crowe (“Almost Famous,” “Elizabethtown”) has been developing the film for nearly four years with Will Smith eyed for the lead, but had to go back to the drawing board after he turned down the role. Crowe has secured rights to Gaye’s music and scored the support of Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. Scott Rudin will produce. Howard, meanwhile, says of his involvement: “Nothing’s been signed on paper yet. Everybody who loves music will hate me if I get this one wrong.”

::TV NEWS::\

Fox, NBC Talk Schedules

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(May 17, 2010) U.S. networks NBC and Fox both have things they’d like to distract viewers from as they unveil their fall schedules.

In Fox’s case, it’s falling American Idol ratings; in NBC’s it’s the debacle that was Jay Leno’s prime-time talk show.

Idol is still the most popular show on U.S. TV, but its ratings have slipped, including a 9 per cent dip among highly prized 18- to 49-year-olds.

Fox said Monday it will heed viewer requests for more performances by expanding Tuesday nights from an hour to 90 minutes, and will chop the Wednesday results show to 30 minutes.

The network is also looking hard for a replacement for judge Simon Cowell, who’s leaving to helm The X Factor in 2011.

Fox is giving extra attention to Season 2 of Glee with a special episode in the prime post-Super Bowl time slot next season. The show will air Tuesdays at 8 p.m. in the fall and switch to Wednesdays at 9 after Idol results, following the Super Bowl.

The network also announced two new Tuesday comedies: Raising Hope, about a 23-year pool cleaner who has to raise his baby, with Cloris Leachman; and Running Wilde, with Will Arnett (Arrested Development) as a playboy trying to woo his high school sweetheart, played by Keri Russell (Felicity).

NBC, meanwhile, is giving viewers plenty of scripted shows to erase memories of The Jay Leno Show: 12 in total, with seven on the fall schedule.

New programs include Outlaw, starring Jimmy Smits (NYPD Blue) as a U.S. Supreme Court justice who returns to private practice; the comedy Love Bites, about two women who are the last of their group of friends to get married; Chase, a drama about catching criminals on the run from Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI); and the Law & Order spinoff Law & Order: Los Angeles.

The network is still in talks with L&O creator Dick Wolf about a possible send-off for the cancelled series beyond its May 22 episode. There may also be a two-hour Heroes movie for fans of that cancelled show.

Other new shows for Fox:

• Lonestar, a prime-time soap about a Texas family.

• Mixed Signals, about three friends and their relationships.

• Ride-Along, a police series set in Chicago.

Other new shows for NBC:

• The Event, a 24-like conspiracy thriller.

• Undercovers, a spy drama from J.J. Abrams (Lost).

Outsourced, a comedy about a mid-American novelties company whose call centre has been outsourced to India.

• School Pride, a reality series about renovating broken-down schools.

With files from Associated Press, Reuters and the Los Angeles Times

Law & Order Cancelled After 20 Years

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(May 14, 2010) Los Angeles —The venerable police-courtroom drama Law & Order has been axed.

NBC announced Friday that the show would end its historic 20-year run on May 24.

The show starred an ensemble cast of S. Epatha Merkerson, Jeremy Sisto, Anthony Anderson, Linus Roache, Alana De La Garza and Sam Waterston.

Even as it cancelled the original Law & Order, NBC announced a new drama in the Law & Order franchise called LOLA (Law & Order: Los Angeles). It will also renew Law & Order: Special Victims Unit for a 12th season.

NBC's full 2010-11 schedule will be officially released Sunday.

The abrupt end of Law & Order could be explained by sagging ratings and creative fatigue, but a renewal had been widely expected nonetheless. Then, on Thursday, a flurry of reports declared the series to be doomed. NBC refused to confirm the reports. Negotiations were said to be continuing.

Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television, said the legacy of Law & Order creator-producer Dick Wolf “will continue to make an impact like no other series before.”

But the cancellation denies Wolf his long-held dream of surpassing Gunsmoke as TV's longest-running drama.

“Never complain, never explain,” he said in a statement.

Runaway Satellite Threatens U.S. Television Programming

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press

(May 14, 2010) London — A television satellite is drifting out of control thousands of kilometres above the earth, threatening to wander into another satellite's orbit and interfere with cable programming across the United States, the satellites' owners said Tuesday.

Communications company Intelsat said it lost control of the
Galaxy 15 satellite on April 8, possibly because the satellite's systems were knocked out by a solar storm. Intelsat cannot remotely steer the satellite to remain in its orbit, so Galaxy 15 is creeping toward the adjacent path of another TV communications satellite that serves U.S. cable companies.

Galaxy 15 continues to receive and transmit satellite signals, and they will probably block or otherwise interfere with signals from the second satellite, known as AMC 11, if Galaxy 15 drifts into its orbit as expected around May 23, according to AMC 11's owner, SES World Skies.

AMC 11 receives digital programming from cable-television channels and transmits it to all U.S. cable networks from its orbit 36,000 kilometres above the equator, SES World Skies said. It operates on the same frequencies as Galaxy 15.

“That fact means that there is likely to be some kind of interference,” SES World Skies spokesman Yves Feltes said. “Our aim is to bring any interference down to zero.”

He would not name any of the television channels or providers that could be affected, nor would he say how long the interference could last.

Galaxy 15 is floating over the Pacific Ocean slightly to the east of Hawaii, said Emmet Fletcher, space surveillance and tracking manager for the Space Situational Awareness Program at the European Space Agency.

He said Galaxy 15 was highly unusual because it continued to send out television signals, unlike other malfunctioning satellites that automatically went into complete shutdown when their navigational systems malfunctioned. A spokesman for the satellite's manufacturer, Orbital Sciences Corp., did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The dead satellites still are a threat to other satellites, but less of one than Galaxy 15 poses, Fletcher said.

“They'll just cruise around the geobelt, drifting wherever they go, potentially causing havoc, when you lose control of them,” he said.

Charlie Sheen Signs Rich New Deal For 'Two And A Half Men'

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 18, 2010) LOS ANGELES—CBS and fans of Two and a Half Men don't have to fret about subtracting Charlie Sheen from TV's top-rated comedy series.

Sheen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him on the show for two more seasons, spokesman Stan Rosenfield said Monday evening after the deal was reached.

“To put a fitting end on the 2 1/2 months of whirlwind speculation, I'm looking forward to returning to my CBS home on Monday nights,” Sheen, 44, said in a statement, adding his thanks to CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves for his support.

Uncertainty had clouded Sheen's future with the series after he told friends that he wanted to leave after seven years because he'd tired of its production demands and wanted to focus on movies. He appears in the upcoming film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a sequel to the 1987 Wall Street in which he co-starred.

Subsequent reports said that he was holding out for a payday of up to $2 million per episode. CBS and Sheen had declined comment on the reports, and Sheen's statement did not provide details of the new agreement. His previous salary had been reported as being in the range of $900,000 per episode.

A call to CBS for comment was not immediately returned Monday.

Two and a Half Men, which also stars Jon Cryer, is a key part of CBS's Monday night line-up. Last year, the network gave the show a three-year renewal, through the 2011-12 season, although Sheen's contract was up at the end of the current season.

Meanwhile, the actor's personal life remains unsettled. He has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from a Christmas Day incident in Aspen, Colorado, of alleged domestic violence involving his wife, Brooke Mueller Sheen. Sheen faces a July 21 jury trial in Colorado.

He entered a rehab facility for undisclosed treatment in February, temporarily forcing Two and a Half Men to halt production. CBS and series producer Warner Bros. Television issued a statement of support when Sheen sought treatment and wished him well.


Wanda Sykes Show Cancelled

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 14, 2010) *Deadline.com’s TV editor Nellie Andreeva is reporting that Fox is pulling the plug on “The Wanda Sykes Show” after just one season.  Andreeva reports:  The late-night talk show started off strong but tumbled in the ratings as the season went on and fell below the performance of predecessor “MadTV” in the Saturday 11 p.m. hour.  Fox has options for the late-night Saturday slot. It has been actively developing sketch comedies this pilot season and ordered two pilots, one written by Jamie Foxx and “MadTV” creators Fax Bahr and Adam Small. Fox, meanwhile, has yet to make an official announcement regarding the fate of Wanda Sykes.

ABC To Launch 5 New Dramas In The Fall

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 18, 2010) NEW YORK—Dana Delany, Michael Imperioli, Michael Chiklis, Rob Morrow and Joely Richardson are among the stars who will appear in new shows on ABC's fall schedule. ABC is losing Lost at the end of its run this month, and its fall schedule is heavy on dramas. Five of its seven new series are hour-long dramas, with a medical, legal and police show among them. The network is cancelling last season's ambitious Flash Forward. After an unsuccessful move from NBC, Scrubs is ending. Shark Tank and Wife Swap aren't on the schedule but still may appear at some point. A new Wednesday-night comedy, Better Together, explores three couples in one family at different stages in their relationship.

Vanessa Williams Joins Cast of ‘Desperate Housewives’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 18, 2010) *Guess who’s moving onto Wisteria Lane?
Vanessa Williams said Tuesday she’ll play a “wicked new housewife” on the upcoming seventh season of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” reports the Associated Press. The actress also played a wicked fashion magazine exec on ABC’s recently-cancelled “Ugly Betty.” She’s currently performing in the Broadway musical “Sondheim on Sondheim,” which runs through June. Williams will star in “Desperate Housewives” opposite Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria Parker.


Priscilla Queen of the Desert Musical To Open In Toronto Oct. 12

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(May 17, 2010) NEW YORK—Not even C. David Johnson, the former Street Legal star who’s now preparing to act in Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical, knows exactly what’s in store for audiences when the show makes its North American premiere in Toronto in October.

Johnson took to the stage Monday with some of the show’s other stars for a brief preview of the production, which will have a 12-week run at the Princess of Wales Theatre before moving to Broadway next spring.

Johnson admits he hasn’t seen any of the previous incarnations of the show in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand — other than watching some clips on YouTube — and could barely make sense of the scene he acted in for the preview.

“I have no idea how the show all works and how it all functions, but just doing these little scenes we’re doing today I know it’s just going to be a crazy show,” said Johnson, best known for playing Charles (Chuck) Tchobanian on Street Legal.

But he said he’s extremely excited about the road ahead, a completely different experience than his TV acting gig, which eventually felt a bit like working in a “sausage factory.”

Street Legal was a fabulous experience and we had eight wonderful years and we were paid very well for it... but it becomes a bit of grind, you feel like you’re telling the same story again and again,” he said in an interview.

“This is, for me, just a huge adventure. It’s a big splashy musical, it’s going to New York, it’s going to open here in Toronto — which is really exciting — it’s just a big adventure for a guy of my age (54), to all of a sudden be out on a big stage with all these fabulous singers and dancers. It’s lots of fun.”

The musical, which premiered in Sydney in 2006, is based on the Academy Award-winning film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, starring Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving. Featuring an eclectic mix of tunes including “I Will Survive” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” the show tells the story of three drag queens who journey across the Australian outback.

“I originally got called to see if I wanted to read for one of the three leads, one of the cross-dressing leads, and I wasn’t sure that was really up my alley,” he said with a laugh.

“But from the movie I knew the character Bob, the outback mechanic ... who eventually falls for one of them, Bernadette the transsexual. And I just found it a wonderful love story.

“Here’s a guy who’s a bit lost. He’d been in Vietnam, he’s in this bad marriage to a crazy stripper from Bangkok and ... these characters come along and take him away from it all and he runs away and joins the circus.”

David Mirvish of Mirvish Productions said the musical offers something completely different.

“We saw something we’d never seen before in our lives,” Mirvish said in recalling the first time he took in the show.

“We loved it and we became a part of the London production and now we’re part of the New York production. And before New York gets to see this show, Toronto will see it first.”

Director Simon Phillips said the film translates so well to the theatre and seemed “destined to be a musical.”

“It’s got just about everything a musical is supposed to have: it’s got acres of sensational costumes, it’s got dance routines that dazzle and excite, it’s got six-foot-long legs with bodies on top of them and it’s got a very touching message at the heart of it ... about the very many different ways that you can find family in the world.”

Also starring in the production are Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Canadian actors Thom Allison, Susan Dunstan and David Lopez. It opens in Toronto on Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 26.

Rose Theatre Season: Yanofsky To Spamalot

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 13, 2010) The Rose Theatre in Brampton isn’t just one of the most appealing venues in this region to attend a show, it also consistently provides some of the most varied and interesting programming around.

The theatre’s 2010-11 season features everything from the beautiful (Nikki Yanofsky) to the damned (Howie Mandel) and from the sacred (the Vienna Boys Choir) to the profane (Monty Python’s Spamalot).

Under the general banner of “Experience it live,” Costin Manu, the Rose’s manager of programming, marketing and development, is offering 41 shows.

Other prominent names on the bill will include Engelbert Humperdink (now in his fourth decade as a performer) with his “Legacy of Love” tour, the powerhouse group Spirit of the West, Québécois balladeer Roch Voisine, the always inventive sound of Lighthouse, the exciting vocal stylings of The Pointer Sisters and platinum-selling guitar sensation Jesse Cook.

Looking for something more exotic? The Rose will offer the State Ballet of Russia, the Thunder Drums of China, the flamenco excitement of Paco Pena, The Peking Acrobats and the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble.

Theatre shows include the popular Toronto creation Bittergirl, the long-running off-Broadway hits Late Nite Catechism and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!, as well as classic favourites The Wizard of Oz and Scrooge!

There’s unique personalities like Leisa Way, with her tribute to Dolly Parton, Rhinestone Cowgirl, not to mention Gord Bamford, James Cotton, Mark Masri and Debashish Bhattacharya.

And there’s lots of comedy in the Rose’s season as well, including the Just For Laughs Comedy Tour, Glen Foster (“that Canadian Guy”), Gerry Dee Sports Reporter and a Second City touring show with one of the funniest titles of the year, Stephen Harper: the Musical.

For more information, go to www.rosetheatre.ca or call 905-874-2800.

Richmond Hill Centre For Performing Arts Unveils Eclectic Season

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(May 19, 2010) The Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts has corralled an assortment of talent for its 2010-2011 season.

Under the umbrella title of “Debuts and Divas,” theatre manager Michael Grit is living up to his promise to deliver unique theatre.

Divas claim pride of place, with well-known and beloved-to-the-GTA figures such as SCTV stalwart and Tony Award winner Andrea Martin, who brings her new one-woman show Final Days! Everything Must Go! to the centre on Oct. 2.

The first Christine Daae from the Toronto run of The Phantom of the Opera, Rebecca Caine, will appear Oct. 15 with her cabaret show Raising Caine, which packed the Telus Centre to an enthusiastic house last fall.

Jackie Richardson, Richmond Hill’s “homegrown diva,” leads the New Year’s Eve Celebrations on Dec. 31.

Broadway takes over for the second half of the season with Tony winners Jane Krakowski (also starring on 30 Rock) and Patti LuPone appearing in separate shows, on Feb. 19 and April 21, 2011.

The rest of the season is eclectic, with Ireland’s Celtic Tenors (Dec. 5), China’s Yu-Wei Dance Collection (May 4, 2011), India’s D’Arranged Marriage (March 10) and lots of Canadian content as well, with everyone from rocker Kim Mitchell (Nov. 12) to author Robert Munsch (Oct. 26 and 27) on the bill.

Comedian and former Seinfeld co-star Jerry Stiller (Nov. 23) and Tovah Feldshuh as Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony (April 4), and lots more live theatre, dance and music round out the varied bill of fare.

Call the box office at 905-787-8811 or go to www.richmondhill.ca and click on the theatre’s icon.


Fatherly Wisdom, Or Something Earthier?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(May 17, 2010)  Art Linkletter (and later Bill Cosby) made a career from kids, the ones who said the darnedest things.

Take, for example, eight-year-old Wendy. She once said: “When a person gets kissed for the first time, they fall down, and they don't get up for at least an hour.” Then there was Michael, unusually wise at age 10: “On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.” So true.

But if kids say hilarious things, old people do, too, as California writer
Justin Halpern knows so well. He’s famous for Shit My Dad Says, a Twitter feed that chronicles the blunt utterances of Halpern’s coarsely philosophical father. The tweets were (and are) so popular online that they’ve spawned a new book, and a television pilot commissioned by CBS and starring William Shatner as 74-year-old Sam Halpern.

“He really wanted James Earl Jonesto play him,” says Justin Halpern about his father, who not unreasonably preferred Darth Vader to James T. Kirk. “I reminded him he was white, and then he thought the show would be better if the whole family were black.”

Halpern’s tweet-inspired book (with the slightly altered title Sh*t My Dad Says) covers a father-and-son relationship warmly and comically – kind of Tuesdays With Morrie meets Sanford and Son. It begins with then-28-year-old Justin forced to move back to his parents’ house in Los Angeles following a romantic mishap.

He’s probably the most fair person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s got a big heart – you’re always going to get a fair shake from Sam Halpern. — Justin Halpern

Halpern was worried he wouldn’t be welcomed with open arms. So, when he … Actually, let’s have a things-my-dad-says quote explain the reception he received: “All I ask is that you pick up your [stuff] so you don’t leave your bedroom looking like it was used for a gang bang,” Halpern’s father told him. “Also, sorry that your girlfriend dumped you.”

Not exactly a sweater-wearing Cliff Huxtable, Halpern senior.

As a writer for Maxim.com, Halpern was able to work from his parents’ house. Spending so much time there enabled him to compile his father’s candid musings, pearls of wisdom such as: “The baby will talk when he talks, relax. It ain’t like he knows the cure for cancer and just ain’t spitting it out.”

Shatner would seem an odd choice for the role of the irascible Sam. The Canadian actor’s Denny Crane character on Boston Legal was plenty quirky, but not all that crusty. Someone like Jerry Stiller would seem closer to type. Not so, says Halpern fils, who met the erstwhile captain of the USS Enterprise working on the show’s pilot. “Both my dad and Mr. Shatner say what they think. You know where you stand with them, and they don’t want to get into any unnecessary conversations.”

Thank the gods, for Halpern’s sake, that his father is so pithy. The son’s Twitter page of casual quotes (edited to adhere to Twitter’s 140-character limit) is followed by 1.3 million fans. The pilot has yet to be picked up as a series by CBS, but that it has gotten this far vouches for the viability of blogs and tweets as a platform for television, books and film projects. (Along the same lines, the Julie/Julia Project, a blog by Julie Powell, led to the memoir that inspired Julie & Julia, starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep as Powell and Julia Child, respectively.)

Prior to Shit My Dad Says, Halpern was an unsuccessful Hollywood screenwriter, in addition to working as a columnist for Maxim.com. “I was struggling,” he recalls. “But in one fell swoop, all that changed because of something on the Internet.”

While the Twitter feed features current random comments from his father – Halpern works out of his parents’ house only two days a week now, and doesn’t tweet as often as he once did – the book is a memoir, stretching back to his earliest recollections of his father and family. When young Justin complained about his strenuous first day of formal education, his father was hardly sympathetic. “You thought it was hard?” he asked. “If kindergarten is busting your ass, I got some bad news for you about the rest of your life.”

As a teen, Halpern kept a journal. Those notes were used along with the memories of friends and family members to come up with the father’s classic expletive-dappled quips that thread the memoir. The television show, starring Cougar Town's Ryan Devlin as Justin, will use those quotes as episode themes, much like the jokey observations that fuelled Seinfeld plots.

Halpern’s father, according to his son, is unaffected by the hoopla surrounding those darned things he says. “Since I began the Web page, he’s probably mentioned it once,” Halpern says, “and that was to say, ‘Don’t put that on the page.’ ”

At 158 pages, the book is brief – but long enough to paint a fuller picture of the father than Twitter has been able to provide. “He’s probably the most fair person I’ve ever met in my life,” says Justin. “He’s got a big heart – you’re always going to get a fair shake from Sam Halpern.”

And he says his dad is happy for his son’s success. “I don’t think that I’ve actually heard him say that, though,” he laughs.

He didn’t say it? Well then, it doesn’t count.  

Four Months After the Quake: Misery, Fear, Loss, and Confusion in Haiti

Source: www.eurweb.com - (Via LA Progressive.com)

(May 13, 2010) *This is my second trip to Haiti after the January 12 earthquake that killed up to 300,000 people and left 1.2 million homeless, although neither of those cold statistics will ever be verified.

Boarding the American Airlines 757 at Miami International, the writer was confident that continuing the story would be much easier than the first time, After all, she knew her way around and had an agenda of people and IDP camps to visit, suggestions regarding places she had not visited, and a general sense of nuance about the challenges facing Haiti. The writer may have been confident, but she was wrong.

Something profound happened in the ten weeks since the writer left Haiti in March. Compassion entered the picture and became the lens that focused the dispassionate journalist’s eye. You see, compassion can be a frightening and somewhat debilitating emotion if one is trying to be neutral and stick to the facts.

Compassion is the earthquake of the soul that rocks the comfort of perception and shifts what once were solid foundations of reason. The writer thought that the words would pour forth with little effort, yet hour after hour went by and no words were formed.

Two 18-hour days passed, and still no sentences had formed into paragraphs when the writer stumbled into the lobby of the Plaza Hotel an hour ago. She had seen sights that no one should see, but two stuck in the mind. One was the sight of the withered, festering hand of an infant in a blistering hot tent serving as the critical care ward for Haiti’s General Hospital, and the other was of a dignified grandmother who had lost three of her children in the quake and who now lay in a sobbing heap on the floor of her flooded tent, tears mingling with the incessant rain that poured down upon the Champ de Mars tent city, located not a football field’s length from the ruined White House of Haiti in Port-au-Prince.

Read MORE of this article by Georgianne Nienaber HERE.

Essence Nabs Excerpts of Terry McMillan’s ‘Exhale’ Sequel

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 18, 2010) *A sneak peak of Terry McMillan’s new novel “Getting to Happy,” a sequel to her million-selling “Waiting to Exhale,” will appear in the next four issues of Essence magazine, beginning with the June edition.

McMillan’s “Waiting to Exhale,” published in 1992, tells of the personal and professional conflicts of four women living in Phoenix.

The author said she had no intention of writing a sequel to “Exhale” until she spoke at a church in Oakland, Calif., around a year ago. A resident of the Bay area, the author was still getting over her nasty, public feud with ex-husband Jonathan Plummer and read a poem about her experience.

“So these women responded big time to this poem, and there was this aura, women crying and all kinds of stuff. When it was time to sign books, there were women I had gone to college with, women who had been ex-professors, financial aid counsellors. I spoke to them and realized how many of them had never been married, how many were divorced, how many never had children,” she says.

“I wanted to be able to dramatize that in some way. I didn’t want to tell just one woman’s story. And that’s when it dawned on me that I had four women I might be able to turn to. I got the paperback off the shelf and looked over it and said, `You know, they were the perfect candidates.’”

The author’s relationship with Essence dates back to the 1970s, when she was a college student and won an Essence writing contest.

“They’re like family,” she says, “and Essence readers have been a large part of my audience.”


Sackboy Returns! Sony Unveils Littlebigplanet Sequel

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Saltzman

(May 14, 2010) What do you do after selling more than 3 million copies of LittleBigPlanet? Create a sequel, of course.

Sony Computer Entertainment America announced this week plans to release LittleBigPlanet 2 (littlebigplanet.com) on the PlayStation 3 this winter.

For the uninitiated, 2008’s LittleBigPlanet introduced Sackboy, a stitched-up ragdoll, who must run, jump, climb and solve puzzles through perilous worlds to reach the end unharmed. Gamers could also toy with the same tools used by the developers to create and upload their own unique levels for others to play and rate.

Along with a fresh story, LittleBigPlanet 2 will feature improved graphics and physics, more customization options for Sackboy and new equipment to aid in his adventure, including a grappling hook, power gloves and the addition of programmable Sackbots (robot Sackboys). Some levels will support the upcoming PlayStation Move controller, a wireless motion-sensing peripheral that works in conjunction with the PlayStation Eye camera.

More importantly, perhaps, gamers can not only create and share new levels but completely new games, too, promises SCEA, such as shooters, racers and role-playing games. A new cut-scene tool will also let gamers make cinematic sequences to help push their stories along.

LittleBigPlanet 2 will be backwards compatible with all of the 2 million or so user-created levels made for LittleBigPlanet — allowing gamers to search an online database by keyword, browse by genre or scan charts such as “highest rated” and “most downloaded.”

We've got game, eh?

The first-ever Canadian Videogame Awards were held in Vancouver last week, acknowledging excellence in interactive entertainment created in the Great White North.

The big winners were Dragon Age: Origins, the fantasy role-playing epic developed by BioWare, an Edmonton-based studio owned by Electronic Arts, and Assassin’s Creed II, a cinematic adventure created by more than 250 programmers, artists and designers at Ubisoft Montreal.

Other Canadian Videogame Award winners included Ubisoft’s Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes (Best Handheld Game), THQ/Relic Entertainment’s Dawn of War II (Best Audio), Capybara’s Critter Crunch (Best Downloadable Game) and United Front Games’ ModNation Racer (Most Promising Game).

“The awards punctuated what many of us already know: Canada is home to some of the biggest and most amazing games on the planet,” says Victor Lucas, host of Electric Playground, and one of the event organizers. “We look forward to a bigger and even better show next year to celebrate the kick-ass work of our industry.”

G4 Canada will air a 30-minute special on the Canadian Videogame Awards on May 16.


Just For Laughs Announces 4th Festival Line-up

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(May 10, 2010) When it gets hot out, we could all use a good laugh.

The fourth annual Toronto
Just for Laughs festival, which runs from July 6 to 11, will feature more than 100 performers at 14 venues, including galas starring actor and comedian Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), Demetri Martin (know for appearances on The Daily Show and Important Things with Demetri Martin), Louis CK (who starred in The Invention of Lying with Ricky Gervais) and Wayne Brady (the former Whose Line Is It Anyway? regular who’s the new host of Let’s Make a Deal). Two other gala headliners will be announced soon.

“(This) is now Canada’s largest multicultural comedy festival and (Toronto) is an appropriate place to have that kind of festival. Toronto is actually the home to excellent comedy, comedy based in many different cultures. This summer will be bigger and better than ever,” said Toronto Mayor David Miller.

The festival will feature a lot of international talent, including Irish comic Tommy Tiernan in his one-man show, Crooked Man; Germany’s Michael Mittermeier on Safari and a one-night show of the Young@Heart Chorus, which features performers ranging in age from 73 to 89, at Roy Thomson Hall.

Canadian Comedy Award winner Mike Wilmot will headline The Nasty Show at the Panasonic Theatre, featuring humour not for the easily offended.

Comic Sugar Sammy will host The Ethnic Show: Ethnical Difficulties at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.

Mark Little will host The Homegrown Comics, featuring nine up-and-coming Canadian comedy stars at Absolute Comedy.


A Rags-To-Riches Ballet Story

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(May 17, 2010) “You could never make this stuff up,” says Bruce Beresford. The acclaimed Australian director is talking about his film Mao’s Last Dancer, which opened across Canada on Friday. It is based on the wildly popular 2003 autobiography of ballet dancer Li Cunxin, whose defection from China in 1981 created an international incident and a 21-hour standoff at the Chinese consulate in Houston.

The film is riding a wave of success. It was runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and is currently playing to packed houses in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. A pirate DVD is a huge bestseller in China, says Beresford, who counts Last Dance and Driving Miss Daisy among his other works. “We’re getting e-mails from the Chinese crew saying how much they love the movie!”

When Beresford’s sister gave him a copy of the book several years ago, he thought it was a fascinating story, but impossible to film. “Where were you going to find a handsome, charismatic, super-talented Chinese dancer who could speak both Mandarin and English?” he asks.

Chi Cao earned a scholarship to London's Royal Ballet School at the age of 15.

Enter Chi Cao. Currently a principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet, at 32, he is a ballet superstar, blessed with talent to burn and smouldering good looks. The son of a musician and a dance teacher, Cao moved with his parents from Shanghai to Beijing when he was 4.

There, his father became head of the Beijing Dance Academy, one of the world’s great schools for classical ballet training, and the school where Li himself was sent as a child. Li became close to Cao’s father and stayed in touch over the years. It was Li who suggested Cao for the role. “He called me about a year and half before filming and told me to start taking acting classes,” Cao says.

Cao reports that the rigid system of training has changed very little since Li’s days at the school. Yet he never thought of any other career. “The funny thing is, I didn’t know my father was the principal of the Beijing Dance Academy until I started at the school. … It was easier being the principal’s son because none of the other kids wanted to get on my wrong side, but I also had to try harder than anyone else.”

Cao became a superb young dancer. In 1993, a scholarship at the Royal Ballet School took him to London at the age of 15. The following year, he won a gold medal at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. Yet he was not invited into the Royal Ballet. “I was the best dancer at the school that year, so it was surprising,” he says. “Perhaps they thought they already had too many Oriental dancers in the company.”

Cao joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1995 and went on to win another gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition in 1998. Like Li in his prime, he is considered among the great danseurs nobles – the male equivalent of a prima ballerina – of the world.

Hollywood came calling with the success of his book, but Li held onto the rights until he was approached by Australian writer Jan Sardi and producer Jane Scott, the team behind Shine.

Like the story of troubled piano prodigy David Helfgott, Li’s life had much that could have been ramped up into melodrama. He was born into an illiterate peasant family of seven boys on a commune near China’s northeast coast. In 1971, Madame Mao’s cultural apparatchiks swept into his school looking for child talent for her Beijing Dance Academy. At age 11, Li was separated from his family and sent to the capital.

In 1978, Ben Stevenson, the artistic director of Houston Ballet, came to China on the first American cultural exchange. (Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood, who plays Stevenson in the movie, took ballet lessons to prepare for the role.) Stevenson offered Li a scholarship to train with his company. In Houston, Li found freedom of expression and an American girlfriend, dancer Elizabeth Mackey (Amanda Shull). When he was due to return to China, he and Mackey secretly married so Li could remain in the U.S. At the Chinese consulate, where the couple went to disclose their marriage, Li was seized and locked up.

Mackey, another dancer and her husband who had aided in the plan, and immigration lawyer Charles Foster (Kyle MacLachlan) refused to leave without Li. Bush, now vice-president, sent FBI agents to surround the consulate. The event became a media frenzy, and 21 hours later, Li was free, but stripped of his Chinese citizenship. He became a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet.

Although Cao didn’t have to fight to leave China to study, “I still shared an emotional connection with Li. I had the same culture shock as a teenager coming to the West. I couldn’t afford the £1.40 a minute to phone China so was cut off from my parents. I didn’t know if I’d be allowed to return to England if I went home, so I couldn’t take the risk.”

Beresford thinks Cao could pursue an acting career. Greenwood was impressed too. “When he asked me for advice about acting, I told him one word – Listen! – and he did. If the call was for 6 a.m., he’d be up at 4, doing the barre, then a class, then stretching. It’s clear he’s not your average dancer. He has tremendous physical ability and is alive in his body all the time.”

And where is Li Cunxin now? After his first marriage broke up, he married Australian ballerina Mary McKendry. They live in Melbourne with their three children where Li is a stockbroker and motivational speaker.

When asked why Mao’s Last Dancer is such a hit with audiences, Beresford says, “It’s a rags to riches story, optimistic and uplifting, but not corny. I don’t like making gloomy films.”  


Canadian Sports Luminaries Mourn Controversial Track Coach

Source: www.thestar.com - Brendan Kennedy

(May 18, 2010) Before paying tribute to her husband, Angela Coon walked up to Charlie Francis’s casket and placed a can of Diet Coke and a bag of Starbucks coffee on top.

“Those were his favourite drugs,” said Coon — Francis’s partner for more than 20 years — to applause and laughter from the congregation.

Charles Merrick Francis, Canada’s most controversial coach, was remembered Tuesday at Rosedale Presbyterian Church as a stubborn and fiercely competitive conspiracy theorist, who was passionate about sport, devoted to his family and unswervingly loyal and protective of his athletes.

Diagnosed with lymphoma five years ago, Francis, 61, died at Sunnybrook Hospital last Wednesday afternoon.

Francis gained world notoriety for counselling Ben Johnson to use steroids before the 1988 Olympics.

Johnson, who broke the 100-metre world record with a 9.79 run, was stripped of his gold medal when he tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.

The subsequent Dubin Inquiry revealed how Francis helped introduce Johnson to the use of banned substances. Francis was banned from coaching in Canada, but always argued that he was merely matching others with his methods, that steroid use was widespread around the athletic world.

But he didn’t just condone steroid use, he encouraged it among members of the Mazda Track Club, the Toronto-based group of athletes who under his supervision dominated Canadian sprinting in the 1980s.

Johnson, who acted as one of the pallbearers, sat in the second row, often wiping tears away from his eyes.

The funeral was attended by several of Canada’s sprinting luminaries, including Angela Issajenko, Mark McKoy and Cheryl Thibedeau. Thibedeau tested positive for steroids in 1992.

Other athletes trained by Francis, including former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tie Domi, were also in attendance.

“I see we have a complete sell-out today,” Francis’s brother Barry told the packed church. “Charlie would have liked that.”

Issajenko said Francis was always supportive of the athletes that trained under him.

“The only mean thing he ever did was once, when Ben was late for practice, he made him run the 400 metres. The girls on the team knew Ben never wanted to run more than 150,” she said. “Ben never showed up late again.”

Francis’s friend Brendan Caldwell said Francis was a rare combination of an intellectual sports genius and compassionate coach.

“To Charlie, every athlete was important. ... Where other coaches might see an athlete or client, Charlie saw a human being.”

Coon said her husband “will always be my Mr. Everything.”

Francis and Johnson met at the Scarborough Optimists club, where the coach helped the teenager develop into one of the world’s premier sprinters. He also tutored other highly successful Canadian competitors, including Issajenko and McKoy, and became involved in the training of controversial U.S. athletes Tim Montgomery and Marion Jones.

Revered as a brilliant technical mind, his legacy remained conflicted until his death, unable to shake the reputation as a committed doper.

Francis, who was born in Toronto on Oct. 13, 1948, was the Canadian 100-metre champion in 1970, ’71 and ’73. He raced in the Munich Olympics but fell short of his personal best of 10.1 seconds established at the Pan American Games trials in 1971.

Francis is survived by his wife and their son James.

Raptors Draft 13th As Wizards Win Lottery

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith, Star wires

(May 18, 2010) You reap what you sow.

The Raptors got what they deserved — or earned — in the NBA lottery on Tuesday night, ending up with the 13th selection in next month’s NBA draft. They moved neither up nor down.

But in what can only been seen as a loss for Toronto in the grand scheme of things, three Eastern Conference rivals came away with the top selections.

The Washington Wizards, who began the lottery with the fifth-best chance to win, copped the No. 1 pick, ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers, who moved from No. 6 to No. 2.

The New Jersey Nets, who had best chance to win the lottery after a horrible 12-70 regular season, fell to No. 3.

The Raptors finished the 2010 regular season with a 40-42 record and had just a 0.6 per cent chance of earning the top spot in the June 24 draft.

With a lucky charm from the franchise’s best days, the Wizards won the draft lottery.

The Wizards were represented by Irene Pollin, who wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring of her late husband, longtime owner Abe Pollin. When the Wizards pulled off the surprising win, Irene Pollin’s jaw dropped and appeared to mouth ‘Oh my God!’ with wide eyes.

Abe Pollin died at age 85 in November.

“My husband wanted another (championship) so badly,” she said. “He really did. So maybe this will be the beginning of another one.”

The Wizards were represented by Irene Pollin, who wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring of her late husband, longtime owner Abe Pollin. When the Wizards pulled off the surprising win, Irene Pollin’s jaw dropped and appeared to mouth ‘Oh my God!’ with wide eyes.

Abe Pollin died at age 85 in November.

“My husband wanted another (championship) so badly,” she said. “He really did. So maybe this will be the beginning of another one.”

The lottery victory is just about the only thing that has gone right in a disastrous year for the Wizards, marred by the suspension of all-star Gilbert Arenas for bringing guns into the Verizon Center locker-room. They finished 26-56 after being widely forecast to finish in the middle of the Eastern Conference.

Irene Pollin hopes the lottery win will help fans forget last season’s turbulent year, when the Wizards also traded former all-stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to cut salary after things fell apart.

“Fans are fickle. But I think this is a wonderful thing for our fans who have really stuck by us,” Pollin said. “They really have been through a very, very tough year. Actually when I got up and spoke to them, I was thanking them for sticking by us and being so supportive even though we had all the problems.”

‘I Played Like A Robot,’ Howard Admits

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(May 17, 2010) ORLANDO, FLA.—Dwight Howard knew what the Boston Celtics had planned. Whenever he got the ball in the post, someone was going to hit him, bump him, push him, do whatever it took to keep him from getting into rhythm.

It wasn’t a new approach.

The Celtics simply do it better than just about everyone else.

Howard made only 3 of his 10 shots from the floor Sunday, continuing what’s been a yearlong offensive struggle against the Celtics, and his Orlando Magic lost Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals to Boston 92-88.

“I played like a robot,” Howard said.

He doesn’t have long for reprogramming. Game 2 is Tuesday night.

Sure, most of Howard’s field-goal attempts come either through dunks, putbacks or layups, so it’s not hard to see why he perennially ranks among the NBA’s best in terms of shooting per centage.

But this is telling: Howard shot less than 50 per cent this season against only three teams, those being Miami, Denver and — sure enough — Boston, which has a deep number of long-armed, big-bodied defenders to get in his way. The Celtics aren’t going to change their thinking, and now, it’s on Howard to find a way to counter.

“We have to make plays to make it easier for him,” Magic guard Vince Carter said. “Once we get down and we are hitting shots and we’re making plays, I think they have to kind of worry about what we’re doing, and I think it opens things up for him. Some nights where he gets rolling, it opens things up for us. So we have to kind of return the favour.”

Howard filled the stat sheet in a number of other ways in Game 1.

He had game highs of 12 rebounds and five blocks. He also had a game-high seven turnovers, some of them baffling, like dribbling the ball out of bounds in the second quarter, then juggling the ball in the post and firing it toward the scorer’s table, out of everyone’s reach two possessions later.

Including the playoffs, Howard has been charged with at least seven turnovers in three games this season. Two are against Boston, more proof that the Celtics’ plan against Superman works.

“One, two, three, maybe four guys at the end of the day (have) to guard him,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

Whatever it takes.

The Celtics used three on Sunday, for the most part. Kendrick Perkins started on Howard, and when Boston’s starting centre wasn’t in the game, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis took their turns. Each have their own defensive styles, but the basic philosophy was the same: Keep a body between Howard and the basket whenever he wanted or received the ball down low.

Howard got his first field goal midway through the first quarter. He got his next midway through the fourth.

“Our bigs definitely didn’t save fouls,” Celtics guard Ray Allen said.

Meanwhile, Boston twice threatened to turn Game 1 into a runaway. The Celtics wasted a number of chances in the first half to add to what already was a double-digit lead, and Boston went up by 20 in the third quarter before Orlando made a frantic, ultimately futile, run.

Howard’s frustration was apparent. He and Wallace were issued technicals after tempers flared a bit with 4:30 left in the third quarter, and when Howard dropped the ball on the baseline in disgust after being called for travelling — his sixth turnover — 41 seconds later, that earned the Magic a delay-of-game technical.

And when it was over, Howard just walked glumly toward the tunnel leading to the Magic locker room, his face showing no emotion as he slapped hands with a couple of teammates.

“This is all about winning,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Our team doesn’t have to prove they can bounce back from adversity and all of that. They’ve done all of that. It’s about winning games.”

Of course, and that task will get immeasurably easier if Howard can finally find an offensive groove against the Celtics.

In his career, when he makes at least half his shots against Boston, the Magic are 13-6. When he shoots less than 50 per cent, Orlando is 4-7.

“They want me to wrestle and fight with them,” Howard said. “That takes me off my game. So I just have to not wrestle with them. Just play.”