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March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Great times at the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta! There are so many
highlights that I can't even name them all here.  However, stay tuned for my recap of the regatta next week!  In the meantime, check out photos from the Wyclef concert in my PHOTO GALLERY.

Now to some serious issues - The world mourns the consecutive tragedies in
Japan. Below under SCOOP, there are plenty of ways to give listed there and it just comes to personal choice.  Mine would be The Salvation Army's efforts. 

I was away for most of
Canadian Music Week but there is a review of the week below under MUSIC NEWS.  I hope that you all were able to celebrate all the genres included in CMW. 

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

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


How To Donate To Relief Efforts In Japan

www.thestar.com - Star staff

(March 15, 2011) Organizations helping
earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged Japan have made it easy for Canadians to donate.

Canadian wireless customers with most major carriers can text ASIA to 30333, to donate $5 to the Canadian Red Cross Japan Earthquake/Asia-Pacific Tsunami fund and there is no charge for the text.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, a total of $3 million has already been donated by Canadians since the catastrophic 8.9 magnitude earthquake Friday.

Those wanting to help can donate online at
redcross.ca or call 1-800-418-1111

James Astleford, donor-relations director for
ADRA Canada, a humanitarian agency established by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, said his organization has representatives in Japan working with stranded residents.

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee has set up a
Japan donation website as well and says it is working with partners on the ground to determine what role its volunteers can play.

Donations to CRWRC can also be made by calling 1-800-730-3490

Médicins Sans Frontières says two teams of three people are trying to reach the worst-hit areas in Japan’s Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.

“The MSF teams, composed of medical and logistics personnel, will try to reach the area by helicopter,” said spokeswoman Naomi Sutorius-Lavoie in an email Friday. “Once there, the two teams will liaise with local emergency-response authorities to assess medical needs. Another 25 MSF medical and logistical staff in Japan are on standby to respond once the situation has been assessed.”

UNICEF says it has already positioned supplies and personnel in countries throughout the Pacific region.

Plan International Canada had an emergency-response team on standby in Indonesia, where it has a warehouse stocked with 5,000 family kits available for immediate distribution.

World Vision Canada has also set up a webpage to solicit donations to provide disaster relief for victims of the earthquake.

UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, a group that supports IsraAid, an Israel-based humanitarian organization sending teams of rescue personnel, emergency medical officers and water pollution purification specialists to Japan, is also accepting donations here.

CARE Canada, Oxfam Canada, Oxfam-Quebec and Save the Children Canada have formed a group called The Humanitarian Coalition and began accepting donations Saturday.

Salvation Army announced it was allocating $75,000 to the earthquake relief effort in Japan and is accepting donations online here.

Canadians can also donate online through
International Development and Relief Foundation or by calling 1-866-497-IDRF (1-866-497-4373)

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada says “the best way for Canadians to help is to donate money — not clothing or food.”


Strombo Named UN’s Canadian Ambassador Against Hunger

www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(March 15, 2011) CBC host George Stroumboulopoulos is joining the battle against world hunger as the first Canadian to be named an ambassador against hunger as part of the United Nations World Food Program.

The announcement was made Tuesday night on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, where Stephen Lewis, a former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS, was a guest.

Other celebrity ambassadors include actresses Drew Barrymore and Susan Sarandon, and singer Christina Aguilera.

Stroumboulopoulos was given the title after a visit to Pakistan last month, where the UN program is engaged in feeding people after last year’s devastating floods.

A TV special documenting his trip will air April 1 on CBC.

“I'm excited to be a part of it,” said Stroumboulopoulos, whose charity work includes supporting the UN’s online donation site, WeFeedback.org.

“In any situation like this there’s all kinds of work being done on the ground by all kinds of people and so somebody in my position, all I really get to do is shine the light on work that’s already being done and hopefully use the position I have with the television show and a radio show to garner some interest.”

During the taping of Stroumboulopoulos’s show, Lewis derided some celebrities “like the Bob Geldofs” for exploiting humanitarian efforts for personal gain.

“You can never tell,” Lewis told reporters later, of a celebrity’s commitment to the cause.

“In the UNICEF history, the great ambassadors were Audrey Hepburn and Danny Kaye and all of the current and contemporary people you wonder about. But then you have the Michael Douglases and you have the Angelina Jolies, and you have people who are bringing profile to issues which really need the profile and that, I suspect, will be where George comes in.”

Lewis praised the 38-year-old broadcaster for being forthright and direct.

“My feeling is that George is going to make an impact. This is a significant thing for the world food program to have done in Canada. People will be moved and they will get involved.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Presenters Tapped & The Juno’s Are Running Longer!

Source:  http://blog.muchmusic.com/

[Note from Dawn: Wes “Maestro” Williams will also be presenting at this year’s Junos!]  (March 10th, 2011) With 40 years of hype leading to the 2011 Juno Awards the show has thrown in MORE performances, extending the broadcast to 2 ½ hours! And we’ve even got the first set of announced presenters ready for you!

Hosted by our boy Drake, the 40th Juno Awards will feature pop rockers…

Barenaked Ladies; music phenomenon and electronic artist deadmau5; global phenomenon K’Naan; Grammy Award-winning Lady Antebellum member Charles Kelley; hip hop artist Shad; and indie rock band Tokyo Police Club musician.

Plus, they’ll be joined by classic Canadian artists: musician, photographer and social activist Bryan Adams; Aboriginal singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie; musician (Black Dub), songwriter and producer Daniel Lanois; recording artist and founding member of The Band – Robbie Robertson; Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages James Moore and rock legends and members of Rush – Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee.

With performances still being scheduled as I type, here are the acts we know are taking the stage for sure: Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, Chromeo, Down With Webster, Hedley, Johnny Reid and Sarah McLachlan.

And don’t forget – all the Juno talent will be hitting up MuchMusic for the 2011 Juno Fan Fare @ Much in our parking lot at 299 Queen St. West. Find out HOW TO GET WRISTBANDS HERE!

The 2011 Juno Awards air Sunday March 27th @ 8PM ET on CTV, but MuchMusic hosts Lauren Toyota, Damian Abraham, Phoebe Dykstra and Tyrone Edwards check-in live on MUCH ON THE CARPET, airing at 7PM ET on Much.

Singer Nate Dogg Dies At Age 41


(March 16, 2011) LOS ANGELES — Singer Nate Dogg, whose near monotone crooning anchored some of rap's most seminal songs and helped define the sound of West coast hip-hop, has died at age 41.

Attorney Mark Geragos said Nate Dogg, whose real name was Nathaniel D. Hale, died Tuesday of complications from multiple strokes.

Nate Dogg wasn't a rapper, but he was an integral figure in the genre: His deep voice wasn't particularly melodic, but its tone — at times menacing, at times playful, yet always charming — provided just the right touch on hits including Warren G's “Regulate,” 50 Cent's “21 Questions,” Dr. Dre's “The Next Episode” and countless others.

While Nate Dogg provided hooks for rappers from coast to coast, the
Long Beach, Calif., native is best known for his contributions to the West Coast soundtrack provided by the likes of Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Tha Dogg Pound and more. Nate Dogg was even part of a “supergroup” featuring Snoop Dogg and Warren G, called 213.

Nate Dogg, who had suffered strokes in recent years, also put out his own solo projects but was best known for his collaborations with others.

Last year, Warren G said Nate Dogg was in therapy but needed help.

“Everybody just gotta keep him in their prayers, cause he had two strokes and that's real dangerous. And a lot of people don't come back from that,” he said in an interview to HipHollywood.

“Cause the game needs him, I need him.”

After word of his death spread, tributes poured in on Twitter.

“We lost a true legend n hip hop n rnb. One of my best friends n a brother to me since 1986 when I was a sophomore at poly high where we met,” Snoop Dogg tweeted Tuesday night.

All-Star Bob Marley Tribute Planned in London

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 11, 2011) *A tribute to legendary reggae artist
Bob Marley by a host of global artists will take place at this year’s One Love Peace Festival, to be held at London’s Wembley Arena on July 31.

Ky-Mani Marley – the son of the legendary reggae artist – will be joined by the likes of Busta Rhymes, Shaggy and Sean Paul to mark 30 years since the anniversary of the singer’s untimely death in 1981 at the age of just 36.

“I feel blessed to be part of The One Love Peace Festival,” says Ky-Mani. “It is with great pride that I will pay homage to my father, Bob Marley, with some of his best-loved songs. The festival’s message of peace is a noble cause that I hold very dear to my heart and one that my father would have applauded.

“It is in giving truthfully of oneself, selflessly to benefit others that the soul finds satisfaction and great delight. London I’m coming to give you all that I’ve got with my music…past to present…it is my Destiny.

“The festival will be unforgettable to all of us who are present… Mystical proportions. 30 years after my father’s passing and his legacy still lives on. One Love.”

Meanwhile, Busta Rhymes admitted he is “dying” to return to the UK to perform for the first time in three years.

“I can’t wait to get back to the UK! It’s been three years since I last performed here so I’m dying to tear the roof off Wembley Arena at The One Love Peace Festival with some old school joints and brand new bangers,” he said. “When I’m done, you’re gonna remember it for a long time to come. Get ready because it’s about to go down!”


Celine Dion Returns To Vegas With A Bang

www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(March 15, 2011) LAS VEGAS — Celine Dion has returned to the Las Vegas stage in a parade of sparkly dresses with thigh-hit slits, a stage full of trumpeters, violinists and drummers, and a special appearance by Stevie Wonder.

The French-Canadian crooner sang the romantic opuses that made her an international star, including My Heart Will Go On and It's All Coming Back to Me Now, in her encore performance Tuesday night at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace. She also shared a pre-recorded duet with Wonder to his Overjoyed.

 “Was that neat or what?” Dion told the concert hall of more than 4,000 people as a hologram of Wonder faded from the stage.

A lot is riding on this sequel performance. Dion, who gave birth to twin boys nearly five months ago, is tending to an expanded family while trying to mirror or surpass her previous success in a city that has yet to pry itself free from the embrace of a brutal recession.

The new three-year production pays tribute to Old Hollywood, with a 31-person orchestra dressing the stage, including an entourage of guitarists, back-up singers, drummers and a pianist, all clad in black tuxedos and gowns.

Gone are the Cirque du Soleil-style dancers and theatrics that saw Dion harnessed to a cable and flown in the air during her previous, five-year stint at the Colosseum that ended in 2007.

“From Michael Jackson to James Bond to Mr. Paganini, it's so different, and it's so classy, and it's fun,” Dion told The Associated Press before the show. “Different flavour. Different colours of music.”

She performed songs made famous by Jackson, Billy Joel and Ella Fitzgerald. There was also a mod homage to James Bond and a Smooth Criminal jam session.

A chandelier twinkled above the stage during a performance of Because You Loved Me, smoke licked at Dion's heels during All by Myself, and in a haunting mid-concert rendition of Jacques Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas, Dion tearfully contemplated the loss of a lover in her native French.

The concert hall swelled at the emotion. Women cried, cheered on their feet and wiped their eyes dry.

Dion wore a bedazzled white strapless gown and belted out Journey's Open Arms on a stage dressed in sheer curtains. As she approaching the booming chorus, the curtains dropped to reveal rows of musicians across the stage.

Later in the show, a video showed images of her oldest son blowing out his birthday candles, of the twins being baptized at a Las Vegas church, and performances by a young Dion at the dawn of her career.

She donned seven outfits, most covered in glittery details, during the nearly two-hour journey through her greatest hits.

Dion also performed Man in the Mirror in a memorial to the belated Jackson, a long-time musical influence.

Dion was originally expected to start her new show at Caesars in June 2010, but five failed in-vitro fertilization attempts delayed those plans. She delivered twin sons Nelson and Eddy in October, and began rehearsing in January as she continued to breastfeed the babies and care for her 10-year-old son with the help of her mother, sister and a nanny.

In that time, Dion also squeezed in a performance at the 83rd Academy Awards last month.

Nine Acts That Stood Out From The Pack

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert W. Butler

(March 13, 2011) Want to know what you missed at
Canadian Music Week? Reporters Ben Rayner and Brendan Kennedy, and music editor Garnet Fraser, name their favourites from the five days of performances that wrapped on Sunday.

Die Mannequin, Saturday, Horseshoe Tavern: Gossip has it this pummelling Toronto quartet’s much-ballyhooed big-time deal with Warner Music has gone south, which is a shame but maybe not such a bad thing since the label never really seemed to get 2009’s terrific Fino + Bleed album off the ground. Let’s hope, then, that perhaps there was someone with a vision for Die Mannequin’s future in the room on Saturday, since it was patently obvious to anyone taking in the band’s blistering wee-hours set that 23-year-old frontwoman Care Failure has the songs and the stage presence to command a much larger audience than she does. We really do need more proper rock ’n’ roll chicks like her. And the current Die Mannequin line-up, with drummer Dazzer Scott and former Robin Black sideman Stacy Stray ably rounding out the core of Failure and Anthony Bleed, can seriously tear it up, bringing a breathless, pseudo-industrial chug to the young bandleader’s hook-filled punk-metal tirades. The bands that followed, Rah Rah and Wildlife, tried to match the intensity, but they still wound up looking like wussies.

Karkwa, Friday, Wrongbar: The deserving recipients of last year’s Polaris Music Prize for the stately prog-rock epic Les Chemins de Verre, Montreal’s Karkwa led a strong Quebecois charge into CMW this year and proved themselves excellent ambassadors for the wide world of francophone rock ’n’ roll the rest of Canada rarely bothers to investigate. These lads are excellent players who enjoy challenging themselves as much as their listeners. One got the sense on Friday that there was the potential for a full-on Weather Report freak-out to erupt whenever the versatile quintet started tearing one of its songs apart and veering off into protracted feats of jazzbo-tricky jammery. Quite a few “whoa!” moments there. And I rather like how much this band smiles onstage.

Alcoholic Faith Mission, Wednesday, Rancho Relaxo: This was the first of three CMW shows for this troupe of hirsute Danish gentlemen, and one lovely lass on keyboards and angelic harmony vocals, and undoubtedly not the best, given Rancho’s middling acoustics and what appeared to be rather cramped conditions onstage. But it was still pretty awesome. Alcoholic Faith Mission’s soulful folk-pop chorales exuded a genuinely warm and inviting presence, and were executed with poise and polish one might not expect given their rustic, ramshackle nature. At a festival short on real “discovery” acts this year, here was a real discovery.

Honourable Mention: Esben and the Witch, Friday, at Wrongbar. My word, family dinners with Rachel Davies must be difficult affairs. The diminutive Goth-girl howler and her two-piece band are all about blacker-than-black intensity onstage, but all that tribal minimalism needs a little livening up on the presentation front to sustain interest for an entire set.

Ben Rayner

Russian Futurists, Saturday, the Bait Shop: Matt Hart, a one-man band in studio, brought his poppy electronic creations to impressive life in an afternoon show, thanks to a solid live band’s fresh energy brought to old compositions like “Paul Simon” and “Precious Metals,” along with the new stuff from last year’s comeback album, The Weight's on the Wheels. Endearingly rumpled in a red windbreaker, Hart looked like Jim Gaffigan’s younger brother, but sounded rather like LCD Soundsystem . . . and we do need a new one, right?

Idiotape, Thursday, Clinton’s: This Korean electronic trio were achieving the near impossible — getting a strange audience in Toronto to dance — with their infectious sound, somewhere between Cut Copy and Chromeo. The two guys twiddling knobs at the front, Dguru and Zeze, could have kept it going, but the stunning live drummer known as DR kept breaking parts of his kit with his power. Even so, the audience was won over. If the band’s attempt to break into North America is serious — and they are playing at South by Southwest after this — then catch them the next time. (Bragging rights remain mine, though.)

The Pack A.D., Friday, Bovine Sex Club: Little to say here that Ben Rayner hasn’t said, again and again, but Vancouver punk-blues duo Becky Black and Maya Miller brought it hard and fast enough to satisfy the rock-savvy Bovine crowd, notably on “Crazy.” This throbbing, snarling, wailing sensation seldom seems to stop touring, so if you missed them at CMW, next time’s coming around sooner than you think.

Honourable Mentions: Wagons, Belle Game, Northcote

for being known excellent quantities: Shad, Janelle Monae, J Mascis

Garnet Fraser

Miracle Fortress, Thursday, Lee’s Palace: In a rare live show, Montreal’s Miracle Fortress previewed songs from its highly anticipated sophomore album with a short set of all new material. We haven’t heard much from the Fortress — the solo project of frontman Graham Van Pelt, who also plays in party band Think About Life — since his much-loved 2007 debut Five Roses was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize. The new songs — performed with the aid of a sampler, looping pedal and manic drummer Greg Napier — maintain the dreamy, ethereal soundscapes Van Pelt perfected on Five Roses, but he appears to have traded that album’s breezy intimacy for bigger choruses and unabashed euphoria. It seems Van Pelt is aiming more at the dance floor with this new record than the bedroom, with some songs even veering toward INXS and New Order territories. Next month’s release is now all the more intriguing.

Allie Hughes, Friday, Sneaky Dee’s: The smile-inducing set by zany local indie-pop diva Allie Hughes was by far the most fun of all the shows I caught at this year’s CMW. Melodramatic and theatrical, Hughes and her forceful, operatic voice took the bewildered audience on a bizarro trip through her multiple stage personas, slipping just as comfortably into a bright pop duet as a rocking power ballad. In less than half an hour, the young singer channelled Freddie Mercury, Elton John and Björk, with a punchy set that concluded with a fierce rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Her eccentricities as a performer might be tedious if she wasn’t so damn good. A courageous, free-thinking record label could make her a big-time star. She just needs a few million bucks to stage a travelling opera that can match her imagination.

Bombay Bicycle Club, Friday, Lee’s Palace: The baby-faced British buzz band drew a packed crowd to its first North American show in one of the more highly anticipated performances of the weekend. Drawing mostly from its popular 2010 album, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose, the band drove through a fast-moving and spirited set of reverb-laced guitar pop. Jack Steadman’s tightly wound, jittery vocals, spaced between frenetic bursts of blitzy guitar thrashing, recalled the likes of Joy Division and Talking Heads. But the band’s bottled-up intensity, knack for crafting note-perfect melodies and occasional dalliances into calypso pop and other unlikely territories suggest the hype is well deserved. After Friday's first ever North American show, chances are at least its Toronto audience will swell.

Brendan Kennedy

Up Close And Personal, Janet Jackson Is In Her Element

www.globeandmail.com - By Amy Verner

Janet Jackson
At the Sony Centre in Toronto on Saturday

(March 14, 2011) As a photomontage reminded the audience on Saturday and Sunday night, Janet Jackson has a predilection for showing skin. But now it's her new 35-city concert Number Ones: Up Close and Personal that could best be described as stripped down.

In Toronto for two performances at the Sony Centre, the chart-topping artist concealed her midsection, staved off any wardrobe malfunctions and curtailed the highly charged simulated sex moves that have become expected in her live shows.

Jackson also proved that she no longer needs elaborate stage sets or pyrotechnics to captivate her fans. They really just want to hear, dance and sing along to Escapade, Miss You Much and All for You.

With 3,000 seats, the Sony Centre is considerably smaller than the stadium-sized venues she has filled on previous visits (the most recent in 2008) and suggested a Vegas vibe. Jackson wanted this tour to be more intimate, she explains in a two-minute video on her website that also played before she arrived on stage.

Really, "up close and personal" comes across as smart spin. While she's an undeniable music legend - and not just because she's Michael's little sis - there's the question of whether she can still fill a massive arena. More intimate equals less risk.

Then there's the fact that Jackson turns 45 in May. She remains in especially fine form- sculpted body, taut face, close-cropped spiky hair - and comes across as comfortable and confident, no showboating necessary.

But her Number Ones album came out in 2009 and despite a role in last year's film For Colored Girls and a new self-help book, True You, the tour is clearly an important way for her to stay connected with fans.

She even invited them to choose the 35 stops and for each city, she dedicates a song. Toronto got Come Back to Me, a romantic, yearning slow jam from Rhythm Nation 1814.

The concert opened with the original video from 1990 projected onto the large screen at stage rear. It made for an unusual moment since the audience was expecting her to appear. She held off until the song's end but then immediately broke into The Pleasure Principle, which she followed with six additional up-tempo crowd pleasers (including Control and What Have You Done for Me Lately).

To cram in upward of 30 hits in a 90-minute show (plus an extended encore) meant that the songs were grouped together as medleys and teasingly shortened in a way that only someone suffering from attention deficit disorder would appreciate.

The most prolonged moments, in fact, occurred when Jackson was backstage and the audience was treated to the aforementioned glamour shots and snippets of her small and big screen roles (Good Times, Diff'rent Strokes, Poetic Justice).

Six-pack ab flaunting aside, Jackson is best known for militaristic-meets-futuristic ensembles. Her five outfit changes for the concert spanned fembot jumpsuit to ultra-feminine evening gown, black sporty sparkly street wear to shiny all-white suit with exaggerated shoulders. There was nothing subtle about her ample cleavage, which glistened as she bopped, grooved and glided across the stage.

If anything, it's difficult to watch her dance without thinking of her brother. Indeed Michael was acknowledged at various points along the way, although she never spoke his name. Scream, their one duet, lived up to its title as far as the crowd's reaction, easily the loudest of the night despite being one of her lesser hits.

Seeing Jackson in concert is less about her vocal range than her command of countless choreographed moves to catchy songs that you find you know the words to. She's in her element performing live, transitioning smoothly from fierce and aggressive to sweet and giggly. Most of all, she's no substitute for Michael but she's the closest we've got.

Lauryn Hill Extends Tour Dates


(March 14, 2011) *Lauryn Hill is keeping with slowly reintroducing herself to the world. She’s been performing at small, intimate venues across the country and has decided to extend her tour by popular demand. Hill’s “Moving Target” tour has a few added dates for you to check out below.

The multi-genius recording artist decided to go with the intimate settings to give her fans a real, close-up experience.

“One of the benefits of playing venues smaller than the ones I’m used to allows me the opportunity to not only reconnect with my supporters but to expose them to a portion of the musical journey I’ve been on which the world for the most part has not had access to.”

She added:

“These more intimate playdates afford me the time to perform for listeners who haven’t heard from me over the past several years or have been misinformed by the inaccuracies in some media coverage, many of which I might add, I find very amusing.”

“Moving Target: Extended Intimate Playdate Series” dates:

*       Mar. 16 – Orlando, FL at House of Blues
*       Mar. 19 – Miami, FL at Jazz in the Gardens Festival
*       Mar. 23 – Tampa, FL at The Ritz
*       Mar. 26 – Myrtle Beach, SC at House of Blues
*       Mar. 30 – Atlanta, GA at Center Stage
*       Apr. 03 – Oahu, HI at Aloha Tower
*       Apr. 09 – Portland, OR at Arlene Schnitzer Hall
*       Apr. 12 – San Francisco, CA at The Warfield
*       Apr . 15 – Indio, CA at Coachella Music and Arts Festival
*       Apr. 18 – Los Angeles, CA at Club Nokia
*       Apr. 23 – Denver, CO at The Fillmore
*       May 07 – New Orleans, LA at Jazz and Heritage Festival

Sarah McLachlan’s Pas De Deux With The Alberta Ballet

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(March 12, 2011) Singer-songwriter is third
musician, after Elton John and Joni Mitchell, to see her work choreographed by the innovative Calgary company.

Her ballads have served as a tear-generating soundtrack for countless broken-hearted fans, but in a Calgary rehearsal hall on a recent frosty afternoon,
Sarah McLachlan had the emotional tables turned on her. The Canadian superstar wept as she watched for the first time a sorrowful pas de deux to her lament, Hold On. It's the darkest moment in the ballet Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, currently being created by Alberta Ballet's artistic director Jean Grand-Maître, and set to McLachlan's music.

"I was trying to hold back my tears ... it was just so emotional," McLachlan said after the short rehearsal. "That performance was so beautiful and Jean the whole time was saying, 'You know this is just the beginning and it's only half-way done.' And I'm like, 'Shut up. This is so gorgeous.' "

The ballet, Grand-Maître's latest set to pop music, explores a woman's life - not McLachlan's, specifically, but the life of an Everywoman developed by the choreographer in consultation with the 43-year-old singer.

The two met in rehearsal for the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics last year; Grand-Maître choreographed McLachlan's number. A couple of weeks later, at the intermission of the Vancouver premiere of Grand-Maître's Joni Mitchell ballet, The Fiddle and The Drum, he cornered McLachlan and asked if she would consider letting him choreograph a ballet to her songs.

"It was an instant yes," McLachlan remembers. She was impressed with Fiddle's first act, and also by Grand-Maître during the Olympic preparations. "It was a joy to watch him work with the dancers and to see the greatness that he pulled out of them." (Watching him dance during one of those rehearsals with her now-eight-year-old daughter, India - including lifts - didn't hurt either.)

A few months later, Grand-Maître was at McLachlan's home, set on a forested lot in West Vancouver. There, they went through the list of songs he had selected for the ballet (including Drawn to the Rhythm, Into the Fire and Ice Cream) and he quizzed her about their inspiration. He wanted to know which colours and seasons she associated with each song.

He also wanted to hear about her experiences as a woman. They talked about first loves, motherhood, divorce (McLachlan has split from the father of her two children) - as well as the guilt women have a tendency to feel, the joys of life, the struggles.

Their conversations formed the backbone of the libretto. "It's not specifically about me, but there are nuances and essences of my story and of lots of other women's stories," said McLachlan.

"Being a woman in this day and age is a really fascinating, interesting experience," she added. "Just such a massive change from even 30 years ago. One or two generations passed, and opportunities and possibilities for us are in the stratosphere. Yet we still have the weight and the history of thousands and thousands of years of male domination. So we profess to have it all, we want to have it all, we get to have it all ... but finding that balance is so precarious."

Grand-Maître jokes that this ballet has been created by an all-male team of set, costume, lighting and video designers, along with Grand-Maître. "I said [to Sarah], 'We're all guys and we're trying to capture what is the ethos of woman today.' And she said, 'Half of you are gay; that's going to help.' "

As the ballet's Everywoman progresses through life, she is portrayed by six dancers - who range from age 11 during Ben's Song ("the innocence of childhood" reads Grand-Maître's description) to 53 by the time they reach Mary ("wisdom from experience"), a song inspired by McLachlan's mother. At key moments, she is supported by a sisterhood of dancers, who empower her to survive life's most difficult challenges.

Just don't call it a feminist ballet.

"I think it's so limiting to say it's a feminist ballet or it's a feminine ballet," said McLachlan. "I think the idea, the essence of a whole woman encompasses so much more. ... sensuality, sexuality, feminism, femininity, humanity."

Though a key consultant, McLachlan has not been privy to the details of the ballet. She wants to be surprised, she says, when she shows up for the world premiere in Calgary in May. Still, she did stop in to watch a bit of the rehearsal while in town last Sunday on her current tour - "a little hors d'oeuvre," Grand-Maître called it.

Sitting between the choreographer and costume designer Paul Hardy, McLachlan watched, wide-eyed, as the company launched into Vox, "a celebration of youthful love" in Grand-Maître's vision. A giant smile on her face - you could call it almost girlish delight - McLachlan sat through short rehearsals to four of her songs, sometimes mouthing her own lyrics. She laughed when, as prompted by the lyrics in Building A Mystery, the dancers screamed in unison.

"Boy, do they get it," she said afterward.

As delighted as McLachlan was with what she saw, Grand-Maître predicts the real effect of her visit will be on the performers. "I have a feeling that after today they're even going to dance the ballet differently, after meeting with her and the energy she gave them."

Principal dancer Kelley McKinlay, who portrays the Everywoman's dying true love in Hold On - the song that set McLachlan off - was clearly buoyed by the encounter. "To put her into tears like that, I mean, that's what you want as a dancer," he said. "That's what you strive for: to really move people. And to move the person that composed the music you're dancing to is a great feeling."

McKinlay dances with Galien Johnston, who at 31 is marking her swan song with Fumbling. "Because it's going to be my last ballet, I already have a high emotion about it, and because it's about journey, the journey of a woman, and I'm at sort of a major fork in the road in my life, I guess it has a lot of meaning personally," Johnston said after the rehearsal.

McLachlan herself is, she acknowledges, not much of a dancer. Although she says that, like every girl, she dreamed of growing up to be a ballerina, it took about a year of lessons when she was 7 in Halifax to cure her of that career aspiration. "I remember the culmination of the body of our work was us lying on the floor pretending to be cats and licking ourselves ... I thought, 'I'm going to stick to music,' " said McLachlan, who is nominated for three Juno Awards for her album Laws of Illusion (and will perform at the Junos later this month).

That music is very danceable, says Grand-Maître, who was attracted to McLachlan's songs for their rhythm and lyricism. "There's theatre in it," he says. "There's a lot of emotion."

This is Grand-Maître's third pop-music ballet (or "portrait of our times," as the company is calling them). Mitchell's The Fiddle and The Drum premiered in 2007; last year it was Love Lies Bleeding, set to Elton John's music.

McKinlay, who joined Alberta Ballet at the same time as Grand-Maître, says he's heard his share of complaints about the company "selling out" with these ballets, a charge he strongly denies. "It's always the people who haven't seen it who turn their nose up about it"

This is certainly not the only example of ballet and popular music bleeding into each other. Paul McCartney is writing an original score for the New York City Ballet, and Pet Shop Boys have a ballet opening in London this month.

Grand-Maître, a respected choreographer, points out that his repertoire reaches far beyond popular music; that he takes artistic risks and has set or choreographed numerous non-pop ballets. And he says the work he does with popular music has merit.

"Choreographing Elton John is as hard as Stravinsky. Because of the syncopation, the intensity of the tunes - and they're famous. ... I always say to myself if you're going to do a ballet on these famous singers, how can you approach it in a different way that's not schlock? You don't have to do schlock."

Love Lies Bleeding - a chronicle of the highs and lows of pop superstardom - opened to good reviews, and Alberta Ballet is now trying to get the work on the road. Although not confirmed, shows in Toronto and Vancouver are likely this fall. Ultimately, Grand-Maître envisions such a high demand for Love Lies Bleeding that Alberta Ballet may create a separate touring company.

He sees Fumbling going out on the road, too: "We're already getting requests to tour Sarah across California. And it doesn't even exist yet."

This kind of art is good business. When Love Lies Bleeding tickets went on sale, Alberta Ballet recorded the highest one-day sales in its history. The online demand crashed their system. Sales for the production reached 98-per-cent capacity, trouncing the company's historic average of 75 per cent. Both Edmonton shows sold out; something that hasn't happened for Alberta Ballet there since the company brought Baryshnikov to town in 1995. Sales for Fumbling are so good that a show was added this week.

So how does a Hull, Que.-born, Calgary-based choreographer get all these megastars to play ball(et)? Meeting Grand-Maître, 47, it's not difficult to understand. He's a charmer in the most genuine of ways. There's no slick showmanship, but a passionate authenticity with a dash of self-deprecation.

Still, you don't get Elton John to let you create a ballet around his music simply because you're a great guy. Grand-Maître says the attraction for these musicians lies in the novelty. "They've done the Olympics, the Academy Awards, the Grammys. They've toured around the world, and they've written music with other great musicians. But this is something different for them and it's a reinterpretation of their own work, which I think is what they find interesting."

Also, they like what they see. John did not grant permission to the company to tour Love Lies Bleeding outside Alberta until the show had premiered, earning his approval.

And McLachlan, after her little hors d'oeuvre, was clearly delighted. "It was beautiful. Really, really powerful. ... I am in capable hands. Very capable hands."

Grand-Maître's not done with pop ballets yet. He has been speaking with Leonard Cohen's son, Adam, about setting a ballet to his dad's music. "With every one of them, it's been so different. With Joni, it's been a heavy collaboration; with Elton it was far away but still there, still supporting. And if it works with Leonard, maybe it'll become a collaboration with his son, an homage to his father.

"So they always take different roads," says Grand-Maître, "which means the ballet never looks the same."

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy runs in Calgary May 5 to 7 and Edmonton May 13 to 14. Visit albertaballet.com.

A Brief History of Pop Ballets

With Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Jean Grand-Maître delivers his third pop ballet, following 2007's The Fiddle and the Drum, set to the music of Joni Mitchell; and last year's Elton John tribute, Love Lies Bleeding. But he's not alone in tapping AM music for FM inspiration.


In 1970, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens broke ground with Fernand Nault's ballet choreographed to the Who's classic rock opera.


British Choreographer Christopher Bruce created this acclaimed ballet in 1991 for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève. Set to eight early Rolling Stones songs - including, of course, Little Red Rooster - the ballet examines sexuality and the battle of the sexes through the lens of the sixties.

Straight Life

This ballet, by Sudbury native and former National Ballet of Canada dancer Matjash Mrozewski, is set to music by Bruce Springsteen. It premiered at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in 2004, when Mrozewski, who is based in Toronto, was still in his 20s.


The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago created what's been called America's first full-length rock ballet to songs by Prince, in 1993, with choreography by Laura Dean, Charles Moulton, Margo Sappington and Peter Pucci.

The Most Incredible Thing

Pet Shop Boys created an original score for this classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, with choreography by Javier de Frutos. It opens at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre March 17.

Ocean's Kingdom

Don't look for any yellow submarines when this ballet, set partly in an ocean world, has its world premiere at New York City Ballet in September, 2011. The music is by Paul McCartney (with choreography by Peter Martins), but the former Beatle is writing an original score.

The Rise Of The 'Book Tune': Just Hum That Novel Again, Will You?

www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

(March 15, 2011) Think of a book you read last month or last year. Do
you remember it well enough to write a reasonably detailed summary without looking at the text?

Well-established memory research suggests that you probably retain only about 2 per cent of a book you read a month ago, even if you loved it. All the rest has succumbed to what
Jonathan Sauer calls "the Sisyphean absurdity of forgetting almost everything you read."

Sauer is an educational entrepreneur and memory activist whose own involuntary sacrifices to the "curve of forgetting" (as psychologists call the predictable loss of new information) prompted him to look for a way to hang on to more of what he reads. He found it in a song - not just any song, but one that condenses a book's core information into rap verses.

Sauer and his musical partner Andy Bernstein (who raps under the name Abdominal) figure they can convert just about any book into a Book Tune that will keep the book's information fresh in your mind. They've already done it with Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Sonja Lyubomirsky's The How of Happiness, a 2007 book about the science of contentment.

"More people can recall song lyrics than can remember chunks of text, or even of poetry," says Sauer. That's because rhyme, rhythm, melody and repetition have what cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin (This is Your Brain on Music) of McGill University calls a "mutually reinforcing" effect on recollection.

The idea is that if you listen to a Book Tune periodically after finishing the book, you will refresh the information and halt the slide down the curve of forgetting. Just hearing the gist of the book will keep submerged details within retrievable memory.

The idea caught the interest of SparkNotes, Barnes & Nobles's book-study site, which put a link to The Scarlet Letter Book Tune on its page about the novel (at sparknotes.com/lit/scarlet/) and has expressed interest in book-tune versions of other curriculum classics, including plays by Shakespeare. Lyubomirsky says she "couldn't be happier" with the How of Happiness Book Tune, which has fetched lots of positive comments from readers and is linked to her site about the book (at chass.ucr.edu/faculty_book/lyubomirsky).

Great - but how do you compress a 400-page book into a few minutes of music? Start by writing a 40-page summary (as Sauer does), try to winnow that down to the most essential information, then start thinking about rhymes and verse-lengths.

"I try to approach it much like an essay," says Bernstein. "I set up kind of a skeleton guideline before I actually write the lyrics, and say, 'These are the key points, I need to cover X amount in the first verse, this much in the second,' and just go from there."

Bernstein's version of The How of Happiness runs about eight minutes, a feat of compression that he estimates took about 80 hours to achieve. Unlike most rap (including Bernstein's 2007 album, the witty and original Escape From the Pigeon Hole), the Book Tune forgoes DJ backgrounds and aggressive delivery in favour of a more mellow, melodic style with live guitars and drums.

"We have a working formula now, but the books don't get any shorter," says Bernstein, who has begun work on The Four Agreements, a self-help bestseller by Don Miguel Ruiz. So far, however, a formula for making money from Book Tune has proven elusive. A 30-second sample of The Scarlet Letter has gotten lots of traffic on SparkNotes, but Sauer and Bernstein only get paid when a student buys the song on iTunes. In spite of Lyubomirsky's enthusiasm, her publisher has yet to make use of The How of Happiness Book Tune in any digital versions of the book.

"It would fit in perfectly with the enhanced e-book paradigm," says Sauer, who also sees potential in advertising-supported podcasts. He hopes to forge an alliance with a publisher willing to commit several titles to book-tune treatment.

In the meantime, Bernstein, who lives in Toronto, forges on with his next album, for which he's using the same band and aesthetic approach as on the Book Tune.

"I'm close to 40," he says. "My roots are in hip hop, and I still love hip hop, but I want something to reflect what's been going on in my life, and that's tough to do in a straight-ahead hip-hop way."

It's all about marking transitions and lodging memories in one of the best vehicles available: a song.

SXSW: Texas-Sized Festival Hotter Than Ever

www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(March 15, 2011) AUSTIN, TEX.—Every first-timer at South by Southwest gets the knowing lecture: come here once for the festival and you’ll likely be coming here every March for the rest of your days.

At its simplest, that’s the reason why a modest little scheme — hatched 25 years ago by a few pals working at the alternative weekly the Austin Chronicle to get their friends in bands and in the attendant music business more work — has grown into the North American rock ’n’ roll equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival. South by Southwest just does it right, and no matter how big it gets — and it’s grown huge beyond all reason during the past few years, maybe huger than ever in 2011 — it still seems to walk that crucial balance of pure, geeked-out love of music and the nitty-gritty, deal-making side of the industry with grace. Amidst glorious springtime temperatures that most of its attendees can’t even dream of experiencing at this time of year.

“I was told by some of the early people who were involved in South by Southwest who would come up to help us with North by Northeast that the only advantage they had was that Austin in March is warm, which is why most of the industry wants to come here,” laughs Yvonne Matsell, talent booker at El Mocambo and now a 20-year veteran of SXSW. “But I just think it’s the Holy Grail of festivals and music.”

Matsell was first lured to SXSW by her boss at the storied Ultrasound nightclub, Michael “X-Ray” Mcrae, who is deemed by Toronto lore to be the man who pioneered what has grown into an annual mass march to Texas by a sizeable chunk of the Canadian music industry back when nobody else from Canada knew what a South by Southwest was.

She has returned each year save one since not just because of the spidery network of contacts and potential business partners that can be gleaned from a festival that brings in new bodies each year by word of mouth — “Whoever you want to meet, you can meet here,” says Matsell — but also because the festival has managed to maintain a music-first spirit despite the fact that it’s grown “insanely busy” the past eight years and “name” names such as the Foo Fighters, Kanye West, the Strokes, Cee Lo Green and, er, Duran Duran and Yoko Ono were among those scheduled to mingle with the “indie” masses as SXSW Music 2011 kicked into gear on Tuesday.

“Even bands who don’t get accepted, I tell them to just come here and soak it up,” she says. “If you experience the excitement, it revitalizes you. It makes you do a better job. I just get turned on again.”

SXSW’s creators never conceived of the festival as the massive, three-pronged assault by the latest in music, film and technology that it is today when they launched the original, music-only event in 1986, with 170 bands in 12 clubs to an attendance of about 700. But they’ve been smart enough to keep an eye to the future all along — first in the music programming, then in the bringing together of music with film and computer-age “interactive” components in 1994 and, this year, by combining all three trade shows into one giant mass that recognizes that all three sides of SXSW now feed and feed off each other.

“I always believed, even before we started it, that it could be a large and influential event, otherwise I wouldn’t have killed myself for the first five years working on the thing,” says managing director Roland Swenson, one of SXSW’s four co-founders. “But when we started, Reagan was president, there was no email, there were no fax machines, the World Wide Web and broadband was seven or eight years in the future. So there was no way we could have imagined what it’s turned into.

“We started out hoping we’d get 150 or 200 people and we got 700, so for us, that was a big success. We were very excited about that. But it grew really fast. The next year we had 1,200 and the year after that we had 1,800. We had to deal with rapid growth early on, so that’s helped us in the past five or six years when the event has really grown a lot . . . We never took it for granted that it was going to last. We always approach it every year as: ‘You know, if we screw this up, it could all be over.’

“It’s a tightrope, it really is. We’ve seen really large events crumble and disappear within a few years. So we’re constantly trying to reinvent it and come up with new stuff.”

This year, SXSW boasts 2,400 performers on the music side and will draw something like 36,000 attendees.

Such a shift in size provokes its share of grumbles from longtime supporters — hell, this writer has been coming for scarcely a decade and even I bitch and moan sometimes about the oppressive crowds and the AOL banners and the trucks hawking Monster Energy Drink — but most of those grumbling are still here.

Jeff Cohen, for instance, can trace a lot of the steady talent traffic through the Horseshoe Tavern, which he co-owns and books, to bands he’s loved and met down here at SXSW, from Calexico and the Old 97s and Whiskeytown to Neko Case and Wilco.

It’s no longer the same SXSW he witnessed just 15 years ago, when it “was only the really left-of-centre, alternative/indie people who were into it” and “I saw something that was totally not mainstream in any way,” but he’s still coming and he’s still observing the tradition begun by X-Ray of kicking the week off with a dinner at the Green Mesquite barbecue joint on the Wednesday of every year.

“At this point, for me, it’s pleasure now. I mean, the Waco Brothers played our wedding,” he says, citing another alt-country act. “It’s about touching base with a lot of musicians that I’ve become more than just ‘business’ with over the past 15 years.

“But for my team, it’s pure business. I have a girl named Laura that I’m bringing down for the first time and I’m going to make her see 15 bands a day.”

Video: Q-Tip Sheds Light on Tribe Documentary Film Issues


(March 15, 2011) *If you can recall the beef Q-Tip had with the producers of the filmBeats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” based on his rap group’s making, you might remember that he was pretty livid about the way things went down.

So he and the other members of legendary rap group A Tribe Called Quest – Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi (via phone)  – took the time to shed a little light about the whole issue with MTV’s Sway Calloway. (Phife didn’t participate.)

Back in December, Tip expressed some major concern about the film before it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

The group members nearly mimicked each other’s concerns about the film’s accuracy and edits.

Tip, who spoke for himself, shared his thoughts about the timing of the film.

According to him, on December 17, 2010, a couple of weeks after he initially expressed concern about the film, an e-mail was accidentally sent to him by one of the producers that read: “First off let’s close the Billing Block and put it on the poster so they can’t get on that. Then we’ll f— them on everything else.”

“The same day of the announcement that it came to Sundance, that ‘Beats, Rhymes & Fights’ trailer came out,” Q-Tip said, referring to an earlier version of the title. “All of this stuff is going on and we’re still trying to move forward in good faith and we see this e-mail, inadvertently, which was a godsend. I believe that that was the universe giving that to us and showing us who we were dealing with.”

So through some e-mail exchanges between him and the producers of the film, the problems were never resolved.

“Their whole comeback to that was, ‘Oh, he’s just frustrated, everybody’s frustrated,’ ” Tip said. But he countered, “When you’re frustrated you say, ‘Yo, I’mma kick his ass. He’s an a–hole, I can’t stand him, I’mma f— him up. I can’t f— with him again.’ Those are things you say out of frustration. But when you say, ‘First off, let’s close the Billing Block and put it on the poster so they can’t get on that. Then we’ll f— them on everything else,’ that’s strategy.

“That’s premeditated, first. And second, you feel comfortable to say it to the rest of your team. That means that if the environment is conducive for you to have that kind of banter and that kind of language, God knows what else they’ve been saying amongst themselves. So how can we trust them?”

Despite the mess, the group conceded that the producers and directors did a great job and everyone should see the film.


Marsha Ambrosius Debuts at No. 1

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 11, 2011)  *
Marsha Ambrosius has made it to the top and please believe she’s not going to stop there. The former Floetry songstress’ solo CD “Late Nights & Early Mornings” debuted on Billboard’s R&B Albums Chart at No. 1 this week. It sold 96,000 units and currently sits at no. 2 on the Billboard Top 200. Her single, “Far Away” isn’t doing too bad either. “Late Nights & Early Mornings’ has been the easiest thing for me to do,” Ambrosius told The BoomBox last month. “It’s completely honest and sensual in its approach, and takes you on a romantic journey.” She’ll be on tour later on this month with Melanie Fiona for the BET Music Matters. The tour begins March 16 in Dallas.

Drake, Foxx Booked for Clinton Foundation Fundraiser

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 11, 2011) *Bill Clinton will join
rapper Drake, director Brett Ratner, actor Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington and a host of other celebrities, artists, students and philanthropists at a fundraiser for the Millennium Network, in support of the former President’s non-profit, The Clinton Foundation. The event, open to the general public, will be held on St. Patrick’s day, (Thursday March 17) at Boulevard3 on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to Allhiphop.com. The Clinton Foundation’s Millennium Network encourages young students and activists under the age of 45 to get involved with the work of The Clinton Foundation, and to address global challenges like climate change, childhood obesity and economic development at home and abroad. President Clinton will have opening remarks, and Drake will close the event with a performance. To purchase tickets to the fundraiser, click here.

Esperanza Spalding Gets ‘A LOT of Advice’ from Prince

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 11, 2011) *It was about a month
ago when jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding shocked the world by beating out Justin Bieber – not to mention Drake, Florence and the Machine and Mumford & Sons – to win the Best New Artist award at the Grammys. The musician had mentioned that one of her mentors is none other than Prince. Us Magazine caught up with her to discuss their relationship and his influence on her music. “Prince is a very kind and intelligent person,” she said. “We hit it off as friends at the same time we started jamming together, so his advice has always been musician to musician as well as from one friend to another. “He gives me A LOT of sound advice about navigating through the business side of music, and he’s always my critical listener when I have a new musical idea. And that’s not even mentioning his musical genius which is of course a continual source of inspiration.”

Bobby Brown and New Edition Reunion Set

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 10, 2011) *Since the January
release of his fifth studio album, “Masterpiece,” Bobby Brown has been working on a fierce comeback as a solo artist. Meanwhile, he and his childhood group, New Edition, have also planned to get back together and is planning record together and take to the road once again for an upcoming tour. The 42-year-old performer shared the good news on ABC’s daily morning women’s talk show, “The View”: “The good news I want to announce is New Edition has gotten back together,” he said. “Also, we will be doing an album some time in the near future and a big tour, so y’all look forward to that.” New Edition, initially formed in Boston by Brown and Michael Bivens back in 1978, added members Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell and Ralph Tresvant. They finally made stride in 1984 with their self-titled sophomore album, which later went double platinum. Brown left the group in 1986 after the rest of the members voted him out due to his behaviour. But now they’re back with something old and maybe something new.

Black Eyed Peas Send Love to Japan in New Video


(March 15, 2011) *The Black Eyed Peas have dedicated their latest music video to those affected by the tsunami in Japan, as the band just missed getting caught in the disaster during the shoot. The group filmed its video for new single “Just Can’t Get Enough” in Tokyo a week before Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered the deadly tidal wave, which hit Japan’s east coast and swept inland killing thousands of residents.  The Peas flew out of Japan just days before the disaster struck, and they have now added a special message to the video, urging fans to donate to the ongoing relief efforts. The promo opens with the message, “This video was filmed in Japan one week before the earthquake. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the people of Japan. We love you.” The video closes with a link to the Red Cross.


Villeneuve’s Incendies Wins Eight Genies, Including Best Picture

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(March 12, 2011) Denis Villeneuve’s
searing drama Incendies inched ahead of Barney’s Version to take the most Genies on Thursday night, earning eight awards, including best motion picture.

The French-Canadian production was also nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film this year.

Barney’s Version won seven awards, including best actor for Paul Giamatti, who won a Golden Globe in the same category for his portrayal of the irascible Barney Panofsky. Dustin Hoffman, who played Barney’s dad, received the best supporting actor Genie.

Going into the race, Barney’s Version, based on Mordecai Richler’s prize-winning novel, was in the lead with 12 nominations, including best picture, direction, and adapted screen play, as well as the lead and supporting actor fields. Incendies trailed closely behind with 11.

Incendies, the story of a Montreal matriarch who hides her tragic past from her children, also won best direction for Mr. Villeneuve, whose 2009 drama Polytechnique, about the Montreal Massacre, won nine Genies last year.

Incendie’s female lead, Lubna Azabal, won the Genie for best actress, while Minnie Driver, who plays the second of Barney’s three wives, won best supporting actress at the gala ceremony hosted by William Shatner and held at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.

Jacob Tierney’s Montreal-set comedy The Trotsky, starring Jay Baruchel, landed four awards including best original screenplay, while Incendies took home adapted screen play.

The acclaimed Last Train Home won for best documentary.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television also named Canadian-German co-production Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth instalment in the popular thriller-horror franchise produced by Toronto’s Don Carmody, its Golden Reel Award winner in 2011. The film, which stars Milla Jovovich, was the top-performing Canadian film in domestic theatres last year, grossing nearly $7-million.

Afterlife, which was shot in stereoscopic 3-D in Toronto, has grossed almost $300-million worldwide to date, toppling the former Canadian-made record-breaker, Porky’s, a 1982 Carmody-made film.

Best picture – Incendies

Best direction – Incendies

Editing – Incendies

Best actor – Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version

Best supporting actor – Dustin Hoffman, Barney’s Version

Best actress – Lubna Azabal, Incendies

Best supporting actress – Minnie Driver, Barney’s Version

Original Screenplay – The Trotsky

Adapted Screenplay – Incendies

Best Documentary – Last Train Home

Show And Tell With An FX Wizard

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson

(March 12, 2011) No one could call it a
perfect facsimile any more. Indeed, the life-sized replica of John F. Kennedy that Gordon Smith’s company created for the movie JFK is unlikely to fool anyone now that two decades’ worth of discoloration has turned it — in Smith’s own words — “orange as a basketball.”

But as the Toronto-based specialist in prosthetic effects recalls in an interview last week, his “Jack” was believable enough to fool a coroner who saw it on the set of Oliver Stone’s 1991 film.

“For some reason, this guy thought that we’d brought a corpse down from Canada and somehow put John F. Kennedy’s face on it through plastic surgery.” Smith laughs. “That was the greatest compliment I ever had!”

It’s the kind of moment any illusionist craves. Smith — who retired from the effects field five years ago — had more than a few in his three-decade career in the film industry.

And while Jack’s not what he once was, audiences will have a chance to see the effigy at the Revue Cinema. In three events beginning March 16, Smith will present and discuss the development of some of his favourite creations.

Besides Jack, he’ll be showing off a full-size mannequin of Mystique from X-Men (March 30) and creepy creatures created for Jacob’s Ladder (April 13). These events will also include screenings of the movies in question.

The series came about when word got out that Smith was closing up his studio (near Eglinton Ave. and Black Creek Dr.) and preparing to donate his collection to the Toronto International Film Festival. Rather than regard his aging handiwork with any preciousness, he’s amused by the idea that collectors and historians might deem it valuable.

“This is my junk, and it’s all turned funny colours,” he says. “The only reason I’ve kept it is because it was so hard to do and it was so much fun. But it’s useless now — this is not something that’s camera-ready or even that I really want to show anybody. I know that people don’t see beyond what they’re looking at so I’m sure they’ll see it and think, ‘Gee, I wonder how they shot that because it’s so orange.’”

According to Smith, 90 per cent of anything created for the sake of a movie illusion “only exists until the camera stops rolling.” Longevity was never the point. “Hell, after 20 years, most of my materials turn into a puddle and run off the shelf!”

Nevertheless, movie fans remain fascinated with the arcane arts of FX wizards like Smith, especially now that the proliferation of digital tools has reduced the number of artists who understand the traditions and technologies associated with tactile effects like makeup and prosthetics.

Though Smith — whose silicone-based prosthetic system became the standard in his field — laments the Hollywood studios’ tendency to believe that computers can do everything, he resists the suggestion that the advent of CGI necessarily spelled the end for conventional effects work.

“In my experience, it’s pretty simple,” he says. “Things that are straightforward for me to do are extraordinarily difficult to do in the digital world. And things that are really difficult for me to do are rock simple to do there. So the combination of the two things makes for a very creative palette of possibilities.”

He suggests that the best movie illusions of today involve a savvy integration of physical and digital technologies. “Toward the end of my career, I used both all the time,” he says. “I didn’t design anything that didn’t have a digital element in it — not using those tools is truly asinine.”

Even so, movie aficionados are thrilled that creations like Jack exist beyond the confines of a hard drive.

Gordon Smith’s models are presented at the Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Ave.) at screenings on March 16, March 30 and April 13. Visit http://revuecinema.ca for details.

Aliens Invade The Multiplex

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert W. Butler

(March 11, 2011) Watch the skies. They’re coming to get us all.

“They,” of course, are aliens.

Hollywood is in the midst of an alien invasion unequalled since the paranoid Cold War fantasies of the early 1950s.

At theatres now you can enjoy
I Am Number Four (alien teens outwit intergalactic pursuers) and, opening this weekend, Battle: Los Angeles and the animated comedy Mars Needs Moms.

At least eight more alien-themed films will open this year, with several more planned for 2012.

These come on the coattails of Cloverfield and Skyline, in which creatures from other worlds have their nasty ways with us. In the Oscar-nominated District 9, alien refugees become third-class citizens on Earth.

And it’s not just at the megaplex. Alien invasion is hot on the TV screen, too. Witness the ongoing series V and The Event.

Why now?

The 1950s was the heyday of the alien invasion movie. The concept goes all the way back to H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel The War of the Worlds, but it was in the uncertainties of the Cold War that little green men from beyond became rooted in our consciousness.

Encouraged by a rash of post-war UFO sightings, scores of films about aliens landing on Earth with evil designs were produced between 1948 and 1962.

Some were quickie exploitation efforts memorable for their cheesiness. Others — like 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (a visitor arrives to save humanity from nuclear self-destruction) or 1956’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (alien seed pods replace humans with emotionless clones) — are genuine works of art.

Their popularity was born in the fears of communism and atomic annihilation. Aliens became a potent metaphor for all the scary outside elements that could undermine Eisenhower’s America.

Perhaps the new surge of alien movies — which got the green light from studios a couple of years ago at the worst point in the economic downturn — also reflect our anxiety about the unknown.

These are fearful times. Many of us feel threatened by a scary financial future, terrorism and illegal immigration.

“I recall from my own childhood in the ’80s, when nuclear war was still seen as a real possibility, that these movies gave me a kind of release,” said Jenna Busch, who writes about geek culture for the Huffington Post and other web sites.

“It was a way for me to focus my panic on a different threat, to cope with something that was more manageable because it was fiction. It was actually kind of comforting.”

Alien movies are therapeutic in another way, Busch said.

“It’s very dangerous to focus your anger on a group of fellow humans, but it’s okay to direct it at aliens. They’re like bank robbers wearing masks, or storm troopers in Star Wars. You can’t see their faces, so it’s okay to hate them.”

Some argue that alien invasion movies satisfy because they show human beings putting aside their differences to combat an external foe.

“That strikes me as a bit of an easy explanation,” said Heather Urbanski, the author of Plagues, Apocalypses and Bug-Eyed Monsters: How Speculative Fiction Shows Us Our Nightmares and an assistant professor at Central Connecticut State University.

“But one thing that has persisted in this genre is the idea that you can go to bed and when you wake up the next morning, the world has changed.”

Not everyone thinks the new alien movies represent our deepest anxieties: “I honestly don’t think it’s a reflection of our fear of another mortgage meltdown,” said industry observer Paul Degarabedian of Hollywood.com. “I think there are more obvious reasons.

“Really, it’s hard to determine the sociological or anthropological cause of a certain film genre surging. But you can be sure that the studios are all banking on certain genres heating up and becoming the next big thing. We saw that over the last couple of years with vampires. Now aliens seem to be the next big deal.”

Hollywood, he noted, is always on the lookout for films that are “action-based, conducive to big special effects and able to bring in younger audiences and play well overseas.”

Alien invasion movies fit the bill perfectly.

“Plus, today’s audiences, when they pay their money, want to see it up there on the screen. Alien invasion movies allow for a very obvious use of big budgets.”

'The Arbor' Raises Difficult Questions

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Rick Groen

(March 11, 2011) 
The Arbor is a factual documentary that uses fictional techniques to retell a sad truth: The cycle of poverty and violence and addiction is vicious and near impossible to escape. The twist here is that, for too brief a time, one of the victims became a gifted playwright dramatizing the very conditions that imprisoned her. That gift would prove illuminating but not redemptive. Andrea Dunbar never escaped the cycle, dying at 29 within its suffocating grasp and, what’s worse, passing on its horrors to her own children.

To chronicle this bitter legacy, director Clio Bernard paid a visit to the notorious scene – the estate housing in the slum of Bradford, England – and taped audio interviews with Dunbar’s surviving family. She then cast professional actors to lip-synch those interviews word for word, every heavily accented syllable, occasionally supplementing the “performances” with archival footage from the period. This technique is often called “verbatim cinema,” where the nuanced presence of the actors is designed, paradoxically, as a distancing device that also draws us deeper into the source material, that universalizes it. And drawn in we are, but be warned: It’s not a pretty sight.

Admittedly, the process is somewhat disorienting early on but, after a period of adjustment, the narrative line begins to emerge. The film opens with the next generation of victims, notably Lorraine, one of three children Andrea had by three different men. Growing up, Lorraine barely saw her Pakistani father yet definitely felt the sting of “being a mixed-race child in a very racist estate.” But it’s for her late mother that Lorraine harbours the greatest resentment, taking no pride in her stage achievements and remembering only her offstage neglect, the chronic alcoholism and the systematic abuse: “We got smacked all the time, that was it. I can’t forgive her.” She was 12 when Andrea died in 1990, collapsing in a pub, and her only comment now, as an adult, is this dismissive retort: “She practically lived there anyway.”

It’s left to Bernard to come to the mother’s defence, mainly by having the performers act out scenes from Andrea’s plays – from The Arbor, which she wrote as a teenager, and from the more celebrated Rita, Sue and Bob Too. There, in these autobiographical works, we get some insight into Andrea’s own prison of abuse and despair. Quite plainly, she was dramatizing for the theatre precisely the cycle that she was perpetuating in her life.

Other family members – her parents, siblings, even her youngest children – speak of Andrea with considerable sympathy. But not Lorraine who, in her early teens, fell into the same spiral as her mother, substituting crack cocaine for alcohol and prostitution for serial partners. However, as the documentary continues and we learn more about her behaviour – giving birth to three kids herself, two taken from her and a third subjected to an especially tragic fate – Lorraine loses her status as a pure victim. Her brother and sister, both white, haven’t ventured out of Bradford but seem to have matured into more responsible adults. Why them and not her?

But that question only leads to others. Did Lorraine, as the eldest child, see too much too early? Was racial prejudice the determining factor? Did she simply inherit an addictive gene, or is she somehow lacking in will? Can she survive long enough for time to heal any of her wounds? And what about those children of hers, wherever they are? Is the cycle fated to continue?

All these questions hover over the final frames of The Arbor, raised in this film, as they were raised in Andrea’s plays, and demanding responses that no one can provide. Art has again done its job by asking them, but life, with so much to answer for, keeps its complicated silence.

The Arbor

Directed by Clio Bernard

Starring an ensemble cast lip-synching actual interviews

Classification: 14A

After The Hangover, Bradley Cooper Seems Limitless

www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(March 14, 2011) It’s fitting that
Bradley Cooper finds himself in a Twilight Zone situation with his new movie, Limitless, because that’s what his life has been like for the past two years.

Since the massive success of The Hangover in 2009, he’s gone from playing “that guy” in films like Wedding Crashers, Failure to Launch and TV shows like Alias into a known and bankable Hollywood star.

“It was always, ‘You’re the nice guy from Alias,’ or ‘You’re the a--hole from Wedding Crashers,’ and then suddenly, ‘You’re in The Hangover!’” Cooper says with a laugh, summarizing his career’s trajectory.

His skyrocket is still soaring. The Hangover 2, due out in May, is virtually guaranteed to be the year’s top-grossing comedy, even if Roger Ebert gives it two thumbs down and Rotten Tomatoes glows green from hurled produce.

Yet the Philadelphia-born Cooper, 36, still feels he has to hustle like the rookie he was a decade ago, when he skipped his commencement at New York’s Actors Studio Drama School to appear in his first feature, Wet Hot American Summer.

“Things haven’t changed for me in terms of what I have to go through in order to get a role,” Cooper says from London, where he’s been doing press for Limitless, which opens Friday.

“I mean, I auditioned for a movie last week and I put myself on tape for another movie a couple months ago. I didn’t get the one I put myself on tape for. And the one I auditioned for, I don’t think I’m going to get — which is unfortunate, because I’d love to do it.”

He’s smart enough, and modest enough, to know that one hit does not guarantee career longevity, even if The Hangover is now, with a worldwide take exceeding $467 million, the most successful “R”-rated comedy in history.

“I hope people like it, I really do,” Cooper says of the sequel, which sends Cooper and his bachelor party bros — played by Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha — on another bender, this time on a road trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

“One thing people won’t say is that it looks like we phoned it in. I mean, if the movie gets destroyed — if people don’t think it’s funny — they would be lying if they said it doesn’t look like these guys worked their asses off.”

Being smart and immodest is the subject of Limitless, a film by Neil Burger (The Illusionist) in which Cooper’s character Eddie, a failed writer, discovers the intellectual equivalent of Viagra.

It’s an experimental drug called NZT that not only gives him genius-level IQ, it allows him to remember and profit from every scrap of info he’s learned in his life. The movie starts almost as a comedy before shifting to thriller mode, after various tough guys — including a business mogul played by Robert De Niro — discover Eddie’s secret. Meanwhile, Eddie discovers that NZT has some worrisome side effects.

Knowing what he knows about NZT, would Cooper take a similar pill in real life, if it were available?

“Yes, absolutely!” he says, without skipping a beat.

“I don’t even have to think about it. I pretended to take it for so long that I think it just infused the need or want to actually take it, if ever given the chance.”

It’s not like Cooper needs the extra grey matter. He’s already pretty smart, with both an
Honours English degree and a Master of Fine Arts to his credit. He also speaks fluent French, the result of language studies and a six-month sojourn in France.

During his years in school, he got a chance to meet his Limitless co-star De Niro.

“He came to our school and spoke when I was in grad school in 1998. I asked him a question, which was a very momentous move in my case because I was so frightened and terrified of standing up . . .

“Later, I put myself on tape to play his son in a movie called Everybody’s Fine and he saw the tape of it and asked to meet me. I met him in his hotel room for 15 minutes and spoke to him. So I got over the instant awe that one gets in his presence, having seen him play so many different iconic roles.”

Cooper didn’t get the Everybody’s Fine gig, and he got the Limitless assignment almost by chance. Shia LaBeouf was originally cast for the Eddie role, but he banged up his hand in a road accident and had to bow out.

Serendipity has had so much to do with Cooper’s acting career, he can shrug off a failure like last year’s The A-Team, which looked like a sure thing at the time. He was part of an ensemble team led by Liam Neeson, which sought to reconjure the magic of the hit 1980s action TV series into a feature film franchise.

The A-Team film received mostly poor notices and did merely okay business, not enough to warrant a sequel.

“I don’t know what happened,” Cooper admits.

“I think there is no formula for what makes a successful movie. If there was, I think there’d be a lot less pressure and running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to figure out what makes it work.

“Sometimes, movies that are not really good do well and sometimes movies that are fun don’t do well. You can’t really narrow it down to one thing. People were just not in the mood to see that kind of movie, or that movie with us in it.”

He has ambitions — he’d love to do a western, for example — and the work offers have been flooding in since The Hangover. But as far as his future goes, Cooper isn’t counting his chickens — not even the one that cackled through the trashed Las Vegas hotel room in The Hangover.

“I think that, depending on how Limitless does, it’ll determine what kinds of opportunities I can get in the future. If it doesn’t do well, it’ll be more difficult.”

This explains why he’s being a little cagey about The Hangover 2. It may be critic-proof, but Cooper doesn’t want to get cocky about whether or not it will the top the record-breaking success of the first film.

“You know, honestly, I think it could be great. I hate to say that — I’ve been saying it way too much — but I’m very excited about it.”

Moving the action to Bangkok was “essential,” he feels.

“I think the success of the second one is all about the success of the first one, which is the setting. Vegas was perfect, and Bangkok is the perfect evolution. It’s basically Vegas on steroids.”

No one’s taking any chances: same main actors, same director (Todd Phillips) and same theme of pre-marital shenanigans and post-drunk investigations. The sequel even reprises Mike Tyson’s cameo, adding Cooper’s A-Team compadre Neeson for good measure.

And the film has a potential secret weapon in a monkey that is seen in the teaser trailer. Does the monkey replace the baby from The Hangover?

“The monkey’s a lot of things,” Cooper teases.

“I’d say, if you’re going to compare the two, the monkey is a sort of an amalgamation of various characters from the first one.”

How about Justin Bartha? Does he get lost again?

“He plays the monkey!” Cooper says, roaring.

Wise guy!

Billy Dee Williams Never Wanted To Go Han Solo

www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn

(March 16, 2011) Billy Dee Williams fans take note: the actor says he did not, contrary to long-standing rumours, audition for the role of Han Solo before landing the part of Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back.

“I never auditioned for anything. I was asked to play Lando and I said, ‘Yeah, great, fantastic.’ (Director) Irv Kershner came to my house, we sat and talked and got to know each other and that was that,” Williams said in a recent interview.

“I think I was the first little brown-skinned boy to go into space in the movies,” he added with a chuckle.

The Han Solo rumour is all over the Internet and Williams says it often comes up when he mingles with fans at pop-culture conventions, like the Wizard World Toronto Comic Con that he’ll be at this weekend.

Other stars expected at the March 18-20 gathering at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto include David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, Daniel Logan (he played the young Boba Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones), Canadian funnyman Scott Thompson and Julie Benz, who played Rita on Dexter.

Williams has been to several of these conventions over the years and says he often sees fans wearing Lando costumes.

“Right down to the hairstyle ... the moustache and cape. Everything. The whole shebang,” he said from Miami, where he was attending another Wizard World Comic Con.

Discussion of such fan fervour reminds Williams of when he was on the 1982 Arizona film set for Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The crew’s outfits and equipment were emblazoned with the fictitious film title Blue Harvest to deter curious onlookers.

The ruse didn’t fool fans, though.

“They were flying overhead when we were shooting, in airplanes and stuff, taking pictures.”

Williams says he still has a cap with the Blue Harvest logo on it, as well as a few other Star Wars mementoes, including his own action figures.

“I have a T-shirt that says Revenge of the Jedi. That was before they changed it to Return of the Jedi,” he said.

“And I have an Ewok head from the movie. I have it in a box, put away. I have to take it out of the box and put it behind some glass.”

Star Wars was the first sci-fi project for Williams, who grew up in New York City’s Harlem neighbourhood and attended the High School of Music and Art (one of his classmates was Diahann Carroll, his co-star from the 1980s prime-time soap Dynasty).

During his studies he learned to paint and now has works hung in galleries around the U.S.

Toronto’s Liss Gallery will exhibit some of his prints this Friday and Saturday while he’s in the city.

Williams’s other projects include the 1971 TV movie Brian’s Song, for which he earned an Emmy nomination, his famed “Colt 45” commercials, and the films Batman, The Last Angry Man and Lady Sings the Blues.

In recent years, he’s had recurring roles on the daytime soap General Hospital and the series Diary of a Single Mom. He’s also done a recitation for Aretha Franklin’s forthcoming album, due out May 3.

For all his diverse roles, it’s always his Star Wars character who seems to be the biggest hit at pop-culture conventions, he says.

“They love Lando Calrissian,” Williams says with a laugh.

“I enjoy doing these conventions because it gives me an opportunity to say ‘Hi’ to all of the people who’ve given me support over the years.”

Keep Your Shirt On: McConaughey’s Getting Serious

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(March 12, 2011)
Matthew McConaughey is serious about getting serious.

You want to know how much? It matters to him that men like his movies, too, and not just the women who swoon at the sight of his frequently shirtless and impeccably chiselled bod.

He is fully attired, casually classy in a bespoke suit sans tie, when he arrives for a 9 a.m. Toronto interview, an obscenely early hour by Hollywood standards.

He stares intently at a 15-year-old photo of himself on the cover of Vanity Fair, which I’ve slid across a boardroom table to him.

“Where was it then, and where is it now?” McConaughey muses in his soft Texas drawl, as he examines the cover.

It’s the fold-out of the 1996 Hollywood edition of the mag, featuring new male stars. McConaughey shyly stands with nine other rookies, who include Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith and Benicio Del Toro.

“Right there, look, I have a crappy grin stuck on my face! Not my best smile. I was probably wondering, ‘What is going on at this big photo shoot?’ I’d probably be a little more comfortable standing there now.”

How so? Well, it has to do with getting older (he’s 41), becoming a new dad (son Levi is two, daughter Vida is one) and having a lot more movie experience behind him than he did when he was 26, his age at the time of that Vanity Fair front.

It also explains why he’s happy, maybe even relieved, to now be starring in a serious drama after a string of zany comedies, many of which involved him running around shirtless. He’s the title attorney in the courtroom thriller The Lincoln Lawyer, opening Friday.

McConaughey keeps studying the Vanity Fair cover, looking for clues about himself. He’d just finished shooting another movie about lawyers when the photo was taken.

“This was right after A Time to Kill. There was a year and a half, right after that, where the frequency of things coming at me was sometimes overwhelming — where it was just like I needed 28 hours in a day and there were only 24 . . .

“All of a sudden, I went from a spot where any work was great to (hearing from his agent), ‘I want you to do this, this, this, this and this!’ So, for me to become discriminate took some maturation.”

He did, and still does, all kinds of jock things, like going backpacking in Peru, surfing waves, running triathlons. Yet for a spell in the late 1990s, his thespian assignments tended more toward the dramatic, in films like Amistad, Contact and U-571.

The man with the million-dollar smile spent his thirties making mostly romantic comedies, establishing himself as a veritable hunk (he was People’s “Sexist Man Alive” in 2005) and also as a bankable actor. Much to his credit, he’s also been giving back, establishing the j.k. livin foundation (named for his “Just Keep Livin’” personal motto) to help at-risk teens.

Prior to The Lincoln Lawyer, his past five films were all comedies, not all of them hits: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Surfer Dude (which went virtually straight to DVD), Tropic Thunder, Fool’s Gold and Failure to Launch.

McConaughey quibbles over one of those — he played the straight man to Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder. Still, the movie was an exceedingly broad comedy.

The point is made, and accepted, but McConaughey argues that he tries to make movies for all audiences and both genders, even when he’s making pulses rise in romantic comedies, his most profitable genre.

“I’m not the first one to go see romantic comedies in theatres — it’s not my first choice. I like making them. So I tried to make romantic comedies for men, too. I said, ‘Well, how do you make one that guys can go to and not feel like they completely sold out and just went for their girl? How do we give the guy (in the movie) some huevos?’

“In a lot of movies, the guy comes crawling back at the end and says, ‘Woe be me and my ways.
I’ve been nothing for all of my life. Will you please take me back so I can have some identity?’ And, in each one of these, I had many discussions with the directors and the writers about what girl wants that guy? Let him come back with some dignity!”

He admits he hasn’t always succeeded. But with The Lincoln Lawyer, at least, no apologies or explanations are necessary.

Based on a best-selling novel by Michael Connelly, the movie depicts McConaughey as an amoral attorney named Mick Haller, who shakes down everyone from bikers to billionaires in lust for quick cash and fast judicial victories, justice be damned. Haller’s conscience kicks in, and the plot takes dark twists, when he accepts a case where greed and expediency won’t do.

“Well, it can be a date movie but it’s not . . . I think guys will appreciate this one,” McConaughey says.

“I’ve seen it four times and, obviously, I know the script and the story, but just last week when I was watching it, I thought, ‘How the hell is Mick Haller going to get out of this? How’s he going to get out of this pickle?’ Even though I know what happens I was, like, ‘I have to see this again.’

Making the film, which is directed by Brad Furman (The Take) and co-stars Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe and William H. Macy, taught McConaughey something about American jurisprudence, a topic of long fascination for him. There was a time when he thought he might become a lawyer.

“It’s a lot about the system; that’s one of the things I really like about the flick. It’s about how the system works, and how you have to work it. I was so surprised, and part of it is because of my own idealism, but they’re always cutting deals: everything’s settled out of court. Nobody wants to go to trial. The judges don’t want trials, there’s no room — the jails are full — so let’s handle this out of court. You prosecute and you overcharge. I defend.”

That’s some serious talk. Will the audience buy McConaughey with a shirt on and a muzzled smile? He’s eager to find out, and also make more movies. He took most of the past two years off discovering the joys of parenthood with his partner Camila Alves, a Brazilian-born model.

“I’m ready to go to work again,” he says, flashing that famous smile.

“I’ve got the bug!”

Sam Cooke Biopic Moves Forward; Screenplay Finished


(March 15, 2011) *A long-in-the-works Sam Cooke biopic has taken a significant step toward becoming a reality, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The screenwriters behind the all-Beatles musical “Across the Universe” have finished their adaptation of Peter Guralnick’s definitive biography of Sam Cooke for ABKCO, which owns Cooke’s publishing and the bulk of his master recordings.

ABKCO CEO Jody Klein is now looking for a director.

Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais recently completed their adaptation of “Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke,” which Klein optioned in the fall of 2009. The book was published in 2005, two years after Guralnick had written the script for “Sam Cooke: Legend,” the only authorized documentary on Cooke. It won a Grammy for longform video.

“We had been looking for a long time for a writer to develop Peter’s book,” Klein said, “and it clicked when we met them. They understood the artist, they understood the times. It’s one of those things, like when you meet the love of your life and you know you have met your (future) wife. They have written a fantastic script.”

Klein says the script covers Cooke’s entire life — 1931 to 1964 — from childhood through his years as a gospel singer, a pop star, civil rights activist and eventually a label owner and music publisher. His music ushered the transition of R&B into soul music.

Cooke is widely regarded as the first significant R&B performer to appeal to black and white audiences as well as multiple generations through songs such as “You Send Me,” “Twistin’ the Night Away” and “Only Sixteen.” Shortly before he was murdered in 1964, Cooke penned and recorded “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song often listed as the most significant musical piece to emerge from the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and ’60s.

Klein listed Jay-Z, Frank Sinatra and Peter Gabriel among the “great artists who can spot talent” and run a business, noting “Sam was the first one to possess it all.”

Klein, whose father Allen was Cooke’s business manager, expects to continue to self-finance the project through ABKCO.

“All of the elements have aligned themselves,” Klein says, noting the usual roadblocks in biopics — music and life rights — are already in hand. “We have secured rights from the Cooke family. One of the benefits of being a private company is that it enables us the appropriate amount of time to develop the script and make this happen. It will not get lost.”

A Screaming Man: Father-Son Tragedy With Universal Impact

www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

A Screaming Man
Starring Youssouf Djaoro, Diouc Koma and Djeneba Kone. Written and directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. 91 minutes. Opens March 18 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

(March 16, 2011) There is no bond on Earth stronger than that
between a parent and child, and when it is torn asunder, tragedy often results.

Such is the case of this heartbreaker of foolish pride and bitter reckoning, which won Chadian writer/director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun a special jury prize at Cannes 2010.

Set against the backdrop of Chad’s 40-year civil war, as was Haroun’s earlier film
Dry Season, A Screaming Man unfolds like a biblical parable.

A father and a son squabble over a job, leading to an act of revenge with unforeseen and terrible consequences. But when we first meet them, frolicking together in a luxury hotel pool, it’s impossible to imagine the schism to come.

Middle-aged father Adam (Youssouf Djaoro) and his 20something son Abdel (
Diouc Koma) both have jobs at the pool, another luxury in a time of civil war. To the foreigners staying at the hotel, unrest of any kind is the furthest thing from their minds.

Family harmony is sundered when the hotel is taken over by new Chinese owners, who decide that one pool attendant is enough. Abdel gets to keep his job, but Adam is demoted to gatekeeper, a bitter comedown for a man who was a swimming champion in his youth.

If we could see inside Adam’s head, we might guess the extent of his anger. Haroun only hints at what is to come. Before anyone fully realizes what is happening — and this includes Adam himself — the father has contrived to have Abdel forced into military service.

There is no guarantee Abdel will return alive, if at all.

With his son out of the picture, Adam resumes his old job at the pool. But things cannot be as they were. A painful lament by Abdel’s distraught girlfriend Djeneba (Djeneba Kone) reminds him of his act — and also of the religious dictum “an eye for an eye.”

Haroun’s screenplay leaves gaps, which are minimized by his assured direction and by Laurent Brunet’s beautifully austere camera work.

This tragedy of parental betrayal is personal in scope but universal in impact.

In Her Eyes: A New Direction For Women Behind The Lens

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(March 11, 2011) Women who work behind the camera are wondering if Kathryn
Bigelow’s historic Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker was a watershed moment or just a blip on a notoriously fickle industry’s radar.

A year ago, Bigelow became the first woman to take home an Academy Award for directing. But when the nominations were announced for this year’s Academy Awards, there were no women among the Best Director hopefuls, despite multiple nominations, including Best Picture, for two movies made by women.

“There’s a kind of you had your moment and now we’re moving on,” muses film director Leslie Ann Coles (In the Refrigerator), founder and executive director of Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival, which opens March 16 and screens 76 films.

“What I am seeing is these women, when they send me director’s notes on how they made the film, (they made it) on virtually nothing,” Coles adds. “What it speaks to is women will still make their films.”

While Winter’s Bone, directed by Debra Granik, and The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, both earned four Oscar nominations this year — including Best Picture nods — neither woman got nominated for Best Director.

“How could it get four nominations and not Best Director?” Coles wonders. “We’re all asking the same question. It’s troubling to me, like when Jane Campion didn’t win for The Piano.”

Coles predicts the state of the industry for women in the wake of Bigelow’s Oscar win will be “a hot topic” during career advancement workshops at the festival. But Coles is heartened by the 300 submissions from female filmmakers wanting to be part of this year’s Female Eye and the requests she gets from international festivals seeking films by women for their events.

And she points to the successes of Canadian directors like Sarah Polley, whose Take This Waltz opens later this year, and Deborah Chow’s The High Cost of Living, which was included on TIFF’s 2010 list of Canada’s Top 10.

We asked three women who are participating or have taken part in the Female Eye Film Festival — to give us their take on the current state of women in the director’s chair.

The Studio Star:
Catherine Hardwicke

Among the three necklaces around Catherine Hardwicke’s neck is a golden wolf tooth — for her new movie Red Riding Hood — and a pair of miniature handcuffs.

“I thought these were cool,” Hardwicke said as she held up the tiny manacles in a Toronto hotel room, surrounded by posters of Red Riding Hood, which opened Friday.

“I got them in Vancouver (where she shot the movie) because your hands are kind of tied when you’re working on a movie, but you can kind of break out, too.”

As the director of the first film in the hugely successful Twilight franchise, Hardwicke’s movie netted the biggest opening weekend ever for a female director: $69.6 million (U.S.).

Her role as director veered into controversy when Hardwicke didn’t sign to helm the sequel, New Moon. There were suggestions she’d been axed, but when we talked last year prior to her arrival in Toronto as Honorary Director at the Female Eye, Hardwicke set the record straight.

“I didn’t think the script was ready and I didn’t want a book on tape,” said Hardwicke then, adding, “I have never been interested in sequels.” She said no to the deal and moved on.

The 55-year-old Texan has indeed moved on. Up next are two more studio pictures based on young adult fantasy bestsellers: The Maze Runner and Maximum Ride.

Hardwicke says she wasn’t disheartened that there were no female Best Director Oscar nominees this year. She prefers a more positive spin.

“On one level you can say it’s something post-Kathryn (Bigelow) that two out of the 10 Best Picture nominees were directed by women,” says Hardwicke. “That’s 20 per cent of the best movies and that’s way more than the percentage of women directing,” estimated to be about 6 per cent.

“They got to the Best Picture. Let’s celebrate that. That’s pretty awesome.”

Still, Hollywood remains reluctant to let women helm big-budget movies, Hardwicke points out.

“I have had studio films, but I am a rare exception,” Hardwicke says. The budget for Red Riding Hood was $42 million — not a small amount, but certainly not the hundreds of millions male directors can get for big pictures like Harry Potter films.

Debra Granik’s and Lisa Cholodenko’s Oscar-nominated movies were independent projects with small budgets.

“I wonder, why is there a gap? There can be some great breakout movies at Sundance (Film Festival), but how do we get studios to hire women to make movies?”

Hardwicke encourages more women to make films, but reminds them they have to work harder than they ever imagined.

“Work super hard and be super prepared,” she tells female film students. “If you get your chance, make the most of it, like I did on Thirteen,” her first film, which netted an Oscar nomination for actress Holly Hunter.

“I was so laser focused. I took writing classes, directing classes, I workshopped it. Just be ready to get your skill level as high as it can be.”

The Rock ’n’ Roll Rebel: Mary Harron

Canadian director Mary Harron, the Honorary Director at this year’s Female Eye, takes a long view when it comes to examining women’s roles behind the camera.

“I don’t think you can judge it year-to-year,” says Harron from Montreal, where she’s doing reshoots for her latest movie, The Moth Diaries, based on Rachel Klein’s book about a teenage girl at a boarding school who suspects her roommate is a vampire.

“You have to look at progress over many decades and how many women directors were working 40 years ago . . . I look back when I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s and who was there besides Lina Wertmüller? Nobody.”

Before her 1996 directing debut with I Shot Andy Warhol, Harron was a rock journalist, and a founding editor of Punk magazine.

The 58-year-old Harron faced controversy when she signed on to direct the graphic and violent American Psycho, based on Bret Easton Ellis’s notorious book, which included scenes of shocking torture. She also fought to keep then-unknown Christian Bale in the lead role over the studio’s choice, Leonardo DiCaprio, who she felt was too closely associated with his big film at the time, Titanic.

Harron, who also teaches occasionally at New York University’s film school, says she’s encouraged to see so many women enrolled in the program.

“There are more women than men at film school,” she says. “There’s a lot of very talented women.”

Harron points out there’s so much to learn for any director and women “may be intimidated by the technical side of filmmaking.” In her case, she found she enjoyed working on special effects for The Moth Diaries.

“There’s no geek inside me. I wish I did have one,” she says with a laugh. Still, Harron says, her worries about the technical aspects of moviemaking and the enormity of creating a feature film eased when she accepted that she didn’t need to know how to operate the camera — it was her job to have the vision and the ability to communicate it to others.

“People then make (the scene) look how you want it to look.”

The Newbie: Alana Morshead

With $100 cheques from friends, borrowed cars and houses for locations, maxed-out credit cards and some sweet deals on camera and equipment rentals, 27-year-old Alana Morshead made her first movie, Peach Plum Pear. It premieres at the Female Eye fest March 19.

“I spent all my own money, I waitressed two days before we shot and went right back to it afterwards,” Morshead said over the phone from her home in Los Angeles.

What motivates Morshead to risk so much for so little reward?

“It’s just for the love of being an artist and doing something that makes you happy,” she says, the joy evident in her voice. “Being on set, there’s no other feeling like that. I am just at my peak; I may feel like passing out from being hungry or tired, but look what I get to do!”

It’s a rare opportunity for women, Morshead points out. The daughter of a father who worked on movie crews, including Titanic, she grew up around the business and later went to film school in L.A., where her teachers didn’t sugar-coat messages about the toughness of the industry. She was the only female directing student in her class.

“It was tough,” Morshead says. “There is some wired-in stigma about being a female director, that you can’t do what the guys do. I think since Kathryn Bigelow won, things may be changing, but I have no idea why it’s like this or if it will ever really change.

“It’s really annoying. It’s really frustrating. The (female-made) films are just as good. The Hurt Locker is a movie you’d think a guy did but this woman comes out. Even I (was surprised) that a woman directed it. I can do that.”

Peach Plum Pear tells the story of two young men who end up stranded in Nebraska when their car is stolen. They meet a struggling free spirit named Dora who teaches them difficult lessons about life and relationships.

“I just want to tell stories that people like and when they leave (the theatre) they’re happy or sad or have some kind of emotional response,” Morshead says. “They can even hate the movie. I just want them thinking about something.”

The Female Eye Film Festival runs March 16-20, with screenings at Rainbow Cinemas Market Square. For tickets and details, go to www.femaleeyefilmfestival.com.


Derek Luke’s ‘Captain America’ Role Revealed

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 11, 2011)
Derek Luke arrives to the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards Filmmaker Grant and Nominee Brunch on Jan. 15, 2011 in Los Angeles, California *He was cast months ago, but it’s only now been revealed what character Derek Luke will be playing in the upcoming “Captain America: First Avenger” for Marvel Studios. Blackfilm has confirmed that Luke will play Gabe Jones, an original member of the elite Howling Commandos combat squad of World War II. In comics lore, Jones was the first African-American to serve in an integrated unit and a close confidante to Sergeant Nick Fury, to be played by Samuel L. Jackson). Jones would later join Fury as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The cast also includes Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, and Neal McDonough. The film is scheduled to open July 22, 2011.

Robert Redford announces U.K. version of Sundance Film Festival

www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(March 15, 2011) Robert Redford says he is planning to launch a four-day version of the Sundance Film Festival in London. The Academy Award-winning actor, director and producer said Tuesday that Sundance London will “bring a particular slice of American culture to life” in the capital and present films from American filmmakers as well as current American music. Sundance London will feature film screenings, live music performances, discussions and panels. The festival will be held from April 26 to April 29, 2012, at the O2 arena, which is owned by AEG Europe. Redford, who rose to fame in films including The Sting and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, founded the annual Sundance Film Festival in Utah to promote independent filmmaking.

Janet Jackson Signs Production Deal with Lionsgate

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(March 16, 2011) *Janet Jackson is moving into the film production business. The singer/actress has just signed a production deal with Lionsgate, the studio that released three Tyler Perry films in which she starred. “Many people forget I started out as an actor,” Jackson told The Hollywood Reporter, referring to her TV stints on “Good Times” and “Diff’rent Strokes.” “I have been fortunate to work in the film industry, though not as much as I would like. I have a passion for storytelling, and have been doing it through my music for some time.” Jackson was in theatres last November with Perry’s “For Colored Girls,” which grossed about $38 million. She also appeared in Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married” and “Why Did I Get Married Too.” Her other credits include John Singleton’s 1993 romantic drama “Poetic Justice.” Jackson said she is drawn to diverse material, and is particularly captivated by film noir. She just released her memoirs, “True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself,” and is currently on a tour of North American arenas.

::TV NEWS::\

‘Coach Tanaka’ Is Back

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(March 12, 2011) The way
Patrick Gallagher picks TV shows, he should be picking race horses. Every show is a winner, especially with critics. Besides Glee, he's either been a regular or had memorable roles on Da Vinci’s Inquest, Entourage, Men of a Certain Age and True Blood.

The Canadian producers of his latest series are hoping the B.C. native’s luck holds. The 42-year-old actor stars opposite Shawn Doyle in Endgame, a new Vancouver-based drama premiering Monday on Showcase.

Doyle plays Arkady Balagan, a Russian chess master who refuses to leave a luxurious Vancouver hotel after the murder of his fiancée outside the front entrance. Gallagher plays Hugo Lum, the hotel’s burly head of security tasked to toss the Russian for not paying his bills.

“I’m sort of his only antagonist,” says Gallagher, interviewed earlier this year on the set of the series.

“All the others are little sycophants — (In a mocking voice) ‘Mr. Balagan! Mr. Balagan!’ — which is nice because it gives us a different dynamic.”

Doyle says Gallagher is a man of “great comic abilities” and admires the risks he takes to make Lum look lame. He says the character “tries to be smart, tries to be suave and swift, and when he tries to be those things, he’s even less so.”

Over a relatively short career, Gallagher has acted opposite some of the biggest stars in show business. He played opposite Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and joined Sandra Oh — whom he has known since their days studying at the National Theatre School of Canada — on the film Sideways. The box office hit Night at the Museum put him in the company of Ben Stiller, Robin Williams and Owen Wilson.

Being part of the Glee phenomenon that first season was a “crazy ride,” says Gallagher. He played Ken Tanaka, the tightly wound football coach who battled Mr. Shue (Matthew Morrison) for the affections of high school guidance counsellor Emma Pillsbury (Jayma Mays).

Gallagher is proud of one quirky essential he added to coach Tanaka's eccentric wardrobe: the fanny pack.

“It just went with those shorts, right?” he says.

He's not entirely sure why his tenure on the series only lasted one season. Coach Tanaka’s absence was explained away as a nervous breakdown on the second season premiere.

Gallagher isn’t convinced we’ve seen the last of Tanaka on Glee. His fantasy is that the new coach, Shannon Beiste (played by Dot-Marie Jones) pulls off a face mask one day to reveal Gallagher’s wild-eyed Tanaka underneath.

“Why not? Anything can happen on that show, right?”

TV Titan TSN Gets Ready For A Fight With Rogers Sportsnet

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(March 13, 2011) There’s a huge battle
brewing. Secret negotiations are taking place. There’s big money at stake, and what’s clear is how we consume sports is going to change. And while we’re not specifically talking about the Morgan Stanley/MLSE sale news, no matter what happens it is definitely going to have a giant impact.

Canada’s sports media landscape is currently being reshaped as
CTV’s TSN and Rogers Sportsnet prepare to take each other on all fronts. CBC and The Score are trying to remain valiant in the face of giants, but the first two have been very active, hiring people, locking up long-term rights deals to sporting events and launching new endeavours in an attempt to satiate the seemingly endless appetite for sports. In talking the past few weeks with everyone from sports reporters to some of Canada’s most well-connected media business people, everyone knows that a sports media fight is upon us. This past weekend’s MLSE auction admission confirms that a much coveted chip is definitely in play.

With media folks, it’s often likened to the newspaper wars of the late ’90s when the National Post entered the market and the result was everybody raised their game. That fuels the optimistic point of view that no matter what happens, we as the unfederated union of couch potatoes will win with more options to watch what we love. The pessimists say this is another way we’ll get screwed and those fighting corporations will find ways for us to pay more to watch what we love.

“It’s a heightened atmosphere because clearly the Rogers Corporation has put more focus on sports. That’s pretty obvious,” says Phil King, President of Sports and Executive Vice-President of Programming, CTV Inc. “But we’ve just been bought by Bell, which is going to put a double emphasis on sports. So the competition is at many levels. Yes, its sports playing out, but it is also CTV versus City and Bell and Rogers. Our internet sites versus theirs. Radio versus radio.”

Today we’re going to focus on TSN because any way you slice it, they are the current leader in the clubhouse. One third owned by ESPN and just over 25 years old, they are first — and on Friday, their PR department sent out a “Midseason Report Card” release crowing about it (so if you want to know how kick-ass they are, just ask them) — although they face some very interesting times ahead.

In the past few months, they have locked up the rights to the Tour de France, the next two Euro cups, and the national rights to MLS soccer. They wrestled the NCAA men’s basketball tourney away from The Score, and in exactly one month, they launch TSN Radio, which is new territory, bringing Mike Richards back from Calgary as host of the morning show.

In terms of other hires, Luke Wileman and Jason deVos are their new duo covering soccer, and they recently brought ESPN’s Dan Shulman back into the fold. There’s also recently added Steve Kouleas, who is going to pull double duty, manning the noon-hour show on TSN Radio called That’s Hockey 2 Day in addition to hosting That’s Hockey 2 Nite on TSN2. King and Stewart Johnston, president of TSN, say there’s only more to come.

It’s easy to see why sports content is so important. It remains impervious to the challenges that are fragmenting traditional media. It’s the definition of appointment viewing, making it close to PVR-proof and remains hard to pirate — although there are many that try.

It’s also telling that both King and Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media, are also in charge of conventional programming on their respective sides, so the heads of content at these giant media companies both have sports backgrounds. Much has been made of the personal dynamic at the heart of this rivalry, as Pelley went to Rogers from TSN, although in reality it’s a bit like coaching trees in the NFL. King says that most people in the sports biz these days have come through TSN, just like the previous generation went through the CBC.

“Our biggest problem in the past is that we couldn’t fit stuff in. The shelves were full and that enabled our current competitors to get to a certain level because we just couldn’t get everything in,” says King, who came up through scheduling and acquisitions and has a reputation as a tough negotiator.

Even with the addition of two-year-old TSN2, there might not be enough room for all they want to show.

“We knew when we were adding the NCAA men’s basketball tourney, our March schedule between hockey and basketball is unbelievably tight,” admits Johnston. Not to mention tennis, golf, racing — the list goes on.

We all have a different hierarchy of what sports we want to see. The past two months have seen curling fans complain about their sport being aired on TSN2 or completed matches streamed on its website. The fear is that by buying the rights to so many sports, scheduling conflicts will only get worse and things will be shown on delay — which is where the value of sports’ immediacy becomes as much a problem as an asset, because as fans we want things live and direct on our flat screens in our man caves.

The digital moves are what really interest me. I’m a tech guy and I want more options. I already usually watch games with an open laptop or while reading instant reaction on Twitter on my iPhone. Canada generally lags behind the U.S. in terms of everything digital (except ironically, broadband penetration), and in a perfect cross-border comparison, CBS is streaming all the NCAA tourney games in the U.S. on iPads and iPhones for free. TSN is streaming just the first round games on its site.

Radio is going to be a big story next month, and we’ll obviously be listening, but it’s how the digital shakes out that I am most curious about with TSN. Their site is the No. 1 sports site in Canada, but it’s comprised of columns from their personalities and plenty of news wire copy. The word is that they are in writer-hiring mode as well. King says that hopefully in the next 12 months we’ll see more content on mobile devices, although giving it away for free isn’t part of the business plan.

Admittedly, TSN is facing industry-wide concerns on that front, but since they are the leader, it’s only fair to ask them to lead.

The Fab 5: Greatest B-Ball Story Never Told … Until Now

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 11, 2011) *Back in the early 90s
the Fab 5 swept the sports world off its feet when the teenage group took fans on a journey through triumph, tragedy and growth. Now their story is being told on ESPN.

Produced by Detroit native, Jalen Rose, a member of that 1991 freshman class, the story of the Fab Five is scheduled to air  Sunday night, March 13.

“The story of the Fab Five really has never been told,” Rose said. “This is almost like the Bible of the Fab 5 story.”

For those of you who may be in the dark about the Fab Five, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson stepped on the campus of Ann Arbor and took the school by storm. But a bit of drama and controversy hit the crew when the college superstars became a part of a federal probe into money laundering. The investigation led to NCAA penalties and sanctions on the basketball program.

As historic a time it was for the group, one of them, Webber, wouldn’t participate in documentary.

“At this point in Chris’ life, he’s not ready to talk about what happened at that time. It’s still a sore spot for him,” Rose said. “Him not being a part of it in 2011 does not affect the integrity of it at all. The story still was going to be documented and it’s still going to be told in a truthful manner. We felt it was something the fans have been clamouring for.”

The program airs on March 13 at 9 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Meredith Baxter: The Ties That Bind

www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(March 10, 2011) Neglected daughter, hippie chick, shiksa goddess,
drama queen, sitcom mom, TV-movie bulimic, real-life abused wife, recovering alcoholic, cancer survivor and late-in-life lesbian.

It would make a helluva book, even if it wasn’t all true. Let alone all true about one single person.

That’s the case with Untied,
Meredith Baxter’s new autobiography, which the actress was in town last week to promote.

Baxter is of course best known for her TV work, which has spanned three hit series: Bridget Loves Bernie, Family and Family Ties — particularly the former, co-starring her allegedly abusive ex-husband, David Birney (he has since denied it), and Family Ties, in which she played the mother of Canadian Michael J. Fox.

She has otherwise packed an awful lot of living, not all of it happy, into her 63 years. And she has come out the other side happier, wiser, and ready to share.

Ready, but not obligated. “I never felt an obligation to share it,” she insists. “Just because we’re on television does not give anyone entitlement to our lives. I think it’s none of anyone’s f---ing business what we do.

“So I figured that if I was going to do this, then I better have a point to it. If I had written this out of obligation, it would not have been a very good book.”

And it is, as these things go, a very good book, written without the aid of a “ghost.”

“I had one,” she says, “but I found I was having to rewrite everything I got back. So I decided just to do it myself.”

She credits the strength and perspective gained from her recovery from a dependence on alcohol, which she had been abusing in an effort to cope with the emotional baggage of an indifferent mother (Hazel actress Whitney Blake) and three failed marriages.

“Because my 12-step program is a spiritual program, I really wanted to write with those wings beneath my feet. Because to change the thinking that I had been committed to for over 50 years is not something that is done overnight, and is not done by decision. It had to happen through a power greater than me. I couldn’t have pulled it off (myself) and that’s what I wanted to share.

“You can do it any way you want to do it. This is how I did it.”

She is not surprised that the focus of the reaction to the book is the recent revelation that she’s gay.

“My entire social circle knew and all my family knew about me being a lesbian. They were fine. But I had a hard time, and probably have some concerns still, about how general America or North America is going to deal with (Family Ties mom) Elyse Keaton . . . gay!”

Ideally, very little will change. “‘Do you like me as Elyse Keaton?’” she asks them in absentia. “You were kind of attracted maybe; you thought, ‘Great personality, warm, funny, accessible, all that stuff.’ Well, I’m all that still. I just happen to be gay!

“I am now the lesbian you know, where you might not have known any before. Let me be that person. And so maybe that takes away some of the homophobia you may have been feeling . . . you know, become a little more sensitive to people and not be frightened of the stuff you don’t know, just from lack of exposure.

“Okay, you’ve been exposed to me. Am I so scary? And if that can be useful to someone, great.”

There is also the message she can convey to fellow victims of abuse: the book accuses her co-star and husband of 15 years, Birney, of physical and emotional abuse, and her husband of five years after that, actor Michael Blodgett, of cheating and destructive drug addictions.

“I want women who are in bad relationships — and they don’t have to be abusive to be bad, they can just be unhealthy — but if you’re not happy in a situation, you do not have to stay,” she says.

“In an abusive relationship, women get beaten down. I got beaten down, I had no voice, I did not know I could go. So many people have said, ‘Why didn’t you just leave if it was so bad, Meredith? Why didn’t you leave?’”

Instead, in an effort to cope, she says, she started drinking. “I started using alcohol as a way to manage my feelings within my marriage. I didn’t know I was using it that way, it just became . . . it was very handy and I started drinking very openly on the set.

“But I didn’t want to mess with the only thing I thought I knew, which was acting. My own life was shambles, you know, my children were very upset at me and angry and hurt with all that was going on . . . by the end of my marriage to David, I was just spewing pain.”

Before finally seeking treatment, the sitcom fantasy of Family Ties became her refuge.

That was the place I could go to be appreciated and treated well, and respected and contribute, and be creative and be fun and be funny, and liked and laugh. But (real life) wasn’t like that.”

Her life is like that now, she says, thanks to the program, and finally finding love and acceptance in the arms of another woman.

“It was in that process, during that process, that my mother got esophageal cancer and was dead in seven months. And then my children, my youngest children, went off to college, so for the first time in my life I wasn’t answering to anyone.

“That’s when a young woman moved into my guest house as an additional tenant. I knew she was gay and she was very nice, and all of a sudden it was like, ‘Hmmm, I like her in that bathing suit . . .’ And we started spending time together and I didn’t know anything, and I had a great deal of fun with her and I felt like electricity was flying between us, and isn’t it fun.

“We started an affair, and it was like . . . you know, I never thought about it for a second. She was 25 years younger than me, which, you know, no way that’s going to last, but there was also an easiness and a sense of safety, and an immediate understanding that I somehow knew that this was where I was going to be.”

And now that she’s there, and everyone knows, the public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s been phenomenal,” she smiles. “Just phenomenal. Far greater of a positive response than I ever expected.”

The Channel: News From The World Of TV

www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

Just for laughs

Cybill Shepherd will return to the sitcom genre in a new ABC comedy.

The 61-year-old actress has agreed to take a lead role in the upcoming series My Freakin’ Family. The show focuses on young parents Raj (Ravi Patel) and Anna (Ellen Woglom) whose lives change with the arrival of a baby boy. Shepherd will portray Raj’s cloying mother Nell, who insists her grandson be raised in the traditional Indian manner. TV veteran Mo Gaffney will play the child's other grandmother, who counters Nell’s efforts at every turn.

A former model, Shepherd starred in the films The Last Picture Show and Taxi Driver before finding TV success on the series Moonlighting, which ran on ABC from 1985 to 1989. Shepherd previously played the title character on the CBS sitcom Cybill (1995-1998) and in recent years has guested on the cable series The L Word and Psych. My Freakin’ Family is being planned for ABC’s next fall season.

Sharp role

Big Love’s
Chloe Sevigny will play a historical character with edge in her next TV outing.

The actress has signed on for the title role in Lizzie Borden, a four-hour HBO miniseries retelling the infamous true story of the woman acquitted in 1893 of hacking her father and stepmother to death with a hatchet. The miniseries is being prepared for HBO by the production company owned by Tom Hanks, an executive producer on Big Love, which wraps its fifth and final season this Sunday. Sevigny will also serve as an executive producer on the project.

Lizzie Borden is expected to air on HBO and HBO Canada in early 2012.

Love bites

ABC will continue to play matchmaker for the foreseeable future.

Earlier this week the network green-lit another season of
The Bachelor, which wrapped its most recent campaign only two nights ago (for those keeping track, Bachelor Brad Womack proposed to single mom Emily Maynard in the finale). The 16th season of The Bachelor is slated to premiere in early 2012. The network also revealed that recent Bachelor participant Ashley Hebert will take the spotlight as the next edition of The Bachelorette, which returns May 23. Hebert was one of the final three contestants in the running on the recent season of The Bachelor.

In the same announcement, ABC announced it will grant a second season to Bachelor Pad – an elimination-style game show featuring former contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette – for broadcast this summer. The most recent season of The Bachelor averaged more than 10 million viewers weekly for ABC.


The Big Interview: Krystin Pellerin, Soulpepper’s Sunbeam

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 11, 2011) In discussing Maria, the
heroine of The Sound of Music, lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II wondered, “How can you hold a moonbeam in your hand?”

Change the operative word to “sunbeam” and he might have asked the same question about
Krystin Pellerin.

The 27-year-old actress manages to brighten up a grey, rainy day just by showing up in the lobby of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, so imagine what she can do on the stage or screen.

Actually, that’s something requiring increasingly less imagination all the time, because Pellerin’s professional presence is growing by leaps and bounds.

She’s been a pillar of the Soulpepper Theatre Company since her impressive 2006 debut in The Real Thing and —this season, she’s appearing in three shows: The Fantasticks, Our Town and The Time of Your Life, which opens on Mar. 18.

You can also catch her on CBC-TV, where she’s in her second season on the highly successful series, Republic of Doyle, playing the earnest Leslie Bennett.

And if your DVD collection contains season two of that gem known as The Tudors, check out her memorable performance as Lady Elizabeth Darrell.

In short, this is a young woman who’s going places — fast.

Born in Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland, both her parents were teachers and she kept in touch with her father’s Acadian heritage through frequent visits from her grandfather.

“He had a hard time living in Halifax and never taught his children French, so we tried to make up for it by speaking it around him all we could.”

Her childhood with her two younger sisters was, in her word, “wonderful”, which is part of the reason, one expects, for her constantly upbeat energy.

She giggles as she recalls the offbeat moment when she knew she had to live her life in the arts.

“I remember very clearly I was in my aunt’s living room, watching television and Legends of the Fall was on. There was a scene where Julia Ormond cut off all her hair I remember saying ‘I want to do that!’ Oh yes, I always fancied a bit of drama.”

She describes her school years as “feeling a bit on the outside, a theatre kid, not terribly, terribly popular.”

But that didn’t bother Pellerin, because she had already set her sights on the National Theatre School in Montreal. She auditioned in her final years of high school, but she didn’t get in.

“I was kind of crushed at first, so I went to Memorial University for a year. That just let me know how much I wanted to be at NTS, so I vowed that I would audition seven times if I had to, until I got in.”

Mercifully, she made it on the second try, but found a whole new set of problems waiting for her.

“Montreal was a tough city to get used to, even if I did speak French. It really took me a good two years to get comfortable. And at NTS, I found it difficult to find my place and fit into the group because I was so shy.”

Suddenly, you realize that’s part of Pellerin’s appeal. For a woman so attractive, talented and successful, she has an air of hesitancy about her, as if she were Cinderella at the ball and her magic coach was going to turn into a pumpkin and six white mice at midnight.

“In fact, after the first semester there, I said I don’t know if I can do this. I was homesick for my people, for my country. There’s a calm that comes over me being close to salt water, but only that particular salt water. I feel so steady and so strong when I’m on Newfoundland soil.”

But Pellerin’s other secret weapon, her determination, came into play at this crucial point. “I kept going and somehow, I got through that period. I kept building strength and confidence. Something made me do it. And then I suddenly discovered it was a wonderful environment. It was a great place for me to find my voice, because there were so many other people there with strong voices.”

One of the strongest was Nancy Palk, who taught her during that period and who she’s currently in rehearsal with at Soulpepper, playing her daughter in Our Town.

“Isn’t that the best?” beams Pellerin. “Someone who gave me so much and now I can act opposite her and try to give some of it back again.”

After graduation, she had a mere six months of working at random jobs before she was called into Soulpepper to audition for The Real Thing and her professional career began in earnest.

A little later, however, came one of those arid periods that every artist experiences and Pellerin started to wonder if she shouldn’t go back to university, get a degree and teach French.

“I was at my sister’s college graduation. I saw her get her diploma and I said to myself, if I don’t get an acting job soon, I’ll go back to the academic world.”

She returned from that trip to an offer to go to Ireland and film The Tudors.

“That came as a total surprise to me! I had sent in my own tape, hadn’t heard back, didn’t get an audition and then they offered me the part.

“It was wonderful, living in Dublin for five months, to be exposed to that kind of quality right at the top of my career, just incredible!”

After that, it was back to Soulpepper and then another surprise. Allan Hawco presented her with the news that he had created a part for her as a police cadet in his new television series, Republic of Doyle and it was about to start shooting.

“I had such a steep learning curve. I had to train with the constabulary, learn use of force training, high speed vehicle pursuit, high risk vehicle takedowns, things I had never dreamed of doing. It was a very intense process for me. I would train all day, then watch Prime Suspect for homework each night.

“I also got to see the underbelly of St. John’s, a part of the city I never knew existed during my sheltered youth. It’s been quite the education.”

Republic of Doyle, of course, has become one of the bigger hits on the CBC schedule and it looks like Pellerin will be bouncing back and forth between Toronto and Newfoundland for quite a while.

“It’s wonderful working with Allan. I’ve known him for a long time, I feel very comfortable with him and that gives us wonderful freedom to play together. It’s great to see him growing so well.”

Although she admits she’d like to tackle some feature film work in the future, Pellerin isn’t anxious to rock the lovely boat she’s on at the moment. “I love my work with Allan in Newfoundland, I love the path I’m on with Soulpepper here.

“I’m really happy with the way that things are going for me. Wouldn’t you be?”

Then she smiles and the sun comes out again.


JODIE FOSTER: I think she’s so intelligent and she’s got such a strong sense of self. She knows why she does what she does.

SEAN PENN: I think he’s a wonderful actor. I love everything he does, but I think Milk was my favourite. He’s so intriguing. I’d like to find out what he’s really like.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: He’s got his roots in the theatre and I think he’s always stayed a theatre guy at heart. That’s what I’d like people to say about me.

LAURA LINNEY: I love her choices. Every movie or play she’s in seems to be something special, which is a rare gift. She picks wonderful projects.

COLIN FIRTH: I have the most enormous crush on him. There’s something so sensitive and soft-spoken about him. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s a great actor, too!

Tarragon Theatre’s New Season An Exciting Mix

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 15, 2011)
Tarragon Theatre’s 41st season, announced on Tuesday, proves that the organization isn’t having anything close to a mid-life crisis.

The playbill shows a nicely balanced mixture of Canadian works, old and new, with cutting-edge drama from the rest of the world filling out the rest.

Two exciting co-productions serve as flagships for the season and are exciting entries.

The Canadian premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) launches the season in a co-production with the Manitoba Theatre Centre, directed by Tarragon’s Artistic Director, Richard Rose. And the latest script from the talented Hannah Moscovitch, The Children’s Republic, being done in cooperation with the Harold Green Jewish Theatre, follows to keep things exciting.

Brilliant German author Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Golden Dragon gets its Canadian premiere in a production directed by Ross Manson, Carol Frechette’s The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs is staged by Weyni Mengesha and Rose directs a revival of Michel Tremblay’s The Real World?

The Extra Space offers d’bi. young anitafrika’s The Sankofa Trilogy and Daniel MacIvor’s latest, Was Spring.

And in the new ExtraExtra Space, Rose directs Andre Alexis’s Name in Vain (Decalogue Two) and Ravi Jain stages the work written by him and his mother, Asha, called A Brimful of Asha.

Subscriptions go on sale on Mar. 21.

Judith Jamison: ‘Everyone Felt Mr. Ailey Was Choreographing For Them’

www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(March 15, 2011) TORONTO — Judith Jamison is a dance legend. Artistic director of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for more than 20 years, Jamison, 67, will step away from that role (but not the company, she stresses) this summer.

Established by Ailey in 1958, the New York-based company has thrived under Jamison’s leadership, performing for millions of people in more than 70 countries, and in the United States, everywhere from Bill Clinton’s inauguration to TV’s So You Think You Can Dance. The troupe will be in Vancouver this weekend.

Jamison, who started with the Ailey Company in 1965 and quickly became its star dancer, can point to countless career highlights. The Globe’s Marsha Lederman spoke with her about a few of them.

I think we should start with the seminal 1971 work, Cry.

Yeah, that was seminal, to say the least. That’s the one that put me in box-office territory, where concert modern dancers didn’t have box-office pull, but all of a sudden I did the dance and people would call the box office to ask if I was doing it. I didn’t have all the details when I performed it, about it being dedicated to all black women, especially our mothers. It was dedicated to Mr. Ailey’s mother; it was a birthday present for her. Thank God I did not know all that when I first did the piece. I had never done it from beginning to end. I finally did it in the actual performance and halfway through I thought my legs didn’t exist, because it’s very difficult to do.

Why do you say thank God you didn’t know?

Because that’s like the weight of the world on your shoulders. It’s dedicated to all black women, especially our mothers? I think that’s a fairly heavy message that Mr. Ailey was sending, and fortunately he did not tell me that, and so when I went onstage I was infusing it with whatever feeling I was feeling. And also just literally physically trying to get through it.

Tell me about dancing with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Pas De Duke in 1976 [which was set to Duke Ellington’s music].

We spent a good time together, then we did that first one and we went across the street to eat and we acted like neither of us was scared to death and couldn’t eat anything. We got backstage and we started from either side of the stage, so I looked across to him, he looked across to me, and we were on. We had a ball. And he was incredible.

Can you tell me about your first meeting with Alvin Ailey?

Yeah. It was at rehearsal the day after he invited me to join the company. He saw me at an audition that I failed miserably. It’s the only audition I’ve ever had that I failed really badly. I left and I remember calling my mom. But three days later he called me, and that’s how I joined the company.

Did you really fail miserably at the audition or was that just your imagination?

I was terrible. I had not danced for three months because I was working at the Texas Pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York City. I think it was the first time in my life that I hadn’t danced in that long a period of time.

What was it like to work with him?

What was always great about Mr. Ailey was his generosity and his brilliance when it came to movement and how organic his movement was and remains. And how much you embrace what he choreographed – on a very personal level. Everyone felt Mr. Ailey was choreographing for them, period. And when he had to explain for the 19,000th time what something was about, he was so eloquent.

You took over the company the year Mr. Ailey died. What was that like for you?

In April of 1989, he asked me to take over the company, and of course I said yes. He died Dec. 1, 1989. That was a whirlwind because we opened the New York season three days later. It was non-stop. You know, going to the funeral, dancing, and then going directly to the theatre to open. So I didn’t get a chance to really mourn for Mr. Ailey until two, two-and-a-half years later, because I had hit the ground running.

What is your life going to look like after this summer?

I’ll let you know as soon as I get there. Otherwise, the mantra remains the same. I’m still educating, entertaining and enlightening, and letting people understand the importance of the gift that Mr. Ailey gave me and that he keeps giving us. That hasn’t changed. It’s a life work, and God knows I’ve devoted most of my life to celebrating this creative experience called dance and loving it, from being a dancer to being an artistic director to being not an artistic director, but being the person that I am. I’m still me.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver Friday and Saturday (balletbc.com) and at Victoria’s Royal Theatre March 22 and 23 (dancevictoria.com).


Kiss Your Free Time Goodbye: Angry Birds To Join Facebook

Source: www.thestar.com - Sarah Millar

(March 08, 2011) Facebook will launch a
Angry Birds spinoff sometime this year, according to a report in Wired.

Just when you thought Facebook was a safe refuge from birds, pigs and stolen eggs. . .

A Facebook version of Angry Birds is set to launch this year, according to a report in Wired. But the creators are keeping mum about the details.

“There will be completely new aspects to it that just haven't been experienced on any other platform . . . The pigs will have a more prominent role,” Mikael Hed, one of the chief officers at Rovio Mobile, which develops the game, told the magazine.

But that’s not all that’s going on with the birds.

A new game, Angry Birds Rio, is being released March 24 in partnership with 20th Century Fox. The game’s trailer has been viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube since January.

A secret clue to a secret level in the game even appeared in an ad for the upcoming film Rio that aired during the Super Bowl in January.

Earlier this year, the game expanded to the PS3 with 63 levels, and Wii and Nintendo DS versions are planned to be released by the end of 2011. A board game is also planned.

And who can forget the British guy who made a playable Angry Birds birthday cake for his son?

Hed hinted that Facebook’s “collaborative nature” is what will set this version apart from the others.

What could that mean? Here are a few ideas:

• Like Farmville, you’ll have to enlist the help of your Facebook friends in order to finish the levels with a three-star rating;

Angry Birds will expand from being a one-person game to being a multiplayer game, with multi-birds being launched at once;

• If it remains a solo game, chat would be enabled, allowing users to talk to other players for tips and strategy during the game;

• Maybe instead of killing the pigs, players will learn the motivations behind the swine’s egg-stealing ways.

What do you think the Facebook version of Angry Birds will be?

Pokemon: Easy To Get Caught Up Again

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Pokemon Black / White
Nintendo DS
Rated E

(March 11, 2011) Like tree-rings or geological
strata lie the Pokemon games, marking video-game history since the twilight of the black-and-white Game Boys. The release of a new Pokemon title is especially meaningful to me, since it was these adorable little battling monsters that first started me on my critical career back in 1998. Now, thirteen years and a few technological revolutions later, I pick up Pokemons Black & White and . . . I’m still playing the same game.

Not exactly the same game, of course, but so tightly on-model that a Pokemaniac falling through a time-portal from ’98 — after they got over the shock of time travel and the novelty of the DS itself — would be instantly conversant with Black/White. This is either a testament to how right designer Satoshi Tajiri got it the first time, or to Nintendo’s understandable reluctance to futz with a multi-billion-dollar jackpot formula. Either way, it is the familiar deal: go forth, capture Pokemon, make them fight and get tougher, repeat until you’ve “caught ‘em all” — or a portion you can live with.

The Pokemon gameplay loop is fiendishly capable of setting up a compulsion loop in the player’s brain; few games have this level of “just one more” stickiness, the kind of Zone that obliterates time. Battles are quick and crunchy, little self-contained nuggets of endorphin with just enough real strategy to them to give the feeling you’re doing something rather than mindlessly paddling at buttons. And there’s always a reason to fight just one more battle; whether it’s a favourite monster who just needs a little more experience to evolve or a new area just around the corner, Pokemon games are tuned such that something’s always almost about to happen. Satanic devourers of time, really.

Our notional time-travelling Child of the Nineties would, of course, be stunned by a few major changes to the poke formula, the most obvious being the visuals on the DS. But even here, the way the world is rendered is more evolutionary than revolutionary; as pretty and polygonal as everything is, it is all still unmistakably Pokemon —especially the battle screen, which is beyond “classic” and into “dated.” Within this aesthetic there are a few pretty mind-blowing set-pieces, though; I would never, for example, have expected a Pokemon game to deliver an RPG city that actually felt like a city, but there it is.

Another thing that might astound our chrononaut is the Black / White storyline. Structurally, it’s no departure from the “long line of bosses to beat” backbone of the other Pokemon games, but it’s notable in that it features something like introspection. The relationship between humans and pokemon has always been problematic — the world’s entire economy and culture is based on trapping obviously sentient beings and making them fight each other — and the issue is here for the first time explicitly addressed in-game.

Not very thoroughly, granted, but it certainly marks a departure for a series that (probably for good reason) has never considered the basic insanity of its premise.


5 Best Irish Pubs Not In Ireland

www.thestar.com - Adrian Brijbassi

(March 15, 2011) Just about the only things you can rely on when travelling these days is the security line will be a pain, the airfare will be higher than you expect and somewhere on your journey you will happen into an Irish pub sure to make you feel at home. As St. Patrick’s Day approaches on March 17, here is a list of the
favourite Irish pubs I visited during the past year that are nowhere near Ireland:

1. Rattle N Hum, New York – Sharing the name with a U2 album, this bar on 33rd Street and 5th Avenue is an elevation for the Irish pub. The beer list includes 40 draughts, most of which are craft brews from the States, and more than 100 bottles. It’s got great ambience, too, and rotates its beer list so often its set up an
iPhone app so you can check out what’s on tap. Website: rattlenhumbarnyc.com

2. O’Hooligans, St. Petersburg – Any
anglophone who’s been to Russia knows finding a place where the servers speak English is an oasis. Finding one with international beers beyond Heineken and Warsteiner, good food and reasonable prices is like discovering buried treasure. O’Hooligans, which is just off Nevskiy Prospekt, serves hearty pub fare that sticks with Russian flavours rather than trying and failing at cuisine foreign to its kitchen. Try the grenki, wedges of baked garlic bread, and the roast chicken. Location: 14 Bol. Konyushennaya (half a block northeast of Nevskiy Prospekt)

3. George Payne, Barcelona – Irish pubs, no matter where they are, adopt some of the habits and personality of their location. In
Barcelona, that means getting into the nightlife. The George Payne, located close to La Rambla, serves up nachos, chicken wings and late-night revelry for guys and gals. Sports fans can take in European league soccer matches and NFL games on Sundays in the fall. Plus, there’s karaoke and a variety of music that keeps you moving. Website: www.thegeorgepayne.com

4. Rosa Parks, Tel Aviv – Okay, it’s named after the African-American civil rights activist and has Glenfiddich signage outside, so it’s not really an Irish pub. But it’s got all the hallmarks of a great one: soccer on the big screen, okay food, decent beer selection and a cute blond girl doing the pour. Even better: it’s open way past what would be closing time in Toronto. Location: No website or visible street address; located on corner of Dizengoff and Yermiyahu. Head upstairs for the bar scene.

5. The Irish Pub, Bogota – You can’t get a more straightforward name than that. The best thing about this spot is the location. It’s in
Zona Rosa, the clean, safe party spot in the Colombian capital, and it’s got a great patio that’s jammed on weekends. If your Spanish is just so-so, you’ll find this is an easy place to order a pint and to make conversation. Location: Carrera 12A and Calle 78.

Got a favourite Irish pub of your own that you came across during your travels? Send me an email (
abrijbassi@thestar.ca) with the details. Follow on Twitter @AdrianBrijbassi


Canadians Jumping Through Hoops

www.globeandmail.com - Chris Johnston, The Canadian Press

(March 16, 2011) Greg Francis is three times lucky when it comes to basketball.

He is one of just a handful of Canadians who, when asked to choose their favourite athletic achievements, has to decide between a scintillating, nationally televised individual performance in the NCAA Tournament - Francis scored 26 points in a near upset of then No.1-seed UNC while at Fairfield in 1997 - and being part of one of the great teams in the Canadian history: the 2000 Olympic team that went 5-2 in Sydney.

Now, in his role as the men's junior national team Francis is in position to benefit from a remarkable depth of quality emerging in Canadian basketball.

"What it says to me is we have guys who are world class players for their age," he said. "As Canadians when it comes to basketball we can be kind of hard on ourselves and always look for what's not right, but we are getting some players who can make a splash."

The ball goes up on the NCAA tournament Thursday (not counting the
play-in games) and 20 Canadians will be taking part, which most believe is a record.

But that only begins to tell the story of Canadian prowess.

I've been following the efforts of Ray Bala who tracks Canadians playing down south for CanballReport at RaptorsHQ.com and the trends have been pretty remarkable.

Certainly the likes of Tristan Thompson - who I wrote about for the Globe here - and his university of Texas teammate Cory Joseph deserve a lot of attention, but they're not alone among impact Canadians in D1.

Ray put together a list of Canadians who have earned post-season recognition, and it's pretty extensive. It's not like Canadians have never excelled at the D1 level before; but few in basketball circles can recall an era when so many were among the best players on their teams or in their conference. Among them:

Olu Ashalu, Louisiana Tech, WAC all-defensive team and honourable mention conference all-star

Bryson Johnson  - Bucknell, 2nd team All Patriot League

Cory Joseph  - Texas, Big 12 all-rookie; honourable mention all-conference, freshman all-American 2nd team.

Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure, Atlantic 10, first-team.

Jahenns Manigat - Creighton, All Freshman, first team, Missouri Valley Conference

Nem Mitrovic  - Portland, 1st team, West Coast Conference

Tyler Murray  - Wagner College, 1st Team All Northeast Conference

Dwight Powell  - Stanford, All Rookie 1st Team Pac 10

Rob Sacre - Gonzaga, All West Coast Conference

Tristan Thompson - Texas, Big 12 rookie of the year, Big 12 All-conference 2nd team, finalist for NCAA freshman of the year, 1st team freshman all-American.

And the talent keeps coming, as Myck Kabongo, Khem Birch and Kyle Wiltjer (son of former national team player Greg Wiltjer) were all selected for the McDonald's All-American game for the top seniors in the United States and are headed to elite programs in (Texas, Pittsburgh and Kentucky, respectively) while Kevin Pangos may start as a freshman at Gonzaga where he'll be one of four Canadians on the roster.

Andrew Wiggins, heading into Grade 11 and likely going to the US to finish high school, might be the most talented of the bunch and there are many others projected to be significant Division 1 players.

This is a long way from the days when the common story for a Canadian kid heading south was that they went to schools that were a little above their level; got recruited over; sat on the bench for significant parts of their career or transferred and often came home with less game and confidence than they left with.

There are a number of theories as to why, but I asked Francis for his insights, given he's coached or will coach several of the players who fit into this category in his role with Canada Basketball:

Experience: A significant factor, according to Francis. "There are more places to play and more place to play at a high level, sooner. There are more ways to watch the game and see the way it's played. The club programs have really grown. When guys like myself or Rowan Barrett - a lot of guys on the team that went to Sydney - were growing up, we didn't necessarily have that. There were guys on that team who didn't really start playing basketball seriously until they were 13, 14, 15 years old and we were playing in the Olympics 10 years later. That doesn't happen any more. Guys are playing the game better at younger ages than ever before."

Perspective: "We have kids who are playing internationally at younger ages. I think Canada Basketball is doing a better job identifying players sooner and now we have a Cadet team, for example, so you have kids playing against the best in from other countries when they're 15 or 16 years old. All of a sudden these kids realize that they're world class players, so why shouldn't they be top Division 1 players? Why shouldn't they play professionally? I think it's different mindset now."

Exposure: "By the time our best players are ready to play Division 1 they've played in the United States five or 10 times a year playing AAU basketball; they've been to the camps against the other top guys. That's where guys like Ro Russell and Mike George and others have done a good job getting opportunities for players. And obviously a lot of the top guys have benefited from playing high school basketball in the US. It's not for everybody, but for the very top guys getting out and playing against the other top players is a good thing. For those guys when they are ready to choose a school their mindset is that they're high major guys and when they get there they're ready to play and make an impact right away.

Canadian Teams Capture Gold, Silver In Speed Skating Relays

Source: www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(March 13, 2011) INZELL, GERMANY—
Canada’s women’s team won the women’s pursuit, while the men claimed silver Sunday at the world single-distance speed skating championships.

Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., and Winnipeg’s Brittany Schussler and Cindy Klassen crossed in a time of two minutes 59.74 seconds.

The Dutch team was second, with the German trio taking bronze.

Canada’s men’s team of Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., Lukas Makowsky of Regina, and Mathieu Giroux of Montreal raced to a time of 3:41.85.

The United States won the gold in 3:41.72, while the Netherlands took bronze in 3:43.44.

Jenny Wolf of Germany won the women’s 500-metre title for the fourth straight year. The world-record holder won the first race in 37.98 seconds and defended her position in the second when she posted a time of 37.95 seconds.

Olympic champion Lee Sang-Hwa of South Korea was second, finishing 38.14 in the first race and 38.03 in the second.

China’s Wang Beixing claimed the bronze with times of 38.35 and 38.04.

Lee Kyou-hyuk of South Korea won the men’s event for his fourth gold in the event, clocking times of 34.78 and 34.32 seconds.

The 32-year-old Lee also won in 2007, ‘08 and ‘10, making him one of four male skaters to win the championships four times.

Joji Kato of Japan finished second with times of 34.90 and 34.52, while Jan Smeekens took bronze. The Dutchman was fastest in the first race with 34.77, but slipped to third when he clocked 34.66 in the second.

Edmonton’s Jamie Gregg was sixth with runs of 35.00 and 34.96 seconds.

Nonis To Be Named Canadian GM For World Championship

www.globeandmail.com - Chris Johnston, The Canadian Press

(March 16, 2011) Boca Raton, Fla.— Rob Blake is the next former star player who will get a chance to hone his management skills with Hockey Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

The recently retired defenceman is expected to serve as an assistant to
GM Dave Nonis at the tournament, according to sources requesting anonymity. Hockey Canada has called a Thursday press conference in Toronto where a third member of the management team could also be unveiled.

Blake ended a 20-year NHL career after last season and recently joined the league's front office to work in the hockey operations department. After the league's GM meetings wrapped up Wednesday, he acknowledged having discussions with Hockey Canada about next month's world championship.

“We're going to finalize that in the next couple days, but I think the opportunity to kind of grow my development after playing hockey (is important),” said Blake. “This is a great step here. To come and to listen and be around the general managers and around the hockey operations and things.

“That can also involve Team Canada.”

Nonis currently works as the assistant general manager of the
Toronto Maple Leafs. He'll be responsible for assembling a team to avenge a disappointing seventh-place finish at last year's tournament in Germany — the lowest for Canada since it was eighth in 1992.

Overall, the country has been successful at the event with six appearances in the final in the last eight tournaments.

Former NHLers have been a big part of the Hockey Canada program with Steve Yzerman, Joe Nieuwendyk, Luc Robitaille and Mark Messier all serving in management roles the last few years.

Blake is a former Norris Trophy winner who also had a lot of international experience during his playing career. The 41-year-old is one of only 24 hockey players to win a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and world championship gold.

His current role with the NHL has him working on a number of different assignments, including a new committee with Yzerman, Nieuwendyk and Brendan Shanahan charged with leading the way on the current concussion issue.

“It's been good,” said Blake. “As far as playing, I knew I was done.

“I think this transition allows me to learn about hockey in a different way.”

The Canadian world championship team will consist of NHL players who don't participate in the playoffs or whose teams are eliminated in the first round. A training camp and exhibition games are scheduled for Paris and Prague before Canada opens the tournament against Belarus on April 29 in Kosice, Slovakia

Mixed Martial Arts in 10 Easy Lessons: “The Guard”

Source: www.thestar.com - Morgan Campbell

(March 13, 2011) When a fighter lands on his back, he needs to act quickly to control the guy on top of him.

The simplest way to do this is for the fighter to use his legs. He can either wrap one or both of them around the opponent, or control the opponent’s movement by placing his feet on the opponent’s hips.

These positions along with a variety of others form “
The Guard.” It’s a staple movement in jiu-jitsu and seen in a lot of MMA action. The fighter on top can still rattle his opponent by raining down punches or elbows, but the situation for the fighter on his back isn’t always as dire as it seems.

If the fighter on his back wants to move the fight back up, he goes into the MMA equivalent of the four-corners offence — wrap his opponent up, snuff out the action and wait for the referee to intervene.

Few fans or fighters respect the tactic, which some label “lay and pray,” but it does work.

When used effectively, “The Guard” isn’t just a defensive move. If the fighter on his back is flexible, smart and opportunistic, he can use “The Guard” to initiate a number of submission holds, turning what looked like a deficit into a decisive advantage.


20-Minute Home Fitness Workout

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

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

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

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

Click on the exercise name for a demonstration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 It is clear that inner peace is the principal cause of happiness. We can observe this in our daily lives. On days when we are calm and happy, even if difficulties arise or we fall victim to a mishap, we take it well, it doesn’t bother us unduly. But on days when we feel sad or have lost our usual calmness, the least little annoyance will take on enormous proportions and be deeply upsetting to us.


Source:  Dalai Lama