20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                     (416) 677-5883


February 24, 2011

Mid-February and why does my mind go to thoughts of spring?  Remember the days when February led to March, which meantWyclef5-June%2025-05-RESIZED_small SPRING?  I'm afraid it's still at least a couple of months away.  But perhaps these thoughts are permeating my being because I'm leaving for St. Maarten on March 1st to cover the music portion of the 31st St. Maarten Heineken Regatta - whose headliner is none other than Wyclef, who I last saw perform live in St. Kitts!  You can look forward to my report on the trip in the next few weeks.

Last week I checked out Toronto's (or is it Philly?)
Glenn Lewis in concert - a long-awaited concert at that!  Glenn and his band rocked the joint at Pacha with a full house of eager fans hanging on every note.  See photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.

Glenn%20Lewis%20Dawn-Feb%2018-11_smallWell, there's still a few days left for this special offer for those of us who need a little refreshed look during this season of harshness on our skin.  RefreshMedSpa by Normais offering a great special on all injectables, which efficiently helps us age gracefully! Give Norma a call and book a consultation before the offer expires!

First, I'd like to apologize if you're getting this email in duplication.  There was a problem with my contacts for my newsletter and I've spent the best part of the week trying to remedy just that.  Please let me know or if you do not want to receive this, please just unsubscribe at the bottom of this newsletter. 

 Now, take a scroll and a read of your weekly entertainment news.

 This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members! 


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Destroyer Make It Work

Source: North Shore News - John Goodman

Rating: 9 (out of 10)

[Note from Dawn: This is my second cousin's band and they appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon this past Tuesday!  Very proud!] (January 28, 2011) Agent provocateur Dan Bejar has built his latest
Destroyer with easy listening influences (smooth jazz, AOR disco pop) and a straight face. Like a Buster Keaton or a Baudelaire he's put it out there and awaits your response. Every city needs at least one poète maudit and he gets the nod here for persistence of vision above and beyond the call of civic duty.

Poète maudit point stuff out. Things are going wrong. They don't necessarily have solutions; in fact, more often than not they will lead you down a garden path of possibilities. They want you to focus on the journey and not the destination. You will eventually get there anyway.

On Kaputt, Bejar's labyrinthine garden is in full bloom. Sonically the album doesn't sound like previous Destroyer records or for that matter much else that's being released these days. It has a decidedly retro vibe that never lets up.

Enlisting Sibel Thrasher on several songs as a vocal counterpoint was a brilliant pop move and
JP Carter's muted trumpet gives the music a noir end-of-the-night edge. On Kaputt, Bejar takes a surreal kitchen sink approach to the creative process -- throwing things up against a wall to see if they work. None of it should but almost everything does.


Okavango: Seven African Cultures Combine In Uniquely Canadian Band

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Goddard

(February 23, 2011) Africa teems with unusual musical instruments, many of them with unique shapes and tunings, and expressing long-standing cultural traditions. Nadine McNulty wanted to bring a few together.

As head of the Batuki Music Society, formed three years ago to expand the African music scene in Toronto, she wanted to gather unlike instruments into a single band, the way unlike animals sometimes have to gather at their own risk around scarce water resources.

“North Americans sometimes speak of Africa as a single country but many African cultures have very little interaction,” McNulty says.

“We had this idea to create an orchestra. We would call it Okavango, after the water basin in the Kalahari Desert.”

She knew she wanted a kora, the majestic 21-stringed harp from the West African Mandinke culture, and in Montreal found Senegalese musician Sadio Sissokho.

She wanted to put it with a krar, the five-string Ethiopian instrument, and recruited Toronto’s Daniel Nebiat.

Bit by bit McNulty built her dream band.

Six of the seven players she found in Toronto. Two would be instantly familiar to local African music fans: Malagasy guitarist Donné Roberts and Sudanese multi-instrumentalist Waleed Abdulhamid.

For others, McNulty reached deep into individual communities, plucking out kaban player Nuudi Kooshin from Somalia and mbira player Pasipamire Gunguwo from Zimbabwe.

“Some of these instruments didn’t like each other,” McNulty recalls of the first rehearsals in September. “Fitting the tunings together was hard.”

To build a repertoire, the orchestra began with such songs as “Shosholoza,” popularized by such artists as Peter Gabriel and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and “Kaira,” perhaps best known internationally through the Toumani Diabate and Ali Farka Toure version.

The orchestra settled on five known songs but not all instruments could play on all five. The players had to compose another five themselves, helped by a special commission from CBC Radio, which is also broadcasting their Friday debut.

“I gave them a theme or subtitle — ‘A Conversation with the Spirits,’” McNulty says. “I told them to keep the idea in mind that the musician is the medium between the instrument and the other world.”

Then came the lyrics.

“Malagasy, Shona, Arabic, Bambara, Wolof — to sing backup, people had to learn words in a lot of languages,” McNulty says.

Gradually, the players built a uniquely Canadian African band.

Rehearsals for the six Torontonians began in September, well ahead of their debut date, because of difficulties synchronizing individual performance schedules. Some have their own bands, some play in more than one, and individually all are in demand.

Sissokho, like most kora players an improviser, has been spending the winter in Senegal and joined the group only a few days ago.

At a small rehearsal space off a downtown alley, they have been fashioning and shaping their sound. No outsider has heard them. Nobody knows exactly what to expect.

Seven cultures, seven sounds

 • Daniel Nebiat, from Eritrea on the Horn of Africa, on the five-string krar, or lyre;

 • Nuudi Kooshin, originally of Somalia, on kaban, a type of oud, or Arabic guitar;

 • Pasipamire Gunguwo, a specialist in the Zimbabwean mbira, or thumb piano;

 • Donné Roberts, a popular Toronto guitarist originally from Madagascar;

 • Waleed Abdulhamid, a multi-instrumentalist playing on this occasion the North African Gnawa three-string bass guitar, or gimbri;

 • Walter MacLean, born in Germany to a German mother and Ghanaian father, on percussion;

 • Sadio Sissokho, from Senegal, playing the majestic West African harp, the kora.


WHO: Okavango African Orchestra

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 25, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W.

TICKETS: $25 at 416-872-4255 or roythomson.com

Hosts: The Oscars Will Be Non-Confrontational

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Goddard

(February 23, 2011) The Hollywood Reporter has a massive interview with James Franco and Anne Hathaway about their upcoming hosting duties and how nice they're going to be to everyone.  And speaking of the Oscars: I will be drunk- live-blogging the proceedings on Sunday, starting with the red carpet bleep around 6 pm. Please join me.

"When Academy Awards producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer settled on the idea of staging the Oscars as a visual journey through movie history, they decided the hosts should be young, energetic actors who could pull it off. Come Feb. 27, viewers will see James Franco, 32, and Anne Hathaway, 28, travel back in time in an ambitious opening montage and become immersed in a digitally-enhanced "virtual" set. To kick off Oscar week, The Hollywood Reporter corralled Franco and Hathaway on Feb. 21 for their first interview together. 
THR: Anne, you initially passed on hosting but reconsidered once James was in. Why?

Anne Hathaway: Much like James, I initially had a knee-jerk reaction, which was "no." I just focused on all the ways it could go wrong. But Bruce (Cohen) was a bit craftier than I had realized because while I was hosting SNL (in November), while I was loving the idea of hosting something and doing the song-and-dance thing, Bruce came back and said, "We have James Franco." He’s so brave and so willing to make unconventional choices. All the ways I was worried about it going wrong, it wouldn’t go wrong in any of those ways. It could go wrong in entirely new ways. (Laughs.)

THR: James, you recently joined Twitter. Is that for the show?

Franco: Yeah, I don’t know what that is. I’m just trying it out.

THR: Do you plan to tweet during the show?

Franco: I’m still learning how to do all that. Yeah, it might be fun.

Hathaway: I have no plans to tweet.

THR: Have they made you watch all 10 nominated films?

Hathaway: You mean like something out of A Clockwork Orange where they sit us down and force us to watch?

THR: No, more like, "Hey, we’d really appreciate it if you’ve seen Winter’s Bone."

Hathaway: It was always expected, and James and I are Academy members so we’re supposed to see everything anyways.

THR: Have you filled out your ballot yet?

Hathaway: I’m doing it today (Monday), last-minute.

Franco: Wait, when are they due?

Hathaway: Tomorrow.

Franco: I turned mine in last week.

Hathaway: Well, you’re a better student than I am.

THR: Anne, can we assume you voted for James?

Hathaway: Actually, the ballot says on the front: "Important, do not tell anyone, especially The Hollywood Reporter." (Laughs.) I’m a big fan of James’s performance.

THR: Very diplomatic. How involved have you been in the creation of this new plan for the show?

Hathaway: The show was pretty much laid out when we were asked. We were given a presentation. So we knew the concept behind the show and what the moving parts would be. We’re not writing the jokes or the scenarios but we are collaborating with the writers to figure out what fits. It’s so different doing live comedy, that’s kind of the scariest thing about it. Being funny in a movie usually has to do with how committed you are to your character.  But standing up and telling jokes is not something that comes easily to me.

THR: You must have watched some old Oscar shows. Got any favourites?

Hathaway: Jack Palance, man. Jack Palance doing the pushups (on the 1992 telecast), I can watch that forever. And the way Billy Crystal incorporated it into the show. "Jack Palance just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign." "Jack Palance is now in space." All these kids from Peter Pan did this really sweet, earnest song, and Billy Crystal comes out and says, "Jack Palance fathered all those children." (Laughs).

THR: Some of the 70s and 80s shows are pretty funny in how earnest and formal everything was, right?

Hathaway: I really love the Star Wars year (1978). Debbie Reynolds did this amazing opening number that is just so completely what you’d think an Oscar opening number would be.  (Singing) "Look how faaaar we ‘ve come…." It was just a very straightforward version. Something we probably couldn’t do today.

THR: Did you watch the 1989 Rob Lowe-Snow White duet?

Hathaway: No, I didn’t see that one.

THR: Who’s given you the best advice about hosting?

Hathaway: Alec Baldwin, when I ran into him a couple weeks ago, said "the thing to remember is, it’s not about you."

Franco: I talked to Jon Stewart. He’s done it twice (in 2006 and 2008). He said he felt a little weird doing it because he didn’t feel like he was exactly from that world. He talked about this with Letterman too, and they are comedians, talk-show hosts, and here they were presenting to film people and they kinda felt like outsiders. Because of that, it wasn’t necessarily antagonistic, but there was some sort of disconnect. He said we’ll be fine because we’re more insiders, though I feel like kind of an outsider.

THR: You’re a nominee. Doesn’t get much more insider.

Franco: Oh yeah, I forgot.

THR: Do you feel less pressure now?

Franco: Well, nobody is shy about saying Colin Firth is going to win. I’ve accepted that. By hosting, it makes it easier to go to the events and not feel like a total schmo. 

THR: And you can tell three hours’ worth of jokes about Colin Firth.

Franco: Yeah, I’m sure that would go over really well.

THR: We hear Aron Ralston, the real guy you play in 127 Hours, is going to attend as well. Anything planned with him?

Franco: Who knows? Aron is full of surprises. I’m sure he’ll find his way into the show.

Hathaway: We don’t want to tell you anything! People have been speculating for months. You’ll find out in less than a week.

THR: This new "projected" set—have they shown you what it’s going to look like?

Hathaway: We’ve seen mockups. I’ve seen one on my computer. The set is finished at the Kodak and I’m a terrible host because Bruce asked me to go yesterday but I had friends over for brunch instead. (Laughs). So I’m going to see it on Wednesday.

THR: Ricky Gervais made some enemies at the Golden Globes. And at the 2005 Oscars, Chris Rock singled out Jude Law and did a whole bit on how he was in every movie. A lot of people think it hurt Law’s career. Any zingers planned?

Hathaway: I hope Chris Rock never says that about me. I can guarantee that if you’re looking for someone to call people out, we’re not your hosts. I think that humour is really difficult to pull off, and I’m not particularly adept at it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it. Also, I don’t mean to so

und overly serious, but I am the youngest host in history and I have no business being cynical or calling anyone out. I certainly haven’t earned the right to do that.

THR: Got a favourite movie moment from this year?

Hathaway: For me, the last 10 minutes of Toy Story 3. I just cried like a baby.

Franco: Jeremy Renner in The Town. He’s so awesome. He’s so chilling and so convincing.

THR: James, we know you’re a big Three’s Company fan, can we count on at least one reference during the show?

Franco: I would love to.

Hathaway: I’m in if you’re in!"

Kobe-LeBron Showdown Highlights NBA All-Star Game

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(February 20, 2011) LOS ANGELES—This is where glamour meets game, and Hollywood intersects withkobe%20bryant%20all%20star_small hardwood.

NBA’s all-star game unfolded before a star-studded audience at the sold-out Staples Center on Sunday night, with everyone connected to the sport putting impending labour woes out of mind for a night, forgetting for a few hours the competitive nature that pervades the regular season to simply celebrate the best in the business.

Amid a gaggle of A-list celebrities, B-list wannabes and regular fans who snapped as many camera phone pictures of other fans as they did of players, the West beat the East 148-143 behind a near-record night from
Kobe Bryant — and despite a brilliant game from LeBron James.

It was the second all-star game in Los Angeles in seven years. Bryant, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki were the only four of the 24 players in the 2004 game to have lasted long enough to play — representing the same teams — in the 2011 game.

In an era where players from the team representing the host city take on the role of de facto “official host”, Bryant had been decidedly low-key.

He had a prior commitment that kept him away from Thursday’s official unveiling of a statue to Laker great Jerr
Kobe%20bryant%20mvp_smally West — the GM who traded for Bryant on his draft night — and was barely seen at any other all-star weekend event.

Until game day, that is.

About 2 ½ hours to tip-off, Bryant was in the interview room of the Staples Center for a news conference being broadcast live to China for the “Sprite Basketball Theme Song.”

“It’s all about relaxing before the game anyway,” said Bryant.

He seemed to have benefited, as he took over the game and led the West to a comfortable 76-64 halftime lead.

Bryant had 21 of his eventual 37 points in the opening half, asserting himself right off the bat. It was just five points off Wilt Chamberlain’s all-star game scoring record, and earned Bryant his fourth game MVP award.

It’s difficult to imagine anyone trying to make a statement in an all-star game, with so many great players assembled at once, but Bryant — whose Lakers lurched into the break coming off a loss in Cleveland — seemed intent on showing he hadn’t missed a beat.

On one third-quarter play, he was alone on a fast break, being chased by James. But instead of accelerating, and presuming James wouldn’t give chase too strenuously, Bryant slowed, allowed James to just about catch him, and then dunked a split second before James could make a block.

As good as Bryant was, when it got time for the game to get serious, James got him back.

After relatively coasting through the majority of the first three quarters, James got determined in the fourth and finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, joining Michael Jordan as the only players to ever have all-star game triple-doubles.

The individual matchup injected some energy into a game distinctly lacking it through the first three quarters. In typical all-star game fashion, the competitive juices got flowing once the East cut what had been a 17-point deficit to two in the final minute.

The only cloud on the night was the early departure of Miami’s Dwyane Wade, who left with an ankle injury late in the third quarter.

Wade — who injured his ankle a week ago but played in games at Indiana and Boston — got tangled up with Utah’s Deron Williams, tweaked the ankle and was done after scoring 14 points in 21 minutes.

The East lost a chance to make a dramatic comeback in the final three seconds when Miami’s Chris Bosh, who finished with 14 points, missed a three-pointer and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant hit one for the West.

The game might have also marked the final all-star appearance for San Antonio’s Tim Duncan.

When fans voted injured Houston Rockets centre Yao Ming to the Western Conference starting lineup, it led to a series of events that eventually landed Duncan on the court for the opening tip.

While NBA commissioner David Stern chose Minnesota forward Kevin Love to replace Yao on the team, it was up to West coach Gregg Popovich to come up with a starter.

He went with what he knows, giving Duncan the nod.

Duncan, who made his 12th consecutive and 13th overall appearance in an all-star game Sunday, isn’t having the greatest statistical year of his career, but is on the team with the best record in the league.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s got a lot more to do with what we have done as a team than anything I’ve done individually this year. I’m out there representing all of the work that our guys have done this year to get the record that we have and to be playing the way we have.”


Singing 10-Year-Old Appears On Ellen

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 22, 2011) Ten-year-old Canadian singing sensation Maria Aragon has made another stop on herEllen%20DeGeneres%20Maria%20Aragon_small whirlwind tour, this time appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Aragon’s life has been turned upside down since a video she posted on YouTube last week was seen by pop star Lady Gaga, leading to millions of views and instant fame.

Lady Gaga shared a link to Aragon’s performance of “Born This Way” with her 8.6 million Twitter followers and the clip has now been viewed more than 11 million times (see the video at http://bit.ly/fe1muw).

Aragon also received an invitation from Lady Gaga to perform with her at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on March 3.

The Winnipeg grade-schooler was interviewed and performed on Tuesday's Ellen show (see a clip at http://bit.ly/e097wJ) and said she chose to sing “Born This Way” because she liked the song’s message of being true to yourself.

When asked if she was nervous about performing with Lady Gaga, Aragon said it’s hard not to be.

“Well, it’s kind of (like), she’s really up there and I’m, like, only beginning,” she told DeGeneres.

Aragon said she was thrilled that Gaga not only saw her video but loved it. The two talked by phone on Friday’s The Breakfast Show with Mad Dog and Billie on Toronto’s Virgin Radio, which was when Gaga extended the ACC invite (go to www.999virginradio.com to link to an Mp3 of Friday’s interview).

“It’s not every day you get to talk to a superstar, (that) you get feedback from a superstar saying you did great on a cover that’s her song,” Aragon told DeGeneres.

“We talked and she was actually having a bad day, and I made her day, which is really overwhelming.”

A Rare Sight: Record Store Expansion

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(February 19, 2011) Just north of Yonge-Dundas Square — an area that was one a record store mecca —Sunrise%20Records_small there's a guy trying to sell old-school classical and jazz CDs, the kind that come in a clear-plastic case wrapped in impossible-to-open plastic. Is this an act of rabid nostalgia, or is there something he knows that the rest of us don't?

The new department at
Sunrise Records — an Ontario chain best known for pop, rock and DVD sales — has been masterminded by Tom Plewman, a vigorous, smooth-talking, music-loving, 60-something veteran of radio and music retailing. Where others have faced retail ruin, Plewman sees opportunity.

“I spent my youth here buying records at A&A and Sam's,” Plewman recalls of Yonge's erstwhile flagship record stores. “I think this can still be a destination, if people become aware that we're here.”

A renovated second floor at Sunrise shows off a substantial cross-section of new releases and catalogue titles in classical, jazz and blues, all hand-picked by Plewman and Frederick Harrison, a veteran of the now-demolished Sam's store across the street.

Plewman says Sunrise owner Malcolm Perlman is keen to wring some revenue from the unused second floor of the Yonge-and-Dundas store.

Hopefully, Perlman is a patient man when it comes to a return on his investment. In the first weekend the new department was open, back in October, Plewman says he rang up three sales — all to out-of-town visitors. Over the course of a 45-minute visit just before lunch one day earlier this week, one customer came in — not to browse, but to ask a specific question.

“Getting this place off the ground has been frustratingly slow,” Plewman admits.

Circumstances haven't exactly helped. Demolition work and the former Empress Hotel burning down across the street haven't been good for pedestrian traffic on this stretch of Toronto's Main St.

There's no money for advertising, so Plewman has to wait for word-of-mouth referrals. He is certain these will come, because he can offer people product that they can't easily find somewhere else.

Plewman walks me over to a CD of the original 1965 album by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

“This is mind-blowing stuff, and you're not going to find this at any other store in Toronto,” he asserts.

Like a proud father, the retailer points to a set of Mozart piano concertos played by late piano legend Alicia de Larrocha. “These are sublime. They're the best recordings ever,” he gushes.

Welcome to an old-fashioned, customer-focused shopping experience that Plewman describes as “the thrill of discovery” — of coming in to browse and being open to surprise finds.

It's an experience Harmik Grigorian relies on at L'Atelier Grigorian, Toronto's last remaining independent classical and jazz record store.

Grigorian has carefully tended his Oakville and Yorkville stores and built a website filled with advice for would-be customers.

Like Plewman, Grigorian prides himself on being able to source difficult-to-find CDs and DVDs.

Grigorian and Plewman tout their personal love of music and knowledge of the market. It allows them to make recommendations to store visitors — and also allows them to identify the real gems in each label's catalogue.

“The young salespeople at the labels no longer know anything about the music,” Grigorian explains, so he has to take each month's catalogue and make his own choices.

For him, as well as people who walk through the door of his store, the enduring thrill is “in feeling the wealth of music,” he beams.

For him, that wealth still needs to come in a clear-plastic case wrapped in impossible-to-open plastic.

Cee Lo Green Joins Rihanna’s North American Tour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 18, 2011) *In addition to adding 10 more dates to her Loud tour, pop star
Rihanna has also invited rihanna-cee-lo_small“F— You” singer Cee Lo Green to join her for the outing, which is scheduled to begin on June 4 in Baltimore.

With the 10 additional dates announced on Wednesday (February 16), the North American Loud tour is now up to 17 shows, with promoter Live Nation promising that more stops could be added in the future, reports MTV. The added dates include stops in Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Houston, Dallas, Albuquerque and Boston.

“I’m a huge fan of Cee Lo since his days with Goodie Mob and with Gnarls Barkley. He’s a musical genius, continually reinventing himself, and I’m thrilled to have him join me on tour,” said Rihanna in a statement announcing the new dates.

“I want to thank Rihanna for inviting me on our version of ’50 First Dates,’ only difference is she’s unforgettable fine,” Cee Lo added in the statement. “Don’t tell her I have a crush on her, don’t wanna mess everything up. But honestly it’s an honour and a blessing to be able to go out with a talent such as hers and I look forward to doing my part to make the tour unforgettable for the fans that come out and see us.”

Tickets for the new dates went on sale today (Feb. 18).

Here are the Loud North American tour dates:
» June 4 – Baltimore, MD @ 1st Mariner Arena
» June 7 – Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
» June 10 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
» June 18 – Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre
» June 19 – Saskatoon, SK @ Credit Union Centre
» June 21 – Calgary, AB @ Scotiabank Saddledome
» June 22 – Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
» June 24 – Vancouver, BC @ Rogers Arena
» June 28 – Los Angeles, CA @ Staples Center
» June 30 – Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
» July 4 – Albuquerque, NM @ Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque Presents the Pavilion
» July 8 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
» July 9 – Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
» July 19 – Uniondale, NY @ Nassau Coliseum
» July 21 – East Rutherford, NJ @ Izod Center
» July 23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
» July 24 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden

Janelle Monáe, Up From The Underground

Source: www.thestar.com - Chandler Levack

(February 18, 2011) Even compared to Lady Gaga’s egg sarcophagus and Nicki Minaj’s “Monster” verse, 24-Janelle%20Monae%20crowd%20surfs_smallyear-old Janelle Monáe might be pop music’s newest, weirdest performer. Her alter ego is Cindy Mayweather, a revolutionary cyborg policewoman on the lam after falling in love with a human. Part Blade Runner, part Little Richard, her Grammy-nominated album The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) flirts with funkadelic love songs, airy psychedelia and even Elizabethan verse.

It’s a concept album with a capital “C” that counts Stevie Wonder amongst its supporters. Yet after a wave of hype, a tour with Prince and pressures many young artists would falter under, this starchild remains calm.

“I really consider myself an artist, and I worked really hard from the underground up,” says Monáe, calling on the road near Belgium.

“One of the things I want to get across is how people need to respect individuality. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t get people to be confident in you. So I think it’s important to encourage people to realize that they don’t have to use the same coordinates to get to the same destination.”

Likely hot-stepping in a three-piece tuxedo, Monáe will perform in Toronto at the Canadian Music Week Indie Awards on March 12.

Born to lower class parents in Kansas City (and a father whose drug addiction forced Monáe to grow up strong and silent), the artist found solace in the dreamy fictions of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and The Wizard of Oz.

After a brief stint in New York to pursue musical theatre, Monáe formed her own artistic cooperative called Wondaland in Atlanta with like-minded creators. Soon, she was tapped by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs at an open mike night. One smash single later (2010’s James Brown-indebted hit “Tightrope,” featuring Big Boi), a star was born.

Monáe’s success is an anomaly for an industry who traditionally prizes eye candy before the avant garde. Music critic Stuart Berman (a staffer at Pitchfork and Eye Weekly) admires Monáe’s ability to push the envelope without going overboard into spectacle.

“Janelle Monáe isn’t necessarily about the big red-carpet appearance,” says Berman. “But she still manages to infuse her persona into her music. Even though there’s precedents for what she does — Grace Jones, Andre 3000, David Bowie — she’s managed to curate from the last 40 years of pop.

“Like Erykah Badu, I think Janelle Monáe is just weird enough to keep making interesting records for awhile.”

But just Dorothy awoke from the poppies in The Wizard of Oz, a burgeoning superstar must face their destiny, which for Monáe means topping an 18-track suite.

“The next album with deals with the revolutionary,” the singer hints. “And when you’re the revolutionary, the real archangel, what happens next? I saw what happened in Egypt and I thought it was a moment that I was glad I could be around for. I just pray that there’s more people like (opposition leader) Mir Hossein Mousavi out there.”

Whether you find the deliciously addictive “Tightrope” a revolutionary act or just an earworm, Monáe’s music is highly escapist. Judging from her output, you might accuse her of privileging a fictional universe over reality. This is clearly a sore spot.

“I have the right to make a concept album without being asked about it,” says the singer. “I am very in tune with reality, I am very in tune with the cynics out there, and I pay income taxes just like you do.”

The ArchAndroid is not a selfish act by Janelle Monáe to try and live in an illusion, it’s to help all the people who are told they can’t love because of their sexual preference.

“For anyone who needs it, my album is meant to be their choice of drug . . . When you see me in my uniform, you’ll know I’m here to work.”

Adele's Ex The Inspiration For Her New Disc

Source:  www.thestar.com - David Bauder

(February 23, 2011) NEW YORK—Adele's ex-boyfriend may not be aware of it, but he's joined an illustriousAdele%201_small club of people who were inadvertent inspirations for art.

Eminem's Kim, the comedian who dumped Alanis Morissette and heard about it on "You Oughta Know," the mystery man behind Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," Patti Boyd Harrison (Eric Clapton's tortured "Layla") and an assortment of Taylor Swift exes — they're all members.

The fingerprints of Adele's former flame are all over her sophomore disc "21," from "Rolling in the Deep," the soulful kiss-off that opens the disc, to the more reflective "Someone Like You" that ends it. The disc is released in the U.S. this week.

He may not even know his status.

"I have no idea if he's heard the record, or is kind of clever enough to link it, to think it's him," said Adele, who discreetly keeps his name private. "I'm not saying he's dim. It's just that toward the end I don't think he felt like I loved him enough to write a record about him.

"But I did," she said.

Given how second albums are often problematic for artists, it helps to have something to write about.

The London-born Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, who goes by her first name professionally, won best female pop vocal and best new artist at the 2009 Grammys and sold more than two million copies worldwide of "19." The 2008 debut was named for her age when she wrote the album's songs. Same thing for its follow-up.

She was discovered by her British record company after a friend posted some of her songs online. She wanted to sing, but was reluctant to dream too big, and thought XL Recordings wanted to hire her as a talent scout when instead their executives were seduced by her powerful pipes.

"I find it hard to say 'Oh, I'm a singer,' because my singers are Etta James and Carole King and Robert Flack, the all-time gurus, the gods of singing," she said.

Ryan Tedder, who co-wrote two songs on Adele's new disc, is a believer. He's still flabbergasted by watching her nail one of those songs, "Turning Tables," on the first take in the studio. "Rumour Has It" took two takes.

Tedder, who has written or produced songs for Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis, said Adele is "the single greatest female singer alive, period.

"I've worked with a lot of people," he said. "I've never, ever, ever seen or witnessed a singer do what she does in the recording studio."

VH1 taped an "Unplugged" episode with Adele, accompanied by just a guitar and piano, that will premiere on the network March 4. VH1 will show it online a day earlier.

Rick Krim, executive vice-president of talent and music programming at VH1, likes Adele's voice and attitude.

"She always had this playful cockiness about her," he said.

Adele worked with several co-writers and two main producers on "21": Paul Epworth, a hip Brit who also produced Florence and the Machine, and Rick Rubin, the bear-hugging American record executive and producer renowned for getting back to basics with artists in the studio.

She said she appreciated the different approaches, each part of her learning process.

"I could have been in any era when I was hanging out with Rick," she said. "I could have been in the '40s or 2080 or something. He calmed me and made me focus that it's all about the music, all about the song, and it's not about the glitter that comes after it. That was the best and biggest lesson I've learned."

Epworth brought out a feisty side of her.

He probably earned his money on one day, when a moaning Adele showed up in the studio after breaking up with her boyfriend the night before. She wanted to write a lovelorn ballad. Epworth said no way.

In three hours they had written "Rolling in the Deep," where the singer is a survivor, not a broken woman. "I couldn't help thinking, we could have had it all," she sings, her voice soaring in defiance.

"She's evolved, she's been through a lot in the last couple of years," Krim said. "There's a little more swagger on this record, but it's not like a big departure from what she'd done on her last record. It's a nice growth."

Adele feels she's grown simply in her attitude toward music. She became enamoured with two seemingly divergent styles — American country or roots music and rap — and broadened her view.

"I used to be really stubborn and narrow-minded," she said. "I was very much a teenager: what I knew was all that I needed to know, and what I like is all that I'd ever like. Now I'm a bit of a sponge. I want to take everything in and learn about it."

Her disc has one cover song. She tried one old favourite, INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart," but thought she didn't nail it emotionally. Instead, she dipped into the catalogue of her mom's favourite band — the Cure — for an arrangement of "Love Song" that had been prepared for, although not used, by Barbra Streisand.

"They were the soundtrack of my life from birth until I was about 9 or 10, when I discovered the Spice Girls," she said.

It makes for a nice segue into "Someone Like You," when Adele, now 22, imagines running into her ex with a few more years of perspective.

"By the end, I was so tired of being (angry) about my ex," she said. "I had to forgive myself for not making the relationship work."


Buju Banton Found Guilty of Cocaine Charge

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 22, 2011) *A Florida jury has just found Grammy-winning reggae singer Buju Banton guilty on cocaine conspiracy charges. Jurors returned their verdict today after deliberating for 11 hours over two days, according to the Associated Press. The 37-year-old Banton, born Mark Myrie, was accused of conspiring with two other men in setting up a drug deal in December of 2009. This was Banton’s second trial. A jury deadlocked in his first trial last year. His album “Before the Dawn” won a Grammy last week for best reggae album.

Music Video: Kanye West’s ‘All of the Lights’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 21, 2011) *The video for perhaps the most buzzed about track from Kanye West‘s “My Beautifulkanye-lights_small Dark Twisted Fantasy” finally dropped this weekend. “All of the Lights,” directed by Hype Williams and inspired by Gaspar Noé, features West as a father who was jailed for abusing his daughter’s mother. The track features Fergie, Alicia Keys, Elton John, Rihanna and Kid Cudi. The latter two, however, are the song’s only guest artists to appear in the video. (Rihanna sings the hook and Kid Cudi handles the bridge.)


The Envelope Please: Who Will Win, Who Deserves to Win, Who Was Snubbed

Source: Kam Williams

The King’s Speech is this prognosticator’s favourite to land the most
Oscars this year primarily because thekings%20speech_small Anglophilic Academy adores English accents, especially in costume dramas revolving around the Royal Family. Another plus is the fact that the film opened in late December, around the same time that its chief competition, The Social Network, peaked in popularity due to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s being then named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. 

Although The King’s Speech is a shoo-in for Best Picture, Tom Hooper is likely to be edged out by The Social Network’s David Fincher for Best Director, based on the latter’s never having won despite an impressive body of work which includes Panic Room, Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Brits Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Christian Bale (The Fighter) will prevail in the Best and Supporting Actor categories, respectively, while Natalie Portman (Black Swan) will win easily for Best Actress. Supporting actress is hard to handicap, with slight favourite Melissa Leo’s (The Fighter) chances being compromised by her cast mate Amy Adams’ having also been nominated. A split vote might allow Londoner Helena Bonham Carter to ride The King’s Speech tidal wave to victory.     

Besides peering into my crystal ball to forecast the winners, I have also indicated below which nominees in the
Social%20Network_small major categories are actually the most deserving. And because so many great performances are invariably snubbed by the Academy, I also point out who’s been overlooked entirely. I do pass on four categories: Best Foreign Film (which I have an abysmal history in terms of predicting) and the three short categories: Live-Action, Animated and Documentary.

The 83rd Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, February 27th at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT, and will be co-hosted at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood by James Franco and Anne Hathaway.  

Best Picture

Will Win: The King’s Speech
Deserves to Win: The Social Network
Overlooked: Kick-Ass

Best Director

Will Win: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Deserves to Win: David Fincher (The Social Network)
Overlooked: Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass)

Best Actor

Will Win: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Deserves to Win: Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Overlooked: Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps)

Best Actress

Will Win: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Deserves to Win: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Overlooked: Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank)

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Deserves to Win: Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Overlooked: Jerry O’Connell (Piranha 3D)

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Deserves to Win: Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Overlooked: Rebecca Hall (The Town)

Predictions for Secondary Categories

Original Screenplay: David Seidler (The King’s Speech)
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Animated Feature: Toy Story 3
Art Direction: The King’s Speech
Cinematography: True Grit
Costume Design: The King’s Speech
Documentary Feature: Inside Job
Film Editing: The Social Network
Makeup: The Wolfman
Original Score: The Social Network
Original Song: “We Belong Together (Toy Story 3)
Sound Editing: Inception
Sound Mixing: Inception
Visual Effects: Inception

Realistic Tale Of Two-Mom Marriage

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard

(February 20, 2011) The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, written by Lisa Cholodenko andKids_Are_All_Right_Md_small Stuart Blumberg.

The film tells the story of Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), married lesbian mothers whose two children decide to track down their sperm-donor father (Mark Ruffalo).

I should preface this with the fact that
The Kids are All Right is the only one of the best picture nominees that I’ve seen because I am a mom and I never get out of the house. It was actually like a date night. I am really glad that I did see it because I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

For me this movie succeeded in presenting life with two moms in a really realistic, unabashed and inclusive way. I appreciated that. But it wasn’t all about that. It was about relationships and the complexity of relationships.

I didn’t think that the two moms were particularly stereotypically lesbian, but they were women. So I loved the scenes when they were trying to get the kids to talk, to open up. I laughed and laughed. Because we actually do that with our sons.

In our situation, we have known donors who see the boys quite regularly. So we don’t have this exotic mystery.
Diane%20Flacks%20and%20Janis%20Purdy_small But every family has secrets and mysteries and things that are held back, right? And that’s why I think that this so interesting.

It was funny, and it was touching. There was real truth to it.

I thought the performances were amazing.

Annette Bening doing the Joni Mitchell song? Come on. But everybody is liking (Mark Ruffalo) so much that she’s trying to get over her fear and be embracing. She’s trying so hard not to feel threatened. And she starts singing and it’s so embarrassing. Cringe- worthy but beautiful and painful all at the same time.

She’s not giving a flashy, diva performance. She is genuine, and totally unsympathetic, but very real and an L.A. lesbian power-broker. She turns something very simple into something remarkable. I hope she wins.

I loved Ruffalo. I thought he was really great. And it was great to put in this guy who’s enigmatic and intoxicating to everyone. I guess that, in some ways, if you have an anonymous donor, that’s kind of your nightmare.

A lot of people had trouble with Julianne Moore sleeping with him. On a certain level I had trouble with it too, because I don’t know how you suddenly start sleeping with a man if you’re a lesbian. But whatever. People do.

Moore was always trying to start (a business.) I kind of loved that because she was the one who always stayed at home. And that’s why I also bought the affair because, if it wasn’t him, it might have been someone else at this point in her life. Her kids are leaving, she’s never been able to actualize herself, creatively or as a person, for whatever reason, and she’s trying to get things going. A woman could have come along and really appreciated what she was doing and she could have had an affair.

But I also got it because he reminded her of her son and the intimacy of that, the intimacy that she has her with her child and in seeing someone who looks like him, it just drew her in. For that reason, I really did buy it.

It’s hard for me to say, or compare it to the other movies. But I am thrilled, like thrilled, that it’s being recognized. I think it’s great for families. I think it’s great to be talking about marriage. I think it’s great for those of us who are in gay marriages. In so many ways, I am very happy about it. And I think the actresses are so great.

Maybe I am being terribly sentimental because it was the time I got to go out of the house. You know, that’s the one that should win because that’s the one I got to see.

As told to Antonia Zerbisias

Fiona Reid Still Torn Over Split From King Of Kensington

Source:  www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn

(February 23, 2011) Former King of Kensington star Fiona Reid wishes she’d been a bit older when theFiona%20Reid_small Canadian sitcom endeared audiences on both sides of the border in the ’70s.

“If I hadn’t been so young I would’ve appreciated it more for what it was,” said Reid, 59, who will receive an award of excellence Friday from the Toronto chapter of the Canadian performers union, ACTRA.

“I’ve never quite got over the depth of that bonding with an audience that that show created and for me that was the litmus test that said, ‘Yes, Canadians want to see their own on screens.’

“What we have to fight now is just to make sure the economics and the watering down of CRTC regulations don’t allow our culture to disappear.”

King of Kensington starred Reid as Cathy, wife of convenience store owner Larry (the late Al Waxman), who was a mediator of sorts for residents in Toronto’s multicultural Kensington Market district. Guest stars included John Candy, Eugene Levy and Mike Myers.

Launched in 1975 on CBC, the show ran for five seasons, was syndicated in the U.S. and drew comparisons to Norman Lear sitcoms of the decade, including All in the Family and Maude.

Reid left the show after the third season to focus on theatre, and the show’s writers worked in her departure by creating a divorce between Cathy and Larry.

While the move proved to be a fruitful one for Reid — she became a mainstay of the Shaw and Stratford Shakespeare festival stages, among others — she says she’s always felt “at war” with herself about her decision to leave the show.

“I didn’t enjoy the success for what it was,” Reid said in a recent phone interview from Edmonton, where she recently wrapped the Citadel Theatre’s heralded production of August: Osage County.

“I kept wanting to do theatre and I guess I was genuinely concerned about becoming so known as Cathy that I couldn’t see myself as somebody else. But what an idiotic problem!” she continued with a laugh.

“If I had had more maturity, I probably would’ve stuck it out because if I had had the wit, I could’ve parlayed, say, the next two years . . . into a different kind of success. But I just really wanted to get back to theatre.”

“If somebody came up to me and said, ‘Here’s a lovely little sitcom for you, Fi,’ I’d say, ‘Okay, bring it on,’” she said. “Of course you always want what you didn’t have.”

Still, Reid acknowledges that the move allowed her to play “magnificent roles” in theatre while still taking on various TV and film projects, including Street Legal, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Time Traveler’s Wife and This Is Wonderland, for which she was nominated for a Gemini Award for a guest spot.

Her next role is in the musical comedy Calendar Girls, which will hit the Manitoba Theatre Centre next month before moving on to Toronto.

With such an abundant body of work (she’s also a member of the Order of Canada), it’s no wonder Reid is being honoured by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists.

Yet her first thought when she heard of the honour — which was bestowed upon Colin Mochrie last year — was, “Wait a minute, do I do enough as an ACTRA member to qualify?” she said with a laugh.

“I always feel I’m slightly less than deserving, but then you kind of go: ‘Well, okay, somebody thought I was deserving so maybe I should be.’ It’s such an honour.

“I’m a big fan of ACTRA because they advocate so strongly for artists, and they understand that to have a vibrant arts community there have to be laws that back up that notion.”

Born in England, Reid lived in several countries before settling in Canada (her dad was a doctor in the British Army). She studied acting at McGill University and at the Banff Centre for the Arts and became fluent in French.

Her first professional acting job was a school tour with the Globe Theatre in Saskatchewan “in a little orange bus that leaked oil,” she recalls. As they rolled through the Saskatchewan Prairie and watched the light bounce off the landscape, Reid thought: “This is my country, these are my people.”

“I just had such a strong, visceral connection, and that’s never changed,” said Reid, who lives in Toronto with her husband and has two children, a daughter aged 23 and a son, 25.

“I tried going back to England to work once and I went, ‘Whoa, I’m sure not British.’ Everything about my emotional makeup is Canadian.”

The 9th annual ACTRA Awards take place at the Carlu on Friday.

Natalie Portman’s Moment To Shine

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(February 18, 2011) It’s Natalie Portman’s world, at least for the next few months. She’s a shoo-in to win thenatalieportman1_small best-actress Academy Award next Sunday for Black Swan, which has already earned a glittering heap of accolades, and is just about to hit $100-million at the box office.

Her romantic comedy
No Strings Attached, where she makes adorable whoopee with Ashton Kutcher, has grossed over $62-million. Her imminent baby will generate headlines when it arrives.

Plus, she has three new films coming out this spring:
Your Highness, a medieval comedy co-starring James Franco and Danny McBride (April); Hesher, a drama about a misfit kid (April); and Thor, an adventure epic co-starring Anthony Hopkins and directed by Kenneth Branagh, due May 6.

In the glow of all that heat, it’s no surprise that IFC Films has dusted off a drama starring Portman that’s been on the shelf since 2009. Originally called
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, it’s been retitled The Other Woman. On Feb. 4, it was released without fanfare in a couple of theatres; it’s also available via on-demand on some cable systems.

When I interviewed Portman and Don Roos, the film’s writer-director, at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, she was already impressively accomplished. She said she wanted to write and direct – which she did, in
New York, I Love You. She wanted to produce – and indeed, she’s a producer on The Other Woman, No Strings Attached and Hesher. She was even thinking about motherhood, though she had not yet met her fiancé.

“Absolutely, I want to have kids,” she said. “I mean, knock on wood. People are such amazing creatures, so to be able to make one, wow. I can’t make anything – I can’t make a paper airplane – but I can make a person?! That’s an amazing gift. Whenever a guy says, ‘Thank God I don’t have to give birth,’ I’m like, ‘Are you crazy?’ That’s the luckiest thing about being a girl.”

Portman, who will turn 30 in June, has been working since age 11, and she was also quite clear-eyed about the importance of transitioning to adult parts. “I’m physically small, which makes people reluctant to see me as a grown-up,” she said. “Even with people on the street, it’s like, ‘I swear, I’m an adult!’ ”

“You have to stop carrying balloons,” Roos chimed in.

Portman cackled like a hyena. “But I was never a kid in kid movies,” she continued. “I was in grown-up movies” – including
The Professional, Heat and Beautiful Girls – “and in those, the role of the child is to be sort of a prophet or symbol. They’re less real people, more idealizations for what’s lost.”

Easing away from those roles, Portman survived the green-screen onslaught of the
Star Wars franchise; took time off to get a degree from Harvard, where she studied psychology; and then emerged full-grown in a variety of meaty roles, including a Civil War mother in Cold Mountain, a troubled slacker in Garden State and a clear-eyed stripper in Closer.

“I think a lot of actors are constantly searching for what can be known, what they can hold onto,” said writer-director Zach Helm, who worked with Portman in 2007’s
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. “Natalie might be one of the only ones who’s willing to live in the unknown. It makes me want to work with her on everything.”

Clearly, Portman has taste, and knows how to mix it up. In both her life and work, she plays her ethereal beauty against a raunchy sense of fun. She did a filthy rap for
Saturday Night Live that became a YouTube sensation. While filming the obscenity-laced Closer, she presented co-star Julia Roberts with a necklace that rendered in delicate gold script the C-word for female anatomy. (Roberts whooped with delight, and later countered with a necklace that read L’il C-word.) In No Strings Attached, Portman gives the line, “You have a very nice penis,” an endearingly wide-eyed reading. While discussing in Entertainment Weekly how to sell Black Swan to both women and men, she declaimed, “The answer is a lesbian scene. Everyone wants to see that.” And everyone’s wondering if she’ll be as giddy at the Oscars as she was at the Golden Globes, where she announced to the world from the winner’s podium that her fiancé “totally wants to sleep with me.”

“As an artist, you want to keep things strange,” Portman said. “It’s one place where it’s comforting to be different, because you look at the world from such a different perspective than other people, and that different perspective is what makes art.”

To that end,
The Other Woman looked promising. It was based on a successful novel by Ayelet Waldman, and Don Roos is an indie darling who directed The Opposite of Sex and wrote the script for Marley & Me. Portman plays Emilia, a hungry young lawyer who seduces her boss (Scott Cohen). She gets pregnant, and he leaves his doctor wife (Lisa Kudrow) for her, but sadly, their baby dies. For the bulk of the film, Emilia is shattered by grief and unable to cope with her sensitive stepson. She’s a prickly chick who does some not-nice things, and the ending is subtle – the changes she makes are realistic and therefore small.

Back in late 2009, Roos and Portman were worried about it. “It’s so rare in a film to have a non-adorable female lead,” Roos said. “This character has an enormous amount to learn about life, and we take a long time to get to where she’s broken down enough to start to reassemble herself. That’s very risky in today’s market, where most films aren’t watched in theatres, where you can flip the channel and rent a different movie.”

“And it’s honest about grief,” Portman added. “Grief is monotonous. It wears on people; they get desensitized to it. The humour in it is also realistic – every terrible situation I’ve been exposed to, everybody eventually goes to their dark humour.”

Unfortunately, it looks like not even Portman can save this one. Reviewers have been uniformly disappointed, and its theatrical run has grossed only $9,000. But with everything on her horizon, Portman is unfazed.

“I think acting is the most amazing thing to be able to do,” she said. “Your job is to practise thinking, ‘What is going on in someone else’s head, what do they feel, how does life affect them?’ You end up walking down the street, blown away that every person has a life. Which is also very childlike. When I was little, my stuffed animals, my dolls, the birds outside, everything had an interior life. I feel I’m continuing that, but with people, for real. And then to be able to travel, to explore the world, to have your life constantly changing, constantly finding new things, and not be attached to anything that’s not meaningful – it’s an amazing way to live.” And so far, an amazing thing to watch, too.

Liam Neeson: From Highbrow Dramas To Action Hero

Source: www.thestar.com - James Rocchi

(February 20, 2011) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.—As he met the press on a Saturday morning in a comfy-lookingLiam%20Neeson%20in%20Unknown_small shabby-chic brown corduroy jacket, Liam Neeson was enthusiastically naive when asked how long it took him to guess Unknown’s plot when he read the script.

“I actually didn’t guess it; I really didn’t. It really surprised me,” he said.

In the new thriller, Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a scientist in Berlin for a conference. A knock to the head during a car accident puts him in a coma and when he emerges from his slumber after four days, his wife (January Jones of TV’s Mad Men) doesn’t recognize him and another Dr. Martin Harris is at her side in his place.

And, as he went on to explain, Neeson is just as surprised by the twist his career has taken since the unexpected box-office success of the action film Taken in 2008.

“ I seem to have gotten a new lease on life, in a sense, since this Taken movie was successful. At the age of 58,” Neeson pauses to lightly mock his good fortune, “I’m sorry, did I say 58? My age is 37, I’m sure. It’s great to get time as an action hero.”

And the classically trained Neeson sees no conflict between his higher dramatic work and his recent two-fisted renaissance.

“I always like to think of something Burt Lancaster said years ago: he says he acts with his hair. When he’s doing a studio movie, he has a wig. When he’s doing an art house movie, he shows his bald patch. ...”

Asked if he wore a wig for this film, Neeson — brown hair cropped short — waved the very question off with a comedic, irritated wave: “Metaphor. ...”

More seriously, the Irish-born actor summed up exactly what it was he knew he liked about Unknown. “In a nutshell, I think it’s an edge-of-your-seat thriller, an homage thrown toward Alfred Hitchcock, and movies of that ilk in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s.”

While Neeson exuded manly confidence cut with an agreeable dollop of self-deprecation — like the splash of water that blooms the flavour in a glass of strong whisky — his female co-stars also expressed their pleasure at Unknown’s mix of classic style and modern strength.

January Jones, clad in an aqua sheath, noted how she enjoyed playing a character with the classic are-they-or-aren’t-they? motives and platinum hair of a classic Hitchcock character.

“It was interesting and undefinable in the way that you don’t know who she is, if ever,” she said. “I think the audience can still decide if she’s a good guy or a bad guy. It had, like Liam said, a touch of noir. It was an homage to the old Hitchcock films. It was fun for me.”

Diane Kruger, meanwhile, had a tougher time of it playing an illegal immigrant cab driver who becomes Neeson’s ally in his quest — and liked it that way.

“For me, it was pretty tough. Running around in the cold, on ice, is not that easy sometimes. I enjoyed it. I wanted to play a character for once that was very physical. I liked that she had her own story going on and that she’s actually saving Liam’s life.”

While Jones’s character gets to pose in designer wear at black-tie parties, Kruger gets to dive into a car sinking into a freezing cold river — the underwater scenes were shot in a tank — to save Neeson’s character after the plot-initiating crash. She wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“Those stunts and the huge tank and bubbles were very challenging, but really interesting. Diving out of the huge car wreck that led into a tank, was really fun to do.”

Kruger also did much of her own driving, careening a battered Mercedes taxi through the streets of Berlin in stunt sequences, the German-born actress noted with pride, adding her co-star was “a little nervous.”

Director Jaume Collet-Serra estimated the total cost of the automotive mayhem in the film at “about 15 or 20” wrecked Mercedes cabs.

But, as Neeson told it, the streets of Berlin didn’t just add some European class to rock-em sock-em car chases. To the actor, the city’s very zeitgeist helped define the plot and performances of Unknown.

“Berlin went through — probably still is going through — a period of confusion since the (Cold) war came to an end. Very definite attitudes from West Berlin to East Berlin. Also, given the economic times we’re in, there was a definition confusion in the streets, almost like a pulse. That was good to tap into, because that’s what the characters were going through.”

But for director Collet-Sera, the people were just as important as the place.

“Obviously, it’s an amazing cast,” he said. “I’m so blessed to have these great actors working on my movie. It makes the job of the director very easy. It was a pleasure working with all of them.”

Neeson, darting glances at his co-stars Jones and Kruger, couldn’t help but get the last word: “And very easy on the eyes first thing in the morning, if I may be so bold as to say.”


Jennifer Hudson Added to Line-up of Oscar Presenters

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 23, 2011) *Jennifer Hudson and Justin Timberlake have joined the line-up of presenters who are taking part in the 83rd annual Academy Awards on Sunday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Hudson won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance as Effie White in 2006’s “Dreamgirls” at the 79th Academy Awards, and she also appeared at the 80th show, where she presented the best supporting actor award to Javier Bardem for “No Country for Old Men.” She recently completed filming the indie feature “Winnie,” in which she stars as Winnie Mandela opposite Terrence Howard as Nelson Mandela. Timberlake, who is seen as Internet entrepreneur Sean Parker in best picture nominee The Social Network, will be making his first appearance on an Oscar broadcast. His upcoming films include Jake Kasdan’s “Bad Teacher,” Will Gluck’s “Friends With Benefits” and Andrew Niccol’s “Now.”

::TV NEWS::\

Natalli Reznik, Barre To Bar And Back

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 18, 2011) LOS ANGELES - She thought she could dance, and the judges agreed with her.Natalli%20Reznik%20Nelly%20Furtado_small

At the end of the first season of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, the lsrael-born, Toronto-raised
Natalli Reznik stood in the winners’ circle, the fourth finalist of the competition’s Final Four.

Fondly remembered by fans for her astoundingly ripped 12-pack abs (six somehow doesn’t seem nearly enough) and willingness and uncanny ability to dance just about anything, Reznik joined her fellow first-season winners on the show’s cross-country Top Ten tour . . .

And shortly thereafter was back at her old job, serving up cocktails at the Queen Street West club, Ultra.

Such is the life of a dancer — and what makes SYTYCD such compelling viewing. All that passion and pain, dedication and discipline, single-mindedly devoted to a potential career that is by definition short-lived and largely anonymous.

Winners of considerably less demanding TV singing competitions can at least aspire to a level of pop stardom.

The best a successful dancer can realistically aspire to is the opportunity to perform behind them.

That being said, it was not a lack of opportunity that brought the multi-talented Reznik back to the bar (as opposed to the barre).

She just felt the need to step back, as it were, and carefully consider the next phase of her career.

A career that has since had her strutting her stuff behind the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Enrique Iglesias, Kelly Rowland, Ne-Yo, Janet Jackson and, very nearly, the late Michael Jackson on his ill-fated final concert tour.

Reznik, who leaves next week to dance with Rihanna on her upcoming Australian tour, has otherwise essentially relocated to Los Angeles, where we caught up over cocktails — served by someone else — last month.

“After the (SYTYCDC) tour,” she tells me, “there was a little bit of, I don’t know . . . You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what you’re going to do. Everything’s just a little off.

“So I took two months of just doing workshops and stuff, and then, in the summer, working back at the bar. And people would see me (there) and they would be, like, ‘Nat, what are you doing here?’ ”

“But it wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not dancing anymore . . . ’ ”

It was instead a comfort zone in the midst of major life upheaval.

“I’m all about keeping it real,” she says. “And the bar made me happy. I was working with people and I’m very social and at the time I really needed that.”

She already had a stint with Cirque de Soleil and two years touring with Nelly Furtado to her credit, even before her SYTYCD success. And the franchise has kept her busy, both here and in the U.S., as a choreographer and guest performer.

But it all kicked into overdrive when she got the call from SYTYCD choreographer/judge turned nascent pop star Blake McGrath to dance in his debut video, “The Night.”

It was there that she met Janet Jackson’s world-renowned choreographer, Gil Duldulao.

“It was amazing,” Reznik gushes, “doing the video, learning the choreography, working with him . . . he has this way of telling you how to do things without really telling you how to do it, you know what I mean?

“We had this really wonderful relationship. It wasn’t any more just about the dance. It was . . . I felt like he cared for me.”

Apparently, he did, because shortly thereafter he went out and tracked her down.

“I really never thought I was going to see Gil again or speak to him,” Reznik confesses. “And then somehow he got me, he got my number, he contacted me and he asked if I wanted to do a video for Janet Jackson.

“I thought he was kidding. And he’s like, ‘No, I’m serious.’ And I didn’t know how to . . . I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Yes!!’ And after that we did the American Music Awards.”

But even before working with Janet, Reznik had a near-miss encounter with her brother, Michael. You may have heard of him.

That call came from director and master choreographer Kenny Ortega, who had been a guest judge on SYTYCDC and remembered Natalli well. He invited her down to L.A. to try out for the tour.

“I’m usually so nervous about going to auditions,” she says, “but for this, for some reason, I knew I was going to be okay. I knew I just needed to go with the flow.

“First day I go in, I learn the routine. Second day is better, they start cutting people and cutting people, and they weren’t cutting me. The third day Michael’s assistant came to me and she said, ‘Nat, keep doing what you’re doing.’ ”

She got as far as alternate when the casting was completed. And then the unthinkable happened: Jackson was dead.

“I was back in Toronto,” Reznik remembers. “I was at the mall when I found out. I was shocked, for sure. But the dancers . . . I wasn’t at rehearsals with them, so for them, it was more of a loss. They spent time with him.

“I felt so sad for his family. You know, after that, working with Janet, I could feel the sadness and being in the room, you kind of want to come and see her and hug her and say something, but you don’t know what to say . . . we never talked about it, I didn’t feel it was my place. But I’m just proud of her.”

In L.A. of course, singular talent will only get you through the door. Once you’re inside, it is, as they say, less about what you know than who, and who they are in a position to introduce you to.

“I’ve never been much of a schmoozer,” Reznik admits. She was, however, very lucky in love.

“I met someone who was amazing, he’s my other half,” she says of her beau, Keith Richardson, a fashion designer who has crafted clothes for Jackson, and, among others, Lady Gaga — which, given what Gaga wears, is no small achievement.

It was through Richardson that she met Laurieann Gibson, Gaga’s visionary creative director and a fellow former Torontonian.

“I remember when I came into the rehearsal with Gaga, and Laurieann said to everyone, ‘Guys, be nice, she’s from Toronto, and that’s where I’m from, and Canadian dancers are nice.’ That made me feel good.”

Though not as good as it felt dancing “Poker Face” with Gaga at last year’s Grammys.

“She is truly inspiring,” Reznik says. “There is nothing she won’t try, nothing she won’t do. Bruises, blisters, doesn’t matter. She’s right in there, all the way, no matter what.”

It is a work ethic every dancer can relate to.

“I think that, as dancers, we always doubt ourselves,” Reznik allows. “Every job that I do, every little thing that I do, I always think, ‘This is it.’ I can never get too comfortable . . .

“But I’m slowly accepting my strengths and my flaws, accepting ‘me’ more and more, and just showing people who I am. If there’s things I need to change and work, I will.

“And if they like me, amazing.”

What I'm Watching: Janet-Laine Green

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(February 24, 2011) Janet-Laine Green could write a book on the Canadian TV business. The winsomewatching-green2_1207203cl-4_small actress has worked steadily since the early eighties with guest turns on homegrown series like Night Heat, Ray Bradbury Theater, Seeing Things and, yes, Care Bears, in which she supplied the voice of Wish Bear.

Over the years, Green has also assumed recurring roles on such seminal Canadian series as The Beachcombers, Street Legal, Traders and This Is Wonderland.

On Vision TV's new original series She's the Mayor, which debuts March 4, Green is well-cast as Iris Peters, a former elementary-school principal turned mayor of the small town of Fairfax.

When not appearing on homegrown programs, Green is a solid proponent of watching Canadian TV shows, including these three current faves.

The Ron James Show
Ron has got a wicked wit that just tickles me. He's very smart and open to going with the flow, which allows him to create comedy on the spot. The animated Lil Ronnie segments are very funny. He also seems willing to encompass the entire Canadian talent bank and I like that a lot.

Slings and Arrows
I watched the first time it aired and I'm watching it again on DVD. The reason I'm rewatching it is because my son, Tyrone Savage, has just finished the Birmingham Conservatory Program at Stratford and is about to enter his first season on the Stratford [Shakespeare Festival] stage. The show is a brilliant backstage look at the struggle to create meaningful art. Sometimes it's so funny you have to hold your stomach, but there's also a real truth to it.

Being Erica
This is an excellent show that challenges us intellectually. It's a very smart, funny but endearing premise and so well-made. I also enjoy watching Michael Riley, whom I've worked with in the past on This Is Wonderland. He's a dedicated and outstanding actor and his work on Erica is just beautiful to watch. He's extraordinary.

The Reason For TV Reporter’s On-Air Gibberish At Grammys

Source: www.thestar.com - Chandler Levack

(February 18, 2011) LOS ANGELES — A TV reporter who lapsed into gibberish during a live shot outside theSerene%20Branson_small Grammys said she was terrified when it happened and knew something was wrong as soon as she opened her mouth.

KCBS-TV reporter
Serene Branson's incoherence Sunday fuelled Internet speculation that she suffered an on-air stroke. But doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles where she went to get a brain scan and blood work done ruled it out. Doctors said she suffered a type of migraine that can mimic symptoms of a stroke.

Branson told the station in an interview Thursday that she "started to get a really bad headache" but assumed she was just tired.

"At around 10 o'clock that night I was sitting in the live truck with my field producer and the photographer and I was starting to look at some of my notes," she said. "I started to think, the words on the page are blurry and I could notice that my thoughts were not forming the way they normally do."

"As soon as I opened my mouth I knew something was wrong," Branson said.

"I was having trouble remembering the word for Grammy," she said. "I knew what I wanted to say but I didn't have the words to say it."

The station quickly cut away, and she was examined by paramedics and recovered at home.

Most people with migraines don't have any warning. But about 20 to 30 percent experience sensations before or during a migraine attack.

"A migraine is not just a headache. It's a complicated brain event," said UCLA neurologist Dr. Andrew Charles, who examined Branson.

The most common sensations include seeing flashes of light or zigzag patterns. In Branson's case, she felt numbness on the right side of her face that affected her speech, Charles said.

"She was actually having the headache while she was having these other symptoms," he said.

Branson told doctors she's had migraines since a child, but never suffered an episode like this before, Charles said.

Branson, a Los Angeles native and two-time Emmy nominee, worked at the CBS affiliate in Sacramento before joining KCBS. Prior to that, she was a reporter and anchor at TV stations in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara.

A telephone message left with KCBS was not immediately returned Thursday.

Oprah Winfrey: OWN is Still a Work in Progress

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(February 23, 2011) *In a sit down with the Hollywood Reporter, Oprah Winfrey warns dissatisfied viewers of her OWN network to hang in there – more programming is on the horizon.

“We’re building, night by night by night. What everyone told me about the cable business is the way you do cable is you start with a couple of shows, people are used to repeats,” Winfrey told trade magazine from the Chicago offices of Harpo Productions. “Oprah viewers were not!”

Winfrey says she’s actively seeking audience input while building her network, and even signed up for an oprah@oprah.com email address on her website last week, which she plans to use to interact with people.

The network’s first hit is “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes,” which earlier this month was averaging 546,000 viewers, and has seen a 40 percent boost in the network’s key women 25-54 demo from DVR usage. 1.6 million viewers tuned in to its premiere. Compared to what Discovery Health was averaging in 2010, it’s up 262 percent in total viewers.

The show “was my idea,” says Winfrey. “Originally there was some talk about doing it as a documentary film. I shot that down, because I thought my viewers don’t want to now go pay to see a film about me. [I said], ‘What would make it really interesting is to put it in your living rooms, where I’ve been all these years.’”

Winfrey’s producers are followed by a 16-person production team, Harpo president (and producer of Winfrey’s talk show for 15 years) Sheri Salata tells THR. (“Oprah is the only person who has any comfort at all in front of the camera,” she jokes. For the rest of the staff,” it’s agonizing.” Quips Winfrey: “It’s second nature for me. I’ve been on camera since I was 19. A lot of people are a little awkward.”)

Despite Winfrey insisting that she doesn’t think her life “is that darn entertaining,” the series will continue to delve deeper into her personal life, including more appearances by longtime partner Stedman Graham, whom Winfrey comments is the no. 1 fan.

“They had a shot of me in the tub [Wednesday]. I thought it was too much. C’mon people, we went a little too far behind the scenes with this shot!” jokes Winfrey.

It will chronicle the end of production through May. Then later this year, Winfrey’s new show, Oprah’s Next Chapter, will kick off in the same vein.

“Oprah as we know it with a studio audience is over. We can’t do it any better than we’ve done it,” Salata tells THR. “I think you can expect to see Oprah out in the world, and having the look and feel very different. it’s about what Oprah is interested in exploring and interested in life.”

“I think we’ve figured out how to do it,” Salata goes on. “If we stay in a reality style, and not having Oprah as a presenter. There will be interviews, some things will be really elaborate like with Australia…”

Winfrey explains it like this: “’Oprah’s Next Chapter’ is a loose feel, like ‘Behind the Scenes’…. We’ll shoot the interview wherever it’s happening, in that sort of reality space. It’s about trying to stay in the truth space, the reality space. It’s also just making it good television.”

In the meantime, Winfrey is counting down until the end of her talk show, and plans to take a vacation after taping her Oscars special.

“I’m feeling terrific about it. I’m feeling energized. Better than I ever have,” Winfrey says when asked about the end. “When we end a season, we usually feel like we got hit by a truck. I’ve kept a diary all my life. I looked back at all my diaries. A good year is if you don’t feel like you’ve been hit by a truck at the end of the season.”

“As we near the end of this 25-year-run, everybody’s emotions are running pretty high. Every time you mention it, somebody is ‘wah wah wah,’” says Winfrey, adding that it’s been “a big emotional twirly-do” for her staff, many of whom have worked with her for 10 or more years.

She is confident she is moving on from her talk show at the right time.

“I’m so happy I didn’t stay in the wing until I was punch drunk and people had to drag me out with my microphone and say, ‘Enough already!’” says Winfrey. “I always thought I would take my cues from the viewers. I took the cue from the landscape of television. It got harder and harder and harder to raise the bar every day. What we’re doing is primetime television done in the daytime. The amount of money spent, editors… everything it takes to do this show… it got harder to raise the bar.”

She doesn’t even know the topics of her last two talk shows.

 “I’m allowing for Sheri and the team to plan two days of full surprises. I’ve given up control for the last two days. It’s a lot to relinquish,” Winfrey says. “I had to pray on that…. and get a guarantee from Sheri there would be no strippers or dancing people coming out of shells.”

Winfrey reflects on how the show has changed: “It’s a completely different show than when we first started and it was four people sitting in a row. I was booking guests myself, and then going out to the Limited and shopping after. The time has changed! I used to go to the Limited and buy a $29.99 dress and then tequila shots for everyone. Those days are over. It’s time to bring this phase to an end.”

There are a few shows in the works for her network that Winfrey is especially excited about, including “Oprah Presents Master Class’ with Sidney Poitier, and “Behind the Scenes: Australia.”

“I cannot tell you what it took…” she says of the trip that she and John Travolta announced on the season premiere.

Out of an audience of 300, “200 people had never been out of the country, so we had to get passports and all that comes with getting passports. Then you had all those people with, ‘Who’s gonna call my boss? I can’t get eight days off work!’ Then getting them there… from the time they got to the airport, you had to have them entertained. Even on the plane: what are you going to do? Where is everyone going to go? It was a major production,” says Winfrey. “The television end was the easy part. The difficulty was managing daily events for 300 people for eight straight days… the team earned their general stripes.”


Think TV Ads Are Too Loud? Federal Regulator Wants To Hear From You

Source: www.thestar.com - Chandler Levack

(February 17, 2011) OTTAWA—The CRTC wants to know if you think TV ads are too loud, and whether it should do something about it. The federal regulator says it wants to hear from the public on the issue and possible fixes to ensure commercials are no louder than the programs they accompany. CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein says loud ads are annoying and viewers shouldn't have to lower the volume at every commercial break. Given established international standards on the issue, the regulator says it wants to determine the costs and practical implications of implementing those standards in Canada. Those interested in offering views need to submit them to the regulator by April 18.

Len Lesser, Actor Who Played Uncle Leo On ‘Seinfeld,’ Dies At 88

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(February 17, 2011) LOS ANGELES — Len Lesser, the veteran character actor best known for his scene-stealing role as Uncle Leo on Seinfeld, died Wednesday. He was 88. Lesser's family said in a statement that he died in Burbank, California, from cancer-related pneumonia. “Heaven got a great comedian and actor today,” his daughter, Michele, said in the statement. “The outpouring of sympathy we've already received has been amazing and is so greatly appreciated. Thank you to all the people who helped make my father's last journey special and surrounded with love.” Lesser's lengthy list of television credits included parts on Get Smart, That Girl, The Munsters, The Monkees, The Rockford Files, thirtysomething, ER and Everybody Loves Raymond, which featured Lesser in a recurring role as the arm-shaking Garvin.  His film credits included The Outlaw Josey Wales, Kelly's Heroes, Birdman of Alcatraz and Death Hunt. He most recently appeared on the TV drama Castle. He is survived by his daughter, Michele; son, David; daughter-in-law, Julie; and grandchildren, Jonathan, Kayla, and Mayah.

Forest Whitaker’s ‘Criminal Minds’ Spinoff Beats Original in Ratings

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 18, 2011) *Despite being panned by critics, the CBS spinoff series “Criminal Minds: Suspect
forest_whitaker_criminal_minds_suspect_behavior_a_2011-350x437_small Behavior,” starring Forest Whitaker, attracted 12.9 million viewers at 10 p.m. Wednesday, actually improving slightly on the numbers for the original “Criminal Minds” at 9 p.m., which drew 12.8 million. At 8 p.m., however, the season debut of “Survivor Redemption Island,” going head-to-head against Fox’s “American Idol” for the first time, drew 11.2 million viewers for CBS, the lowest number ever to tune in to a season premiere of the reality series. It was down 29 percent from last year’s premiere when it aired on Thursday without serious competition. But “Idol” also took a hit. Wednesday’s ratings were down 4 percent from a week ago. Its total audience of 22.84 million, however, was greater than all of its competition combined.

Glee Goes For Four Shows, Plus Black Keys

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 22, 2011) Maybe Glee should have just bypassed the Air Canada Centre, like the UFC did, and bookedglee%20football_small a date at the baseball stadium instead. The TV musical’s tour just announced its fourth show at the ACC, a matinee 3 p.m. show on Sunday, June 12. Tickets for the new date will be $50-$90 via Livenation.com or Ticketmaster when they go on sale the morning of Feb. 26.  That news comes just as the Fox TV show revealed that the next Glee album — Glee: the Music Vol. 5, out March 8 — will for the first time feature two original songs. “Loser Like Me,” an ensemble piece, is co-written by pop vet Max Martin, the mastermind behind hits by Britney Spears, Pink, and the Backstreet Boys. “Get It Right” is a solo ballad that will be sung by Lea Michele’s character Rachel Berry. No word on whether fans will hear those in concert, though. In other concert news, recent Grammy-winning blues ensemble Black Keys will play the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre on July 7. Tickets ($33-$50) go on sale Feb. 25 at noon via Livenation.com and Ticketmaster. Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs play Massey Hall on May 30 with Brandi Carlile opening; tickets go on sale March 5 via livenation.com, Ticketmaster or masseyhall.com and will be $40-$80. And Juno-nominated Edmonton popsters Stereos play the Sound Academy on Sound Academy. Tickets ($23) on sale Feb. 23 from Livenation.com, Ticketmaster, Rotate This and Soundscapes.


Shawn Hitchins: A ‘One-Man Flash Mob’

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(February 18, 2011) Shawn Hitchins must have some real chops if he can get Torontonians to sing along inShawn%20Hitchins_small public. New Yorkers will be next, he hopes.

Anyone who can host 10 live shows in 28 hours deserves a nickname like Animal.

That’s what the family of Toronto actor, comedian and cabaret performer Shawn Hitchins named him when he was growing up.

Sitting over coffee, the red-haired, bright-blue-eyed 30-year-old radiates positive energy as he recalls his own childhood in Egypt, Ont., just south of Lake Simcoe. It’s not that far from Toronto, but it’s a world away in other respects.

He certainly would never have imagined that he would, one day, be leading 10 free, family-friendly singalongs to clips of famous movie musicals at the Tiff Lightbox Feb. 20 and 21.

Hitchins earned his nickname from the crazed puppet percussionist on The Muppet Show.

“I was that kid who would go up to a vase and my mother would say ‘Shawn James, don’t touch that,’ and I would smash it,” he recalls with a wicked smile. Young Shawn was such a handful that his parents had to resort to extreme measures to keep him from getting into trouble in his preschool days.

“Instead of letting me run around, they would tie me to a tree with a harness,” Hitchins says. There were no visits from family services—and none were necessary.

The Hitchins sitting across from me is uncommonly polite, articulate and realistic. He has also learned to channel his active imagination and surplus energy into performing.

It’s a slow and happy evolution that began at the local comprehensive high school, which brought together 1,700 students from around Georgina. “There was an auto shop at one end of the building and a nursery at the other, where the kids could bring their kids to school,” the performer remembers.

“You were either into sports, into music, into Ski-Doos, or you were into drugs,” he says of his adolescent years. He thanks his lucky stars that, in the 1990s, there was a dedicated group of arts teachers at his school who devoted a lot of extra time to extracurricular activities.

“I had all these teachers, drama teachers and vocal teachers, who just put everything into the school. So we had full-scale musical productions, we had choirs, we had bands.” There was even a jazz choir and improv classes.

Hitchins, too independent-minded to put up with the strictures of university life, learned his craft by performing, as well as attending practical courses, such as those offered by Second City.

Over the past couple of years, Hitchins has begun to emerge as one of the city’s more engaging cabaret performers. His most recent show, Single White Douche, presented at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre last September, was a heady mash of pop-culture jabs, personal history and song.

“I like a nice, healthy mix,” he says, shying away from the temptation of making the stage into a personal confessional. “I like when people don’t know if it’s real or not.”

Hitchins says he felt particularly gratified when several of his old teachers showed up to see him perform.

“I wouldn’t have been on that stage without them,” he says simply.

Hitchins’ two-day, 10-show stint at the Tiff Lightbox grew out of a one-off gig that the film presenter organized for Nuit Blanche last fall. The programmers compiled a bunch of favourite movie-musical clips and hired Hitchins to wind up the crowd and get them to sing along.

“You know how hard it is to get people in Toronto to sing along,” Hitchins says, making a wry face. He has been asked back.

Hitchins is also getting Single White Douche polished for another run at this year’s Pride celebrations, and is hoping to be able to snag a gig in New York City.

Part of the rehearsal process is repeating the lines from his show while walking around his neighbourhood.

“I’m this crazy ginger walking through Forest Hill talking to himself,” he laughs, assuring me that he does it after most people have gone to bed. The walking literally helps him improve the pacing of each delivery.

“I say that I’m a one-man flash mob, that I’m rehearsed to seem spontaneous,” he quips.

How else could anyone keep 10 singalong shows in a row feeling fresh?

For movie singalong details, visit: http://tiff.net/filmsandschedules.

Replacement Emile Is The Key To An Enchanted Evening

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

South Pacific
By Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Directed by Bartlett Sher. Dancap Productions-Lincoln Center Theater. To Apr. 10. Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St. 416-644-3665 (DancapTickets.com)

(February 20, 2011) Once in a golden moon, when the mists part to reveal the twin volcanoes of Bali Ha’i, it really is possible to improve on a good thing.

Last summer’s production of
South Pacific at the Four Seasons Centre was a treat musically and theatrically. Wanting to capitalize on the good buzz from that run, Dancap Productions has bravely remounted the 1949 musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II at a new venue (the Toronto Centre for the Arts) and with a new lead singer (American operatic bass-baritone David Pittsinger).

The results were impressive at a performance on Friday night.

Most of the cast from the summer run has returned. Some others, including lead baritone Jason Howard, had other engagements.

Would Pittsinger be able to live up to Jason Howard’s confident and suave portrayal of French plantation owner Emile de Becque?

Yes – and then some.

Pittsinger doesn’t have the movie-star looks of Howard, but there is a magnetic intensity to his amorous ardour that surpasses Howard’s more laid-back, more detached interpretation of the role. Howard has a fabulous voice, but Pittsinger’s is something special.

Hearing Pittsinger’s warm, honeyed bass is the aural equivalent of putting your head into an old oak cask long used for aging fine Scotch.

This makes for one heck of an Enchanted Evening, a sound that will echo in my head for a long time.

If I were Nellie Forbush, the nurse from Little Rock, Ark. who falls for de Becque, one song would be enough to send me into a swoon, too.

Carmen Cusak’s portrayal as Nellie is as engaging as ever. Jodi Kimura is back as the mendacious Bloody Mary and the boys and girls of the chorus make excellent work of their musical stage business.

This lavish revival production, which won a clutch of Tony awards back in 2008, is musically worthy, too, using a big orchestra performing from Richard Rodgers’ original orchestration. The amplified sound may not have the crispness of what we heard at the Four Seasons Centre, but conductor Lawrence Goldberg knows how to make the music glow.

Jason Howard returns to the cast on Mar. 8, to the close of the run on Apr. 10, and he’s well worth waiting for. But you’ll have an even more of a treat if you check out David Pittsinger.


Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
Nintendo DS
Rated T

(February 18, 2011) Reviewing traditional-style Japanese role-playing games is a tricky business. There are few
dragon-quest-vi-artwork-1_small genres so proudly and explicitly formal. JRPGs are the video-game equivalent of, say, Chicago-style barroom blues, where success means adhering tightly to convention while applying just enough personal élan to put it over, to make the familiar fresh for an audience that knows all the changes. To carry the analogy: The Dragon Quest series is the genre’s Muddy Waters, and reviewing the DS remake of 1995’s Dragon Quest VI means either holding it to standards that didn’t exist when the original tracks were laid down or pretending that 16 years of innovation haven’t happened.

Jeez, it even starts with a Blues line: “Woke up this mornin’.” Your small-town Hero tumbles out of bed to find a menial chore awaiting him — yes, in the Realms of Fantasy, fetching a Sacred Crown for the annual Goddess Festival counts as “menial” — and subsequently discovers that not only is a mean, mistreatin’ Ancient Evil rising up to cloak the land in darkness, but that he himself is designated by Prophecy and Destiny to stop this from happening. Nothing to do but gather up your crummy starting equipment, loot every jar and barrel in town for healing herbs and gold coins, and set off down the mountain.

Your subsequent adventure comprises every single gameplay and story element that would eventually become cliché, in not already cliché in 1995 — level-grinding, underpopulated towns with a handful of shops offering progressively more kick-ass arms and armour, stock-character companions (Tough Guy, Teenage Girl, Geeky Priest, etc.), pattern-based boss monsters that show their “true power” and step up for Round Two after you think you’ve beaten them . . . the full JRPG buffet.

I ought to have been bored silly, having played through dozens of variations on this material. Amazingly, Dragon Quest VI still works for me. Some of this has to do with the basic addictiveness of the fundamental RPG gameplay loop, the same kind of hypnotically repetitive reward cycle that keeps people hooked on slot machines. A lot more has to do with the cleverly conceived interactions between the game’s two worlds, each one the dream of the other that made the grinding worth it to see resolved.

Mostly, though, I found myself taking great pleasure in the straight-faced earnestness of it all. Here in 2011, all these conventions have been so often subverted, parodied, twisted, mocked and otherwise played around with that such iconoclasm is itself a tired cliché. Going back to a game that never winks at you through the fourth wall of the DS screen, never explicitly reminds you that what you’re doing is fundamentally empty and dumb, is quite refreshing.

The quality of the remaking itself is just fine. The only thing that really bugged me was the music, strident and cheesy and un-turnoffable. The freshly adapted script is entertaining and full of idiomatic flavour — “inadvertently hilarious translation” is the one JRPG trope missing from the package — and the new 3D environments and sprites, while a bit lacking in visual panache, bring the world to life while remaining faithful to the esthetic roots of the original. Dragon Quest VI on DS is a tasteful, sensitive remastering of a seriously old-school joint.


Red, White And Blonde: Marilyn Monroe At The McMichael

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard

(February 16, 2011) About halfway through the Marilyn Monroe exhibition — actually, there are two — at theMarilyn%20in%20Canoe_small Michael Canadian Art Collection a few days ago, we found ourselves in front of five images from Tom Kelley’s “Red Velvet Photos” series, the Los Angeles photographer’s famous May 1949 photo shoot, when his subject still called herself Norma Jeane Baker.

Even with the pressure of opening “Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe” Saturday in tandem with “Marilyn in Canada,” curator Sharona Adamowicz-Clements remained uncertain about which “Red Velvet” images she’d select. But her deeper worry was whether she should let her two sons, aged 6 and 9, see these early Monroe skin shots, particularly considering the boys budding interest in the female form.

“I mean, they still think I draw all the pictures we show here,” said Adamowicz-Clements. The firmness in her voice suggested that the boys were going to find themselves out of luck, at least this time around.

I understand her reluctance. The Kelley photos reveal what’s concealed by most later Monroe imagery: unfiltered sexuality. Monroe herself repudiated these shots after they found their way into the debut issue of Playboy. With a new contract under 20th Century Fox, she knew these images were revealing in a way that was entirely unacceptable to the commodity-forging Hollywood publicity mills. She knew image control was how the game was played. She knew Mae West wasn’t kidding when the older actress had quipped, “I’ve been things and seen places.”

Norma Jeane Baker was naked, not yet “a nude,” in posing for Kelley. Her pale arms are outstretched behind her head, thrusting out her breasts. Elsewhere her arms are reaching up and above her head to elongate her languid body shape. Her face suggests a post-coital glow. Her ruby red lips are parted ever so slightly, as are her brilliantly white teeth, to suggest the pleasure she feels, not the pleasure she was determined to elicit in the viewer’s gaze.

This was Norma Jeane on the cusp of developing the Monroe look, the chilly hauteur killer stare the actress brought to each studio-sanctioned headshot, her eyes looking zoned out, her hair off her forehead except for a well-placed curl. (Only Mel Ramos, king of the pin-up drawings, ever imagined Monroe as happy.)

My uncertainty about the enormity of raw anger in this look, found everywhere in the show, led me to contact Natalka Husar, the talented Toronto painter and art teacher whose own work has led to her portraying rebellious and often fierce young women.

“MM as a mask of anger makes me think of de Kooning’s women, ferocious yet bombshells,” Husar replied in an email. Monroe’s red lips, “usually open and supposedly a come-on, really seem to be saying f-off. There’s attitude masking a pain.”

“Life as a Legend” ends its years-long German-based world tour at the McMichael after a recent stint at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. (And yes, we are talking about that McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the Group of Seven and birch bark McMichael, otherwise known as the guardian of the great Canadian landscape).

But it’s more legend than life that’s found here. In Saskia de Boer’s Marilyn Crucifix (2000), Monroe is splayed lasciviously on a cross as if she was enacting Christ as a cheerleader. It’s the besotted fan’s ultimate view of her tragic fate. (Monroe died Aug. 5, 1962, age 36, possibly of a barbiturates overdose or too many Kennedys in her life.)

The familiar narrative of the tragic sex-centric legend is reiterated in the exhibition’s deconstruction of Monroe. She’s reduced to her lips, beefy thighs or even a death mask in Warhol’s Marilyn, published by Sunday B. Morning (1967). Her face appears as a concrete ghost in Daniel Authouart’s triptych, Taxi on Broadway (2002). Her lush figure is reduced to her geometrical components in Canadian artist Claude Roussel’s Hommage à Duchamp et Marilyn (1975).

With her image chopped and cropped, she’s the sum total of body parts ready made for every imagination, her nipples framed for our mind’s eye by photographer Bert Stern’s The Last Sitting shoot in 1962, her bare right shoulder forever fixed in the collective imagination due to its emergence from a tangle of sheets in Toronto photographer Douglas Kirkland’s One Night with Marilyn in 1961.

For the McMichael, “Life as a Legend” was trimmed down to some 200 works from the original 300. The difference is made up by “Marilyn in Canada,” a parallel exhibition curated by Chris Finn that evolves via publicity shots mostly from two films Monroe shot in Canada. Niagara, filmed in 1952 on the Canadian side of the border, was her first major part. River of No Return, shot in Banff the next summer — and after Monroe had become a huge star — was directed by Otto Preminger who came to deeply loathe his star and her late arrivals.

Finn, for his part, is ready to deflect criticism from anyone shocked by thoughts of Monroe’s skirts billowing sky-high before a pristine grove of Tom Thomson scotch pines.

Part of the McMichael mandate says the curator “is to reference ideas about influences on our cultural identity, on pop-cultural influences, particularly the image sources of American culture coming through film and other sources. ‘Monroe in Canada’ references the legacy she has left within Canada, with visual artists referencing her image and some poets offering their remembrances of her.”

Monroe’s triumphant blondeness is certainly placed in a Canadian context — a vividly red canoe, actually — in Voyage 1 (2010) by Bonnie Baxter. As recreated for this staged digital photograph by the American-born Quebec artist, Monroe’s signature hairdo — a sign of all Yankee culture? — is the only bright spot against encroaching Canuck gloom.

For the McMichael, Marilyn’s enduring tragic bombshell reputation will likely bring an attendance boost to the gallery, which late last year lost its highly regarded CEO Thomas Smart after only four years, and is now enduring a rebuilding program outdoors.

Besides, if the McMichael didn’t grab the show, another local gallery likely would have, given the current show-business frame of the collective curatorial mind.

The McMichael’s timing also helps its cause. The Monroe estate — controlled for years by Anna Mizrahi Strasberg, the widow of Lee Strasberg, Monroe’s acting teacher — is increasingly aggressive in its marketing strategies. At least two Monroe-based movies are in the pipeline: Blonde, with Naomi Watts, and My Week with Marilyn, with Michelle Williams. And there’s seemingly a bottomless treasure trove of Monroe ephemera perfect for recycling. Vanity Fair last November publishing excerpts from Fragments, Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters, a collection of writing that includes every jotting Monroe committed to paper. (“My feeling doesn’t happen to swell into words,” goes one of her fragments from Fragments.)

“There’s a new generation really fascinated with her,” says Adamowicz-Clements. “Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie and Gwen Stefani are trying to interpret her. I also think there is ongoing interest in the tragic aspect of her life — my friends and I are still talking about how she died — and there’s this sense of wishing to go back and rescue her.”

Peter Goddard is a freelance writer. He can be reached at peter_g1@sympatico.ca


WHAT: “Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe” and “Marilyn in Canada”

WHERE: McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg

WHEN: Feb. 19 to May 15


Moonsplash in Anguilla

Source:  Caribbean Connection - By Melanie Reffes

(January 2011) Easily recognized by his brown hat and laid-back vibe,
Bankie Banx is one of Anguilla’sBankie%20Banx_small national treasures delighting crowds with his rockin’ reggae for nearly three decades. With twelve critically-acclaimed albums to his credit, this multi-talented dynamo is also the heart and soul of Moonsplash - the longest running independent music festival in the Eastern Caribbean and the island’s most popular event held every year under the full moon in March. This year it will be held March 17-20.

“Moonsplash is an intimate festival because our stage is a traditional Anguillan wooden boat.”  Bankie says, enjoying breakfast at the uber-luxe CuisinArt Resort, a festival sponsor. “I like to call our crowd a ‘salt and pepper’ audience because we get a great mix of locals and tourists of all ages.”

The year 2010 marked the 20th anniversary for the reggae blow-out staged at Bankie’s beloved Dune Preserve Beach Bar, land his family has owned since he was a small boy. “We’d go to the beach to barbecue under the stars, roast corn and play the guitar” he smiles. “We’ve come a long way since then.”

Moonsplash 2010 rocked with reggae superstar Gregory Isaacs and favourites Marcia Griffiths and John Holt who returned to Anguilla to join the “Family Reunion” – the theme of the 2010 festival.

Over twenty years Moonsplash has attracted an A-list roster from Rita Marley and Peter Cetera to Buju Banton
Cuisinartmain_small and Jimmy Buffett, who played to thousands during Moonsplash 2007.

“Bankie breathes life into Anguilla each and every Moonsplash” said Marie Walker, tourism director, North America, “While Anguilla continues to encourage the traveler in search of true respite, occasionally she throws in something extra spicy like our Moonsplash event to get the juices going.“

Born Clement Ashley Banks in 1953, his raspy baritone has been described as a cross between Bob Marley and Bob Dylan and his style a blend of folk, reggae, R&B and jazz. Affectionately dubbed the "Anguillan “Bob Dylan", he has performed with Dylan, toured with Jimmy Cliff and played benefit concerts with Paul Simon and Gloria Estefan. His first album, “Roots and Herbs”, hit the music world by storm and his twelfth CD, “The News”, is a popular download on iTunes and Amazon.com.

Following a tour that took him to clubs across the USA, Bankie is ready for Moonsplash 2011. “I’m proud of the festival because it boosts tourism, fills hotel rooms and ferries and gives plenty of work for our taxi drivers.”

In addition to music, Bankie is a champion of arts education and environmental preservation. Proceeds from his CD “Mighty Wind”, helped to rebuild racing boats destroyed by Hurricane Lenny in 1999. In 2005, he co-created Project Stingray which provides positive alternatives to crime and violence for local youth.

Putting Anguilla on the reggae map, Moonsplash is a musical mainstay on the March calendar for fans around the world.

“The Anguilla Tourist Board recognizes the importance of the Moonsplash Music Festival to the promotion of events on Anguilla” states Candis Niles, director of tourism. “We are proud to salute our musical icon, Bankie Banx, on the celebration of the 20th anniversary of this international Reggae event.”



Milos Raonic's Run Ends In Loss To Roddick In Memphis Final

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(February 20, 2011) MEMPHIS, TENN.— Milos Raonic's dazzling run at the ATP Tour event in Memphis endedMilos%20Raonic%202011_small in defeat.

The 20-year-old Canadian dropped a hard-fought 7-6 (7), 6-7 (11), 6-4 decision to American Andy Roddick in the final of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships on Sunday.

Raonic, of Thornhill, Ont., was gunning for his second consecutive ATP Tour victory after winning last weekend in San Jose, Calif.

“It's the end of two long weeks,” said Raonic, who leaves Monday for his next event in Acapulco. “I just gave it everything I had. It didn't work out my way. Nevertheless, it was a brilliant final, I think, and it was a lot I pushed out of him and he's been in the top 10 for how many years now. It's a positive outlook, something to be very proud and happy with.”

His surprising two-week performance will move him to around No. 37 in the tennis world rankings. He finished 2010 ranked No. 156.

“He's as exciting of a talent as we've seen in a while,” Roddick said of Raonic. “The good news for him is he's going to be able to learn on the run because that serve is going to win him a lot of matches, even if he goes up and down with his play because it's one of the biggest serves I've seen.”

Roddick polished off the two-hour 36-minute match by diving to put his racket on the ball for a winner down the line that broke Raonic for the victory.

“That's the best shot I've ever hit in my life, considering the circumstance ...,” Roddick said. “I don't really remember much else besides the fact that I went for the ball, and I hit it. I didn't really think too much of it. I was already in my head, I was like, 'There's no way,' and then I heard people cheering. I was like, 'There's no way that went in. I guess it did.'“

The top-seeded Roddick becomes the eighth American with at least 30 titles, only three behind the late Arthur Ashe. He also has at least one title in 11 straight years, something only Roger Federer has done among active players.

“I think I was very fortunate. I feel like I got outplayed, I just stuck around and kept trying,” Roddick said. “What a memorable 30th victory for me. I couldn't be happier to do it in Memphis.”

Roddick picked up the US$264,000 winner's check, his third in Memphis. He also becomes only the third player to win at least three titles in Memphis since 1976, joining Tommy Haas (1999, 2006-07) and Jimmy Connors, who won four (1978-78, 1983-84).

Earlier, Toronto's Daniel Nestor teamed with Max Mirnyi of Belarus to win the men's doubles title.

Raonic had 32 more aces and finished the week with 125. He hit 241 km/h to hold serve in the 10th game of the third set, but it wasn't enough. Roddick dove toward the corner and got his racket on the ball barely a foot off the ground before tumbling over, knocking his hat off.

Roddick immediately looked to follow the shot down the line before pulling himself up. He put his hat back on and then almost shrugged at what he had done.

“I think I may be on one of the YouTube most-viewed points,” Raonic said. “I was on the wrong end of the court. But at least I'll be on the (description).”

Raonic said he thought he had the point won based on where he put the shot compared to where Roddick was on the court.

“I think it's nice he had to come up with something that amazing to finish off the match,” Raonic said.

This was the first meeting between Raonic and Roddick, who ranks behind only Federer (67) and Rafael Nadal (43) for career wins among active players. Both have big serves, and each came into the final having been broken only four times during this event.

Roddick had been coughing this week and started slowly with a couple of double-faults and fought off a couple break points to hold serve. He couldn't get a point off Raonic's big serve until the 10th game, when the Canadian put a forehand into the net. Roddick broke him twice in the tiebreaker to go up 8-7 and then served up a 204-km/h ace of his own to take the first set. But he moved back, almost to the edge of the court, to give himself enough room to pick up Raonic's serve.

“It's a little lonely,” Roddick said. “I was literally having to move officials around on second serve. I said, 'He's coming there, so you're going to have to call it from a different angle. ... Not a lot of guys who force you to do that.”

They broke each other's serve early in the second set before holding serve into another tiebreaker. Raonic converted on his third set point after Roddick hit a backhand wide off his serve and then hit a forehand long.

In the third set, Roddick had a chance to close out the match early as he broke Raonic and held serve to go up 4-1.

But Raonic broke back, converting on his fifth break point to pull to 4-3. Roddick was up 5-4 with a chance to break Raonic at 30-40 only to put a backhand into the net. Facing deuce, Raonic served up his 241-km/h ace and then hit a backhand cross-court for the winner.

Raonic tied the final game at 30 when Roddick put a forehand into the net by doing the same. That set up the final point for Roddick's exciting dive to finish off the match.

Bayne, 20, Makes History At Daytona 500

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(February 20, 2011) DAYTONA BEACH, FLA.—Dale Earnhardt Jr. insisted he didn’t believe in fairy tales andTrevor%20Bayne_small happy endings.

Trevor Bayne was too young to know any better.

Bayne, in just his second Sprint Cup Series start, pulled off a stunning victory in his first Daytona 500 on Sunday, becoming the youngest winner in the 53 years of the Great American Race. Bayne, who turned 20 the day before the biggest race of his career, took the Wood Brothers back to Victory Lane for the first time since 2001.

As he crossed the line, Bayne screamed into his radio: “Are you kidding me?!”

The rookie had been great throughout Speedweeks in the No. 21 Ford, even proving his mettle by pushing four-time champion Jeff Gordon for most of a qualifying race.

With the win, Bayne breaks Gordon’s mark as the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history. Gordon was 26 when he won the 500 in 1997.

“I think it’s very cool. Trevor’s a good kid, and I love the Wood Brothers,” Gordon said. “I’m really happy for him. And I think it’s great for the sport. To have a young talent like that — he’s got that spark, you know?”

The victory for NASCAR pioneers Leonard and Glen Wood ended a 10-year-losing streak, and came the week of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

That anniversary had everyone almost certain Sunday’s win would go to Earnhardt Jr., the prodigal son, who shied away from the suggestion that the stars were lined up for a spectacular tribute to his father.

Bayne, whose official website says “Coming Soon,” never even allowed himself to daydream about such a magical finish.

“Our first 500, are you kidding me?” said Bayne, who needed directions to Victory Lane. “Wow. This is unbelievable.”

The race had a record 74 lead changes among 22 drivers, and a record 16 cautions that wiped out many of the leaders, including Earnhardt Jr. on the first attempt at NASCAR’s version of overtime. It put Bayne out front with a slew of unusual suspects.

David Ragan, winless in 147 career starts, was actually leading the field on NASCAR’s first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. But he was flagged for changing lanes before the starting line, then an accident that collected Earnhardt in the middle of the pack brought out the caution, and Bayne inherited the lead.

But he had two-time series champion Tony Stewart, now winless in 13 career Daytona 500s, lurking behind with veterans Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch, who had collected two previous wins over Speedweeks. All were chomping at the bit for their first Daytona 500 title, but Bayne never blinked, holding his gas pedal down wide open as he staved off every challenge over the two-lap final shootout.

“I’ve never been to a racetrack with this many people!” he yelled in Victory Lane.

Edwards wound up second in a Ford and was followed by David Gilliland, Labonte and Busch.

Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth, Regan Smith seventh, and Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Martin rounded out the top 10.

Earnhardt Jr. wound up 24th.

The race was a battle of attrition, thanks to the dicey two-car tandem racing at nearly 200 m.p.h. that was the norm throughout Speedweeks.

Hendrick Motorsports had a rough start to the season as three of the team’s four cars, including five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, were involved in an early 14-car wreck.

Gordon, who started on the front row, and veteran Mark Martin also sustained damage in the melee.

Gordon questioned the aggressiveness of his fellow drivers, especially so early in the race.

“What I don’t quite understand is why guys are doing it three-wide, three-deep running for 28th,” he said.

Video: Blake Griffin Wins NBA Dunk Contest by Leaping over Car

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 20, 2011) *With a gospel choir at midcourt encouraging him to fly,
Blake Griffin soared over a car and threw down a two-handed dunk.

The rookie’s remarkable leap won the slam-dunk contest, and it also drove home the clear point of all-star Saturday: The Los Angeles Clippers’ rising star is just at the beginning of one thrilling ride.

Griffin easily cleared the hood of the 2011 Kia Optima and caught a pass from teammate Baron Davis out of the sunroof while the Crenshaw Select Choir sang “I Believe I Can Fly,” winning the 26th NBA dunk contest in iconic style before his hometown fans.

“There’s a little pressure on us to really put on a show, but I thought those guys all did a great job,” said Griffin, who beat Washington’s Javale McGee in the final.

“When they first came to me … they said there were no rules,” Griffin said. “I was like, ‘So I can jump over a car? Yeah? Oh, maybe I have to do it now.’

Read MORE of this story at the GlobeAndMail.com.

Watch the dunk HERE:

Carmelo Anthony Believes He’ll Thrive In New York

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(February 24, 2011) NEW YORK— Carmelo Anthony believes it takes a certain kind of person to dcarmelo_1207702cl-3_smalleal with New York — and he's the one.

“I've been through so much in my short career so far, so for me to deal with you guys on a daily basis, I think it's easy,” the all-star forward told reporters at a packed news conference Wednesday before his first game with the Knicks.

“Is it going to be an easy transition for me? No. Is it going to be a lot of challenges? Yes. Is it going to be a lot of expectations? Yes. But I'm willing to accept all of them challenges.”

The Knicks picked up Anthony from the Nuggets on Tuesday in a three-team, 13-player deal with Denver and Minnesota. Hours before his debut against the Milwaukee Bucks, Anthony arrived at Madison Square Garden to get some shots in.

“I felt like I was still coming in just for a shootaround on an opposing team,” he said. “It didn't really sink in yet — the fact that I'm a New York Knick. I feel like I'm still dreaming right now.”

Anthony, who signed a $65-million, three-year extension before the deal was completed, will join fellow all-star Amare Stoudemire in the frontcourt, giving the Knicks the potent duo they hoped they could assemble last summer in free agency.

“Will we win a championship this year? Who knows?” said Anthony, who spoke about 10 minutes. “That takes time. But at the end of the day, we're moving into the right direction. I felt like I wanted to be part of an organization, part of a team who had some upside and knew what the future was holding.”

Anthony was about to fly from Los Angeles to Denver for practice Monday after the all-star game when he got a call not to go anywhere quite yet. Finally, word came that he was getting his wish to join New York after months of uncertainty and trade rumours.

Not everything was cleared up even after the deal was done. MSG chairman James Dolan felt the need at the start of Wednesday's news conference to again deny reports he had removed team president Donnie Walsh from negotiations while being advised by Isiah Thomas.

“While Isiah Thomas is a friend of mine, a very good friend of mine, he was not at all involved in this process,” Dolan said. “He wasn't advising me or telling me what to do in any way, and any reports that implied he was doing that are simply untrue and a fiction in somebody's mind.”

The Knicks got guards Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter and forwards Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams from Denver. New York dealt forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, guard Raymond Felton and centre Timofey Mozgov to the Nuggets.

New York also shipped centres Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph to Minnesota for forward Corey Brewer. Denver acquired centre Kosta Koufos from Minnesota, plus New York's first-round draft pick in 2014, second-round picks in 2012 and 2013 and cash.

The Knicks haven't made the playoffs since 2004. They are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference in their first season since acquiring Stoudemire from Phoenix last summer. Stoudemire has said the blockbuster deal could make them better equipped to face teams like Boston and Miami, which already have multiple all-stars, in the post-season.

“I know we got to jell. We got to get our chemistry down,” Anthony said. “At the same time, we've got to roll. We got things to go out there and accomplish. We got goals to reach, and it starts now.”


20-Minute Home Fitness Workout

Raphael Calzadilla, BA, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

If you’ve suddenly been hit with a busy schedule or just need something quick, I have the
home fitness workout for you.

This series of fitness workout movements will take about 20 minutes or less. Yep, you’re reading correctly — just 20 minutes. You can do them 3-4 times per week. Your entire body will be stimulated, and you’ll feel rejuvenated without all the added stress of having to go to the gym.

I’ve designed this routine so that one exercise stimulates multiple muscle groups. This way, you’ll get the best bang for your buck in the least amount of time. Perform each exercise in succession. After completing one movement, immediately continue to the next one. After you’ve completed all the movements, perform them one more time. Attempt 20-25 repetitions of each movement. Don’t worry if you can’t perform all the reps — it will come. If you’re a beginner, take your time and go at your own pace.

Click on the exercise name for a demonstration.

1. BENT-KNEE PUSH UPS Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder width apart and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Do not let your back arch and cave in. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward and stopping before your chest touches the floor. Contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body. Exhale while returning to the starting position. After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push-up.

2. LUNGE (with household cans) Stand straight with your feet together. Hold a can in each hand and keep your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. Contracting the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), push off your right foot slowly, returning to the starting position. Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set. Inhale while stepping forward. Exhale while returning to the starting position.

The step should be long enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor. Make sure your head is up and your back is straight. Your chest should be lifted, and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Your right knee should not pass your right foot, and you should be able to see your toes at all times. If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less-dominant leg first. Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

3. ABDOMINAL BICYCLE MANEUVER Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. This is a more advanced exercise, so don’t worry if you can’t perform a lot of them. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Also, don’t pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your tight abs have to work.

4. BENCH DIPS Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place palms on the bench with fingers wrapped around the edge. Place both feet on the other chair. Slide your upper body off the chair with your elbows nearly but not completely locked. Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. Contracting your triceps (back of the arm), extend your elbows and return to the starting position (stopping just short of the elbows fully extending). Inhale while lowering your body and exhale while returning to the starting position. Beginners should start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. As you progress, move your feet out further until your legs are straight with a slight bend in the knees.

5. ABDOMINAL DOUBLE CRUNCH Lie on the floor face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands crossed on your chest. Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position (stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor).

Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck. Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

There you have it! Five fitness workout exercises performed for two cycles in just 20 minutes. You’ll begin to notice a tighter feel in your muscles in a few weeks, and you will naturally perform more reps as time progresses — all in 20 minutes or less.


Since patience or tolerance comes from an ability to remain steadfast, to avoid being overwhelmed by adverse situations or conditions, we should not see patience as a sign of weakness or giving in, but rather as a sign of strength. Responding to a trying situation with patience and tolerance rather than reacting with a...nger and hatred involves active restraint, which arises from a strong, self-disciplined mind.


Source:  Dalai Lama