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August 4, 2011

And August comes in with a hint of a cool breeze ... hope you all had a great long weekend, but don't fret ... there are still so many things to do while we ride this summer out.  One of those is the 16th anniversary of
Honey Jam, the exciting female showcase coming up on August 11th at the Mod Club.  Don't miss this line-up of Canadian talent! 

Coming up is also the
CultureShock Community Arts Festival, which will be MC'd by TSN's Cabbie Richards and Hip Hop pioneer Michie Mee, and headlined by Hip Hop Icon Wes 'Maestro' Williams.  Check out both happening events under HOT EVENTS.

This week's news includes coverage of the unbelievable
Drake concert held last Sunday at the Molson Amphitheatre!  Drake brought out so many guests, it was hard to believe it was going to get any better ... and then ... Stevie Wonder and his band came out!  Also in this weeks TOP STORIES, is the announcement of Nas, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu upcoming concert and Venus Williams as she comes to Toronto for the first time in two years for the Rogers Cup. 

Check out these EXCLUSIVE post-concert photos in my PHOTO GALLERY taken at
 College Street Bar where The Grind jammed with Stevie's band, Nathan Watts (Stevie's musical director for 30 years), Errol Cooney and Tyrone Hendrix.  What a great night!

 Also in my PHOTO GALLERY are some pics of Toronto's (via Jamaica)
Belinda Brady performing at Jamaica's Sumfest, holding down the good vibes, stellar performance and representing Canada! (Special thanks to Vivian Barclay who took the photos in support of Canadian talent!)  All this and more under TOP STORIES!

 One of this weekend's features is the
Taste of the Danforth this weekend so check out the details under OTHER NEWS

Just click on the photo or the headline and you'll have your latest entertainment news!  OR you can simply click HERE for all the articles. 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!


Hip Hop Legend Wes Maestro’ Williams Headlines Urbanarts 2011 Annual Cultureshock Festival – August 12 – August 13, 2011

Source:  Lennox Cadore www.urbanartstoronto.org

UrbanArts Community Arts Council is brightening up and uniting the
Weston-Mount Dennis neighbourhood and Toronto this summer with a full schedule of youth arts programming. The UrbanArts’ team is leading everything from dance camps and live music performances to mural painting and community beautification projects.
CultureShock Festival – The highlight of the summer takes place on Friday, August 12th from 6-9 pm and Saturday, August 13th from 1-7pm with our
CultureShock Community Arts Festival, at Weston Collegiate Institute. The festival, MC’d by TSN’s Cabbie Richards and Hip Hop pioneer Michie Mee, and headlined  by Hip Hop Icon Wes ‘Maestro’ Williams, will feature an array of local musical talent, an art exhibit, youth art activities, vendor booths, and of course great food. The festival aims to profile the artistic community and to reflect UrbanArts’ ongoing commitment of engaging youth and community development through the arts.
UrbanArts is a non-profit Community Arts Council focused on enhancing neighbourhoods by engaging youth in community development through the arts.  UrbanArts initiates arts activities that bring people together in central-west Toronto and citywide. One of four community arts councils serving Toronto, UrbanArts is an incubator for local arts, with a range of year-round programs for youth led by professional artists in visual arts, theatre, spoken word, dance music and leadership development.
Our mandate is to promote, engage and facilitate cultural and community development opportunities between artists, arts organizations, community members and community organizations.

Friday, August 12 – 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Festival Launch
Live performances by UrbanArts Talent
Interactive drumming by the internationally renowned Drum Café

Saturday, August 13 - 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Featuring Maestro, Michie Mee, Cabbie, Motion, Baby Boyz Dance Crew
Weston Collegiate Institute

100 Pine St.
(Weston Road North Of Lawrence Ave W.)
Prizes & Giveaways!
Free both days

Honey Jam Sweet 16 Edition – Thursday, August 11 - Toronto - Mod Club

Source:  www.swaymag.ca -
By Geena Lee

(27 July 2011)
Toronto - The Honey Jam artist showcase, celebrates its Sweet 16 anniversary at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College Street) on Thursday, August 11, 2011.  Hosted by MuchMusic's Sarah Taylor, the 2011 edition promises to deliver one of the best showcases in the history of the event - a night of exciting live entertainment with a diverse group of artists.

As Honey Jam turns 16 so does it’s breakout star from the 2010 showcase, rapper
Reema Major who is causing a lot of buzz in the industry with her I am Legend Mixtape. Ebonnie Rowe, Honey Jam Founder, Producer and President of PhemPhat Entertainment Group, says “We’re so proud of Reema!  I’m confident that we’ll be hearing similar success stories from several of the artists performing this year.  They are at the right age, the talent is undeniable, many are also songwriters and play instruments as well.  But I don’t want to give away all the details of what you can expect – you have to come out to the show!!” 

The line-up of 18 artists from Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and London includes 3 artists from the acclaimed
Remix Project and child piano prodigy Catherine He, at age 7 the youngest artist ever to take to the Honey Jam stage.  Go to www.honeyjam.com and click on “2011 artists” to see more info on who made the cut.

DJs for the night include
MelBoogie and Tasha Rozez.

The show is not a competition but there are prizes/opportunities being offered.  All of the artists will have one of their tracks featured on a promotional compilation CD courtesy of
Universal Music Canada which will be handed out at the showcase, Universal will also give each artist consultation time with their Director of A&R.  The girls will receive product from Benefit Cosmetics, Converse is also giving each artist a backpack and certificate for a pair of shoes, and they all received 1 hour of one-on-one vocal/performance coaching time with Elaine Overholt sponsored by Slaight Music.  One lucky artist whose name is pulled randomly will receive Honey Jam Hookup Prize Pack which includes sound equipment from Yamaha, a photo shoot with Nathaniel Anderson, legal consultation with Taylor Mitsopolous Klein Oballa, $1,000 cash from EMI Music Canada and a fitness package from Think Fitness.

Advance tickets at $20 are available at Play De Record, 357 Yonge Street, $25 at the door.  Proceeds from the showcase will support YWCA Toronto's programs for women and girls - www.ywcatoronto.org   

Showcase sponsors include:

Slaight Music, Nelstar Entertainment, TD, Factor,
OMDC, Toronto Arts Council, BD Jolly & Milestone Inc., Taylor Mitsopulos Klein Oballa,
the SOCAN Foundation, Yamaha Canada Music, Flow 935
Universal Music Canada, The Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association,
MuchMusic, Vervegirl Magazine, Canadian Musician, Urbanology Magazine, Exclaim.ca


Facebook Fan Page:  Honey Jam Artist Showcase

'da Kink in my Hair On Stage August 11 – 21, 2011

Source: Trey Anthony Studios

BACK by Popular Demand! Five years ago,
Da Kink in my Hair took Toronto by storm – it broke box office records, charmed critics and wowed audiences!  Now it's finally back.

Held over five times at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre, it broke box office records, charmed critics and wowed audiences!

'da KINK is 'da bomb!" --Toronto Sun

Kicking off its international tour for 14 performances only!  Set in a Caribbean hair salon in Toronto, this amazing musical gives voice to eight dynamic women who tell their incredible, uncensored, unforgettable stories.  Stories that will move, inspire, and delight you!

a new Canadian and U.S. ensemble!  A brand new musical score and a breathtaking, new monologue

This award winning, heartfelt play is guaranteed to have you laughing, crying and yelling, ‘you go girl!’  Get your tickets before they’re gone!

AUGUST 11 – 21, 2011
Enwave Theatre
231 Queens Quay West
Previews: $30; VIP, Red Carpet, Opening Night: $99;(includes reception); Regular: $37-$77

Call 416-973-4000 or visit Harbourfront Centre HERE


Reggae Sumfest 2011: Canada’s Own Belinda Brady Makes Her Solo Debut

Source:  www.swaymag.ca -
By Geena Lee

(29 July 2011) Representing for Canada was Juno-nominated
singer/songwriter Belinda Brady.  Her set was an eclectic one; starting off with Dennis Brown’s “Should I”, into Whitney Houston’s “Your Love Is My Love”, followed by  a Bob Marley medley featuring “No Woman No Cry”.  Playing her acoustic guitar, Brady performed her own songs “Flexx” and the hit “Fall in Love”, which was produced by Sly & Robbie and received a Juno nomination.  Sway caught up with Belinda after her performance to discuss her experience in Jamaica and learn what’s ahead for the rising star.

(Note from Dawn: see more photos from Vivian Barclay in my PHOTOGALLERY.)

Q:   Is this your first time performing at Reggae Sumfest?  What has the experience been like?

A:  Oh my god! It was so amazing!  It’s my first time as a solo artist.  I have performed with a few artists back in the day, backing up for various artists like Julian Marley.  I felt like ‘wow, I remember this’, because when I used to work with Shaggy and Julian, I walked on stage and got that feeling of the adrenaline rush, it’s like you’re on drugs.  It’s like wow! I remember this feeling!  And it was awesome, it was a blessing.  I was like, ‘thank you Father for granting me this experience again’, because you never know when it’s gonna end, or when it’s gonna start.

Q:  Throughout your career, you’ve expressed musical styles from folk and soul to rock and reggae.  Which one is your first love?

A:  I gotta say reggae, but I started playing the guitar as a folk artist.  I lived abroad for a while with my mom, and then when I came back down to Jamaica, I was really introduced to reggae, and that’s when it really began to get into my system.  Like Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor… and that’s when I started integrating the various types of rock, folk and R&B.  Like India Arie, Alicia Keys, Joni Mitchell, Sade.  But reggae is the foundation.

Q:  As a Jamaican who lives and also performs in Canada, what are the differences you’ve seen in the way audiences interact with you there compared to audiences in Jamaica?

A:  I was a little afraid of Jamaica still (laughs), because I heard all these rumours and I said to myself I may have to work out my ducking just in case I got a little bottle [thrown at me].  But honestly, I was well received; all I saw were hands in the air swaying from left to right.  I’m also well received in Canada as well, I must say.  Canada is also home, and I’m now based back here in Jamaica as well, so I’m developing a fan base here and it is growing and the media here is also receiving me well.  It’s all very positive.

Q: How did you first connect with Sly & Robbie, how did that relationship come about?

A:  I was introduced to Sly and Robbie through the Juno Award-winning artist Leroy Brown, they’re actually very, very good friends.  Leroy said ‘You girl, mi wan work wid you.’  So we did a song and Sly & Robbie did the music and it’s been over 10 years now that we’ve been working together.

Q:  What’s ahead for you in the musical arena?

A:   What’s exciting is that I’m recording my album right now; we’re finishing it up this fall.  I’m working with the legendary Sly & Robbie, and some other wicked producers like Paul Kastick, who’s worked with Kymani Marley and Tessanne Chin, and I knew him from back in the day when I used to tour with Shaggy.  He was always such an amazing producer, so we’re collaborating right now.  I’m also working with a few producers in Canada as well, so I’m really excited.  We’re also looking forward to doing shows all across the world.


Look out for further updates as Geena and True continue their coverage of Reggae Sumfest 2011.

(Photos by Adrian Creary courtesy of Summerfest Productions)

Video: Surprise! Drake Brings Stevie Wonder, Lil Wayne, Nas Onstage In Toronto

Luke Fox, www.inmusic.ca

(August 02, 2011) As the thousands assembled outside of Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre gates last
night for Drake’s sold-out OVO Fest, a guessing game dominated conversation: Who would he bring out this time?

Last summer, under this same canopy, Drake’s gift to his hometown and favourite city was to bring out a slew of A-list emcees—fellow Torontonian Kardinal Offishall, Fabolous, Young Jeezy, Bun B, Rick Ross—then shocking everyone by flying in Eminem and Jay-Z for cameos. How was Drizzy gonna top that?

After brief, tight sets by table-setters The Weeknd and Rick Ross, Drake took the stage to deafening approval from 16,000. It didn’t take long before the ringmaster brought out his first un-billed guest, his buddy J. Cole, for their for-the-ladies duet, “In the Morning.”


Immediately after, Drake explained that neither he nor Cole would be here were it not for this man: Nas, who entered to the sounds of “Made You Look” wearing a Blue Jays cap, then performed his Lauryn Hill–assisted hit “If I Ruled the World.”


The evening’s greatest surprise would come next. After Drake left the stage and the sound vanished for a good five minutes, a spotlight shone centre stage on a man sitting behind a keyboard. Stevie Wonder began playing “Sir Duke.” Awestruck, the crowd was soon singing along. Wonder would go on to sing six classics, inviting Drake to freestyle over “My Cheri Amour.” Though amazing, the Stevie Wonder cameo seemed a bit of a shock until it was revealed to MuchMusic that the legend is appearing on Drake’s new album, Take Care (due October).

“Stevie Wonder is a very close friend of mine. I’m honoured to call him a friend, someone who embraced me very early in this music business,” Drake told the music network after the concert. “So I hit him, asked him to come by, and with no hesitation he hit me back like, ‘I will be there.’ ” 

For the finale, which pushed Drake’s performance past the two-hour mark, a shirtless Lil Wayne ran onstage to rap his verse from “Miss Me.” Then the Young Money honcho ripped into his single “6 Foot 7 Foot”; Rick Ross rejoined the festivities for his Wayne collabo, “John”; and the fans—some who had dished out as much as 200 scalper dollars for a $40 lawn seat—were sent home happy with summer 2011’s unofficial anthem. Drizzy, Weezy and Rozzay performing “I’m On One” in its entirety.

Drake summed up the spirit of the night with his hook: “All I care about is money and the city where I’m from.”


Drake And Friends Take Live Hip Hop To Another Level

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(Aug 01, 2011) (We had writer Christian Pearce check out last night's vastly hyped Drake concert, alias the OVO Fest, at the Molson Amphitheatre. We weren't sure anything could live up to the excitement, but Pearce was there, and was impressed indeed. His take:)

Sunday night saw Toronto rap phenom
Drake add to his legacy with the 2011 edition of his OVO (October’s Very Own) Fest. With last year’s concert featuring surprise appearances by the likes of Jay-Z, Eminem, and more, the buzz around OVO’s sequel ensured a sell-out inside the sultry venue and a slew of disappointed scalped-ticket seekers outside.

 With Porter planes ascending over the crest of a packed Molson Amphitheatre lawn, T-Dot R&B upstart The Weeknd (dumb name, great voice) set off the show. Followed by Florida’s famously curvaceous Rick Ross, who sweated profusely through a mediocre set, the crowd was kept sufficiently warm for what was on deck.

 Swinging into action, and backed by a band composed entirely of Toronto natives, the night’s headliner zoomed to centre stage, belting out a signature mix of smooth ballads and slick rhymes.

 Taking a moment to announce that he would be ending a two-month hiatus from intercourse later that night, Young Drizzy found a fitting way to introduce his first guest, fellow rap prince J. Cole, for a performance of their hit single, “In the Morning.”

 Upping the ante further, Cole and Drizzy stepped aside in order to set the spotlight on Queensbridge, New York legend, Nas, whose seminal cuts seemed to escape a share of the audience.

 After borrowing a page from Jay-Z’s playbook, raising the house lights and recognizing individual fans, friends and family in the crowd, the hip-hop crooner asserted his need for a break, and the stage was darkened.

 When the lights returned, Drake was gone, replaced by a pair of stacked keyboards, large sunglasses and a familiar smile. Toronto’s rapping son-of-a-drummer had the great Stevie Wonder smack dab in the middle of a pure hip-hop show.

 Setting the bar so darn high with OVO’s first instalment, Drake artfully changed the nature of the event’s second incarnation. With no real match for the surprise of appearances by Eminem and Jay-Z — hip-hop’s all-time bestsellers — Drake went another direction, blessing his audience with a performance by an artist whose vast contributions to modern music and hip hop (Wonder is among the most sampled artists in the genre’s history) rank very near the top.

While Stevie appeared eager to perform for the young crowd, beaming his way through no less than six songs, the generational divide was laid bare with the relatively tepid reception to Wonder’s appearance. This particular guest, however, felt like Drake’s well-earned gift to himself.  

Perhaps overwhelmed to be sharing the stage with a personal idol and freestyling with uncharacteristic simplicity over “My Cherie Amour”, Drake rhymed, “Stevie on the keys, I wonder who’s next?” revving up the audience for another surprise guest.

Despite the stellar list of rappers Drake was able to draw to 2010’s OVO stage, he nonetheless lamented the absence of his mentor, the inimitable Lil Wayne, who found himself imprisoned at the time. OVO II, however, was destined to be as special for the man topping the marquee as for those bobbing their noggins before him.

 Fresh through Customs — always an ordeal for a black rapper with a criminal record — and sporting attire seemingly inspired by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea (extra-baggy pastel pants, panda-headed Adidas), Weezy’s excited entrance threatened to shatter the decibel meter, with the audience’s response nearly drowning out his performance. Running through a couple of his current chart-toppers, Wayne was rejoined by his protégé and the rotund Ross for a performance of the three’s “I’m On One,” a natural night-capper.

 Having already done a Steve Jobs on Toronto’s hip-hop stock, Drake deserves immense credit for working overtime to build the OVO Fest — an evident tribute to his home city — into something bigger than hip hop, something epic.

Nas, Lauryn Hill Play The Molson Amphitheatre

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(August 02, 2011) On paper it's dream urban-music bill of 1998: Lauryn Hill and Nas are playing the Molson Amphitheatre on Sept. 8. Even better: the erratic Hill will perform her Grammy-winning career-making album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in its entirety, and Nas will do the same with Illmatic, his 1994 debut.

This is being billed as a "Rock the Bells" event, but those expecting the mega-bill of stars that's usually implied by that will be disappointed. We're told to expect Hill, Nas, DJ Premier, veteran New York rapper AZ and rapper/producer Pete Rock ... and that's apparently it. Is it worth the $60-$100 ticket to you, when they go on sale Friday from Ticketmaster and Live Nation? (Hill can't be bothered to assemble some wrecking crew of a line-up, having given birth to her sixth child last month.) Depends on how important those classic albums are to you, and whether you saw Hill on her most recent frustrating show in town in January.

UPDATE: If you're not on a nostalgia kick, this announcement will be more up your alley: Wiz Khalifa plays the Sound Academy on Sept. 26. (He has to pick a big venue, as his protégé Mac Miller has sold out Kool Haus. Got to show the kid who's still on top.) Tickets ($40) on sale Friday via Ticketmaster, Unionevents.com, Rotate This, Soundscapes, Play De Record and Bazaar.

UPPERDATE: Okay, today's news is getting complicated for you hip-hop heads. Kanye West and Jay-Z have rescheduled their entire Watch the Throne tour, and that previously announced Sept. 24 date at the Air Canada Centre is now pushed back to Nov. 23, the day after Judas Priest's in town. Word (via the New York Post) is that the rappers can't agree on the scope of the show:

"Jay-Z can't deal with Kanye," a source reportedly told the paper. "Jay is a stone-cold businessman. He wants to recoup all of his money from Live Nation. But Kanye wants to upstage rock stars with a blowout show." 

Venus Williams Is Walking On Sunshine

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Beverley Smith

(July 31, 2011) Venus Williams has earned almost $28-million (U.S.) in her long and storied career, but strangely enough, she has never won the Rogers Cup.

The 31-year-old former No. 1 wants to reverse her fortunes in Toronto when she shows up for the first time in two years for the tournament that runs Aug. 6 to 14 at the Rexall Centre.

Williams’ career in Hogtown has been dreadful and given to long absences. In three previous appearances, she hasn't won a single match, never making it past the first round.

She turned pro to great fanfare in October of 1994, and was only 15 when she first arrived in 1995, while playing on a wild card. Out in the first round, Williams never even got a chance to sniff Monica Seles's boots. Seles reigned supreme at the time, especially at the Canadian tournament. And Williams was a fledgling, hardly out of the nest. She played only three tournaments that year.

Back she came at age 17 two years later, with a huge Reebok contract in tow. But she was bounced out in the first round by young French qualifier Nathalie Dechy, ranked only 115th. Williams hadn't quite delivered on her promise yet.

By 2009, No. 3-ranked Williams was a major force on the women's tennis scene, but Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko upset her in the first round of the Rogers Cup, and a frustrated Williams, raising her hands to the skies at times, went home early.

Williams cancelled out last year with an injury when the event was in Montreal.

Her younger sister, Serena won 10 years ago, but hardly remembers it. "I think I've won it before," she said on a conference call last week. "But it felt like a lifetime ago."

It was. Serena has played rarely at the Rogers Cup, too, in 2000, 2001, 2005 (she withdrew before her second-round match) and in 2009, when she lost to Elena Dementieva.

Now, it's Venus's time to change her history with the Rogers Cup. But she's behind the eight-ball, having played little (but more than Serena) in the past year, because of injury. An injury to her left knee plagued her throughout 2010, but she still improved her ranking to No. 2 behind Serena. However, the recovery took longer than expected and it forced her to miss the rest of the season after the U.S. Open, having played only nine tournaments in 2010.

This season, Venus has competed rarely, and is currently ranked No. 35 in the WTA standings. She lost in the fourth round of Wimbledon, an event she has won five times in her career.

She's coming to Toronto, vowing to think positively, not worrying about the up-and-comers at her heels, or the veterans, like Kim Clijsters or Maria Sharapova rounding back into form. "I really want to be positive, because sometimes when you take time off, it's easy to come out a little rusty, maybe not making as many shots as before," she said. "But to me, it's just staying in the moment and being positive."

She said she was surprised at the level of her abilities in the main tournaments she's contested this year. "I wasn't sure how far I could make it or how fit I would feel," she said, perhaps thinking of the three-hour match she endured in the second round at Wimbledon against Kimiko Date-Krumm, which she won. "I really made it a long way without being in a lot of pain and that was more than I expected," she said. "It's just about keeping that up and staying strong and no more injuries. I feel good, though."

Williams will be in the mix with the top 25-ranked WTA players at the Rogers Cup. The attacks will come from every direction. Nine of the top 10 players are from different countries. Gone are the days of dominance by players from a handful of countries with systems that churn out world-beaters.

"At the end of the day, my whole outlook is based on [feeling] like I'm a talented player and I have the experience," Williams says. Her current sunny perspective makes her confident when it seems like she shouldn't be, she added.

"I don't have worries," she said. "It's just a blessing to be back."


Sarah McLachlan And The VSO Give A Lift To Struggling Festival

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Aug 03, 2011) Before being asked to conduct the first-ever collaboration between Sarah McLachlan and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra - and the Canadian premiere of new symphonic arrangements of her music - Leslie Dala only knew a handful of McLachlan's songs. In mid-July, however, he got a crash course Hollywood-style, travelling to Los Angeles to see her perform the orchestrated arrangements at the Hollywood Bowl.

"I really kind of fell in love with her, as a performer and her music," says Dala. "The intimacy of her writing I find very attractive. She also has such a haunting voice."

Dala, 40, simply doesn't have the time to follow popular music closely. He is chorus director and associate conductor with Vancouver Opera, music director of the Vancouver Bach Choir, principal conductor with the Vancouver Academy of Music orchestra and he recently wrapped up eight seasons as music director of the Prince George Symphony Orchestra. But he was excited about the McLachlan opportunity, and by the idea in general.

"I think it's very exciting when musicians from different walks of life get together and make music," he says. "I love the fact that music can be without borders."

The VSO's Aug. 5 performance with McLachlan, who is based in West Vancouver, seems so natural that one wonders why they haven't come together before. Her lush, powerful voice feels exactly right for a symphony. On the other hand, anyone who has seen her perform live knows the intimacy of McLachlan alone at the piano, filling the space with that voice.

"When you bring on an orchestral treatment, you run the risk of maybe some things getting overblown," says Dala. "But I think the arrangements are really sensitively done and really match her style of writing."

Dala, who met with McLachlan at rehearsal with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and again that night at the performance (where McLachlan dazzled in a sparkling gown - and bare feet), was also impressed with the musician herself.

"Within five minutes, it was like talking with an old friend. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but she just has no walls up around her," Dala said from Banff, where he is preparing for the Banff Centre presentation of the opera Lillian Alling. "For someone who has [sold] over 40 million records, you'd think there might be a bit of an ego, but there was not a hint of one. She was just so down to earth and so kind and humble, both in person and in her live show."

A few days before playing the Hollywood Bowl, McLachlan performed the new arrangements (on songs such as Building a Mystery, Sweet Surrender and Adia) with the Colorado Symphony at the storied Red Rocks outdoor amphitheatre near Denver. In September, she'll do it again with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, with Pinchas Zukerman conducting.

As in many pop/orchestra collaborations, the orchestra takes on a supporting role to the star and her band, Dala reports, adding colour, power and atmosphere, but not re-interpreting McLachlan's music.

The arrangements are the work of Vince Mendoza, a multiple Grammy winner, and Sean O'Loughlin, who has become something of a specialist in this area, creating similar arrangements for artists such as Josh Ritter, Natalie Merchant, Cowboy Junkies and Feist (her 2009 Olympic countdown concert with the VSO).

A few months ago, when MusicFest Vancouver program director George Laverock got wind of the new arrangements, he approached McLachlan's management about bringing the program to Vancouver. He recognized the possibilities for his festival immediately: A pop superstar with a classical orchestra - both local - would be the ultimate kick-off for his summer festival, which has struggled to capture public attention since launching 11 years ago. It is also facing serious financial challenges with the loss of a $50,000 annual funding grant from the provincial government.

On top of that, says Laverock, it's a good artistic fit: "I think it's going to introduce her [music] to quite a few people, but it's also going to introduce quite a few of her fans to a symphony orchestra. So everybody's going to win, I think."


Swingle Singers: Classic Reinventions

This British a cappella phenomenon wows audiences with high-energy interpretations of everything from Bach to the Beatles (Aug. 6).

Regina Carter and the Reverse Thread Project

The American jazz violinist performs contemporary interpretations of African folk melodies (Aug. 8).

World at the Garden: From Cuba to Denmark

Always a favourite, the closing-night program at VanDusen Botanical Garden this year features Cuban pianist Ernan Lopez-Nussa and the Danish a cappella ensemble Touché Vocal Jazz (Aug. 14).

Sarah McLachlan and the VSO perform at the Orpheum in Vancouver on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. (musicfestvancouver.ca [http://www.musicfestvancouver.ca]).

Saskatoon’s The Sheepdogs Win Rolling Stone Cover Contest; Get Deal With Atlantic Records

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(Aug 01, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Landing the cover of Rolling Stone is usually confirmation of superstar status. The Sheepdogs — winners of the magazine’s first contest to be on the cover — aren’t there yet, but they may be on their way.

The Canadian rock band beat out 15 other competitors in “Do You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star?” to land on the cover. The winner was announced Monday.

The magazine hits newsstands Friday.

The previously unsigned act is also getting a deal with Atlantic Records, and on Tuesday they’ll release a digital EP “Five Easy Pieces” and perform on NBC’s “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

“The biggest thing is . . . just being able to tell everybody, and seeing what happens,” Ewan Currie, lead singer of the quartet from Saskatoon, said in an interview last week with the Associated Press.

The runner-up is singer-songwriter Leila Broussard. Her soft, guitar-strumming tunes are a marked contrast to the hard-driving, rollicking rock offered by the Sheepdogs.

There was apparently no love lost between the two acts. Currie said of Broussard: “She could be rather sullen and not particularly friendly.”

They battled it out at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., and in the end, readers showed their preference.

Currie said that while Rolling Stone has had its share of pop acts over the years, the Sheepdogs probably best embody the magazine’s spirit.

“In the end, rock ‘n’ roll won,” he said.

While the Sheepdogs, all in their 20s, are being introduced to the masses, they’re hardly a new group. The band — which also includes drummer Sam Corbett, guitarist Leot Hanson and bassist Ryan Gullen — have been around since 2006. They have released their albums independently, are regular road performers and have a website.

“We were helped by the fact that we are experienced, and we have been running this operation,” Currie said. “We were fully formed . . . we were ready to seize it.”

The group is excited to be on Atlantic Records and to have access to the resources a major label can offer. But band members are hoping the label won’t try to change them too much.

“Ultimately we want to put out a record that represents us, and we don’t want to change . . . so if it changed, it would be a shame,” he said.

A massive billboard of the Rolling Stone cover was to be unveiled Monday evening in New York’s Times Square.

International Jazz Singer Rene’ Marie Shows Love For Her Country On Her Newest Album, ‘Voice Of My Beautiful Country’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 28, 2011) “It started 4 or 5 years ago, I was in Russia,” Jazz singer Rene’ Marie said about how she started singing. “My eldest talked me into it.”

Rene’ said while in Russia they heard singers singing American songs and her son said, “Mom you can do this. She’s singing all the songs you sing at home…and she can’t sing”.

As a result Rene’ Marie released “Renaissance” in 1997, “How Can I Keep From Singing” in 2000 (MaxJazz), “Vertigo” in 2001 (MaxJazz), “Live at the Jazz Standard” in 2002 (MaxJazz) and “Serene Renegade” in 2005 (MaxJazz). Her 2001 release received an award for “Best International Jazz Vocal CD” by the Academie Du Jazz in Paris, France – beating out Cassandra Wilson and Joni Mitchell. This year, just recently, she released “Voice Of My Beautiful Country” (Motema Music).

“The whole idea is how to make patriotic songs that reflect the culture and background of America,” she pointed out to me.

Reflecting on American history is exactly what is offered, especially on selections such as “John Henry,” “Angelitos Negros (Voice Of My Beautiful Country Suit),” “America The Beautiful,” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” With vocals reminiscent – to me – of Nancy Wilson, Rene’ Marie successfully combines Jazz with Soul, Blues and Gospel.

Though I love the twist she puts on the patriotic songs, my favourite cuts on the “Voice Of My Beautiful Country” include “O Shenandoah (Imagination Medley)” for her soft sweet approach to the song and “Drift Away” because I love the piano support by Kevin Bales.

For more information on Rene’ Marie log onto www.ReneMarie.com or www.Motema.com.

Jazz Keyboardist Marcus Johnson’s ‘Mj Music Camp At Nccf’ Offers One Week Master Classes For Talented Youth

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 28, 2011) *Smooth Jazz keyboardist Marcus Johnson (Three Keys Music), who often combines Jazz with R&B and Soul, will host one week of master classes at his “MJ Music Camp at NCCF,” from August 1- 7, 2011. The classes will be held at the new National Center for Children and Families (NCCF) located in Washington, DC. Upon completion students will have recorded a song and have professional publicity photographs to walk away with.

“(NCCF) They just opened this year,” said the talent musician, who is also a lawyer (Georgetown University). “I love working with kids, teaching them about the music business. I don’t want to teach music, but the music business.”

If anyone knows the music business it’s Johnson, who formed – successfully –  his own production and publishing company, Marimelj Entertainment Group, and his own label Three Keys Music. Marcus has released an outstanding 11 albums independently and just recently released his 12th project, “This Is How I Rock,” which offers Pop/Rock with a Jazz spin.

“I was having a conversation with a friend – that works at BET Network – who had a music camp going on,” said Marcus Johnson about how the idea for his master camp came to be. “He said, ‘You need to do a camp.’ So I opened up my rolodex.”

Marcus said in four weeks the camp was established, thanks to a friend who organized it all and the National Center for Children and Families in Washington, DC who is housing the camp. NCCF had already named one of its rooms after the great Jazz pianist and it is in that room that the camp will be held.

Marcus once gave a seminar at my entertainment conference, “Uplifting Minds II,” and I can attest to the fact that the man is a vessel of information about the music business.

For more information on Johnson’s upcoming performances and more on the “MJ Music Camp at NCCF” log onto www.ThreeKeys.com.

Keke Wyatt offers ‘Unbelievable’ Vocals on New Album

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Eunice Moseley

(July 28, 2011) *”Friends…ain’t nothing like it,” said R&B singing sensation Keke Wyatt about Kelly Price, Tweet and Ruben Studdard appearing on her new album, “Unbelievable” (Shanachie). “(The album) Focuses on real life…reflects what I am now, who I was and what’s going on with me…I’m more happier.”

With a background in Gospel music Wyatt shows some ‘unbelievable’ vocal range on this project. She came into the music spotlight as a featured singer on “My First Love, a cover song of Avante – who was on MCA Records at the time.

The album “Unbelievable” offers 11 tracks, which include several Gospel/Inspirational offerings such as “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” and “Tears In Heaven.”

“My lawyer said, ‘Keke my mother said you better sing that (“Saturday Love,” with Ruben) – she loves Ruben’,” Keke laughed while reflecting on the conversation.

Wyatt said her favourite selection on the “Unbelievable” album is the cover-song “Love Under New Management” because she is – now that she has remarried – under new management. The mother of five (four from a previous marriage) has not lost a beat, as evident on this project. She has production support from Shep Crawford (Kelly Price), JR Hutson (Jill Scott), Steve Morales and Jesus Bobe (Lyfe Jennings), Ryan Pate and Oliver Gabriel (Satellite Music Group) and Dante “Inferno” Jackson.

“My first album sold a million,” Keke informed me. “So we’ll see what God says (about this one).”

Well if I had a vote, this one would be double-platinum. My favourite cuts off the “Unbelievable” album include “Mirror” featuring Kelly Price and Tweet – especially the lovely violin support; “Miss Your Plane,” “Love Under New Management” because Keke hits some impressive high notes; “Enough,” a powerful anthem of triumph; “Saturday Love” featuring Ruben Studdard; “Tears in Heaven,” which is so sweet I actually teared-up, and “His Eye Is On The Sparrow” because she does it a capella – a masterful perfection, if ever I heard one.

Learn more about Keke Wyatt and her new “Unbelievable” album at www.Shanachie.com.

Photos & Audio: Eric Benet & Mike Phillips Thrill Crowd at Jazz Fest West!

Source: www.eurweb.com - by LaRita 'Jazzy Rita' Shelby

(July 31, 2011) *Bonelli Park in San Dimas, California provided the perfect setting for the recent (16th annual) Jazz Fest West. The weekend long concert was produced by Omega events, run by Rich Sherman, who has also been associated with Ritz Entertainment, the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, the Inland Empire Jazz & Arts Festival, the Old Pasadena Jazz Fest and more. Check out photos (by Humberto Suarez) from JazzFest West.

In 2007, a new name and destination was born for what is now Jazz Fest West! This year welcomed a versatile line up of Babyface, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Lelah James, Joey Summerville, Jazz In Pink (featuring Gail Johnson, Jeanette Harris & Karen Briggs), Gerald Albright, 480 East, Rick Braun, Peter White, Ledisi, Jeff Golub and Boney James.

Also starring was the velvet voiced tenor Eric Benet, who told EUR’s Lee Bailey about his shock when Stevie Wonder graced the stage for an impromptu performance. Eric also informed fans about his daughter’s music career.

Mike Phillips also never fails to be a crowd pleaser. As he played with his usual virtuosity he was equally titillated by his fellow Jazz West cohorts, Ledisi, Babyface and Gerald Albright (whom he says is the second coming of Cannonball Adderly). Mike described Jazz West as the monster festival of the west coast with one of the most flexible line ups as far as jazz festivals go.

“This line up is hardcore and impressive.”

Phillips also had this message for the fans.  He’s convinced that JazzFest West has become one of the premier music festivals of the circuit. Check out what he told EUR’s Lee Bailey:

Phillips also had this message for the fans regarding his new recording:

“Thank you for your support. ‘MP3′ is in stores now. It features Stevie Wonder, Norman Brown, Natalie Stewart from Floetry and Mr. Marcus Miller on bass. ‘MP3,’ it’s my third album, ‘Mike Phillips 3.’”

Jazz West concert patrons brought food and other donations for the Union Rescue Mission and the internationally acclaimed artist Charles Bibbs (www.theworldart.com) provided the design for the official Jazz West poster. For highlights from this year and a forecast for next year, visit www.omegaevents.com.

Special thanks to EUR/EURweb associate Theresa Rankin for the great coordination, Humberto Suarez for the great photos and Omega Events’ Lex Davies for the excellent hook up.

Dawkins and Dawkins Are Poised for a Comeback After a Decade

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Mona Austin

(August 2, 2011) *Relevance: check. Production value: check. Fresh factor: check. Signature sound: check.

These are the vital signs of “From Now On” (Light Records), the new career-reviving CD from
Dawkins and Dawkins.

It’s now been 10 years since blood brothers Eric and Anson recorded as a duo after their former label Harmony Records dissolved.

Fortunately, for Dawkins and Dawkins, fans have not forgotten “Focus” (their last studio release recorded in 1998) that had a sound that was before its time and traces of it have remained.  (With its street-friendly grooves, Focus, landed in the Top 200 on the Billboard chart and yielded the hit songs “Wrapped Up,” “Praisin’ on My Mind,” and “Need To Know.”) This time around listeners can expect more of the same with a few musical twists.

Eric said, “We’re raising the bar with elements that our fans are expecting to hear, but also stepping into some areas that we haven’t ventured into before, i.e. pop and rock that will no doubt place us in other arenas.”

The CCM tinged “Can You Hear Me?” from the 16-track recording has the most potential to appeal to new ears.  But the album’s overall tone has the urban zest of its lead single “Get Down,” –a command to pray when life gets overwhelming–which has a beat that induces perpetual head bobbing.

The PKs (who are only one year apart in age) started singing gospel when they were knee-high, but neither are strangers to diverse music genres. During their hiatus, Anson became the College and Career Pastor at Life Center Church, in Tacoma, WA, a setting that prefers a contemporary Christian style of worship.  Eric picked up songwriting and producer credits in mainstream music, working with leading R&B and pop entertainers Ruben Studdard, Tyrese, Tank, Chris Brown and Christina Aguilera.

Bringing the message of the project into focus, Anson said, “‘From Now On’ is a declaration of faith, a commitment to live a life that makes room for God to be God. It serves to remind us that we are to do all that we can while letting God do only what He can.”

He describes the songs as “truthful” and the singing as “passionate” adding, “We hope it will encourage, inspire, and birth a faith in the greatest man that ever lived … Jesus … The faith to follow Him for life.”

And Dawkins and Dawkins undoubtedly hope to re-establish their position as the inventors of “Rhythm and Praise,” a style that blazed a trail in contemporary gospel music.

Arcade Fire Give Fans An 'Intense Musical Gyration' At New Brunswick Festival

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(July 30, 2011) Blood was in the water, the rumours became true, and the newest Grammy-winning band from Canada stole thunder from U2 in Sackville, N.B.

Arcade Fire, under the alias Shark Attack!, dropped in unannounced on the marsh-set university town to headline the first night of SappyFest, a small independent music event which charms southern New Brunswick annually.

With the theme music from Jaws booming ominously, the Montreal orchestral rockers took to the festival's mainstage - inside a thousand-man tent, occupying part of a blocked-off downtown street, just outside a diner called Mel's.

"This is our first show," said front-man Win Butler, carrying on with the unknown band conceit. What followed was a fairly typical Arcade Fire affair, which is to say it was commanding, whipped-up, passionate, genuine, shout-y and expansive - every song an intense musical gyration.

Drawing chiefly from its Grammy-winning conceptual album The Suburbs, the eight-piece rockestra played a continuous 90 minutes, including a two-tune encore. The material of The Suburbs has sprawled imaginatively since its 2010 release: on stage, violinists played in a more steely way; the band as a whole was wilder than I'd seen from them perform previously; feedback and freakouts punctuated each number.

Rococo was off-kilter and fearsome. The Suburbs, the most melodic number, now bounced eerily. Month of May was gospel-punk. We Used to Wait muscled firmly.

Before Neon Bible's No Cars Go, Butler mentioned the band's semi-trailer truck parked outside on the blocked-off street. The big rig didn't seem large enough to handle half the twenty-ton sound and musical industry at work.

The theme of the sixth edition of Sappyfest is With or Without You, a cheeky, defiant reference to Saturday's U2 colossal concert in nearby Moncton. Arcade Fire, which gave a show Thursday in Dartmouth, N.S., share the bill with the Irish big-deals on Saturday.

Life goes on for SappyFest, with two more days of music and commune. "Who needs U2," a festival volunteer said to me, rhetorically, her pride up and pluck showing.

Indeed, Friday's bill that included the cosmic country croon of Daniel Romano and the sophisticated imagination of past Polaris Prize winner Owen Pallett wasn't even done after Arcade Fire's set. Past-midnight music was had at Larry's bar and a legion hall too.

As for the band that called itself Shark Attack!, one must say it was some shark - and some attack.

Glee Actor Matthew Morrison Turns Rock Star

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Aug 1, 2011) You know him as the teacher from Glee, but this summer Matthew Morrison has stepped out of the classroom and onto the stage, opening for NKOTBBB (New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys).

In the spring, he released a self-titled album, featuring duets with Elton John (a Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters/Rocket Man mash-up), Sting (Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Somewhere Over the Rainbow). The Globe caught up with Morrison in Vancouver, early in the tour.

Do you ever think, pinch me - I'm recording with Elton John and Sting?

I have welts all over my body from pinching myself. It was just completely surreal. It wasn't until three days later that it finally hit me. I was like oh my God I just recorded with Elton John.

Did you get intimidated?

No, they're so nice and I had a really good rapport with them before we went into the studio. I guess when they first walked in, it was a little intimidating, but when we started working, that was all out the window. It just felt like a great collaboration.

How did the Elton John collaboration come about?

I went to his Oscar party supporting his AIDS foundation and met him and then we became kind of friendly. And eventually I just asked him. I'm so not that guy, but I figured the worst he could do is say no. But he was like 'absolutely; yes I'd love to.' And then he actually was more proactive in getting it done. 'I've got this day open and this day open in L.A.; let's do this.' He wanted to do it bad.

How did you decide on the songs?

Before we went into the studio, I asked him is there anything in particular that you want to do? And he's like anything except Crocodile Rock. I think he's done singing that song. So I went through his whole catalogue for three days and I came up with Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters and Rocket Man.

And what about Sting? How did that happen?

He saw me perform at the Kennedy Center Honors two years ago and afterward he came up to me and said I love your voice and I think you're great. And then we became friendly and eventually I just kind of asked him - one of my producers produced his whole last album, so he kind of asked for me - and he said absolutely.

You co-wrote four tracks on the CD. Tell me about the writing process.

I did some songwriting when I was younger but I never really thought I was good. So knowing that I was going to do an album kind of forced me to do it, to sit down and churn this stuff out. It was important for me coming from Glee that I write my own songs to legitimize myself. Because it would have just been another Glee CD if I'd just done covers. So to be taken seriously I thought it was important to write. It didn't come easy for me, to be honest. But at the end of the day, I'm really proud of it.

You have a musical background; you come from musical theatre. Do you worry about being lumped in with all those actors who try to sell themselves as recording artists?

No, because of my background, and because of Glee. It's a musical television show so I don't think it's that far of a stretch. It's not like 'Oh I'm Keanu Reeves, I'm in The Matrix but now I'm going to have a band.' Which he does.

Did you grow up listening to Backstreet Boys or New Kids On The Block?

Not Backstreet Boys. I was too cool when Backstreet Boys came out. But I had a New Kids on the Block cassette tape and I remember liking some songs. And the little dance moves.

What's it like touring with them?

I originally had my own tour planned, but I got this opportunity to perform in front of 15- to 20,000 people every night, and it's been great. The most surreal part is singing some of the songs that I wrote and people singing them back to me. And it's hard to hear because they're screaming at you. That's the difference between theatre and, I guess, being a rock star. People scream back at you.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Matthew Morrison and NKOTB/BB are in Ottawa on Aug. 4; Montreal, Aug. 5; Hamilton, Aug. 6; and London, Ont., Aug. 7.

There’s A Musician In The House

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Aug 01, 2011) LOS ANGELES - Sometimes you just have to get out of the house. Which isn’t easy when you are the House, as Hugh Laurie is Dr. Gregory House, the misanthropic MD he has so indelibly embodied for what will soon be nine successful seasons.

And as House, the character and the show, Laurie’s pivotal presence requires the actor to appear in almost every scene, if only long enough to hobble in, toss off a withering remark and leave.

This does not leave a lot of time to pursue other interests. And Laurie has many.

House fans may not even be aware of Laurie’s earlier incarnation as a British comedy star, with a particular facility for moronic upper-class twits, notably in Rowan Atkinson’s Blackadder and, with his longtime friend and collaborator Stephen Fry, as the definitive Jeeves and Wooster.

Fewer still will know of his musical talents, outside of the occasional, uncharacteristic interlude on House, and his sideline gigs with the all-actor Band from TV and its English equivalent, Poor White Trash.

And who would ever have suspected that this Oxford-born, Eton and Cambridge-educated upper-class Brit has harboured a lifelong passion for classic bayou blues?

It’s a passion that Laurie was allowed to indulge — and we along with him — in an all-star New Orleans studio recording session, featuring the likes of Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and Tom Jones, yielding both a new album, Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk, and a corresponding PBS concert/documentary, to air on Great Performances Sept. 30.

“I have no idea as to how the record will be received,” Laurie allowed this week at the Television Critics Association tour. “I have no idea how this film will be received. But then, one never does as a performer. You put these things out there in good faith, hoping that they will touch people in some way, and that’s all you can do.

“I can’t deny it was without a doubt the most frightening thing I’ve ever done. I think to stand up and to play music to an audience is . . . I mean, I recently did a tour in Europe of only, I think it was only eight or nine shows, which doesn’t sound very much, but if you’ve never done any it’s an awful lot. And that was a very, very daunting, but wonderful experience.

“Well, many things that are daunting are wonderful if you survive them. Being attacked by a lion is probably brilliant, but the survival part is important.”

Just being in New Orleans, Laurie says, was the realization of a lifelong dream. “Ever since I was a very small boy, it is the sounds of that city that have just thrilled me like no other.

“It has always to me exuded a spirit of just sheer love and life and happiness, joy, but at the same time it has a sort of mournful side to it. It is a city that has confronted death in many ways; in its recent past, very notably. But it’s a city that I don’t know. It has just had a sort of fragrance and a spirit to me, that even as a young English boy thousands of miles away across an ocean, it seemed to reach that far.”

And beyond. “There are so many people from England and elsewhere who have been drawn to this extraordinarily powerful music. Who knows why? That’s for others to explain, I think, not me. But it is a very, very powerful thing. Arguably America’s greatest gift to the world, of many.”

And just one of America’s many gifts to Laurie. “I’ve been blessed beyond reckoning by a peculiar chain of circumstances,” he says, “which means I have been allowed to reinvent myself by coming to this country, and I thank the United States for its open mindedness in accepting a strange alien and allowing that alien to ply his trade.

“It’s an amazing thing that I got a chance to come here at a particular point in my life and really start all over again. After all, for all you know, I’ve done nothing but robbing banks. I mean, I might actually be on the run.”

Laurie’s session was a highlight of the largely pop-centric PBS presentations, which also featured rock scribe-turned-director Cameron Crowe with his commemorative grunge homage, Pearl Jam Twenty (Oct. 21 on American Masters); Smokey Robinson and his Ultimate Celebration of the Motown Sound (Human Nature, TBA); and wisecracking ex-Monkee Davy Jones, host of ’60s Pop Rock: My Music (Dec. 3).

Comedy was equally well-represented, with Seriously Funny: The Comic Art of Woody Allen, Nov. 20 and 21 on American Masters (the consistently excellent biographical showcase is celebrating its 25th anniversary season); and a retrospective Ed Sullivan Comedy Special, to air Aug. 6. The man behind Elmo, puppeteer Kevin Clash, gets his own Independent Lens doc (date TBA).

But the biggest laughs of the PBS weekend were generated by writer/producer Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, in a spirited panel discussion with other veteran showrunners, part of a new, four-part America in Primetime series exploring classic TV archetypes, Sunday nights from Oct. 30 through Nov. 20.

Rosenthal has his own documentary, Exporting Raymond, released on DVD today (Tuesday), about his experience attempting to adapt the hit sitcom for Russian television.

“I don’t want to give it away whether it does or doesn’t, ultimately. I’ll tell you it was a challenge. It was, you know . . . they thought that the character of Raymond was not Russian at all. He’s a wimpy guy who gets pushed around by the ladies in his life, and Russian men are tough and macho and they rule the house.

“And as they were telling me this, I thought, ‘This sounds a lot like bull----.’ I’m sorry, but if Vladimir Putin goes out and kills an animal with his bare hands, and then before he comes home, the wife stops him at the door. ‘You’re not coming in here with that mud on your shoes, wipe that off. And you’re not using the good towels. And where have you been?’ And he says, ‘Sorry, honey. Whatever you like.’

“Russian, American . . . that’s men and women and spouses and significant others at home that we all answer to. I don’t care who you are. You know?”

And it just wouldn’t be a PBS season without a new historical series from documentarian-in-residence Ken Burns.

This time Burns takes on Prohibition, to air over three nights, Oct. 2-4, which will be welcome news for those who just can’t get enough of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Burns included.

“I’ve really enjoyed watching it,” he said. “It’s terrific. I think they have another huge hit on their hands, in the mode of The Sopranos. And they’re not that dissimilar, you know. Americans always love to watch people who get to kill people that piss them off. And women who take their clothes off at the drop of a hat.”

Unreleased Winehouse Songs Could Be Used In Next Bond Movie

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(Jul 29, 2011) Songs recorded by Amy Winehouse before her death could feature on the soundtrack of the next James Bond movie.

The 27-year-old singer — who was found dead at her London home last Saturday — had secretly penned and laid down the vocals for three tracks in the hope one would be used for the next film about the fictional spy.

A source told the Daily Star newspaper: “What a way to remember Amy. We want her to be known for her talent and not her drugs addiction.

“To have one of her songs used in the next film would be the perfect memorial to her.

“They were really a work in progress but she’d laid down the vocals and had guitar and drums as an outline. It wouldn’t take much to tighten it up into a finished product.”

Amy’s spokesman Chris Goodman said there is “plenty” of material but there have been no discussions about releasing anything.

In 2008, producer Mark Ronson had tried to get Winehouse — who had a history of alcohol and drug problems — to record a song called ‘Mission of Solace’ intended to be used for the soundtrack to the Bond film Quantum of Solace, however the plans had to be scrapped due to Winehouse’s erratic behaviour. Mark said he was “gutted” they had missed their chance.

Meanwhile, a source at Winehouse’s record company, Island-Universal said there are “frameworks” of 12 songs which could be used to create an album.

The source said: “She had put down the bare bones of tracks and some were further along than others.

“People were getting very excited, quite frankly they were really good. We heard rough cuts and they sounded like vintage Amy.”


Greyson Chance Gives Us Solid Pop, And More

Source: www.thestar.com - By John Terauds

Hold On ‘Til the Night (ElevenEleven)

(August 01, 2011) Nothing launches an ear-to-ear grin faster than hearing a super-talented kid. There's no reason to plug in the AutoTune for Greyson Chance, a pint-sized 13-year-old with supersized pipes. The rosy-cheeked Oklahoman releases his first album today, not much more than a year after Ellen DeGeneres was bowled over by seeing him sing on YouTube singing Lady Gaga's “Paparazzi” at his elementary school talent show. The boy's debut 10-track album is a solid effort that owes a massive debt to the boy bands of the 1990s. This is power-pop at its most commercially engaging — all bred from Chance's own original songs. “Waiting Outside the Lines,” released as a single last fall, is already a certified hit. Follow-up single “Unfriend You” is close behind. There's a bit of orchestral rock and an echo here and there of Motown. As a grownup, it's hard to listen seriously to someone who looks like a little brother on a TV sitcom sing intensely of the agonies of love, but this will make Chance's young fans feel all the more mature and worldly. The song that rings truest is “Cheyenne” (“Could you ever see a guy like me with a girl like you?”), an affecting power ballad where Chance pleads with his girl to not break his heart. This YouTube phenom is standing on solid artistic ground here.

Who Killed the R&B Group? That’s the Question

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 2, 2011) *(Via theRoot) – At Washington, D.C.’s DAR
Constitution Hall, the crowd — a mix of distinguished salt-and-pepper goatees and shellacked updos — awaits Charlie Wilson, former front man for the Gap Band. But first En Vogue, the once ubiquitous, platinum-selling R&B group from the ’90s, is opening the show. Fifteen minutes past the scheduled start time, they emerge — minus Dawn Robinson — to muted applause. In a style that is all but extinct, they strut in unison, dressed in matching gold-lamé blouses, performing über-modified versions of the provocative choreography that once accompanied their award-winning singles. Time may have taken a toll on their two-step, but it’s done nothing to their pipes. En Vogue sound as pristine as they did 20 years ago. Two men stand in the audience, iPhones held aloft, mouthing the words to each and every song. As soon as En Vogue exit stage left, the duo makes a beeline for the exit.

Beyonce Makes Platinum with Album ’4′

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 2, 2011) *Despite the apprehension by some over
Beyonce’s “4” album, it’s already gone platinum. “Thank you to all the fans that purchased the album. We hope you’re enjoying it as much as we are,” Beyonce said on her official website. Only five weeks after its release, the album rose to #1 on Billboard’s top 200, selling over 300,000 copies in the first week. While she’s making hits, her former fellow group member, Kelly Rowland is finally past her “frustration point.” She shared recently that she knows and has accepted that she will always be compared to Beyonce. “That is my sister. I love her incredibly,” Kelly told Gayle King. “It gets frustrating, but I’ve been through that frustration point and out of it now ’cause I know I’m standing in my own light,” the “Motivation” singer said.


Q&A: Ryan Reynolds talks The Change-Up

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(Aug 1, 2011) LOS ANGELES — The first half of 2011 wasn't the greatest time in Ryan Reynolds's life. The actor's two-year marriage to Scarlett Johansson came to an end, and his movie Green Lantern, which seemed like the start of a lucrative superhero franchise, but didn’t meet box-office expectations.

But none of this seems to have dampened the Canadian's spirit. And now things are looking up. Reynolds, 34, long a mainstay of Sexiest Man Alive lists, has recently been spotted with another Hollywood beauty: Charlize Theron. And the Vancouver native has a new movie,
The Change-Up, that plays to his natural comic strengths, while showcasing his serious acting chops.

Backed by Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin and The Hangover writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, Reynolds portrays an irresponsible playboy who switches bodies with his childhood friend, a married father of three played by Jason Bateman. Although Reynolds goes through a wide range of psychological states for his role, it would be a stretch to say that making the film inspired him to contemplate living a different life; he seems pretty happy with the way things are.

You've been friends with Bateman since you made Smokin' Aces (2006) together. How often did you try to copy each other's mannerisms in The Change-Up?

Very little. We kind of made a pact early on that we weren't going to do impressions of each other. We're not skilled enough to do that, so we just captured the essence and lived with that. Initially, when we were first approached about this, I didn't care which role I did. I just wanted to be a part of it, and I liked them both.

Body-switch movies aren't usually this adult, or this tolerable for adult audiences.

Big (1998, starring Tom Hanks), I think, could be called a body-switch movie, and it's probably the best of the bunch. They tend to be very saccharine, and you can't push anything too far. It also depends on who you're switching with. When you've got a guy who's basically leading the life of a B-list porn star and another guy who's a straight-down-the-middle family man, things are going to happen that are not PG-13.

So, was it good for you – all the raunch?

I love it – making them. I haven't done an R-rated comedy since Van Wilder (2002), and that's been a long time. When you get that freedom, you can do and say anything you want, like people do in actual life. You can have a little bit more fun. For me, it's just about that: It's just not being restricted in what you can do.

You've been in a lot of comedies, you're quick with jokes in real life and you're from a culture that seems to consider a sense of humour part of its national identity...

And vulnerability! 'Cause it'll make us more likable.

But what about branching out more into purely dramatic roles – or at least those that don't involve superpowers, anyway.

I've done pretty serious drama. I mean, I haven't played Billie Holiday in a movie as of yet, but there's been Buried (2010), Fireflies in the Garden (2008). Safe House (2012) is coming out next year.

Tell us about Safe House.

It was great. Shot it in South Africa, was there four-and-a-half months – something like that. I'm kind of like a young CIA agent. A housekeeper is what they call those guys; very low level, don't do much, they just man houses in random countries around the world for visiting agents and interrogating suspects. One day, the mother of all bad guys walks in; Denzel Washington plays him. Everybody gets killed except for he and I, and then I'm responsible for moving him to a safer location.

Then you're making R.I.P.D. (2013) with Jeff Bridges, which is taken from yet another comic book. It's about zombie detectives. Are you one of the undead cops?

We both are. Jeff and I are both dead. I'm recently deceased; he's been doing it for 200 years, so he's still a Wild West sheriff-type. It's really going to be a lot of fun.

There's also been talk of you re-teaming with Sandra Bullock, your co-star in The Proposal (2009), for another comedy.

I'm not sure about that one. We're trying to figure something out for some day, but it's not on the books yet.

And there's supposedly a Green Lantern sequel in the works. But after the first film's underwhelming box-office reception this summer ...

I'm happy with how the first one turned out. Origin stories are really tricky to do, and I definitely thought it was good, considering that.

I've no idea [if it will return]. It's all in the movie gods' hands. I'm just a hopeful actor.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Laurence Fishburne Cast As Perry White In New ‘Superman’ Film

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Aug 03, 2011) Great Caesar’s ghost! According to EW.com, Laurence Fishburne has been cast as Perry White in the upcoming Man of Steel, the new Superman movie. Fresh off his two-year stint on CSI, the prolific actor will get ready to play the hard-charging newsman.

Expected in theatres in 2013, the latest Superman film hopes to do better than 2006’s Superman Returns, which was considered a disappointment by fans. As a result, the latest film will be another reboot, effectively retelling his origin, being rocketed from Krypton and becoming one of the greatest comic book heroes.

The new film already has an impressive cast, with British actor Henry Cavill cast as Superman, Amy Adams will be Lois Lane, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent, and Diane Lane as Martha Kent and Michael Shannon as General Zod.

Fans are hoping some of Batman’s recent movie magic and success will rub off on his World’s Finest partner, as Christopher Nolan is producing this effort and Batman Begins scribe David Goyer is working on the script. Zack Snyder, who directed comic book films Watchmen and 300, is directing.

At this point, it’s not entirely certain what take on the Superman’s story will be used as the basis for the movie, as there have been several different comics telling his journey from Smallville resident to Metropolis’ guardian.

One persistent web rumour is that Goyer may take some inspiration from the Superman: Birthright comic storyline from 2003 to 2004, which tells the story of a 20-something Clark Kent working as a freelance journalist in West Africa, where he uses his powers in a bloody tribal conflict which ultimately inspires him to his greater heroic deeds.

General Zod, however, did not appear in that series; he’s best known from his role as the villain in Superman 2, where the character was played by Terrence Stamp, so the film will likely take elements from previous Superman tales.

Done With The Office, Steve Carell Cranks Up To Movie Career

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(Jul 28, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Steve Carell is not going through Michael Scott withdrawal — at least not yet.

“I don’t sit at home and think of ‘that’s what she said’ jokes and wish that I could do them one more time,” says the actor, laughing. “But it’s only been a few months, too, so I haven’t really had any time. All of that is still fresh to me.”

Carell’s send-off from “The Office” (for which he received a parting Emmy nomination) is still fresh in many viewers’ minds, too. The emotional hubbub over his exit after seven seasons caught Carell by surprise. He was flattered, he says, but, with typical humility, considers it “just an actor leaving a show.”

He moved on to spend more time with his family (wife and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Nancy Ellen Walls and their two children) and to expand the movie career he had previously squeezed into summer breaks from shooting the hit NBC comedy.

The first glimpse of Carell’s post-“Office” days is “
Crazy Stupid Love,” an ensemble romantic comedy in which he stars and that he produced.

“It is sort of a new phase,” Carell said in a recent interview at the Ritz-Carlton. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s just, just started. You’re witnessing day one of the new phase. So far so good.”

“Crazy Stupid Love” mirrors the type of movie Carell wants to pursue, particularly its blend of comedy and drama, and its focus on character-based realism.

Carell plays a suburban father who, when his wife (Julianne Moore) cheats on him and they separate, remakes himself as a lady’s man with the help of a suave pickup artist (Ryan Gosling). The film also examines love stories in different generations (Emma Stone pairs with Gosling).

Glenn Ficarra, who directed with John Requa, calls the role a “transitional piece” for Carell that shows he can smoothly range into more serious material.

“Steve’s a writer, so he’s always thinking about scenes in a slightly different way, not just as an actor,” says Ficarra. “Like ‘40-Year-Old Virgin’ is a very kind of crass concept, but it’s a very heartfelt movie. Steve always approaches everything he does trying to come from a real place, as opposed to a wacky place. So I think it’s a natural extension to move toward dramatic stuff, because you’re just dealing with reality.”

After memorably funny roles in “Bruce Almighty” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” 2005’s “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” (which Carell co-wrote with Judd Apatow) catapulted Carell’s movie career. The former Second City standout and “Daily Show” correspondent responded with a steady string of movies.

He has vacillated among blockbusters (“Get Smart,” “Despicable Me”), box-office flops (“Evan Almighty”) and absurdist comedies (“Dinner for Schmucks”). But he’s shown a respectable inclination for adult-minded comedies such as “Dan in Real Life,” “Date Night” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

But in the constant back-and-forth between movies and the mockumentary-style “Office,” some TV habits were hard to break.

“The one thing that’s hard getting away from is looking into the camera,” says Carell, laughing. “This happened all the way through ‘The Office,’ when I would go off and do a movie. For the first week, I would continually look into the lens of the movie camera. I’d stop myself and go, ‘What the hell am I doing? This isn’t the documentary.’”

Directors have often praised Carell’s ability to improvise on the spot, performing repeated alternative takes in comedies to twist a scene in different directions. An admirer of great actors such as Alan Arkin, Jack Lemmon and Peter Sellers, Carell has always favoured character-based comedy and detests “jokey jokes.”

“In real life, people don’t walk around telling jokes to each other,” Carell says.

“That, to me, is not what’s most funny about real life. Real human situations and responses are what really make me laugh. When you hear a joke — and it depends on the context and the movie — you feel like you’re being set up that way and manipulated. I never like that in a movie. I would much rather buy into a character and laugh at what they’re doing as opposed to how funny they’re trying to be.”

Julianne Moore, who has won Oscar nominations for roles in such dramas as “Far From Heaven,” “The Hours” and “Boogie Nights,” believes Carell’s approach works, regardless of genre.

“Steve has got a kinetic acuity like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she says. “It is effortless — or seemingly effortless. ... He’s great at connecting and noticing things that are going on around him.”

“Crazy Stupid Love” is the first film produced by Carell’s production company, Carousel Productions. As a producer, he picked the directors, contributed to casting and had input on keeping the tone of the movie as realistic as possible — using “treacle cutters,” he says, to weed out sentimentality. In one low-point scene for his character, his wife leaves and it begins to rain. Carell improvised a self-conscious line: “Ah, what a cliché.”

Carell is producing a documentary on the last six decades of comedy, to be hosted by David Steinberg. Upcoming acting jobs include co-starring with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Great Hope Springs,” another tale of marriage woes. He will also play a magician in “Burt Wonderstone,” and he recently shot the independent romantic comedy “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” with Keira Knightley.

Carell, who hasn’t been credited as a writer since a few 2006-2007 “Office” episodes, plans to write more now that he has time. He knows wistful emotions might kick in when, in a few weeks, “The Office” returns to production for its fall season without him, but thus far, he’s relishing his new period — particularly his time with his kids.

“It’s been great,” he says with a smile. “It’s been exactly what I hoped it would be.”

Tribe Fan’s Documentary Quest

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Jul 28, 2011) “This rhythm really fits like a snug glove/Like a box of positives is plus, love/as the Tribe flies high like a dove.” —“Can I Kick It?” A Tribe Called Quest

Universally hailed and beloved rap group
A Tribe Called Quest’s catalogue continues to inspire and be lauded for its positive vibes, bouncy music and creativity. Though critically and commercially adored in their late ’80s and ’90s heyday, the story behind the scenes was rife with long perceived personal conflicts and issues.

Michael Rapaport, best known as an actor, was a huge fan of the group who always wondered why they broke up. Casually talking to Tribe frontman Q-Tip at a concert in 2006, about wanting to shoot a documentary, he was given the green light to commence filming at the group’s reunion shows during the Rock the Bells tour in 2008. The result is Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, and although things started out easy, the resulting shoot was not as smooth as the group’s bouncy flow.

When it debuted at Sundance, the members publicly had issues with the way they were portrayed — Q-Tip as the mercurial musical genius, Phife Dawg as the grouchy second banana — along with the almost silent, always stuck-in-the-middle deejay Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, the sometimes member whom Q-Tip has called the spiritual centre of the group.

Despite some disputes over the final product, Rapaport feels he’s done right as a fan, and more importantly as a filmmaker.

“I didn’t make the movie for the group, so making the best movie wouldn’t be the movie that they necessarily felt the most comfortable with. I’m a fan, and I have a point of view on things. If the movie didn’t have its emotional life I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you,” he says in a Toronto interview.

“I didn’t have any preconceived notions about who they were as people, or what kind of people they were. I definitely was excited to talk to them about the music, but as far as people, I wasn’t there to judge them, take sides, or even sort of meander into their business. I was just trying to tell their story in the most informative and honest and entertaining way.”

Rapaport says that he and the group are cool now, and much better than at that first screening.

“We’ve kind of agreed to disagree. You know, A Tribe Called Quest is a positive thing and it’s bigger than me and him (Q-Tip) as individuals. The last thing I want to do is taint the legacy of Tribe. Where are we at? We’re way better than we were at Sundance.”

It’s hard to understand what their issues might have been. Beats, Rhymes and Life comes across as a well- balanced look at the group, celebrating their enduring music, interviewing famous fans, such as Pharrell, who have been inspired by the group, but also showing the personalities and some of the petty disputes and issues that rise up in these lifelong relationships.

There’s also some movie magic, particularly in a scene where Q-Tip casually flips through records and then samples and rebuilds the famous loop for “Can I Kick It.”

“That was great,” says the director. “It was totally impromptu. I didn’t talk to him about it, he just did it. It was special and I think you feel it in the scene.”

Tribe Fan’s Documentary Quest

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Jul 28, 2011) “This rhythm really fits like a snug glove/Like a box of positives is plus, love/as the Tribe flies high like a dove.” —“Can I Kick It?” A Tribe Called Quest

Universally hailed and beloved rap group
A Tribe Called Quest’s catalogue continues to inspire and be lauded for its positive vibes, bouncy music and creativity. Though critically and commercially adored in their late ’80s and ’90s heyday, the story behind the scenes was rife with long perceived personal conflicts and issues.

Michael Rapaport, best known as an actor, was a huge fan of the group who always wondered why they broke up. Casually talking to Tribe frontman Q-Tip at a concert in 2006, about wanting to shoot a documentary, he was given the green light to commence filming at the group’s reunion shows during the Rock the Bells tour in 2008. The result is Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, and although things started out easy, the resulting shoot was not as smooth as the group’s bouncy flow.

When it debuted at Sundance, the members publicly had issues with the way they were portrayed — Q-Tip as the mercurial musical genius, Phife Dawg as the grouchy second banana — along with the almost silent, always stuck-in-the-middle deejay Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, the sometimes member whom Q-Tip has called the spiritual centre of the group.

Despite some disputes over the final product, Rapaport feels he’s done right as a fan, and more importantly as a filmmaker.

“I didn’t make the movie for the group, so making the best movie wouldn’t be the movie that they necessarily felt the most comfortable with. I’m a fan, and I have a point of view on things. If the movie didn’t have its emotional life I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you,” he says in a Toronto interview.

“I didn’t have any preconceived notions about who they were as people, or what kind of people they were. I definitely was excited to talk to them about the music, but as far as people, I wasn’t there to judge them, take sides, or even sort of meander into their business. I was just trying to tell their story in the most informative and honest and entertaining way.”

Rapaport says that he and the group are cool now, and much better than at that first screening.

“We’ve kind of agreed to disagree. You know, A Tribe Called Quest is a positive thing and it’s bigger than me and him (Q-Tip) as individuals. The last thing I want to do is taint the legacy of Tribe. Where are we at? We’re way better than we were at Sundance.”

It’s hard to understand what their issues might have been. Beats, Rhymes and Life comes across as a well- balanced look at the group, celebrating their enduring music, interviewing famous fans, such as Pharrell, who have been inspired by the group, but also showing the personalities and some of the petty disputes and issues that rise up in these lifelong relationships.

There’s also some movie magic, particularly in a scene where Q-Tip casually flips through records and then samples and rebuilds the famous loop for “Can I Kick It.”

“That was great,” says the director. “It was totally impromptu. I didn’t talk to him about it, he just did it. It was special and I think you feel it in the scene.”

Hollywood Stars Aren’t Shining As Bright

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Peter Howell

(Jul 28, 2011) “Who is George Clooney?” my cottage pal Dennis the Highwayman asked, during a recent festive evening at his Blackfish Bay rural abode.

“Is he a good-looking chap who gets himself into trouble?”

The question halted all conversation, one in which Clooney’s name had come up. I think even the deer flies stopped buzzing. All you could hear was the sound of ice tinkling in rum glasses.

“Are you serious?” I asked the Highwayman, who believes he thinks better when he’s sipping Appleton Estate. “You don’t know who George Clooney is?”

“No, and why should I?” he retorted, and I had to admit he had a point.

Why should anyone have to know about George Clooney? He may be frequently in the news — including this week’s announcement that he’s starring in two TIFF-bound movies, The Ides of March and The Descendants — but that doesn’t necessarily make him top of mind for every segment of the population beyond movie critics.

I hasten to add that Dennis is no dummy. He’s a recently retired big wheel in the province’s road-building division, hence the Highwayman nickname. He doesn’t go to that many movies, but when he does, it’s not based upon whether there’s a big Hollywood name in the cast.

And increasingly, the Highwayman is more on the path with regular moviegoers than even he could imagine. The hard fact is that Clooney may be a star to many people, but that could be based more on his troublesome good looks — just ask his expanding chain of ex-girlfriends — than on his dubious box-office appeal.

His name isn’t sufficient to “open” a movie, as witness the less-than-awesome ticket sales for The American and The Men Who Stare at Goats, or the 0-for-6 Oscar non-haul for Up in the Air, which did respectable but not stellar business.

Take Clooney out of his fading Ocean’s Eleven franchise, in which he has pals like Brad Pitt assisting with the marquee duties, and you’d have a hard time proving the case that he’s a genuine matinee idol.

But let’s not pick on Clooney. The fact is that very few stars today can draw audiences based on their names alone, Pitt among them.

Star power just isn’t what it used to be, as this summer’s movies are proving in spades.

Almost every major hit this blockbuster season has been without benefit of a name-brand star, while some of the biggest duds — I’m looking at you, Larry Crowne — have sunk despite or because of their A-list branding.

Think about it. Can you name any of the stars of Captain America: The First Avenger, last week’s No. 1 opener? How about the actors in Thor, the first big hit of the summer?

How many of the Harry Potter actors can you name, for a franchise that has lasted a decade and grown to eight movies? How many of the Transformers stars can you name, three movies in?

I don’t ask these questions to mock anybody or to imply any superiority on my part. It’s my job to know these things, and also a personal interest, but they may not necessarily matter to you.

Ask me to name the players on any of Toronto’s sport teams, or any teams for that matter, and I could do a convincing impression of a deer caught in the headlights.

People have been flocking to films this summer without caring about whose name is up in lights. The biggest surprise hit of the season, and possibly the year, is Bridesmaids, a comedy loaded with talent but not a lot of boldface. How many members of the Bridesmaids cast can you name, without resorting to Google or IMDb?

This weekend brings the blockbuster Cowboys & Aliens, which has A-list names in Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. But you can bet your last popcorn kernel that the vast majority of people who will see it have been attracted by the title and the high concept of cowpokes fighting cosmic invaders. They’d have gone to see the film even if Joe Blow and Harry Nobody were the headliners.

It’s not like days of yore when people would go to the movies because they wanted to see stars like John Wayne, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor, stars who had a lot more mystery about them than today’s media-saturated celebs.

I first wrote on the fading of stardom a couple of years ago when The Hangover made major bank without a single A-list cast member. This year we had The Hangover 2, and the cast is slightly better known — quick, how many of the four principal players can you name? — but it was the sequel and not the stars that made the cash registers ring.

Meanwhile, films with name-brand talent have faltered. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts look cute riding a motor scooter on the poster for Larry Crowne, but the movie couldn’t draw flies down at your local bijou.

And Ryan Reynolds may be fast becoming a household name, at least for those households that watch late-night talk shows, but Green Lantern fizzled faster than a flashlight with dead batteries.

The only movie this summer that I think was genuinely sold on star power alone was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The movie sucked, but people love Johnny Depp, and they’ll always turn out to see him play wily Capt. Jack Sparrow.

Even my pal Dennis the Highwayman knows who Johnny Depp is, I’m sure. But Depp is a member of that vanishing breed known as the bankable actor, and he must be starting to feel a bit lonely.

TIFF Predix #13: My Week with Marilyn

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Peter Howell

(Jul 29, 2011) Since she's already going to be in Toronto for Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz, it's pretty much a sure thing that Michelle Williams will also be walking the red carpet at TIFF for her turn as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.

The Simon Curtis-directed film is  based on two books about the making of the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl, in which Monroe starred with Laurence Olivier.

Williams' co-stars for My Week with Marilyn include Kenneth Branagh, Emma Watson and Dominic Cooper.

Cooper, star of the coming The Devil's Double, was in Toronto this week and he agreed he'll likely be back for TIFF to help promote the Marilyn film.

Williams told The Star recently she was bit apprehensive about playing an iconic beauty like Monroe, but the publicity stills and her obvious talent indicate she has nothing to worry about.

"Then maybe I am a good trickster!” Williams said, laughing at the compliment.

“You know, for some reason I allow myself in work to be more confident, to be braver, to expose more, to risk more — and my life is the opposite of that.

“There’s this Flaubert quote that I love: ‘Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.’ That’s how I see myself.”

::TV NEWS::     

Singing The Praises Of The Common Man (And Woman)

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Jul 30, 2011) Choreographer Christian Vincent has worked with Madonna, Ricky Martin, Shakira and Prince, to name a few, but one of his favourite jobs has been guiding the amateur performers on Canada Sings.

“It has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in this industry,” said Vincent, taking a break from coaching a team from the Distillery District's Boiler House restaurant.

The six-episode series in which workplace glee clubs compete debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Global.

It’s not like you’d expect Vincent to diss the show, but chats with other coaches and judges produced uniformly glowing assessments of the experience.

For them, what elevates it above your typical reality competition show is the fact the participants are ordinary people and they’re competing, two teams at a time, for $10,000 charitable donations, not cash, fame or record contracts.

“To see these people competing for the greater cause, which is their charity, it makes this show stand out even more than American Idol and somebody that’s just going out to try to become the next superstar,” said judge Rob Van Winkle, a.k.a. rapper Vanilla Ice, who’s joined on the panel by Alberta singer Jann Arden and Simple Plan frontman Pierre Bouvier.

“These people are working class citizens that are coming in here to put a routine together as a team.”

In fact, the 12 teams come from all types of professions, from Vancouver junk collectors to Toronto Zoo workers. There are teachers, nurses and other hospital staffers, Hamilton police officers and Toronto firefighters among others.

Each team was matched with a vocal coach and a choreographer, who had five days — less actually, since the first day was spent auditioning team members to determine their levels of skill — to teach them a song mashup and a dance routine to perform in front of a live audience at the John Bassett Theatre in Toronto.

Said Vincent, “It’s so funny because usually the second or third day, woooo . . . ”

“. . . the tears start,” finished his coaching partner, actress and cabaret singer Sharron Matthews.

“Because everyone thinks singing and dancing is so easy, I want to be a star and I want people to see me, and then they realize it’s work,” Vincent said.

Besides teaching vocals and dance steps, the coaches (including singer/songwriter Scott Henderson and choreographer Kelly Konno) chose the songs and concepts for the routines, right down to the wardrobes and props.

If that sounds like a lot of work, it was, but the coaches also found it extremely rewarding.

“The teams have really brought me to tears . . . just to see the fruits of their labour and all the hard work, sweat and tears and fear, it brought tears to me eyes and I’m just so honoured to be a part of it,” said Konno.

The coaches say they had to be psychologists and mentors as well as trainers.

“You’re dealing with sometimes fragile personalities and you’re trying to build these individuals up to have a belief that they can do this,” said Vincent.

Added Matthews, “They’re saying things like, ‘Sharron, I haven’t looked at myself in the mirror in two years; I’ve never danced in front of people before; I never thought I could sing in front of anyone.’ ”

That’s not to say some teams didn’t have ringers.

Van Winkle described one young man who sang so well — “he had this really nice high-pitched voice like a Justin Timberlake or a Michael Jackson” — he plans to get him into a recording studio.

The Boiler House crew, known as Run DRC for Distillery Restaurants Corp., had self-described artsy types as members since the eatery employs a number of actors, singers and dancers.

But there were also non-performers in the group, said team captain Christina Opolko.

In the end, Matthews said, “These people, all the groups, are your neighbours. . . . They’re every shape, every size, every age and they’re all trying so hard. It’s amazing.”

“People will probably look at this show, ‘Oh, that was pretty good,’” said Vincent. “Hopefully, they understand what these people had to go through.”

Flashpoint Leads Gemini Nominations For Third Year

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Aug 03, 2011) Enrico Colantoni is even prouder of his Best Actor Gemini nomination than the first time he was recognized for his role as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpoint.

“It feels even more exciting because I think it’s possible. The first time I won I didn’t think it was possible,” the actor said. “Now that I understand fully the scope of the show and how appreciated it is (by) viewers (and Gemini voters) I have more pride, because we keep doing it. It’s the third year we’ve been nominated as a show and may it continue for another three years.”

In fact, it’s the third year that Flashpoint has topped the Gemini nominations heap.

The Toronto-made series, about police officers on an emergency
response team, took 17 of the nominations announced Wednesday morning.

Last year the series, which airs on CTV here and on CBS in the U.S., had a leading 15 nominations. The year before, it was up for 19 awards and took six, including Best Drama, Best Direction and Best Actor for Colantoni.

Colantoni has a long TV résumé, including roles on Just Shoot Me! and Veronica Mars. Asked how Flashpoint compares, he said, “I’ve never worked harder; the hours have never been longer; it’s never been more intense; the complexity of this character, I’ve never had to deal with anyone more complex. As an actor I couldn’t be happier because it’s just brought everything up.

“I started in comedy and I did a little drama, but I never thought I’d be an action guy, you know. But (Parker’s) heart and his emotional intelligence is what makes me so grateful to (executive producers) Anne Marie (La Traverse) and Bill (Mustos) for really, really choosing me out of so many wonderful talented actors, but I’m the lucky guy who gets to play this character every week.”

The show is up for Best Drama again this year. Its competition includes the co-production The Borgias, currently airing on CTV; the Showcase series Endgame; teen drama Skins, which was cancelled after a season on The Movie Network; and another co-production, The Tudors.

The drama about King Henry VIII and his wives won Best Drama at last year’s Geminis. Its fourth and final season aired last fall on CBC.

Other leading nominees for this year’s awards include new shows Call Me Fitz (HBO Canada), which stars Jason Priestley as a sleazy used car salesman, and Living in Your Car (TMN/Movie Central), about a fallen corporate executive (John Ralston) living in his luxury vehicle.

Both Fitz, with 16 nominations, and Living in Your Car, with 10, are up for Best Comedy. Other nominees include CBC’s 22 Minutes, TMN/Movie Central’s Good Dog, and CBC’s Ha!ifax Comedy Fest 2010 and Rick Mercer Report.

Also receiving 10 nominations, including Best Dramatic Miniseries or TV Movie, were two more co-productions: History Channel’s The Kennedys and TMN’s The Pillars of the Earth.

Colantoni is up for Best Actor in a Drama again this year, along with his Flashpoint castmate Hugh Dillon, for playing a different cop in Durham County. Others in the category include Callum Keith Rennie for Shattered; Michael Riley for Being Erica and Sam Witwer for Being Human.

The nominees for Best Actress in a Drama include past winner Erin Karpluk for Being Erica; Carmen Moore and Michelle Thrush for Blackstone; Krystin Pellerin for Republic of Doyle; Lauren Lee Smith for The Listener and Camille Sullivan for Shattered.

On the comedy side, the Best Actor nominees include Priestley and Ralston; Peter Keleghan for 18 to Life and Chris Leavins for Todd and the Book of Pure Evil.

The female comedy nominees are Angela Asher for 18 to Life; Tracy Dawson and Brooke Nevin for Call Me Fitz; and Grace Lynn Kung for InSecurity.

A full list of nominees can be found at www.GeminiAwards.ca

The 26th annual awards will take place in Toronto over three nights, with technical and other industry awards handed out Aug. 30 and 31, and the main gala on Sept. 7. It will be broadcast live from the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on CBC.

Ex-OWN CEO Christina Norman Headed to Black Voices

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 2, 2011) *
Christina Norman has a new job.

The executive who served as CEO of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network for just two years, before being removed in May due to the network’s poor ratings performance, has been hired as the new executive editor of Black Voices, which AOL Huffington Post Media Group is expected to relaunch later this week.

Norman will launch the new gig with a Huffington Post essay about the circumstances of her departure from OWN, according to IndieWire.

“It’s a great lesson for women, that when one door closes, another one opens,” said Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of HPMG. “There is enormous pressure on high-profile women to succeed, to constantly prove themselves. I met Christina in Los Angeles when she was the head of OWN. After she left, I asked her if she wanted to do something completely different.”

The moves comes as part of AOL Chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong’s plan to attract a more diverse audience of users and advertisers as part of his “80/80/80” strategy. The numbers signify AOL’s view that women account for 80 percent of domestic purchases, 80 percent of purchases are done locally, and 80 percent of purchases are driven by “influencer crowds.”

Another part of the strategy is adding high-profile media names to demonstrate AOL’s seriousness as a content company. In addition to setting the tone for the new Black Voices, Norman, who was president of MTV prior to OWN, will be responsible for creating new video programming across AOL.

As for OWN, it was announced last month that Oprah Winfrey herself will step in as CEO and chief creative officer.

Cable TV's Brand New Swagger

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan And Susan Young

(July 30, 2011) It started with a trip to Hef's famous Playboy Mansion. But the real splash, as it were, was on Thursday night - when TV critics mingled with stars at Gordon Ramsay's resto at The London West Hollywood and a DJ spun tunes for synchronized swimmers making moves in a rooftop pool.

In case the recent slew of Emmy nominations didn't make the point, the parties at this week's television critics tour sure did: Cable is no longer the poor stepchild of broadcast, but a bona fide Hollywood contender.

Well before the current TV tour in Los Angeles - where cable execs have been unveiling the big new shows for the fall season - original dramas such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire have overshadowed offerings from traditional networks.

Cable's reality stars have also gained traction, populating the covers of most magazines as ratings for programming like A&E's Hoarders and Discovery's Deadliest Catch ratchet up the ratings. Talking about his new show, Survivor alum Rob Mariano says he signed up for History's Around the World in 80 Ways because of Thom Beers, who produced both Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers.

"Those are the shows I'm watching," he said "I jumped at the opportunity to work with [Beers]."

Cable has also succeeded with niche audiences largely ignored by mainstream broadcasters. Lifetime president Nancy Dubuc told press that her channel has found "its inner chick," while History showed off high-testosterone fare such as Swamp People and Pawn Stars.

And, yes, those cable networks know how to throw a party. The Hef bash was in honour of Playboy Channel's titillating new series, TV for 2. The London swim do was a nod to the big influence of Brits this season.

Herewith, what the schmooze and the screenings suggested about what will be hot this fall on cable.


Queen Winfrey's departure from daytime has cable scrambling to fill the void.

The most obvious heir to the throne is CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, whose new daytime show Anderson airs in syndication Sept. 12. While male critics on the tour seemed surprised to learn how popular Cooper is among women, his charm, poise and breeding (hey, he's a Vanderbilt) are likely to make him a hit among the predominantly female daytime demographic.

As for the man himself, he was quick to give fellow daytime host Kelly Ripa her due: "It's hard to do daytime, and she makes it look so effortless," he told a small group of (mainly women) reporters gathered after his panel discussion. In sample clips the format looks to be an updated version of the old Phil Donahue, with Cooper flitting about the studio audience with microphone in hand.

Rosie O'Donnell, meanwhile, has a new show launching on the Oprah Winfrey Network in September, which will borrow heavily from her previous daytime gabfest in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Translation: Celebrity interviews, parenting advice, charity plugs and plenty of show tunes.


With AMC riding high on Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and, most recently, The Killing, it's easy to forget that its staple has been old Westerns. "We have a loyal fan base, whether it's episodes of The Rifleman or anything with Clint, so it was a no-brainer for us to look for the next great Western," said AMC programming VP Joel Stillerman.

He was referring to Hell on Wheels, which will launch Oct. 16. Filmed in Alberta, the 10-part series is set in the days after the Civil War with Anson Mount as a menacing former Confederate soldier who sets out in search of the Union dastards who killed his wife. Critics were mixed, but viewers hungry for a genre long neglected will probably give this tale of revenge and rebirth a chance.

No less epic is Moby Dick, a lavish reimagining of Melville's classic. The $25-million (U.S.) budget is huge for three-hour TV movie airing on upstart U.S. cable outlet Encore. William Hurt chews up the scenery as the embittered Captain Ahab, with ex-X-Files star Gillian Anderson as his missus.


Never a broadcaster to shy away from controversy - witness the ruckus over polygamist reality series Sister Wives - TLC now offers All-American Muslim, an unscripted profile of five Muslim families in the blue-collar burg of Dearborn, Mich. Much of the focus is on sisters Suhaila and Shadia, one a devout Muslim, the other a tattooed wild child who married a Catholic dude.

Other reality fun includes National Geographic Channel's Rocket City Rednecks, about Alabama hillbillies who happen to be rocket scientists employed at the nearby NASA flight centre. (And if you think it's too obvious for them to test moonshine as rocket fuel, guess again.) In the same vein, NGC's Border Wars documents the daily battle of U.S. Customs agents and Homeland Security types to keep America safe, while Discovery Channel's Weed Wars goes behind the scenes at the Oakland Harborside Health Center, a medical cannabis dispensary. Yes, the owners test the product.


Kelsey Grammer gets serious this fall and he's doing it on cable. Following the abysmal failures of his post-Frasier network sitcoms Back to You (14 episodes) and Hank (five episodes), Grammer moves into darker territory on the Starz channel drama Boss, playing Chicago mayor Tom Kane, who runs the city with an iron fist while hiding his early-onset dementia. Connie Nielsen, most recently of Friday Night Lights, plays his wife.

Then there's Marciano's History Channel show, Around the World in 80 Ways, in which he attempts to circumnavigate the globe using different modes of transport. The most difficult so far? "Ostriches," he said.

Also look for the second coming of Beavis & Butt-head, the cartoon jackanapes who had everyone saying "heh-heh" back in the nineties. The early buzz on the MTV remake, which comes from original creator Mike Judge, is that it's every bit as shamelessly juvenile as before.


The British invasion of star central didn't stop just because Wills and Kate left.

The show with the biggest buzz is BBC America's The Hour, created and written by Abi Morgan (Sex Traffic, White Girl). Currently airing in the U.K., the six-part series is set at the Beeb in the mid-1950s, with The Wire's Dominic West as a vainglorious anchor battling a rival reporter (Ben Wishaw) for the affections of their producer (Romola Garai). Also figure in a Cold War backdrop and lots of smoking cigarettes in offices.

"I promise a good ending," Morgan told reporters. "It's about heightened repartee, but then I wanted a jagged edge twist." The producers also insist the press scandal in the U.K. can only help boost the show's profile for American audiences. There's already talk of a second season.

Equally anticipated is BBC's Bedlam, a supernatural drama about people possessed by the spirits of the infamous asylum. There's lots of pretty young people battling ghostly forces - and Comic-Con fans have already given this one a good reception. "I couldn't believe how many people turned out for our session," said Theo James, who stars as the only one who actually sees ghosts.

Another highlight is the comedy Friday Night Dinner, about two Jewish brothers (Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal) who spend each Friday night with their parents. Despite the slim premise, the show drew huge ratings in the U.K. and the critics in L.A. laughed during the sizzle reel.

The BBC also has the best new unscripted fall series: 24 Hours in the ER documents the life-and-death drama taking place daily in London's busiest emergency room. The 14-part series was filmed around the clock over 28 days, with 70 remote cameras. "We looked at a lot of American dramas like ER to find the characters," says producer/director Amy Flanagan on how she chose subjects to focus on. Graphic but gripping.


American Masters and PBS lifetime-achievement programs have new competition as cable gets into the business of profiling famous people this fall. And why not? TV profiles are cheap to make, if the subject is willing, and invariably garner healthy ratings.

Airing Aug. 15 is the new HBO documentary Gloria: In Her Own Words, a primer on Ms. Steinem, the woman credited with launching the modern feminist movement, and still pushing the cause at 77. Also from HBO, Sing Your Song (Oct. 17) rewinds the life and times of Harry Belafonte, including his contributions to the civil rights movement.

Encore, meanwhile, pays homage with Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis, with reflections from the likes of Jerry Seinfeld and Carol Burnett.


Remember the name Ashley Rickards. Following raves for her performance as an autistic teen in the indie film Fly Away, the 19-year-old Florida native is thrown into a very different role on MTV's scripted series Awkward. Reviews for the coming-of-age comedy, which debuted last week, steadfastly praise Rickards as the painfully shy teen Jenna, who becomes the talk of her high school after an accident is mistaken for a suicide attempt.

Also poised for a breakout this fall is Rachael Carpani, who moves from support duty on A&E's The Glades to the lead role on Lifetime's ambitious crime drama Against the Wall. The Aussie-born actress plays a Chicago cop whose promotion to detective pleases her family of cops - until they discover she's working in Internal Affairs. Critics made much of Carpani's resemblance to Meg Ryan. "Even my mom thinks I look like her," she admitted.


The Hallmark Channel trotted out the famed Hollywood pooch Rin Tin Tin (or at least a descendant) to promote the inaugural Hero Dog Awards Show, set to air on Nov. 11. Even star-weary critics warmed up to the canine. The faux awards show recognizes achievement in law enforcement and guide dogs. Celebrity presenters include Whoopi Goldberg and, naturally, Betty White.

Animal Planet's new series Saved recounts true-life stories of animals that have saved people's lives, though not in the traditional sense. In one case, it's a man contemplating suicide until he meets an adorable little dachshund; in another it's a family honouring their dead son's memory by adopting his puppy.


Every U.S. network will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11, as will the cable channels. And while there may have been a little 9/11 fatigue in the past, the anniversary has sparked interest among critics at the tour.

The offerings include Nickelodeon's Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: 9/11, which will feature the former network news anchor (and model for Murphy Brown) talking to kids 13 and under about the tragic event. From Showtime, The Love We Make is a documentary detailing the efforts of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney to help New York rebuild and recover, with a little help from his friends Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Leo DiCaprio.

The most closely-watched cable special, though, will be the National Geographic Channel's George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview, in which the former commander-in-chief reflects on one of the darkest days in American history, and his feelings on the recent assassination of Osama bin Laden.


How did it take so long for TV to discover Laura Dern?

At 44, the onetime star of Wild at Heart and Jurassic Park is already getting noticed for HBO's Enlightened. Dern is electrifying as a woman hell-bent on self-destruction when an abrupt spiritual awakening pushes her toward an enlightened life - and disrupts everyone around her, including her mother, played by Dern's real-life mother, Dianne Ladd. "You learn how incredibly unlikable a trait honesty is," Dern said of her character.

As for working with Mom, "she's an incredible actor and we haven't worked together for many years," Dern said. "Even the cons are pros. Family can be complicated and you can't help but be honest in front of a family relationship."

Also getting a second chance - and also 44 - is Eric Esch, who became briefly famous in the mid-nineties as heavyweight boxer Butterbean. On the new Investigation Discovery series Big Law: Deputy Butterbean, the 400-pounder is a reserve deputy with the sheriff's narcotic unit in Jasper, Alabama. Expect a constant stream of comments about cops in doughnut shops.

'Bachelorette' Couple Says No To TV Spotlight

By Arienne Thompson, USA TODAY

(Jul 30, 2011) Despite being brought together under the less-than-real glare of reality TV cameras, Bachelorette Ashley Hebert, 27, and her fiancé J.P. Rosenbaum, 34, say they have the real thing and they're not interested in putting that back on the small screen.

"I don't think you'll be seeing us on TV unless you Tivoed those episodes," Hebert says firmly. The couple answered questions about their journey during a press call Tuesday afternoon.

"We talk about it in jest sometimes, but no real thought has gone into it," Rosenbaum adds about the prospect of a TV wedding.

Plenty of thought, however, has gone into their relationship, which continues to blossom.

"We built this great foundation. We've been engaged for two months, but I feel like we've been together for years," Hebert gushes. "We have a fairytale … but like the world saw, there's ups and downs. It's not perfect, but it's great. It's a real relationship. It's not like we're in la-la-land."

The ever-supportive Rosenbaum echoes Hebert's sentiments - and doesn't shy away from acknowledging their many ups and downs, including villainous contestant Bentley Williams, Rosenbaum's jealousy issues and Hebert's tough-talking sister.

"We've come to the other side and we couldn't be happier," Rosenbaum says.

Now that they are publicly out as a couple, they say they're trying to wrap their heads around a busy schedule that includes Hebert completing dental school and moving to New York to live with construction manager Rosenbaum within the next month.

"J.P.'s in New York. He's settled here, he's happy here. … I'm really excited to be with him," Hebert says. "And I have no hesitation about moving in. I think we're ready for that. … He cleaned out a closet for me. How sweet is that?"

And what about Hebert's beloved Yorkie Boo, whom she speaks to via squealing baby talk?

"I always knew that it was a package deal so I'm welcoming Boo's arrival," Rosenbaum says.

But Boo won't be walking down the aisle as a little doggy ring bearer any time soon, Rosenbaum adds.

"We haven't given any serious thought to (the wedding)," he admits. "We're not going to wait five years to get married, but we're going to take it one step at a time."

Something they both have on their agenda is keeping in touch with some of the other guys from this season of The Bachelorette.

"When you spend 24/7 with a group of guys, it became a small fraternity," Rosenbaum explains. "I'm anxious to reach out and say, 'Hi' to Mickey, William and Ames."

Hebert says she's open to staying in touch, too - except when it comes to one person: Bentley.

"I forgave him a while back, (but) I don't have any interest in talking to him or seeing him," she says.

Rosenbaum agrees. "He made his bed now he can lie in it. He showed who he was. The worst part was watching Ashley seeing it for the first time … and not being able to defend her. I have nothing to say to the guy. It's over in my book."

Also over is the feud between Rosenbaum and Hebert's sister Chrystie Corns, who tactlessly told him in Monday night's season finale that he was not right for her little sis.

"The first time we got to speak after we got back from Fiji, Chrystie was so sweet, so supportive," he reveals. "We're so close."

Can Rosie O’Donnell Save Oprah’s OWN?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jul 31, 2011) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - Oprah Winfrey is putting her mouth where her money is, repackaging the 25 years of material she amassed on her late, lamented daytime talk show for rebroadcast on her foundering fledgling network, OWN.

“I’ve made myself CEO,” she reassured the critic horde this week at the annual fall TV previews. “I’m here in the office at OWN, listening to budget meetings and marketing meetings, and talking about how to strategize and make this network everything that we know it can be to fulfill the potential of the vision.”

But if Oprah alone cannot salvage OWN, maybe former daytime rival
Rosie O’Donnell can.

With a new O’Donnell hour and the old Oprah reruns blocked back-to-back in prime time, OWN may start to look more attractive to the disenfranchised fans of both.

O’Donnell is at the top of her game. She made a cheery early-morning appearance here to glad-hand critics over breakfast, then returned in the afternoon to charm and dazzle the entire room at once.

“I think that the reason for my success is that the people at home relate to me,” O’Donnell offered. “If I’m at a (restaurant) with famous people eating dinner, inevitably four or five people will come over to me, as if I’m the ‘easy pass’ lane. And they will come right over and go, ‘Oh, my God! You’re eating dinner with Martin Short and Madonna!’ And I’m like, ‘I know. Now get the hell away before they yell at you.’

“So I am really more the audience than I ever was. I mean, nobody is at home going, ‘God, if I could only be Rosie O’Donnell, an overweight lesbian who talks too much.’ ”

MUSICAL CHAIRS And speaking of talking too much . . .

Mercurial Glee creator Ryan Murphy has everyone, including his young actors, guessing: who, if anyone, is leaving (“graduating”) the show? And if so, why?

At the moment, apparently, no one is going anywhere. Murphy now claims his original intention was to spin off Lea Michele, Chris Colfer and our own Cory Monteith (who is now almost 30!) onto their own show. Sceptics suggest the whole debacle was merely a negotiation fear tactic.

I suspect Murphy’s just scorching the earth before moving on to his new show, American Horror Story.

And speaking of American horror stories . . .

Everyone was willing to believe director/producer Frank Darabont’s sudden and inexplicable departure from his monster AMC hit, The Walking Dead, was his idea.

And no one is saying otherwise, not even Darabont, who has remained uncharacteristically silent. But the transparent tenor of the official network statement speaks volumes: “AMC is grateful to executive producer, writer and pilot director Frank Darabont, whose contributions to the success of The Walking Dead are innumerable. We continue to discuss his ongoing role with the series.”

Yeah, right. Are these people crazy? Have they not watched the show?

FUHRER FUROR So Adolf Hitler’s dead, right? Just asking. For a while there, I wasn’t sure.

When the promotional trailer for the upcoming Doctor Who story arc, “Let’s Kill Hitler,” was debuted last week at Comic-Con, controversy immediately erupted over a line of dialogue that seemed to indicate the opposite, that the time-travelling Doctor will in fact save Hitler’s life.

“I think I can unequivocally and controversially say that we are against Hitler,” deadpanned Who writer/producer Steven Moffat. “I think he was a bad thing. I’m glad he’s gone. Really, I think the worst thing you could possibly do to that awful, awful man is to take the mickey out of him on Doctor Who.

“So don’t worry. We’re not going to save Hitler. He is, by the way, dead already. So we can’t.”

For another perspective, I asked Eli Roth, the director of the Hostel flicks, who, as an actor in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, had the unique opportunity to fire several fictional machine-gun rounds directly into Der Fuhrer’s face.

“I had a discussion with Quentin,” Roth recalled, “and he said ‘I’m thinking of having you shoot Hitler.’ And I said I wouldn’t shoot Hitler. And he said ‘What do you mean?’ And I said ‘I would stand over his face with a machine gun and unload it until I physically saw his head explode, because that’s the only thing that would matter to me.’

“And he said, ‘That’s a really good idea. We’re going to do that.’

“It was incredibly satisfying,” Roth allows. “It was this incredible feeling. My parents cried. My father wrote an article for the Jewish Journal called ‘My Son Killed Adolf Hitler.’ We screened the movie for survivors at the Holocaust Museum in New York, and they were telling me that this was the first time they had ever come out of a movie with that subject matter actually feeling good.

“Even though it was not a historical reality, the fantasy of killing Hitler is an emotional reality to pretty much everyone in the world.”

Roth will further explore the nature of evil in a fascinating new Discovery Channel series, Curiosity, which invites diverse personalities to ponder the great unanswered questions, as Stephen Hawking does the existence of God, and Morgan Spurlock the notion that we were all better off as cavemen.

Morgan Freeman asks “Is There Another You?” — which might explain how he is able to narrate every documentary, nature show and television commercial ever made.

James Spader’s Having A Ball In The Office

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bill Brioux

(August 02, 2011) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.—Can James Spader put The Office in order?

That’s the question as the Emmy-winning star of Boston Legal and The Practice joins the series for its eighth season.

He has big shoes to fill. Steve Carell made a memorable departure at the end of last season as Dunder Mifflin’s needy boss, Michael Scott, manager of the fictional Scranton, Pa., paper and printer company.

Many fans wonder if that might not have been the best place to end
the series, but NBC was not about to close down The Office. While it is not among TV’s Top 20 overall hits, it still scores in the “demos,” those younger viewers advertisers crave.

New NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told reporters Monday at the ongoing Television Critics Association press tour that The Office ended last season as TV’s No. 1 comedy among viewers 18 to 34 and remains the youngest-skewing show on any broadcast network.

Spader is in the middle of his second week of production on the series. The former “Brat Packer,” now 51, was at NBC Universal’s TCA press tour party Tuesday night at the uber-trendy Bazaar at the SLS Hotel. Several of his co-stars from The Office also made the scene, including Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Brian Baumgartner, Kate Flannery, Ed Helms, Phyllis Smith, Zach Woods, Ellie Kemper, Oscar Nunez, Leslie Baker and Angela Kinsey.

As Spader says, “It’s a very, very, very deep bench and they’re taking advantage of that.”

Still, as producer and cast member B.J. Novak told The New York Times Monday night, “charisma-wise, (Spader’s) the lead.”

“I’ve just been having a ball with them,” says Spader of his castmates, whom he met last spring while appearing on the season finale. His last series, Boston Legal, “had a relatively small cast,” he says. “This is a huge cast and they’re so diverse and so idiosyncratic and eccentric — I just love them.”

Spader came aboard the show late last year after having lunch with executive producers Greg Daniels and Paul Lieberstein. “We weren’t talking about The Office at all, it was more about long-range TV plans,” says Spader. “I was looking at film work and I also had been starting to think about what the next TV thing would be.”

Spader had just come off Broadway where he starred opposite Richard Thomas and David Alan Grier in David Mamet’s Race.

A few months after that lunch, Spader’s agents got a call with news that a part had been written specifically for him as part of The Office season finale. He was told several other big names were joining that episode, teasingly entitled, “Search Committee,” including original British Office co-creator Ricky Gervais, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Will Arnett and Ray Romano.

A buzz began to build as to who among them might take over Carell’s spot as series headliner.

Spader played Sabre Dunder-Mifflin CEO Robert California (replacing Kathy Bates’ character Jo Bennett). Nothing was offered to him beyond that one episode. Still, Spader was eager to do it. “I read it and it looked like fun,” he said. “It ended up being a great time.”

Two days after the episode aired, the producers called again and said they wanted to bring the character back. By that time, Spader had committed to play a small part on Steven Spielberg’s upcoming feature film Lincoln. Daniels and Lieberstein were happy to clear dates so Spader could work the film into his schedule, and “lo and behold, here we are,” he says.

Spader admits he still doesn’t know much about his character, but that suits him just fine. “I learned that on the David E. Kelley show I did,” he says, referring to Boston Legal. “That character started off very enigmatic, but it’s better that way. What you learn is kind of eked out over the course of a season.”

Spader says some of the scripts for the beginning of this season were already written before his deal was done and are just now being tweaked to fit the actor.

“I think also that the other employees at the office don’t know who he is yet and that’s the point of it really,” he says, “for them not to know too early.”

Greenblatt, a hands-on executive who before NBC ran Showtime, takes a “glass half full” approach to this Office shakeup. The other actors will have adjust he says, and the writing staff will have to “get back on their game and everybody will have to refocus on what the show is.”

Still, based on what Greenblatt heard at the first two table reads, Spader should help.

“I think James Spader is completely different from Steve (Carell), has his own iconoclastic kind of acting style,” says Greenblatt. “I think he’s the perfect fit in that mix.”

Russell Crowe Brings His Star Power To The Rock

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Russell Wangersky

(Aug 03, 2011) ST. JOHN’S—The first time Australian superstar Russell Crowe sets a case of beer on the back of a car in St. John’s, it almost slides off the trunk. He gives the case a shove into place – it slides again.

It’s not supposed to happen that way: Preparing for the scene from
The Republic of Doyle, the crew placed the beer on the car several times to see if it would slip (it didn’t). So Crowe – who’s here for a high-wattage guest spot on CBC Television’s hit show – keeps at it.

Cars and passersby stop to watch. The crew gently urges them to keep moving, asking them to stop taking pictures.

Then the scene stops again: The grumbling diesel of an idling bus is too much for the soundman.

For all the takes, the notoriously hot-blooded Crowe looks patient enough – and comfortable, in jeans and a dark-blue hooded jacket – at the centre of a crew of more than 100 shooting an episode for the third season of the show, to air this fall.

How did he end up here, in a hotel parking lot in Newfoundland, of all places?

Crowe’s known
Republic of Doyle star Allan Hawco since 2004, when Crowe was filming Cinderella Man in Toronto and saw him “on the bones of his arse” doing Shakespeare in a park. Crowe was impressed, and not only kept in touch – he decided to come out and guest star on Hawco’s show. He plays a crook in the crime drama, although the cast are keeping the plot a secret (Crowe has hinted he spends some time in the trunk of Hawco’s character’s car).

But that’s just one of the places Crowe is hanging out in Newfoundland. Because he’s also friends with another Alan from the Rock – Alan Doyle (no relation to the television series) of the band Great Big Sea.

The two have worked on music together for years – Doyle produced an album for Crowe’s band The Ordinary Fear of God (Crowe sings and plays guitar), and they’ve co-written songs for Great Big Sea. Now, the pair have gone further, launching a digital album together. They’re also performing at two sold-out benefit concerts in St. John’s to help a local theatre.

“This is the third phase, the mature phase,” Crowe says of their relationship. Are there more phases, like the seven stages of grief? “More like the seven deadly sins,” he jokes.

The duo’s new album is called the
Crowe/Doyle Songbook Vol. III – there is no volume one or two (reportedly, volume seven is next). As for the songs: Crowe and Doyle describe themselves as a three-voice folk group (the third voice is Crowe’s wife, singer Danielle Spencer) with guitar and mandolin.

All this is what Crowe calls a vacation.

“I’m also prepping for a film at the moment, so it’s kind of great time for me, doing all the things I love doing,” he says on a brief break from taping
The Republic of Doyle. “Yeah, I’m not good at vacations. I’ve never been good at vacations. I’m not a holiday sort of person.”

For the benefit concerts – the second of which is Thursday night – Crowe is performing with Doyle as well Spencer. There are also appearances by actors Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand, who, along with Doyle, appeared with Crowe in Ridley Scott’s
Robin Hood as part of his band of “merry men.”

Crowe says he appreciates the chance to sing songs that mean something to him, “to an audience who loves listening to songs that are meaningful. And that’s what you’ll find in St. John’s. It suits the songs.”

And there will be more music in Crowe’s future.

“Myself and Russell are hoping to record a couple of songs that we wrote in the fall, and that will go on my record,” says Doyle, who’s planning to release a solo album.

And then? “I was saying to Alan I’ve probably got a half a dozen little babies spinning around in my head,” Crowe says. “We’ve just got to sit down and talk them through and bring them out.”

The actor and his family have toured the city, popping up downtown and on Signal Hill – and in a variety of Facebook postings by residents who have spotted them.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Crowe says of being in Newfoundland with Doyle, Grimes and Durand. “It doesn’t take any kind of encouragement for us to get together and socialize. But because of the type of personalities we are, if we get together and have a creative catalyst for that get-together, that’s a perfect world.”

It’s also been fun for Hawco. “The idea of having someone like Russell, who’s truly one of my favourite actors … it’s like a dream come true to have him be on my set. I can’t even express it.”

Special to The Globe and Mail


Kutcher’s ‘Men’ Character Gets Goofy Name And Broken Heart

Source: www.thestar.com - By Frazier Moore

(Aug 03, 2011) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.—Ashton Kutcher will play "an Internet billionaire with a broken heart" when he arrives as the new star of Two and a Half Men next month. CBS Entertainment Nina Tassler shared this tidbit about the much-anticipated cast change on TV's biggest sitcom during a session with television reporters on Wednesday. Men saw the stormy exit of Charlie Sheen last season. Kutcher's character will be named Walden Schmidt and has no family connection to the characters played by continuing stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones, who portrayed the brother and nephew of Sheen's departed character. Tassler would not confirm reports that the new season of Men begins with the death of Sheen's character, Charlie Harper, and a funeral. The series begins its ninth season Sept. 19.

CTV News Anchor Ken Shaw Back At Work After Cancer Treatment

Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press

(Aug 03, 2011) CTV News Toronto anchor Ken Shaw says he has been treated for prostate cancer and is now doing fine. Shaw took a moment during Tuesday's 6 p.m. newscast to share news of his illness, having returned to work after a two-month absence. The veteran anchor says he had surgery and it was successful. Shaw, who urged that men get tested, said he had no symptoms and it was a routine blood test that revealed he had cancer. He said he got the test after being warned by a family friend who later died of prostate cancer. Shaw said his cancer was aggressive and he's lucky it was found early on.


Want cutting-edge drama? Try These Picks At Summerworks

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By J. Kelly Nestruck

(Aug 03, 2011) SummerWorks, Canada's largest juried theatre festival, is the place to catch Toronto's top theatrical talents trying new and daring things, as well as up-and-comers about to make their mark. From Eric Peterson improvising an Iranian play to stories ripped straight out of your Facebook stream, here are a few shows that look particularly promising this year.

You Should Have Stayed Home

Despite a certain controversy over a play about homegrown terrorism last year, SummerWorks isn't shying away from politics. In this show from Praxis Theatre, Tommy Taylor adapts a Facebook note he wrote last year after being detained for 24 hours during the Toronto G20 Summit for the stage. Billed as "the true story of a heartbroken Canadian."

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

Volcano artistic director Ross Manson discovered 29-year-old Iran playwright Nassim Soleimanpour on a trip through a turbulent Tehran last year. This postmodern play of Soleimanpour's is being performed cold by a different actor every show - Eric Peterson and Stratford's Yanna McIntosh are among the heavy hitters signed up.

The Physical Ramifications of Attempted Global Domination

Toronto's Birdtown and Swanville theatre company presents a play about the medical ailments suffered by "history's most aggressive global dominators" from Napoleon to Pol Pot. Expect an offbeat but entirely original show from this young, quirky group.


Hot on the heels of the Canadian Opera Company's acclaimed production Orfeo ed Euridice, SummerWorks has two other takes on the ancient Greek myth. Hot American playwright Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice retells the story of Orpheus's journey into the underworld to fetch his wife from her point of view, while Jason Carnew's version ONE free-associates on the tale in a visually creative way - and comes trailing fantastic reviews from Alberta.

The SummerWorks festival runs Aug. 4-14 in Toronto. For information and tickets, visit www.summerworks.ca.

Dusk Dances Aims To Please, And Succeeds

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

Until Aug. 7 at Withrow Park (Logan and McConnell Aves.). Pay what you can. Info at www.duskdances.ca

(Aug 03, 2011) They tumbled over boxes, leapt to the beat of African
drumming, cavorted in prom gowns to Elvis and Fleetwood Mac, lured a businesswoman into a world of frolicsome fantasy and otherwise engaged an appreciative crowd with physical antics unabashedly designed to please. Yes, Dusk Dances is back and as amiable as ever.

The event, held annually since 1996, operates from the simple premise of making dance as accessible as possible. There is no stage. A musical act, this week Grey County’s engaging Moonshiner’s Daughter string band, launches the proceedings. The dances that follow are performed in different spots in a public park with an emcee-host, Ryan Egan, to guide and animate the crowd. The programs are kept varied and compact, and contributing choreographers are encouraged to invent works that suit their outdoor setting.

These prescriptions do not necessarily exclude what you might call serious art dance but the tendency, reasonably enough, has generally been towards dance “lite”: the kind folk of all ages and backgrounds, even people who think they don’t like dance, can enjoy.

BoxSet, the opener at this year’s Withrow Park event, traditionally the most popular of several differently programmed Dusk Dances held around the GTA and beyond, is a prime example.

Zhenya Cerneacov, Mairéad Filgate and Brodie Stevenson perform a playful acrobatic dance act, structured like a live-action puzzle, involving the continual rearrangement of four large boxes, stacked, precariously balanced and turned into ramps.

Choreographer Michael Caldwell’s charmingly whimsical The Horologium features composer Anika Johnson, costumed in a huge, silky white skirt and rococo wig, playing the accordion. Jesse Stanley is the passing businesswoman who, as strange characters emerge from beneath Johnson’s skirt, is gradually beguiled into joining them. Whether Caldwell’s title refers to the Latin word for clock or that dimly visible constellation in the southern sky is debatable, but if Stanley’s character started off as a clock-watcher she certainly ended up very differently.

Lisa Gelley, Vanessa Goodman and Jane Osborne are the three heroines of Strathcona High, Class of ’56, part bashful, part eager to embrace the pleasures of impending adulthood. Never mind that their music selections are sometimes anachronistic. It was all innocent fun with some audience participation thrown in for good measure.

Karen Kaeja’s Eugene Walks With Grace, a 1995 work remodelled for Dusk Dances, is the only work on the program that does not aggressively project itself. It’s an intimate dance, inviting us to observe how even as a couple, people still retain their individuality. It’s a welcome interlude of thoughtfully evolved choreography before Bao, the grand finale, a boisterously enthusiastic display of West African dance, driven by the kind of drumming that could wake the dead.


New Mobile Providers Capture 25% Of New Subscribers In 2010

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Mark Brownlee, The Canadian Press

(July 29, 2011)
TORONTO— New providers in Canada's wireless phone market captured 25 per cent of those who subscribed to cellphone service in 2010, according to a report released by Canada's telecommunications regulator Thursday.

The CRTC detailed its findings on this and other elements of the communications sector in its annual Communications Monitoring Report.

The companies that only started offering wireless phone service in the past few years — Globalive, Mobilicity, Public Mobile and Videotron — made less of a dent in the overall market, though.

Those companies captured just two per cent of the overall subscriber share by the end of 2010, the report showed, meaning that Bell BCE-T, Rogers RCI.B-T and Telus T-T continue to dominate the cellphone industry.

“I think the incumbents have actually done a good job of holding off the new entrants but I think the new entrants are just getting started,” said Iain Grant, managing director for market research and technology firm SeaBoard Group.

“Every week that goes by the new entrants are adding new towers and new coverage.”

The increase in the number of choices on the wireless market has been great for consumers, Grant said.

The “competitive presence” of the new companies contributed to a reduction in the average monthly cellphone bill from $58.81 to $57.86, the CRTC said in a release.

“Even though only two per cent are signed up as customers of new entrants, a much greater percentage of the population ... has already experienced real choice in wireless and the benefits of that because the big guys have reacted aggressively,” said Anthony Lacavera, chairman and CEO of Globalive.

Mobilicity CEO Dave Dobbin said it's clear that the new competition in the wireless market is having a positive effect for Canadians.

“What's important now is that the government ensures that these new competitors continue to survive and to thrive,” Dobbin said.

He said the government needs to make sure that the new players get a share of the 700 megahertz spectrum that will be available to wireless companies in the next few years.

“Getting that 700 megahertz spectrum will allow us to do things like build out to rural areas,” Dobbin said.

“If the big three are allowed to buy that spectrum, new competition will never come to the smaller cities in Canada,” Dobbin said.

Telus spokesman Jim Johannsson said with the three national cell providers and six regional carriers, Canada is one of the most competitive wireless markets.

“We've got the sixth most competitive wireless market structure in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development),” Johannsson said.

“Canada's average per minute wireless costs are the 11th lowest in the OECD, two cents per minute below the OECD average,” he said.

And Johannsson noted that Canadian wireless companies are keeping rates that low with just 12 wireless subscribers per square kilometre, while that number rises to 37 in the U.S. and 312 in the United Kingdom.

Calls to Rogers and Bell were not immediately returned.

The federal government has made it a priority in the past few years to increase the number of cellphone providers competing in Canada in the hopes of encouraging choice for consumers.

In 2009, the Conservatives overruled a decision by the CRTC, which had previously ruled Globalive did not meet requirements that telecommunication companies be Canadian controlled, to allow the company to operate.

A Federal Court ruled in February the government illegally intervened to overrule the CRTC regarding its decision to block Globalive from operating.

But Ottawa appealed and a Federal Court of Appeal sided with the government in June.

This past year hasn't exactly been a “field of roses” for the new entrants, Grant said.

Globalive's court battles involving the federal government and the CRTC, for example, created issues for the company's ability to focus on expanding the number of customers it has.

This created ongoing issues for the company in 2010, said Lacavera, particularly in trying to rent spaces for their stores from landlords who were uncertain about their future.

The company will continue to expand their cellphone network in 2011, he said, including to places like southern Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

Grant predicted “much more robust numbers” for the new entrants as a result of the continued expansion for Globalive and other companies in 2011.

The market for wireless cellphone users continued to grow in 2010, the report showed.

The number of people who subscribed to cellphone services increased by 8.5 per cent to 25.8 while the number of people who had home phone services went down by almost one per cent to 12.6 million.

Apple Cracks Down On In-App Payment Links

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Tim Bradshaw

(July 29, 2011) The love-hate relationship between
Apple AAPL-Q and the media companies that use its App Store mobile platform took a fresh twist this week as several big-name publishers were forced to remove links in their apps that allowed them to evade the iPhone and iPad maker’s controversial 30 per cent commission on sales of e-books and music subscriptions.

AMZN-Q Kindle and Google’s GOOG-Q e-reader service, both of which compete with Apple’s own iBookstore, removed shortcut links to their own mobile websites outside the App Store.

Apple banned such “buy buttons” in June but only began to enforce the rules in late July. Music services including Spotify and Rhapsody have also been forced to remove the ability to subscribe to their services from within their apps, as well as information in their description that this is a requirement to use their services on the iPhone.

For these resellers of content, Apple’s 30 per cent commission on all purchases made through the App Store could be the difference between making a profit or a loss on their apps.

Observers said that Apple and app makers would lose out from the changes, by confusing customers and diminishing the overall appeal of the content available on the platform.

At the same time, the BBC gave the iPad a huge endorsement by launching the international version of its popular iPlayer video service, which costs €6.99 a month, on Apple’s tablet. BBC Worldwide, the broadcaster’s commercial unit, decided that the ease of payment and the quality of the viewer’s experience on the device outweighed the costs and lack of detailed data about its users, another publisher bugbear.

It remains to be seen whether the current stand-off will see the likes of Amazon and Spotify come to the same conclusion or if Google’s rival Android platform, which still lags behind Apple in the quality and quantity of paid-for apps, will benefit.

'The Epitaph Of RIM Has Been Written Far Too Early'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Iain Marlow And Steve Ladurantaye

(July 29, 2011) At an AT&T store in New York a few months ago, a
high-performing sales clerk faced a rather unusual situation because of his success.

The salesperson had sold the most cellphones during the month of May at one of AT&T's locations in midtown Manhattan. His reward was one of the newest gadgets around: a PlayBook tablet computer by
Research in Motion Ltd. But his store didn't have any of the devices in stock then, and it still doesn't have any.

So he's still waiting for his prize, but he doesn't much care. To use the PlayBook, he knows he'll need to buy a BlackBerry smart phone. And as a loyal user of Apple's iPhone, he doesn't see that happening. "I think I'll just sell the thing when I get it," he said. "Why do I want a BlackBerry? Everything I want to do, I can do better on the phone I already have. The little keyboards are nice, but that's all."

What a rapid and unpleasant fall it has been for the BlackBerry, arguably the most influential technological innovation to come out of Canada for decades. Five years ago, it was the only smart phone worth owning. Two-and-a-half years ago, Barack Obama fought for the right to keep his beloved BlackBerry as he moved into the White House (there were security concerns). RIM even signed up rock band U2 to pitch the BlackBerry in television ads.

The BlackBerry was the world's coolest wireless device, until suddenly it wasn't.

Of all the difficulties RIM has faced this year - the bumpy launch of the PlayBook, controversy about its dual-CEO structure, and this week's announcement of 2,000 layoffs - none is more threatening than this: The company's signature product has lost some of its prestige. RIM's share of the consumer market has been pulverized by Apple Inc. and devices that run Google Inc.'s Android operating system.

Now, RIM is set to unleash a slew of sleeker, more sophisticated BlackBerrys, and the pressure has never been more intense. After an abysmal first quarter, a dizzying share price drop and the unprecedented job cuts, Canada's most important high-tech company truly needs to wow the market if it wants to get its momentum back.

The high expectations around RIM's forthcoming release have grown in part because co-CEO Jim Balsillie has deflected most of the recent criticism with talk of a crucial "transition" that will lead to stellar growth in the latter half of 2012. With new devices and an update of its core operating system, now called BlackBerry 7 - which will be replaced by yet another new system next year, called QNX - RIM hopes to stem the market share loss and reassert the BlackBerry as the smart phone of choice for Western business people, savvy consumers and new wireless users in fast-growing markets such as Latin America and Asia.

There is, however, more pain to be absorbed first. RIM executives and staff know the next few quarters will be as miserable as the last - that even if the new phones are a success, it will take a while for them to affect the bottom line in a meaningful way. Industry players, many of whom have already tried out the new products, are mixed on the new crop, though, and on the company's outlook. RIM may be building a better BlackBerry, but is it enough to stem the losses to Apple and Android?

"I think BlackBerry 7, in absolute terms, is a much better BlackBerry experience," says Mike Walkley, an analyst who follows global handset makers for Canaccord Genuity and has seen the new devices. "But in relative terms, it's still going to look like your dad's BlackBerry - and it's probably going to fall further behind the Android and Apple smart phones in terms of consumer preference."

This is partly because RIM's software and hardware have never been as tailored to multimedia functions such as video the way rival devices made by Apple, Samsung and others have. That's a problem because smart phones are, increasingly, becoming do-everything gadgets - fulfilling the roles previously played by Mp3 players, high definition video cameras, gaming consoles and desktop computers.

RIM has instead relied on its strengths in secure wireless e-mail, which has allowed it to dominate the enterprise sector. It also boasts the QWERTY keyboard, which many people love because it makes typing easier, although creates limitations in design.

The problem, says one senior executive at a Canadian wireless carrier, is RIM's competitors have closed the gap on e-mail and messaging, but RIM has failed to similarly catch up on software applications. Even with the crop of BlackBerrys coming out, "the value proposition is getting tougher to justify," he said.

"They are, bit by bit, moving in the right direction," said the executive, who spoke on condition that his name not be used because his company has a sizable business relationship with RIM. "I think their challenge, simply put, is that things change so fast, and other people are moving at a rapid pace, too. They just have to make sure that the gap isn't growing, it's got to be shrinking." Referring to the new lineup of BlackBerrys, he added: "I definitely think these are steps in the right direction. I don't think they've closed the entire gap, for sure."

Most observers have long considered RIM's Web browsing and multimedia functions as subpar, and with the exception of a number of so-called "super apps" - such as ultra-fast BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) - the broader array for third-party applications remains far behind those of Apple and Android.

Mr. Walkley and two others on his team at Canaccord Genuity use BlackBerrys for work but iPhones and Android devices on their own time, something that is becoming more common. "A lot of clients have the same - a BlackBerry for work, and a separate personal phone," he says. "While the new BlackBerrys have faster processing speeds, and a sleeker design, they're still going to be seen as your work device."

The touch-screen BlackBerry Torch, released a year ago, addressed many of these issues, as did the upgrade to the BlackBerry 6 operating system. But the Torch was not as powerful as some had hoped; some complain that browsing the Internet on it can be slow. The device sold well initially at AT&T stores, Mr. Walkley notes, but has since slowed, failing to capture the consumer imagination.

He expects there will be similarly strong initial sales of the new BlackBerrys - such as a touch-screen version of the popular BlackBerry Bold - as existing BlackBerry users go for an upgraded experience. But he forecasts that RIM's market share loss will continue unabated.

While the view from the U.S. remains bleak, it remains only part of the picture. The BlackBerry is selling phenomenally well in many emerging markets, particularly in Latin America, certain countries in South Asia, and the Middle East. RIM is seeing phenomenal growth in these regions, posting 67 per cent increases in revenues outside North America in the first quarter, leading many to think that the heated rhetoric surrounding their recent problems is overblown.

"The epitaph of RIM has been written far too early," says Kevin Restivo, who tracks global cellphone shipments for the research firm IDC.

The company's enormously popular BBM service is also part of the international story. But competitors such as Apple's iMessage, and a new collaboration between Google and French telecom giant Orange in Africa to send text messages from computers for free, will inevitably pressure RIM to innovate in these markets, says Ken Campbell, a global wireless executive.

"[RIM's] advantage is they're able to move large amounts of data very efficiently, more efficiently than any of the other platforms," says Mr. Campbell, who helped launch BlackBerry with carriers in Romania, the Baltics and recently as chief executive officer of Wind Mobile in Canada.

As developing markets shift from older 2G networks to wireless data-capable 3G networks, the huge populations of the global south are going to put enormous strain on wireless networks. RIM could help alleviate that with cheaper smart phones that use less bandwidth.

"I don't know if RIM is planning on going into the lower end of the market, but Google definitely is," Mr. Campbell says. "But it's a risky road, because most handset manufacturers have tried to maintain good margins by staying in the high end [smart phone segment]. It's very low margin. It's a very different business."

How RIM navigates the expansion of the BlackBerry's international presence - as well as defending its smart phones from an influx of cheap Android phones and, eventually, a cheaper version of the iPhone - will largely define the company's longer-term future.

"The international markets are really where the growth is going to be in the future - there's so much attention focused on the high-end devices, but it's increasingly a volume game," Mr. Restivo said.

"Even if they're lower-margin devices in people's hands, it's still important. And as those countries grow economically ... that gives them the potential for the long term to grow with those users in emerging markets."


Marvel Reveals Bi-Racial Spider-Man Character

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Aug 02, 2011) Marvel has announced a new Spider-Man whose secret identity will be a mixed-race character.

A part of its Ultimates line, a series of comics that focus on contemporary reinterpretations of its famous heroes, Mile Morales, a half-black, half Hispanic teenager will become the new Spider-Man, and will make his first appearance in Ultimate Fallout. It will be released on Wednesday.

"The theme is the same: With great power comes great responsibility," writer Brian Michael Bendis told USA Today, where the news was revealed. "He's going to learn that. Then he has to figure out what that means."

In his first appearance, he breaks up a fight, but his origin and more of his personal story will be revealed in Ultimate Spider-Man #1, which is launching in September.

This is the world of comics, where different continuities and realities can coexist, so Peter Parker remains the hero we know in the regular ongoing Spider-Man series. But this kind of race switching of famous characters is not new for the Ultimates line, which famously changed Nick Fury into an African-American in its Avengers update series called The Ultimates, which launched in 2000. The way he was drawn seems to be inspired by actor Samuel L. Jackson; this is believed to have opened the door for the actor to play the role in the current set of Marvel Studios films.

The news of the new Spider-Man comes at a time when comic book companies are coming under increasing scrutiny of the representation of its characters. Last week, DC had to deal with online outrage over its lack of female creators and strong women characters starring in their own books.

DC is currently undergoing a revamp of its entire lineup, restarting several ongoing series with number 1, and cancelling many series and installing new creative teams. Laura Hudson, the editor of ComicsAlliance.com wrote a post last week noting that DC’s new shuffle had cut female creators from 12 per cent down to 1 per cent.

After DC’s editor-in-chief Dan Didio initially angrily responded to a fan’s question at Comic-Con about the representation, DC later responded on their blog about taking the concerns seriously.

On DC’s Source Blog, a post from last Friday read: “Over the past week we’ve heard from fans about a need for more women writers, artists and characters. We want you to know, first and foremost, that we hear you and take your concerns very seriously … We want these adventures to resonate in the real world, reflecting the experiences of our diverse readership. Can we improve on that? We always can — and aim to.”

As many comic characters are often in a state of flux — or from alternate realities — there have been several characters that have been rebooted with new ethnic origins. Two in recent memory include The Atom, whose fourth incarnation was Raymond Cho, an Asian scientist, and most recently Blue Beetle, who is Jamie Reyes, a Hispanic teen.


Food On Sticks: Toronto Gets Ready For Taste Of The Danforth

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Sheryl Kirby

(Aug 03, 2011) One million visitors over two-and-a-half days. While not for those with a fear of crowds, the annual Taste of the Danforth event is a big one on the summer food calendar. Restaurants along the Greektown strip from Broadview to Jones will start setting up on August 5 at 6 p.m. until August 7 at 8 p.m. serving up a variety foods, many of which just might come on sticks. Look for local restaurants like Globe Bistro, 7 Numbers, the Friendly Greek and more. Most items are just a few bucks each, and there's usually many free samples to be had as well. There's also plenty of entertainment along the 16 or so blocks that make up the festival and there's a beer garden in there somewhere as well. Opa!


Ooh-la-la at the Grand Case Beach Club: Romance is Tres Magnifique in French St. Martin

Source: Melanie Reffes, www.luvtrip.com

(August 1, 2011) Pleasure is barefoot and time stands still. That is the mantra at the Grand Case Beach Club in French St. Martin.  Across the sea from Anguilla and sharing an island with Dutch St. Maarten, St. Martin covets romance like it does a frothy cappuccino and a croissant fresh from the baker’s oven.

With a user-friendly website and honeymoon packages to beat the band, the seaside hotel is a seashell away from the village of Grand Case that is celebrated for its many fine restaurants, bars, boutiques and art galleries.  An array of amenities include an on-site restaurant, postcard-perfect beach, watersports, swimming pool, boutique with an artisanal array of jewelry, clothing and souvenirs, Cybex gym, hilltop massage gazebo where Gina excels at après-sun rubdowns  and a boardwalk that stands guard over the ocean and is ideal for wedding and anniversary parties.

For couples who like to cook, kitchens are in all seventy-one suites along with a flat screen satellite TV.  Room rates include a divine continental breakfast of pastries baked fresh every morning, non-motorized water sports equipment and a bottle of vino on arrival.  For those who enjoy tennis, a grass court is lit for night play with loaner rackets available to those who did not pack their own. “Our clientele is not the all-inclusive crowd,” says Stephen Wright, general manager, “they come here not only for the comfort and appeal of the property but also for the proximity to Grand Case. In fact, our guests do quite a bit of pre-trip research about the restaurants that they want to try in the Village.”

Wooing the romance crowd, the “Honeymoon Magic” package includes a one day car rental, en suite floral bouquet, picnic basket pour deux, beach bag and vouchers for casino play on the Dutch side of the island where gambling is legal. Three and seven night packages are available through December 22 and the popular “Fifth Night Free” offer is good through December 18. “Honeymooners are big business for us,” says Stephen Wright, general manager, “June is our busiest month but we welcome couples year round.”

Chew Love

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Sunset Café is one-stop-
shopping for a scrumptious meal, light bite or piquant cocktail made from local rum.  Server extraordinaire Laurent Fanget caters to every culinary whim as he recommends what he’s convinced each guest will enjoy. “How about a café glace?”, he says referring to his specialty iced coffee drink, “a bowl of gazpacho or a light sandwich would go very well with that,” he adds with his ooh-la-la French accent. Chef Alex is a master in the kitchen grilling local fish so fresh they’re still mad, whipping up delightful salads with fresh tuna and suggesting a molten chocolate lava cake to-die-for.  At night, the Café is candle-lit for fine dining as the green flash of the sunset illuminates up the sky.

At Ti’ Provencal on the Grand Case strip, Chef Herve Sageot’s grilled
lobsters are adored as the best on the island. Popular for creative menus, the delightful eatery dishes up awesome views of Grand Case Bay and specialties from trunkfish salad Creole style and creamy scallop soup with a dollop of Noilly Prat and a swirl of truffle oil to linguine with basil, and shrimp. Exotic fish like le capitaine and la baliste royale are brought to the table and then cooked to order.

With restaurant experience in Miami under their chef’s aprons, Sophie and Oliver welcome diners to Spicy, a new French cuisine eatery also on the strip. With a vast selection of fresh fish, the sea bass is the true taste experience.

Stylish and sultry in Grand Case, Le Shore lures with live jazz on the weekends and epicurean delights every night. An oasis of tranquility, the seaside bistro exudes French-Caribbean panache par excellence and is spot-on for a romantic dinner for two.

Beach shack chic is de rigueur at Calmos Café as party goers leave their attitude at the door in favor of a chaise lounge on the sand. Tapas to burgers compliment reggae and salsa on Thursday and Sunday nights.

Making Waves

Aptly named, Baie Longue is not only the longest beach but one of the most exclusive where the ocean meets a brilliant strip of limestone. Clothing-optional, the sandy strand is peppered with pricey real estate including La Samanna, the swishy resort frequented by A-list celebs.

Turn left from the main road in Marigot to Friar’s Bay to find one of the coolest beaches under the hot sun.  Pack sneakers and sprint past Kali’s Beach Bar where the high-octane full moon parties reign supreme and then continue up the hill to another beach that lives up to its name. Happy Bay is a sweet spot with a lone Lolo run by a happy guy named Danny who is the only reminder of civilization on this sublime stretch of sandy solitude.

Marigot Market

Set up along the wharves in front of the ferry pier and surrounded by gingerbread houses, quaint galleries and busy sidewalk bistros, the Marigot Market is a lovely spot on a sunny afternoon and a quick drive from the Grand Case Beach Club.  Busiest on Wednesday and Saturday, tourists and locals come to shop, snap photos of the scenic vistas, people-watch from the benches along the perimeter and enjoy a gourmet meal at one of the cafes that serve midday lunch specials. Note to shoppers – best deals are in the early morning as the first sale of the day means good luck for vendors. Practice your French, sharpen your bargaining skills and be sure to leave a little extra room in your suitcase.


Meet The Most Famous Toronto Athlete You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Source: www.thestar.com - Cynthia Vukets

(August 01, 2011)
Sonnie Trotter can hang from the tips of three fingers from a crack as wide as a pencil in a cliff face 30 metres off the ground.

He’s the most famous Toronto athlete you’ve never heard of. And here’s why: His slapshot is not extraordinary. His curveball is weak at best. He has no jump shot to speak of. But oh, he can climb.

Trotter scales daunting obstacles in ways — such as without a rope — that take the sport to a whole new level.

Take The Needles, for example. The California area popular with hardcore outdoor enthusiasts is a collection of granite spires up to 140 metres tall, with steep faces and wicked overhangs. The routes are so difficult they can take the better part of a day, even for advanced climbers with pre-planning and a friend to help.

Not for Trotter. He rolled up there about five years ago and did what’s called an on-sight free solo, covering six routes in a day.

On-sight means the climber knows absolutely nothing about the route beforehand — not even by word of mouth. Solo means no buddy to help. Free means no rope.

Success is getting to the top without falling on the first try.

Comparing most climbers to Trotter is like comparing a human to an X-Men character whose secret superpower is climbing.

“That was a jaw opener,” says Erin Zieleniewski, who was at The Needles when Trotter pulled it off.

She went to public school with Trotter in Newmarket and remembers he was really good at every sport he tried, including soccer, hockey and gymnastics. But how does a kid from Newmarket — where climbing opportunities are scarce and he grew up attending gymnastics class with his two older sisters — manage to make a living climbing rocks?

Trotter is a full-time adventure climber. Often called “trad,” or traditional, it involves placing gear for protection while climbing. It’s different from sport climbing, which has gear already in place.

Think of gear as a set of braces stuck into cracks in the rock. A climber then strings rope through those braces and into a harness. If you fall, the rope will be held and you’ll be suspended.

The catch is someone has to set those braces. That’s where Trotter comes in.

Trad is seen as the pure form of climbing. Trotter often takes it one step further and climbs without a rope, the ultimate act of outdoor badassery.

He does this professionally and makes money in a sport where most people don’t. He climbs cliffs and rock formations in the most remote parts of the world. He hangs on to tiny outcroppings of rock, sometimes a few centimetres wide, with legs spread-eagled to reach far-apart footholds while fiddling with rope and gear, fingers frequently rubbed raw from the rock.

Where mountain climbing is more about hiking, rock climbing takes forearms of steel, excellent balance, flexibility and nerve. A lot of nerve.

“He’s definitely the best rock climber . . . Canada’s ever produced,” says Bob Bergman, who owns Joe Rockhead’s, a Toronto climbing gym where a 16-year-old Trotter won the first competition he ever entered.

Trotter’s mom, Helgi, remembers her son riding his bike to the climbing gym after school every single day the year he turned 16. He’d come home at night, clutching copies of magazines such as Gripped, and tell her that he’d be on the cover some day. He has since been featured in Climbing, Gripped, Explore, Rock & Ice, Climb, Rock & Snow, Alpin, Outside and the March 2009 issue of Men’s Journal.

He has the body for the sport. At 6 feet and 165 pounds, Trotter is tall, lean and absolutely cut with the mussed hair and stubble of a true outdoorsman. He trains hard, doing countless chin-ups and hanging for 30 minutes at a time on a fingerboard he made himself. A fingerboard, or hangboard, is a training device mounted on a wall with a series of grips designed to increase finger strength.

Think about the strongest handshake you’ve ever had, maybe from your future father-in-law when you first started dating your wife. Trotter could make that ol’ man cry.

“It’s a little bit boring to do because you just hang there for 10 seconds at a time on very strenuous holds, but the effects are extremely rewarding,” he says of hangboard exercises. “The bottom line is your fingers are the weakest link that you have to the rock.”

Travelling is a big part of his job and whether on the road, at the climbing gym or at home in Squamish, B.C., Trotter has definitely put in the equivalent of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours — the amount of practise the author, in Outliers, says is the key to success in any activity. Trotter probably surpassed that in his early 20s, when most guys his age were drinking beer and chasing girls.

“Lots of climbers live in Squamish. Most of them do something else,” like work in a restaurant or at Mountain Equipment Co-op, says Gripped publisher and climber Sam Cohen. “It is pretty rare to be able to find a profession (as a climber).”

“It’s just his drive and his love for climbing which … is kind of overwhelming. That’s the first thing you notice about him,” explains Bergman.

There are gold medals and international rankings, but Trotter doesn’t go for that stuff. He doesn’t need them. Among climbers, he has something more valuable: credibility.

He has such cred that people don’t even need to witness his most epic climbs. Trotter’s word is gold, and he says he prefers it that way because he enjoys being alone in nature, having just finished a problem he set for himself.

“A lot of the times those routes aren’t documented and so they don’t get as much publication, which is actually good because it means it’s more for yourself and not for anyone else,” he says.

Word is that Trotter, 31, was pretty close to the peak of the mountain climbing game about 10 years ago, but wasn’t quite good enough to be the absolute best in the world.

So what to do when you’re not the best in the world at something? Create a new world.

“I am a professional athlete in the sense that I do climb at a relatively high level,” Trotter explains. “Sometimes it’s not always at the world standard, sometimes it is, but there’s no pressure for me to perform because of my addiction to adventure climbing. That’s what I became known for was this person who took a high level of physical rock climbing, applied it to these adventure routes that very few people would go on because they were a little bit scary, and so I carved a niche for myself where I didn’t have to compete with anybody because I was the only one doing it,” he says.

He backed off from competitive climbing after sustaining an injury. At the time, he says, he was getting tired of living like a “professional athlete” — eating right, training and always comparing himself to others. He thought about going back to school, but went on “one last trip” to Yosemite National Park instead.

So he’s no longer out to conquer Everest in sandals. He spent that week in Yosemite adventure climbing and says it caused him to fall back in love with the sport — his sport.

He isn’t pulling in LeBron James or Tom Brady money. He makes what he calls a “decent” living through sponsorships and a variety of climbing-related jobs — testing gear, teaching, giving slideshows, writing, taking photos and video, and posing a hundred metres above ground for catalogue cover shots. His big-name sponsors include Patagonia, Five Ten, Black Diamond and Ryders.

“He is always ready to talk about climbing and what projects you’re working on,” says Sean McColl, who at 23 is widely seen as the next big thing in Canadian climbing.

Trotter used to teach McColl at a Vancouver rock gym. Nobody taught Trotter. His mom caught him 60 feet up one of their cedar trees at age 4 on the family farm in Sutton, Ont. He spent the first decade of his life on the 100-acre property, often roaming the woods with his black lab.

“Maybe that has something to do with my desire to keep exploring,” he muses. “I tend to get — I don’t want to say I get bored easy, but I’m very curious.”

He calls himself a control freak, but some of the situations he has found himself in sound anything but controlled. Once, while free climbing in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon he lost focus for a second and found himself stuck.

“I found myself 70 feet up off the ground with a very serious potential where I couldn’t go back down, but I couldn’t go up and the gear was so far below me that if I had fallen I for sure would have hit the ground . . . I don’t think I ever would have survived,” he says. “I was terrified. I was like, ‘You’re in this very real situation.’ ”

Muscles shaking, he recalls forcing himself to breathe deeply, concentrate and look around. He saw a hold just out of reach.

“I basically jumped for it. I was lucky. It was a really positive hold. I remember my fingers disappearing into this pocket . . . like putting your hand into a massive bowl,” he says.

It takes nerve to live like that. How about taking out a $20,000 line of credit at a time when all of his friends were attending university, converting a van into an RV and heading out on a year-long road trip from Toronto through the U.S. to Mexico and back up to B.C.?

At the end of that year, he was a professional climber with a sponsor.

He’s since been to India, Australia, Mexico, Malta, Spain, France, Austria, Ireland, Scotland and England, among other places.

He’s travelling less these days. He has fallen in love. His fiancée, Lydia, owns a yoga studio and they’re getting married in August. And he found a home in Squamish, where he moved three years ago.

His career started at the Canadian National Exhibition, of all places, when he was 15 years old, amid the flashing lights and smells of deep-fried food. With his two sisters on the rides — “I just wasn’t into roller coasters” — he hooked himself into a rock wall set up by Joe Rockhead’s and began pulling himself up the holds.

“I felt so light,” he says. “I remember completely disappearing on this wall and I just loved it.”

Here’s how he describes himself today on his website: Professional Rock Climber, Amateur Photographer, Videographer, Writer, Guide, Speaker, Runner, Squamish Local, Nature Worshiper, Mountain Addict, Lydia Love Slave, Aspiring Carpenter, Soccer Enthusiast, Surfer Wannabe.

And the story behind hanging by the tips of three fingers from a crack as wide as a pencil, 30 metres up?

It happened in 2006 at Cobra Crack in Squamish. At the time, it was the hardest crack climb in the world, humbling the best of Europe and North America. Trotter had been working on it for three years.

Picture a steep rock face about 30 metres tall. Running down the middle is a small fissure just wide enough to slip the tips of your fingers in. You have to stick your fingers into the crack and brace yourself with your feet. Then pull your fingertips out and stick the other hand in a bit further up. You work your way up, very slowly, with almost nothing to brace your feet against. No one in the world had managed it to that point.

For Trotter, it became one of his most famous climbs and the subject of a documentary, produced by Ivan Hughes and shot by Paul Bride, that won Best Short Mountain Film at the 2006 Banff Mountain Film Festival.

“For 20-25 years, people have been trying to climb it,” he says of Cobra Crack. “It basically had legendary status.”

As he does, along with the soul of a poet.

“I would say my entire life revolves around climbing rocks in one way or another,” he says with a soft laugh. “I wanted to see the world as much as I could and I wanted to climb rocks because it was the most fun, or the most beautiful, thing I could think of.”

Words to live by

On the beauty of rocks:

“I look at rock and I see sculpture.”

On being alone after an epic climb:

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I almost prefer that.”

On being scared:

“If you take the time to educate yourself and to understand how it works, then you realize there’s not that much to be afraid of.”

On getting tattooed:

“When you’re 17 you don’t realize how the rest of your life is going to unfold. If I had to decide now, I probably wouldn’t have tattoos.”

On making a living climbing:

“By no means does rock climbing get anyone rich. It’s more of a rich life.”

On why he prefers climbing to gymnastics:

“There are no rules. You are free to roam.”

On the importance of strong fingers:

“If your fingers can’t hold onto those tiny holds, then your body’s useless.”

On sponsorships:

“When you’re passionate and when you have a lot of fire, I noticed that people want to help you succeed.”

Quick hits: Sonnie Trotter

What do you listen to on road trips?

Rock and roll: Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Hip, Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Where do you want to travel next?

Argentina and South Africa.

What was your first part-time job?

Busboy at Pizza Hut.

If you had to give up climbing, what would you do?

I would get more into photography.

What’s the best beer for camping trips?

Wild Honey Organic Ale from the Nelson Brewing Company. It’s fricking delicious.

Do you have any tattoos?

One on each shoulder. One is a modified Superman symbol with “Canada,” and one is the Chinese characters for Yin and Yang.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An architect.

Road to London: It's Crunch Time for Canada's Athletes

Source: www.thestar.com -
Randy Starkman

(August 02, 2011) Clara Hughes will see just how realistic her cycling
comeback is.

For hurdler
Perdita Felicien, it's chance to gauge the effects of all the changes she's made.

In paddler Mark Oldershaw's case, it's perhap his best opportunity to prove he's the best in the world.

Canadian athletes will find out in the next two months where they stand in the world one year out from the 2012 London Olympics. Besides all the world championships being staged, there are pre-Olympic events in London such as the triathlon in Hyde Park this week.

The swimmers just got their chance at the worlds in Shanghai and for Canada it was probably the most they could have hoped for – two silver medals from long distance freestyler Ryan Cochrane, a silver from freestyle sprinter Brent Hayden and a bronze from Martha McCabe in the 200-metre breaststroke.

World record holder Annamay Pierse was eighth in the race where McCabe won bronze. Her result should only serve to motivate Pierse – she trains with McCabe – and she does seem like an athlete who would fare better in an underdog role.

That's the thing. Winning gold at worlds can be a detriment to some. The increased pressure and spotlight has undone athletes in the past.

We know Hughes can handle the pressure, but has she bitten off even more than she can chew in coming back from speed skating to take on the best women's cyclists in the world in the time trial and road race?

“If it wasn’t Clara Hughes, I would say it’s pretty much impossible,” said her coach Chris Rozdilsky in a recent interview with The Star. “Because it’s a short time, every day is crucial. Her gains have to be massive to get where she needs to be.”

The road cycling worlds in Denmark in September will tell Hughes if her dream is doable or is she's spinning her wheels.

This will likely be Felicien's last crack at Olympic glory. It hasn't been a season to inspire great confidence and has seen her relocate to Calgary from Michigan, but Felicien has shown she can be a big game performer.

Everyone remembers the crash at the Athens Olympics, but often forget the gold and silver captured at worlds. The world championships in Daegu, South Korea, Aug. 27-Sept. 4 mean give the Pickering hurdler a chance once again to show her pluck.

Shot putter Dylan Armstrong has had a strong season, but has yet to be on a worlds or Olympic podium. He's never had a better chance than in Daegu.

Oldershaw has been largely overlooked in the pre-London hype, but the former double world junior champion seems in a better position than ever to win his first world senior title. He defeated the reigning world champion in taking gold in the C-1 1,000 metres in May at a World Cup in the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, his teammate and good friend Adam Van Koeverden finds himself in the role of the cagey veteran trying to fend off the young guns as he heads towards London.

Speaking of cagey veterans. There are few cagier than Simon Whitfield, who thrilled Canadians with his gutsy silver medal performance in Beijing. Whitfield will be competing this week at a pre-Olympic triathlon in London. It's likely he'll use it as much as a reconnaissance mission as a chance to prove his mettle.

There's only one race that matters to Whitfield – and that's Aug. 7, 2012, in London.

A Topsy-Turvy Season In The CFL So Far

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(August 02, 2011) As the
CFL approaches the one-third mark of the regular season, only two things are clear.

One is that David Braley is the unhappiest owner in the league, what with his two teams combining for one victory in 10 decisions. Most of the owners with only one team are doing way better.

The other clear development is that parity has hit the CFL big time, as the traditional powerhouses have been usurped. Instead of pre-season favourites Montreal and Calgary showing the way, it’s the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers leading their divisions.

Even those teams’ most deluded fans didn’t see that coming.

So far, parity has also produced much more interesting — if not well-played — games.

Of the 20 games played to date, only six have been decided by more than 10 points, and a good number of those weren’t decided until the final quarter. The 0-5 B.C. Lions and 1-4 Toronto Argonauts could both be 4-1 given a few big plays.

“Regardless of what teams’ records are, there’s something to be said for the parity that exists in the league,” says TSN analyst Duane Forde. “Even the teams that have miserable records are hanging in there most games, with one or two key plays making the difference.”

That means today’s standings may not mean a thing as the weather starts to cool.

It’s hard to believe that Ricky Ray and the Eskimos can keep rolling along without a speed bump or two, or that the Calgary Stampeders’ offence is really as bad as it’s looked so far.

It’s also hard to believe that the Montreal Alouettes’ recent woes are anything more than a blip and that Anthony Calvillo, who is collecting records at a record pace this year, won’t get back on track in a hurry.


Revival in Edmonton: After general manager Eric Tillman tossed out half the team’s roster and hired a rookie head coach in Kavis Reed, most saw nothing but a year of gloom in Edmonton. Instead, the team jelled in record time, exhibiting an explosive offence and tough defence in winning its first five games for the first time in 31 seasons.

Bombers anything but blue: At least for now. Taking the opposite approach from Edmonton, the Bombers stayed with the same guys who took them to a 4-14 record — and it’s paid off, thanks mostly to a great defence. But there’s still one big question mark hanging over Winnipeg: What happens when, not if, quarterback Buck Pierce is knocked out of the lineup? He seems to get closer to catastrophe every week. (Note: Michael Bishop could be available soon.)

Dialling up Ricky Ray, circa 2006: For a guy who looked like he was on the CFL exit ramp, Ray is looking pretty good these days. He’s leading the league in most passing categories and is completing two of every three passes. “Ricky Ray is an elite quarterback again,” says Forde, noting that the big difference is that he’s getting protection. “He was hit a lot the last few years and now (that) they’re doing a better job of protecting him, you’re seeing the old Ricky Ray again.”

The new faces: Chad Kackert made the Argos, basically, with one play in the team’s final pre-season game. With Cory Boyd sidelined, he’s established himself as a future star at running back and was named the league’s offensive player of the week after running for 139 yards Friday. . . . Kick returner Tim Brown has made the Lions forget Yonus Davis, standing third in the league in combined return yardage. . . . Montreal running back Brandon Whitaker isn’t exactly a new face, but is news to many after playing in the shadow of Avon Cobourne for years. Suffice to say the Als don’t miss Cobourne.


Rough ride on the Prairies: Without star non-import receivers Andy Fantuz (gone on an NFL quest) and Rob Bagg (out with a season-ending knee injury), most expected last year’s Grey Cup runners-up to take a step back. But the Riders are heading in reverse at top speed, with a cliff in their rear-view mirror. They’re at or near the bottom of almost every offensive category and are giving up a lot of yardage on defence.

Oh Henry, what happened? Based on his play this season, it’s hard to imagine that Calgary quarterback Henry Burris was last year’s Most Outstanding Player. He’s thrown only six touchdown passes and coughed up five interceptions while producing only 95 points. He’s one reason the normally explosive Stamps offence has failed to get off the ground, though giving running back Joffrey Reynolds the ball more than 10 times a game isn’t helping.

Boatmen taking on water: Maybe it was unrealistic to expect Toronto to continue building on last year’s miraculous return to respectability, but the Argos are making the same mistakes that haunted them last year. They lead the league in turnovers with 19 — that’s almost four per game. In addition, they’re not getting the big plays that pushed them to victory last season. On the other hand, with a break here or a big play there, they just as easily could be 4-1 instead of 1-4.

Hockey Canada Aiming To Keep Kids In The Game

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Allan Maki

(August 2, 2011) Nimble hockey players are good; adaptable hockey
administrators may be even better.

In a bid to introduce more options and playing opportunities for hockey players and their families,
Hockey Canada's officers have produced a list of six priorities for the 2011-2012 season. The recommendations, which will be addressed later this month by Hockey Canada's board of directors, range from creating a flexible season for players who want to participate in other sports to enhancing non-contact hockey leagues "as a viable and credible participatory program."

Hockey Canada chairman Mike Bruni of Calgary helped formulate the six priorities at recent meetings in Penticton, B.C. He believes Canadian hockey needs to be more flexible in how it oversees the game in order to correct the decline in minor hockey registration.

"The whole concept for this is we have to be a lot more nimble," Bruni said. "We're the stewards of the game but we need to be advocates of influence. The head hits issue is a clear example. It was easy for us to get to a decision point because of the market demand [from players, administrators, coaches, on-ice officials and parents]."

The Hockey Canada priorities include: creating ways for player movement "to facilitate flexibility within the game reflecting the needs of the modern player and family;" finding new partnerships with private hockey programs "to provide the best development programs;" working with sports schools and Canadian Interuniversity Sport, "recognizing it as a critical part of a vision of the Canadian student/athlete alternative, with particular focus on female hockey."

The call for a flexible hockey schedule and the enhancement of non-contact hockey are two keynote areas, both aimed at keeping kids in the game and interested.

"If we go from September to December maybe kids can ski or play volleyball and basketball, do other things," Bruni said of the rationale for an altered hockey season. As for non-contact hockey, Bruni acknowledged the concerns and suggested a possible solution:

"There is a stigma with non-contact hockey that the kids aren't good enough or they're scared. We have to look at a national championship for non-contact hockey," he said. "We're losing players to the U.S., to Finland, to European programs. We have to make these opportunities as attractive as possible in Canada ... I'm excited it's going to make a difference in the game."

The six priorities will be examined by Hockey Canada's board Aug. 25-26 in Montreal.

Kavis Reed Helps Turn Team Into Toast Of League

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Allan Maki

(August 2, 2011) The rule is no newspapers in the dressing room and
no TV highlights shown anywhere outside the trainer's room. If the Edmonton Eskimos are the toast of the Canadian Football League, their head coach doesn't want to give his players a crumb, not a single reason to gloat.

That's how it is with
Kavis Reed. Stay hungry, stay humble, especially this week because the rookie headmaster of the unbeaten Eskimos knows Friday's game in Winnipeg against the East Division-leading Blue Bombers is going to be a test of a different kind. A stern measure of the Eskimos stunning start, "probably our toughest [game] to this point," Reed insisted.

And he should know. That Winnipeg defence, the one that has manhandled its share of ball carriers and quarterbacks this season, is very much the unit Reed tutored last year as its coordinator. The same principal players are there; the same aggression, too. Only now the Blue Bombers are a year older and a lot more battle-tested after playing through so many close losses in 2010 (eight by four points or less).

Even now, as he studies game tapes of his former players looking for signs of weakness, Reed admitted he can't help but be captivated by what the Blue Bombers are unleashing.

"They've gone from young pups to full-grown dogs," Reed respectfully noted. "It's hard to watch them on film because you find yourself smiling at the things they're doing."

Reed, who left Winnipeg for his promotion in Edmonton, wants his defence carrying on in Blue Bomber-like fashion, and that speaks to his coaching philosophy, and why the Eskimos have won almost as many games this season (five) as they did all last year (seven).

Coming into training camp, the Eskimos felt they needed to stabilize their offensive line and add some receivers to compliment quarterback Ricky Ray and playmaker Fred Stamps. It was thought to be a manageable renovation. Defensively, the house was gutted.

Only four starters were brought back. Newcomers were given starting roles. As a former Edmonton defensive back who understood the importance of constructing a strong defensive foundation, Reed was quick to let everyone know what he expected.

"You have to be fast," he explained Tuesday. "Young players will make mistakes but they'll also correct them by being fast ... I played here in 1995 and that's the way the Edmonton Eskimos' defence was. There was pressure every practice rep to be the first to the ball.

"Chemistry will come; speed to the ball is important."

The Eskimos have toyed with their defensive line-up, trying T.J. Hill at free safety before moving him back to outside linebacker and employing under-sized rookie import J.C. Sherritt at inside linebacker. Hill leads the team in fumble recoveries; Sherritt leads in tackles. So far, everyone has made sure to deliver on what Reed wants, otherwise they'll hear about it. "He lets you know when he's not happy," Ray said. Worse, they'll find themselves looking for work elsewhere.

It happened earlier this week with third-year running back Arkee Whitlock. Against the Toronto Argonauts last Friday, Whitlock carried the ball seven times for 36 yards, but fumbled. Given the Eskimos' stable of good runners, Whitlock's showing was considered sub-par and he was called into Reed's office and released.

"You have to understand the emotional IQ of your team," said Reed, who insisted cutting Whitlock wasn't easy but necessary. "We felt the players could handle it and we felt we had depth at running back [with Jerome Messam, Calvin McCarty, Daniel Porter] ... Our focus has to be internal."

To maintain that inner vision, Reed has implemented a media cone of silence. Cornerback Rod Williams may be leading the CFL in interceptions but Reed doesn't want him hearing about it from outsiders. Reserve defensive backs Corbin Sharun and Mike Miller may be 1-2 in special teams tackles but they're not starters and they have plenty of things to work on.

It's about controlling the only message that matters, the one from the man in charge.

"We're a very young team. Guys start to read their press clippings and believe them. We're nowhere near good enough yet to say we're anything special," Reed said. "If we believe we're star-studded then the fall will be hard."

In Winnipeg, where the Edmonton head coach knows just how good the Blue Bomber defenders have become, he wants more of the same from his group.

Predators' Weber Gets Record $7.5 Million In Arbitration

Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press

(Aug 03, 2011) NASHVILLE, TENN.— An arbitrator has awarded Nashville defenceman Shea Weber US$7.5 million for the upcoming season, and Predators general manager David Poile says it's proof their captain is one of the best in the NHL.

“Shea, by this award, certainly got recognized as one of the top, if not the best defenceman in all of the National Hockey League,” Poile said in a conference call Wednesday shortly after the arbitrator's ruling.

Weber won the highest award handed out in NHL arbitration and made him the fifth-highest paid defenceman in the League. Poile said that they negotiated hard with Weber's agents talking everything from a one-year contract to a multi-year deal but couldn't agree on the term, length or structure.

The Predators chose to take the Norris Trophy finalist and team captain to arbitration, and the arbitrator heard arguments Tuesday in a hearing in Toronto. The Predators argued that Weber was due $4.75 million, while Weber's agents countered with $8.5 million.

“We will continue to work on a longer term contract once the season gets started,” Poile said.

Weber will be a restricted free agent after the 2011-12 season. He had 48 points in 82 games last season in helping Nashville reach the Western Conference semi-finals for the first time. He's a two-time all-star and helped Canada win the Olympic gold medal in the 2010 Olympics.

“It is nice to get this arbitration process out of the way for now and hopefully this can lead to further negotiations between my agents and the Predators,” Weber said on the conference call. “Hopefully we can get something done long-term, but for now a one-year deal is done, and I am excited to get ready for the season. I am happy to be a Nashville Predator. I'm thankful to all the fans for hanging in there through this whole process.”

Weber called the process draining. But he said he does think that the Predators' owners and Poile are committed to winning and are trying to fill in the pieces needed after losing to Vancouver in the conference semi-finals in six games.

“Now it is just get ready for the season,” Weber said.

Poile remains optimistic of landing Weber to a longer deal. The Predators also have goaltender Pekka Rinne and defenceman Ryan Suter due to become unrestricted free agents July 1, 2012.

“His goal, as is the Predators' goal, is to win the Stanley Cup,” Poile said. “My vision, hopefully in the near future is Shea raises the Stanley Cup in a Predators uniform.'


NBA Takes Legal Action Against Locked-Out Players

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 2, 2011) The
NBA has filed an unfair labour practice charge and a federal lawsuit against the NBA Players Association, accusing the players of failing to bargain "in good faith" and of "impermissible pressure tactics" in labour talks. The claims were filed Tuesday. The unfair labour practice charge was filed with the National Labour Relations Board. It accuses the players of making "unlawful" threats to break up their union and pursue an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, a strategy used this year by NFL players to fight their lockout. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court in New York. It asks the court to declare the NBA lockout does not break antitrust laws. The NBA also says it wants to void existing player contracts if the NBPA sheds its union status.

UFC 140 booked at Air Canada Centre for Dec. 10

Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press

(Aug 03, 2011) The UFC will return to Toronto later this year. A UFC Canada spokesman confirms that UFC 140 will be held at Air Canada Centre on Dec. 10. Toronto hosted a UFC card for the first time in April at Rogers Centre and it drew a UFC-record 55,724 fans. Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre won a unanimous decision over Jake Shields in the main event. There is no immediate word on potential matchups for UFC 140 or on-sale dates. Air Canada Centre is home to the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the NBA’s Toronto Raptors.

NFL Star-Turned-Actor Bubba Smith Found Dead

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 3, 2011) *Former NFL defensive star Bubba Smith, who found a successful second career as an actor, has died in Los Angeles at age 66, reports the Associated Press. Los Angeles County coroner’s spokesman Ed Winter says Smith was found dead Wednesday at his Baldwin Hills home. Winter says he didn’t know the circumstances or cause of death. Police spokesman Richard French says the death does not appear to be suspicious. Smith spent five seasons with the Baltimore Colts and two seasons each with Oakland and Houston. He played college ball at Michigan State. As an actor he played such characters as a police officer in the “Police Academy” series.


The Best Bang For Your Buck Exercise

Source:  Matt Bradbury, www.trainmefit.com

(July 18, 2011) You can take all the bone aid supplements in the world
but if you don't give your body a reason to use the substance then it won't work as well as it could.

Sure calcium (milk) and vitamin D supplements are important to us.  But as we age there is an increasing importance to give our bodies a stimulus (exercise) so that we remain in shape.

REMEMBER - if you don't give your body a reason to stay strong it won't.

That's why Wolff's law is so important.  "Wolff's law you ask?"  Yes - bone will remodel itself and get stronger if you give it a stimulus to get stronger.  Therefore, if you walk, run, squat, and jump --> your bones will get stronger.  This is important to all of us as we age.  (since alot of us live sedentary lifestyles - this can lead to osteoporosis.

[SUPPLEMENTS WILL ONLY TAKE ONE SO FAR, IT IS NECESSARY TO TAKE ACTION IF YOU WANT TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BODY]).  There is no sense in fueling up your car if you are not going to take it for a ride. 

So here is a list of a few of the movements needed to stay healthy:


jumping, walking, lunging, SQUATTING, pressing (push-ups), pulling (chin-ups and row), climbing, hiking


elliptical trainer and aquafitness 

Why are these not approved?  They do not place enough stress on your bones.  They still improve your fitness and are better than sitting on your butt at home but don't give you the best bang for your buck.  (if you are going to devote time to exercise, you may as well do it right).

So the next time you decide on a workout regimen - place some stress on that skeleton and move!


It is important to understand that counterproductive actions of body, speech and mind do not arise of their own accord, but spring up in dependence on our motivation. Faulty states of mind give rise to faulty actions. To control negative physical and verbal actions, we need to tame our minds.


Source:  Dalai Lama