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December 15, 2011

Coming into the
holiday seasonAnd the excitement, stress and thoughts of slowing down is all somewhat appealing, isn't it?  If some of you will not be online for next week's shorter but still reliable newsletter, let me take this time to wish you all the very best for this festive season to you and yours.  No matter which you celebrate, take the time to celebrate those around you, family, friends, loved ones.

And I've got more
Canadian content for you this week!  I'm excited about it and hope you find it appealing as well. 

Again, one of my favourite events of the year is coming on Boxing Day - the
Revival VIP Jam! The list of artists (vocalists, musicians and more) is just too long to mention ... I can guarantee that you'll know them.  Trust me on this one - some big names and talent are going to be surprise guests ... never know who's going to show!  But no matter what, known or unknown - the live music and good vibes that come from this night will keep you warm the rest of the season!  Check out all the details under HOT EVENTS!  Check out photos from last year's jam HERE. Recognize any of your favourite performers?

When you're just recovering from all the love and good eats and starting to unwind, then it will be time to make plans for New Years Eve - and the soulful place to be this year is
Harlem East Side!  Check out the details below under HOT EVENTS

This week's news features the scoop on the kid rapper impresses
Drake, TV opportunity at CBC; holiday travelling advice; UFC in Toronto; Michael Jackson's daughter Paris in film; and so much more!  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly.
OR you can simply click HERE for all the articles.  


Revival VIP Jam – Monday, December 26

Come out and join the funkiest holiday celebration at Revival Bar on Boxing
Day - the REVIVAL VIP JAM!  You never know who's going to show! (hint hint)  It will be a reunion of veteran vocalists, musicians and DJs who are coming together to wish each other festive greetings, get their funk on and raise funds for the Dave 'Soulfingaz' Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund.

Check out photos from last year's jam HERE. Recognize any of your favourite performers?

The Jam will be hosted by the Andrew Craig, Shamakah Ali, DJ's KC, Sean Sax, and other jam DJs.

A few years ago, a monumental movement known as the VIP JAM went from being an open mic Monday night gig in Toronto to a cornerstone in Toronto's live music scene.  It brought unity to all - long time performers, first timers on stage, and music lovers.  DJ's dedicated to playing real music also brought the funk ... and the JAM is remembered fondly and is still the talk of the town.

Dominique, Joe and the Revival staff keep that love burning so the reunion returns as

The stage will feature seasoned talent of the Toronto music scene who reunite for an evening of real music, celebration with friends and festive cheer.  Many surprise guests will be in the house - you don't want to miss it!  You never know who will be there!

Revival Bar
783 College St. (at Shaw)
9:00 pm

$10 Cover goes to donation to the Soulfingaz Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund

::DECEMBER 31:: Start The New Year With Soulful Resolution" at Harlem East Side

Harlem East Side:: Your favourite neighbourhood spot for soul food and good vibes is having a New Year’s Eve celebration just for YOU - Soulful Resolution.  Join us for a special New Year's Eve dinner followed by a night of dancing and celebration with our friends and family. Ring in the New Year with SOUL!

$60:  Soul Food - Dinner + Party (details below)
$30:: Soulful Times - Party Only (details below)
Soul Music - DJ Solgroove spins all night long

$60 Tickets ($46.88 + Tax & Gratuity) includes the following:

* A Dinner:
- Harlem Crisps
- Catfish Lafayette
- Jerk Chicken Quesadillas
- Southern Fried Chicken
- Jambalaya
- Blackened Catfish Etoufee
- Spinach Mandarin and Goat Cheese Salad
- Corn Bread
- Mac-n-Cheese
- Collard Greens

* Dessert
* A Glass of Rum Punch With Your Dinner
* Glass of bubbly at Midnight
* Party favors
* Admission to the Party

Reservations can be made for 6 pm - onwards

$30 Tickets (Tax included) includes the following:

* Admission to Party 8pm - until late
* Glass of champagne at Midnight
* Party favors

Harlem East Side
67 Richmond St. East (at Church)
$60:  Soul Food - Dinner + Party
$30:: Soulful Times - Party Only
Soul Music - DJ Solgroove spins all night long
Tickets:  Harlem Restaurant (67 Richmond St. East at Church) or book online via email: info@harlemrestaurant.com


Video: Stuttering Boy, 12, Raps For Impressed Idol Drake In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - By Wendy Gillis

(Dec 09, 2011) One minute, 12-year-old
Jake Zeldin was in the crowd at a rap concert last Saturday. The next, he’d charmed his way backstage to rap for his idol, Toronto superstar Drake.

And that’s not even the impressive part.

As he talked his way past bouncers at last Saturday’s Tyga concert at Kool Haus, Zeldin’s speech was slowed by the debilitating stutter that has plagued him since he began to speak. But once he won his way back, Zeldin transformed into a quick-talking performer, spitting out rhymes at a frenetic pace without missing a beat.

“I was super excited,” Jake said of the performance, fighting his impediment over the phone. “It was a dream, actually. It didn’t feel real.”

Throughout the rap, caught on video by Zeldin’s 15-year-old brother Cole, Drake grins, nods approvingly, gives him a high-five at the end and exclaims, “That’s what’s up!”

“After, he told me I should keep it up,” said Jake.

Despite thousands spent on speech therapy, nothing has been able to help the Grade 7 student improve his speech. The impediment has made him the butt of jokes and teasing at school — even from teachers.

This year’s move to middle school was especially difficult, said mom Robyn Zeldin. “A big new school was a lot harder (for Jake) than for a child who doesn’t have a speech difficulty.”

But the “amazing discovery” two years ago that Jake could rap without stuttering has brought the opportunity for Jake to express himself and allow others to see him for the clever, fun kid he is, Zeldin said.

Jake was at summer camp when fellow campers initiated a rap battle, rhyming back and forth. When he joined in, the words flowed smoothly from his mouth, much to his amazement.

Stuttering can lessen or disappear when sufferers begin to sing, says Pascal van Lieshout, a professor of speech pathology at the University of Toronto. Singers Carly Simon and Mel Tillis are among the music world’s stutterers.

While speech specialists can’t say exactly why this occurs, it is connected to the pace and predictability of song — “it’s a more rhythmic activity. It’s more predictable in terms of the timing of breathing relative to phonation,” van Lieshout said.

People who stutter face difficulty with the on-the-fly nature of conversation; knowing the lyrics ahead of time also helps reduce stuttering, van Lieshout added.

Since he learned of his talent, Jake has gone to work writing songs, putting his music online and meeting people who can help him achieve his dream of becoming a professional.

He’s charmed his way into meeting Katy Perry and Canadian pop artist Karl Wolf. Jake performed for Wolf, and now plans are in the works for the two to record a song together.

Jake has also volunteered his talents to help Free the Children, and in October wrote and performed a song for an event in support of the charity, under his stage name Lil JZ.

He’s even performed at his school, rapping at a school board meeting and at a talent show. The nice thing about that? Some kids at St. Andrew’s junior high who have teased him came up and said “good work” afterwards, Jake said.

With all the attention he’s getting, Jake’s main goal is to spread his central message — the one that has kept him going.

“Don’t let one small thing get in between your dreams. We are who we are.”


CBC Asks: ‘Do You Have The Bright Stuff?’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Dec 07, 2011) There’s smart, and then there’s smart.

An upcoming CBC TV special is on the hunt for
Canada’s Smartest Person — and that could be you or someone you know.

CBC is accepting applications for brainy Canadians to compete for the title in a two-hour special to be taped live in front of a studio audience and broadcast next spring.

Applicants must be age of majority in their province or territory of residence at the time of entry. The deadline to apply is Jan. 1, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

“Smartest” does not necessarily require a high I.Q. score or an advanced degree. According to the widely-accepted Theory of Multiple Intelligences, there are actually six primary areas of intelligence: logical, visual, physical, linguistic, musical and social.

So it’s not exactly rocket science. But you may have to dodge your way through a maze of lasers, or compose a film score in five minutes flat.

All the latest news and updates on Canada’s Smartest Person can be found on Facebook.com/canadassmartestperson and on Twitter @CanadasSmartest.

Top Tips For Holiday Travellers

Source: www.thestar.com - From Star Wires

(Dec 08, 2011) Silver bells, sleigh rides, menorahs and mistletoe are on
the not-so-distant horizon. But before the festivities get underway, there are flights to catch, security lines to endure and delays to tolerate. With that in mind, online travel adviser Cheapflights.com ( www.cheapflights.com) have come up with 10 top holiday travel tips to help you navigate the festive season.

1. For procrastinators: Book last-minute Typically we encourage travelers to book flights between 60 and 90 days before an anticipated date of departure. That ideal time-frame has now passed, leaving many fliers scrambling to find holiday fare deals. But all is not lost! Data shows that airlines this year were perhaps a bit too aggressive with pricing early on, leaving seats still to be filled. Lucky for procrastinators, flash sales are popping up left and right and - better yet - the best is possibly yet to come. Start scanning now, as early December bookers could save the most on holiday flights.

2. Travel alternatively As ongoing advocates of both alternative airports and alternative destinations, our stance holds true with the season of cheer upon us. For fliers with a set destination in mind, taking the time to compare nearby airports based on affordability could mean major savings. Boston residents, for instance, should consider TF Green International in Providence or Manchester-Boston Regional in New Hampshire if fares out of Logan are too steep. And the same is true for arrival cities. Folks eager to get away for a beach vacation should look for the deal rather than the destination. Instead of Miami this Christmas, how about a beach town on the Gulf like Fort Meyers or Sarasota? The bottom line: do your homework.

3. Fly on the holiday Flight searches by date often tell an interesting but consistent story: flying midweek, early in the day or late at night saves travelers cash. ‘Tis true on holidays, too. Many times the lowest fares go to travelers willing to fly on the holiday itself, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve. Plus, the cheer can be felt 35,000 feet in the air for flexible fliers, as some airlines are particularly festive. Lufthansa in Christmases past has cooked traditional German meals and decked cabins with wreaths and decorations so passengers - and flight crews - can share in the celebration.

4. For gift givers: Shop online In an era of ever-increasing baggage fees, it’s best to show up to the airport with as little to check in as possible. Lucky for those with long wish lists, nearly everything nowadays can be found - and shipped - thanks to the glorious Internet. Evidence? Our recent list of travel gift ideas, all of which are available courtesy of the web. Order a Big Wheel-luggage hybrid for the junior traveler in your life or an airline gift card for your favourite frequent flier. No matter the choice, it means less to get through security and less on your credit card.

5. Ship gifts If you’ve found a gift at a great rate or a specialty item during your holiday shopping sprees, then of course seize the deal. But if it doesn’t fit in your carry-on, you may want to ship it via a courier company. Do the math a week before to see what will cost you less: a tracked package or an extra bag. If it’s the latter, remember to leave your gifts unwrapped so security can easily access the contents.

6. Pack an empty suitcase If the price is right, bringing an extra piece of luggage on your trip can be a frugal decision. Then, when it comes time to transport the gifts you’ve received home, you’ll have an empty suitcase to fill. Either pack a fold-up duffel in your luggage or bring a separate bag if it means you won’t get hit with high-priced baggage fees. First calculate what it will cost to ship your gifts home, then plan and pack accordingly.

7. Peruse duty-free International fliers over the holidays have the opportunity to savor their layovers a bit in the duty-free shops, where high-end products go for everyday prices in airports around the globe. Hubs like Hong Kong International Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schipol and London Heathrow Airport offer shoppers a bounty of stocking stuffers and goodies for under the tree. Shop on your way - or way home - tax-free. A friendly reminder: If you’re connecting Stateside from certain international locations, liquids purchased at duty-free have to be checked before the domestic leg of your flight.

8. For air mile collectors: Save the miles Miles get tricky around the holidays, especially since “low points” seats for the most popular travel dates sell out even before the Halloween candy has hit the shelves. There’s that, plus some airlines implement the never-popular blackout dates. Accumulated miles, whether through an airline or a credit card, are used most economically either when travel plans are booked early or a traveler has flexibility with their itinerary. Our advice: Save the points during the holidays unless you snag a great deal.

9. Health: Invest in hand sanitizer The most wonderful time of the year is also the most sniffly time of the year for many travelers. Keep that in mind before you head for the airport, and pack plenty of hand sanitizer to help fend off germs. There’s nothing worse than realizing during ascent that you’re stuck in a cabin full of recycled air with a sickly seatmate. Fill your prescriptions, drink lots of water, wash your hands often - whatever it takes to guarantee your holidays will be spent both joy- and health-filled.

10. Plan ahead and expect delays Flight delays are pretty much a guarantee this time of year, whether its crowded airports, bad weather or mechanical problems causing them. There’s a way to plan ahead so that getting stuck behind infrequent fliers and families of five at airport security doesn’t cause anxiety. First, avoid connections if you can when booking, even if it means paying a little more. If a connection is a must, then ensure there’s a long enough layover in case your first flight is late to land. On the day of travel, get to the airport earlier - way earlier - than you typically would. Worst-case scenario: You spend extra time with your Kindle at the departure gate or relaxing at the airport bar.

UFC’s Return Still Packs A Punch

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard

(Dec 10, 2011) In terms of hype, it was a born loser.

The second visit of the
Ultimate Fighting Championship to Toronto never had a chance to match the first — an event that saw a record 55,000-plus crowd jam the Rogers Centre last April to celebrate the arrival of MMA here after a long battle for political approval.

“We knew that first time we got into Toronto it was going to be a massive event,” Dana White, president and chief huckster of the immensely popular franchise, said on the eve of Saturday’s UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. “You can’t do that every weekend.

“Every time you come up to Canada you’re not going to sell 55,000 tickets.”

But while the crowd was barely one-third the size of that first Toronto MMA card, it still filled the building — at ticket prices ranging from $85 to $700 — on a night normally reserved for hockey.

Clearly, it will do so again.

“It’s still a big deal,” said Raiden Black, 22, of Ottawa, who sat on the floor about 25 rows back of the octagon alongside his dad, Curtis, 54, who bought the high-end tickets as a Christmas present for his son. “As a fight fan, it means a lot to me to see this.”

The violence fans pay to see was driven home in the penultimate fight of the night.

In the first round of a heavyweight bout, Frank Mir appeared on the verge of losing in the opening round after being knocked down by two punches to the head from Brazilian Minotauro Nogueira. But as the South American pounced on him in a bid to end it, the American grabbed hold of his arm, eventually snapping it to win the fight.

Replays of the decisive move, which were shown repeatedly on big screens throughout the arena, were met with a collective groan from the crowd, which included Leafs GM Brian Burke, head coach Ron Wilson and players Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and Luke Schenn.

“When you’re as big as we are, thing are going to happen,” Mir said as he stood in the octagon while medical staff tended to the prone Nogueira.

The big attraction on this night was 24-year-old Jon Jones of Endicott, N.Y., the youngest man ever to hold a UFC belt after winning the light heavyweight title in March.

Jones, whose only loss in 16 professional bouts came by disqualification when he was well on his way to victory, stopped Lyoto Machida at 4:26 of the second round when his standing guillotine choke hold sent the Brazilian to the canvas unconscious.

Jones has now defeated three current or former light heavyweight champions this year.

The spectacle is alive and well. The music is loud and pulsating. Spotlights above the octagon flash constantly between fights. There’s no such thing as a pause in the action.

UFC unquestionably caters to males in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The Octagon Girls, scantily clad young women who circle the outside of the fighting cage with placards identifying what round is coming up, were met with roars of approval all night.

But make no mistake, this is a crowd that knows — and appreciates — its fight game.

Spinning back kicks, takedowns and snapping jabs draw huge cheers regardless of who executes them. The same goes for those able to free themselves after being pinned down and repeatedly punched in the face.

“Everyone knows what they’re here for,” said PeaceFire Maji, a Brazilian jui-jitsu practitioner from Toronto. “It’s not about all the social stuff. It’s entirely about the fight.”

Earlier in the evening, Mark Hominick of London, Ont., who was a hero in the Rogers Centre event for nearly battling back to win the featherweight title despite a huge hematoma on his forehead and bloody face, was stopped just seven seconds into his fight against Chan Sung Jung of South Korea.

Toronto’s Claude Patrick lost a split decision in the welterweight division while Mark Bocek of Woodbridge scored a unanimous decision in his lightweight bout.

Michael Jackson’s Daughter Wins Fantasy-Film Role

Source: www.thestar.com - By Joe Edwards

(Dec 09, 2011) Michael Jackson’s daughter has won her first film role.

Paris, 13, has been signed up to have a major role as the heroine in Lundon’s Bridge and the Three Keys, a fantasy film that will feature both real and animated characters.

Although her famous family had wanted her to wait until she is 18 to start her showbiz career, Jackson reportedly convinced her grandmother Katherine to let her appear in the movie after telling her 81-year-old guardian that the movie has a message her late father would have appreciated.

“Her character’s strong love for her father is central to the plot,” a source told Britain’s The Sun.

Paris’s film will be based on a young adult series by Dennis H. Christen, which features a dolphin turned into a human by ancient magic while an evil spell changes a teenage boy into a dragonfly and a good jellyfish queen morphs into an evil fairy godmother.

All profits from the film are said to be going to the U.S. public school system.


Video: First Time Ever: Four Of Top 5 Albums In U.S. Are Canadian Acts

Source: www.thestar.com - By David Graham

(Dec 08, 2011) Canadian performers are currently a formidable force
on the American music scene.

Four of the top five positions on the Billboard Chart are held by Canadians, with Michael Bublé’s album Christmas firmly situated in the top spot — helped perhaps by the recent 60 Minutes profile recently aired on the crooner — a feat that has never been achieved before, says Canadian broadcaster and writer on music Alan Cross.

“It’s incredible,” he says. “Earlier this year I think there were three in the Top 10, but never four in the top five,” he says.

He adds, “Canadians continue to punch above their weight.”

Pop sensation Justin Bieber’s Under The Mistletoe holiday set climbed the chart to No. 3, while Drake’s Take Care held steady at No. 4.

Nickelback’s Here And Now rounded out the top five.

Joel Whitburn, president of Record Research, calls it a Canadian moment.

“It’s not happenstance,” he says. “There are a lot of great acts in Canada. There are a lot of great acts in the U.S. and in Great Britain.”

Whitburn insists there isn’t a particular “sound” coming out of Canada that’s resonating in the U.S.

“This is not like the British Invasion, when the Animals, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks topped the charts,” he says. “If they were all rock groups it might make me think there was a new sound coming out of Canada.”

But that’s not it, he says.

Nickelback is a great rock band. I love that group. You’ve also got adult contemporary in Bublé and a teen heartthrob in Bieber. They are all deserving acts. These acts artists are just very popular in the U.S. It’s neat that they’re all from Canada.”

In Radiohead, Jazz Finds A Place To Rock

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

(Dec 9, 2011) The
Radiohead Jazz Project may seem like an oxymoron – what does a cerebral, unswinging alternative rock band have to do with jazz? – but it’s actually a reflection of the fact that Radiohead’s music is terrifically popular among younger jazz musicians. A concert at the Rex in Toronto this weekend plans to showcase both sides of Radiohead’s jazz appeal.

The Allure

Jazz interpretations of Radiohead songs have been around since the late nineties, when Brad Mehldau began playing Exit Music (For a Film) with his trio. Mehldau has recorded three versions of the tune, and a host of other jazz acts – Jamie Cullum, Chris Potter, Robert Glasper, the Bad Plus – have added Radiohead songs to their repertoire.

What’s the allure? “I think it’s because the music it’s a little more introspective, a little more intense,” says Josh Grossman, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra’s artistic director, and the organizer of the Rex show. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into it.”

Guitarist Don Scott, of the jazz quartet Peripheral Vision, agrees: “Radiohead appeals to jazz musicians in a big, bad way because the music is more complex than your average rock band.” Where a lot of pop writing is fairly simplistic, he says, Radiohead’s music has “more interesting or complex harmony or forms. The phrasing is bizarre.

“And they also have a sort of brooding darkness to their music that appeals to a lot of jazz musicians.”

The Cover Band

A couple of years ago at the musicians’ New Year’s party he regularly throws, Scott found himself in a conversation with drummer Ernesto Cervini about how much the two of them loved Radiohead. “I said, ‘Hey, why don’t we get some of our friends together and just jam on a few of those tunes?’” recalls Scott. After several others at the party expressed interest, Scott says, “We got together and did a little session, and it was really, really fun.”

So much fun, in fact, that the jam session became a band, dubbed Idioteque after a song from Radiohead’s album Kid A. “We played a gig at the Tranzac [in Toronto] in May of 2010, and it was really awesome,” says Scott. “Zillions of people were there, there was cheering and encores – all the things you’d expect at a rock concert.”

Even though all six members are better known as jazz musicians, Idioteque doesn’t play around with Radiohead’s music, offering note-for-note recreations of the songs as recorded. “I make a point that we play tunes from all eight studio albums, so we are doing the whole Radiohead history,” says Scott.

The Big Band

Grossman says he began playing Radiohead as jazz through the Chris Hunt Tentet, in which he plays trumpet. “It really interested me to take music from an alternative rock band and put it in a jazz setting,” he says. So when he got wind of the Radiohead Jazz Project, for which the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music commissioned a set of big-band arrangements of Radiohead tunes, he was intrigued.

“Some of them are kind of direct representations of the tunes, and some are more interpretive,” he says. “But they’re really nicely done.” Even better, they’re fun to play, which is why Grossman decided to make Radiohead the basis for a Toronto Jazz Orchestra show. “The musicians seem to be really into it, which is great.”

In addition to the Lawrence charts, Grossman had Hunt expand his tentet arrangement of Motion Picture Soundtrack, and commissioned TJO trombonist Christian Overton to arrange Paranoid Android. “There are some really interesting harmonies and stuff beyond the melodies of the tunes,” he says. “So the band has lots of interesting stuff to play.”

The Radiohead Jazz Project will be at the Rex in Toronto on Sunday, Dec. 11. The Toronto Jazz Orchestra plays at 7:30 p.m., with Don Scott’s Idioteque at 10:30 p.m.

Three Toronto Bands On Best Of The Year Music Lists

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Dec 14, 2011) To local fans who have been paying attention to music, it comes as little surprise. The year-end best of lists are starting to come out and several Toronto artists are getting plaudits for their work.

The rock opera David Comes to Life by F---ed Up, often cited as the thinking man’s hardcore group, is Spin’s album pick. The band’s last album, The Chemistry of Common Life from 2008, was also critically adored.

Drake’s Take Care was 22 on the Spin list, and he was actually topped by his post-R&B protégé The Weeknd at 13. The Weeknd has released two free mixtapes, House of Balloons and Thursday, and some sites are compiling the two in evaluating his year.

Billboard had the three albums slotted five to seven in their best of list, although the order went Drake, F---ed Up and The Weeknd.

All three look to be in the running on various critics’ lists. Over at Metafilter.com, a review aggregator site, which is compiling a best of “Best of” lists, F---ed Up is currently tied for seventh in terms of compiled score, with The Weeknd at 11 and Drake at 18.

Adele, Bon Iver and PJ Harvey also look to be mortal locks near the top of most critics’ lists this year.

Midway State Growing Up Nicely

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Dec 14, 2011) Nathan Ferraro and the rest of the Midway State were still shaking off their teenage years when they made their 2008 debut, Holes, so it makes sense that this year’s impressive sophomore disc, Paris or India, sounds so much more grown up and sure of itself.

Recorded with Lights producer Thomas “Tawgs” Salter away from the meddling hands of major-label decision makers, the new record still marks the Collingwood-born quartet as an anthemically inclined soft-rock outfit with popular appeal to burn. This time around, however, the Midway State — which plays an end-of-tour homecoming gig at the Mod Club on Saturday night — doesn’t sound so much like a bunch of kids being shaped into someone else’s idea of the Canadian Coldplay as it does like a gifted young band just sorting out for itself who it is.

Which, the thoughtful Ferraro told the Star during a recent chat, is probably why the unintentional themes of growing up and embracing life’s uncertainties haunt Paris or India’s lyric sheet.

This record’s a bit of a self-reinvention, isn’t it? Maybe it’s good that it took awhile to come out.

Yeah, it’s nice for people to sort of forget about you for a minute. But having it settle now a bit, a year after making it, I realize more and more that it’s also just natural. As I get older — as we get older — you naturally change. And I think the headspace of it, the soul of it, is still the same as when I was 16. I’m still the same guy, the same soul or whatever, but you do kind of reinvent yourself and morph and change a lot. You just naturally grow and you dig different stuff.

You guys kind of withdrew from the music-industry machine after Holes to do this one, didn’t you?

This record is so much about coming of age and becoming a man. And by “becoming a man,” I mean having the courage and the confidence to say “I like this” and “I don’t like this” … being more solidified in what you believe and what you want to say in your music. As I get older, I get more confidence to stop caring about what someone else thinks about it. I want to make the art that I know is true inside, that I think is amazing. And the only way we could really make that record was to cut everyone else from the outside off and only allow it to be the band and our producer. We didn’t know what we were going to come out with. We were trying not to second-guess or judge it too much along the way while we were making it. You have to be ready and willing to take all the positive that comes from doing it yourself, but also the negative. Maybe there are material shortcomings because you didn’t necessarily make something that lines up perfectly with popular culture, or maybe it does. But I think, more and more, that that’s out of our hands and we just have to do what’s honest and what resonates with us really powerfully. That’s kind of where I’m at.

There’s definitely a very life-affirming, “I’m okay with me” kinda tone to the new album.

I like how more and more we just sound like the Midway State. People ask “What does the Midway State mean?” a lot and, more and more, I’ve been going with the answer: “The Midway State means nothing.” It’s just like my own name, Nathan. It takes awhile. “Nathan” meant nothing until I sort of grew up and gained a personality and really became who I am.

And that’s kinda like what it’s been like for us as the Midway State. When we started, we were just a bunch of young people who were passionate about something and over time you just sort of carve and chisel away at what that entity is. We’ve never been a part of any scene musically. Even since we were really young and I was in high school and we started the band, it would have been so much easier if we were, like, a hardcore band or an emo band or something that fit into a niche. But we’ve really never done that and we still don’t fit anywhere. And it matters less and less that we fit into a certain culture.

Billboard Names Adele Top Artist Of 2011

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(Dec 9, 2011) British singer
Adele made Billboard history on Friday when she became the first female singer to be named top artist, have the top album, 21, and score the top single, Rolling in the Deep, all in one year.

The 23-year-old chanteuse was followed in the top artist group by No. 2 Rihanna, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga in that order, while Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Canada’s Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne and Bruno Mars rounded out the top ten.

“I think one of the things that sets me apart from other artists who have had the same kind of success is that my life isn’t speculated about” by the media, Adele said in an interview with Billboard.

Her smash hit album 21, which was described by Billboard’s Julianne Escobedo Shepherd as a “break-up requiem,” was written in the aftermath of the singer’s failed relationship, and it features underlying themes of love, heartache and moving forward.

“I’m incredibly private but I’m also incredibly honest, and I think that creates a kind of ‘meet in the middle’ respectable ground,” said the singer.

The singer’s rousing soul and blues-fused single Rolling in the Deep, which was named the No. 1 song, beat pop and dance tracks like LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem, Katy Perry’s Firework and E.T. featuring Kanye West, as well as Pitbull’s Give Me Everything.

Adele, who earned six Grammy nominations last week, was also named top female, while rapper Lil Wayne was awarded top male and Wiz Khalifa was the best new artist.

Streaming Music Service Rara Launching In Canada

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Oliveira

(Dec 13, 2011) A new streaming music service is launching in Canada
with an aggressive pricing strategy to woo listeners who have never paid for digital tunes.

Just days after Paris-based Deezer.com announced it would be setting up here in the new year, the London-based
Rara.com said Tuesday that it would soon launch in more than a dozen markets, including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the U.K., France and Germany. The company originally said Canadians could access the site on Tuesday, but now says it will be available "later this week."

In Canada, Rara will compete against similar streaming services Rdio and Slacker Radio, while there are even more well-known competitors in the U.S. and elsewhere including Spotify and MOG.

But chairman Rob Lewis believes Rara can convince the average consumer that it's a worthwhile investment to pay for music digitally.

The company's strategy hinges on a year and a half of market research to determine what exactly consumers would be willing to pay for unlimited access to a growing catalogue of more than 10 million songs.

"When the CD came out within about 18 months it became the primary format for most people in the West. We're sort of six to seven years after the original launch of iTunes and the research ... shows the vast majority of consumers really haven't adopted digital yet," Lewis said in an interview.

The company researched whether to entice consumers with a seven-day trial or a free month and also looked into whether a freemium model — offering a limited amount of free access with the option to pay for more — would work.

Rara eventually settled on a price of 99 cents, at least for the first three months. Then consumers must pay the industry standard $4.99 for unlimited web access and an additional $5 a month for mobile access.

The company's research suggested 50 per cent of consumers would be willing to give the service a try at the 99 cent price point, Lewis said, and would pay $5 if they liked it. Rara plans to spend "huge amounts of money" in promotion and hopes consumers take up their offer. Given that there are only about five million consumers paying for streaming music worldwide, there's enormous potential to grow, he added.

"(Consumers) are happy to pay $5 a month but they don't want to straight away, they want to have the freedom to try it out, see whether they get hooked and know they can cancel before they've spent any significant amount of cash," Lewis said.

"We're launching in markets that in total reach 850 million consumers and we believe it bodes very well for making streaming services mass market for the first time."

Lewis said the logistics involved in securing rights to operate in Canada were not particularly straightforward but it was important to the company that it get done.

"The reality is the regime of publishing in every territory in the world is difficult. In Canada, the regime is such that sometimes the rates that relate to publishing can actually be finalized many years after the period of time that you're actually collecting money from the consumer," Lewis explained.

"That's quite an extreme case we don't experience anywhere else in the world but we took the view and thought it was important ... to go that extra length and make sure we'd launch in Canada simultaneously and not treat Canada in any way as a second class territory.

"We would hope that at some point in the future that situation would improve in Canada because the technology industry moves in days and weeks, not in years. But we live with it."

Toronto Web Series Inspired By Viral Dancing Inmate Video

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Dec 12, 2011) It sounds almost too perfectly Meta for our web video forwarding culture.

Prison Dancer, a musical web series inspired by the 49-million-times-viewed (and counting) video of Filipino prisoners doing the routine to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” just wrapped production in Toronto.

Producer Ana Serrano says they have big hopes and dreams for this project. The web series was created and directed by Romeo Candido (Lolo’s Child), who co-wrote it with Carmen De Jesus. Serrano says she became interested in the project when she discovered Prison Dancer as a play. It had a script reading as part of the Fu-Gen Asian Canadian Theatre festival.

“When I saw the play’s read-through, I immediately thought this is the property that I was looking for a long time. When producers are looking to create something, they’re looking for that meaty property that can work across multiple platforms,” she says. “This was a bit like the original video, the “Dancing Inmates of Cebu.” It kind of came out of nowhere. I mean, no one ever expected that to be one of the five most successful viral videos of all time. But it still is to this day.”

The web series is filmed in mockumentary style over 12 five- to eight-minute long webisodes and is told from the point of view of Matt, a web culture journalist who starts to look into the lives of the inmates who became YouTube sensations.

Serrano doesn’t want to give away too many details but describes it as a sort of Glee-type show set in a Filipino prison. It will be highly stylized with some classic musical elements, including the requisite unrequited love story.

“We decided to start it as a web series because we want to build an audience for it, and the web is where you do that now, but it really is the perfect property for online because it is inspired by a web video.”

But the plan is to create something with legs. They have already plotted out the character’s story arcs for three seasons and the long-term goal is to reach the pinnacle for all musicals: “We really hope that we eventually build it into potentially a Broadway show,” she says. “The Great White Way, brown style.”

The web series is expected to launch in March, with a trailer coming soon.

Our Pop Future: Arkells

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Chandler Levack

(Dec 14, 2011) Who are they?  OK, so they’re technically from Hamilton, but let’s not begrudge the band of their Steeltown roots. Members Max Kerman (vocals, guitar), Mike DeAngelis (vocals, guitar), Dan Griffin (also vocals, keyboard, guitar), Nick Dika (bass) and Tim Oxford (drums) met in Hamilton when they first formed as “Charlemagne.” In 2006, they signed with Dine Alone Records (who has signed bands like Attack In Black and City And Colour), who re-released their EP Deadlines in 2008. That year, the band toured with Matt Mays & El Torpedo and The Waking Eyes/ They released their first full-length record Jackson Square in October of that year (named after a terrible mall in Hamilton), and started racking up accolades. In 2010, the band broke through. The Junos awarded them the “New Group of the Year,” and Arkells opened for Them Crooked Vultures. They played The Horseshoe Tavern and were joined by Shad and Ke$ha onstage for an eerily good cover of Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson.” Newly signed to Universal, the band released their follow-up LP Michigan Left on Oct. 18 this year. When Griffin chose to go back to school, he was replaced by Anthony Carone.

What do they sound like?
Slinky and harmonized, it wouldn’t be wrong to compare them to The Killers. On songs like “Michigan Left,” gleeful post punk guitars and poppy choruses are highly infectious. But the band is also known for a spacier, more glacial post-rock sound, as on their breakthrough single “The Boss Is Coming!” and the '60s-influenced love song, “John Lennon.” Thanks to the dueling vocals of Max Kerman and Mike DeAngelis, every track seems to bounce around on group chemistry. The band has also earned their chops – it’s hard to pull off a song like Jackson’s Square’s “No Socialist Champagne” without sounding like a Bob Dylan cover band but Arkells make it their own.

When can I see them play live? Arkells play in support of Andy Kim’s Christmas Show (also featuring performances by Sarah Harmer, Ron Sexsmith, members of Broken Social Scene and more), tonight at The Phoenix Theatre. The doors are at 7 p.m., tickets are $26.

Disc of the Week: Amy Winehouse

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

Lioness: Hidden Treasures
Amy Winehouse (Island/Universal)

(Dec 09, 2011) Like a photo display at a wake, posthumous recordings
confront us with images of vitality that have no living counterpart. The dozen songs on this disc have had a meaning imposed on them that wouldn't apply if Amy Winehouse hadn't died in July.

"Our day will come," she sings in the opening track, and you can't help thinking that her day was over far too soon, if it really came at all. For all the fame and fortune she gained from her breakout 2006 album Back to Black, there's no telling what other, even better things we might have had from Winehouse, if her addictions hadn't addled her wits and dragged her from this world at age 27. But Our Day Will Come, a hit for Ruby and the Romantics in 1963, has always struck me as a mysteriously bleak expression of future hopes. Winehouse's reggae-flavoured performance merely pushes that quality closer to the surface.

Only half the album consists of previously unreleased originals, some of which were finished by others after her death. As producer Salaam Remi said recently, this is not "a Tupac situation." Winehouse didn't have enough new material in hand to fill multiple posthumous albums, or even one.

Best Friends, Right? shows the cheeky, swinging spirit of her 2003 debut album, Frank.

"I can't wait to get away from you/unsurprisingly you hate me too," she sings, sounding coy and unconcerned at once. "But we're best friends, right?" The more recent Half Time is a superb smooth soul number in which light and dark alternate within a single phrase, sometimes a single word.

Between the Cheats, recorded three years ago as a possible track for a third studio album, is hampered by the rigid carapace of its fifties-style arrangement, and Winehouse doesn't sing the chorus - maybe because she didn't get around to recording one. Like Smoke, of the same vintage, features Nas rapping about events that occurred after her death.

A pair of demo versions of songs from Back to Black make for interesting comparisons. An acoustic version of Wake Up Alone gives the tune a new intimate sound; a slower first draft of Tears Dry on Their Own uses a chorus quite unlike (though not better than) that of the album version.

The covers include the duet with Tony Bennett (Body and Soul), which is basically two singers exploring their own real and imagined corners of memory lane. Winehouse's opening phrases sound like she's channelling the later, life-battered Billie Holiday. For The Girl from Ipanema, she's closer to Ella Fitzgerald, and shows her jazz background in the way she swims easily across the beat. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? has an oddly martial arrangement, with snare drum hammering a hard rat-a-tat at the end of each bar. Someone should strip out Winehouse's great soulful vocal track and remix it to a more apt accompaniment.

The Zutons's tense rocker Valerie comes out as old-school R&B, with support from tactful bass, horns and electric guitar. The one must-hear cover is the album's closer: Leon Russell's A Song for You, with a colossal vocal performance and a recurring tight triplet in the descending bass that converts the song into a literal funeral march.

A spoken word extro, apparently caught on the fly in the studio, has Winehouse paying tribute to Donny Hathaway, another great soul singer who recorded this song and died young. "He couldn't contain himself," she says; and after a considered pause, offers an epitaph that could be adapted as her own: "He had something in him, you know?"

Tony Bennett: Steppin' Out With His Buddies

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Dec 11, 2011) A blue-haired lady recently took her clothes off for
Tony Bennett, the great American singer who still loves to swing. Bennett, whose latest album Duets II debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, recently spoke to The Globe about a blessing, a Bublé and one disrobed megastar.

This is a stock question, but what's the deal with you seeing Lady Gaga naked?

It's true. You see, I also paint. So, Vanity Fair had me do a sketch of her. It's a double-page photo spread in the magazine, But, yes, she was completely nude.

It's good to be Tony Bennett, isn't it?

It is, you know. I have a blessed life. My name is Benedetto. When you translate it into English, it's "the blessed one."

The duet with Lady Gaga is The Lady Is a Tramp, one of the more up-tempo tracks on the album. How did it come about?

Marion Evans, the great orchestrator, came out of retirement. He was the equivalent of Nelson Riddle. When computers became popular, he quit the music business. But I asked him if he would consider doing the charts for me. He did one for Michael Bublé and one for Lady Gaga.

About computers, what's your opinion on crooners, such as Bublé, using pitch-correcting software?

I don't have a problem with that.

Do you use Auto-Tune?

No. I don't need it. I never sing out of tune.

You sang the ballad Body and Soul with the late Amy Winehouse. What was your opinion of her as a singer?

She was singing as good as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington. So she was very, very talented. After Elvis Presley and stadium shows, the art of intimate singing was forgotten. I kept looking for singers, and the only one I found who really knew how to sing the right way was Amy Winehouse.

What do you mean by the right way?

It's called a gift. It's knowing how to be natural and truly improvise for the moment, and making it believable. It's about giving it the warmth and the feeling - everything at one time.

What's your opinion of Michael Bublé? Do you see Sinatra in him?

He does more than that. He does a little Dean Martin and Perry Como and a little bit of me once in a while. But I like him. He's very much like Louis Prima, in that people feel good when they see him.

Your duet with Josh Groban is This Is All I Ask, a song you've been singing since 1963. It has the line "Let the music play, as long as there's a song to sing." Are there still great songs being written?

Yeah, there's Stephen Sondheim.

Is it fair to say, that with a number one record at age 85, you made the right decision to stick to the classics?

Good music is like designing a suit. You design a song. When you get a composer like Cole Porter, who was better than anybody else, you can't believe the way he worked lyrics to music. Night and Day, Begin the Beguine - they don't go out of style, and they're not old-fashioned.

Last question: Is it true what they say, that it don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing?

Everything I do swings. There's a beat to it that rock 'n' roll doesn't have. It's like Fred Astaire said: If it doesn't swing, I'm outta here.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Tony Bennett plays the Centre In The Square in Kitchener, Ont., on Dec. 14.

Andy Kim’s Merrymaking Getting Grander

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Dec 13, 2011) The
Andy Kim Christmas Show is now in its seventh year, expecting its biggest crowd ever Wednesday and well on its way to becoming a Toronto holiday institution, but don't use such language around Kim.

“I never expected it to go beyond the first year,” says the veteran pop singer and renowned Brill Building songwriter, scoffing at the suggestion that his annual, star-studded charity concert is already viewed as something of a local Christmas tradition. “When I hear words like ‘institution,' I don't know what that means, exactly … I've been blessed with the ability to live in the moment. We're in the seventh season and I'm still just hoping that it all works.”

First conceived in 2005 as a means of getting through what Kim calls “a melancholy time of year for me” — not to mention an opportunity to help out people whose personal circumstances don't allow for the merriest of Christmases — the Christmas Show upsizes this year (benefitting the women and children's refuge Juliette's Place) from the Mod Club to the 1,100-capacity Phoenix.

The move was a pragmatic one, since “every year we sell out and everybody keeps saying we should do two shows,” he says, quipping that “it's a ‘build it and they will come' thing.”

The event couldn't keep growing like this, however, if more and more established Canadian performers weren't signing up to do it. This year, the lineup includes Ron Sexsmith (who's been there since the beginning), Sarah Harmer, Sam Roberts, Lights, Rush's Alex Lifeson, the Arkells, Broken Social Scene co-founders Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, Buck 65, Emma-Lee, Dru, Finger Eleven, Honeymoon Suite and Sean Cullen.

Not a bad bang for your 25 bucks. Even a music-industry lifer like Kim gets excited when he hears some of these people chiming in on his past hits during the evening-ending jam session.

“Alex Lifeson was there last year and he played on ‘Shoot 'em Up, Baby,’ ‘Rock Me Gently’ and ‘Sugar Sugar,’ ” he enthuses. “I knew that the gods of Rush probably found it a sacrilege, but I felt like a kid having someone like Alex playing on my songs. It was just brilliant.”

Drift Away Singer Dobie Gray Dead At 71

Source: www.thestar.com - By Joe Edwards

(Dec 08, 2011) NASHVILLE—
Dobie Gray was more than a smooth balladeer who recorded the timeless hit “Drift Away” in 1973.

He wrote songs for an array of country and pop performers, was a trailblazing entertainer in South Africa and, in death, a philanthropist.

Gray died in his sleep at his Nashville home Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 71.

“Drift Away” also was recorded by rap artist Uncle Kracker in 2003 and became a hit again.

Gray’s silky tenor also was heard on other hits including “The In Crowd” in 1965 and “Loving Arms” in 1973. His songs received radio airplay on several formats including Top 40, country, AOR and adult contemporary.

“He had such a unique style, so identifiable,” said Bud Reneau, Gray’s close friend and songwriting partner. “If you listened to his record, you knew right away it was him. It was a big factor in his marketability.”

Gray toured extensively in Europe, Australia and Africa, and insisted on performing for integrated audiences in South Africa, according to his website. After that declaration, he became especially popular in South Africa.

“I guess what you call my ‘signature songs’ will never die, thank God,” he told The Tennessean newspaper in 1988. At the time, he was the only major black vocalist to call Nashville home.

He wrote songs recorded by Ray Charles, Johnny Mathis, Etta James, Three Dog Night, Julio Iglesias, John Denver, George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

Gray sang on several motion picture soundtracks including Uptown Saturday Night, Out of Sight and Casey’s Shadow.

Additionally, he sang advertising jingles for companies such as Clorox, Budweiser, Hardee’s, Honda and Buick.

“I talked to him the day before he died,” said Charlie Andrews, Gray’s attorney and friend. “We just talked about life and living and general stuff.”

Gray was born into a family of sharecroppers in Simonton, Texas. He moved from Texas to California in the early 1960s where he met Sonny Bono, then an executive with Specialty Records. This led to his first record, “Look at Me,” in 1963. While in Los Angeles, Gray appeared in a production of Hair.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete. He was not married and had no children.

Reneau said Gray willed much of his property and future earnings to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

“He was a giver,” Reneau said.

Watch: Mary J. Blige, Tom Cruise in New ‘Rock of Ages’ Trailer

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 14, 2011) *Warner Bros. has released the first trailer for its movie
musical Rock of Ages, the 1980s-set movie adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical about a small-town girl (Julianne Hough) and city boy (Diego Boneta) who meet while both are pursuing their dreams of making it as an actress and rock star, respectively, in Hollywood.

As previously reported, Mary J. Blige plays a Gentleman’s Club owner who inspires the women working there and encourage them in their life journeys.

She can be seen twice in the clip, which showcases many of the A-list cast members, including a long-haired, shirtless Tom Cruise as a rock star who gets asked to sign a fan’s chest, Alec Baldwin (also donning long hair) as the club owner and Catherine Zeta-Jones as a woman who wants to shut down the club because it’s nothing but a place for “sex.” (Think Tipper Gore.)

It also features a slew of ’80s hits, including Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian,” Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” and a mash-up of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Starship’s “We Built This City.”

The Adam Shankman-helmed movie, which also stars Malin Akerman, Russell Brand and Paul Giamatti, hits theaters June 1.


Justin Bieber To Tape Holiday Special For MuchMusic, CTV

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Dec. 12, 2011) Justin Bieber is coming home for the holidays. The 17-year-old teen-pop sensation from Stratford, Ont., will return to Canada this month to tape a new holiday special. Justin Bieber: Home for the Holidays will premiere on CTV and MuchMusic on Dec. 22. The special's acoustic set will be taped at an undisclosed location in Toronto later this month. Bieber released his first holiday collection, Under the Mistletoe, last month. It hit No. 1 on the Canadian charts and has since been certified double platinum here. “The holidays are a very special time of the year for me and I'm looking forward to coming home and ringing them in with my friends and family,” Bieber said in a statement. “And this year will be extra special, as I'll be sharing the spirit of the season with the whole of Canada with my TV special.”

Videos: SWV Launches Comeback With New Single ‘Co-Sign’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec. 12, 2011) *This month, SWV is set to release their first new studio material in nearly 15 years. Above is the cover art for their new single “Co-Sign,” which is their first release for Mass Appeal Entertainment and follows up their 1997 album “Release Some Tension.” Recently, the 90s trio – Cheryl “Coko” Clemons, Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, and Leanne “Lelee” Lyons – appeared on the remix of Chris Brown’s “She Ain’t You” single. The group also took the stage together in Toronto last weekend at the Amnesia Anniversary concert [watch clips below], and performed in Lagos, Nigeria last week. A reality show surrounding the group’s comeback is reportedly in the works.




Watch: Ciara, Patti’s ‘Mama I Want to Sing’ out on DVD in Feb.

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Eric Duhatschek

(Dec 13, 2011) *A film that’s been sitting in the vault for several years is finally getting
released … via DVD. For whatever reason – “Mama I Want to Sing” starring Ciara, Lynn Whitfield, Patti LaBelle, Hill Harper and Ben Vereen didn’t get a lot of attention as in a theatrical release that we’re aware of when it was completed several years ago. However, it is one of those feel good movies with a big budget. The good news is the DVD release is set for Valentine’s Day (2012) through Fox Home Video Entertainment. Check out the trailer:


Video: The Roots Bring Undun To Life In Movie

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

(Dec 14, 2011) If you haven't picked up the Roots' new album Undun, despite the praise of the Star's own Ben Rayner, maybe this clip will entice you. The tale of Redford Stephens - a young man in a bad neighbourhood who drifts into crime and, then, into disaster - is told through Undun and it's done in compressed form here, with snippets of four songs: "Tip the Scale," "Stomp," "Sleep," and "One Time" (not to be confused with the Justin Bieber song of the same name.)


The Roots - UNDUN from The Ghettonerd Company, LLC on Vimeo.

Blue Rodeo, City And Colour, Deadmau5 And Feist Play At Junos

Source: www.thestar.com - By Star staff

(Dec 14, 2011) Blue Rodeo’s being admitted to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at next year’s Junos, so of course they celebrating by performing at the event April 1 in Ottawa. In addition to the country-rock institution, the Junos announced Wednesday that City and Colour, electronic artist deadmau5 and Feist — all of them past Juno winners — will also perform for the national CTV audience. It’s welcome good news for the event, which is still looking for $300,000 in funding which it had expected the government of Ontario to provide as it did in 2003, the last time Ottawa hosted the event. Junos organizers said last week that it seemed the government would not provide the cash this time around. The announcement comes just in time for a one-day-only ticket pre-sale. Ducats will be available Friday, Dec. 16 through capitaltickets.ca or by phone at 877-788-3267 for $63-$214. As winners of 11 Junos, Blue Rodeo are in a tie for ninth among the most-honoured acts; Anne Murray and Celine Dion lead the way with 24 and 20 trophies respectively.

Janelle Monae SlappinDown Two Albums in 2012

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 14, 2011) *Grammy-nominated singer and industry sweetheart, Janelle Monae has a serious New Year’s plan. For 2012, she’s ready to bust out two new albums for her salivating fans, according to Singersroom.com. She took a trip back home to Kansas City for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. “I am happy to be here and see my family, and I am eager to get back to the studio and work on finishing my album,” Monae said. “I stopped touring so I could finish the album. Actually, I plan on releasing two albums next year.” She didn’t reveal any of the juicy details of her coming work, but she’s Monae. Her work is good. She confirmed, “84.799 percent of the writing is done.” As far as the release dates, she has some in mind, but isn’t ready to tell the world. “I will release them according to my soul clock; so I reserve the right to change that,” she confided. “But I will try to stick to the scheduled release dates, which I know but can’t say. I will be thinking about Kansas City and all the people here who have supported me as I continue to write songs that empower, encourage and make you dance.” Regardless of when it comes out, there’s no doubt that Miss Monae won’t show out for her fans and be committed to her craft.

::FILM NEWS::    

Christopher Plummer Has No Plans To Slow Down

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Kate Taylor

(Dec 14, 2011) In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher's adaptation of the Swedish thriller, veteran Canadian actor Christopher Plummer plays Henrik Vanger, patriarch of a troubled family still haunted by the disappearance of a young woman years before.

Had you already read the Stieg Larsson books when you were approached to play Vanger?

No, I was approached first and then I read them. I read all three; I think it only took me 10 days, they were so riveting. And then I thought, yes, I am playing the only nice guy in this whole outfit. Why not?

He is the only nice guy, but the audience doesn't know that. How do you keep up the suspense?

David [Fincher] is very good at making red herrings. You sort of suspect everyone. He is very good at keeping that going; even better than the book. You sort of get the message [in the book] that Vanger is a sweet old guy. I thought it was wonderful what Fincher did making it all so restless and uneasy from the word go, helped enormously by that extraordinary score that gave it that extra pulse of spookiness.

And for your own performance, was there something you had to telegraph about Vanger?

The only thing one really had to telegraph was the feeling of a once very powerful man. And that power is sometimes mistaken for wheeling and dealing, and surreptitious behaviour. And, of course, being a powerful man he is quite comfortable in other respects. He has time for a little humour, thank God, in a piece in which there wasn't much humour. So that was what I concentrated on.

Tell me what you are up to at the Stratford Festival this summer, A Word or Two?

I am diving in with yet another one-man show. It is all about the literature I have loved all my life and how each work influenced me from youth to middle age and so on. I love it because it gives me a chance to do a lot of poetry and prose that people have not seen me do. It's a literary autobiography. Hopefully, if it works, one might bring it into New York for a brief run.

You have performed Prospero in The Tempest. That's the farewell role ...

I quickly killed that by doing Barrymore.

But I was wondering if you plan to return to other Shakespearean roles?

I don't know if there are many left that are that suitable or exciting. I don't know about Falstaff.

I don't see you as Falstaff.

I don't either. The padding would have to be very clever; some new invention of a cooling system would have to put in. There are other things to do; there's Molière. I am determined to go on. I am not going to retire.

Do you prefer the theatre to film?

Nothing can replace a live audience. The public is your partner. A lot of people think you have to play straight to your leading lady and never take in the fact there's an audience. How wrong! It is so exciting to bounce off an audience - if things are going well. If things are going badly, they are the first to tell you.

There's no net.

No. Except, of course with film, if it's bad, it's immortalized. At least in the theatre you can sort of get away from it.

You sometimes complain that you can't escape Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music.

Yes, I do. It always comes up. It's ancient history.

It must have been one of the first movies I ever saw as a little girl and I was terrified of him; he kept yelling and blowing a whistle.

I wish I had been more horrible, and turned it into a horror movie.

And how long will you be at Stratford?

Only five weeks. I can't spend too long there anymore. It is a long haul and if you do it in the prime of the summer, it has a much more positive feel than working late there. It's a long trip to ask people to take. For a long time I have wished Stratford would find a Toronto home.

Rather than going to Broadway?

I think you could do both. A whole section of other plays and performances could be organized freshly, so you are not stuck with the same season all the way through. I don't know what I am talking about, but I always thought it should have a metropolitan home base.

Perhaps you'd like to take on the artistic director's job, when Des McAnuff leaves?

No. Thank you very much.

I am enjoying myself thoroughly in my old age. I seem to be working more than I have in years. I am not going to run away from that.

Kim Wayans Shares Her Struggle to Transition from Comedy to Drama

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 11, 2011) *Without a doubt,
Kim Wayans is one of the funniest actresses and comics out there. And even at 50, she’s still throwing heads back in laughter. For over 25 years, she’s played her part in the film industry and contributed to the growth of black comedy.

Recently she took on a new role in controversial film, “Pariah,” in which she plays the role of a religious mother of a teenage girl who’s struggling with her sexual identity.

In a recent interview with Essence.com, she talks about the challenges she faced transitioning from comedy to drama for the project as well as turning 50 and the comeback of “In Living Colour.”

“It was difficult to get into a dark [dramatic] space for this role because you have to put yourself into that kind of emotional space. This character is so different from me, I really had to create her, I really had to keep combing the text and the script, it was like putting together a puzzle, asking the director questions about her background.”

Read the full interview at Essence.

Tree Of Life, Take Shelter Top Toronto Film Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Dec 14, 2011) Toronto film critics found two winning films in American dramas that explored the search for self and the meaning of family as they made their choices for top films and casts of 2011.

Tree of Life was named Best Picture by the Toronto Film Critics Association
. The movie’s director, Terrence Malick, won Best Director.

The TFCA also gave two acting honours to Take Shelter, a drama about a man plagued by doomsday visions, recognizing Michael Shannon as Best Actor and Jessica Chastain as Best Supporting Actress. It was a good year for Chastain, who was also a runner-up in the Supporting Actress category for Tree of Life.

Michelle Williams was named Best Actress for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, while Canada’s Christopher Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners as an elderly man who finally comes out of the closet when a life-altering event sparks a change.

“With both Tree of Life and Take Shelter, our members chose to honour ambitious films that took bold risks,” said TFCA President Brian D. Johnson, film critic for Maclean’s. “These are both intimate dramas that play out on an apocalyptic canvas and impart a sense of wonder and mystery.”

Established in 1997, the Toronto Film Critics Association is comprised of Toronto-based print, web and electronic journalists. The Star’s Peter Howell and Linda Barnard are both members.

The TFCA also announced these awards:

Best Screenplay: Moneyball, the story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, story by Stan Chervin, based on the non-fiction book by Michael Lewis.

Best Foreign-Language Film: Mysteries of Lisbon, one of the final works of Chilean master Raul Ruiz.

Best Documentary Feature: Nostalgia for the Light, Patricio Guzman’s meditation on Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Best First Feature: British writer-director Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block, a thriller in which a youthful South London gang battles an alien invasion.

Best Animated Feature: The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg.

The awards will be presented at a gala dinner Jan. 10, where the TFCA will also reveal the winner of the $15,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. The three nominated pictures are: Café de Flore, directed by Jean-Marc Valée; A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg; and Monsieur Lazhar, directed by Philippe Falardeau.

In addition, the TFCA will announce the winner of the third annual Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist and the Deluxe Student Film Award at the event.

The Artist Is One Of The Best Films Of 2011

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

The Artist
Starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman and James Cromwell. Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius. At theatres. 100 minutes.

(Dec 09, 2011) Passion is not normally experienced through the rear-view mirror, as regret and nostalgia are.

And yet here’s
The Artist, the most unlikely Oscar prospect in recent memory: a black-and-white, silent and exceedingly square homage to old Hollywood that is as passionate as new love.

It’s also one of best films of 2011.

You can call it a gimmick, as some did when The Artist premiered in competition last May at Cannes, winning star Jean Dujardin the festival’s Best Actor award.

But you can’t fault it as smart entertainment, which eschews parody to make a sincere tribute that also serves as cogent current commentary. In our increasingly wired world, who doesn’t yearn for the supposed simplicity of the unplugged past?

Michel Hazanavicius’ comic melodrama is a major departure from the French director’s OSS 117 European spy spoofs, which also starred Valentin and co-star Bérénice Bejo.

The Artist is set in the Hollywood of the late 1920s and early 1930s, when silent film is being replaced by “the Talkies.” It’s not unlike the movie crossroads of current times, where traditional 2-D film is being rapidly replaced by digital 3-D images.

Dujardin and Bejo play actors on either side of the tech divide: his George Valentin is a silent star in the style of Douglas Fairbanks; her Peppy Miller is a fast-rising and quick-hoofing beauty with a million-watt smile who’s built to be both seen and heard.

Their destinies collide at the intersection of silence and sound, a technological breakthrough that audiences readily embrace, but not the cocky Valentin: “If that’s the future, you can have it,” he scoffs.

Valentin will have reason to rue such hubris, and also to watch in alarm as Miller noisily pushes past him.

In technical terms alone, The Artist is an exceedingly ambitious and retro project. It’s lensed in the square-screen format and 22-frames-per-second speed of silent film, which makes action seem just a little faster than normal.

The production design is immaculate, from the flapper dresses and vintage autos down to Bejo’s painted-on beauty spot. Watch for vintage Old Hollywood landmarks, filmed on location: Peppy Miller’s home is the actual abode of Toronto-born silent star Mary Pickford, and a bed Valentin rises from is one of Pickford’s own.

Four Americans co-star — John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller and Missi Pyle — but nationalities and accents aren’t noticed, because the film has virtually no dialogue: the words are represented visually, through old-style printed intertitles.

What dominates the soundtrack is composer Ludovic Bource’s music, performed by the 80-member Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra in Brussels, which pays subtle tribute to movie scores of both the silent and sound eras.

There is much humour in The Artist, and a hilarious little Jack Russell terrier named Uggie that steals the show, even though you can’t hear him bark (save for one très amusant dream sequence in which a horrified Valentin imagines a film with sound).

Hazanavicius pays tribute to such great silent actors as Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, and such master directors as F.W. Murnau, King Vidor and Fritz Lang.

But he was determined not to make The Artist a trite romance and not to do a parody of any kind, à la Mel Brooks’ comic Silent Movie from 1976 — and this despite the fact Hazanavicius considers himself a Brooks fan.

The story is actually more like All About Eve, in the way a young striver threatens the stardom of her earlier idol.

And while it’s not a conventional romance, it’s a passion project all the way, made by people with their heads in the present but their hearts in the past. Feel free to swoon along with them.

The Help Leads Screen Actors Honours With 4 Nods

Source: www.thestar.com - By David Germain

(Dec 14, 2011) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — The Deep South drama The Help cleaned up with four nominations Wednesday for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, among them honours for Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer.

The adaptation of the bestselling novel also was nominated for best ensemble cast, along with the silent film The Artist, the wedding comedy Bridesmaids, the family drama The Descendants and the romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris.

The nominations are among the first major honours on the long road to the Feb. 26 Academy Awards. The SAG list of contenders and Golden Globe nominees that will be announced Thursday help sort out favourites from also-rans for Oscar voters, whose nominations come out Jan. 24.

Davis is up for best actress and Spencer for supporting actress as black maids who agree to share stories of their tough lives with an aspiring white writer at the start of the civil-rights movement in 1960s Mississippi. Chastain also was nominated for supporting actress as Spencer’s lonely, needy new boss.

The Artist ran second with three nominations, including a best-actor honour for Jean Dujardin as a silent star falling from grace amid the advent of talking pictures and supporting actress for Berenice Bejo, who plays a rising sound-era movie star.

Along with Davis, best-actress contenders are Glenn Close as a woman disguising herself as a male butler in 19th-century Ireland in Albert Nobbs; Meryl Streep as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady; Tilda Swinton as a grief-stricken woman coping with her son’s horrible deeds in We Need to Talk About Kevin; and Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn.

Joining Dujardin in the best-actor category are Demian Bichir as a hard-working illegal immigrant father in A Better Life; George Clooney as a neglectful dad tending his two daughters in The Descendants; Leonardo DiCaprio as FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar; and Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball.

Albert Nobbs star Close was a double nominee, picking up a best-actress honour for a TV drama series for Damages. Close’s co-star Janet McTeer was nominated for supporting actress as a cross-dressing labourer in Albert Nobbs.

Overlooked for best actor was Gary Oldman, whose performance in the espionage saga Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has been billed by critics as one of the best in his career.

Also snubbed was Michael Fassbender for his daring role in the sex-addict drama Shame and Ryan Gosling for two acclaimed performances in the action tale Drive and the political drama The Ides of March.

Several Oscar best-picture prospects will sit out the SAG ceremony, including Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, but those are epic tales whose impact comes more from their scope than their performances.

Another Oscar potential that missed out at SAG was David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which features a blistering breakout performance by Rooney Mara.

Bridesmaids was a rare mainstream comedy that has earned critical respect. Along with its ensemble nomination, the film earned a supporting-actress slot for Melissa McCarthy as a crude but caring member of the wedding.

Missing out in the supporting-actress category was Clooney’s young Descendants co-star Shailene Woodley, who delivers a breakout performance as a troublesome teen.

Up for supporting actor are Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn; Armie Hammer as Hoover’s FBI colleague and soul mate in J. Edgar; Jonah Hill as an economics whiz kid in Moneyball; Nick Nolte as a bad dad trying to make amends in Warrior; and Christopher Plummer as an elderly, ailing father who announces he’s gay in Beginners.

Betty White, the guild’s lifetime-achievement award winner two years ago, had two TV nominations: comedy-series actress for Hot in Cleveland and Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Lost Valentine.

Modern Family led the TV side with five nominations, including best comedy ensemble and individual honours for Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Eric Stonestreet and Sofia Vergara.

SAG also honours unsung action players with a stunt ensemble prize. The film stunt contenders are The Adjustment Bureau, Cowboys & Aliens, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and X-Men: First Class.

TV stunt nominees are Dexter, Game of Thrones, Southland, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and True Blood.

The 18th annual SAG Awards will be presented Jan. 29.

Iron Man 3 Script ‘Best I’ve Read In 5 Years,’ Says Robert Downey

Source: www.thestar.com - By Joe Edwards

(Dec 09, 2011)
Robert Downey Jr. thinks the script for Iron Man 3 is the “best” he has read.

The 46-year-old actor is set to reprise the role of businessman Tony Stark/Iron Man for the fourth time – following on from the character’s appearance in ensemble comic book movie The Avengers – in the highly anticipated film, and he admits he is excited to get working on the Shane Black-directed feature.

Speaking at the U.K. premiere of new movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows at the Empire Leicester Square, Downey said, “Iron Man 3? It’s the best script I’ve read in five years. It’s going to be a phenomenal theatre-going experience.”

Filming is set to begin next spring ahead of a summer 2013 release.

Just a few months ago, Downey – who was joined by stars Noomi Rapace and Jude Law at the premiere – admitted he did not know the story to the film.

“We’re not talking much about the script right now because Shane is off writing, and we talked before that and when we are talking again the talking is going to be over pretty quick because we’re on the same page.

“It’s kind of like we’re fighting on the same side and at the same time we’re circling each other, so it’s all great. It should be great.”

Jackie Robinson Biopic to Star Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec. 12, 2011) *Chadwick Boseman, a relatively fresh face to the big screen, has been recruited to play the role of legendary baseball player and civil right leader Jackie Robinson in an upcoming movie called “42.”

“42” is a biopic about Robinson, the first African American ballplayer in Major League Baseball, who made his debut in 1947. 42 is also the number of the legendary baseball icon’s uniform.

Also starring in the film is Harrison Ford, who’ll play the role of Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers executive who signed Robinson.

This will be the biggest role so far in Boseman’s career. He’s best
known for roles in “Fringe,” “Justified,” and “Castle.” He was actually featured in a movie about another sports legend: 2008′s “The Express,” the biopic of Syracuse University running back Ernie Davis. Boseman played Floyd Little.

Jackie Robinson heroically dealt with straight up racism from fellow ballplayers and fans alike, not only succeeding in breaking down racial barriers, but proving himself one of the best players of his generation. A career .311 hitter, Robinson won the 1947 Rookie of the Year award, the 1949 NL MVP and earned election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His number, 42, is retired throughout Major League Baseball.

Is Patton Oswalt On His Way From Sidekick To Star?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Dec 13, 2011) It wasn't that long ago that
Patton Oswalt was best known as a stand-up comedian and for his sidekick role on the long-running sitcom The King of Queens. Last year, his Broadway debut was cancelled after a dispute reportedly related to his inexperience (more on that later). Now he is earning kudos and even Oscar buzz with what could be a career-defining performance in Jason Reitman's new film Young Adult. Oswalt plays Matt Freehauf, a guy in his late 30s still bearing the emotional and physical scars of a violent beating by high-school bullies.

"The role was so well written, the movie was so well written, and all I could see were the ways it could go spinning off the tracks if the wrong tone was hit," said Oswalt during an interview at the Whistler Film Festival. To prepare, he worked with an acting coach and a physical therapist. "I got kind of intimidated by the possibility of wrecking this thing."

Matt is the disabled, truth-telling foil - and friend - to Charlize Theron's Mavis Gary, a gorgeous but emotionally damaged ghostwriter of a series of young adult novels. Unsatisfied with her personal life, she travels back from the big city - Minneapolis - to her hometown to recapture the heart of her high-school sweetheart (Patrick Wilson). The fact that he is now married with a newborn does not dissuade her.

"I'm cool with it; I mean, I've got baggage too," Mavis tells Matt shortly after returning to town.

"I would keep all of this to yourself," he replies. "I would find a therapist."

Both Reitman (who reunites as director with Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody) and Oswalt are film buffs, and Reitman invited Oswalt to the Sunday film screenings he holds at his Los Angeles home. Around that time, Reitman got the script for Young Adult. Eager to hear it read out loud, he asked Oswalt to participate in some early table reads. When Oswalt read with Theron, the chemistry, Reitman has said, was off the charts. Oswalt was offered the part.

"I got this movie the way a squatter gets an apartment," Oswalt, 42, told an audience during a tribute at Whistler.

His performance, he says, was elevated by his co-star, the way you become a better chess player when you face a good opponent. For one scene in particular - where Matt describes to Mavis the high-school beating and the effects he lives with 20 years later - Theron came through during a freezing, middle-of-the-night shoot.

"She gave me the best thing another actor can give you, which is nothing," Oswalt said. "She stood off-camera, didn't have to, didn't need to be there, stood in my sightlines and she barely listened to me. On purpose. And she knew what she was doing. She was like 'this is going to get an even bigger performance out of him, if I'm watching him and he's talking to me and I just don't give a [damn], and he can see that nothing's landing and it's not connecting.'

"Most actors do not have the [guts] to do that. They do not want to be seen onscreen being shown not listening to someone who needs their ear and not empathizing with someone who is ripping themselves open. And she was so willing to go down that road."

Oswalt tells the story in the lobby of his Whistler hotel, overlooking a snowy Christmas-card-worthy scene outside. He's funny and thoughtful (and profane), and his conversation is filled with film references.

"This looks like something that James Cameron would make on a computer, it's so gorgeous up here," he says, looking out the window.

The winter mountain beauty is in stark contrast to the suburban strip-mall drudgery depicted in Young Adult, which shot for a month last year (squeezed in between Retiman's and Theron's busy schedules) mostly in upstate New York, which subbed for the fictional small town of Mercury, Minn.

Oswalt himself grew up in the "stable, dull" suburbs of northern Virginia, but unlike Mavis, his memories are positive.

"It was great, especially because it was such a blank landscape that it forced you to really kind of imagine and dream or die. And I just kept dreaming of stuff beyond the borders."

His achievements have exceeded even his wildest suburban dreams. Oswalt now has a rich career: actor (Big Fan, Ratatouille), author (Zombie Spaceship Wasteland), stand-up comic.

Oswalt didn't want to talk about last year's planned Broadway revival of Lips Together, Teeth Apart. There were reports the production fell apart because co-star Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) demanded Oswalt be dismissed from the cast because of his lack of stage experience. But when asked whether he sees the Young Adult accolades as vindication for the theatre fiasco, Oswalt laughed.

"If you go looking for vindication in this business, you're going to end up really upset and really disappointed," he said. "There's no vengeance, there's no vindication, because if someone didn't like you or someone had a problem with you, you doing good is not going to make them go 'wow, I was totally wrong.' It's more like 'wow I guess this business is really [messed] up if you're doing [well].'"

Young Adult opens in theatres on Friday.


TLC Biopic Being Planned by VH1: Chilli & T-Boz to Consult and Produce

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 11, 2011) *
TLC, one of the greatest female groups of the 90s is finally being recognized with a touching television movie produced by VH1. Screenwriter Kate Lanier who’s known for “Set It Off” and “Beauty Shop” will produce the untitled biopic. And of course Chilli and T-Boz will be on board to consult and produce, reports YBF. When she was told about the project, Chilli said she was touched. “The reality of this brings me to tears because I am seeing one of my dreams come to life. I always felt our story had to be told. What makes it even more amazing is having Kate Lanier on board. I remember watching ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ (written by Lanier) with Lisa, and I knew then whoever wrote that story had to write ours. I will forever be thankful to Jeff Old or believing in our story and going the extra mile to make it happen.” As for T-Boz, since going through some trying financial times, the news couldn’t have better timing. The singer filed for bankruptcy and is earning a little over $11K a month.

Video: Hart, Ealy, Henson In ‘Think Like A Man’ Trailer

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 9, 2011) *Screen Gems has released the trailer for “
Think Like A Man,” the ensemble comedy based on Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Lady…Think Like a Man.” It stars Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Taraji Henson, Romany Malco, Gary Owen and Gabrielle Union. Tim Story is directing a script by Keith Merryman & David A. Newman. The film will be released on March 9, 2012.


Video: First ‘Men In Black III’ Trailer Premieres

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec. 12, 2011) *The first trailer for Men in Black III was unveiled online this morning and reveals a major plot twist: Will Smith’s Agent J goes time traveling…or “time jumping” as noted in the trailer. The setup is this: Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K are going about their usual alien monitoring business when Agent K takes on a side assignment solo.’ When asked by J what he’s investigating, K tells him, “I promised you the secrets of the universe, no more.” To which J replies, “Well, what other secrets are there?” Cut to: J asking Emma Thompson’s character Oh to help him locate K. A bit surprised, she tells him K has been dead for decades. And thus comes the time travel element — Agent J needs to find Agent K in the past. Agent J. “time jumps” back to 1969 and lands in an office chair smack down in front of Josh Brolin, who plays the young Agent K. “Men in Black III” opens May 25, 2012.

::TV NEWS::     

Bobo & Kipi A Hit In Congo. Is Canada Next?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish staff reporter

(Dec 08, 2011) A children’s television show —
Bobo & Kipi, starring two cute puppet animals — has become a huge hit in Congo and could one day be on screens across the country.

It’s aired up to 18 times a week, often compared to Sesame Street and has its Canadian creator, Susan Sheper, looking for a Canadian network to pick it up.

“It’s become very, very popular,” says Sheper, originally from Toronto but who has lived the past 30 years in Congo. “Everyone knows the show, everyone knows the characters; it’s just taken off.”

Bobo is a bonobo, a primate with the closest DNA to humans, and Kipi is an okapi, a close cousin to the giraffe. Both are indigenous only to that country.

The show takes place in a magical African village where the target audience of 3- to 6-year-olds is invited to take part in every new discovery.

Every situation — sharing, performing chores, learning how to say no — reveals new ways to approach challenges in daily life in much the same way the way Bert and Ernie helped children develop all around the world.

Throw in Papa Zete, a talking tree, and Mama Zungu, who only communicates through a drum beat.

Sheper regularly hears anecdotes about how the show has affected kids in Congo from her hairdresser, teachers and people on the street.

She has seen walls painted with images of Bobo & Kipi, has heard groups of young men on the street talking about the show and has learned that the program is also watched, just for the sake of entertainment, by girls from 10 to 20.

Sheper has returned to Toronto with the prime objective of dubbing the program into English (the dominant language in Congo is French) and will soon be approaching major networks with the finished product.

The work is happening at WestWind Pictures (known for Little Mosque on the Prairie), where the final touches are coming together.

But how does a woman from Toronto with no education in TV production, who left for Africa in 1983 at the age of 25, end up with a children’s television show? Out of necessity.

“There just wasn’t anything for kids,” says Sheper. “There were no family shows, nothing (from North America) that was suitable. Televisions are on all the time in Congo homes, but all they seemed to be getting was inappropriate music videos with too many undressed women and Bible-thumping religious programming.”

Sheper, who belongs to the Bahai religion, originally went to Africa to “assist in community life.”

During that work, she saw changes in the family unit.

Parents were out of the home a lot working or looking for work.

Despite the strength of the extended family, many youngsters were moving to larger centres, leaving grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins behind.

“There was a disconnect,” she says. “You could tell the children needed a hand.”

In 1999, Sheper started filming a talk show in her living room in the country’s main city, Kinshasa, using limited resources and primitive equipment.

A knowledgeable friend in Belgium gave her a three-week crash course in production, teaching her camera work and editing, and she decided she had the expertise to take on something bigger. Bobo & Kipi took to the air in 2001.

Local community sponsors have since supported the show, along with revenue from a hotel owned and operated by her husband, allowing for a larger staff, more equipment and a studio built in her backyard.

Two episodes were screened at the 2010 Dawn Breakers International Film Festival in San Diego, a Bahai-inspired event, but Mary Darling, executive producer at WestWind, says there is no specific religious message within the show; its intent is simply to build character.

“It’s a perfect fit, the French and English,” says Darling. “The show is wonderful with a great message for children.”

Less Than Kind Remembers Maury

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Dec 10, 2011) It is not without precedent — comedies have lost their lead actors before, through misadventure, illness and even death.

Charlie Sheen, for example, whose public meltdown cost him his cushy gig on Two and a Half Men.

Most famously, perhaps, Dick York on Bewitched, whose chronic back pain eventually made it impossible to work.

And, more tragically, there was the sudden death of John Ritter, three episodes into the second season of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.

Sheen and his character were replaced, for better or worse, by fellow bad boy Ashton Kutcher — ironically, just as Sheen had replaced the ailing Michael J. Fox 11 years earlier on Spin City.

Things were simpler back in the 1960s, when York was simply replaced in the same role by Dick Sargent (who had been originally offered it in the first place). No one appeared to notice.

Ritter’s death was obviously more painful and problematic: the much-loved actor was 8 Simple Rules’ comedic and spiritual linchpin, both onscreen and off. Tribute was paid in following episodes, dealing directly with his and his character’s passing, and though James Garner and David Spade were brought in to try to fill the gap, the show limped along for one more season before being cancelled by ABC.

The sudden death last year of Less than Kind star
Maury Chaykin was something else again.

Scripts for the Winnipeg-shot cable comedy’s third season were already being written when the prolific, uniquely charismatic character actor — Brooklyn-born, but Torontonian by choice — succumbed to complications from a heart-valve infection on July 27, 2010, his 61st birthday.

“It came out of the blue,” says Less than Kind executive producer Mark McKinney. “Maury had not been well and we’d sort of gone through the second season with (that). But he was on the mend.

“So when we got the call . . . it was just awful.”

Shutting down production completely at that point was certainly an option, McKinney admits.

“But once we sort of had a chance to breathe and grieve a little bit, this light bulb went off with the writers and myself. It’s a family. How do deaths happen? Well, they don’t happen in nice, predictable . . . ‘Oh my god, we’ve got four episodes . . .’”

And so the creative decision was made to channel their collective grief into a cathartic storyline that paralleled the devastating loss of Chaykin and the sudden passing of his character, Sam Blecher, the lovably volatile patriarch of a uniquely dysfunctional family.

It wasn’t easy on any of them, least of all Wendel Meldrum, who plays Sam’s wife and was the closest among the cast to the late, lamented Chaykin.

“She moved to New York when she was 17 and he was the first friend she made,” explains her young co-star, Brooke Palsson.

To say that this informs Meldrum’s work this season is something of an understatement. In the first episode, particularly, she delivers an astounding, largely internal yet indelibly visceral performance, absolutely heart-wrenching while, at the same time, darkly, quietly hilarious.

Even talking about it after the fact, it remains profoundly moving. “Here we go again,” laughs Palsson, proffering a forearm as proof. “Goosebumps.”

Sharing a large part of the reactive burden, 20-year-old Jesse Camacho has also impressively upped his game as the youngest and least neurotic Blecher, Sheldon.

“Strange as this may sound,” he allows, “this may be the easiest acting I have ever done.

“After what happened, we didn’t know what to expect. The biggest thing about his passing is that his physical presence isn’t there, which was such an important thing, obviously. He injected such adrenalin and energy into every scene he was in.

“But the fact is, even when he was gone . . . he’s still so much there. That energy is so much there. I think we all felt it. And as the season goes on, it’s definitely not forgotten. The ripples of it are felt throughout the season.

“This season is closest to our hearts because of Maury.”

“I think the outcome was definitely even more than any of us anticipated,” adds Palsson. “It’s just a beautiful outcome and I feel very proud of it. For Maury.”

Though Less than Kind does not officially return to HBO Canada until Jan. 15, the cable network is offering a free preview of the first two episodes of this new season at their website, www.hbocanada.com, from Dec. 22 through Jan. 25.

Russell Simmons Buys Ad Space On Controversial Muslim TV Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Dec 14, 2011) “And what will explain to you what the steep path is? It is the freeing of a (slave) from bondage; or the giving of food in a day of famine to an orphan relative, or to a needy in distress. Then will he be of those who believe, enjoin fortitude and encourage kindness and compassion.” — the Koran, Qur’an 90, Verses 12-17

That’s what the Qur’an says about acts of compassion, and they are words that
Russell Simmons may find fitting.

Reacting to the controversy surrounding the TLC series All-American Muslim, which faced criticism from American extremist groups that prompted hardware chain Lowes to pull its advertising, the hip-hop mogul purchased all the remaining ad spots on the program for next week.

“Just purchased remaining spots on #allamericanmuslim next week. The show is sold out! Keep your money @lowes, we will keep ours” the founder of Def Jam records tweeted.

The show, which airs in TLC Canada on Sundays at 10 p.m., profiles five diversely religious Muslim families from Dearborn, Mich. It immediately drew fire from the ultra-conservative Florida Family Association that says the show is “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims . . .”

The Lowes’ decision to pull its ads in response has ignited a firestorm of controversy, with some now calling for a boycott of the chain’s stores for its decision.

“This can’t happen in America; (Lowe’s) needs to fix this immediately,” Simmons told Entertainment Weekly. “They can’t get away with that, it’s ridiculous. There are American principals at stake here. I can’t imagine the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the National Urban League, or any organization that fights for their own rights will allow this to happen to any other group because they know they’re next.”

Simmons is the founder of The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization that promotes interfaith and racial understanding.

Lowes recently released the following statement in response to the reaction.

“As you know, the TLC program All-American Muslim has become a lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives — political, social and otherwise. Following this development, dozens of companies removed their advertising from the program beginning in late November. Lowe’s made the decision to discontinue our advertising on Dec. 5. As we shared yesterday, we have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we’re proud of that long-standing commitment. If we have made anyone question that commitment, we apologize.”


Lou And Sue Ann Together Again!

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Debra Yeo

(Dec 12, 2011) The sitcom Hot in Cleveland continues to give Mary Tyler Moore fans reasons to tune in. EW.com broke the news on Monday that Betty White, who stars as landlady Elka on Cleveland and was Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, will be reunited with Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant on MTM. The website says the pair will shoot an episode in February to air next summer, in which Grant will play Jameson Lyons, the president of the an old-money country club in Cleveland who has a long history with Elka.  The sitcom previously reunited White and Moore, and also put co-star Valerie Bertinelli together with her One Day at a Time colleague Bonnie Franklin, and Jane Leeves with Frasier co-star John Mahoney. EW says Wendie Malick will share the screen with Laura San Giacomo of Just Shoot Me! in an episode airing on TV Land on Wednesday.

Charlie Sheen’s New Sitcom Headed To CTV

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Dec 13, 2011)
Charlie Sheen is returning to CTV with his new sitcom Anger Management. Sheen made the announcement Monday night with an on-air message that aired after his old show Two and a Half Men. Sheen was famously fired from the show after his volatile personal life and ridicule of the show’s producer exploded in the tabloids. Sheen’s new sitcom is loosely based on the 2003 film of the same name. He’ll play an anger management therapist whose unconventional methods wreak havoc on the lives of his patients. The series is slated to air on FX in the United States next summer. No air date has been set for CTV. “You seem like the nicest people in the world,” Sheen said in the short broadcast. “But I know the truth. You’re holding in a lot of anger. Why else would you drink so much beer, put on shoes with sharp blades, and smack each other around with wooden sticks?” Veteran writer-producer Bruce Helford, whose TV credits include The Drew Carey Show and George Lopez, will serve as executive producer and showrunner.

Sutherland’s ‘Touch,’ ‘Bones’ Spinoff ‘The Finder’ Head To Global

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Dec 13, 2011)
Kiefer Sutherland’s TV comeback Touch and the Bones spinoff The Finder are headed to Global in the new year. Two years after the conclusion of 24, Sutherland plays a widower and single father who discovers that his mute son has the ability to predict events. The Fox series comes from Heroes creator Tim Kring. Global will air a sneak preview Jan. 25 before beginning its full run March 19. Meanwhile, The Finder debuts Jan. 12 after an episode of Bones that sets up the spinoff procedural. It’s about a war vet who discovers an extraordinary ability to help others recover what they’ve lost. Other new series headed to Global include the animated sitcom Napoleon Dynamite, based on the hit film of the same name and Are You There, Chelsea? inspired by the best-selling book from comedienne/talk show host Chelsea Handler. Also joining the lineup is The Firm, based on the 1991 bestselling novel by John Grisham and the six-part Canadian series Bomb Girls, starring Meg Tilly as one of several women who work in a munitions factory during the Second World War.

Saints Star Drew Brees Takes ‘Time Out’ For Sesame Street

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Dec 13, 2011) NEW ORLEANS — Move over, Grover! One of the NFL’s
top quarterbacks is heading to Sesame Street. Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints is making a special appearance on Thursday’s episode of the educational children’s TV show. He visited the set a few months ago to record the segment, which co-stars the street’s furry red resident, Elmo. Brees, who has two young sons, Baylen and Bowen, taped the segment before the start of this year’s regular football season. Brees leads the NFL with 4,368 passing yards, putting him on pace to break Dan Marino’s single-season passing record of 5,084 yards, which has stood since 1984. Brees led the Saints to victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and was that game’s MVP.

Law And Order Veteran Chris Meloni To Join ‘True Blood’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Dec 14, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — HBO says Law and Order veteran Chris Meloni will be sinking his teeth into a role on vampire drama True Blood. The network confirmed Wednesday that Meloni will be joining the popular series as an ancient, powerful vampire who controls the fate of the show’s major characters. The series’ fifth season is expected to air next summer. Its stars include Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer. Meloni recently ended a 12-year run on NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where he played Detective Elliot Stabler. Before that, the 50-year-old actor was a regular as a bisexual inmate on HBO’s gritty prison drama, Oz.


West Next To East, In Vibrant Movement

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Jacob & Nova
Choreography by Jacob Zimmer and Nova Bhattacharya
At the Dancemakers Centre for Creation in Toronto on Thursday

(Dec 9, 2011)
Jacob & Nova starts with the tried-and-true – but transforms it into something both visually and intellectually compelling.

Since taking over Dancemakers in 2006, artistic director Michael Trent has invited a variety of choreographers to create pieces for his company. This time, he’s turned to two very different creators: Jacob Zimmer and Nova Bhattacharya.

One of Dancemakers’ own, Zimmer has been both a dramaturge and writer for the company’s program notes over the last few years. His piece in this show, Story Dance Radio, marks his debut as a professional choreographer.

The heart of Zimmer’s piece is a parade of humanity, with five dancers (Robert Abubo, Amanda Acorn, Kate Holden, Simon Renaud and Pierre-Marc Ouellette) using horizontal movements across the stage to present characters ranging from a purposeful business type with a briefcase, to a furtive character constantly looking behind him and clearly on the run. As the action progresses, larger ensembles cross the stage, and the patterns of movement shift from loose limb thrusts and on-the-spot circles to vibrant runs and large body swoops.

Repeated stage crossings is an oft-used device, of course. But Zimmer presents an intriguing outer frame for the piece by way of Christopher Stanton – who plays a radio DJ at his console with his back to the audience. Stanton’s disembodied voice – which has the breathy sound of late-night radio and is interwoven with percussion-driven pop, includes musings on love and personal freedom.

By pairing the action on stage with the DJ’s musings and the lyrics of various songs, Zimmer seems to translate imagination into movement.

Where Zimmer focuses on role play, Bhattacharya riffs on the counterpoint between the individual and the group.

Although trained in bharatanatyam, the classical dance of South India, Bhattacharya has produced a body of work that merges that ancient dance form with contemporary dance. And her piece in this show, Red and Yellow, is typical of her fusion style.

The piece begins with colour, with each dancer throwing scented red and yellow powder into the air. The powders fall into beautiful patterns on the floor and their perfumed aroma fills the theatre throughout the dance.

But more than just their scent, the colours have an important meaning: They evoke passion in a piece that is about both expression and constraint.

Each of the five dancers in the piece is caught up in the throes of what seems to be some inner monologue expressing itself through compulsive movement. This is complemented by a restless urgency to the soundtrack, a mix of Southeast Asian tradition and electronica composed by Ian de Souza and Santosh Naidu.

But Bhattacharya also uses bharatanatyam mudras (specific finger positionings) to convey ritual in her piece. So while there’s a sense of sensuality, there’s a formal or stately aspect to the movement as well. And when the dancers do come together, it’s not with ease or peace – their agitated body shudders and staccato limb thrusts speak of disquiet.

The one and the many, yes, but with an intriguing ending. Or, perhaps, a beginning.

Jacob & Nova continues until Dec. 18.

A Christmas Revival That Stands The Test Of Time

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Martin Morrow

Written by Miklos Laszlo
Adapted by Adam Pettle and Brenda Robins
Directed by Morris Panych, Starring Oliver Dennis and Patricia Fagan
At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto

(Dec 11, 2011) One of my favourite Christmas films stars Jimmy
Stewart. And no, I don’t mean It’s a Wonderful Life. I’m referring to Ernst Lubitsch’s 1940 romantic classic The Shop Around the Corner, with Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as two bickering store clerks who have been unwittingly exchanging anonymous love letters.

So when I learned that Soulpepper Theatre was remounting its much-praised holiday production of
Parfumerie, the Hungarian play on which the Hollywood movie is based, I let out a Messiah-style hallelujah. I’d missed the show’s original 2009 staging, which The Globe’s J. Kelly Nestruck pronounced “a delightful holiday treat.”

Delightful it is, in many ways. First there’s the made-for-Soulpepper English adaptation by Adam Pettle and Brenda Robins. It reveals Miklos Laszlo’s 1937 play – set in a Budapest gift shop during the Christmas season – to be richer and funnier than the Lubitsch film. That may be due partly to director Morris Panych’s approach, which combines the legendary gentle “Lubitsch touch” with the rude vitality and slapstick of another great Hollywood comedy director from the period, Preston Sturges.

Then there’s the surprise casting of Oliver Dennis and Patricia Fagan as the romantic leads. The two actors are no Stewart-Sullavan pairing – the wiry, balding Dennis is usually cast in scene-stealing second-banana roles. But that only makes them more believable and endearing. And besides, they prove a great male-female Odd Couple, as Dennis’s fussy, smug George engages in an ongoing sales-floor battle with Fagan’s careless, wisecracking Rosie.

The play’s ironic conceit is that, as unknowing pen pals sending each other tender missives via post office boxes, the two have found a marriage of true minds. But it’s more than a clever joke. By contrasting their intellectual sympathies with their clashing personalities, Laszlo reminds us that unlike an epistolary affair, a real relationship is seldom perfect, depending as much on compromise as compatibility.

The theme of not knowing the person you love also plays out in the near-tragic subplot involving Hammerschmidt (Joseph Ziegler), the shop’s owner. Tipped off by an anonymous letter of another kind, he learns that his wife of 35 years is having an affair with one of his employees. Ziegler plays this devastated cuckold as a bewildered, broken-hearted man. It’s an inward, quietly moving performance in contrast to the rest of the play’s comic hurly-burly.

That’s another of the delights here: the way the script and actors dance nimbly on the slender hyphen in the term “comedy-drama.” Even when Ziegler’s Hammerschmidt is recovering from a suicide attempt, he still engages in some amusing byplay with the shop’s overweening apprentice (a hyperkinetic Jeff Lillico).

Hammerschmidt’s shop is stocked with a wide variety of employees, furnishing an excellent showcase for Soulpepper’s ensemble.

An outstanding Michael Simpson radiates both warmth and anxiety as the avuncular but timid Sipos, George’s confidante – a family man whose fear for his job sets the plot’s wheels in motion. Kevin Bundy as the dashing heel Kadash and Maev Beaty as the flirtatious Miss Ratz are spot-on as the shallow, conventionally attractive counterparts to George and Rosie. And playwright-actor Robins makes much of the small role of Miss Molnar, the old-maid cashier, who turns out to be carrying a torch for Hammerschmidt.

The production’s design is scrumptious eye candy. Ken MacDonald’s gift-shop set, with its cherry-pink walls and chocolate mouldings, is like a giant Christmas bonbon. Bonnie Beecher’s lighting suffuses it with a soft winter glow. Composer Mike Ross puts us in an Old World mood with lushly romantic strains that are at once melancholic and silly. And Ross, on accordion, and violinist Miranda Mulholland play much of the score onstage as a pair of colourful Roma buskers.

Parfumerie is a timeless tale that is all the more pertinent in the age of online courtship – indeed, it inspired the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com You’ve Got Mail. But this revival reveals how charming, wise and deeply human the original play is. Soulpepper couldn’t have given us a better holiday gift.

Parfumerie runs until Dec. 31.

In Nouveau Burlesque, They Dare Not Bare It All

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Les Coquettes Cabaret Burlesque
At Revival in Toronto on Sunday

(Dec 12, 2011) If you’re thinking pole dance, or lap dance, you won’t
find it here. The aim of “le burlesque nouveau” is to put some of the class and glamour back into an art form fallen into disrepute.

This neo-striptease is focused less on the strip and more on the tease – a dance theatre/adult entertainment that is naughty and nice at the same time, rooted in both sex and satire. Both the nouveau-burlesque performers and the audience are here to have a titillating good time.

Les Coquettes Cabaret Burlesque’s latest show, Gala!, presented as a black-tie evening at Toronto’s Revival on Sunday night, is a case in point. What follows is a deconstruction of what goes into the making of a nouveau-burlesque production.

The Theme

Nouveau strip is usually built around one common idea. Gala! is a homage to the glamour of Old Hollywood. As themes go, it’s perhaps too general a topic, but it still produced entertaining moments Sunday with tributes to film noir and silent movies, and a boylesque (male burlesque) trio performing Singing in the Rain.

What’s in a name?

Everything! All nouveau-burlesque performers have less inhibited alter egos. By day, they may work in banks or marketing firms, but at night they are transformed into glamorous avatars. Les Coquettes include mistress of ceremonies La Minouche, Suki Tsunami, Dante Inferno, Charity Dawn and Charlotte Webber, not to mention the boylesque known as Dew Lily and the cleverly styled guest artist Coco Framboise (who happens to be black and gorgeous).

The Humour

Double entendres are what it’s all about. For example, MC La Minouche, in introducing Billie Black’s film noir number High Heels, had rather a lot of fun with the slang term for private detectives, not to mention the nudge-nudge possibilities of her own name.

Pasties and G-strings

Full nudity is not the goal here. The mocking fun is based on going only so far and leaving the rest to the imagination.


Glitter makeup and overabundant wigs are the norm, as are stylish and seductive costumes. The latter are built around bustiers on top and garter belts with suspenders that hold up silk stockings. That patch of naked flesh between panties and stocking tops is what rivets the eye.

The Man Props

The male Coquettes are called the Man Props. They include the aforementioned Dew Lily, the Carpenter and the Barback. If the term seems dismissive, it’s because striptease has always been female-centric, but not female-controlled, so it’s payback time. Put the men in their place?

The Music

It’s always raunchy, with suggestive lyrics. There is, needless to say, a heavy percussive beat.

But is it dance?

It certainly is. Every number is carefully choreographed. The performers have to be able to move in time to the music while shedding clothes, not an easy thing to do cleanly and without awkward pauses. They all have to have rhythm.

Audience Participation

It’s a given. A guy was hauled out of the audience for Dante Inferno’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? number: He helped her undo her garters, and when she took off her bra, he was showered in confetti. Two women celebrating their birthdays, who were very good sports, were ordered by La Minouche to eat the same cupcake – together – in the most salacious manner possible, and they did.

The Gimmick

Every act has its shtick. For example, It’s Oh So Quiet featured Georgie Gates in a fan dance. Singing in the Rain had the three boylesques shedding yellow slickers and coyly stripping out of their briefs behind three twirling black umbrellas. Only Girl in the World was a bump ’n’ grind number performed by four women with chairs allowing for a lot of lascivious positions. The silent movie A Simple Tail starred Charity Dawn and the Carpenter, with the latter saving the heroine from an onrushing train.

(Les Coquettes Cabaret Burlesque is the featured attraction on New Year’s Eve at Brantford, Ont.’s Sanderson Centre. That town won’t know what hit it.)

Harry’s Just Wild About Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Dec 09, 2011) NEW YORK—It’s a clear late autumn day in Manhattan,
but how far can Harry Connick Jr. see?

“Until Dec. 11, man. That’s as far as I’m trying to look at this point.”

That’s the opening night of the famed singer’s latest project, a revival of the 1966 musical, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

The original version by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane dealt with a young woman who went to a psychiatrist to quit smoking and discovered she had lived before — as a courtesan in Regency England.

Barbara Harris made hearts melt as the gal, John Cullum belted out the title song as the guy and it closed after eight months with everybody agreeing the score was great but the book was what you might expect from someone (Lerner) who had been getting his inspiration from the amphetamine injections of Manhattan’s infamous “Dr. Feelgood.”

For the next 45 years, people toyed with fixing it, but it wasn’t until director Michael Mayer teamed up with author Peter Parnell to give it a major overhaul that a major Broadway revival became plausible.

Now the gal in therapy is a gay guy, who discovers he was a female jazz singer back in the 1940s.

Connick is now the shrink and he couldn’t be happier about the project, despite a preview period that has seen its fair share of changes.

“I got excited by this project. I enjoyed my character. I liked the songs I would sing and the journey this guy goes on.

“Sure, it’s different and sure, we’re changing stuff, but isn’t that the whole point of being a stage actor? If you want to do the same thing every day, then go to work on an assembly line.”

Listening to Connick’s no-nonsense line of talk and watching his ruggedly handsome profile, thoughts of Clint Eastwood come to mind, although the 44-year-old Connick is decades younger than the filmmaker.

What also causes the thought of their similarity is that they each made a mark in one field (Eastwood, acting; Connick, music), but as they’ve matured, they’ve extended their activities into many different directions and been equally successful in all of them.

Take 2011, for example. He won his second Emmy for the musical direction of his TV special, Harry Connick Jr. In Concert on Broadway; he played the leading role in the hit family film, Dolphin Tale; he turned his famous animated musical feature, The Happy Elf, into a book; joined with longtime friend Branford Marsalis in opening the Ellis Marsalis Centre for Music in New Orleans, and, oh yeah, went into rehearsals for what is, for all intents and purposes, a brand new Broadway musical.

“I don’t have any particular goals,” he insists, when asked if any kind of overriding career ambition drives him. “It’s all about the process for me. I like to do different things, but I don’t want to do something just for the sake of being different.

“Sometimes it’s something that somebody brings to me and sometimes it’s the result of a lot of other work that’s led up to it. I just play it as it lays.”

Connick admits that one of the reasons he’s been doing so many different kinds of projects not directly connected with music is because, “I think that the whole music business is in trouble today and knows it. The only way to get your music out there is to have it played on American Idol.

“I know I can connect with an audience when I’m in front of them. Once I get ’em there, I’m great. The problem is that I’m no longer sure of how to get ’em there. It becomes more and more complicated. I’m glad I have people in my life who understand how to do that stuff, because I sure don’t.”

Asking how Connick feels about social media hits a surprisingly contentious vein with him.

“I disapprove of it, frankly. I think it’s harmful and unnecessary. It’s created a whole culture of immediacy and transparency that’s affected our behaviour and not for the better.

“I believe there are certain things that are private, certain things that don’t need to be broadcast and no, I don’t mean X-rated stuff. I don’t think strangers need to see my family photos. I can’t imagine anyone would care to read about how I spend my day. I sure don’t.”

Connick has three daughters (9, 14 and 15), and he admits that they’re in disagreement with him over this issue.

“Of course, my kids are part of the whole Twitter and Facebook world, but they know my philosophy and their mother’s philosophy about it. We can provide them with guidelines and support to help them find a value system that will sustain them.”

Connick is known as a practising Roman Catholic and he’s the first one to admit that “it’s a very hard time to be a teenager out there. They’re exposed to things they shouldn’t be exposed to at their age.”

He adds, “People are online making videos they can see that are about things we didn’t even know existed at their age. I believe there’s some kinds of stuff you should wait until you’re adults to find out about.”

An announced admirer of Barack Obama and the scion of a long line of Democratic politicians in his native Louisiana, Connick himself resists pigeonholing. “I don’t like to be labelled,” he insists. “I like some things and some people on the left, but I also feel that way about things and people on the right. I examine everything separately and make up my own mind.”

Something else Connick is passionate about is his hometown of New Orleans, to whose defence he literally raced in the days following its devastation at the hands of Hurricane Katrina.

In fact, many media outlets noted that Connick was able to make his way to the flooded city long before George W. Bush did.

“That was a terrible, terrible time, but it taught me a lot of things. It taught me how much I loved New Orleans, how fragile life was and how we have to stand up for the things we believe in.

“I believe it’s back to normal now. It’s great, thriving, kicking away like it used to. Yeah, it was scary for a minute back there. We all thought we were in danger of losing a giant part of our heritage.”

As for whether or not he thinks it might happen again, he calmly says “It seems they’re prepared now. I think their lessons were all probably learned.”

Pushing Connick past his Dec. 11 opening date, he makes a confession.

“I’d like to try my hand at directing, maybe write another film score. Maybe write another original Broadway musical. I have ideas bouncing around and I’ll see if they go anywhere.

“Everything you do in this business teaches you things about how to be a better actor, a better storyteller, even a better person. I listen to that and not the gossip that’s out there.”

He laughs, dismissively, over whatever the cyber-gossip networks might be churning out.

“Chatter just gets into your head and it doesn’t do any good.”


ELLIS MARSALIS: Probably my most important music teacher. I am so proud Branford and I got to open a music centre in his name in New Orleans this year.

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY: When Rob Reiner asked me to write the score for that movie, I never thought it would change my life, but it did.

THE PAJAMA GAME: I never thought I could star in a Broadway musical, but I loved the experience and here I am, doing it again.

JILL GOODACRE: She’s not just my wife, my partner and the mother of my children. She has great taste and I solicit her opinion about everything.

HURRICANE KATRINA: It opened my eyes to how fragile life and home and everything we hold dear can be and how much they all mean to us.

Tchaikovsky Soars In Nutcracker

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

National Ballet of Canada: The Nutcracker
Choreographed by James Kudelka
Until Jan. 3, 2012; Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen Street W; 416 (toll free 1 866) 345-9595 or www.national.ballet.ca

(Dec 12, 2011) It’s not every day the National Ballet of Canada has one
of the country’s most colourful civic politicians gracing its Nutcracker. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s cameo appearance as a Cannon Doll was brief; yet, a heightened level of anticipation seems generally to have infused a lively Saturday afternoon opening of this seasonal favourite.

Ford and his Executive Committee colleague, Councillor Michelle Berardinetti, acquitted themselves admirably with Ford — was anyone surprised? — playing the bellicose part in the mimed debate over whether the cannon should be fired. Naturally, Ford triumphed, Berardinetti didn’t seem disappointed, and the famous battle scene involving a menagerie of assorted vermin and other animals proceeded on schedule.

Without diminishing the augustness of the afternoon’s VIP walk-on visitors — my-oh-my how well they suited their colourful doll costumes — it was inevitable that the younger, non-voting portion of the audience had other concerns.

That pesky rat that scurries through the barn scene evokes screeches of delight, as do the dancing bears — the lady bear on her tippy toes and the gentleman on roller blades. And, then, of course there’s that amazing horse — the best you’re ever likely to see — who pulls in a gift-loaded sleigh and proceeds to dance a hooves-in-the air solo.

Soon we’re off to battle and once that’s been settled in favour of the Nutcracker, valiantly defended by boisterous child siblings Marie and Misha, it’s on to the enchanting snow scene where on Saturday the lovely Elena Lobsanova reigned as queen.

Thence — after an intermission of lineups at the loo and overpriced confections and assorted Nutcracker-themed memorabilia — we return for Marie and Misha’s arrival by ice boat at the magic-kingdom home of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

It’s here, in a fantasy world, that Act I’s stable boy, Peter, now transformed into a dashing cavalier, meets the love-at-first-sight lady of his budding manly dreams and dances the pas de deux that the dedicated ballet fans have been waiting for all along.

Dancing the opening honours were popular wife-and-husband couple Heather Ogden and Guillaume Côté, both in exuberant form and injecting a spark of true romance where its sadly sometimes lacking.

As for Misha and Marie, danced on Saturday afternoon by Qinglin Liu and Siphe November, in choreographer James Kudelka’s 1995 version of the ubiquitous Tchaikovsky classic they are presented as the dysfunctional offspring of emotionally distant parents. By the end of the ballet, however, these warring siblings have more or less called a truce, although they’ll likely still need a few lessons in table manners.

Kudelka’s generally has more dancing than most Nutcracker productions, particularly for a through-character — avatar of the traditional Drosselmeyer — who starts off as Uncle Nikolai and ends up a Grand Duke. All those many turns under weighty costumes make the role a considerable challenge, one that Jonathan Renna met with confident panache. Credit also to Jordana Daumec for putting some real buzz into the role of a bee.

And what would Nutcracker be without the music its composer once so inaccurately described as “all ugliness”? Thanks to the National Ballet’s orchestra under conductor David Briskin, with the choral reinforcement of VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto, Tchaikovsky soared.


Mike Myers Is Reportedly In Discussions To Write An ‘Austin Powers’ Musical

Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

(Dec 12, 2011) Mike Myers is in talks to turn Austin Powers into a musical. The comic actor has opened discussions to bring his spoof spy franchise — which has spanned three films — to life on Broadway. A source told the New York Post newspaper: “Mike is in talks to turn Austin Powers into a musical stage show. Mike would be heavily involved in writing the show, but he will not star in it, even though he has quite a good singing voice.” As well as the musical project in the pipeline, Myers has also reportedly reached a deal with New Line to write and star in a fourth film. A source said: “The deal is in place, and Mike is currently writing the new Austin Powers film. But no date has yet been set to start filming. It is not yet clear if this will be a 2013 or 2014 release.” The three previous movies — 1997’s Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, 1999’s Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Austin Powers in Goldmember which was released in 2002 — banked a phenomenal $676 million worldwide at the box office.


Caribbean Tourism Wants To Hear From You

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers

(Dec 08, 2011) We already have Trip Advisor and other web sites to
share and find information about our favourite destinations. Now comes word the Caribbean Tourism Organization may go one better.

CTO executive director
Hugh Riley told a press conference in Toronto earlier today that Caribbean countries are working on what’s called a Total Visitor Satisfaction program, by which tourists can rate destinations on a variety of factors. The data will help destinations improve where their service or facilities are lacking.

Of course, it also will mean members of the public will see where a particular destination ranks, which could cause the odd political or public relations problem.

Riley said he’s committed to the program and that destinations have to be transparent, but he also noted that it’s “a work in progress” and that there’s still debate as to how much information will be made public.

“I’m leaning very heavily towards giving it all to them,” he said.

Riley said destinations would be rated over everything from beaches to environmental programs to accommodations.

“No other region in the world has it,” he said of the TVS program.

Of course, no other part of the world is as dependent on tourism as the Caribbean.

The good news for Caribbean tourism types is that Canada, a huge market for them, is doing them proud. Riley said visits from Canada are up between seven and eight per cent this year, compared to 2010. He also said that, on a per capita basis, Canada sends more visitors to the Caribbean - about 2.8 million a year - than any country on earth.

“Thank you for treating us with such importance when you make your travel decisions,” he said. “We don’t take you for granted.”

Riley said they do very well by Ontario but are hoping to lure more Canadians from the west and from Atlantic Canada. A lot depends on marketing, but even more important is simple ease of access; meaning more flights.

China also is an important market, and they’ve been sending more folks to trade shows and setting up more offices in China, Riley said. He noted that forecasts suggest China will send more tourists abroad than any country in the world by the year 2020 - not so far away.

Europe also is key, and Riley minced no words when talking about the latest round of taxes that have been slapped on visitors departing the UK.

“We’re concerned about aviation taxes out of Europe,” he said. “The duty out of the UK is a travesty that doesn’t seem to be going away.”

Faced with a severe tax problem, the British government recently announced that it would increase its air fare tax next year by eight per cent. A story in the Telegraph explained that a family of four flying to North America will now face a massive tax of $415 on top of their airline tickets, an increase of $32, or $8 per person.


Patrick Chan Wins Lou Marsh Award

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(Dec 13, 2011) There’s a simple enough reason why
Patrick Chan, the Toronto figure skater, was voted the winner of the Lou Marsh award as Canada’s athlete of the year.


While this country is brimming with world-class sporting talent — and while the Lou Marsh short list included among its ranks the world’s best women’s long-track speed skater, Christine Nesbitt, and the No. 1-ranked men’s shot putter, Dylan Armstrong — Chan ruled his sport with an authority that was unmatched by any of his compatriots. Not only did he capture the world championship in April in Moscow, he registered world-record scores in the process. Not only did he win the ISU Grand Prix final in Quebec City on Saturday, he also went unbeaten in competition for the calendar year. Undefeated is difficult to argue with, of course, which is a big part of why he was the overwhelming choice of Tuesday’s panel of sports writers, editors and broadcasters chaired by Olympic rowing great Silken Laumann.

Certainly the short list included an impressive list of worthy candidates. Along with Nesbitt and Armstrong, the selection committee acknowledged the merits of last year’s winner Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, show-jumping champion Eric Lamaze and Milwaukee Brewers reliever John Axford. But nobody dominated a sport the way Chan dominated his.

And now that the figure-skating season is in a lull, Chan is pondering his next challenge — specifically, a trip to the Las Vegas strip. Chan’s birthday falls on a day synonymous with the kind of all-night debauchery that city of sin is famous for; he was a New Year’s Eve baby, after all. It just so happens that on this New Year’s Eve, he’ll turn 21 — or, as Chan put it, “the big 2-1.”

“I actually spend most of my birthdays skiing, because I just love it so much — that’s more than enough to make me happy ... put me on the slope,” Chan said. “This is the first time I’m actually going somewhere where something bad can happen.”

Chan was speaking after a rough month on the competitive trail. He was still nursing the remnants of a cold and a nasty cough he picked up in Paris a few weeks back. And he was also raw from the effects of last week’s frenzy-creating news story in which he was quoted (in a months-old interview) musing about how he’d love to represent both Canada and his parents’ native China in international competition, and how, in his hockey-loving homeland, figure skating is an unappreciated art. The former was a pie-in-the-sky impossibility spoken in the wake of a trip to Beijing in which he’d communed with his Chinese roots. The latter was a true statement. Chan, a rare athlete who speaks his truth freely, has put the laughable outrage in perspective.

“Bad media or good media, I’ve realized it’s attention. I feel like a lot more people are recognizing, not only myself, but the sport,” he said. “And I got a lot of great mail and support. It was a wakeup call for me. It made me become more of a refreshed person with a refreshed perspective. It was special. There were some pretty entertaining comments — like, bad comments. I avoided reading some of the really bad ones. But there was more good fan mail that came in (on his website and Facebook page and Twitter account) which made me appreciate how great people really are, and how many people are behind me.

“People completely understood what I was implying. They said, basically, ‘You have to admit it, hockey is Canada’s sport, and it’s always going to be that way. You can’t do anything about it. But you have the full support of a lot of fans.’ ... There’s a well-rounded group of people who appreciate what we do as figure skaters.”

Chan’s success has its hockey angle, to be sure. He employs a strength and conditioning coach named Andy O’Brien, better known as the guru behind the chiselled physique of a former Lou Marsh winner named Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins star who won the award in 2008 and 2009. In the wake of a disappointing fifth-place finish at the Vancouver Olympics, Chan re-dedicated himself to health and wellness, adopting better sleep habits, a cleaner diet and a new commitment to the off-ice training. Chan said that since he began working out under O’Brien his body fat has dropped from about 11 per cent to about 7 per cent, and that he has become a far more durable and powerful performer.

He has also become a new master of the difficult quad jump — an athletic feat that wasn’t even in his arsenal at the Vancouver Games and without which it’s unlikely he would have won an historic trophy, named after a former Toronto Star sports editor, that was first bestowed in 1936.

“Wow. The Lou Marsh. This is where all the greats have been. You have Wayne Gretzky (a four-time winner), and it goes all the way back to the 1930s — pre-war. It’s just amazing to be put in that class,” Chan said. “It’s beyond winning the world records. It’s truly a Canadian award. I’m so proud.”

What’s left to do? Chan said he hopes to defend his world title in Nice, France, in the spring. And there’s a small matter of Olympic redemption a couple of years beyond that.

“Sochi (in 2014) is definitely in my plan. I have so much momentum right now and so much excitement doing what I do — I just hope I can keep it going,” he said. “What I experienced in Quebec, when I got on the ice and I was waiting to be announced, and the crowd was just ramping up the excitement in the rink and just clapping and cheering me on — that feeling, you can’t get it anywhere else. I think that’s what happens when athletes or hockey players retire. That’s the feeling you strive for, and that’s the feeling they miss. It’s a feeling you can’t replace. And you can’t really buy, either. It’s pretty special.”

Perhaps he’ll be able to reasonably replicate that rush at a Las Vegas card table, where Chan plans to put his experience as an amateur Internet poker player to the test.

“I’ll let you know if I feel the same way in Vegas,” Chan said, laughing. “You never know. Maybe I’ll stop skating right there and just gamble for a living.”

UFC Champ Jon Jones Believes He'll Be The Best Ever

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Darren Yourk

(Dec. 12, 2011) Jon "Bones" Jones believes it's his destiny to be remembered as one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters ever. No man in the UFC has come close to proving him wrong.

The 24-year-old light-heavyweight champion wrote the latest chapter in his remarkable young career Saturday night in Toronto, stopping Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida with a standing guillotine choke in the second round of the main event of UFC 140.

With welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre out at least 10 months with a serious knee injury and middleweight champion Anderson Silva closing in on 37, the time seems right for the Endicott, N.Y., native to assume the mantle of most bankable draw in mixed martial arts.

"He's a young guy, who has a lot of things to learn in the sport still - more than just fighting," UFC president Dana White said. "But the potential? The potential is unbelievable.

"If he stays on the right track, does the right things, this guy could go down as the greatest ever. I just don't see anybody beating this guy any time soon."

Jones has demolished everyone put in front of him, scoring wins over four Top 10 light-heavyweights - Ryan Bader, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Macheda - in 2011 alone. His win Saturday night marked the first time a UFC light-heavyweight champion had managed consecutive title defences since Chuck "Iceman" Liddell's four-fight run in 2005-06.

Asked to reflect on what many observers are calling the most impressive calendar year in UFC history, Jones said world titles, money and fame weren't motivating factors.

"It really wasn't about the fights. It was about setting a goal and doing it," Jones said. "It makes me think about the greatness of the mind. If you really apply yourself to things and truly believe in yourself and the goals you set, they can happen."

The former junior college wrestler, who made his debut in MMA in 2008, has confounded opponents with his 84.5-inch reach, athleticism and ability to mix styles in the octagon. A spiritual man known to take a meditation trip on the day of a fight (Saturday he was at Balls Falls Conservation Area in Welland, Ont.), Jones said he feels no pressure to be the face of the UFC.

"It's a blessing man," he said. "I just feel I'm meant to do this with all my heart and soul. I really do. I believe I can be one of the best on the planet and I think it's my destiny to be one of the best who ever lived. ...I'm going to keep working towards making it true."

Jones is planning to take at least four months off from fighting after a hectic 2011, but a matchup with the winner of the Phil Davis-Rashad Evans bout scheduled for Jan. 28 in Chicago on UFC on Fox 2 is a strong possibility.

"Fighting three times in 2012 would be nice," Jones said. "It's really up to the UFC. One of my goals is to be a company guy. If they ask me to do something, I won't put up much of a fight."

Argos Trade QB Steven Jyles To Eskimos For Ricky Ray

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Rachel Brady, Allan Maki

(Dec. 12, 2011) Although the Edmonton Eskimos were not in the market to trade quarterback Ricky Ray, the Toronto Argonauts pursued him very aggressively, and got their guy.

The Argos have signed a deal which will bring the 32-year-old Edmonton Eskimos quarterback to the Double Blue in exchange for Toronto starting quarterback Steven Jyles, along with kicker Grant Shaw, and the Argos' first-round draft pick in 2012, second overall.

The Argos will introduce Ray in a Wednesday news conference in Toronto. The Eskimos confirmed the deal in a news conference on Monday. Ray's salary in Toronto is expected to be between $350,000 to $400,000 a year. It is anticipated that Jyles will cost the Eskimos about $175,000, if he fulfills all of his contract bonuses.

The six-foot-three, 210-pound pivot threw for 4,594 yards for the Esks in 2011 - good for third in the league - and 24 touchdowns. He has been a member of the Edmonton franchise since 2002, his entire CFL career. He won two Grey Cups there.

"Our mission since 2010 has been to build the Argos into a consistent and credible football team. This trade moves that process along and demonstrates our commitment to re-establishing Argos football in this city," said Argos general manager Jim Barker.

"While we gave up a lot, we felt it was important to be aggressive and go after what we needed. This trade is an investment by our organization in the future of the Double Blue and in its new on-field leader, Ricky Ray."

The Argos are aggressively pursuing vast improvements to their squad that finished 6-12 and out of the playoffs in 201, especially as host of the 2012 Grey Cup. The Double Blue recently hired Scott Malinovich as the club's new head coach, who has already brought in Chris Jones from Calgary as defensive coordinator and Jonathan Himebauch from Montreal as offensive co-ordinator, while Barker stepped away from the sidelines to focus on his managing duties.

Jyles took over as Toronto's starter in September after the team released Cleo Lemon. The Argos had recently re-signed Jyles to a two-year extension. He returns to Edmonton, where he began his CFL career in 2006. Jyles was recovering from a surgery he had last off-season on his throwing shoulder and spent the first nine games of the year on injured reserve. In his partial season, Jyles tossed for 1,430 yards and seven touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

The Eskimos referred to this decision as extremely difficult and "emotional". General manager Eric Tillman said the Argos initiated the negotiations and were extremely aggressive in discussions that have spanned well over a week. Head coach Kavis Reed delivered the news to Ray.

"Kavis said Ricky was very disappointed but very classy," said Tillman.

"This trade will not change that very special bond that will continue well beyond Ricky's eventual induction into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame."

Tillman insisted that this was not a deal urged by the CFL, but one the Eskimos and Argos both felt was beneficial to their franchises.

Dwayne De Rosario Named Canadian Male Soccer Player Of The Year

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard

(Dec 14, 2011) Dwayne De Rosario’s remarkable season has earned him Canada’s top soccer prize.

The Scarborough native, who last month became the first Canadian to win Major League Soccer MVP, was named the country’s male player of the year Wednesday for the fourth time in his career.

The 33-year-old attacking midfielder had the most spectacular individual season of his 11-year MLS career despite playing for three teams.

“It’s a huge honour,” De Rosario said in a conference call with reporters.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to represent your country and be awarded with such a high honour it’s special.”

De Rosario scored a career-high 16 goals — one with Toronto FC before being traded after two games to the New York Red Bulls, where he scored twice in 13 matches. He tallied 13 with D.C. United in 18 games.

De Rosario tied for the MLS-lead in goals with Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes but won the league’s Golden Boot by virtue of his 12 assists, which made him the only player in 2011 with double digits in both categories.

De Rosario is the first MVP in North American professional sports history to play for three different teams in the year he won the award. He’s also just the second ever to be traded during an MVP season, following the NHL’s Joe Thornton, who was sent from Boston to San Jose in 2005-06.

De Rosario, who was named to the MLS Best XI for a record sixth time, was also the first player to score for three different teams in the same season.

“You must admire anyone who faces such an uncertain start of the season only to excel as he did in 2011,” Canadian national head coach Stephen Hart said in a news release. “Through the right mentality, he never allowed his on-field performance to suffer.

“He deserves to be recognized for the year he put together.”

Internationally, De Rosario, who played his first game for Canada’s senior team in 1998, last month equaled Dale Mitchell as the side’s all-time leading goal-scorer when he notched his 19th in a World Cup qualifying match.

The Canadian male player of the year award is De Rosario’s first since 2007. He was runner-up in each of the past three years.

Wilson Reaches Season's Finish Line As North America's Top Female Jockey

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Beverley Smith

(Dec. 12, 2011) A preschool girl in lilac breeches jumped up and down in excitement on the apron at Woodbine Racetrack here on closing day, squealing: "Emma is coming! Emma is coming!"

And so she was.
Emma-Jayne Wilson, 30, jockey, had just dismounted from one of the 904 mounts she rode in 2011, and was headed to the jock's room to prepare for another. But she stopped to clasp the tot and made another fan along the way.

Since the beginning of the season, Wilson has thundered noisily onto the scene, as if shot from a starting gate, so much so that she's accomplished another milestone: She's the top female jockey in North America.

Rated 18th overall among all jockeys with 142 wins and earnings of $7,114,076 (all currency U.S.), Wilson of Brampton, Ont., is well ahead of No. 2 female Rosie Napravnik, at least in money won.

Napravnik, sitting in 29th place overall, has won 177 races and $5,963,951. She will continue to ride to the end of the year at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, where she became the first female rider to win the jockey title last year by a wide margin.

No. 3 female - and 37th overall - is Chantal Sutherland, with 61 wins and $5,054,550, through last Sunday.

All season, Wilson has been riding with a mission, to carve out her territory at Woodbine after missing three months late last year with a lacerated liver.

She's been hungry. Extremely. She didn't watch a single race when she was out of action. "It was too tough to watch," she said. She would watch replays, and cheer for the horses that she usually rode, but it was irksome watching others ride them.

This season, Wilson won her first stakes race in the United States (the Pan American Stakes in Florida with Rahy's Attorney) and she rode to victory in a female jockey's race at Pimlico in Maryland, defeating Napravnik, Sutherland and England's top female jockey, Hayley Turner. She also finished second in her first Breeders' Cup race (in the Juvenile Turf with long-shot Excaper).

Her season got off to a lightning start when she won the Pan American Stakes the week before the Woodbine meeting started. It was not only her first stakes win in the United States, but the first U.S. stakes victory for the horse and for trainer Ian Black.

"Ian and I seem to have had a few firsts," said Wilson, who also became the first female rider to win the Queen's Plate with Mike Fox for Black in 2007.

"We've had a good relationship," said Black, who figures her physical strength is one of her best assets. "She's a very bright girl," he added. "I find I can communicate with her very well, and we can talk about how things will work out."

He showed faith in Wilson by naming her to ride Excaper in the Breeders' Cup when many others would have chosen a U.S. jockey.

The experience, Wilson admitted, was "surreal." She approached the task as if it was a job, like any other race. When she unsaddled the horse later and looked into the roiling grandstand, she allowed herself to get giddy, realizing what she had just done.

She rode the race aggressively, just as she'd handled her career and season. "I came into this year with a little bit more of an aggressive stance, and wanting people to remember that I'm here and I'm here to play. I had my head focused," she said.

Trainer Reade Baker, who hired Wilson many times over the season, said: "I thought at the latter part of the year, she was riding better than anybody. Her off-the-pace style suits a lot of horses. She's very talented and extremely determined."

But Wilson is still not content. When the season in Toronto ended, she was third in the Woodbine jockey standings behind Luis Contreras and Patrick Husbands. She does not want to be No. 3. She wants to be No. 1

"I want to be leading rider every year that I ride," she said. "No holds barred."

Wilson plans to take a little time from work until about the middle of next month, and then head down to Florida to ride by February. And there's always next year.


Toronto Once in a while, Emma-Jayne Wilson finds that a horse she rides in a race gets caught in her heartstrings.

Just Rushing, a horse that earned more than $1-million in his career racing at Woodbine Racetrack for trainer Sid Attard, has retired, and is now eating lots of grass in a field. "I loved his competitive nature," she said. "He wanted to win. He'd never give up. He was emotional, like I was. It's the way I ride and compete."

But the level of success she's achieved with a horse isn't what it's all about, she said. It's their personalities.

When Wilson rode Belle Gully, he was a $20,000 claimer at best. But he gradually sunk to the bottom of the ranks in very cheap races at tracks with small purses.

Wilson tracked him down in the United States and made a deal to buy him. Now she calls him Gus. She's currently trying to give him a job as an outrider's pony and, this past season, he made catches of three loose horses, she said proudly.

"Gus is a dude," she said. "He'd run with his tongue hanging out, slapping up the side of his face. He rubbed me the right way."

Wilson is also a member of the horse committee for the Long Run Retirement Foundation, a group that finds homes for retired racehorses.

Can Anyone Stop The Green Bay Packers?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Judy Battista

(Dec. 12, 2011) Green Bay, Wisc.— The game had been over for just a few moments, and the players were still struggling out of their shoulder pads when the murmuring finally reached full pitch. For weeks the Green Bay Packers had existed in a blissful bubble, insulated by their good nature and their distant locale from the ceaseless questions, the ballooning expectations and the mounting fatigue of a chase for football’s most elusive goal. They have been dominant this season but not domineering, oddly under the radar for a defending champion on the path to something even greater.

But after the Packers’ victory over the Giants on Dec. 4, there was no avoiding the target that has bedevilled two other teams in the last five years and that now awaits the Packers in the final month of the regular season. As coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers quickly moved to head off the looming story line – “I’m not going to talk about 16-0 or anything,” Rodgers said unbidden after the Giants game – Rodney Harrison watched from a New York television studio, letting his mind wander back to 2007, often marvelling at the differences that may favour the Packers’ chances of completing what the New England Patriots could not.

“Because of Spygate, everyone hated the Patriots,” Harrison, now an analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America, said in an interview. “We were like the villains. Everyone wanted us to lose. The Packers, on the other hand, are a fairy-tale story. They’re a bunch of good guys, we want them to win, it doesn’t bother us as much. We had even more intense pressure because everybody hated us. Any time you’re the first team to do something, you carry all that pressure. The Packers, even if they do it, they’re the second team to ever go 16-0. There’s no pressure on them because we already attained that goal.”

Maybe so. At 13-0, already the NFC North champions and with a quarterback who is having an extraordinary season, the Packers have the same lustre that burnished the Patriots in 2007 and the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 when they pursued undefeated seasons.

Those teams may have inadvertently done a favour for the Packers, who defeated the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. They were almost perfect, the Patriots losing their relentless pursuit of flawlessness with a defeat by the Giants in the Super Bowl and the Colts forsaking it by resting many of their best players with two games left in the regular season.

Because they employed wildly different strategies – and absorbed the second-guessing that accompanied each – without achieving their ultimate goal, no blueprint for success has been established that would box in the Packers. They will be free to carve their own path, perhaps informed by bits and pieces from each of the two most recent contenders, but they will do it freed of the spotlight that fell harshly on the Patriots.

Harrison said he thought the lockout created a distraction that limited the hype that usually attends a Super Bowl champion. When training camps finally began, the Eagles stole the headlines. Since then, Tim Tebow has been the biggest story, overshadowing a Packers team with few flamboyant personalities, a perfect formula for a low-key drive to something extraordinary.

The Packers’ attempt to construct the first undefeated season that ends with a Super Bowl championship since the 1972 Miami Dolphins (the NFL played two fewer regular-season games then) has carried none of the controversy, and little of the darkened narrative, of the Patriots’ run. That season opened with cheating accusations and continued with klieg-lighted stars like Tom Brady and Randy Moss and a hooded coach who was regularly accused of running up the score. Attracted by a whiff of scandal and the air of inevitability – the Patriots won by an average of 19.7 points, a touchdown more than the Packers’ margin of 13.2 – the national news media began covering every Patriots game once they reached 8-0.

In Miami, members of the 1972 Dolphins, and their coach, Don Shula, indicated that Spygate, the Patriots’ covert filming of Jets defensive signals in 2007, would diminish a perfect season by New England. In a recent Florida radio interview, former Dolphins running back Mercury Morris said that he did not like the Patriots’ style in 2007, but that if the Packers completed a perfect season, he would view them as a credit to the sport.

Even last week, Shula acknowledged that he and others viewed the Packers’ pursuit differently.

“Why do you think that is?” Shula said in a telephone interview. “Spygate was important.”

About the Packers, Shula said: “I’ve felt that if it happens, I’ll be the first guy to pick up the phone and congratulate the coach. I think our players will acknowledge and congratulate their players. Until it happens, we’re happy we’re the only ones.”

Eli Manning Rallies Giants Past Cowboys

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Jaime Aron, The Associated Press

(Dec. 12, 2011) Eli Manning and the New York Giants finally have something to show for all their hard work - first place in the NFC East.

On the verge of being knocked to the edge of the playoff chase, Manning led the Giants to two touchdowns in the final 3:14 and Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a field goal as time expired, giving New York a 37-34 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

"Good to get that winning feeling again," Manning said.

New York ended a frustrating four-game losing streak filled mostly with narrow losses to division leaders. The Giants (7-6) appeared headed to another setback when they were trailing 34-22 with 5:41 left, but a series of clutch plays on their part and meltdowns by Dallas reshaped the division race.

With three weeks left, these clubs are tied atop the NFC East. New York has the inside track and will host Dallas in a season-ending rematch on New Year's Day.

"This is huge, another fourth-quarter comeback," Manning said. "Last week we had something similar (against Green Bay) and couldn't hold onto it. This week we held on it and got the win. ... Now we know we have a tough road ahead of us. It's going to come down to the final weeks to win games."

The Cowboys lost their second straight, both in dramatic, frustrating fashion that involved missed kicks by rookie Dan Bailey, who'd been so good for so long this season. The really bad news for Dallas was running back DeMarco Murray breaking his right ankle, ending his record-setting rookie season.

"We certainly know we've got our work cut out for us," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a brief statement.

Manning was 27 of 47 for 400 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once, on a tipped pass, and it led to a touchdown that appeared to put the game away for Dallas.

But Manning came back with a pair of touchdown drives. The first went 80 yards in eight plays, capped by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jake Ballard. The New York defense had allowed Tony Romo to throw touchdown passes on the two previous possessions, but it forced a punt, and it was a short one. Then the Dallas defense had two penalties that helped scoot along a drive capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs, with D.J. Ware adding a 2-point conversion.

Romo hit Miles Austin for a pair of long gains that gave Bailey a chance to force overtime. He made a 47-yarder that ended up not counting because New York coach Tom Coughlin called a timeout. His second try was denied by Pierre-Paul, who already had contributed an early sack for a safety, and also forced a fumble.

"I rushed the centre, put my hands up and got the block," Pierre-Paul said.

Jacobs ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Hakeem Nicks had seven catches for 154 yards, including an early 64-yarder. Mario Manningham had two catches for 62 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown.

"Guys stepped up and made some big plays," Manning said.

Romo was 21 of 31 for 321 yards with four touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter.

Laurent Robinson caught four passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, with a 74-yarder. Austin, who'd missed the previous six weeks with a hamstring injury, caught four passes for 63 yards with a touchdown. Dez Bryant's only catch was a 50-yard touchdown that put Dallas up by 12 in the fourth.

Felix Jones ran for 106 yards, and caught six passes for 31 yards. He started the season as Dallas' featured running back, and will end it that way, too, now that Murray is gone. The rookie got his foot twisted awkwardly at the end of an 8-yard run in the first quarter. He finished his season with 899 yards, with a franchise-record 253 coming in one game.

"This one's going to hurt, it's going to sting, but we've got to figure out how to do things a little better and play our best game of the season next week," Romo said.

Both teams came in knowing this was a huge swing game. And, for the first 55 minutes, neither team led by more than five points.

The Giants got the scoring going with Pierre-Paul's sack of Romo for a safety. The 64-yarder to Nicks gave them a first-and-goal from the 5 and a chance to really break things open, but they settled for a field goal, and soon found themselves trailing 7-5.

After the teams traded touchdowns, leaving Dallas still ahead by two points, Pierre-Paul forced Jones to fumble and New York recovered at the Dallas 14. But the Giants again managed only a field goal, albeit to take the lead.

Bailey made a 49-yard field goal as time expired to put the Cowboys on top again, and he made another 49-yarder in the third quarter.

Manningham's touchdown put New York back in front, but then Dallas seemed to put the game away with touchdowns by Austin and Bryant. Only, it wasn't enough.

The Cowboys have lost six straight Sunday night games. They are 0-3 against the Giants at Cowboys Stadium. Romo also continued his trend of soaring in November, then slumping in December.

"We need to get a win next week and get back going," Romo said.

Canadian Brother Act Hopes To Shine On World Junior Hockey Stage

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Eric Duhatschek

(Dec 13, 2011) This is the Google era for teenage scholars, which
includes Dougie Hamilton, a towering defensive candidate for Canada's world junior team.

Hamilton won the Bobby Smith Trophy as the 2011 OHL scholastic player of the year, attending Governor Simcoe Secondary School in St. Catharine’s, Ont. It wasn't a fluke either - the previous year, Hamilton followed in the footsteps of brainy older brother Freddie and won the Ivan Tennant Memorial Award, as the OHL's top academic high-school player.

Apart from their considerable hockey playing skills, the Hamilton boys are sharp - and nobody knows that better than fellow Niagara IceDogs teammate Mark Visentin, who calls them the "two smartest people I have ever met, school-wise."

"I'm used to them stealing the academic player of the month award," Visentin, a decent student in his own right, said with a laugh. "Back when I was in high school, I'd have an 82 or an 85 average and they'd steal it with their 99s."

Thus far, the Hamiltons have resisted the temptation to research - on Google.com or elsewhere - the Moller brothers, Randy and Mike, though that could change, depending upon what unfolds in the next two days.

The Hamiltons are two of 42 players trying out for Canada's 2012 world junior team. If both make it, they will become the national squad's first brother act at the tournament in 30 years - since the Mollers in 1982.

The Hamiltons are from a family of high achievers, academically and athletically. Doug Sr. was an Olympic rower for Canada and won a bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles; Lynn played for the national women's basketball team at the same Olympics.

But the parents provided the boys with more than just a favourable gene pool.

"They always stressed to us to have fun and do your best and do what you love," Dougie Hamilton said. "They never pressured us into playing hockey. We played pretty much every sport growing up. There came a time when we decided we wanted to play hockey. My dad played one year of house league when he was a kid and my mom never played, so it's not really like we have a hockey background.

"But with both my parents being athletes and representing Canada, it makes you realize that your dreams can come true - because it's right in front of you, that example."

Freddie is the older brother by almost 18 months; and was born on New Year's Day, 1992, making him eligible for the tournament by the skin of his teeth.

He says the two of them got along pretty well for brothers, noting: "We've always been best friends growing up. We got into a few fights, growing up, but nothing too serious. Neither of us liked getting hurt. He wasn't always bigger, he really had a growth spurt a few years ago. I don't know if I'd mess with him now. I should have taken advantage when I had the chance."

Toronto Maple Leafs fans already know about the younger Hamilton. Dougie is the player the Boston Bruins selected with the No. 9 pick in the 2011 NHL draft, the other first-rounder (after Tyler Seguin in 2010) acquired from the Leafs in the Phil Kessel trade.

With no returnees on defence from last year's team, he projects as a top-four defenceman on the Canadian year's team - and recently signed an entry-level contract with the Bruins.

Freddie was the 129th player chosen in the 2010 draft and signed with the San Jose Sharks in May. He is one of six natural centres vying for four (or possibly five) places on the junior roster. His advantage is a sound all-around game, which makes him an attractive candidate on a team, head coach Don Hay says, that demands versatility.

"I think a scorer's got to check and a checker's got to score," Hay said.

And if all goes well this week, and on Wednesday morning, when the final roster is named and the Hamiltons are both in? They may well try to learn about the Mollers and how everything unfolded 30 years ago.

"I haven't Googled them yet," Dougie Hamilton said, "but I heard a lot about them in the summer. I'm pretty aware now of who they are."


Robert Griffin 3rd is 2011 Heisman Trophy Winner

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 10, 2011) *(Via LA Times) –
Robert Griffin III, Baylor’s junior
quarterback won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, flashing his Superman socks for ESPN and then calmly bowing his head with a wide smile as his name was announced as the first winner of college football’s highest honor in the history of his school. “Well, now that my socks are out there, I have nothing to lose,” Griffin III said after letting loose a sigh at the podium. Griffin III emerged from a stacked group of finalists that promised to produce a tight vote: Other than the Baylor junior, sitting in the front row in New York were Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Alabama tailback Trent Richardson, Wisconsin tailback Montee Ball and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu. Read/learn MORE at LA Times.

Raptors Bolster Backcourt With Anthony Carter

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Rachel Brady, Allan Maki

(Dec. 12, 2011) The under-staffed Toronto Raptors continue to add bodies to their training camp roster, announcing on Monday they have signed free-agent guard Anthony Carter. Carters is a veteran of 12 National Basketball Association campaigns, splitting last season between Denver and New York. Over the course of his career he has averaged 4.9 points, 3.9 assists and 20 minutes in 599 regular season games. He has started 181 contests, recording averages of 5.6 points, 7.3 assists and 27.6 minutes. He has averaged better than 15 minutes per game in nine of his 12 seasons. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder posted his best career statistical regular season in the 2007-08 campaign as a member of the Nuggets where he averaged 7.8 points, 5.5 assists and 22.9 minutes in 70 games, making 67 starts.