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


July 28, 2011

The world seems a mess with the devastation in Norway and flash floods in South Korea, just to mention a few.  Remember what to be thankful for, one being living in this great country.

Speaking of which, it's another summer long weekend in Canada with lots going on including
Caribana ... or what is it? ... the Caribbean Carnival, with the big parade on Saturday (full schedule below) under SCOOP.  Please celebrate safely!

After the parade, get your party shoes on for the
After Dark Caribana Party, which is the city's post Caribana parade party on Captain John's boat on Saturday, July 30th! I've been to this party before and if you like jamming to the classics, this is the spot!!  Now for sure you will be passing Yonge-Dundas Square so check out the FREE event called the Street Golf Tour And Concert on Sunday, July 31st.  Lots of free giveaways here with a great cause and purpose behind it. Check it all out below!

For all da Kink fans out there, there's now the musical version, and it hits Toronto (post U.S. shows) in August!  Featuring a new Canadian and U.S. ensemble!  A brand new musical score and a breathtaking, new monologue, so check it out under HOT EVENTS.

And check out my PHOTO GALLERY for some pics of Toronto's (via Jamaica)
Belinda Brady performing at Jamaica's Sumfest, holding down the good vibes, stellar performance and representing Canada! (Special thanks to Vivian Barclay who took the photos in support of Canadian talent!)

 In addition to all these event, this week's news includes the sudden passing of
Amy Winehouse (such a loss), as well as Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, NFL deal met and the upcoming TIFF, with lots LOTS more!

 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!


The Ultimate in Reggae Vs Soca – Friday, July 22

Ajahmae Live Entertainment

So many of you have lamented about the fact that there are no parties like this.  Finally, someone has put the best of both worlds together – reggae and soca.  The team that brought you Trinidad vs Jamaica Comedy Clash brings you the Reggae vs Soca musical event of the summer. 
FAHWARD; the experience of a dance and fete, all under one roof.  Move FAHWARD! The Toronto Carnival Edition, Friday, July 22nd at the Vue Nightclub.

Check out the promo video here!

Come hear CIUT's KingTurbo's Slingshot vs CHRY’s Island Explosion's DJ DOC. Tickets are only $15!

Receive a free promotional CD while supplies last. This event will be iconic.  The best jam in the west - FAHWARD!

FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2011
The Vue
195 Galaxy Blvd
(Dixon & Carlingview)
Doors Open At 10:00pm
Advanced Tickets $15
$20 At The Door
Info 416-428-0164

Jamaica House (Finch) 416-744-2913
Jamaica House ( Brampton ) 905-874-6811
Granny's ( Mississauga ) 905-272-4950
Island Mix (Pickering) 905-831-1649
Play De Record (Downtown) 416-586-1649
Nicey’s Scarborough 416-497-9717
Nicey’s Brampton 905-450-6045
Shine Barbershop 905-790-3031



After Dark Caribana Party – Saturday, July 30, 2011

Source: Top Rank Promotions

Top Rank Promotions (formally with the United Professionals) and Too Nubian Entertainment have been over the last 14 years providing  The
Caribana event post parade for those of us with discerning taste and the desire to get our party on with like-minded individuals , friends and family; that party takes place as always aboard Captain John’s Ship (air conditioned and remains docked)!

The music is orchestrated by some of the GTA’s most experienced (3 generations deep) and versatile DJ’s (Bump N’ Hustle, Back in the day, CHRY 105.5FM), including Juiceman Jonathan Shaw, DJ Niterider, DJ Kicks, Paul E. Lopes and Uncle Funke.

This party has consistently proven itself to be a highlight of the summer (large ballroom, lounge and open ships deck /patio).

As we have always maintained, “This Unique party is where the adults will be” so if your musical tastes run the gamut of Old school, RnB, Reggae, Soca, Dancehall, House, Disco, Hip Hop, Soul and Slow Jams  etc., it’s all going to be played.  Don’t miss out because all your friends will be here!

1 Queens Quay West
(Queens Quay and Yonge Street)
Toronto, Ontario
9: 30 Pm
$20 in Advance $30 @door B4 Midnight


Free Street Golf Tour And Concert - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Revolutionary STREET GOLF TOUR and CONCERT at Yonge-Dundas Square, Caribana Sunday, July 31 (all day) features a Super Mini Golf Course (computer simulators, driving/chipping nets, etc.), prizes to win at each hole, FREE PGA Certified Coaching Session for beginners, extra tips from a Special Guest Professional Golf Player, skills contests including hole-in-one, fastest swing, longest swing and perfect swing challenges, live DJs, music artists and more!  Grand Prizes include a chance to play in the Angus Glen BPL ROSE GGA Golf Tournament on August 28th! 

We are driving to promote the Holistic and Transcendent Benefits of
Golf, especially as it relates to developing concentration, focus, character, etiquette, vision and goals.  Funds raised will support the Grassroots Golf Association, where you can sign up to received Sponsored Golf Equipment, Sponsored Professional Golf Coaching, the best Certified Life Coaching and Business Coaching!  All ages are invited to Pre-Register in the Street Golf Tour Super Mini Tournament in advance for half price at www.streetgolftour.com or info@streetgolftour.com.  Limited same day registrations will be accepted.  See you there!

"Golf brings out your assets and liabilities as a person.  The longer you play, the more certain you are that a man's performance is the outward manifestation of who, in his heart, he really thinks he is."
-Hale Irwin (3 time U.S. Open Champ, World Golf Hall of Fame)

SUNDAY, JULY 31, 2011
1 Dundas Street East
11:00 am
(Visit website for Super Mini Golf Tournament Entry Fee and Skills Contest Entry Fee to Win CA$H and PRIZES


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

Source: Trey Anthony Studios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call 416-973-4000 or visit Harbourfront Centre HERE

View the exciting Kink trailer:


Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jul 27, 2011) Formerly Caribana, the Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival hits the streets and stages of Toronto this summer for its 43rd year, featuring events that celebrate the music, cuisine and arts of the Caribbean region.

This popular event features some of the biggest highlights of the summer including the Caribana Grand Parade, Annual Gala and the new tent villages.

Known for drawing close to a million spectators in past years, the Caribbean Carnival is the largest cultural festival of its kind in North America.

The current schedule is as follows:

Grand Parade
Saturday, July 30

Place: Exhibition Place & Lakeshore Blvd
Date: Saturday, July 30 at 10:00am
Cost: Free/VIP - $50/Seated Area - $15.00

This is the marquee parade that is the showcase of the Festival.

The Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival Lime

Ontario Place
Date: Sunday, July 31 to Monday, August 1
Cost: Free

Continuing the tropical Caribbean ambience of the festival, cool down on the south beach..


In Memoriam: The Wasting Of Winehouse

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Jul 23, 2011) One of the saddest things about Amy Winehouse’s untimely passing is that the floodgates are about to open on her recorded vaults and most of what comes out will not be properly representative of her talents.

Winehouse, who was found dead of indeterminate causes at just 27 years of age in her London apartment on Saturday morning, only left us with a two-album legacy. So while 2003’s Frank and 2006’s smash hit Back to Black — both showcases for a genuinely gifted singer with a classic, saucy R&B purr and audible star power to burn — will now inevitably return to heavy rotation for a few weeks, there’s a gaping hole in the Winehouse market that someone will soon see fit to fill.

We’ll have a greatest-hits compilation by the end of the year, no doubt,
and then it will come time to start excavating unreleased material from live recordings and the various aborted sessions that were reportedly attempted over the past five years. If she had a standard recording contract, Winehouse’s estate likely owes her label another three or four albums’ worth of something. And the music business being what it is, a business, we’re getting something. Some of the music will be okay, some of it perhaps not. Regardless, though, none of the cash-ins on her fate will be the follow-up to Back to Black that poor Winehouse never got around to making. And that’s too bad because that might well have been Amy Winehouse’s classic.

Frank and Back to Black are fine records in their own right, but the latter didn’t have it all in place quite yet. It was the sound of a performer coming into her own, letting her troubled-but-charismatic personality breathe through the songs — oh, how many times we’re going to hear “Rehab” in the days ahead as an easy substitute for trying to understand the complexity of problems that drove her to an early end — and on the ensuing tour for that album you could see Winehouse growing into her growing stardom.

Sadly, rather than rising to the position she might eventually have held in the pantheon of great pop divas, stardom gave her the time, the money and the tools to destroy herself.

She was the real deal, though, if you were lucky enough to catch her on a good day. You could tell Winehouse was finally going to blow up in the spring of 2007 when she played a handful of dates at the South by Southwest festival in Austin and seduced pretty much every musician, music journalist and music-biz professional who saw her perform. I still remember my friend Jerry turning to me during her set at La Zona Rosa and giving her the enthusiastic assessment “Bitch can sing.”

She was the talk of SXSW that year, albeit in some instances as much for her evident enthusiasm for alcohol as for her prowling command of the stage. But she was holding it together pretty well then and by the end of the year she was massive on both sides of the Atlantic.

A few months after that, the doors had suddenly opened wide for a brace of young British females — Adele, Estelle and Duffy among them — flaunting a similarly retro-leaning R&B/soul sound. Even veteran belter Sharon Jones, a singer with nearly 20 years on Winehouse, suddenly got a further boost towards mainstream popularity thanks to the fact that both of them shared ace Brooklyn soul-funk outfit the Dap-Kings as their backing band.

It all went wrong remarkably quickly, of course, with much lurid tabloid appeal. By May of 2008, even Winehouse’s producer, right-hand man and friend Mark Ronson had abandoned ship. They couldn’t even get one song, the theme song for the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, done. “I’m not sure Amy is ready to work on music yet,” said Ronson — who on Saturday was mourning the loss of his “musical soulmate” on Twitter — at the time.

We all know where it ended up, so now we’re left to wonder what might have been. After all those years of drink, drugs and general madness, Winehouse would certainly have done enough living to make a proper, world-weary soul record if she’d managed to haul herself together.

Alas, as anyone who’s watched any of those YouTube videos of a drunken shell of Amy Winehouse getting booed offstage in Belgrade last month knows, hauling herself together apparently wasn’t in the cards. I’d rather not remember that Amy Winehouse.

I’d rather remember the catty siren who charmed me and everyone around me so easily four years ago in Austin. Because that Amy Winehouse really was a star.

Winehouse Family, Friends Attend Singer's Funeral

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Jul 26, 2011) Friends and family said goodbye to Amy Winehouse Tuesday with prayers, tears, laughter and song at a funeral ceremony in London.

The singer's father, mother and brother and close friends, along with band members and celebrities - including producer Mark Ronson and media personality Kelly Osbourne, her hair piled beehive-high in an echo of the singer's trademark style - were among several hundred mourners attending the service at Edgwarebury Cemetery in north London.

Photographers and a few fans lined the lane outside.

The Jewish service was led by a rabbi and included prayers in English and Hebrew and reminiscences from Winehouse's father, Mitch Winehouse. The cab driver and jazz singer, who helped foster his daughter's love of music, ended his eulogy with the words "Goodnight, my angel, sleep tight. Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much."

It ended with a rendition of Carole King's So Far Away, one of Winehouse's favourite songs.

"Mitch was funny, he told some great stories from childhood about how headstrong she was, and clearly the family and friends recognized the stories and laughed along," said family spokesman Chris Goodman.

"He stressed so many times she was happier now than she had ever been and he spoke about her boyfriend and paid tribute to a lot of people in her life."

The service was being followed by cremation at London's Golders Green Crematorium before the family begins Shiva, a Jewish traditional period of mourning.

The soul diva, who had battled alcohol and drug addiction, was found dead Saturday at her London home. She was 27.

An autopsy held Monday failed to determine the cause of the singer's death. Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests, which will take two to four weeks.

On Monday the singer's father, mother and brother visited the house where she died, thanking mourners who had left flowers and cards.

Father Mitch Winehouse said "Amy was about one thing and that was love."

"Her whole life was devoted to her family and her friends and to you guys as well," he told fans.

Winehouse released only two albums in her short career - winning five Grammy awards for the second, "Back to Black" - and often made headlines because of drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, destructive relationships and abortive performances.

Since her death, her records have re-entered album charts around the world, and tributes have poured in from fans and fellow musicians.

George Michael called her "the most soulful vocalist this country has ever seen," and soul singer Adele said she "paved the way for artists like me and made people excited about British music again."

TIFF 2011: U2 Documentary Headlines Line-Up

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Jul 26, 2011) TIFF aims to start off rocking Sept. 8 by showing a documentary for the first time on opening-night in its 36-year history.

From the Sky Down, Davis Guggenheim’s doc on Irish rock superstars
U2, will open this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF officials announced Tuesday.

The band members, including lead singer Bono, will most likely be in attendance at the Roy Thomson Hall world premiere.

Another rock doc, Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam Twenty, will also premiere at TIFF, putting the spotlight on one of the enduring bands of the 1990s grunge explosion out of Seattle.

There’s another musical connection in Madonna’s W.E., a romance starring Abbie Cornish and James D’Arcy that will make its North American premiere at TIFF.

The films are amongst the 10 Gala and 42 Special Presentations features announced for its Sept. 8 to 18 grand event, many of them world premieres.

Also announced were two films starring George Clooney: Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and The Ides of March, which Clooney both acted in and directed.

He’ll be at TIFF, and so likely will be stars of other announced films, including Brad Pitt (Moneyball), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Kristen Wiig (Friends With Kids), Rachel Weisz (The Deep Blue Sea), Ralph Fiennes (Coriolanus), Juliette Binoche (Elles), Geoffrey Rush (The Eye of the Storm), Michael Fassbender (Shame), and many more.

Two big Canadian films are in the Galas: Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, and David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, starring Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley.

This year’s festival marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, which occurred midway through 2001’s fest.

Piers Handling, TIFF’s CEO and co-director, said a specially-commissioned short film to solemnly observe the anniversary will be screened.

Details are to be announced later, but the single-director film will “honour the broader community touched by this event (9/11),” Handling said.

Prior to the 10 a.m. announcement at a Hyatt Regency Hotel news conference, TIFF’s Twitter-savvy co-director Cameron Bailey tweeted the titles of three world premieres, as a teaser of the bounty to come. They are all representative of the fest’s vast reach:

 • Huh Jong-ho’s “Countdown,” with Korea’s Jeon Do-yeon

 • Luc Besson’s “The Lady,” with Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis

 • Michael Winterbottom’sTrishna,” with Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed

‘Football Is Back’: NFL Deal Is Officially Done

Source: www.thestar.com - Barry Wilner and Howard Fendrich

(Jul 25, 2011) WASHINGTON—After months of public nastiness and private negotiations, of court filings and rulings, of players and owners squabbling over more than $9 billion (all figures U.S.) a year, NFL fans finally saw the handshake and heard the words they awaited: “Football’s back.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith both used that phrase while standing shoulder-to-shoulder Monday, announcing their agreement on a 10-year deal to end the lockout that began in March.

Then came what may truly be the lasting image of the dispute’s resolution: Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman Jeff Saturday wrapped one of his burly arms around New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and enveloped him in a hug — a gesture that symbolized the acrimony’s end more than any statement could.

“I’d like, on behalf of both sides, to apologize to the fans: For the las
t five, six months we’ve been talking about the business of football — and not what goes on, on the field, and building the teams in each market,” Kraft said. “But the end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade.”

Owners can point to victories, such as gaining a higher percentage of all revenue, one of the central issues — they get 53 per cent, players 47 per cent; the old deal was closer to 50-50. There’s also a new system that will rein in spending on contracts for first-round draft picks.

Players, meanwhile, persuaded teams to commit to spending nearly all of their salary cap space in cash and won changes to off-season and in-season practice rules that should make the game safer.

One important compromise came on expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games, which owners favoured. That can be revisited for the 2013 season, but players must approve any change.

“Both parties were trying to stand their ground — and rightfully so,” said Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, one of the 10 named plaintiffs in the players’ anti-trust suit against the league that will not be dropped. “In the end, against all the negativity that was out there publicly, they took their time and hammered out what I think is going to turn out to be one of the best deals in the history of sports.”

An interesting choice of phrase, given that Smith and some players grew fond of calling the owners’ last offer before talks fell apart in March “probably the worst deal in sports history.”

Here was Smith’s take Monday: “We didn’t get everything that either side wanted ... but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced.”

Now comes frenzied football activity, starting immediately. Club facilities will open to players Tuesday, when 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents can be signed, and teams can begin talking to veteran free agents. Training camps for some teams may begin as soon as Wednesday.

“Chaos,” said Jets fullback Tony Richardson, a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee. “That’s the best word for it.”

Only one exhibition game was lost: the Hall of Fame opener between the Bears and Rams, scheduled for Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.

Otherwise, the entire pre-season and regular-season schedules remain intact.

“Our players can’t be more excited about going back to doing the thing they love the most,” NFLPA president Kevin Mawae said. “We always said during this process we would do a deal when it’s right and when it’s the right deal. Our players did that. We stuck it out to the end.”

When Saturday spoke to reporters, he offered an eloquent tribute to Kraft, lauding him as “a man who helped us save football,” and to Kraft’s wife, Myra, who died Wednesday from cancer.

“A special thanks to Myra Kraft, who even in her weakest moment allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out,” Saturday said. “Without him, this deal does not get done.”

Kraft, meanwhile, took a verbal jab at the nearby White House and Congress, saying: “I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington, because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was.”

Owners overwhelmingly approved a proposal to end the dispute Thursday, but some unresolved issues needed to be reviewed to satisfy players. The sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up nearly every detail by about 3 a.m. Monday on a final pact that runs through the 2020 season and can’t be terminated before then.

That’s significant because the old collective bargaining agreement contained an opt-out clause, and owners exercised it in 2008. That led to the contract expiring when talks broke down March 11; hours later, owners locked out the players, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987 — and longest in league history.

“I know it has been a very long process since the day we stood here that night in March,” Smith said in a brief appearance about 20 minutes before being joined by Goodell and three owners. “But our guys stood together when nobody thought we would. And football is back because of it.”

As he spoke, Smith was surrounded by some players, including Saints quarterback Drew Brees, one of 10 plaintiffs in the anti-trust lawsuit that players filed against the league March 11. Two unanimous NFLPA leadership votes cleared the way for that case to be dropped and the lockout to go away: first, to recommend to the plaintiffs that they accept the settlement; second, to recommend that all 1,900 players re-establish the union.

All players now will take a vote to re-certify the union — it was dissolved March 11, turning the NFLPA into a trade association — and then one more vote to approve the final CBA. It all needs to be wrapped up by Aug. 4 to make everything official, something everyone involved believes will happen without a hitch.

Only once it is back to being a union can the NFLPA finish the contract, covering remaining items such as player discipline, drug testing, disability programs and pensions.

Several people involved in the negotiations praised Goodell and Smith for working with each other to try get the sides to arrive at a deal.

“If we don’t have a good relationship, it hurts the game and the business of football,” Smith said. “I’m not sure any two people have ever come together in a more compressed, public, interesting time than Roger and I.”

Now get set for a wild week.

On Tuesday, clubs can begin talking to veteran free agents, who can sign as soon as Friday. On Wednesday, training camps will start to open.

The major economic framework for the deal was worked out more than a week ago.

That included dividing revenue; a per-club cap of about $120 million for salary and bonuses in 2011 — and at least that in 2012 and 2013 — plus about $22 million for benefits; a salary system to rein in spending on first-round draft picks; and unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons.

“If I don’t have to hear the word ‘lockout’ for a long time, I’ll be happy about that,” Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I know guys are ready to get back to work.”

U.S. Olympic Skier Kills Self After DUI Arrest

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jenni Dunning

(Jul 26, 2011) SALT LAKE CITY — Olympic silver medallist Jeret “Speedy” Peterson was found dead in a remote canyon in Utah in what police are calling a suicide.

Peterson, a freestyle skier who patented the so-called “Hurricane” and took second place at the Vancouver Games with it, called 911 before shooting himself, police said. The 29-year-old had been cited for drunken driving Friday in Hailey, Idaho and had pleaded not guilty.

Officers found Peterson late Monday night between Salt Lake City and Park City in Lambs Canyon. Police said a suicide note was found near Peterson's car; they declined to reveal what it said.

He was one of the most colourful of athletes, and he wore his heart on his sleeve — never more than on Feb. 26, 2010, when he walked off the mountain after taking second place — the silver medal — with tears streaming down his face.

“I know that a lot of people go through a lot of things in their life, and I just want them to realize they can overcome anything,” Peterson said that night. “There's light at the end of the tunnel and mine was silver and I love it.”

It was a poignant closing chapter to a career that, until then, had been filled with success on the smaller stages of his fringe sport but defined in the mainstream by his moment at the Turin Olympics where, after finishing seventh, he was sent home early after a minor scuffle with a buddy in the street.

Over the next months and years, he began telling his story.

In Italy, he was still reeling from the suicide of a friend, who had shot himself in front of Peterson only months before.

Peterson also had problems with alcohol and depression and admitted he had his own thoughts of suicide, all stemming from a childhood in which he was sexually abused and lost his 5-year-old sister to a drunken driver.

“Today is a sad day in our sport,” Bill Marolt, the CEO of the U.S. ski team, said in a statement Tuesday. “Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson was a great champion who will be missed and remembered as a positive, innovative force on not only his sport of freestyle aerials, but on the entire U.S. Freestyle Ski Team family and everyone he touched.”

Peterson got his nickname because of the big helmet he wore, one that made him look like Speed Racer of cartoon fame.

But quickly, he became better known for the “Hurricane” — a triple-twisting, double-flipping trick off the snowy ramp that was more difficult than anything anyone else would try.

It was high-risk, high-reward, and Peterson always insisted he'd have it no other way. It was a sight to behold when he landed it and the judges rewarded it. Helped by the huge difficulty marks for the jump, he still holds the two-jump scoring record of 268.70, set at Deer Valley in January 2007.

He had seven wins on the World Cup circuit, was the 2005 World Cup champion and a three-time American champion.

But the stats and the medals were only a fraction of the story.

Born with the heart of a gambler, he took that passion to Las Vegas and won $550,000 playing blackjack one night. But within years, he had given some of it away and lost even more in the tanking real estate market.

Trying to decide whether he wanted to stay in the sport after Turin, he took time off and started working in the construction business — a place, he said, where he could see the effort of a hard day's work without having to walk into the video room the next day and break it down on the TV screen.

But skiing was his passion, and he recommitted leading up to Vancouver. And what a payoff. He came in second that night, but hardly felt like a runner-up.

“I do it because I want to be the person I know I can be,” he said. “I've really changed things around in the last 3 1/2 years. This is my medal for everything I've overcome, and I'm ecstatic.”


Video: Warren Dean Flandez Ready To Pop

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jul 24, 2011) Warren Dean Flandez is a Vancouver singer with searing pipes, a Gap ad aesthetic and a knack for penning heartfelt, autobiographical tunes, but he still faces an “uphill battle” marketing his debut album Vintage Love.

“In Canada, I’m considered to be a lot more adult contemporary than they view me in the U.S., where they see me a little bit more urban,” said the performer, whose sound fuses Motown, hip hop and R&B in the spirit of John Legend and Maxwell, and who spends a lot of his time in California where his managers and several collaborators are based.

“We’ve been kind of on the fence about how to approach radio with Vintage Love. The initial feedback that we were getting from the suits, the labels, the program directors, is that they all seemed to like it, but are confused about how they’re going to push it on the Canadian format.”

Soul and R&B has traditionally had a tough time breaking in Canada. The likes of Tamia, Deborah Cox and Melanie Fiona signed to U.S. labels, making Jacksoul and Divine Brown rare stay-at-home successes. Many other deserving talents, such as Remy Shand and Glenn Lewis, simply drop out of sight.

“We don’t have an urban station, so you don’t really hear John Legend or Robin Thicke at all; Janelle Monae you don’t hear; Raphael Saadiq you don’t hear,” said Flandez of the dearth of contemporary R&B on Vancouver airwaves.

“What you’re hearing is Bruno Mars and Cee-Lo Green. My music is not quite that poppy or commercial yet.”

Thanks to social media, there’s a growing buzz for Flandez’s disc of polished, autobiographical tunes, which include a duet with Brown and a cover of Donny Hathaway’s “He Ain’t Heavy.” And he’s just inked a deal with fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch that will see his songs played in its stores across North America.

But the vocalist could have made it easier to find acceptance in Canada’s rock- and pop-driven market.

“I’ve had many influential industry folk who have told me to go the pop route,” said Flandez, who cited Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield and Stevie Wonder as early influences.

“My album was actually put on hold for a year, because I went back into the studio and tried to pop it up a little bit for marketing purposes. But it didn’t feel right; the authenticity wasn’t there.

“Then I figured if I made a record that was honest and that I could pour 150 percent of myself into that I would at least be fulfilled and that it would sell based on that fact.”

The only child of Filipino immigrants was born in Yellowknife and spent the bulk of his childhood in Edmonton, as the family followed his architect dad’s work.

Flandez played classical and jazz piano from age 6, but began singing much later.

“I had crazy asthma,” he explained. “When I was 15 a doctor told my mom to enrol me in voice lessons or a wind instrument. When my first vocal coach told me that I couldn’t sing, I said ‘I’m going to show her.’”

After winding up in a gospel choir directed by one-time Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie backup vocalist/keyboardist Checo Tohomaso, Flandez discovered his passion and tossed aside dreams to become a lawyer.

He’s now managed by Mitch Davis, son of record mogul Clive Davis who launched the careers of Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys.

With his own chart-topping turn in the balance, Flandez pays the bills with his 2-year-old artist development firm Studio Cloud 30.

“We do everything from grant writing to CD packaging to vocal lessons to songwriting workshops. I just wanted to create something I didn’t have when I started out. I began as a session singer. If I had had something like this, it would have been a lot easier for me.”

Canadian Youtube Sensation Signs Recording Deal After Gaga Cover

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(July 24, 2011) Winnipeg— An 11-year-old Winnipeg girl whose rendition of Lady Gaga's song “Born this way” turned her into an overnight YouTube sensation has signed a recording deal in the Philippines.

Maria Aragon's father, Veni Aragon, said his daughter is now in the Philippines to record the album and make some live appearances.

Aragon said the deal is with Star Records, a division of ABS-CBN, the Philippines' largest media and entertainment conglomerate.

Maria shot to fame in February after Lady Gaga, impressed with the girl's rendition of her song, retweeted a link to the video, which received more than 11 million hits in just one week.

She later went on to perform for talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife and earlier this month for Prince William and his wife Kate.

“I feel very blessed and I want to say thank you to everybody for your support,” the young singer said during an appearance on The Buzz TV in the Philippines on Sunday.

Maria is also making guest appearances with several local TV stations and is slated to record a song that will be used in a Filipino movie.

Veni Aragon, whose family is of Filipino descent, said that according to the two-year deal, Maria will record two albums.

He said he doesn't know yet how much the deal is worth.

“I don't know. My family is there, they haven't told me yet,” said Aragon, who said he had to stay behind in Winnipeg until he could get time off work.

“I'm going to follow them this 30th of July. That's the time I'll know how much.”

One thing he said he does know — Maria will be singing “Born This Way” on the first album.

While in the country, the family will also visit Maria's aunt and maternal grandmother. Aragon said Maria will return to Winnipeg on Sept. 10 in order to be back in time for school.

A story on the ABS-CBN website quoted Maria's mother as saying it was the family's first return to the Philippines in 14 years.

Veni Aragon said that Maria unfortunately had to cancel some appearances in Canada this summer in order to go to the Philippines, including singing at a Winnipeg Blue Bombers football game.

“We are proud of her because she's so talented. She's an amazing girl,” he said.

A Perfect Weeknd

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jason Richards

(Jul 25, 2011) After months shrouded in secrecy, Abel Tesfaye, best known as The Weeknd, made his public debut Sunday night in his hometown of Toronto. It was the perfect live start to what will be a thriving career, if he keeps up like this.

Not in ages has an R&B act created such a commotion. Little was required beyond the release of one brilliant, debased mixtape (House of Balloons) and the support of rapper Drake for the show to sell out in about the time it took you to read this paragraph.

The maelstrom of hype was palpable in the hours leading up to the event, as a lineup of ticket-holders and ticketless hopefuls stretched down College Street outside the Mod Club. Throughout the day, the price of scalped tickets, originally $20, climbed to levels normally reserved for U2 arena shows: $100. $120. $150. $200 — ten times the face value. Nuts.

Once inside, rumours of celebrity attendees spread: Lil Wayne. Diddy
. Justin Bieber. One person definitely there was Drake, whose grinning presence at a VIP balcony caused a stir and a frenzy of camera phones that prefigured The Weeknd's performance.

Finally, he emerged, in a camouflage jacket with the sleeves rolled up, and a Kramer-esque hairstyle. It was the first time most had ever seen him in person. At his first word — “Toronto” — the fashionable crowd that did not appear easy to impress went into conniptions. Flanked by a tight three-member band consisting of a bassist, keyboardist/backup singer, and a drummer, The Weeknd mostly let the music speak for itself, as Tesfaye launched into “High For This” from House of Balloons.

“The Morning,” “Coming Down” (for which he played the keyboard, ending the song by clunking out a few discordant notes), “What You Need,” “The Party & The After Party,” “Rolling Stone” and “Wicked Games” followed. Tesfaye sang with remarkable fidelity to his on-record voice, intoning in falsetto and working his way throughout his short catalogue of dark anthems with an easy charisma. The show climaxed with a protracted electric guitar solo that went on for about a minute too long — a minor complaint.

The Weeknd is becoming known for bringing a dangerous, sexual edge to soul music, as D'Angelo, Sade and Prince once did. The fact that he could do this live without sacrificing any of his carefully constructed mystique is impressive.

Anonymous No More, This Weeknd Is Here To Stay

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff

The Weeknd
At Mod Club in Toronto on Sunday

(Jul 25, 2011)  “For a first show? I’ve never seen anything like this,” muttered one of the many gobsmacked concertgoers at the first-ever performance by enigmatic avant-R&B act
the Weeknd, also known as 20-year-old Torontonian Abel Tesfaye. Of course, the dude saying this in the bottle-service section of the Mod Club works for Diddy’s iconic rap label Bad Boy and was there alongside an apparent army of New York record label reps desperate to land this unsigned sensation, an even more unlikely scenario for a debut gig.

Despite the hype that threatened to overwhelm the Weeknd’s coming-out party – announced just 10 days in advance, it sold out in 90 minutes, with scalpers getting up to $300 and hundreds arriving hours early – the Weeknd met and at times transcended the show’s historic advance billing. (It also operated as a high-intensity rehearsal before The Weeknd play before thousands at Drake’s annual OVO Festival at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre on Sunday).

If there was any remaining doubt that the old music industry rules no longer applied, then Sunday’s Weeknd show laid that to rest. After self-releasing the free online album House of Balloons, a well-timed tweet by Drake sent the Weeknd soaring into the pop-cultural stratosphere. He landed on the coveted Polaris Prize shortlist, a first for a free download, received raves from Pitchfork to Rolling Stone and his single High For This is sound-tracking HBO’s ad campaign for Entourage.

Much like Drake, cheering him on from the VIP section, the Weeknd erupted from obscurity by eschewing club bangers for melancholy mood music and left-field samples like punk icons Siouxsie and the Banshees and indie heroes Beach House. Ground zero for their narcotic, nocturnal sound is Kanye West’s auto-tuned epic 808s and Heartbreak, but Tesfaye surpasses his source material thanks to his dry-ice falsetto and disquietingly sexual lyricism.

To transition into the live arena, he assembled a band – including Drake’s guitarist, who closed the set with an epic November Rain-style solo – to re-imagine the dark, electronic beatscapes of his production team, Doc McKinney and Illangelo, as a real-live rock show, albeit one still infused by Portishead-era trip-hop and post-millennial dubstep. But the real revelation was Tesfaye’s vocals, which proved even stronger onstage as he threw some Idol-ready runs into his tales of late-night, broken-hearted, drug-addled hookups.

Tesfaye seemed a bit nervous – not surprising for an artist who initially kept his name a secret, and even now banned cameras from the show. Though finally front and centre, he wore a camouflage jacket and remained strikingly still as if to be as unobtrusive as possible. Still, he confidently opened with High for This, causing the lit-fuse crowd to go off. At times he seemed taken aback by the reception, standing there, mike in both hands, staring out as the crowd sang his words back to him. It was an emotional night, and that came through in his voice, whether weaving through slow jams like The Party and the After Party or (relatively) upbeat romps like House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls.

During Wicked Games, the show’s epic peak, arms raising unironic lighters filled the air as his emotion-ravaged voice crooned “Bring your love baby/I can bring my shame/Bring the drugs baby/I can bring my pain” amidst a roiling rhythm and grinding guitar. The sing-alongs turned his abject loneliness into a communal catharsis. But the edge remained, be it the unrelenting dirtiness of Loft Music or the encore cut The Birds (Part 1) which used martial drums and strobe lights to amplify the implied threat: “Don’t make me make you fall in love.”

On new song Rolling Stone, Tesfaye sings “Baby I got you/Until you’re used to my face/And my mystery fades” which could’ve been his career epitaph if he’d faltered here. Until now, the Weeknd has existed as almost a figment of our collective imaginations, his ascent fuelled by anonymity, his communications coming via Twitter and Tumblr, his music existing only as web-distributed ones and zeroes. He could’ve dissipated like a dotcom bubble. But by bringing his aching digi-laments out of the Internet’s shadows and onto the stage, Tesfaye triumphantly proved that the Weeknd has no end in sight.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Posthumous Winehouse Music On The Way As She Tops Itunes

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jul 25, 2011) That new Amy Winehouse music will reach consumers is a matter of when, not if.

The troubled singer’s battle with drugs and alcohol may have kept her from touring properly, but she continued to record. And barring some rare legal manoeuvre by her parents or estate, those tracks will soon surface.

And with Monday’s iTunes Canada rankings of her albums Back to Black, Frank and Back to Black: The B Sides, at first, third and seventh, respectively, there is certainly demand.

First up, this fall, comes a tune that will recall Winehouse’s jazzy 2003 debut Frank. In March, the singer recorded the standard “Body & Soul” with iconic crooner Tony Bennett for Duets II, which also features Norah Jones, Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga.

Given the 84-year-old’s crackerjack team that produced the 2006 Grammy-winning Duets: An American Classic, expect the song — done at Abbey Road Studios in London — to be a polished, sophisticated version befitting her jazz roots.

And how appropriate that it’s a collaboration with Bennett, who just three weeks before her death, in a unique example of one celeb calling out another over addiction, expressed his concern for Winehouse.

He told The Guardian: “I'm worried about her and I'm praying for her. She'd help everyone by sobering up and cleaning up her spirituality.”

It doesn’t end there.

No doubt, the long delayed third album Winehouse had been working on for at least two years will hit shelves by Christmas. We can only hope that she had nearly concluded her vision for the disc to avoid the embarrassing posthumous patchwork that Michael Jackson’s label put out.

A year ago, she commented about the project, which was underway with producer Salaam Remi instead of 2006’s Back to Black’s guide Mark Ronson: “It's going to be very much the same as my second album, where there's a lot of jukebox stuff.”

No matter what it sounds like musically, the lyrics will be saucy, sarcastic and autobiographical.

On her first trip to Canada in 2004, Winehouse spoke with the Star about her approach to songwriting.

“I'm honest in my writing like I'm not in sometimes the way I live or other aspects of my life,” she said.

“I'm not even as honest with myself as I am in music. The music I love is all real, emotionally charged stuff. I know if my dark or deepest stuff is in there, people will relate to it.”

Johnny Reid Leads Canadian Country Music Award Nominations

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch Canadian Press

(Jul 27, 2011) As a teen growing up in rural B.C., Dean Brody loved to watch such acts as Prairie Oyster and Charlie Major headline the Canadian Country Music Awards each year.

Now it's his turn.

The Jaffray-born country crooner nabbed five nominations for this year's show, second only to Scottish-born, Toronto-bred country crossover sensation
Johnny Reid.

"Years ago, I never would have thought (this could happen),'' Brody said Wednesday, as the nominations were announced.

"If you'd have told that kid back then that this was going to happen someday, it would have blown my mind.''

Reid led the way with six nominations, including nods for fans' choice, single of the year, songwriter of the year, male artist of the year and album of the year, with Brody also earning nods in all of those categories.

Brody has won one CCMA award before - single of the year back in '09 - though he was sheepish when asked where he had stashed the trophy.

"I think it's in a box at home - we just moved,'' said Brody from under the brim of a straw hat. `"It means a lot to me but I don't want to like, display it for everybody to see.''

This year's awards will be held Sept. 12 at Hamilton's Copps Coliseum and broadcast on CBC.

Performers scheduled to take the stage include George Canyon, Terri Clark, Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, Ronnie Dunn, Paul Brandt and Brody, who believed Hamilton would provide a warm welcome.

"I'm from B.C., so I'm not really too familiar with Hamilton, but ... the couple times I've been there, people love country music,'' he said.

Nova Scotia-raised singer Canyon, Deric Ruttan of Bracebridge, Ont., and Gord Bamford from Lacombe, Alta., each earned four nominations apiece, while other multiple nominees included Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Clark and Doc Walker.

Tara Oram nabbed a nomination for female artist of the year, which surprised the Gander, N.L., native.

The 27-year-old only just issued her sophomore record, Revival, last week - too late for CCMA award consideration. And that was her first album since 2008's Chasing the Sun, which helped her earn the rising star award at the '09 gala. The CCMA award criteria, however, includes live and recorded performances.

"This nomination is a huge surprise, and it's so cool to be nominated when you've been away for two years,'' said Oram, who said she was already beginning work on a third album.

So how will she celebrate the unexpected honour?

"I'm going to go home, take a hot bath, relax, have some hot chocolate,'' she laughed. ``And that's about it, because I'm a house rat.''

Reid has been the big winner at two consecutive CCMA awards, hauling home 10 trophies over that span.

So it would appear that the 36-year-old is positioned as the front-runner again heading into this year's gala.

"Oh yeah,'' said Open Road Records founder Ron Kitchener, who's nominated for record company person of the year, and whose label roster includes Brody and several other artists competing with Reid.

"Johnny's won a bunch of awards and he's had a lot of great success and he's selling a bunch of records, so no question.... I think he is the front-runner but it's nice to see others nipping at his heels a little bit.''

Is there potential for an upset, then?

"I hope so,'' Kitchener replied with a smile.

Boyz II Men Return With Double Classic Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 21, 2011) *Legendary guy group, Boyz II Men is celebrating 20 years with their latest album, “Twenty.”

It’s a double CD project with 10 brand new songs plus 10 updated versions of classic Boyz II Men songs.

“We started with a pure love for music, so to be here twenty years later still doing what we love has been a pure blessing” comments Wanya Morris of the trio.

The group’s tenor and judge on hit breakout show NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” Shawn Stockman, remarked:

“From day one our fans have been amazing, they’ve seen us grow from boys to men, so we owe all our success to their continued support.” Nathan Morris commented. “No matter how many albums we have done through out the years, we always strive to put out the best sounding music possible. We are excited to be in the studio again with the guys who have been apart of some of our biggest hits to date, it’s a really good feeling.”

After years of success and wooing crowds, the group is finally making it happen again. The double album is due out this fall.

Katherine, Marlon, Tito, Jackie, La Toya Planning MJ Tribute Concert

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 22, 2011) *Some of Michael Jackson’s family members are organizing another tribute show in memory of the late superstar following a number of failed attempts to bring a commemorative concert to the stage.

According to the Los Angeles Times, mama Katherine is working on the event along with the singer’s siblings Marlon, Tito, Jackie and La Toya.

The concert, dubbed a “thriller of a show” in a press release from the Jackson family, will benefit charities in both the U.S. and U.K. and more details will be revealed in a press conference in Los Angeles scheduled for Monday (July 25).

Jermaine Jackson previously planned to honor his brother at a show in Vienna, Austria just months after the superstar passed away in 2009, but the plans were shelved along with another idea to host a concert in London on the 2010 anniversary of the star’s death.

The new concert is being coordinated by Jackson’s family along with promotion company Global Live Events, but does not involve Jackson’s estate, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Jay-Z, Kanye Announce Duo Name; CD Release Date; Tour Schedule

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 25, 2011) *A week after debuting their new single, “Otis,” off “Watch the Throne,” [scroll down to listen] Jay-Z and Kanye West have revealed their official joint name, “The Throne,” and dates for their “Watch the Throne Tour,” which begin Sept. 22, in Detroit. [scroll down for the complete schedule.]

“Watch the Throne” will be available on iTunes on August 8. On the same day, tickets for The Throne’s tour, powered by VoyR, will be made available at Ticketmaster.com and LiveNation.com. Fans who purchase their tickets online will receive a digital copy of the album.

The album hits brick-and-mortar stores on Aug. 12.

As previously reported, the album cover is designed by Ricardo Tisci of Givenchy, and tracks were recorded in London and Bath in the UK, Abu Dhabi, Sydney, Paris, and New York City.

Their Watch the Throne Tour has twenty-four dates confirmed thus far, listed below.

9/22/11 Detroit, MI Palace of Auburn Hills
9/24/11 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
9/25/11 Montreal, QC Bell Centre
9/27/11 East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center
9/28/11 East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center
9/29/11 Washington DC Verizon Center
10/4/11 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center
10/6/11 Chicago, IL United Center
10/7/11 Chicago, IL United Center
10/8/11 Minneapolis, MN Target Center
10/10/11 Denver, CO Pepsi Center
10/13/11 Tacoma, WA Tacoma Dome
10/14/11 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena
10/16/11 San Jose, CA HP Pavilion
10/17/11 Sacramento, CA Power Balance Pavilion
10/19/11 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center
10/20/11 Los Angeles, CA Staples Center
10/21/11 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena
10/25/11 Dallas, TX American Airlines Center
10/26/11 Houston, TX Toyota Center
10/29/11 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena
10/30/11 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
11/1/11 Baltimore, MD 1st Mariner Arena
11/3/11 Boston, MA TD Garden

Sia, Australia’s Famously Reluctant Star

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(Jul 23, 2011) Now you Sia: Now you don’t.

After her upcoming month-long tour, which includes a July 24 date at the Phoenix with opener Oh Land, Australia singer and songwriter Sia Furler is retiring from the road.

“This is my last tour indefinitely,” Furler announces from a Los Angeles salon, where she’s squeezing in a Sunday afternoon pre-tour appointment.

“I’m withdrawing from the spotlight.”

A recent bout of Graves’ disease, an incurable autoimmune condition resulting from an overactive thyroid, “made me re-evaluate everything,” she explains, but one gets the notion that she might have rendered the same decision regardless of health issues.

For example, she recently appeared as a song mentor on NBC’s The Voice at the behest of good pal Christina Aguilera. Furler wasn’t impressed.

“That was kind of a strange experience, to be frank,” says the 35-year-old Adelaide native. “It took two days out of my life and wasn’t very enjoyable.

“I was flattered to be asked because Christina’s one of the most incredible vocalists of our time, but it’s not for me. I love watching reality TV, but being part of making it was just demoralizing.”

Furler’s decision to leave performance behind comes, ironically, when she’s enjoying her greatest successes. The 35-year-old’s latest album, We Are Born, a 14-song of upbeat philosophical dance pop distinguished by Sia’s jazzy Esthero-reminiscent warble, recently netted her highest chart appearance in her native Australia (ringing in at No. 2) and a couple of Australia Recording Industry Awards (ARIAs).

Her previous album, 2008’s Some People Have Real Problems, cracked the Top 30 of the Billboard 200 Albums retail chart in the U.S., though Furler herself dismisses it as “a concession so I could put out We Are Born.”

Although stardom seems within her grasp, Furler clearly isn’t interested.

“I got a little bit famous,” she says. “I didn’t like it.”

Instead, she’s content with recording more albums — she’s working on one with Strokes guitarist Nick Valensi and another with string specialist Olly Kraus — and her burgeoning songwriting career.

After initially collaborating with Christina Aguilera for songs on Bionic and the singer’s Burlesque film project, and Natasha Bedingfield, Furler’s knee-deep in co-writing with David Guetta, Rihanna, Flo Rida, Adam Lambert and Leona Lewis as well.

“I’ve got to ride the wave while it’s hot, you know?” says Furler, who is also developing a screenplay. “I don’t know how long I will last as flavour of the month in pop writing.”

But then, Sia Furler has made a habit of going with the flow throughout her career.

The niece of Men At Work’s Colin Hay, she freely admits her uncle’s profession had a profound influence.

“I was 12, I visited him in New York City while he was promoting an album, and it was so amazing,” she recalls. “He had to do a radio interview, and he let me stay in his limousine. I was in the limo, watching the Grammys on TV and drinking as much apple juice as I wanted.

“I thought, ‘I could I get use to this,’” she laughs. “That’s how it started.”

Initially drawn to acting, “because I was such a ham,” a decision to travel changed Furler’s life forever when she landed in London.

“I sang at a jam session, came home, and didn’t care about doing drama anymore,” Furler remembers. “I was going to be a singer, because people asked, ‘Will you sing?’ and then started paying me money.’”

When she returned to London, she signed recording and publishing deals, working as a support vocalist for acid jazz icon Jamiroquai and then as singer for down tempo duo Zero 7 over three albums.

Furler initially demoed We Are Born eight years ago, but Universal — her label at the time — dropped her when she refused to emulate her Zero 7 contributions.

But she had the last laugh when she recorded “Breathe Me” for 2005’s Six Feet Under: Everything Ends soundtrack. She moved to the States, and now has five albums under her belt.

Sia is unapologetic when she explains her genre jumping.

“You know what it is? It’s the fashion at the time. I’m just a follower.”

Sylvia Rhone to Join ‘Frenemy’ L.A. Reid Under Sony

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 22, 2011) *The New York Post is reporting that former Universal Motown president Sylvia Rhone is heading to Sony to restore the defunct Portrait label, where she would work closely with new Epic head L.A. Reid.

The move would see new Sony Music Chairman/CEO Doug Morris reuniting Reid and Rhone, both of whom joined him at Universal in 2004 and left the company just months after his long-rumored departure from UMG was announced earlier this year.

A source tells The Hollywood Reporter that Rhone informed her former UMG bosses “24 hours earlier,” on Wednesday, that she was turning down an offer for her own multi-rights company that would encompass touring, merchandising and publishing, among other ancillary revenue streams. “Universal made an honest effort to keep her,” says an insider.  “She was given a hell of an opportunity, but it looks like she wants to stick with the old [label] model.”

The Post reports that Reid and Rhone will be sharing staff, since Portrait would not be a full-service label with its own promotion department. One source reportedly said that, “She doesn’t get along with L.A. at all. [Reid is] taking her reluctantly.” THR’s UMG sources confirm that Reid’s adversarial relationship with Rhone was “notorious.”

While there has long been professional competition between the two, they were part of Morris’ team at Universal for many years, and Morris has been known for stability — many feel it is a major reason he was brought in to run Sony, which has been plagued by instability in recent years.

The Post reports that Cyndi Lauper will be signed to Portrait – the label was her home during her most commercially successful years in the mid-1980s. The label, launched in 1976 as an Epic subsidiary, underwent many image changes before it was shuttered in 2002: At various times over the years, its focus was new wave, jazz, and heavy metal. Its most successful artists were Lauper, Sade and Heart.

As for Universal Motown, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that Universal Music Publishing Group’s head of music, Ethiopia Habtemariam, is expected to take over creative reign at the label in mid-August, while also continuing on at UMPG.

Motown to Leave Universal for Def Jam Group

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jul 27, 2011) *When the planned installation of Ethiopia Habtemariam as the head of Motown Records finally occurs, the label will move out of the Universal orbit and instead share resources with the Island Def Jam Group, sources tell Billboard.biz.

Habtemariam, head of urban music/senior vp of creative services at the Universal Music Publishing Group, is still working out the details of her new contract, sources say. When the deal is done, she will report to Barry Weiss, chairman & CEO of Island Def Jam and Universal Republic Group. In her new role she will be given a creative title, charged with heading up Motown, which is expected to have a staff of about a dozen employees.

The boutique label operation will inherit most of the Motown roster — including Erykah Badu and Kem — and Habtemariam will have the responsibility to pare back the roster as she sees fit, as well as signing established and developing artists going forward, sources say.

When Motown needs resources to work projects, Habtemariam will tap into the Island Def Jam staff, and of course will also rely on the shared services staff employed by both IDJ and Universal Republic and all of the other planned boutique operations.

Habtemariam takes over the label from Sylvia Rhone, who stepped down last month and is expected to join former UMG chief Doug Morris at Sony, possibly at the helm of a revived Portrait Records.

Jazz-Rock Ambassadors Steely Dan Bring Shuffle Diplomacy To Toronto

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Adams

Steely Dan
At the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto on Friday

(July 24, 2011) It's the music that counts at a Steely Dan concert. Not the lights, not the pyrotechnics, not the choreography and certainly not the stage-dominating, rooster-in-heat antics of the lead singer.

Indeed, before an enthusiastic crowd of more than 12,000 Friday evening at Molson Amphitheatre, Dan lead singer Donald Fagen spent most of the two-hour gig hunkered behind a pair of sunglasses and a bank of Wurlitzers and Rhodeses. When he did occasionally venture from his perch, usually to cue the band or blow his Hohner melodica, his movements had all the akimbo grace of Pinocchio in his puppet incarnation. Fagen's long-time sidekick, Walter Becker, in the meantime, spent a lot of his time propped by a stool, his electric guitar nestled comfortably atop his ample mid-section.

And why not? Fagen's 63, Becker 61. The days of being major dudes are "gone forever/over a long time ago," to quote from Pretzel Logic, a blues they recorded 36 years ago (and played Friday as an encore). With their pauches and receding, grey hair, relax-fit trousers, sneakers and rolled-up long-sleeve shirts atop black Ts, the guys looked (and seemed to be feeling) very much their age. Let Mick Jagger and Steve Tyler be the monkey men of Dad Rock, these dapper Dans seemed to say. We're going to a backyard barbecue in Etobicoke after this show and we won't even have to change our clothes!

But, as mentioned, no one knowingly goes to a Steely Dan performance for the haberdashery or the visuals. The songs are the thing, and what songs they are! Backed by the cracker-jack eight-piece Miles High Big Band and the all-female Embassy Brats vocal trio, Fagen and Becker - self-described "jazz-rock ambassadors to the galaxy" - dipped into pretty much every facet of their vast and rich repertoire, serving up an 18-tune set distinguished by its muscularity, finesse and chopsmanship.

While the songs hewed pretty closely to their primary melodic and structural contours, they swelled well beyond their original proportions as virtually every musician, including the four-piece horn section, was allowed to make extensive solo statements in addition to keeping the ensemble dialogue happening. Thus, 1973's Dirty Work became a showcase for the shoop-shooping Embassy Brats, as soloists and trio, the outro of Time Out of Mind (from 1980's Gaucho) the opportunity for a spirited exchange of eights between Becker's guitar and Fagen's melodica, Reelin' in the Years a vehicle for some blistering, delirium-inducing fretwork from second axeman Jon Herington.

The Dans are calling their current outing the Shuffle Diplomacy tour - a reference, in part, to shows in some venues where they're playing an album from start to finish (the albums include The Royal Scam, Aja and Gaucho) in addition to a set of songs voted on by fans. While the Toronto date - the only Canadian stop on the tour - didn't partake of that conceit, no one Friday seemed to think he or she was getting anything less than top-grade Dan. Indeed, the concert was distinguished by an almost curatorial-like blend of hits (Peg, Jose, Kid Charlemagne, Hey 19, Bodhisattva) and relative obscurities like Monkey in Your Soul, the concluding track to the Pretzel Logic LP (with Becker doing the vocals here) and the nasty funk of Godwhacker, from 2003.

If there was an oddity to the evening (besides the cover of Lee Dorsey's Neighbour's Daughter and a funny, extended rap by Becker, in the style of the Grateful Dead's Pigpen, during Hey 19), it was the apparent lack of any material from Two Against Nature. The duo's first studio effort in 20 years, that long-player won an astonishing four Grammys in 2001, including album of the year. Perhaps in neglecting their most-honoured recording Friday, Becker and Fagen were showing they're still the acerbic, gimlet-eyed contrarians we first loved in the 1970s.

Photos: Usher Hosts ‘Leadership Conference’ for his New Look Foundation

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 25, 2011) *Usher joined political dignitaries, media titans, sports luminaries and several hundred kids at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre last week for his New Look Foundation charity, which was hosting its three-day World Leadership Conference from July 20 to 22, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The charity was founded by Usher in 1999, when at 20 years old, he was inspired by what he describes as an “innate desire to give.” He conceived it as a multi-tier leadership program that would follow its participants from junior high through college.

Usher built the charity on four main pillars — talent, education, career
and service — and devised a curriculum that was based in large part on his unique experience: seeing the possibilities of your own future through someone else’s success. The strategy seems to be working — 98% of the youth associated with the foundation graduate high school and go on to college.

“Powered by Service,” “ Moguls in Training…” these are the buzz words New Look instils in each of its participants, and to drive the point home, the Grammy winner enlisted the likes of CNN founder Ted Turner, former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, country star John Rich and Atlanta Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli to appear at this year’s conference, which also boasted no less than 18 corporate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Ford, Goldman Sachs, Shell and AEG.

The Hollywood Reporter: Charity is often seen as little more than an elder white man handing over a fat check, but New Look is based on a progressive model that demands the participation of its beneficiaries. Is this an effort to change the face of philanthropy?

Usher: How you help someone else or contribute is done in many different ways. For instance, a good friend of mine, [the producer] Swizz Beats, is opening a charter school in the Bronx. He’s done a very creative thing that doesn’t feel like philanthropy. It feels like something that would happen organically, not just another check from a white man…. So we tie in our art and philanthropy together with music, and that becomes a movement, which is bigger and the people who benefit from it appreciate it on another level. And because corporations now will consider being more artistic, we are refacing philanthropy with what we’re doing.

THR: When you first started New Look in 1999, what did you envision?

Usher: I didn’t know what the vision would be, I didn’t know if it would work. All I knew is I wanted to do something that would give back to youth who were unfortunate and didn’t necessarily have the best outlet. I think anybody, not just children, is a product of a great environment. If you put them in a better environment from a sad situation, nine times out of 10, they’ll go in the right direction. That’s what New Look has become: our tracking system allows us to watch our kids make it through high school, hopefully go to college, help them with scholarships, the grants that we make available for them. They feel supported.

THR: What kind of charity were you involved with growing up?

Usher: In our neighbourhood, the community was a family and everybody helped everybody. Most of my service goes back to my church. We would have different drives around Christmas, for coats and toys and stuff like that. If there were toys I didn’t play with anymore, of course I gave them to someone else. And Boys and Girls Club of America gave me a sense of responsibility because of how their systems work. Those same systems help set up the action part of what New Look does. In terms of activities and sports, it helped keep kids motivated… With every adversity, you come to see the greater benefit. So the more things you grow through, the more you’re compelled to do something positive and fight. That becomes your motivation.

THR: Attendance at the World Leadership Conference has grown by the hundreds, is it bigger than you expected?

Usher: Definitely, and each year will yield a different experience. Last year, my first annual was with Bill Clinton, and if you look at what he’s done with Clinton’s Global Initiative, that’s the potential of what we could grow to be. As I say a lot, it’s about having a reference: something to live up to, something that gives you hope. So I’m looking at the success of how this is all coming together, and I’m just happy. Not only for the success of New Look and the fact that philanthropy is becoming more prevalent in Atlanta, but also for the youth and how they’re going to be able to utilize what we’re showing them. I’m ecstatic about it. Anything that’s annual is a success. Just in looking at where the foundation started 10 years ago and where it is now, I’m very happy I’m able to continue to grow something that comes from a genuine place.

THR: During times of disaster, like Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, New Look mobilized quickly to help…

Usher: It’s about action. When Katrina first hit, I didn’t think, “Let’s just send a check down there.” I said, “Let’s figure out a way to bring awareness to what the issue is, and that’s getting families back to their homes and back together,” because families were split up… So we instantly did a concert in Atlanta to raise money and awareness, brought the cameras there, talked about it, and helped the people connect. When Haiti happened, the systems we created which worked for Katrina, they worked again. There were things that we picked up and learned throughout the process that we’ll use there’s ever another tragedy.

THR: Who are some philanthropists that you look up to?

Usher: I look up to Bono, Michelle Obama, Oprah — people who I think use their celebrity and everyday relevance to help other people. I’m the youth of it all — it’s a mission for me to make sure that philanthropy doesn’t feel like a vintage hand-me-down from mom or dad. I want people to feel compelled to do something positive because they just love it, they’re excited about it, and it’s cool.

THR: Is there a New Look moment when you felt especially proud?

Usher: I don’t mean to sound cliché, but I’m proud of New Look every day. Although I will say that I felt 100% percent on top of the world at the World Leadership Awards last year standing onstage with Bill Clinton. Knowing all that he does in service and how respected he is, it was one of the greatest moments of my life.


Feist Is Being Coy

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

(July 22, 2011) If you're a fan of Leslie Feist, you've had to make do with dribs and drabs of new material from the 35-year-old Torontonian pop sensation. Sure, she has provided backing on Doug Paisley's new album, performed with her old Broken Social Scene pals, and other less-involving endeavours, but it's been one-two-three-four years since her last album, the beloved The Reminder. That's about to change. Her website has now been given over to a grainy, black-and-white video of the night sky, accompanied by distorted sound that sounds like it's coming out of blown-out speakers. It looks as though one such clip will be "unlocked" each week... until about Sept. 27. Is that the release date of the new album? Who knows, but if you were won over by her delicate tuneful stuff in the last decade, any news - even baffling and willfully unhelpful 'news' - is better than nothing. Ah, just go back and listen to that Paisley album again.



Video: Katy Perry Grabs 9 MTV Video Music Award Noms

Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(July 21, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Katy Perry’s “Firework” had enough sparks Katy to help her claim a leading nine MTV Video Music Award nominations, including video of the year.  Perry — who hosted the network’s Wednesday night special announcing the nominations — was also nominated for best female video for “Firework,” and best pop video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” Adele tied Kanye West with seven nominations. The bestselling Brit will compete with Perry for top video with “Rolling in the Deep.” Others in the category include the Beastie Boys for “Make Some Noise”; rapper Tyler, the Creator for “Yonkers”; and Bruno Mars for “Grenade.” Mars was nominated for four Moonman trophies. Other multiple nominees include Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Eminem. The VMAs will air live from Los Angeles on Aug. 28.


Video: Mary J. Blige Featured on Tonight’s ‘Behind the Music’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 24, 2011) *Hey Mary J. Blige fans! Miss Mary is set to be featured on tonight (Sunday, 07-24-11) on VH1′sBehind the Music.” She’ll be discussing her bout with alcoholism, her rise to fame and her struggle to find a loving, healthy romantic relationship. “When I stopped drinking, it was will power. It was prayer. It was hard,” Mary says about becoming sober.


Get More: Mary J. Blige, Behind The Music, Reality TV Shows, Reality TV Shows 6

Lauryn Hill Gives Birth To Sixth Child

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jul 25, 2011) Lauryn Hill has given birth to her sixth child. The ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ singer welcomed a baby boy into the world on July 23. She already has five children: Zion David-Nesta, 13, Selah, 12, Joshua, nine, John, seven, and three-year-old Sarah, all with on/off partner Rohan Marley. Although the new baby was reportedly born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, both Hill and the tot are doing well. Meanwhile, reports claimed Marley — who has previously stated he is not the father of Hill’s sixth child — had dumped her for Brazilian model Isabeli Fontana. But he took to his Twitter account July 24 to insist their relationship is fine. “Ms. Hill is the mother of my children, whom I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for. I would never do that,” he tweeted.

Video: Danish A Capella Group Sings 90s Hits

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jenni Dunning

(Jul 26, 2011) With heads bobbing, hands vogueing, and fingers snapping, a Danish a capella group has recorded a medley of 1990s music hits. Despite specializing in traditional Nordic songs, Local Vocal takes on a completely different genre. A seven-minute video shows the 20 singers in a giant checkerboard, like the opening scene of The Brady Bunch, as they go through 10 songs. Corona’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’ gets things moving. Instead of the song’s techno beats, the singers polish it off without music — just closed eyes and straight-up singing. Next is the A Night at the Roxbury favourite ‘What is love?’ by Haddaway. During the latter, all the singers bounce their heads back-and-forth and pump their fists, just like Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan did in the movie. “Play in HD and pump up the volume — everybody dance now!” it reads on the video’s YouTube page. Many of the a capella singers look like they were raised on 90s music — all except one. Can you spot him?


Da Brat Drops the Tom Boy and Gets Girlie Cute for Vibe

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jul 26, 2011) *It’s rare when we see rapper Da Brat looking like a lady. But she got cute for a Vibe photo shoot and showed off her Shawntae Harris side. She commented on the shoot saying she actually enjoyed it. “I absolutely loved it! The stylist Tamara Connor was amazing.  Mara Z styled my hair with the help of her assistant Dina as well as my regular hairstylist, Shontelle Sampeur,” she said. “Mara also did my makeup.  Both hair and make-up were great. And I loved the photographer, Alex. I definitely want to do more photo shoots with him because I can tell he is passionate about his work.” And when asked was it uncomfortable transitioning into a “sex symbol” or is this just another side of you that we never see, she came back with: “I’m such a f*cking lady. I loved to get glammed up. I love manis and pedis. I like to go to Vicky Secrets and La Perla because I like lace and bikinis. I’m such a P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thug)” Da Brat has got a new mixtape out y’all, “Life After Death.” It’s available for download on Global14.com.

Outkast Reunion Possible!

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jul 27, 2011) *Outkast fans’ hearts were broken when we all learned Big Boi and Andre 3000 were banned from working together, so to speak. But there is hope for a reunion. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Big Boi didn’t say anything for sure but definitely dropped some hints of a coming collaboration. “I think it’s very much possible because we have L.A. Reid in our corner now, and he was the first to sign Outkast,” Big Boi said, referring to the major transition Epic Records made. Big Boi is signed as a solo artist with Def Jam while Outkast is signed to Jive. The deals kept the pair’s work from appearing on his 2010 solo debut, “Sir Lucious Left Foot: Son of Chico Dusty.” “L.A. Reid has permission to make it happen now,” Big Boi said. “so I hope it does, and I don’t really see why it won’t.” In the meantime, the rapper is hopeful that his next album, “Daddy Fat Sax: will be out this year with a special collaboration with Janelle Monae, a Big Boi discovery.

Ashanti Back in Production Mode

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jul 27, 2011) *Things have been rather quiet for singer Ashanti these past few years. Some of us have nearly forgotten about her. We4ll, she recently announced that she will be working with Lil Wayne and Dr. Dre for a new album. The last project she released was “Declaration” back in 2008. Now she’s back in the studio and excited to get the ball rolling again. “Up in the studio with mad Haitian dudes dancing around!!! Speakers knockin!!!! This beat is crazy !!!!!! SaK Paseeeee!! Lol!!!!” she tweeted.


Ryan Gosling: The “Crazy, Stupid, Love” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Born in Ontario, Canada, on November 12, 1980,
Ryan Gosling has been honoured for his work in a broad range of roles in both independent films and major motion pictures. In 2007, he earned both an Academy Award nomination and an Independent Spirit Award in the Best Actor category for his compelling portrayal of a dedicated but troubled inner-city teacher in "Half Nelson."

A year later, he received Golden Globe, SAG Award and Critics' Choice Award nominations for his work in the title role of the indie film "Lars and the Real Girl." In 2011, he landed another Golden Globe nomination, and his third Critics' Choice Award nomination opposite Michelle Williams in the romance drama "Blue Valentine."
Ryan will next be seen in the action drama "Drive" which recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it was nominated for the Palme D'Or and won the award for Best Director. The film is slated for release this September. And his upcoming films also include "The Ides of March" in which he stars alongside the picture’s writer/director, George Clooney.

Gosling made his feature film debut in 2000 opposite Denzel Washington in the real-life sports saga "Remember the Titans." But his breakout role arrived the following year in "The Believer," which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. There, he portrayed a virulent anti-Semite who turned out to be Jewish.

Here, Ryan talks about his current role as playboy Jacob Palmer in the new film, “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” an ensemble comedy co-starring Julianne Moore, Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei.

Kam Williams: Hi Ryan. Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you.

Ryan Gosling: Thank you, Kam.

I really enjoyed “Crazy, Stupid, Love” as much as your dramatic work.

RG: All right!

I have a lot of questions for you from fans, so why don’t I get right to them. Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: What interested you in doing this film?
I wanted to work with Steve Carell.

Irene has a follow-up: How similar are you in real-life to your character, Jacob Palmer?
RG: I’m actually more like Steve Carell’s character, Cal Weaver.

KW: What message do you think people will take away from the film?
That’s up to them. I’m not the boss of them.

Harriet Pakula Teweles points out that Emma Stone says to you in the film that you have such a nice body that it looks like you’ve been photo-shopped. She’s wondering if you have ever been photo-shopped in real life.
RG: A strong case could be made that I was photo-shopped in this film.

Harriet also observes that future astronaut John Glenn had baseball great Ted Williams as his wingman during the Korean War. How comfortable was it to have Steve Carell as your wingman?
RG: This was my first comedy. So, if you have to lose your creative virginity, you’d want to lose it to Steve Carell.

Lisa Loving asks: What inspired you to speak out against the genocide in Darfur, and how can we help the people there?
 RG: Well, I feel lucky to have been provided an opportunity to visit Darfur. I would just encourage people to educate themselves about what’s happening there, and why it’s happening, so that they can then make an informed decision on their own about how they’d like to help.

KW: Lisa would also like to know whether you already wanted to grow up to be a serious actor when you were on the Mickey Mouse Club as a child?
RG: No.

Marcia Evans says: I am a huge fan of yours and I admire your entire portfolio of work. I feel it's now time for you to consider doing another romance drama like “The Notebook,” but with a sister [meaning a black woman] as your love interest. 
RG: Let’s do it! [Chuckles]

Reverend Florine Thompson asks: How important is spirituality to you, how do you express your spirituality, and where and how do you find spiritual nourishment?
RG: I find spiritual nourishment through not discussing it. It’s something that’s very personal, and I prefer to keep it to myself.

Same here. I live a block from the forest, and I like to go for a long walk in the woods for at least an hour every day.  
Oh, wow! An hour every day? That’s nice! I’m jealous.

Do you ever wish you could have your anonymity back?
RG: I can still have it, depending on where I travel.

Now that Christian Bale has finally won an Oscar, it looks like you’ve inherited the mantle of being the best actor who’s never won one. How do you feel about that?
RG: [LOL] I’m honoured.

Florine also asks: What is your favourite saying, and why does it resonate with you?
I’m going to have to think about that.

The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share? 
It depends on how Judyth is defining success.

I would define it as happy, but I don’t know how she would. 
In that case, I can’t comment.

Judyth also asks: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would that be?
RG: That it would be in New York.

Legist/Editor Patricia Turnier says: As a fellow Canadian, I am very proud that you were the first Canadian to receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 62 years. How did you feel about this recognition?
RG: Again, as an honour.

Patricia also points out that you have played different roles during your career. She asks: What is your secret for not being typecast?
RG: I don’t give away my secret. That’s my secret. 

Lastly, Patricia would like to know: What is the most challenging aspect of your work as an actor?
RG: Interviews.

Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
[Chuckles] That one.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
RG: Yes.

The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
RG: Yes.

The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
Just now.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Romantic comedies.

The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
RG: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami. (HERE)

The music maven Heather Covington question: What was the last song you listened to? 
RG: “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” by Rickey Nelson. (HERE)

What is your favourite dish to cook?
RG: I like to make cereal, because you don’t have to cook it. [LOL]

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
RG: That guy from “The Notebook.” [Laughs some more]

Do you know how crazy women are about that film. It really has quite a loyal cult following.  
I’ve heard that rumour.

If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
More wishes.

The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
I don’t remember.

The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
RG: You have to laugh to keep from crying.

How introspective are you?
RG: Obviously not introspective enough to answer that question.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
RG: Make your own movies. You don’t have to do it the way I did it anymore. You don’t really have to move to L.A., do auditions, get an agent and deal with all that nonsense. You can just make a movie with your friends and put it online.  

The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
RG: I don’t know.

Thanks again for the interview, Ryan. Best of luck with the film.
Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for Crazy, Stupid, Love, visit HERE

Projections: On Toronto Screens This Week

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jason Anderson

(Jul 21, 2011) IRANIAN CINEMA AT HARBOURFRONT: Among the many events at the Tirgan Iranian Festival at Harbourfront Centre is the Canadian premiere of a masterwork by Iranian filmmakers who’ve suffered greatly at the hands of Ahmadinejad’s regime.

Like many artists, Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi were arrested as part of the suppression of the Green Movement, the tide of protests sparked by the disputed results of the 2009 presidential election.

Following several periods of detention, both were eventually sentenced to six-year prison terms and 20-year bans from filmmaking. Already being well-skilled at evading government censors, they still managed to complete new movies that debuted at Cannes in May, a provocation that incurred further repercussions.

Since his movies are better known internationally, Panahi’s situation drew the larger outcry from the international film community, but neither Rasoulof nor his work should go overshadowed. Directed, written and produced by Rasoulof with his friend Panahi serving as editor, The White Meadows was originally released in 2009. The visually stunning story of an elderly man who travels among a series of desolate islands in order to perform strange rituals (including the collection of tears), it’s an unmistakably bitter allegory about the persecution suffered by so many Iranians. Screening Sunday at 4 p.m., it’s one of three Iranian films playing the York Quay Centre’s Studio Theatre. (A Tehran-born filmmaker who immigrated to Canada in the 1980s and whose work has also been the subject of censorship and bans, Bahman Farmanara presents his 1979 film Tall Shadows of the Wind there on Saturday at 5 p.m.)

CAVALCADE OF HORROR: Things get plenty freaky at the city’s movie houses this week. Due to the Bloor Cinema’s renovation, two of the theatre’s wilder regular events have migrated to the Revue (400 Roncesvalles). On July 28 at 9 p.m., Fangoria editor Chris Alexander’s Film School Confidential series marks its arrival in the west end by presenting the Canadian premiere of Eaters, a new addition to the venerable (and gory) tradition of the Italian zombie movie. Then on July 29 at 11:30 p.m., Excited Mental State stake out fresh terrain for their highly interactive presentation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, long a favourite at the Bloor.

In the east end, at the newly opened Projection Booth (1035 Gerrard St. E.), Rue Morgue magazine and production company Unstable Ground team up to present “Little Terrors,” a compilation of horror shorts that screens Tuesday at 7 p.m.

And no true genre fan can miss this week’s instalment of “The Best of Midnight Madness” at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Screening Saturday at 11 p.m. is Wild Zero, indisputably the greatest of all Japanese rock ’n’ roll zombie apocalypse flicks.

WEST SIDE STORY AND MORE IN GLORIOUS 70MM: That age-old rivalry between the Sharks and the Jets kicks up once again when the 1961 screen version of Leonard Bernstein’s classic musical begins a week-long run on July 28 as part of TIFF Bell Lightbox’s “Summer in 70mm” series. A continuation of last winter’s popular program of much-cherished movies presented in rarely seen widescreen versions, the new season includes a return engagement for Lawrence of Arabia (starts Aug. 4) and the mighty Spartacus (Aug. 12).

SANDALS, YOUTUBE AND ARIAS AT CINEPLEX: Speaking of Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick’s swords-and-sandals epic can also be seen on not-quite-as-big screens at eight Cineplex theatres in the GTA on Sunday.

In other special events at Cineplex, audiences can catch a preview of Life in a Day — a documentary created from footage shot by thousands of people worldwide and submitted to YouTube — at the Varsity Cinemas on Sunday at 7 p.m. Then on Wednesday, the Metropolitan Opera’s 2009 production of Tosca returns as part of a summer encore for “The Met: Live in HD.”

THE QUIET AMERICAN ON PAGE AND SCREEN: On Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. at the Revue Cinema, Philip Marchand hosts this month’s edition of the Book Revue, the theatre’s ongoing look at screen adaptations of well-loved lit. Up for scrutiny is the 2002 version of Graham Greene’s 1956 novel The Quiet American.

MISSISSAUGA INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL: Now four years old, Mississauga’s very own showcase of Canadian indie film runs to Sunday at the AMC at Winston Churchill and the QEW. Over 30 films are set to play, ranging from the relatively big-budget likes of Casino Jack to Feature Presentation, the full-length film debut by Michael and Dan Palermo, Collingwood-bred brothers whose 2008 short Being Human made the cut for the Tribeca film festival. Works by many more young Canuck filmmakers get their first chance to hit the big screen, too.

OUTDOOR CINEMA IN THE GTA AND DURHAM COUNTY: Take advantage of the weather by enjoying the many outdoor screenings both in Toronto and at Durham’s most unique movie event. Local offerings include Megamind (Friday at Downsview Park), Amal (Tuesday at Harbourfront Centre’s WestJet Stage), West Side Story (Tuesday at Yonge-Dundas Square), The Sound of Music (Wednesday at David Pecaut Square) and Waste Land (Thursday at the Open Roof Festival).

Thursday also marks the beginning of the Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film, an annual showcase of experimental film, many of which are screened at the Hanover Drive-In. Nearby barns also come into use for a program that includes a screening of Walter Ruttman’s silent classic Berlin: Symphony of a Great City with live musical accompaniment. The forces of fringe film rule over Durham until Aug. 1.

Why is Mary J. Blige Sporting Braided Hair?

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 22, 2011) *Singer Mary J. Blige is preparing to star in the new movie “Rock of Ages” and her look is quite dramatically different from what we’re used to. She’s looking quite fresh and young with braided and beaded hair. Of course her hair is in her trademark blonde color.

In the movie, the singer will play Justice Charlier, the owner of a gentlemen’s club.

She described her role as “the rock.”

“She’s probably the person with the most problems that they never see. She has to keep everybody lifted up. That’s the inner work.”

“The inner work is that she’s been through hell, she can’t find a love, so she ended up in a strip club,” she told ScreenRant. “But, she’s fun. She’s funny. Most funny people have sad, sad stories. So, she’s the light and the dark place I believe.”

Also, as expected, she’s going to be singing on the soundtrack, which she is very excited about.

“I love the fact that everyone is singing. It’s like, we act-sing, act-sing. So there are songs like ‘Any Way You Want It’ by Journey that I’m singing and ‘Shadows of the Night’ by Pat Benatar,” she gushed.

The drama is expected to be released June 1, 2012.

In New Doc, Michael Rapaport Focuses On Turmoil In A Tribe Called Quest

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(July 25, 2011) "It took a lot out of me. God bless the man who takes on the Wu-Tang Clan."

In his directorial debut, actor
Michael Rapaport has turned out a laudable behind-the-scenes documentary on hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest. It just didn't quite turn out as he expected.

At a screening last week of
Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, Rapaport said his own quest was to determine if A Tribe Called Quest - like Wu-Tang, a fractious crew - would ever get back into the studio again. Yet after watching the film, which covers the group's history up until its Rock the Bells reunion tour in 2008, it seemed to me that not only hadn't Rapaport answered that question, he hadn't even asked it.

"In one version of the film, the question actually opened the movie," he says. "In the end, we took it out, though. It was a bit on the nose. And because, you're right, we don't get a definitive answer."

Beats, Rhymes & Life, which opens on Friday, is a "passion project" for Rapaport, a tall, loquacious New Yorker known for his work on television (Boston Public; Phoebe's boyfriend on Friends) and film (Mighty Aphrodite, Bamboozled). He's a hip-hop enthusiast whose documentary has generated interest and controversy - the former due to the iconic status of the subjects, the latter due to some of the group's dissatisfaction with the finished film.

The son of a New York radioman who brought home records, Rapaport became engrossed in what he and most others refer to as the "golden age" of hip hop as a boy - namely the Bronx scene of the 1980s that saw the Tribe and others (De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and the rest of the sprawling, communal assemblage known as Native Tongues) artfully innovate and joyously develop the idiom.

Q-Tip and the Tribe were particularly successful, with lyrical heft, jazz flourishes and ambitious sampling evident on its first three albums. The Low End Theory, from 1991, shaped alternative hip hop in the 1990s and influenced many of the who's who of hip hop that show up in Rapport's film, including Pharrell Williams and Questlove, the Roots drummer whose name reflects his admiration.

But tension within the Tribe developed over the years, and the division between the two emcees - the complicated Q-Tip and the earthier Phife Dawg - flares dramatically in the documentary. Emotions, including serious health issues involving the diabetic Phife, ran high during the 2008 tour as Rapaport was filming. And in due course, the turmoil, not the brotherly love, became his film's focus.

Tribe mastermind Q-Tip (DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad) has been the most vocal critic of the movie - neither he nor the Tribe's "spirit," Jarobi White, attended the film's screening at Sundance - perhaps because he is portrayed as domineering.

Is it a mischaracterization? Not to hear Phife, the high-voiced "five-foot assassin," tell it. "'[Q-Tip's] a control freak," he says in the gritty doc.

In fact, the animated Phife showed up on MTV to defend the film. "How many groups got documentaries - hip hop - being done about themselves?" he asked. "They came to A Tribe Called Quest and asked us; we're supposed to count our blessings and embrace this joint right here."

For his part, Rapaport plays down the controversy. "Listen, this isn't the first time a documentary subject has not been happy or satisfied with the way they were portrayed," he says, adding that he and Q-Tip have "agreed to disagree" and that his rift with the Tribe is "calm" now. Rapaport recently attended a Q-Tip concert in New York, later accompanying him to Kanye West's studio, where they heard a track (Otis) from West's forthcoming album with Jay-Z.

Was Q-Tip hard to deal with? "Yeah, he was hard to deal with," Rapaport shrugs. "But he wasn't the only one. The whole process was challenging."

The idea was to shoot all four of the occasionally touring Tribe members together. But, because of the group's mercurial nature, it never happened. Rapaport had to rely on archives, live footage and one-on-one or small-group interviews.

And as Rapaport pours himself a mixture of iced tea and lemonade - he calls it a "Tiger Woods," rather than an "Arnold Palmer," because of the dark-light colour mixture - he addresses what his film leaves open-ended: whether or not the band with one album still remaining on his original deal with the Jive label will ever record a follow-up to 1998's The Love Movement.

"The Tribe doesn't want to make an album unless it's at the highest level," says Rapaport, who harboured wishes that his film would at least instigate a new single from the group. "Why go through the process and hard work if it's not going to be great?"

In the film, a member of De La Soul makes an impassioned backstage plea that the Tribe put an end to their touring reunion, rather than continue for the wrong reasons.

"The chemistry needs to be there, creatively," Rapaport agrees. "The only way it's going to be there creatively, is if it's there personally. And right now, it's not."

Story Of Trapped Chilean Miners Coming To Big Screen

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jul 25, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — The story of the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for more than two months is on its way to the big screen.

The 33 miners have sold the rights to their story to producer Mike Medavoy, according to an announcement Monday from the miners’ representatives and Medavoy.

The planned film will recount the remarkable plight of the miners who were trapped for 69 days after the San Jose mine they were working in collapsed near Copiapo, Chile.

The veteran producer Medavoy, who grew up in Chile, has produced films including “Shutter Island” and “Black Swan.” “Motorcycle Diaries” screenwriter Jose Rivera is set to write the script.

“At its heart, this is a story about the triumph of the human spirit and a testament to the courage and perseverance of the Chilean people,” Medavoy said in a statement. “I can’t think of a better story than this one to bring to the screen.”

Miner Juan Andrew Illanes called the project “the only official and authorized film about what we lived in the San Jose mine.” The miners are collectively represented by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

“Much of our story has never been told,” Illanes said.

The film will face obvious dramatic hurdles in that its conclusion — that all the miners were safely rescued — is already widely known. That much of their trial was in utter darkness, too, wouldn’t seem to easily lend itself to a cinematic rendering.

No studio is yet attached to distribute the film.

The production will also draw on the book being written about the miners by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hector Tobar.

He has been spending weeks immersing himself in the miners’ stories and combing through the diary of one miner, Victor Segovia. The book doesn’t yet have a publisher.

“There is a deep, textured story there waiting to be told,” Tobar said in an interview. “There is a deep, emotional book about family and faith, full of all sorts of psychological textures, waiting to be written.”

Production is scheduled to begin next year.

Circo: All In The Circus Family

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

A documentary about Gran Circo Mexico family circus. Directed by Aaron Schock. 75 minutes. Opening Friday at the Cumberland. PG

(Jul 22, 2011) The real death-defying act patriarch Tino Ponce puts on
in Circo is surviving the daily struggle to keep his family’s ragtag circus on the roads of rural Mexico, balancing allegiances to heritage and parents on one side, and wife and kids on the other.

He’s the ringmaster and leader of the tiny Gran Circo Mexico that plays dusty fields and muddy tracks with the help of his aging parents, wife, his four kids and a tiny niece, his brother and a menagerie of flea-bitten, mangy animals who often seem to be on their last legs.

“We pitch, we strike,” Tino’s wife, Ivonne, complains. They move from town to town, everything they own a rickety transport truck and trailer. Tents go up, pegs are pounded into the ground, power hijacked by dangerous and dubious methods from hydro lines, water found, animals and people fed.

There’s rarely enough business to keep the Gran Circo in town for more than one evening but there’s no alternative; the Ponce family has been travelling and entertaining for 100 years. The only plan is getting to the next town on the map.

They publicize the show by driving along dusty main streets, a few animals in a cage behind the truck, a loudspeaker blaring out slogans about the spectacular circus. As the sun goes down, tickets and snacks are sold and the curtain parts as ringmaster Tino strides into the ring. The show begins — all of the prep and performance done by the family, from 5-year-old niece Naydelin, who clowns around for the kiddies, to Tino’s brother Tacho, who rides a motorcycle in the Globo de la Muerta (Globe of Death) after Tino tames the big cats, who snarl and paw his whip.

The Ponces family has always been devoted to the circus, with 25 troupes now travelling Mexico. They don’t have the acts to break into the big cities, Tino explains. That takes money, money he doesn’t have. The tent is patchy, the costumes makeshift; even the bare light bulbs string across the roof of the big top look like they are close to crumbling into dust.

Tino’s wife bitterly reminds him that his father, Don Gilberto, seems to do all right, taking in the gate proceeds each night while her husband works long hours for next to nothing. It’s an argument they have almost daily.

Proof the kids are suffering from the circus life comes when they matter-of-factly say they envy townies, the ones who only have to go to school and play. They work non-stop and it’s hard, physical labour, a situation both parents remark on with guilt. Alexia, the 10-year-old daughter who carefully applies glittery makeup before her contortionist act — she bends backwards and daintily picks up a hanky in her teeth — explains she can neither read nor write as she plays with a pair of caged tiger cubs.

First-time feature filmmaker Aaron Schock stumbled on the story when he was researching a documentary on Mexican corn farmers. He was in a small town when Gran Circo Mexico rolled in and he was enthralled by both the performance and the lives they lived outside the ring. Schock’s devotion to the project mirrored the family’s commitment to the circus: it took 21 months to shoot and he alone was responsible for producing, directing, cinematography and sound recording.

The result is a stunning documentary, aided by a perfect score by Tuscon-based indie-rockers Calexico that mixes modern and traditional sounds. Colourful and gently paced, Circo has the feel of a dramatic film; more than once you will have to remind yourself that this is indeed reality.

Sometimes the audiences don’t come and the red and blue tent is all but empty. Like a scene from a Steinbeck novel, the family packs up and moves on in search of the next group of paying customers. Eldest son Cascaras flirts with town girls in school uniforms at the fence, while Tacho suddenly finds his first love in the stands and decides to quit for town life, to the disgust of Don Gilberto, who dismisses the woman as “the devil.”

The struggle to keep the circus going and pay a debt to his forbearers — both economic and cultural — weighs on Tino, who feels an equal responsibility to Ivonne, who ran off with him when she was 15. Her pleas that they quit the road and live a normal life are unending. His parents, who never trusted Ivonne because she was from the town, not the circus, refuse to budge.

“I’m dancing on a tightrope,” Tino says sadly.

Eventually, Ivonne makes her decision. Tino makes his. The circus packs up and leaves for the next town.

Elwy Yost, Host Of Saturday Night At The Movies, Dies At 85

Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman

(Jul 22, 2011) “I just hate crying scenes in movies,” Elwy Yost once confessed to Jim Bawden, former Star TV columnist.

But fans who for years spent their Saturday nights watching Elwy on TV’s Saturday Night at the Movies will have trouble staving off their own crying scenes upon learning of Yost’s death Thursday. That’s because watching movies with Elwy was part of the love affair many people developed with the highs and lows of cinema history and lore.

The affable, avuncular host of one of the most popular shows in the history of Ontario’s educational channel made his final exit in Vancouver at the age of 85. Yost had been in and out of hospital for the previous couple of years.

With his moustache, bald head and wire-rim glasses, Yost reigned as the ultimate movie fan, presenting uncut movies, introducing them and interviewing the people who made them, often travelling to Hollywood to do so. At his peak, he had 250,000 loyal viewers — even though his program was seen only on a non-commercial Ontario channel, and he was up against Hockey Night in Canada week after week.

“I never thought we’d last,” he admitted after doing more then 1,000 programs. “I’m not sure how we’ve kept going.”

At heart, the man known to viewers simply as Elwy (no last name required) was a fan rather than a critic. He fell in love with the movies as a kid, and never lost his child-like devotion to them. He was hard-pressed to name a movie he didn’t like.

“He’s just like the viewers at home, and he never talks down to them,” explained his long-time producer Risa Shuman.

Born in 1925 in what was then the Toronto suburb of Weston, Yost grew up during the Depression, the son of a pickle merchant. After graduating from the University of Toronto in sociology, he tried acting but wound up working in the Star’s circulation department, where he met his wife Lila in the cafeteria.

Before landing at TVO, Yost worked in industrial relations at Avro Aircraft Ltd., until the Avro arrow project was famously cancelled in 1959. For a time, he taught English at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate in Etobicoke, where he asked students to watch movies and write about them,.

Before becoming a fixture at TVO, he was known to audiences as a panelist on the CBC game show Flashback. He even did a brief stint reviewing movies for the Star — but was reluctant to say anything critical about them.

It was TVO producer general manager Jim Hanley who approached him about hosting a film series that put movies into an educational context. In 1989, Yost stopped being a full-time TVO employee and moved to Vancouver with his wife. He continued hosting the program until 1999.

Saturday nights were never quite the same after that.

Friends With Benefits Hilarious And Raunchy

Source: www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

Friends with Benefits
Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman. Directed by Will Gluck. 109 minutes. At major theatres. 18A

(Jul 21, 2011) There are moments when
Friends with Benefits, a kind of old-fashioned screwball romantic comedy reconfigured as a ribald contemporary tale about career-oriented lovers who substitute sex for emotional commitment, comes across as smart, funny and insightful.

The sex scenes in the first half of the movie between stars Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis — he plays an emotionally retentive young art director named Dylan; she plays Jamie, a romantically “damaged” New York headhunter who lured him from Los Angeles for a top-line gig at GQ magazine — are genuinely hilarious and raunchy.

Having decided long-term relationships are problematic and a waste of time, the new friends opt for sex without baggage and, liberated by the absence of guilt and self-doubt, set about defining their sexual peccadilloes and refining their form — with a great deal of gusto and delight — as they practise what they call “a game, just like tennis.”

It’s obvious from their first encounters — on Jamie’s secret skyscraper “mountaintop” high above New York; in Times Square below when they find themselves suddenly part of a huge flash-mob song-and-dance routine; in bed when they begin to divulge their most intimate turn-ons — that these two are meant for each other and that it will take another 70 minutes of movie time for them to get wise.

Yes, Friends with Benefits is just another wrinkle in the ancient boy-meets, loses, gets-girl-back formula, and there wouldn’t be much reason to stick with it if it weren’t for the sizzling chemistry between Timberlake and Kunis.

The casting here is inspired. Kunis’s explosive personality, her sassy wit, coquettish charm and barely concealed vulnerability are the perfect foil for Timberlake’s self-centred, easygoing L.A. dude.

That’s not to say that the two stars are capable of suspending disbelief entirely. The script, by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and director Will Gluck (Scarlet A), may be fast and furious, filled with ironic allusions to pop-culture and hi-tech phenomena, but the plot stretches credulity time and again as it works through the various manoeuvres necessary to keep Dylan and Jamie approaching and retreating from the brink of love.

A continuing movie-within-a-movie spoof of romcom clichés (starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones, both unbilled) is way overdone, as are some creepy attempts at highlighting the humorous side of Alzheimer’s, when Dylan’s afflicted dad (Richard Jenkins, in an inspired performance) keeps taking off his pants in public.

Just as tasteless are Dylan’s repeated references, when he’s flying to and from L.A. and New York, to the Miracle on the Hudson plane crash; and the efforts of his cute, 10-year-old nephew, a wannabe magician, to impress his family with tricks that backfire big time, all the time.

Patricia Clarkson, as Jamie’s proudly unreconstituted hippie mom, and Woody Harrelson as GQ’s jubilantly gay sports editor and Dylan’s unlikely mentor, play fast and loose with their characters, mostly to great comic effect, but seem to have been designed principally to distract us from soggy plot points.

Luckily for Gluck, the appeal of Friends with Benefits has less do with the machinery of storytelling — poor, at best — than with the energy and genuine affection the director must have spotted the instant he saw Timberlake and Kunis work together. It’s one of those rare made-in-Hollywood couplings that transcends the ordinary stuff of movies, like plot and sense and credibility.

It was a big gamble, but it seems to have paid off.

Attack The Block: Fresh Face Lights It Up

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(July 21, 2011) Had there been a real alien invasion in a South London hood like in the action-comedy Attack the Block, opening July 29, John Boyega would have been welcoming E.T. to his home turf.

The 19-year-old newcomer is earning solid reviews as Moses, a taciturn 15-year-old street tough who leads a rag-tag gang of hoods in hoodies who get more than they bargained for when their attempt to mug a nurse is interrupted by an alien crash-landing in their midst.

Boyega lives in the same social housing neighbourhood in South London where writer-director Joe Cornish set his story about a group of kids who defend their block from hungry space invaders.

“I live on a council estate, I live on a block,” said Boyega over the phone from Seattle, where he's on a U.S. tour promoting the movie, made by the same team who put out cult Brit comedies Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

“People tend to believe that cliché that if you live in a place like that it's all the same. You get bad places here and there but it's not the place that's bad, it's some of the people,” added Boyega.

Boyega, who has a background in theatre and is about to enter second year at London's University of Greenwich in film studies and media writing, wanted to be sure the movie steered clear of stereotyping local residents — especially because he still lives there with his family.

“We were trying as much as possible not to make anybody mad,” said Boyega. “My parents and friends and cousins are all from there. Ideally we had a history (as characters), although in the beginning I was a bit uncomfortable with the stereotypes.”

But gang leader Moses has a good reason why he's not able to stick to the straight and narrow. While circumstances have led him to rob, Boyega likes the fact Cornish, “isn't trying to justify it, he's explaining it.”

This is Boyega's first movie. Director Cornish discovered him performing at the 235-seat Tricycle Theatre. In fact, most of the teen cast is made up of neophytes, a transition made easier by Cornish giving them lots of time to work on their characters “to be as authentic and real as possible,” said Boyega.

The movie opened in Britain in May to good reviews after picking up the midnight feature award at SXSW in Austin, Tex. More important, Boyega said the home-town crowd was proud to be associated with the film. “People in my area, they love it,” said Boyega.

“People seem to really dig the film. It's our little baby film we though we'd premiere in Wal-Mart. It's fantastic the way people love it and get the characters.”

Asked if he's now treated like a local celebrity, Boyega sounded embarrassed. “I don't know what it means,” he said with a soft laugh. “I'm just a guy. This is my job. The celebrity side of it, okay, we're all humans.”

Boyega and his onscreen pals have thick south London accents and use a lot of local slang. Will that make it harder for North American ears?

“You could watch Attack the Block with the sound off,” observed Boyega, saying the story is quite obvious.

Besides, he pointed out that he loved watching The Wire with all its American slang and had little trouble following it.

He admited he's not much of a student and theatre and movies are his passion. He loves making movies and has just finished shooting the low-budget feature Junkhearts with Eddie Marsan and Romola Garai and is busy reading scripts.

“I have a love for film. It's great that you can be so cinematic when the camera is rolling and you think people wouldn't notice small things. I think that's the magic of film.”

The Last Mountain: Eco-Insanity

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

The Last Mountain
Narrated by William Sadler. Written and directed by Bill Haney. 95 minutes. At the Royal. PG

(Jul 21, 2011) In the quest for new sources of coal to fuel America’s
insatiable demand for energy, there is no shortage of victims.

The Last Mountain, director Bill Haney shows just how uneven the battle in Appalachia is between powerful elites and ordinary folk who struggle to protect their environment, their local communities and their own health and well-being. In fact, Haney persuasively makes the argument that, if anything, things are getting worse.

Thank goodness that doesn’t stop residents like Marie Gunnoe, Bo Webb and Ron Burris (who died during the course of filming) from fighting back.

The picture is as grim as the wasteland that remains after the “mountain top removal” process undertaken by coal companies to reveal the rich seams of coals that lie underneath.

The detritus from the blasting — the equivalent of a Hiroshima bomb every week — finds its way into the valleys below, with boulders occasionally ending up on the doorsteps of the hapless people below. That is the least of it, as Haney points out.

Streams and water sources are poisoned or buried or become flood hazards while silica dust and heavy metals wreak havoc on human health, causing clusters of rare cancers or brain tumours in nearby populations, all in the name of commerce and greed.

“I never thought I’d have a Kennedy in my home,” marvels an elderly resident, no doubt a life-long conservative who’s come to realize too late that the political leadership he’s supported all his life has betrayed him.

Lawyer/environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. is among the few high-profile champions who’ve taken up the cause and for his pains ends up spending 30 days in a maximum security prison.

Haney presents a lot of facts, among them that the U.S. relies on coal for almost 50 per cent of its energy needs, with one-third of it coming from the Appalachia region, and states like West Virginia where political leaders rely on cash from Big Coal to get re-elected.

Haney also gives proponents of coal energy every opportunity to state their case (or to rebut their foes), people like Dan Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy or Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association.

If they never take up Haney’s offer, it’s because they have nothing to offer in defense of their heinous practices. It may also because they believe they’re sitting so pretty, they don’t have to.

The last mountain of the title is Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. Its fate remains in limbo as the documentary ends. Haney offers a glimmer of hope that it may be preserved, both by making a persuasive case that mountaintop wind energy could replace the need for coal, and by showing us the growing sense of outrage and activism among disparate people finally coming together to find their voice.

Will it be enough to save the last mountain? Don’t count on it.

Next To Normal: An Honest Portrayal Of Mental Illness

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

(July 21, 2011) There may still be stigma attached to mental illness in real life, but in much popular fiction, film and theatre, it can be romanticized beyond all recognition.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are frequently caricatured as either sadists or snake-oil salesmen, while characters suffering from mental disorders or intellectual disabilities are depicted as not only special but almost extra-human. Think kindly Elwood P. Dowd with his invisible friend Harvey.

The chief triumph of
Next to Normal - currently in Toronto on tour, presented by Dancap - is that its portrait of a suburban mother with mental illness avoids all the obvious temptations and traps. Diana is real and relatable, but her problems aren't watered down or amped up, and neither are her family members' complex cocktail of emotions - from love to denial to outright anger.

That Next to Normal manages this level of sophistication in the form of a rock musical is certainly enough to understand why composer Tom Kitt and writer Brian Yorkey earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for it - if only to make up for the one given to Harvey in 1945 (over The Glass Menagerie, no less). The downside to its avoidance of dramatic tropes, however, is that it ends up more observational than dramatic.

Diana, here played by Alice Ripley, reprising her Tony Award-winning performance, has been suffering from a frequently diagnosed, but never entirely pinned down mental illness for almost 18 years. Her husband Dan (Asa Somers) puts on a brave face, while secretly yearning for his escape to work every day. Their high-achieving daughter Natalie (Emma Hunton) is an accident waiting to happen; when Diana tries to go off her drugs, it proves too much for her and she decides to go on them.

Diana also - a spoiler is coming, though it spoils itself quite early on - hallucinates an imaginary companion like Elwood, though whether he is more friend or foe is ambiguous. Gabe, played by Curt Hansen as almost demonically perfect, is the son she lost when he was a baby but who has kept aging in her mind. She finds comfort in his company, but he also draws her deeper into delusions, dangerously so in his beautiful but chilling lullaby There's a World.

Next to Normal takes a while to warm up and show its layers, in part because the creators want to surprise the audience with this and other aspects of the situation. An early moment where Natalie, practising piano, sings in the second person can be alienating for audiences unburdened by American, middle-class problems: "You'll rock that recital and get into Yale, so you won't feel so sick and you won't look so pale."

Elsewhere, Yorkey's lyrics can be quite evocative, and he has a knack for finding darker resonances in familiar words like "light." But he also overindulges in cultural references. There are nods at both Rodgers and Hammerstein ("These are a few of my favourite pills") and Roger Waters ("Wish I were here"), as well as awkwardly overt mentions of Sylvia Plath and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. "Didn't I see this movie with McMurphy and the nurse?" Diana sings. "That hospital was heavy but this cuckoo's nest is worse." Perhaps, it would have been better to leave it to audiences to make the comparison.

Next to Normal's overall honesty is a tonic for its occasional irritations, however. The portrayal of pharmapsychology and even electroshock therapy - imperfect instruments, but all that we have - is nuanced; Canadian Jeremy Kushnier, last seen here in Toronto in Jersey Boys, is empathetic as a series of doctors Diana visits.

Director Michael Greif's production owes more than a little to that aforementioned Des McAnuff-directed megahit, despite the starkly different subject matter. Choreographer Sergio Trujillo is borrowed from Jersey Boys, as are elements of Mark Wendland's three-level, metal set with Roy Lichtenstein-inspired sliding panels. The set-up seems awfully over-the-top for what is ultimately, an intimate six-character musical, but, hey, that's Broadway.

As a Tony winner out on tour, Ripley is the draw. Her performance as Diana has an appealingly imbalanced quality, her mania manifesting itself particularly in her eyes. But she has an odd, distracting voice - with vowel sounds take you on a trip around the world without leaving your theatre seat. Here vocal idiosyncrasies are one thing, but her voice is also clearly tired. It was forced and often flat, not at all like how it sounds on the cast album.

In Toronto then, Hunton emerges as the real star. It's her story and relationship with boyfriend Henry (Preston Sadleir), which too obviously mirrors that of her parents, that really connects and hits home hard with the audience.

Next to Normal runs until July 30.

Next to Normal

Music by Tom Kitt

Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Directed by Michael Greif

Starring Alice Ripley

At the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto

TIFF Predix #12: Take This Waltz

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

(Jul 25, 2011) Our last TIFF Predix before Tuesday's big announcement of Galas and Special Presentations seems like a sure thing -- perhaps even as the fest opener.

Take This Waltz is Sarah Polley's second feature as a writer/director. It follows her earlier Away From Her, which lit up TIFF -- and many year-end best lists -- in 2006.

Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby star as Margot, Lou and Daniel. Margot and Lou are married. Daniel is  Margot's old flame and current distraction.

The IMDb synopsis calls it "a funny, bittersweet and heart-wrenching story about a woman struggling to choose between two different types of love."

The movie was filmed in Toronto last summer, and Williams recently told The Star she loved the city so much, she'd like to move here.

"We were looking in windows of real estate offices and I thought, ‘This is a place I could live. I've got a place where I feel at home, '" Williams said. "Yes, Toronto, I'll be seeing more of you."

Williams greatly admires Polley.

"I get all sort of flushed with feeling and a strange sense of pride, which I don't often experience, when I think of the two of us, when I think of being directed by her."

She credits Polley and Take This Waltz for preparing her for My Week with Marilyn, a fact-based drama in which she plays Marilyn Monroe to Kenneth Branagh's Sir Laurence Olivier. She went straight from Polley's film to the Monroe one, which is another likely contender for TIFF 11.

"Take This Waltz put me on my tippy toes in terms of agility, performance, moment to moment. I felt like I was being finely tuned by the material, the part and Sarah."


Anthony Mackie’s Brooklyn Bar Made of Trashed Broadway Sets

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 22, 2011) *Actor Anthony Mackie, best known for his work in “The Hurt Locker” and “Notorious” and “8 Mile,” looked to the Broadway stage, literally, when it was time to start construction on his bar in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. The Hollywood star, who is also a trained carpenter, opened NoBar earlier this month in Brooklyn – mostly with his own hands using wood from discarded Broadway theatre sets. “A lot of times when Broadway shows close, they just rip stuff up,” he tells the New York Post. “If you can find out when shows are closing, you can get good wood out of the dumpsters. It’s funny what you can find.”

::TV NEWS::     

He’s In No Hurry To Boldly Go Anywhere

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jul 26, 2011) LOS ANGELES - Ordinarily, a cemetery is the last place you’d expect to find William Shatner.

Outer space, yes. The man’s iconic status as the original captain of the original USS Enterprise has forever enshrined him as a geek god.

But Shatner has never been one to rest on his laurels. The improbably robust 80-year-old actor — and director and author and entrepreneur and pitchman and horse breeder and sort-of singer — currently has a talk show and a reality show (and until recently, a sitcom) on the air, not counting reruns of Star Trek, T.J. Hooker and Boston Legal, yet another ubiquitous ad campaign, a bestselling autobiography still on the shelves and a wildly popular “vlog” on the web.

The Montreal-born former Stratford spear-carrier, whose first series
role was as Ranger Bob on The Canadian Howdy Doody Show, has recently earned stars on the both the Hollywood and Toronto walks of fame, an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, McGill University, and a Governor General’s Award.

The latter, which he and the NFB celebrated online with hilarious rendition of “O Canada”, was preceded by a not entirely insincere write-in campaign for the Governor General-ship itself.

Suffice it to say, William Shatner is no hurry to go boldly into that good night.

So what brings him here to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the landmark resting place of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield and Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer?

The famous showbiz cemetery is the unlikely venue for the Los Angeles debut of Shatner’s latest starring and directing effort, The Captains, a documentary that sends him out to interview the other actors who have taken the centre seat in the many subsequent incarnations of Star Trek.

He starts with his immediate successor and, of them all, closest friend, Sir Patrick Stewart, captain of the refurbished Enterprise of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and ending with Chris Pine, the new Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ recent hit Star Trek reboot.

“I’d met everybody, but I didn’t know them particularly well,” Shatner allows. “Patrick Stewart certainly more than the others. But in the course of making this film I’ve made friends of all of them. The quality of time, rather than quantity, is telling. I think they’re all lovely people.”

And that includes Pine, the recast Kirk, despite the original’s outspoken resentment over being shut out of the remake, unlike his co-star, Leonard Nimoy, who had a featured role.

Yet he professes nothing but admiration for his young replacement.

“He’s a wonderful young actor,” Shatner enthuses, “a lovely young man. As I say in the film, he’s me 50 years ago.

“So I challenged him to arm wrestle.”

Whatever the outcome, Pine was not able to wrestle him into actually watching the new Star Trek film.

“When he sees my film, I’ll see his film,” Shatner grins.

Pine won’t have to go far. The documentary’s producer, the multi-platform U.S. movie channel Epix, has simultaneously made the film available on the Internet (but not in Canada), viewable in streamed HD on desktops, laptops and even mobile phones.

It doesn’t get much more Star Trek than that.

Actually, it does. Star Trek’s hardcore fan base has been the key to its uncanny longevity, directly responsible for keeping, however briefly, the original series on the air and then turning it into a pop cultural phenomenon, spawning 10 films and four spinoff series.

Appropriately, The Captains’ world premiere was held at last week’s San Diego Comic-Con, where it was greeted with frenzied adulation. It was a smaller, but no less enthusiastic gathering — I’d guesstimate around 500 or so — who turned up here Monday night for the cemetery screening, many of them turned out, as Trekkies tend to be, in the full-on (if often ill-fitting) costumed regalia of their favourite Star Trek crew.

Also in attendance, special guest Star Trek fans Henry Rollins and Jason Alexander, and former Trek stars LeVar Burton, Dominic Keating and Chase Masterson.

The cemetery, ironically, happens to be located directly across the street from the Paramount Studios lot, where the Star Trek series were filmed.

Shatner took the stage — actually, a large communal crypt — bathed in blazing white light, clearly genuinely moved by the thunderous reception.

“I cannot be effusive enough for my gratitude at being here,” he told the crowd. “I am so thrilled. This is such a joyful moment for me.

“(This film) was a labour of love; it was a labour of discovery. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. I hope you enjoy this film as much as we enjoyed making it.”

Canadian Performers Fear New CRTC Rules Will Ghettoize Homegrown Shows

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Jul 27, 2011) Canada's federal TV regulator says it's bringing in new rules to encourage bigger budget, higher quality Canadian programs, but homegrown performers fear the changes could ghettoize Canuck fare.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission says it wants broadcasters to dedicate a minimum percentage of their budgets to homegrown production, instead of guaranteeing eight hours a week of Canuck shows during key prime time hours.

It says it will also allow CTV and Global to put a portion of their Canadian content onto specialty channels, which include Bravo and Showcase.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents 22,000 performers across the country, says that could marginalize homegrown shows.

The changes were announced as the CRTC renewed the licences for English-language services operated by several media conglomerates.

Over the next five years, Bell Media, Corus Entertainment and Shaw Media must allocate at least 30 per cent of gross annual revenues to the production of Canadian programs while Rogers Media must spend at least 23 per cent over the next three years. Previously they had no such financial obligation.

CRTC commissioner Rita Cugini says the funding requirements address years of criticism that broadcasters were not spending enough money on Canadian fare.

Even though they are no longer required to air Canadian shows between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m., she says conventional networks would still be obligated to air 50 per cent Canadian content between 6 p.m. and midnight.

The changes also allow conventional networks to put up to 26 per cent of Canadian production funds towards programs on specialty networks.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents 22,000 performers across the country, says it's not enough to just fund Canadian programming.

“You also have to put it where the most eyeballs are, and that's on the conventional television networks,” alliance president Ferne Downey said Wednesday in a statement.

“We agree that broadcasters need flexibility, but ghettoizing Canadian drama on specialty stations would not be the answer. In a world where Canadian content creation will rise and fall in proportion to broadcasters' revenues, we're definitely all in this together.”

Boys Will (Still) Be Boys On Entourage

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(July 22, 2011) I’m only three episodes in, and the eighth and final season of Entourage is already rife with drama.

And by that I mean “drama” drama, as opposed to Johnny Drama, the role Kevin Dillon plays as Vincent Chase’s lovably lunkheaded brother, who I can never get enough of (and so far haven’t).

You can start to catch up with me Sunday at 10:30 p.m., when the fast-track friends return in the first of eight concluding episodes on HBO Canada.

Although, if you’re an Entourage fan, I am actually catching up with you, having abandoned the show around the end of the Medellin storyline, and never even been tempted back.

Imagine my surprise upon my return to find (possible spoilers here) Vincent in rehab, E and Sloan split, Ari and Mrs. Ari separated and, on the upside, a slimmed-down and successful Turtle, and Drama gainfully employed (albeit as a cartoon gorilla).

The accumulated collective sexism of seven seasons would seem to have finally come back to bite them, particularly arrogant Ari, who is aghast to discover that the long-suffering Mrs. A is . . . well, you’ll see. (I can tell you that she finally gets a real name.)

In the unlikely event the boys have finally learned their lesson, the final season adds the infamous has-been misogynist comic Andrew Dice Clay, playing himself as a bitter ’80s relic reduced to playing second banana to Drama’s funky monkey.

(I recently had the misfortune to sit through an interminable Clay standup set very late one night at The Improv in L.A., and trust me when I tell you he really is playing an only slightly exaggerated version of himself.)

In the season’s third episode, “One Last Shot” (airing Aug. 7), Clay’s odious presence is mercifully overshadowed by a quite astonishing return guest appearance by Canadian character actor Kim Coates.

If the name does not immediately resonate, the face definitely will: Coates has spent 25 largely unheralded years doing stellar work on both sides of the border in episodic television, from Street Legal to CSI: Miami, and in more than 40 feature films.

He finally found a regular TV role worthy of his considerable talents as the biker lieutenant “TigTrager on the brilliant FX drama Sons of Anarchy, a show regrettably few Canadians have seen, currently exclusive to subscribers of Super Channel.

Well, comparatively few Canadians have seen . . . legally. It is apparently a singularly popular bootleg download — appropriately enough, given its outlaw premise.

“Every time I come back to Canada,” Coates says, “which I try to do as often as I can, people come up to me to tell me how much they love the show. A lot of them have seen it on DVD. Hardly any of them get Super Channel. Mostly, they’re illegally downloading off the Internet.”

No laws need be broken to catch Coates’ remarkable performance next month on Entourage (assuming one subscribes to The Movie Network, which many more do than Super Channel).

Both roles represent a significant turning point in Coates’s career. His Entourage character’s first appearance at the beginning of the fourth season immediately preceded his signing on for Anarchy, which he wasn’t even sure he wanted to do.

“I told them I didn’t want to play yet another sociopath,” laughs Coates, who has indeed over the years elevated the portrayal of duplicitous weasels to something of a high art.

“But Tig is so much more than that,” the actor enthuses. “He has so many contradictory levels, so many different dimensions. He’s a complicated guy.”

Coates’ callback for the final season of Entourage was meta-star Adrian Grenier’s idea.

“Apparently, he and (creator/producer) Doug Ellin were out on the golf course, and they were talking about characters they loved that they wanted to bring back in the final eight and Adrian suggested mine.”

What was originally just a few scenes in his first Entourage appearance now overtakes an entire episode and will undoubtedly impact the rest of this final season.

“I can’t really talk about it,” Coates allows. “Put it this way: this is not your average Entourage episode.”

And apparently — better late than never — this isn’t going to be your average Entourage season.

Jesse Martin Signs Talent Holding Deal with ABC

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 21, 2011) *Deadline.com is reporting that former “Law & Order” star Jesse Martin, who toplined the ABC/ABC Studios drama pilot “Hallelujah” this past season, is staying at the network, signing a talent holding deal with ABC and ABC Studios.

The one-year pact is tied to “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry’s “Hallelujah,” which didn’t make the cut to series in May but is still alive and is being retooled.

According to Deadline, Cherry is now writing a new script for the project, set in the town of Hallelujah, Tenn., which is being torn apart by the forces of good and evil. While the cast’s options expired at the end of June, there had been talk about two actors from the pilot, Martin and “Lost” alum Terry O’Quinn.

Martin’s talent deal will make him available to reprise his role in the pilot, which tested very well, should the reworked “Hallelujah” be picked up.

Under Martin’s deal with the network, Martin will get first crack at “Hallelujah” as well as ABC pilots targeted for next season. As for Cherry, who has executive produced “ Desperate Housewives” for the past seven years, he is expected to serve as a consultant on the ABC dramedy next season while focusing on development.

Martin, meanwhile, will next be seen in the feature “Joyful Noise” opposite Queen Latifah.

Hoop Heroes, Star Swaps, And Two Men Off The Skids

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals
Saturday, HBO Canada, 8 p.m.

(July 23, 2011) A treat for NBA fans, this sober, Peabody Award-
winning doc is a cut above the usual sports-star TV bio. It delves into the long and often fierce rivalry between basketball legends Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and Earvin (Magic) Johnson of the L.A. Lakers. Their connection and rivalry has its origins in the 1979 NCAA championship game, when each led his respective college team. It lasted decades as their professional careers soared. Each won three NBA MVP awards. The doc explores the backgrounds from which each emerged and their playing styles, and looks at what might seem an unlikely friendship. It's not just about two superstars, it's also about their American Midwestern backgrounds and the team-focused sport philosophy that nurtured them. They are fascinating, contrasting figures - one's an introvert and one isn't.

Ryan's Renaissance
Sunday, Bravo!, 8 p.m.

A repeat, this emotional and captivating doc revisits the strange and painful story of Ryan Larkin, the gifted young Montreal animator and NFB star who was an Oscar nominee for Walking in 1969 but whose life went downhill from there. Alcohol overwhelmed him and he ended up homeless. He was the subject of an outstanding film called Ryan, which won filmmaker Chris Landreth an Oscar. Larkin died of cancer in 2007 and this new work documents the making of his last work, on a short film called Spare Change. It also delves into his personal history and truly brings to life an unforgettable character, a genius who ended up being familiar to many in Montreal as the unofficial doorman at Schwartz's Deli on the Main. We meet a man who was strange, generous, witty, irascible and creative to the end. His renaissance was brief but memorable.

Same Name
Sunday, CBS, 9 p.m.

There's a simple premise for this new reality show - a celebrity swaps lives with a nobody of the same name. The opener is bizarre. A guy from Texas named David Hasselhoff, who works at a power plant, jets to Los Angeles and finds what it's like to live as David Hasselhoff, the kinda-strange guy who used to be a TV star. Meanwhile, the Hoff heads to Texas and has to put up regular folks in a small house for a while. He's shocked by the amount of actual work that is done. He's stunned by the tiny shower in the bathroom. The Hasselhoff now living in an L.A. mansion has his own moments of revelation: "The shower is amazing. It can hold, like, 20 people, all having a party at the same time." Naturally, both Davids learn the value of family and discover that walking in another man's shoes isn't as easy as it looks. Doses of the cutes erupt regularly.

Sunday, HBO Canada, 10:30 p.m.

The final season for the series starts with newly sober Vince (Adrian Grenier) leaving rehab and returning to the bosom of his posse. As ever, the show simultaneously mocks showbiz shallowness and celebrates its excesses. Vince's career hit the skids because of drug-addled antics at a Hollywood party, but he's eager to get his career back and has several really bad ideas for new movies. Naturally, hardly anyone is willing to tell him he has terrible ideas. The show's most gripping character, agent Ari (Jeremy Piven), has now split from his wife and has even more reason for his bitter, profanity-fuelled rants. Echoes of current Hollywood celebrity shenanigans abound and, bizarrely, the once-notorious shock-talk comic Andrew Dice Clay emerges as a recurring character.

Check local listings.

How Charlaine Harris Sunk Her Teeth Into 'True Blood'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(Jul 26, 2011) Dipping into the dark side opened new worlds for Charlaine Harris. The soft-spoken native of Tunica, Miss., was already an established mystery writer when she began penning her Southern Vampire series, which in turn became the popular HBO drama True Blood.

Harris published her first mystery tome, Sweet and Deadly, way back in 1981 and soon after began turning out her Aurora Teagarden mystery series, about a small-town librarian sleuth. Her first Lily Bard mystery novels, Shakespeare's Landlord, came out in 1996 and ran for five instalments.

In 2001, Harris published Dead Until Dark, the first in her Southern Vampire series focusing on Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress with a vampire boyfriend named Bill. The books found a fan in producer Alan Ball, best known for the series Six Feet Under, who mounted the TV version for HBO.

Harris sat down for a chat last week in Toronto.

What books spurred you toward a writer's life?

I read everything, everything when I was young. My family revered reading above all else. I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe, of course, and the Nancy Drew books. I read a lot of books past my age level. My parents encouraged it.

Were you always drawn to the solitary writer lifestyle?

That was certainly the attraction, but it wasn't an option in the beginning. In my first marriage I was the breadwinner. I was working at a minimum-wage job at a newspaper, in the darkroom. That's not an easy job, but I had to bring in some money. When I got married the second time, my husband offered me the option of staying home and writing, which was an amazing offer. And one he's really glad he made now.

After writing several mysteries, you segued into the supernatural with the first Southern Vampire book in 2001. Why the switch?

You know, my career was not going that great, and I thought if not now, when? I needed to shake something up. There are a lot of rules for mysteries, so I wanted to do something different. It was time for me to write a book with everything in it that I always wanted to write, without worrying that it wouldn't fit into the mystery genre.

Did diving into the supernatural grant you fresh creative licence?

Oh, it did. I've never watched horror movies or anything like that, but I'd always been interested in the macabre. I think Edgar Allan Poe captured fear and the grotesque so wonderfully. That interested me more than the bloody aspect of it.

How did Sookie move from the Southern Vampire mysteries to HBO's True Blood?

They came to me. I'd already had an option on the Sookie books that never came to anything, which was fortunate, because when I got the approach from Alan Ball I was able to take it. I'm a big fan of the show, but the series is Alan's vision of Sookie.

Is the show a fair representation of your literary creation?

It's true to the spirit of the books, and that's what I wanted. I knew it wasn't going to be a literal translation. That would be boring - for me, anyway.

You interact regularly with readers through your website. Are the fans demanding?

Yes. The fans feel they are absolutely free to tell you what they want you to write. It's like entitlement. I'm old enough for that to seem strange. But I enjoy giving back to the people who put me where I am today. I also enjoy recommending other writers to them.

Will you be writing further instalments of the Sookie novels?

I will be writing two more. While I was writing the 11th book, I decided that I'm heading into the home stretch. So numbers 12 and 13 will be the last books.

How long do you think the TV version will run?

I don't know. Last I heard, they were negotiating for a season five. If it goes past a fifth season, Alan may turn the helm over to someone else. But eventually the guys who are playing vampires are going to look older. Vampires aren't supposed to look older.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet Heads To Just For Laughs

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Simona Rabinovitch

(Jul 27, 2011) As a kid, Eric Stonestreet once said, he wanted to be a prison guard. But it seems that being a character was always his calling. “The first thing I did was mimicking people,” the Modern Family star says. “I remember impersonating the guy who owned the bicycle shop in Kansas City where I got my first bike. I was the kid whose report card always said, ‘Eric has to learn that there's a time and a place for everything.’”

And yet these days he is everywhere – in his popular TV persona as Cameron Tucker, in various film roles, and onstage in Montreal this Friday hosting Modern Love: The Relationship Show, an event at Just for Laughs featuring standups Tim Minchin, Debra DiGiovanni and more. “I'm there to showcase these guys and facilitate the show,” says Stonestreet, who isn't a standup himself but will be doing short bits and introducing each comedian. (He's excited, as he’s a fan of everyone on the bill.)

It’ll be a step away from Cameron. Radiating love, histrionics and good intentions, the gay character and his partner Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) have an adopted a daughter from Vietnam. “His sexuality falls down the line of things that define him,” Stonestreet, who is straight, says about Cameron. “He’s a good friend, a good partner, a good parent, he's a family man …” Stonestreet's portrayal earned him an Emmy last year for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series. This year, he was nominated again in the same category.

This recognition is payoff for years in the Hollywood trenches. Born and raised in Kansas City, Stonestreet earned a degree in sociology and moved to Chicago to study and perform improv and theatre with iO Chicago and Second City. Two years later, he relocated to Los Angeles and landed small roles on series like ER, Bones and CSI. His recent success has helped him land in movies such as the Cameron Diaz flick Bad Teacher and an upcoming remake of the Belgian hit thriller Loft.

Along the way, he’s stayed close to his family – at last year’s Emmys, he walked the red carpet with his mom. And Cameron Tucker, he explains, draws on her: “[I used] the way my Mom talks, the way my Mom reacts, the way my Mom gestures. The passion she has for the mundane, things like ‘Where are we gonna go for lunch?’ I thought that [and] my physicality – me being 6’1” and 260 pounds – would work well with each other.”

Clearly, they do. But are fans disappointed to learn that Stonestreet is straight? “I think they're disappointed that I'm not Cam,” he clarifies. “People hope I'm over the top.”

Eric Stonestreet hosts Modern Love: The Relationship Show Friday July 29 at 7:00 p.m. at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Cash Cab Seized

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Raju Mudhar

(July 20, 2011) Vancouver police have seized the production vehicle from Cash Cab, the Discovery Channel game show car which was involved in an accident that left a man dead last week. Authorities want to see if there might have been a mechanical defect that contributed to the accident.

Amber Riley May Be Graduating from Glee

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jul 26, 2011) *Your favourite sing-along drama series, “Glee,” has undergone quite a few changes over the seasons. And there might be another one soon. Amber Riley recently said she may be graduating from the crew of high school singers this year. “I may not be coming back for a fourth season,” Riley told E! Online. “Who knows? Whatever happens this third season is what happens, and I think everybody’s OK with it…I love my job to pieces, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go and, hopefully, there are greater things on the horizon.” She continued saying: “I mean, I don’t want to be a 30-year-old high school student either. Glee was just a great catapult for us,” she said of herself and fellow departing cast members Lea Michele, Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer. “Nobody knew who we were and we will always be thankful for it. It’s just been an amazing blessing.” But, if she does leave, there may be a nice spinoff to catch the blow of disappointment for the fans.


With Paint, Percussion And Precision, Blue Man Group Works

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Martin Morrow

(July 22, 2011) Some years ago, a rather conservative bank executive sought to assure me that he appreciated avant-garde theatre and performance art. As proof, he said that he’d thoroughly enjoyed taking his kid to see the Blue Man Group.

That’s BMG in a nutshell: avant garde for all ages; performance art even a banker can love.

Although, if the bald, blue-skinned trio were ever in the vanguard, that was a long time ago. Spawned in the late-1980s in New York’s East Village, their multimedia act now plays cruise ships and Vegas. They’ve starred in television commercials, done the talk-show circuit, been spoofed by The Simpsons and – most hilariously – Arrested Development.

They’ve also become a franchise and their current North American tour, which has just touched down at the Princess of Wales Theatre, doesn’t even feature the original Blues: Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink. Instead, they’ve sent in the clones. Six actor-musicians – Kalen Allmandinger, Kirk Massey, Patrick Newton, Bhurin Sead, Peter Musante and Michael Rahhal – will be donning the indigo greasepaint between now and July 30.

It makes no appreciable difference since with BMG, as with all carefully packaged stage productions, you always know what you’re getting. Like Cirque du Soleil, they reliably service your inner child. Like Stomp, they do it with loads of quirky percussion. And add to that enough splattered paint for a Jackson Pollock retrospective.

This show, which hit the road last fall, consists of Blue Man favourites going back to their 1991 Off-Broadway debut, Tubes, as well as bits from their more recent concert tours and new material that pokes fun at today’s wired culture. The latter includes parodies of texting, multi-tasking and the iPad – presented here in giant, triplicate form as GiPads.

These witty routines rely heavily on the show’s frequent, sophisticated use of video and LED imagery. Indeed, there are times when the Blue Men are almost overwhelmed by the high-tech spectacle of this production, which has been tailored to Broadway-size venues such as the Princess of Wales. (Their last visit to Toronto, an 18-month run in 2005-07, featured their standard stage show in the more intimate Panasonic Theatre.)

At their best, they interact with the technology to amusing effect. A digital spin on the classic Marx Brothers mirror routine is especially fun. At their worst, they let the technology do most of the work. They also depend too much on audience participation, which may be intended to create a sense of community, but starts to feel like a cop-out. When they aren’t leading willing victims onstage to partake in a Twinkies feast or a novel form of body painting, they’re prowling the aisles endlessly until you wonder why they don’t just leave the house lights up for the whole performance.

The audience does have an integral role to play in the section culled from the group’s How to Be a Megastar tour. A parody of rock-concert clichés, it involves demonstrating such requisite crowd behaviour as pumping your fist and swaying in unison. That’s typical of the Blue Man Group’s mild-mannered, family-friendly brand of satire. In the course of the show they also take gentle digs at science lectures, modern art and disco in a way that makes Mad Magazine look edgy.

In the midst of all this, though, there are still the key ingredients that explain the mute threesome’s ongoing appeal – their mix of old-school silent clowning with musical playfulness and the wild abandon of kids let loose in an art studio. It’s all there in their opening – and probably oldest – routine, where they combine drumming and splatter painting, all the while reacting with deadpan expressions that recall Buster Keaton.

The group also trots out its many wacky instruments, including those sliding plastic plumping pipes for its popular Drumbone number. But much of the show’s thunderous techno score is performed by a six-man band, perched on two platforms above the stage. Joel Moritz’s eye-popping production design also uses LED screens and splashes of bold primary colours, so that at times the Blue Men seem to exist inside a Roy Lichtenstein canvas. The props include giant inflated balls and streamers, which are launched into the auditorium during the big, booty-shaking finale.

By then, the audience has abandoned itself to a Blue Man love-in. And it’s clear that, whatever its hip provenance, the group has become as familiar and innocuous as this summer’s other blue-hued characters, the Smurfs.

Blue Man Group runs in Toronto until July 30.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Blue Man Group

Created and written by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink
Directed by Marcus Miller and Blue Man Group
 NETworks Presentations production
At the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto

Playwright Victoria Maxwell’s Journey From The Psych Ward To The Stage

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(Jul 27, 2011) As the stage lights go up on Victoria Maxwell, she’s running, breathless, from her father and burly orderlies in a psych ward.

She’s in full, florid psychosis, enmeshed in visions of spiritual enlightenment, before being wrestled onto a gurney, slapped into leather wrist restraints, dignity lost as her bare bottom pokes out of a peppermint-green hospital gown, while a nurse comes at her with “a needle as big as a frickin’ 7-Eleven straw.”

It is a theatrical reliving of an episode in a long, hard fall from being a twentysomething, coltish actress from North Vancouver who in the early nineties was scoring small roles alongside big names like Johnny Depp, David Duchovny and John Travolta (in, respectively, 21 Jump Street, The X-Files and Look Who’s Talking Too).

After that, everything goes black.

The gurney scene is the first in Maxwell’s autobiographical one-woman play, That’s Just Crazy Talk, which she’s performing on July 28 at Toronto’s Great Hall after a Vancouver debut. It’s an hour of rapid-fire lunacy – blink and you’ll miss something hilarious or heartbreaking.

It’s often said that there’s a fine line between genius and madness. Maxwell, who has bipolar disorder, is helping to illuminate that connection, as part of a psychosocial research project looking at ideas about mental illness and the power of art to shift them.

According to University of British Columbia psychologist Erin Michalak, “we’ve known for centuries the prevalence of bipolar disorder is higher in people who have rates of artistic output – musicians, performers, artists. But the science explaining why has, so far, been poor. We wanted to explore, in a really systematic way, what are the mechanisms underpinning this correlation between creativity and madness?”

As part of that effort, the play is being shown to a test audience of research participants – health-care workers and people with bipolar disorder and their families – as well as the general public. The test audience is surveyed before and after the performance and again in three months to assess any effects the theatrical performance has had on attitudes toward bipolar disorder.

Maxwell is in fact part of Michalak’s team, called the Collaborative Research Team to Study Psychosocial Issues in Bipolar Disorder (CREST BD). She, along with other people who are living with bipolar disorder, have equal standing with the clinical members of the team.

“As far as I’m aware,” Michalak says, “we’re the only team in the world taking a community-based or participatory approach to research into bipolar disorder.”

A joint effort of the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto, Michalak’s project recently received a $1-million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to expand the work into the national sphere.

“Critical to that is our belief that people who live with bipolar disorder and their family members have an equally valuable kind of expertise,” says Michalak, “in fact, one of the most critical kinds of expertise.”

“The work Erin does with the research team,” says Maxwell, “doesn’t just pay lip service. I feel very involved as do others. I review papers. I help publish papers. This is the way we will normalize mental illness, because we are the same as everyone else.”

Maxwell’s one-woman show “is a method study,” says Michalak. “We’re testing the idea ‘Can we share health information and health research through theatre? Can we effectively use theatre and the arts as a mechanism and a venue to talk about science and to talk about health?’ ”

That’s Just Crazy Talk got an enthusiastic standing ovation at its Vancouver performance. Tightly written and deftly executed without props, it’s a “love letter to my parents,” she says, particularly her father, whom she calls “The Rock” throughout the piece, detailing her “gruff, Archie Bunker, racist, profane but loveable” dad’s unwavering protection.

It took four psychotic breaks – including one in 1992, which saw her running naked through the streets of Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood “for a meeting with God” – for her to accept the diagnosis of bipolar. She eventually moved back home and got treatment, and is now, at 44, happily married and living on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

Onstage, she relives the effects of her “genetic leaky valve,” as she grows up dealing with her mother’s severe manic depression, visiting her as an eight-year-old in the psych ward and being chased home by the school bully, an evil cretin who taunts her about her “psycho-mom.” In the final scene, a grown-up Maxwell is re-visiting her now-abandoned old family home, full of ghosts of a childhood interrupted by madness, but also held together with love.

After the Toronto performance, Maxwell hopes to open an expanded version of the play to a wider theatrical release.

“My biggest dream,” she says, “would be for it to be seen by a very wide audience, a public, theatre-going audience, not just people who feel like they want to know about mental illness.”

Then her humour kicks in. “I know! It could be a movie – My Big Fat Psychotic Break!”

That’s Just Crazy Talk makes one performance only at 7 p.m., July 28, at Toronto’s Great Hall. Admission is free and open to the general public, with priority going to research participants, people with bipolar disorder and their families. Note: You must register at the venue at 6 p.m.

Special to The Globe and Mail


China’s Apple Stores Ordered To Shut – For Lack Of Proper Permits

Source: www.thestar.com - Melanie Lee

(Jul 25, 2011) KUNMING, CHINA—Chinese officials in Kunming have ordered two fake Apple shops to close, not because of piracy or copyright concerns, but because the stores in the southwestern city did not have an official business permit.

Five self-branded "Apple Stores" were found to be selling Apple products without authorization from the California-based company but only two were told to shut, officials said.

An investigation into the stores was apparently sparked by a storm of media attention over an elaborate hoax Apple shop discovered by an American blogger. The order did not apply to that store, which is applying for a reseller licence with Apple, a local government spokesman said.

"Media should not misunderstand the situation and jump to conclusions. Some overseas media has made it appear the stores sold fake Apple products," said Chang Puyun, spokesman of Kunming government's business bureau.

"China has taken great steps to enforce intellectual-property rights and the stores weren't selling fake products."

Officials are investigating whether Apple had applied to the Chinese government to have its store design and layout protected by law, Chang added.

Inspections of around 300 shops in Kunming were carried out after a blog post by an American living in the city exposed a near-flawless fake Apple Store where even the staff were convinced they were working for the iPhone and iPad maker.

In addition to protecting trademarks, Chinese law prohibits companies from copying the "look and feel" of other companies' stores, but enforcement is often spotty.

The United States and other Western countries have often complained China is woefully behind in its effort to stamp out intellectual property (IP) theft.

"We hope that they will take continuous action against other Intellectual Property Rights violations," Ioana Kraft, general manager of the Shanghai chapter of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said in an emailed comment to Reuters.

In May, China was listed for the seventh year by the U.S. Trade Representative's office as a country with one of the worst records for preventing copyright theft.

Piracy and counterfeiting of U.S. software and a wide range of other intellectual property in China cost U.S. businesses alone an estimated $48 billion and 2.1 million jobs in 2009, the U.S. International Trade Commission has said.

Countless unauthorized resellers of Apple and other brands' electronic products throughout China sell the real thing but buy their goods overseas and smuggle them into the country to skip taxes.

Angry customers berated staff and demanded refunds at one of the fake stores late last week, uncertain of legitimacy of the products on offer.

All five unauthorized Apple shops in Kunming were selling genuine Apple products bought from other authorized resellers in China, Huang Yinghui, an official at the city's business bureau, told Reuters.

Apple has just four genuine Apple Stores in China, in Beijing and Shanghai, and none in Kunming in Yunnan province. The company, which has 13 authorized resellers in Kunming, could not be reached for comment.


Cuba, Mexico Top Bargain Vacations List

Source: www.thestar.com - Arthur Frommer

(Jul 21, 2011) If you can wait until September, you might pay considerably less for your all-inclusive vacation in the tropics or your trans-Atlantic charter flight. Nevertheless, I’ve persisted in also naming bargains for departures in the popular vacation month of August, as you’ll see immediately below.

(1) Varadero, Cuba: $695 in September, $855 in August, round-trip by air from Toronto, including accommodations, three meals daily and unlimited drinks, for seven nights at the 233-room, beachfront Tuxpan Hotel, a four-star property with three restaurants. Flights to the popular Varadero area in Cuba are scheduled daily, but the prices cited above are for Saturday departures. Contact Sunwing Vacations ( www.sunwingvacations.ca, or phone 416-620-5999 or 800-668-4224).

(2) Cancun in September: $777 per person, including round-trip air (and all government fees and taxes), departing weekends in September on WestJet Airlines. Participants receive seven all-inclusive nights (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the Celuisma Dos Playas resort, as well as round-trip airport-to-hotel transfers. The tour operator is Sunquest Vacations ( www.sunquestvacations.ca, phone 800-387-8438). (The same package in the month of August sells for $1,177 per person.)

(3) Samana, Dominican Republic, in August and September: $847 to $873 per person including round-trip air from Toronto (and all government fees and taxes), on weekend departures. Also includes seven nights of all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the Bahia Samana Roulette Resort. Contact AirCanadaVacations.com, phone 866-529-2079.

(4) Puerto Plata in August and September: $873 per person including round-trip air from Toronto (and all government fees and taxes), departing Fridays in both months, and seven all-inclusive nights (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks) at the 678-room Casa Marina Beach Resort in Sosua (10 minutes from the Puerto Plata airport) in the Dominican Republic, as well as round-trip airport-to-hotel transfers. The resort enjoys an oceanfront, beach-lined position facing a reef transformed into a natural sun deck, highly esteemed by returning guests. Tour operator is Sunquest Vacations, using WestJet Airlines for round-trip transportation ( www.sunquest.ca, phone 416-485-8438 or 800-387-8438).

(5) Paris, from Toronto: $803 to $873 in August and early September, round-trip by air (but air only, not including accommodations), including all taxes and fees. From Sunwing Airlines ( www.sunwing.ca or phone 877-877-1755), round-trip airfares between Toronto and Paris are mainly in the low-$800s on numerous dates of departure and return in late summer. Go to Sunwing.ca, click on “Flights,” insert Toronto and Paris, and then test various dates of departure and return in August and early September. Some combinations of dates will yield a low of $803 for the round-trip flight, including all government taxes and fees, and that price from and to Toronto is at least $300 less (sometimes far more than $300 less) than you normally would pay on a standard airline for a round-trip ticket including tax.

(6) Rome: $848 to $938 in August, round-trip by air on Air Transat (but air only, not including accommodations), including all taxes and fees. On (mainly) weekend departures, Air Transat will fly you round-trip to Rome from Toronto in August, for stays as short as seven nights, for a price that is several hundred dollars less than the usual rate for scheduled flights. The price varies by date of departure. Access AirTransat.ca or phone 877-872-6728.

(7) London: $702 in early September, round-trip by air, including all taxes and fees. Though departures are greatly limited in September, a round-trip flight departing Sept. 2 and returning Sept. 12 can currently be had for $702, including all taxes and fees. And that’s a considerable saving over fares on scheduled flights. Go to Sunwing.ca (or phone 877-877-1755), and you can take a late-summer trip to the British Isles for an affordable airfare price.

(8) Holguin, Cuba, in August: $791 per person, including round-trip air on Air Canada from Toronto (with all government fees and taxes also included), as well as seven nights of all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited beverages, all hotel service charges and taxes) at the 437-room Brisas Guardalavaca, directly on the Guardalavaca beach in Holguin, for departures all throughout the month of August. The price is at least $200 per person less than similar packages at other similar hotels. And the tour operator is Air Canada Vacations ( www.aircanadavacations.com, phone 866-529-2079).

(9) Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, in August: $984 per person, including round-trip air transportation on Air Canada (with all government fees and taxes included), and seven nights of all-inclusive arrangements (room, three meals daily, unlimited drinks, all else) at the 865-room Occidental Grand Punta Cana Resort, with its nine themed restaurants and three swimming pools, all on a 700-yard-long beach. Departures: Saturdays throughout August. Contact Air Canada Vacations ( www.aircanadavacations.com, phone 866-529-2079).

(10) Costa Rica Independently, in August: $669 for seven nights in Costa Rica (not including airfare), traveling by “Adventure Bus” from place to place. An immensely popular, free-spirited approach to touring Costa Rica, as packaged by Toronto’s GAP Adventures ( www.gapadventures.ca, 888-800-4100), these well-priced arrangements place you for one hotel night in the capital city of San Jose, one night at the foot of the Arenal Volcano, four nights in a hotel along the beaches of Guanacaste, and one remaining night back in San Jose. You are brought from place to place by the Adventure Bus, which takes you directly to your hotel in each location. Meals other than breakfast are not included (you are advised to budget $240 for your meals); the price of $669 remains unchanged on daily departures throughout the months of August, September and October.

(11) Escorted Costa Rica in August and September: On frequent departures in August and September (see actual dates of departure below), the long-established Caravan Tours will take you by escorted motor coach on a 10-night tour of every important sight of Costa Rica, for a total of $995 to $1,095, depending on date, including quality accommodations, three meals daily, daily escorted sightseeing and entrance fees. Airfare to Costa Rica, for which you make your own arrangements, is not included. Departures in August at the $1,095-per-person price are on Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26. Departures in September at the $995-per-person price are on Sept. 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30. Go to Caravan.com or phone 800-CARAVAN.

(12) Orlando in August and September: $797 for round-trip airfare from Toronto on Westjet Airlines (including all government taxes and fees) and seven nights of accommodations at the 614-room Seralago Maingate East in Kissimmee, from which you’ll enjoy free shuttle transportation to the Orlando theme parks. The Seralago has two swimming pools, a kids’ pool, tennis court and numerous other amenities Contact WestJetVacations.com (phone 877-737-7001). Departures are on numerous dates throughout the months of August and September.

(13) Cruises of the Mediterranean for $100 a Day, in September: Go to VacationsToGo.com, click on “Mediterranean,” then on “8- to 13-night cruises,” and you’ll discover that cruise prices for those European waters have sharply fallen because of inadequate demand. The probable reason? High airfares across the Atlantic, and the (mistaken) notion that the conflicts in Libya and elsewhere in the area have made such cruises dangerous, which of course is not the case. Cruise prices in the Mediterranean in autumn are among the great bargains of travel, although you’ll have to pay airfares (including fees) of $1,250 and more to reach the embarkation and debarkation ports.

(14) Deluxe Suites at Vegas’ Elegant Vdara Hotel for $109, $119 and $129 per Suite per Night: Provided your stay is for midweek dates (Sunday through Thursday), you’ll discover that August and September rates at the deluxe hotel properties of Las Vegas are now available for unprecedented low prices. Go to the booking charts of the 1,500-unit, all-suite Vdara Hotel on the Strip (arguably, one of the best hotels in Las Vegas) — www.vdara.com or www.mgmresorts.com — and you’ll find numerous dates when such remarkable accommodations are renting for as little as $109 a night (but more usually for $119 or $129 a night). Such rates, it should be emphasized, are per suite, not per person, which makes them all the more remarkable.

(15) China: Five cities in nine nights for $1,295 per person, including round-trip air from San Francisco to Beijing and Shanghai (and all government fees and taxes), hotel accommodations with three meals daily (except on one free day in Shanghai) and daily escorted sightseeing, including all entrance fees, for departure dates in November and January (exact departures: Nov. 21 and 28, Jan. 5 and 12). Showing its determination to be the unchallenged leader in low-cost air-and-land packages to China, China Focus ( www.chinafocustravel.com) has now announced that $1,299-per-person price for its signature tour called “Historic China.” I find it rather remarkable that the tour company is committing itself to that price as much as six and seven months in advance, confident that the Chinese currency will remain as under-valued as it presently is.

NOTE: The prices cited are per person for each of two people travelling together, and do not include government taxes and fees (unless those taxes and fees are specifically listed as included). Airfare is often included in the price, but only when specifically mentioned. Prices are subject to change, and new listings will periodically be substituted for those that are no longer valid.

Arthur Frommer is the pioneering founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book series. He co-hosts the radio program, The Travel Show, with his travel correspondent daughter Pauline Frommer. Find more destinations online and read Arthur Frommer’s blog at frommers.com. Order your copy of Frommer travel guidebooks at www.StarStore.ca.


Bolt And Jamaica Stay On The Fast Track To Success

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Jeff Blair

(Jul 26, 2011) One year from now, the focus of the sports world will be on the 2012 London Summer Games and, by extension, the island nation of Jamaica.

When that country's team marches into the Olympic Stadium, the identity of the flag-bearer won't matter: In every language and on every television around the world, they'll be talking about sprinters. (Do you think
Usain Bolt's name will come up?)

There will be no Donovan Bailey or Ben Johnson for Canada in London. Track medal hopes will at most rest with 100-metre hurdlers Perdita Felicien and, possibly, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep.

There will be no repeat of that moment 15 years ago Wednesday, when Bailey crossed the finish line in Atlanta with mouth agape and eyes wide open, a money shot for the cameras and a time of 9.84 seconds worthy of a gold medal and status as the fastest man in the world. It wasn't until 1999 that Maurice Greene broke that record with a 9.79 at a grand prix meet in Athens. Bailey's time stood as the Olympic standard until Bolt broke it in 2008 in Beijing (9.69).

"I still remember having a terrible start and a terrible finish," Bailey said Tuesday, adding with a laugh, "but sprinters are perfectionists. That's the stuff we think about. The mistakes we made."

Since 2006, Bailey splits his time between his hometown of Manchester, Jamaica, and Canada, doing what he can to help his mother, Daisy, cope with illness. So he talks to coaches and sprinters. He goes to meets.

His contention? The Jamaican sprint program has more depth than usual.

How much more? "They have an insurmountable amount of talent coming up," he said.

That depth stretches beyond Asafa Powell and Steve Mullings, who will join Bolt at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, next month. It goes beyond 25-year-old Nesta Carter, who became the fifth sprinter to go under 9.8 when he clocked 9.78 at a 2010 meet. It goes deeper than the electric Yohan Blake, who, at 22, has just scratched the surface of his potential with 9.89 ("Oh man," Bailey said, "a massively talented kid"), and deeper than 20-year-old Dexter Lee, who is familiar to Canadians from his 10.21-second win in the 100 metres at the world junior athletics championships in Moncton in 2010.

How deep? Think teenagers barely old enough to drive a car.

Jazeel Murphy, 17, ran a 10.27 at the regional CARIFTA Games in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in April, and 16-year-old Odean Skeen has already turned in a 10.41. Murphy missed the world youth championships in July due to a quadriceps injury.

And those are just the men.

"Coaches have gone to the U.S., learned from the best in the world, and realized they can do the same thing at home with the good weather and decent facilities," Bailey said. "What they have in Jamaica that you don't get elsewhere is the hunger for competition that starts at five, six, seven and eight years old. It's like Canadian kids and hockey: The hunger allows you to teach the technical stuff at an early age. Then comes the weight training."

Bolt's best 100-metre time this season, 9.88, was turned in this past weekend at a Diamond League meet in Monaco. He has had a fidgety season, musing publicly about having maybe not worked hard enough when he wasn't visiting doctors for Achilles tendon and back injuries.

In the meantime, serious academics publish studies about the outer limits of human speed in time for the London Games, and 10-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis, when asked last weekend to pick out an American who can beat Bolt, said: "We always have to think someone will come up.'"

"Look," Bailey said, "all Usain has to do is win races. You get spoiled when a man runs 9.58, but you don't get up and break the world record every day."

Venus Williams Says Toughest Foe Is Her Health

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jul 27, 2011) Coming off a hip injury that sidelined her for nearly five months, Venus Williams is more concerned about playing pain-free these days than who her toughest rivals might be.

The 31-year-old American headlines a strong field for the Rogers Cup, Aug. 6-14 at Toronto's Rexall Centre, less than two months after returning to the competitive court.

Williams is coming off a fourth-round exit earlier this month at Wimbledon, which in any other season might have seemed a disappointment to the seven-time Grand Slam singles winner.

“Playing Wimbledon and Eastbourne was a surprise, I wasn't sure how far I would make it or how fit I would feel, and I really made it a long way without being in a lot of pain and that was more than I expected,'' Williams said Wednesday in a conference call. “So it's just about keeping that up and staying strong and no more injuries.

“I feel good though, thank you. ''Williams, No. 35 on the WTA rankings, said there isn't one player she fears the most on the tour. Her biggest foe has been her own health.

“I haven't been around women's tennis hardly for the last year, so my whole thing really is to be on tour, play matches, stay healthy enough to be out there, so I don't have any worries,'' she said. “For me it's just a blessing to be back and to be ready to play.''

Despite the injury setback, Williams still considers herself among the favourites to win, and said she draws on her experience to help her stay focused when she knows the young players are gunning for her.

“Sometimes when you take some time off it's easy to come out a little bit rusty, maybe not making as many shots as before,'' she said. “For me it's about staying in the moment, being positive, and at the end of the day, my whole outlook is based on how I feel I'm a talented player, and I have the experience, so that makes me confident even when it may seem like I shouldn't be as confident as everyone else in the field.''

Williams remembers making her first appearance at the Rogers Cup when she was 15 or 16, and while more than a decade has passed, she's never managed to win Canada's marquee tennis tournament.

“It's great to come back with so much experience under my belt and having had so many dreams come true,'' Williams said. “But I've never won this tournament before, so I definitely would love to get this one under my belt and make it a great summer.''

Sister Serena is also in the Rogers Cup field, and arrives with her own injury baggage. The 29-year-old was sidelined for nearly a year by a series of health issues, including a serious foot injury she suffered stepping on some glass and a pulmonary embolism.

Venus Williams said, with the parity in women's tennis right now, there will be no easy match at the Rogers Cup. But she wouldn't want it any other way.

“That's the hard part about women's tennis now is that nothing is a given, and I have to be on my toes the whole time,'' Williams said. “But the good part is that I love competition, I love a challenge.''

Williams said her love for the game has been the key to her longevity.

“I love a challenge, my life seems pointless without it. I think a lot of it also is staying positive and being able to love the game, I really do love tennis, and all that contributes to being able to come back year after year,'' she said.

Williams believes the level of women's tennis is at an all-time high, with the depth of the field and no one or two players who dominate every tournament.

“Personally for me, the most interesting (storyline) is if I'm dominating,'' she said, laughing. “I think women's tennis is really right where it should be, there are new faces, there are faces we knew before and the fans love, and it's just a great diversity.

“That's what's important for sport, that there's someone for everyone to relate to, there's new stories and that's what will keep us going for a long time.''

Both Venus and Serena are using the Rogers Cup as part of their tuneup for the U.S. Open, Aug. 29 to Sept. 11 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Winnipeg Diver Kevin Greyson In Chinese Hospital

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(July 24, 2011) Shanghai, China— A member of the Canadian diving team is recovering in a Chinese hospital after being hit by a car on Saturday night.

Kevin Greyson, who is in Shanghai competing at the world aquatic championships, was crossing the street to catch a bus to the meet's venue when he was struck by a vehicle.

“It was scary,” Diving Canada spokesman Samuel Larochella told The Canadian Press. “But the news is good. He is awake, he is alert and doesn't have any big injuries.”

Greyson had left the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center on a bus when he asked the driver to let him off so he could return to the venue. When he attempted to cross the street to catch a different bus, Greyson was hit, leaving him with deep cuts on one of his knees.

“The local doctors and the Canadian doctors were there when he got to the hospital,” said Larochella, who added that Greyson has since spoken with his mother in Winnipeg.

“He will probably have to stay at the (hospital) for a week. And there will be someone from the Canadian team with him all the time.”

Greyson and partner Eric Sehn of Edmonton finished eighth in the 10-metre synchro event last Sunday.

They needed a top-three finish to earn an early Olympic qualifying spot for Canada. Their next opportunity will be in February at the FINA World Cup where they will in fact need a top-eight.

The pair joined forces last year just before the Commonwealth Games.

“We are progressing really fast,” Greyson said after the event. “It's an amazing result today considering we've been together for less than a year and other teams have been together for many years. This was my first worlds and I was really happy we kept it together and picked it up in the final.”

Jays Land Colby Rasmus In Blockbuster 14-Player Deal

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jul 27, 2011) On Wednesday, the Blue Jays, four days advance of the trade deadline, believe they found their centre-fielder of the future in Colby Rasmus, the cornerstone of a blockbuster three-team, potentially a 14-player trade among the Jays, Cards and White Sox.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos orchestrated a setup deal acquiring righthanded starter Edwin Jackson and Canadian infielder Mark Teahen from the White Sox for the Jays franchise's all-time appearance leader, reliever Jason Frasor and minor-league starter, Zach Stewart.

Then Anthopoulos turned the veteran Jackson around, trading him to St. Louis with relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel, plus outfielder Corey Patterson for Rasmus, righthanded pitching prospect P.J. Walters and a pair of ex-Jays' relievers — lefty Trever Miller and righthander Brian Tallet. In addition, the Jays will send three minor-league players or cash to complete the deal.

Rasmus, 24, was clearly the key. He had been much coveted by Anthopoulos and had been the object of his attention as the trade deadline approached.

“This past off-season leading into '11 was chaotic,” Anthopoulos said. “The Vernon (Wells) trade happened so late and again the free agent market at that stage had pretty much closed. Trade market teams were done. We had what we had in centre field and we were going to go with it.”

As summer wore on, and Rasmus began having issues with his manager Tony LaRussa, the Jays and their young GM were paying attention. It came to a head on Tuesday when LaRussa ripped his young centre fielder in a television interview that was very public.

“No, he doesn’t listen to the Cardinals coaches much now and that is why he gets in these funks, in my opinion,” an annoyed LaRussa told TV station KSDK in St. Louis. “You stay with basics of what they teach you, then he’d have a … but actually, I feel concern for him because he hears it from so many places, he’s got to be confused.”

Anthopoulos confirmed that Tuesday night was when he called the Cardinals back on Reasmus and the talks started to heat up. Anthopoulos is a proponent of the three-way transactions, keeping copious notes after every phone call detailing the needs and availability of other teams whenever he calls a rival GM. Rasmus fills a huge need for the Jays, as they have not been able to adequately fill the defensive void left by the departure of Gold Glover Vernon Wells to the Angels.

“We'd asked about (Rasmus) a lot in the past,” Anthopoulos said. “We asked about him a lot last off-season, during the season and the answer was always no. Really I'd say later afternoon or early evening Tuesday was a bit of a breakthrough. We were going to get the thing going and it really accelerated. We were able to wrap it up in the afternoon today.”

This has happened before with LaRuss and the Jays were there to scoop up the object of the manager's scorn. Third baseman Scott Rolen departed St. Louis under similar tense circumstances after irreparable run-ins with the controlling LaRussa. With Rasmus, it would be a confusion about character, combined with superior talent, that leads him to be welcomed in Toronto. Anthopoulos compared the situation to how both Yunel Escobar, Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie arrived as Jays.

“We all have warts,” Anthopoulos said. “It comes down to what type of human being are you. In the end, if you're a good person, you might be flashy, you might be arrogant, or you may not run hard all the time, but if you're a good person down to the core you'll be fine.

“If you're a bad human being, well you're not going to be long for this organization. We're probably going to cross you off the list. With Brett, with Yunel, it came down to they're great kids, good human beings. They care. Do they make mistakes? Do they always do the right things? Do they always say the right things? No, but to their core they're very good human beings and that's the way with Colby. We tend to forget that these are young players.

“Bautista, when we acquired him, there were a lot of grumblings about him, too. But I bet if you asked anybody about Rasmus, they'd say he's a great guy. He might do some things that rub people the wrong way. That's where you sort of have to sift through it.”

Frasor, 33, who recently broke Duane Ward's franchise record for appearances by a pitcher, was the longest serving Blue Jay, joining the team at spring training of 2004 in a trade from the Dodgers for outfielder Jayson Werth. Frasor, a native of Chicago, is 2-1 with a 2.98 ERA in 44 games. He leaves the Jays in his eighth season, with 455 appearances. He was emotional about his departure.

“I can't believe it actually happened,” Frasor said. “I can't believe it's Chicago, of all teams, of all cities. It's going to be alright, but it's going t be hard to leave here.”

Stewart, 24, has been regarded as one of the Jays' top pitching prospects since being acquired from the Reds along with Edwin Encarnacion for third baseman Rolen at the trade deadline in '09. He was promoted briefly in June and made three starts with a 0-1 record and a 4.86 ERA before being returned to AA-New Hampshire. He is 5-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 16 starts for the Fisher Cats. The Jays have a plethora of almost-ready-for-primetime starting prospects led by Deck McGuire, Henderson Alvarez and Kyle Drabek, allowing for the movement of Stewart out of the mix.

“We do have a lot of depth,” Anthopoulos agreed. “And we feel like we have a second wave behind them coming and, hopefully with some of the draft picks we made in '11, we'll have a third wave. You never have enough, but it made it a lot easier to have to part with a starting prospect.”

Jackson was 7-7 with a 3.92 ERA in 19 starts for the Chisox. With a 55-58 lifetime mark, the hard-throwing righty has pitched for the Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, D'backs and Chicago.

Teahen, 29, is primarily a utility player that the Jays have admired. He was batting .209 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 50 games for the Sox. He is a lifetime .266 hitter with 66 homers. Anthopoulos helped the White Sox by taking the balance of his $4.75 million for this season and the entire $5.5 million for 2012.

“We're in a position with our payroll where we have financial flexibility to take on the Teahen contract,” Anthopoulos said. “Right now our payroll isn't very high. We've got room to add. That was our off-season plan. Where other teams might be maxed out in payroll and I know Chicago's up there, if it's something that we can use to our advantage to move a deal along, great.”

In terms of the other players acquired from the Cardinals, the most interesting acquisition was Walters. The lanky 26-year-old righthander was an 11th round pick in '06. He had pitched four games for the Cards in relief this year, but over the course of his minor-league career has fanned 428 batters in 455 innings. He is a product of the University of South Alabama. For now he joins the Jays.

The other two pitchers, Miller and Tallet are both former Jays. Miller is a veteran who can likely fill the void in the bullpen left by Rzepczynski, while Tallet's role is to be determined. The Cardinals would not have made the deal without Rzepczynski included.

But the key to the transaction for the Jays is Rasmus. His acquisition fills a centre field void for the short and the long term. Rasmus is batting a disappointing .246 with 11 homers and 40 RBIs.

“When a window presents itself where someone may be available, especially if it's a middle of the diamond, premium position player you have to take advantage of it,” Anthopoulos said. “He's a young player. This is a good kid who – and I don't know exactly went on in St. Louis – but this is a good kid. We try to examine him in our environment and we believe he's going to thrive. Obviously there's no guarantees there and there's risk to it, but it's a chance we have to take.”

Basketball Star, 18, Gives Away $40k Scholarship

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Black

(Jul 25, 2011) For Allan Guei, 18, the last couple months have been exciting stuff. First he wins a $40,000 scholarship at a free-throw basketball competition in March at Compton High School in Los Angeles, Calif. Then weeks later, he wins a full scholarship to the university of his choice — California State University, Northridge.

The high school star basketball player with a 3.0 GPA decided he would give his fellow seven contestants in the free-throw competition the $40,000 he won.

“I decided to give up the money when I got the full scholarship,” he told the Toronto Star.

“I’m well taken care of to go to school. I could have kept the money, but I figured why not give the money to others that needed it more than I (do). These kids wanted to go to school and they were having a lot of financial (troubles) and I figured why not help them.”

Guei had never played basketball before he and his family moved to the U.S. from the Ivory Coast. But once he saw a game, he immediately fell in love with it.

“That’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

Guei hadn’t originally planned to enter the free-throw competition, but entered his name at the last minute. He was surprised to hear his name called out.

“People were watching you shoot. It was nerve wracking. But I calmed down. . . I didn’t shoot that well. But it was good enough for me to advance to the next round. All I had to do was make one shot. And that’s what I did,” he said.

“The other contestants missed. It was a blessing from above — from God.”

The man behind the free-throw competition is Court Crandall, a Hollywood screenwriter who helped pen Old School.

The 46-year-old decided to hold the competition, in conjunction with a documentary he is doing on basketball, because he wanted to “do something for these kids — to give them an opportunity that they wouldn’t necessarily have.”

“Compton is a relatively poor community that became notorious when a rap group NWA sang a song ‘Straight out of Compton,” Crandall said in a phone interview with the Star. “They put Compton on the map as a notorious place. . . A large part of the world knows Compton as what it was back then.”

Crandall wanted to show the world the different face of Compton. His 16-year-old son had played basketball on different local teams. Often the teams had boys from Compton on them. “It wasn’t lost on me that he (his son) had certain opportunities that these kids didn’t.”

And that’s how the basketball competition was born. Crandall chose a free-throw competition as a metaphor. He thought about all the lines that divide people — race, religion and money. And then he thought about a line that would unite people. And nothing would be more appropriate than a free-throw line of a basketball court, he explained.

Working with his advertisement agency — Wong Doody Crandall Wiener — Crandall managed to fundraise $40,000 for the winner of the competition along with a $1,000 for each runner up. But then the money kept coming in thanks to a campaign on Kickstarter. They raised so much money that the runners up actually got $5,500 — or enough to pay for their first year tuition of at a state college in California.

In conjunction with the contest, Crandall and his documentary team followed the eight contestants around for two weeks. “I was hoping basketball was a vehicle to tell the story. My hope was that it would be a competition that would create drama, but also hoping the kids would co-operate and help each other.”

They did that and then some, Crandall said. “The goal was to get the story out about what’s going on in the school.”

Guei’s generous offer didn’t surprise Crandall.

“I quickly realized Allan is a magnanimous kid who is super-principled. . . If you’d told me on Day 1 that this kid would have done that it would seem unlikely. But after spending a few weeks with him, I wasn’t surprised by the move. It was in keeping with his character and everything he’d done until that point,” Crandall said.

We Remember: Boxing Promoter Butch Lewis Dies at 65

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 23, 2011) *The legendary and charismatic boxing promoter Ronald “Butch” Lewis has died. Reports say Lewis was struck by a massive heart attack and died early Saturday morning (07-23-11) according to reports. He was 65.

Lewis’ sartorial trademark was his “Chocolate Tuxedo” look which consisted of him wearing a tuxedo without a shirt underneath it.

Lewis, a former car salesman, grew up in Philadelphia, was always fascinated by boxing and became a close friend and associate of Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

In 1988, Lewis negotiated one of the largest guaranteed paydays,
$13.5 million, in the sport’s history for Michael Spink’s fight against Mike Tyson.

Lewis made his foray into the entertainment world in 1991, producing cable and feature films through his Butch Lewis Productions.

He later started a partnership with Universal’s Island Def Jam Music Group to create a record label, Voicez.

Among those mourning the loss of Lewis are actor Denzel Washington and BET founder Bob Johnson, who were his close friends.

Cadel Evans First Australian To Win Tour De France

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(July 24, 2011) PARIS — Cadel Evans won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Australian to capture cycling’s most prestigious title.

The 34-year-old Evans celebrated after crossing the finish line on the Champs-Elysées, embracing riders from different teams as the massive crowd on France’s most famous thoroughfare cheered wildly.

Later he bounded up the steps onto the podium, taking deep breaths, then appeared at the top looking calm and waved the bouquet he received in the air.

Wrapped in an Australian flag, Evans looked close to tears as the Australian national anthem was played. He was joined on the podium by the Schleck brothers of Luxembourg — Andy, who finished second overall for the third straight year, and Frank, who was third.

Evans finished in the main pack at the end of the largely ceremonial final stage. He had virtually secured the title with his ride in the time trial in Grenoble a day earlier.

Andy Schleck of Luxembourg finished second overall for the third straight year, with brother Frank Schleck in third.

The 21st and final stage — the most prestigious for the race’s sprinters — was won by Britain’s Mark Cavendish for the third year in a row, despite being forced to change his bike on the Champs-Elysées. He also took the green jersey for the overall best sprinter.

Cavendish crossed the line holding out the green jersey he was wearing, and then kissed it. Despite his 20 Tour stage victories, the jersey had eluded him until now.

“Finally!” he said.

Second place went to Edvald Boasson Hagen of Norway, and third to Andre Greipel of Germany.

Evans is the oldest winner of the Tour since World War II, narrowly eclipsing Gino Bartali of Italy — who was also 34 but slightly younger — when he won in 1948. The all-time record was set by 36-year-old Firmin Lambot of Belgium — in 1922.

Wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, BMC team leader Evans celebrated with a glass of champagne as the riders made their way into Paris on the 59-mile ride from the southeastern suburb of Creteil.

After starting the stage on a specially painted yellow bike, Evans switched back to his normal bike. The team said he wanted to finish on the bike that he’d won the race on.

This year’s edition of the 108-year-old race featured one of the most exciting finishes in years — and without a serious doping blight that marred past Tours.

Seven or eight riders were still in competition for the victory during the climbs of the Alps in the final week. Evans looked at one point to have lost his chance, when Andy Schleck rode away from the others on the Galibier pass. But he held his nerve and finished well ahead of Schleck in the time-trial on Saturday to guarantee his victory.

The polka-dot jersey awarded to the best climber went to Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez of Spain, who brought his two children onto the podium with him, while the best young rider was Pierre Rolland of France.

Before setting off on Sunday, riders removed their helmets and observed a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the attacks in Norway.

“When this kind of thing happens, everybody forgets about the sport,” said Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd. “It’s not even important in comparison.

“It’s quite nice that everybody thinks of us. We’re a small country ... unfortunately this can happen anywhere.”

Hushovd and Boasson Hagen won two stages each in this year’s race.


2011 — Cadel Evans, Australia

2010 — Alberto Contador, Spain

2009 — Alberto Contador, Spain

2008 — Carlos Sastre, Spain

2007 — Alberto Contador, Spain

2006 — x-Oscar Pereiro, Spain

2005 — Lance Armstrong, United States

2004 — Lance Armstrong, United States

2003 — Lance Armstrong, United States

2002 — Lance Armstrong, United States

2001 — Lance Armstrong, United States

East Stops West In WNBA All-Star Game

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Paul J. Weber, The Associated Press

(July 23, 2011) There were the record number of first-time WNBA all-stars, and a halftime ceremony honouring the best players in WNBA history. Indiana Fever guard Katie Douglas didn't fit into either category.

So she made her mark another way.

The four-time all-star capped one of the closest WNBA midseason showcases ever by hitting the go-ahead three-pointer with 56.7 seconds left, and the Eastern Conference hung on for just its third all-star game victory over the West, 118-113 on Saturday.

"We got together during practice and the first thing we said was that we wanted to win," said New York Liberty guard Cappie Pondexter, who led the East with 17 points. "Alongside of having fun we wanted to be victorious today and we accomplished that. Good job."

At halftime, Pondexter was also named one of the WNBA's top 15 players of all-time, in celebration of this league's 15th season.

Douglas finished with 15 points and helped the East win just its third all-star game in 10 tries - but also third in the last four. Connecticut Sun centre Tina Charles scored 15, and headlined a record group of 10 players who made their all-star debuts in this year's game.

Swin Cash led the West with 21 points and 12 rebounds and was named MVP for the second time. Former WNBA star Lisa Leslie is the only other player with multiple all-star MVP awards.

Cash, the Seattle Storm's four-time all-star, was also named MVP in 2009. She is also the league's first all-star MVP from the losing team.

"I think so many players played well. It could've been anyone," Cash said.

The four-time all-star singled out Rebekkah Brunson, who had 20 points and nine rebounds for the West. Brunson started in place of Los Angeles Sparks centre Candace Parker, who is out due to a knee injury and still has yet to play in an all-star game despite ranking among the WNBA's elite players since her 2008 rookie year.

Parker's next chance may not come until 2013. Next summer is the Olympics, and the league may cancel the game - as it did in 2008 - while its biggest names play for the U.S. national team.

"We're thrilled that it's an Olympic year, and we'll obviously build our schedule to accommodate that," WNBA president Laurel Richie said before the game.

Neither side led by more than five points. The West's last chance came down to San Antonio's Becky Hammon scrambling to shoot a three-pointer, but she instead found herself without an open shot and nowhere to pass. Her desperate bid to escape a trap ended with her whistled for travelling with 3.5 seconds left.

"I think about midway through the fourth quarter both teams decided they wanted to win," Hammon said. "We just came up a little bit short today."

It was a disappointing end in an otherwise humbling day for Hammon, who was among the 15 current and former WNBA players named as the league's best ever. All-stars Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi also made the list.

"I was young when the WNBA started, at the end of my high school career," Bird said. "I watched them on TV and watched them in the Olympics. To be in the same group as those players is such an honour."

Tulsa's Liz Cambage, a late all-star addition in place of Parker, scored 13 points for the West. Taurasi also had 13 points and Phoenix's Penny Taylor added 11.

New York's Essence Carson scored 13 points off the bench for the East and Connecticut's Renee Montgomery added 12. Catchings, playing in her seventh all-star game, finished with 11 points.

Douglas' three summed up how the East won the game. The East shot 47 per cent from behind the arc while hitting 16 threes, more than twice as many as the West. Douglas, Carson and Montgomery each hit three threes.

It was the East's first victory since 2007, when it won 103-99.