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


April 26, 2012

Summer? Getting ready for work is beginning to become a real time-consuming challenge! Well May is right around the corner, so hopefully warm and consistent weather is on its way!

Been so busy people - I'm looking forward to some down time - hopefully in the near future!

In this weeks news: events surrounding Jamaica's golden milestone of the country's emancipation; Shaun Boothe's latest video; Amy Purdy's current tour across Canada to coincide with Tuesday's World Meningitis Day; Jay Manuel's longtime run on America's Next Top Model is ending; 10 years since the death of TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes; and so much more. Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

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!


Jamaica 50 Canada Concert Features Top Reggae, Dancehall Stars

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Apr 20, 2012) Between the forthcoming Bob Marley documentary, the anticipation for sprinter Usain Bolt’s performance at the Summer Olympics and Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence, it’s shaping up to be a banner year for the small, but influential Caribbean island.

Events are being staged throughout the Jamaican diaspora to mark the golden milestone of the country’s emancipation from Britain in 1962.

In Toronto, the
Jamaica 50 Celebration Inc. Committee, helmed by former Caribana CEO Joe Halstead and retired citizenship judge Pamela Appelt, is leading the charge with a year-long program showcasing the island’s vibrant cultural heritage, under the banner Jump for Jamaica.

Given the mapmaking contributions of artistic sons such as Marley, Jimmy Cliff and Sean Paul, and the evolution of ska, rock steady, reggae, dub, and dancehall, it’s fitting that one of the program’s banner events is a musical retrospective.

Taking place at Sony Centre (June 28, $35-$150), Jamaican Rhythms: Roots, Rock, Reggae! is billed as a three-hour “rocumentary” with performers representing different decades: ’60s, Fab 5 Band; ’70s, John Holt; ’80s, Marcia Griffiths; ’90s, Yellow Man; 2000s, Maxi Priest, and 2010, Beenie Man.

Juno-nominated Canadians Jay Douglas and Steele and 2012 Reggae Recording of the Year winner Exco Levi are also on the bill.

Griffiths, the only woman featured, best known as a member of Marley’s backing vocalists The I-Threes, actually has a career spanning the entire period of liberation.

“I just celebrated 48-years in the business, on Easter Monday,” she explained in a phone interview from her Kingston home. “I’ve been blessed to have had hit songs in all the decades.”

After being scouted by a family friend, a 10-year-old Griffiths made her public debut at the island capital’s historic Carib Theatre with famed band Byron Lee and the Dragonaires in 1964.

Honed in school ensembles and church choirs, her rich vocals and musicality evinced the natural talent that characterizes most Jamaican musicians.

“I’ve never had voice training in my life,” she said, “music was just a part of me.”

At the legendary Studio One in Kingston, under the tutelage of producer Coxsone Dodd, she met like-minded singers, such as Delroy Wilson, Leroy Sibbles, and Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, with whom she would form the captivating harmonising trio that seasoned Marley’s great recordings.

“We were innocent, young and anxious to do what we were doing, so people could hear what we have to say,” recalled Griffiths who lamented that many contemporary Jamaican musicians are “just in it for limelight and fun.”

“When I started working with Bob, I saw it was not just entertainment, it went much deeper. I saw how serious this man took his music. We can touch people’s souls.

“It was pure, clean and full of love, and everything was positive, and because of that, those songs will live forever.”

Griffiths has had a respectable solo career which yielded a crossover hit, 1989’s “Electric Boogie,” soundtrack for the dance Electric Slide. It’s the highest-selling single by a female reggae singer.

She still tours occasionally with Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt and has a collaborations album due next month. The disc will feature duets with a slew of vintage and contemporary Jamaican performers, including songstresses Queen Ifrica, Tanya Stephens and Diana King.

“When I started in the business, it was strictly male dominated,” Griffiths said. “Today, it’s 50-50 and my greatest achievement is to hear female singers say I have been an inspiration to them.”

Jump for Jamaica

Highlights of the Jump for Jamaica program include:

An Evening with Malcolm Gladwell at the Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library, features the best-selling author and New Yorker staffer, whose mother is a Jamaican-born psychotherapist. May 28, free, reservations required.

The 6th annual Jambana outdoor reggae festival lands on Jamaican Independence Day and will include a Jamaica 50 Village, Aug. 6, $5-$30 in advance.

The Jamaica Land We Love Gala, which consists of a reception, four-course dinner, show and after-party, Aug. 11, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, $175 - $500.

Toronto Rapper Shaun Boothe Releases “Child Soldier” Video Amid Kony 2012 Hype

Source: www.thestar.com - By Liam Casey

(Apr 23, 2012) A scrawny black child holding an AK-47 is a chilling image.

It’s an image that became ubiquitous overnight after the Kony 2012 film swept across the Internet last month, thanks to social media and uninformed youth around the world.

It’s also an image that Toronto rapper
Shaun Boothe focused on in his latest video, “Child Soldier,” which was released in early April.

“When I first saw footage of a child soldier, I was disgusted: it was surreal and seemed almost staged,” Boothe said. “The stark contrast of the innocence of a child and a deadly weapon just got to me.

“Every child deserves a childhood.”

On Friday, about 50 people showed up at Yonge-Dundas Square to promote a similar message and plastered images of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony around Toronto as part of Invisible Children’s “Cover the Night” campaign, an event that nearly 32,000 people said they were going to attend on Facebook.

Boothe, like the creators of the Kony film and the activists Friday night, was inspired to do something about Africa’s child soldiers. He wanted to give a voice to the armed child in the image that he couldn’t forget. And he wanted to do more with his craft.

“Hip hop to me is so ego driven — we all have this Superman complex — but I wanted to show Clark Kent as well, the side we’re afraid to show,” Boothe said. “Not when you’re flying in the sky, but when you’ve landed and you’re reporting on real life.”

Despite the controversy surrounding the Kony film, which critics and Africans called misleading, Boothe commended its reach.

“Before the Kony video, a lot of people didn’t know about child soldiers, especially the youth,” Boothe said of the video that has been viewed more than 100 million times. “Strictly in terms of raising awareness, it has been a tremendous success.”

Boothe first heard about Africa’s child soldiers more than a year ago and began researching the topic. He came across media reports about the problem, including many about Kony before the warlord became an Internet meme. Kony has killed thousands and kidnapped 30,000 children to use as child soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army over the past 25 years in Central Africa.

The hip-hop video is part journalism, with news clips, and part theatrics, with a 10-year-old shirtless boy lip-synching the soldier’s lyrics. Footage TV directed the video, which was shot in Liberty Village near the old Canada Bread factory, and also around Bathurst and Dupont Sts.

Kayode Joshua Taiwo, now 11, played the part of the child soldier.

“Why am I holding a gun?” he recalled asking his mother, Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo, at the time.

“So we had a chat about all the wars in Africa and about people like Kony and (Robert) Mugabe who steal children to fight for them,” said Omololu-Olunloyo, a prominent community activist in Toronto.

Taiwo, who also goes by Kay Jeezy and The Kid Reporter, hopes to perform “Child Soldier” on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor one day.

“I didn’t believe that kids my age could be soldiers,” the soft-spoken Grade 6 student said. He memorized Boothe’s lyrics in 48 hours, which included lines such as “Oh you don’t think these little hands can kill a man? These AKs only weigh a few kilograms.”

Boothe grew up in the bubble of Bathurst and Bloor Sts., like most children unaware the world stretched beyond a few blocks. He believes that people use their neighbourhoods, especially the rougher ones, as a crutch.

“Sometimes we feel trapped in the communities we come from, but we do have choices, especially in Canada, even if you’re from Jane and Finch or Regent Park,” Boothe said. “Kids in Toronto need to realize that they might have to struggle to succeed, but it’s not the kind of life or death struggle like Africa.”

Snowboarder Fights Battles On Two Fronts

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Paul Attfield

(Apr 23, 2012) Imagine someone telling you that you only had two hours to live.

Imagine that person was a doctor, who also said if he was wrong - although he was more than 98-per-cent certain he was right - that you could go on living, only he'd have to cut off both your legs, remove both kidneys, your spleen and leave you deaf in one ear.

Now imagine spending the next 2 1/2 months in and out of consciousness fighting for your life, spending $30,000 on new legs, filming a music video with Madonna, and becoming the one of the highest ranked para-snowboarders in the world.

Amy Purdy doesn't have to imagine.

"I feel incredibly lucky," the 32-year-old Las Vegas native says of her new reality. "Even when I woke up from the coma that I was in and I realized all that I had gone through, at that very moment I felt incredibly grateful to be alive and to have pulled out of it and to have a second chance at life."

Thirteen years ago, Purdy left her work as a massage therapist feeling the onset of what she thought was flu. Within 24 hours she was in hospital, on life support. A week later, she was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis.

The lack of circulation at the start of her ordeal meant the doctors had to amputate both legs below the knee, and with every organ failing except for her heart and brain, she ultimately needed a kidney transplant (donated by her father a week before her 21st birthday).

She has since dedicated her life to warning people about the dangers of meningitis, and is currently touring across Canada to coincide with Tuesday's World Meningitis Day. She urges Canadians to sit up and take notice - a recent survey suggested 30 per cent of the populace would also just assume their symptoms were reflective of flu - especially knowing now that her entire ordeal could have been avoided.

"I wouldn't change my life at all, where I'm at today," the world's first double-leg amputee competitive para-snowboarder says, "but it's frustrating that a simple vaccination, if we had known, could have prevented a lot that I've gone through."

Purdy, who now lives with her boyfriend in Crested Butte, Colo., refuses to dwell on what could have been and is busy travelling the globe with her snowboard in tow, winning three gold medals in World Cup events earlier this year, before taking the silver in February's snowboard-cross world championships in France.

And when she isn't doing that, she's equally busy helping to run Adaptive Action Sport, a non-profit organization she founded with her boyfriend in 2005, to get disabled youth, young adults and armed forces veterans into action sports. But her biggest challenge still remains: Purdy is championing her event's case for inclusion in a rather well-known quadrennial sporting showcase.

"We were hoping it would be in the 2014 Paralympics, but as far as we know Russia didn't have their own team so they pretty much chose at the last minute to not have para-snowboarding as part of the Paralympics," she says of the Sochi Games. "Whereas now every nation is working very hard to develop their teams so we can make sure it's in the 2018 Paralympics."

While that dream remains a maybe, another was realized, in part thanks to her artificial limbs.

"Before I lost my legs I actually wanted to move to Los Angeles and become an actress," Purdy admits. "But after losing my legs and realizing that I could still follow my dreams that motivated me even more, you know."

That motivation drove her to make her feature film debut seven years ago, but it also allowed her to cross paths with the Material Girl a couple of years prior to that when she featured in a military-themed fashion show in the video for American Life. But you won't find it on YouTube.com.

"Unfortunately, that video didn't air," Purdy explains. "It was actually supposed to air at exactly the same time as [then-U.S. president George] Bush declared war after 9/11. It literally happened the same day. There was supposed to be this big world premiere and then Bush declared war and Madonna pulled it.

"I was kind of a featured person in the film, I was a runway model and kind of a fem-bot with these robotic legs and at the last moment they felt that it could be a little too touchy with all of the people coming back from war now with prosthetics, so she decided to shelve it. But it definitely sparked my interest in entertainment and art as far as using my legs to getting messages across."

Imagine that.

Jay Manuel Leaving ‘America’s Next Top Model’ After 18 Seasons

Source: www.thestar.com - By Star staff

(Apr 20, 2012) Canadian fashion guru Jay Manuel's longtime run on America's Next Top Model is ending.

In a posting on his blog Friday, the Toronto-raised creative director said after 18 seasons he will not be returning to the CW reality series, which is hosted by former supermodel Tyra Banks.

Series regulars Nigel Barker, a photographer, and J. Alexander, a runway coach, are also leaving.

“Nigel, Miss J and I had a great run, and now it's time for us to move on,” wrote Manuel, a former makeup artist who directed photo shoots on the televised modelling competition.

“But you know me … I'm already working on many interesting projects. I look forward to sharing with you soon!”

In a posting on her Facebook page, Banks thanked the three for their work on the series she created.

“Working with you is always an absolute pleasure,” she wrote above a picture of the trio.

“Excited for what the future holds for us. XOXO, TyTy.”

Many fans who commented on Banks's Facebook posting expressed shock and disappointment with the trio's departure, with some writing that they don't plan to watch the show anymore.

Born in Springfield, Ill., Manuel moved to Toronto when he was two and attended Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate Institute in the city.

He's creative director of Sears Canada's private label collection, Attitude Jay Manuel, and has hosted his own show, Style Her Famous.

Manuel also hosted two seasons of Canada's Next Top Model, has his own makeup line, and is a frequent fashion critic for “E!” channel.

T-Boz & Chilli Speak with Essence.com on 10th Anniv. of Left Eye’s Death

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Apr 25, 2012) *Wow, how time flies. It’s been a decade, ten years ago today, since the death of TLC member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

Now, her surviving bandmatesTionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas – are celebrating group’s 20th anniversary and revealing some unknown facts about the late Left Eye.

Chilli and T-Boz spoke to ESSENCE.com the misconceptions that abounded about the late performer and more.

Here are a couple of highlights:

ESSENCE.com: Today marks 10 years since we lost Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in a tragic car accident. What do you remember about that day?

T-BOZ: She died a day before my birthday. I remember everything. I was with security in my Porsche and I said to them, ‘I feel like I’m going to get in a wreck and I want to go home.’ The driver said: ‘Well that’s on the other side of town.’ I didn’t care; I wanted to go home. I just felt something was going to happen to me, but it wasn’t me it was Lisa. I was sitting in a rocking chair in my daughter’s room after putting her down when I got a call from Chilli. She was screaming. I had just gotten out the hospital from fighting sickle cell so I had to be careful about getting upset. Everybody was trying to keep me calm.

I remember staying up all night and Patti Labelle and Missy Elliot calling me. Whitney Houston was at Lisa’s Funeral. She sat behind me and rubbed my shoulders for two hours, while telling me ‘it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be alright.’ Right before that, I remember Lisa played a trick where she went missing and nobody knew where she was. This was the one time I wish she was joking and doing one of her stunts, but she wasn’t.

ESSENCE.com: People playfully identified her as the crazy one in the group because of the notable fire in 1994 amongst other things. What’s the biggest misconception about Left Eye?

T-BOZ: That’s the part that sucked. The fire could’ve even been stopped if they stopped acting like little girls and put the fire out. That really could’ve been settled differently. I just really wish people would’ve known her for the sweet passionate person she really was. She was very creative too, I remember I was in the hospital for four months and she sent me a clock that she made and the clock read: “Take all the time you need.” She really put thought into things.

CHILLI: People didn’t understand how much of a heart she really had and how passionate and giving she was. She might have come across as someone who wanted to start trouble all the time but that wasn’t it; she just had a lot to say. Sometimes when you speak what’s on your mind—I’m talking everything on your mind, people can get a misconception of you. So because she spoke her mind, all of the time, it caused people to misjudge her.

Read/learn more at ESSENCE.com.


Road To Gordon Lightfoot's Live Album Was No Carefree Highway

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Apr 23, 2012) "Call me a perfectionist, if you like."

Gordon Lightfoot is at Massey Hall, speaking in a dressing room he knows so well, about his new album, All Live, a compilation of concert cuts recorded from 1998 to 2001 at the corner of Shuter and Victoria streets in downtown Toronto.

"What you're hearing on this record is us," Lightfoot continues, "at our peak, here, first attempt."

What you don't hear are overdubs or re-recorded elements pasted in to cover mistakes in the original performances or recordings. Neither do you hear any manipulation of the audio. "I wasn't going to remix anything," says Lightfoot, his voice nasal but firm, recalling the unmistakable tone of Floyd the Barber from The Andy Griffith Show. "I wanted it to be the raw mix onstage."

Call him a perfectionist if you like, but Lightfoot wasn't going to be caught dead releasing an inferior recording. And, honestly, it almost came to that. While he was in the hospital after suffering an aortic aneurysm in 2001, a contingency plan was drawn up involving the release of a posthumous album using material from Massey recorded in 1998. "They weren't sure at that point if I was going to live or not," the gaunt but spry enough 73-year-old explains.

Of course, the singer survived, more recent ghoulish, erroneous news reports notwithstanding. Still, given his age and health, the idea for a posthumous release - "after I'm pushing up daisies" - was still alive. In 2007, Lightfoot decided to start going through the concert tapes himself, rather than leaving the choices to others.

All the material from the vaults came from Massey shows - he has played the red-doored dandy on more than 150 occasions - recorded in 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006 and 2008. Lightfoot quickly dismissed the post-illness performances as being inferior, and so he settled on the earlier shows. "The vocals were full," he says. "The band was at full strength."

Lightfoot wasn't happy with the original album with 1998 material; he didn't like the flow, and he didn't like the dialogue between songs. "I like to sing a lot more than I like to talk."

Poring over the material, he came up with 30 "good" performances. Eleven of them had minor mistakes: "Being the perfectionist that I am," he wouldn't use them. After that, the sound levels of the remaining 19 tracks, culled from six concerts, needed to be matched.

One would think, in a digital age, that equalizing the volume levels would be a quick, easy thing. But? "Numbers will tell you a certain amount," Lightfoot explains. "But for the rest, you have to do by ear."

The process took five years, all told. One wonders how long a more thorough job of packaging by the archival label Rhino would have delayed the album, which is being released Tuesday. Liner notes are disappointedly brief.

As well, the decision to produce a compilation of live tracks, rather than exclusively use the material from 1998, deprives the listener of a concert experience. Each song fades out, ruining any continuity or a sense of occasion derived from something such as Neil Young's extraordinary Live at Massey Hall 1971.

After our interview, Lightfoot walks down from the various rooms upstairs - "this is where I tune my guitar" - and steps onto the stage alone, strumming his Martin acoustic as he make his way to the centre of the boards.

There, unprompted, he picks at the notes and softly murmurs the words to 1983's Knotty Pine and I'll Tag Along from 1986. On the latter, his eyes are closed as he sings in an empty performance hall only to himself: "This time tomorrow, we might be all packed and gone; I believe it's best we carry on."

From the front row, I clap when he is finished. And Lightfoot has never seemed so perfect. Asked if he would ever commit to a Massey Hall farewell concert, the troubadour - this painter passing through - scoffs at the notion. "No, I will not," he says with conviction. "We will continue."

The stage is his, then. Turn on the lights, bring him in and call him whatever he wishes to be called. He has earned that much.

Adele Leads Billboard Music Award Nominations

Source: www.thestar.com - By Joel Rubinoff

(Apr 20, 2012) Adele, LMFAO, Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne topped the list of finalists for the 2012 Billboard Music Awards, which were announced today.

Adele led the pack with 18 nominations, including Top Artist, Top Female Artist and Top Billboard 200 Artist. “Rolling in the Deep,” the hit single for her sophomore album, 21, garnered the U.K. songstress 7 of her 18 nominations.

The singing and songwriting sensation already scored six Grammy wins earlier this year including Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep.”

Electro-pop duo LMFAO fell just one short of Adele’s 18 nods. They’ll square off with Adele in the Top Hot 100 Artist category, which also includes Bruno Mars, Katy Perry and Rihanna.

After scoring 18 nominations last year, Rihanna lost some ground in 2012 but is still nominated in 13 categories, including Top Streaming Artist and Top Dance Artist.

Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne were each nominated in 10 categories, and will compete against Adele, Rihanna and Katy Perry for the prestigious Top Artist prize.

Canadian sensation Justin Bieber is nominated for four awards, including Top Social Artist. He will also perform at the awards show, which is being held on May 20 in Las Vegas, as will Carrie Underwood, LMFAO and The Wanted.

The full list of nominees is posted on the Billboard website.

Billboard Music Awards are determined by chart rankings based on album sales and downloads, track downloads, radio play and touring. In recent years streaming and social interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Vevo, YouTube, Spotify and other popular online destinations for music have also factored into nominations and wins.

The Billboard Music Awards will air live from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, on Sunday, May 20, at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Justin Bieber Gives Carly Rae Jepsen Her Just Desserts

Source: www.thestar.com - By Joel Rubinoff

(Apr 21, 2012) Say what you will about Justin Bieber’s gooshy brand of tweenage dance pop.

When it comes to promoting Canadian talent, the 18-year-old Stratford native has managed to do in five minutes what Canadian Idol — the now defunct American Idol offshoot — couldn’t accomplish in six years: create an international star.

Her name is
Carly Rae Jepsen, a Season 5 Idol finalist who had been toiling in Canadian obscurity since her 2007 TV stint, putting out records to critical acclaim but completely ignored not only south of the border, but on a broader Canadian scale as well.

As a former TV and music critic who dutifully covered the high-gloss karaoke croakfest from beginning to end, it drove me nuts.

“Sublimely brilliant,” I called her Idol rendition of Janis Ian’s teen lament “At Seventeen.” “A spirited cross between Edie Brickell, Feist and Jann Arden.’’

Who cares? Before you could say “Whatever happened to?” she was bounced back to oblivion as Brian Melo took the crown and went on, like most Idol finalists, to do nothing of note on a national scale (with the exception of Jacob Hoggard, who fronts pop punk revivalists Hedley).

In terms of raising hopes and then dashing them with almost Machiavellian glee, Canadian Idol was the TV equivalent of a Ponzi scheme: promises of big returns backed with flatulent praise, hyperbole and a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

Jepsen returned to Mission B.C., where she honed her craft, signed with a small but respectable Canadian label and, in 2008, dropped her debut album with no prospect of the fame and fortune Idol judges wagged in front of contestants like gold-plated carrots.

No surprise then that when “Call Me Maybe” — kickoff single from her sophomore disc, Curiosity — was released in Canada last fall, it seemed poised for the same kind of disappearing act that has long prevented iconic bands like Blue Rodeo and Tragically Hip from replicating their Canadian success on a larger scale.

Until, that is, his Lordship of Beebsville came home to visit his family last Christmas, heard Jepsen’s song on Canadian radio and — in a case of paying it forward that mimicked his own accidental discovery through digital media three years earlier — reached for his BlackBerry.

“Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson is possibly the catchiest song I’ve ever heard lol,” he tweeted.

And suddenly, just like that, Jepsen was a star.

Not only did the personable 26-year-old sign with Bieber’s U.S. label in February, but “Call Me Maybe” — egged on by a hilarious parody video featuring Bieber, girlfriend Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale — has gone to No. 1 in half a dozen countries and is currently No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Is it a great song? It’s a great pop song, an infectious, synth-driven lament to unrequited love with a pithy refrain — “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me maybe” — has drawn comparisons to golden age bubble gum hits by Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

In an ironic twist, Jepsen’s song unseated Bieber’s own at the top of the British pop charts, prompting the pint-sized prophet to tweet “So I get up today and Boyfriend is #2 on iTunes chart in the UK!! Incredible. Who is #1? My own artist @carlyraejepsen . . . hmmmm.”

Pardon me for gloating, but if we can expand Bieber’s musical tastes to encompass rock, acoustic and country music — and ensure he has a working car radio on visits to his hometown — Canada may at last have a viable promotional tool for getting its acts recognition beyond the stifled confines of the 49th parallel.

“It’s all about networking,’’ says Damien Rickards (a.k.a. Mr. D), music programmer for 91.5 The Beat. “You put something on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and you get the right eyes to see or right ears to hear, and you could be the next big sensation. In some ways, it’s like winning the lottery.”

There’s more to it, of course, or Rebecca Black would now be an international star, instead of a laughing stock.

In the end, Jepsen is lucky she had those five post-Idol years on Canadian soil to find her voice and settle into her musical skin. When fame came calling, she was ready.

“The U.S. was sort of like the big ocean that felt so impossibly large to me,” she told Rolling Stone. “Canada was enough of a tough shell to crack. I’m still scared to be too excited because it all does seem too good to be true.”

Humble, self-effacing, immensely talented. For once the fates have aligned properly. Relax Carly and enjoy your success — you’ve earned it.

Levon Helm, Drummer And Singer For The Band, Dies At 71

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Hill, The Associated Press

(Apr 21, 2012) ALBANY, N.Y. —With songs like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Weight and Up on Cripple Creek, The Band fused rock, blues, folk and gospel to create a sound that seemed as authentically American as a Mathew Brady photograph or a Mark Twain short story.

In truth, the group had only one American —
Levon Helm.

Helm, the drummer and singer who brought an urgent beat and a genuine Arkansas twang to some of The Band's best-known songs and helped turn a bunch of musicians known mostly as Bob Dylan's backup group into one of rock's most legendary acts, has died. He was 71.

Helm, who was found to have throat cancer in 1998, died Thursday afternoon, according to his website. On Tuesday, a message on the site said he was in the final stages of cancer.

Helm and his bandmates — Canadians Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel — were musical virtuosos who returned to the roots of American music in the late 1960s as other rockers veered into psychedelia, heavy metal and jams. The group's 1968 debut, Music From the Big Pink, and its follow-up, The Band, remain landmark albums of the era, and songs such as The Weight, Dixie Down and Cripple Creek have become rock standards.

Early on, The Band backed Dylan on his sensational and controversial electric tours of 1965-66 and collaborated with him on the legendary Basement Tapes, which produced I Shall Be Released, Tears of Rage and many other favourites.

The son of an Arkansas cotton farmer, Helm was just out of high school when he joined rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a tour of Canada in 1957 as the drummer for the Hawks. That band eventually recruited a group of Canadian musicians who, along with Helm, spent grueling years touring rough bars in Canada and the South.

They would split from Hawkins, hook up with Dylan and eventually call themselves The Band — because, as they explained many times, that's what everyone called them anyway.

In some ways, The Band was the closest this country ever came to the camaraderie and achievement of the Beatles. Each of the five members brought special talents that through years of touring, recording and living together blended into a unique sound.

The tall, lanky Robertson was an expert blues-rock guitarist and the group's best lyricist, his songs inspired in part by Dylan and by the stories Helm would tell him of the South. The baby-faced Danko was a fluid bassist, an accomplished singer and occasional writer. The bearish Hudson was a virtuoso and eccentric who could seemingly master any instrument, especially keyboards, while the sad-eyed Manuel's haunting falsetto on Whispering Pines, Tears of Rage and others led Helm to call him the group's lead singer.

But for many Band admirers, that honor belonged to the short, feisty Helm, whose authoritative twang once was likened to a town crier calling a meeting to order. He not only sang Dixie Down, he inhabited it, becoming the Confederate Virgil Caine, “hungry, just barely alive,” his brother killed by the Yankees, the South itself in ruins. It was the kind of heartbreaking, complicated story and performance that had even Northerners rooting for the proud and desperate Virgil.

The Weight and many other songs were true collaborations: Helm's voice was at the bottom, Danko's in the middle and Manuel on top. Helm — the group's musical leader on stage — played drums loose-limbed and funky, shoulders hunched and head to the side when he sang.

But the group, especially Manuel, struggled with drugs and alcohol. While Danko and Manuel shared songwriting credits in the early years, Robertson was essentially the lone writer for the last few albums. By the middle of the decade, Robertson, especially, was burned out and wanted to get off the road.

They bid farewell to live shows with a bang with the famous Last Waltz concert in 1976. Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Dylan were among the stars who played the show in San Francisco, filmed by Martin Scorsese for a movie of the same name, released in 1978.

The Last Waltz is regarded by many as the greatest of concert films, but it also helped lead to a bitter split between Robertson and Helm, once the best of friends.

Robertson became close to Scorsese during the production, and Helm believed the movie was structured to make Robertson the leader and advance his own movie career. They rarely spoke after, despite efforts by Hawkins and others to intervene.

While Helm would accuse Robertson of being on a star trip, Helm, ironically, was the more successful actor, with acclaimed roles in Coal Miner's Daughter, The Right Stuff and other films. And no one who watched The Last Waltz could forget Helm's performance of Dixie Down, shot mostly in closeup, his face squeezed with emotion.

In his memoir, This Wheel's on Fire, Helm said some hard feelings about Robertson also included his getting songwriting credits on Band songs that other members considered group efforts. Robertson would deny the allegations. On his Facebook page this week, he revealed that he had been devastated to learn of Helm's illness and visited him in the hospital.

“I sat with Levon for a good while, and thought of the incredible and beautiful times we had together,” Robertson wrote.

Without Robertson, The Band reunited in the 1980s but never approached its early success. Manuel hanged himself in a Winter Park, Fla., hotel room in 1986. Danko died in his home near Woodstock in 1999, a day after his 56th birthday.

Highlights from the `90s did include playing at a Dylan tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992 and a collaboration among Helm, Danko and Keith Richards on the rocker Deuce and a Quarter.

While Helm's illness reduced his voice to something close to a whisper, it did not end his musical career. Beset by debt, in 2004 he began a series of free-wheeling late night shows in his barn in Woodstock that were patterned after medicine shows from his youth. Any night of the bi-weekly Midnight Rambles could feature Gillian Welch, Elvis Costello or his daughter Amy on vocals and violin.

He recorded Dirt Farmer in 2007, which was followed by Electric Dirt in 2009. Both albums won Grammys. He won another this year for Ramble at the Ryman.

Original members of The Band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Nickelback Burns Up ACC

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(Apr 22, 2012) Rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be larger than life. Last night at the Air Canada Centre, Nickelback made it seem mammoth.

Operating under the notion that bigger is better, the four deans of lustful, bone-crunching rock offered the estimated 14,000 in attendance (and pop star Avril Lavigne) everything that one would expect from a dazzling marvel: lots of fireworks, an impressive light show, the occasional explosion and even a rotating stage that hovered more than 15 metres above its audience.

And that’s not even mentioning the humongous triple-tiered stage fitted with the expected hi-tech video screens and requisite treadmill ramps that took up a good quarter of the arena and stretched out into a V so even those in the nosebleeds could get a good glimpse of their favourite Canadian band in action.

Of course, all the bells and whistles would be worthless if lead singer and songwriter Chad Kroeger didn’t deliver on a number of other fronts, including creating crowd-pleasing hits like “Someday,” “How You Remind Me” and “When We Stand Together” containing more hooks than a pirate convention.

But as much as this was about bombast, the talkative Kroeger served more as the genial emcee than bona fide rock star, joking with bandmates Ryan Peake (guitars), brother Mike Kroeger (bass) and Daniel Adair (drums) and engaging the crowd in several singalongs.

It’s hard not to like the guy, who was confident enough in his musicianship and singing ability to deliver tornado-paced tongue-twisters like the lyrics for “Something In Your Mouth” alongside more lazy-tempoed ballads like “Lullaby.”

But perhaps the key to Kroeger’s success is that not only does he understand his audience’s tastes — that’s why he and his band have sold more than 50 million albums around the world, and counting as the latest, Here And Now, is still relatively fresh out of the gate — but he understands that rock ‘n’ roll is an exciting bastion of escapism that doesn’t have to be cerebral.

So it was coddling to the masses, as uplifting numbers like “Photograph,” “Bottoms Up” and even angry anthems like “Burn it to the Ground” allowed folks to sing, dance and vent their problems.

Nickelback’s opening acts were equally up to the task, although they delivered less visual flair than the headliners.

In their first Toronto appearance since their 2002 split and 2010 resurrection, Bush — led by the genetically gifted Gavin Rossdale and one of three opening acts Nickelback hired for the tour — focused on reacquaintance rather than promoting their recent recording return The Sea of Memories.

With the familiar guitar riffs of “Machinehead” ringing throughout the auditorium, Rossdale was a bundle of energy, anxiously set to reclaim the territory that Bush forfeited a decade ago, and he wasted no time in cradling the crowd in the palm of his hand with such popular gems as “Little Things” and “Glycerine,” his razor-edge voice losing none of its rock-star allure during his inadvertent hiatus.

But Rossdale left nothing to chance just in case fickle pop audiences had forgotten him. During a rendition of the Beatles’ “Come Together,” Mr. Stefani wandered through the crowd, knowing a little human touch tends to go a long way.

Seether poured fire on their opening number with an intoxicating version of “Gasoline” and never looked back, the three-piece South African combo of singer and guitarist Shaun Morgan, bass player and guitarist Dale Stewart and drummer John delivering solid vibes through their own aggressive brand of heavy rock. Their love of musicianship shone through such crowd faves as the acoustic-driven “Country Song” and the pulverizing “Rise Above This.”

My Darkest Days drew the short end of the stick, entertaining a small crowd due to the doors opening late, with a four-song set to showcase its lust-driven material.

Jazz Hero Ramsey Lewis Keeps It All Upbeat

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Apr 24, 2012) Jazz pianist
Ramsey Lewis didn't get to the age of 77, and have 80 albums under his belt, by singing the blues.

When asked how he is doing, the father of seven and grandfather of 13 says, “Life is great. I live in the moment and the moment is good.”

The native of Chicago and crossover jazz-pop legend headlines the lineup for the April 25 sold-out fundraiser for Jazz.FM 91. This is the eighth year of the station's fundraiser and the first time it is being held at Koerner Hall — previous concerts were at the University of Toronto's Convocation Hall.

Lewis has been to Toronto many times and looks forward to some sightseeing with his wife Jan; that and some advice he got early in his career make road trips fun. Starting out in Chicago with the band The Cleffs, the classically trained, gospel-loving Lewis got travel-lifestyle tips from jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Oscar Peterson. “They said, make sure you have a good place to lay your head and you've got to eat properly.”

It's the rule he lives by, venturing out into new cities to buy fresh produce or scout out little mom and pop restaurants that serve good food.

Slim and elegant, Lewis still looks very much like the man who vaulted into public eye in the '60s with his hits, “In Crowd,” “Hang On Sloopy” and “Wade in The Water.”

Those records extended the appeal of jazz to broader audiences, says Ross Porter, Jazz.FM 91 CEO and president, who remembers hearing the hits on the radio when he was in public school. “He had music that crossed over, the level of his success transcended musical boundaries.”

Porter said this is the fourth time he has asked Lewis to participate in the annual fundraiser, but the first time he has been available.

Others performing Wednesday evening include Canadian singer Jill Barber, studio musician Tom Scott, vocalist Curtis Stigers, Toronto's The Heavyweights Brass Band and the Jazz.FM 91 Youth Big Band. Lou Pomanti is the musical director for the evening which raises funds to support the non-profit station's youth education programs.

The station is member-supported and relies on a wide range of fundraising initiatives to operate, points out Porter. However, there are two other important reasons to have the concert, he says.

It is also an opportunity to reach out to the broad spectrum of music lovers with a top-notch evening of jazz and the recorded event also provides original programming for the station to run later, he says.

Toronto jazz pianist Mark Kieswetter credits Lewis with expanding the appeal of jazz. Not only was “The In Crowd” an instantly memorable piece of music, he said, but “he made (jazz) accessible at a time when Miles (Davis) was turning his back on the crowd.”

Lewis produced many more albums after his big hits in the '60s, earning three Grammy Awards and seven gold records; he was also awarded the 2006 Stellar Award for Best Gospel Instrumental Album. What's more, from 1997 to 2009 he hosted a Chicago morning radio show that was syndicated nationally from 2007 to 2009.

Through it all, he says, he's only trying to achieve “honesty and truth as I see it. Take what you feel inside and pass it on.”

Strike A Pose: Voguing Is Back

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Dave Morris

(Apr 21, 2012) In clubs, banquet halls and ballrooms around the world, the music throbs and the dancers freeze with every beat, striking poses that are alluring, defiant or coquettish. Some wear outlandish, elaborate costumes, while others strive for "realness," the illusion that they are the gender their outfit and demeanour seem to indicate. These people are voguing, and while the dance craze's heyday was more than 20 years ago, the number of newcomers drawn to this long-standing queer tradition is growing.

Take just these few examples: The soundtrack at celebrated designer Rick Owens's recent Paris Fashion Week show was from New York electronic artist Zebra Katz's and vocalist Njena Reddd Foxxx's spare, aggressive Ima Read [http://youtu.be/oo4sqt2bmag] (referencing reading, a form of specialized insult that began in the early days of the "ballroom community," as participants refer to the network of promoters, MCs and dancers who were/are involved in putting on drag voguing balls). Ballroom DJs like MikeQ, Vijuan Allure and others are using music-streaming outlets such as Soundcloud to make their work accessible. Sites such as balldvd.com and ballroomthrowbacks.com sell DVDs of recent balls to eager students of the form, while dance labels such as Night Slugs in the U.K., as well as Diplo's Mad Decent in North America, are commissioning original work from ballroom artists.

And in Canada, last year's inaugural Spirit of Will Munro award (a $10,000 prize in memory of the late artist) was given to the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance, a fast-growing group of young voguers. TKBA's Army of Lovers voguing ball took place last month as part of a program hosted by the Art Gallery of York University.

When a subculture pops its head above the mainstream parapet, it rarely works out well. Until recently, voguing could have been added to the list of underground movements turned into fleeting pop-culture fads, a footnote to the Madonna song. But more than 20 years after a cultural triple-whammy - Paris Is Burning, the award-winning documentary about the scene, the Material Girl's chart-topping anthem Vogue, and her tour documentary Madonna: Truth Or Dare - all released in the space of 18 months between 1990 and 1991 - voguing is once again expanding beyond the borders of queer culture.

Drag balls originated well before the early 1990s. They date back to Harlem in the 1930s, where men and women in elaborate costumes, transgendered people and other members of the LGBT community, most of them black, strutted their stuff (or "walk") in an intensely competitive yet hugely supportive environment. Voguing evolved later; it's a physically demanding, angular dance that draws equally on the poses by models in fashion magazines and as influences as disparate as Egyptian hieroglyphs and kung-fu movies.

In the 1990s, voguing's popularity largely failed to benefit the pioneers. "The people in the Madonna film didn't go on to have significant careers," explains Tim Lawrence, a lecturer at East London University and scholar of dance-music history who wrote the introduction to Voguing: Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-1992, a book of photographs from the era by Chantal Regnault, and the liner notes for a new box set of ballroom anthems, both recently released by London record company Soul Jazz. Lawrence saw trailblazing voguer Willi Ninja a couple of times at Sound Factory, a vogue-friendly club in New York. "He was able to give [dance] classes and had some reasonably successful singles within the New York dance-club world," Lawrence says. "But most of the participants didn't go on to have the kind of fame they imagined."

Zebra Katz has never walked in a ball, though he has attended them. "People have reached out to me in the ball community; they are extending a hand, and I'm definitely going to accept it," he explains. But although Katz appreciates the impact of Ima Read on both on the ballroom scene and his musical career, he says, "I'm not really that deep in it."

DJ MikeQ, on the other hand, is deeply embedded in the ballroom community, and as such has benefited from (and helped drive) the scene's increasing prominence. The New Jersey native employs the stuttering, heavily edited style that digital technology has made available to many popular DJs today. His source material, however, is heavy on ballroom anthems such as Armand Van Helden's Witch Doctor and Masters At Work's The Ha Dance, a house-music song whose elements have become as defining to ballroom house as the gunshot sound is to hip-hop.

MikeQ says that, although house music DJs like himself are gaining significant exposure beyond the ballroom world (he estimates his gigs are about half ballroom, half outside), he hasn't observed vogue dancing itself spreading beyond the ballroom community. "Only the people that know about the ballroom scene are doing it," he says. "[At] the newer parties that I'm starting to do, not many people vogue. Everybody's just dancing to [ballroom] like it's regular music to them."

Even if voguers wanted to stop elements of the culture from entering the mainstream - for fear of being chewed up and spat out much as the stars of Paris Is Burning were after Madonna and others lost interest - with so much of ballroom culture readily accessible on the Internet, it's hard to imagine how they could.

"Before, we would just remix the beats and play them at ballroom events and burn them on CDs and sell them to ballroom people," MikeQ says. "That was as far as it went at the time. But now, putting it online, it's all starting to get out there and get real popular."


Sinead O’Connor Cancels 2012 Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - By Liam Casey

(Apr 23, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y.—Sinead O’Connor says she is cancelling her 2012 tour due to her bipolar disorder. The singer made the announcement Monday in a posting on her website. She wrote that she is “very unwell” and had been advised by her doctor to not hit the road after her “very serious breakdown between December and March.” In December, O’Connor announced her split from therapist Barry Herridge after 16 days of marriage. The Irish singer-songwriter is best known for the early 1990s hit “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Her latest album — How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? — was released in February. The 45-year-old says she had planned the tour because of the album’s release, but was “attempting to be stronger than I actually am.”

Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert Lead CMT Awards Nominations

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chris Talbott

(Apr 23, 2012) NASHVILLE, TENN. — With Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift atop the list, look no further than the CMT Music Awards nominations for proof country music’s new favourite colour is blond. Underwood earned five nominations, Lambert has four as a solo artist and as part of her trio Pistol Annies, and Swift led a contingent of stars earning three nominations apiece for the 11th annual video awards show. Nominations were announced Monday morning on the Today show. Other artists with three nominations include Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Blake Shelton, Thompson Square and The Civil Wars. Underwood’s “Good Girl” and her “Remind Me” collaboration with Brad Paisley, Lambert’s “Over You” and Swift’s collaboration with The Civil Wars on The Hunger Games soundtrack entry “Safe & Sound” are among the 10 nominees for top honour video of the year. Underwood also is up for female video, CMT performance and collaborative video of the year. Lambert is up for female video as a solo artist and for group video and breakthrough video for “Hell on Heels” with her friends Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe in Pistol Annies. Other video of the year nominees include Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” Kenny Chesney’s “You and Tequila” with Grace Potter, Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” Lady Antebellum’s “We Owned the Night,” Rascal Flatts’ “Easy” with Natasha Bedingfield and Shelton’s “God Gave Me You.” Fan voting for the awards begins Monday on the network’s website and runs through June 4. The show will air live June 6 from Nashville.

Parachute Club Drummer Billy Bryans Dies At 63

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Apr 23, 2012) TORONTO —Billy Bryans, the Juno Award-winning drummer and producer who co-founded the Canadian cross-cultural pop group the Parachute Club and was considered a pioneer of world music in Canada, has died. The Montreal native died Monday in Toronto after a long battle with cancer, said a news release issued on behalf of his extended family. He was 63. In a career spanning four decades, Bryans was also a promoter and DJ, and co-wrote the Parachute Club's Juno-winning 1983 hit Rise Up. In the ‘60s in Quebec, Bryans played with the beat group MG & the Escorts before moving to Toronto, where he got his start performing in new wave acts, including the Government. It was then that he also started producing for groups including rockabilly outfit the Bop Cats, the jazz-jug revivalists the Original Sloth Band, and Downchild Blues Band. After joining Lorraine Segato's feminist rock band Mama Quilla II, the two formed the soca/reggae/rock outfit V and then the Parachute Club, which won four Junos. A lover of world music, particularly Latin, Bryans helped to launch the worldbeat category at the Junos and brought top Cuban acts to Canada. He also played with various world-music groups and produced albums in the genre, including the 1992 Juno-winning The Gathering, which was said to be the first compilation of Canadian global sounds. A memorial honouring Bryans is being planned.

Ottawa Bluesfest lineup includes Nickelback, LMFAO, K’naan, Norah Jones

: www.thestar.com

(Apr 25, 2012) OTTAWA — Nickelback, K’naan and Norah Jones are among the artists who will be on the bill for this year’s Ottawa Bluesfest. John Mellencamp, LMFAO, Snoop Dogg, Skrillex and Iron Maiden are also among the scheduled performers at the festival, which runs July 4 to July 15. Other Canadian artists confirmed for the festival include Blue Rodeo, the Sheepdogs, Metric, Grimes and City and Colour. Tickets go on sale on Saturday. Last year’s festival ended on a down note, when Cheap Trick’s performance was cut short after scaffolding buckled during a violent summer storm. Four people were hurt, including the group’s truck driver.

::FILM NEWS::    

Cannes 2012: Canadians Xavier Dolan And 2 Cronenbergs In Cannes Official Selection

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Apr 19, 2012) The father-and-son duo of David and Brandon Cronenberg lead a strong Canadian contingent in the official selection at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 16-27.

David’s sex thriller Cosmopolis, with Twilight star Robert Pattinson, will compete for the coveted Palme d’Or at the annual cinema showcase in France. The rivals for this veteran Croisette traveller will include several previous Palme winners.

Brandon’s debut film, the sci-fi mystery Antiviral, has been honoured with a slot in the Un Certain Regard parallel program, which presents works by newer directors and those whose films have “a certain look.” UCR has its own awards and Brandon will also be eligible for the Camera d’Or prize for first-time filmmakers.

Also in UCR is Quebec wunderkind Xavier Dolan, whose new film, Laurence Anyways, had been touted as a contender in the Palme competition. It’s his second time in the program and his third time at Cannes, and he’s just 23.

It’s rare to have this many Canadians in the Cannes official selection, which this year drew from nearly 1,700 films submitted from around the world.

It’s also going to be a big year at Cannes for Toronto actress Sarah Gadon. She’s in both Cronenberg films, and she also had a role in David’s 2011 release, A Dangerous Method.

Others competing for the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2012 include such well-known directors as Walter Salles (On the Road), Michael Haneke (Love), Abbas Kiarostami (Like Someone in Love), Ken Loach (The Angels’ Share) and Alain Resnais (You Haven’t Seen Nothing Yet).

Canada is also in the hunt for the short film Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. Chloé Robichaud's Chef de meute, from Quebec, is in the competition, selected from 4,500 shorts submitted to the fest.

Hot Docs 2012: 27 Reviews And Counting

Source: www.thestar.com - By Joel Rubinoff

(Apr 19, 2012) The 19th annual Hot Docs festival kicks off April 26 but seats are selling fast. How do you decide what to see? Star writers and critics have pre-screened some of the offerings. Those marked with a are recommended. For screening times see hotdocs.ca.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry: The festival opener is a captivating portrait of big-bellied dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, by American filmmaker Alison Klayman. The Sundance-endorsed doc explains much about her subject’s controversial activism, his blog- and Twitter-enabled campaigns against the Chinese regime’s brutal intolerance of criticism, and the impact his rebel celebrity has had on his nation’s emerging culture and legions of followers, but not nearly enough about the art and ideas that have earned him heaps of global accolades. Stubborn, witty, insightful, fractious, and empowered by a decade-long dance with American democracy in New York during his student years, Ai is presented in the movie as a fait accompli, a rock star of the art world who has enough time on his hands, clout, money and independence, to give the finger — literally — to his overlords, only to be stunned into silence when he becomes too big a target to evade their wrath. Greg Quill

An Affair of the Heart: Director Sylvia Caminer doesn’t let pop star Rick Springfield off the hook in her documentary about the “Jessie’s Girl” singer and General Hospital star. He admits to some serious character flaws, but they’re lapses his fans clearly forgive him for. Overwhelmingly female in number, the teary throng credit Springfield with making their lives better — even if some of their husbands aren’t completely convinced. It’s a fascinating look at the limitless fan devotion for a singer who hasn’t been on the charts in decades, from giggling middle-aged gals on weekend jaunts to headbangers at a Swedish rock festival. They’re all Rickaholics. Linda Barnard

Back to the Square: “Mubarak = Sadness,” reads Cairo wall graffiti scrawled before last year’s Arab Spring uprising that ousted Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, and it was a popular sentiment. But what comes after the cheering, if there is no transition plan and another set of fascist thugs are at the gate? Petr Lom’s unsettling doc looks at the lives of five people in post-revolution Egypt, who are struggling to find freedom and happiness in a new world that still seems a lot like the old one. Peter Howell

Ballroom Dancer: The faux, over-the-top dramatics of ballroom dancing collides with genuine heartbreak this moving doc from Danish filmmakers Andreas Koefoed and Christian Bonke. They follow former world champion Slavik, who at age 33 is plagued with injuries and nearing the end of his career. A driven perfectionist with an arrogant streak that could cost him everything, Slavik hopes to stage a comeback with Anna, a young unknown who is also his partner off the dance floor. L.B.

Big Boys Gone Bananas: Sweden’s Fredrik Gertten has to be a bit bananas himself to go up against the world’s biggest producer of fruits and vegetables. But he also shows considerable cojones in his persistent fight to get his previous documentary Bananas* out to the world. This despite an escalating campaign by Dole to prevent its distribution — indeed, the Los Angeles Film Festival was so fearful of litigation that, to its shame, it only agreed to show the film with an embarrassing disclaimer. This doc-within-a-doc has visual and budget challenges — e.g. overseas conversations with lawyers via shaky, split-screen Skype chats — mostly mitigated by the filmmaker’s willingness to go down a rabbit hole. Ariel Teplitsky

Brooklyn Castle: I.S. 318 is an inner-city school where some 70 per cent of students’ families are living below the poverty line, yet they dwell among kings and queens, boasting the most winning junior high chess teams in the U.S. Director Katie Dellamaggiore’s doc, which picked up the audience award winner at SXSW in January, is the kind of uplifting exploration of kids rising above that inspires as it follows a handful of kids, some prodigies, some struggling just to win a game. As schools face cutbacks and slashing of after-school programs, the kids of I.S. 318 are determined to go on and defend their school’s titles and national reputation, learning lessons along the way that they apply to a variety of off-the-board challenges. L.B.

The Boxing Girls of Kabul: Ariel Nasr’s uplifting film about a small group of young Afghan women who dream of being Olympic boxers opens with a chilling scene of a woman in a burqa crawling on the field at the Olympic stadium before being executed. The self-assured young women we meet as they train with their wiry ex-Olympian coach insist life is changing for the better; one girl’s father insists daughters and sons must be treated equally and encouraged to excel. But winning a competition calls attention to the female boxers and with that comes the threat of violence. The young athletes come out swinging, but will they pay a price for demanding freedom to compete for their country? L.B.

China Heavyweight: As he did with Up the Yangtze, director Yung Chan shows us a corner of Chinese life Westerners would never explore without his questioning camera. This time he follows onetime boxing champ Qi Moxiang, now a talent scout for the nation’s Olympic boxing squad, as he travels around rural Sichuan province. He’s looking for the next great fighters among the poor, skinny kids who live there, offering them a chance to attend a special school and, perhaps one day, bring glory to their village. As the kids fight for a better life while struggling to uphold Party ideals, Qi does likewise, training in the hope he can prevail in one last bout himself. L.B.

Detropia: Once the shining example of U.S. industrial might, Detroit now can barely keep the lights on and the police force operating. Decades of factory shutdowns, outsourcing of production to China and Mexico and the decline of the Big Three carmakers are among the official reasons, leaving the hard-pressed residents of Motor City to pick up the shattered pieces of their city and of their lives. Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing aim a compassionate lens. P.H.

The Final Member: Expect plenty of awkward shifting in seats among male moviegoers during screenings of Toronto directors Jonah Bekhor’s and Zach Math’s delightfully droll doc about an Icelandic museum curator’s quest to obtain the only missing exhibit from his display of mammal penises — a human being. Sigurdur Hjartarson has two game guys who are set to make the donation: Páll Arason, a 95-year-old Iceland adventurer and legendary lover, and Tom, a Californian who wants to inspire chants of “U.S.A.!” with the donation of his stars-and-stripes tattooed best pal he has affectionately named Elmo. Against a stunning Iceland backdrop, Hjartarson shows off the collection he has spent 37 devoted years building, from the massive sperm whale to the miniscule hamster. Fascinating. L.B.

Francophrenia (Or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is): Called a “humorous psycho-thriller” by actor James Franco and his co-director Ian Olds, this mash-up of footage from Franco’s guest stint on daytime soap General Hospital as a homicidal art world loon is more of a head scratcher than a revelation. There’s a lot of voice-over paranoid whispering from Franco and a pair of wisecracking men’s room door symbols — but what does it all mean? Maybe that’s the point. L.B.

The Frog Princes: Director Stephen Snow, a member of Concordia University’s department of creative arts therapies, has five months to mount a production of the children’s story The Frog and the Princess with a cast of developmentally challenged adults. Though this is drama therapy, Snow bombastically promises throughout that the finished production will be legitimately “good” theatre. It isn’t. Along the way, we get to know a few characters, like 24-year-old Rayman with Down Syndrome determined to leave the family nest. There are a couple of powerful moments and the film raises a genuine issue — i.e., the right of the intellectually challenged to seek truly independent lives. Though well-meaning, Omar Majeed and Ryan Mullins’ film feels manipulative and exploitive, eliciting more cringe-worthy than heart-warming moments, and Snow comes off as a bit of a huckster. Bruce DeMara

Herman’s House: “Art is not my thing,” says Herman Wallace, 40 years into Angola Prison solitary confinement for his Black Panther activism. But dreaming works, and so begins his unique collaboration with Jackie Sumell, a befriending New York artist. Intrigued and appalled by the decades he’s spent in a 6-by-9-foot cell, convicted as an accessory to a prison guard murder, she seeks to “free” Wallace by building the house of his mind’s eye, a home he may never live in or even see. A unique life story, directed by Toronto’s Angad Singh Bhalla, that reveals how walls can contain the physical body, but never the spirit. P.H.

Indie Game: The Movie: Fresh from their triumphant world debut at Sundance, Winnipeggers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky bring their fascinating study of the driven minds behind the world of indie game creation to Hot Docs. A crowd favourite at the Park City, Utah, Indie Game: The Movie took the best editing prize in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. By turns funny and quite dark, the doc shows this is much more than a game to these dedicated artists of the coded word, by profiling the passionate designers and programmers who devote their lives to creating games while battling self-doubt and seemingly endless challenges. L.B.

The Invisible War: Intrepid investigator Kirby Dick and co-director Amy Ziering take on sexual assault in the U.S. military, using official stats and first-person accounts to reveal a shocking amount of abuse and cover-up within this so-called “band of brothers.” As awful as the case histories are, and the victims include both women and men, more terrible still is the lack of official action to stop a crime epidemic that has been widely reported since at least the 1990s. The situation is completely FUBAR, to use military lingo. P.H.

Jeff: To most people, Jeffrey Dahmer was the “Milwaukee Monster,” so named for his 17-victim murder spree from 1978-91 that included necrophilia and cannibalism. But to others, including his next-door neighbour and the arresting cop who became famous by association, he was simply “Jeff,” a weird but friendly loner with troubles beyond easy reckoning. Chris James Thompson’s riveting doc seeks not sympathy for Dahmer but rather insights into his crimes, which affected many more people than the ones he killed. P.H.

Legend of a Warrior: This time it’s personal for filmmaker Corey Lee as he uses a documentary project to help him reconnect with his dad, martial arts master Frank Lee. Estranged from his dad for years since his parents’ divorce, Lee decides to train with his father again at his Edmonton gym, coming back to the discipline of the ring he experienced as a youngster before his father began leaving his family for long stretches to train a champion fighter in Hong Kong. The elder Lee finally admits his errors and the depth of his own anguish over losing his family, admissions that come as his son grows more elegant and proficient in the elite brand of martial arts his father is known for. L.B.

Mom and Me: Quebecois filmmaker Danic Champoux explores the influences on his life growing up across the street from a biker hangout in Sorel, Que., and the very tangential role that Hell’s Angels leader Maurice “Mom” Boucher had on his development into adulthood. (Champoux and Boucher’s son, Francis, were friends.) It’s told in a slyly amusing way, using wildly imaginative animation (some of it quite risqué) and supplemented with live interviews, including renowned Quebec journalist Michel Auger (who narrowly escaped death at the hands of a biker hitman) as well as Champoux’s real mom, his therapist, and so on. It’s a risky and unusual approach but one that pays off, richly funny but also unexpectedly engrossing and insightful. B.D.

My Name is Faith: Adoptive parent Tiffany Junker co-directs this poignant documentary about her efforts to heal her daughter, Faith, suffering from “attachment disorder” — an inability to bond or feel empathy — after a young life filled with sexual and physical abuse. The stakes are high for Faith and the other children in the film, many of whom are potential powder kegs of violence without treatment. The film has many uncomfortable moments but the dedication of the parents and therapist Nancy Thomas is both laudable and remarkable, and the film offers a hopeful message. B.D.

My Thai Bride: Australian director David Tucker doesn’t take sides in this exploration of the relationship between former Bangkok bar girl Tip and middle-aged Welshman Ted Rees, who sells everything back home and moves to rural Thailand to marry her and start a new life. But the admitted romantic doesn’t get the happy ending he was hoping for. L.B.

One Day After Peace: A mother’s quest for peace and peace of mind, this film is jam-packed with raw emotion and complex geopolitical issues. In the aftermath of her son David’s death at the hands of a Palestinian sniper, Israeli resident Robi Damelin returns to her South African homeland to examine the role of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission in allowing that country to overcome its violent past. The question she asks: would this process be useful in the event of an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian people? While the film leaves the issues largely unresolved — how could it not? — it’s nonetheless a powerful and moving testament to a woman’s courage and the potential for healing in one of the world’s most intractable conflict zones. B.D.

The Queen of Versailles: Hubris with a capital “H” in this comically horrifying “riches to rags” portrait of Florida’s Jackie Siegel, a former model and forever bimbo on the downslide from excessive living. She married a real estate billionaire and the two started building the largest home in America, modeled after France’s Palace of Versailles. Then the 2008 crash happened, and now she’s down to her last tin of $2,000 caviar. You could call Lauren Greenfield’s doc a cautionary tale, except no sensible person would covet the lifestyle of this shameless couple, who live like monarchs but act like fools. P.H.

Radioman: “This is Radioman. He’s world famous,” says Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks as he introduces the scruffy looking, bearded man with a boom box slung around his neck. Radioman is indeed famous and that’s the point of Mary Kerr’s documentary. A former homeless alcoholic, Radio now has more than 100 cameos in Hollywood movies shot in New York City to his credit — along with a free pass to dine at the on-set craft service tables. L.B.

The Waiting Room: Oakland’s Highland Hospital is a microcosm of what’s wrong with health care in the U.S., the dumping ground for “private” hospitals that only provide service to the well-insured. The film paints a dark picture of crisis as health care professionals and patients struggle in a system that often reaches gridlock because of the lack of beds and doctors. But it does so with traces of humour and huge dollops of humanity. B.D.

Welcome to the Machine: The decision by filmmaker Ari Weider and his wife to turn to in-vitro fertilization in their quest to start a family sparks a far-ranging discussion about the increasing role of technology in human civilization, especially a future in which people and machines become ever more intertwined. The anti-technology manifesto of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and intelligent voices on both sides of the debate provide plenty of food for thought, making the film a worthwhile journey. B.D.

Wildness: The Silver Platter has welcomed the gay community in Los Angeles’s primarily Latino MacArthur Park area for nearly 50 years. The older transgender and cross-dressing patrons welcome a young crop of upstart performance artists — just as they were welcomed initially by the previous generation who got used to their glam-rags after being told to arrive dressed as males. But change may not be in the best interests of the tiny bar. Performance artist Wu Tsang directs this earnest, passionate look at a neighbourhood gathering place that’s much more than a bar. L.B.

The World Before Her: Extreme attitudes towards women in India are laid bare in Nisha Pahuja’s quietly shocking doc. On the one hand, there’s the extremely popular Miss India contest, which turns dirt-poor girls into national superstars overnight — but only a handful of hopefuls ever get to try out, as we see in a beauty boot camp in a Mumbai hotel. On the other hand, there are the fashion-averse teachers of Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of Hindu fundamentalism, who have their own indoctrination sessions designed to make women subservient to men. Both camps believe they’re creating the women of a new India. Pahuja never judges but she doesn’t need to, since her camera reveals all — including a father’s casual admission that he branded his rebel daughter’s foot with hot metal, to teach her a lesson. P.H.

Hot Docs, a how-to

Think of Hot Docs as an all-you-can see cinema buffet with something for every taste with 189 movies from 51 countries in 11 screening programs ranging from Special Presentations to the edgy choices of Nightvision.

Tickets are still available at the online box office at hotdocs.ca, by calling 416-637-5150 or at the box office at 783 Bathurst St. The website will tell you which screenings have gone rush, meaning they are technically sold out — but you still have an 80 per cent chance of getting in, Hot Docs staff say.

Show up at the theatre an hour before the screening and join the rush line. Fifteen minutes before showtime, tickets are sold to fill empty seats in the house.

Students and seniors (age 60 and up) with valid ID can see movies starting before 6 p.m. free. Pick up tickets the venue box office the day of screening. First come, first served.

Besides the fest’s new home and the refurbished Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, movies will screen at nine other venues, from the Fox in the Beach to The Revue in the west, plus the TIFF Bell Lightbox and others downtown.

VIDEO: Sound It Out Review: Vinyl Fans Go On The Record

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

Sound it Out
A documentary about the last surviving vinyl record shop in Stockton-on-Tees, England. Directed by Jeanie Finlay. 74 minutes. Opens April 20 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. PG

(Apr 19, 2012) British filmmaker Jeanie Finlay emerges as a Margaret Mead of the vinyl world with her warm-hearted look at the dedicated souls who patronize
Sound It Out Records, a tiny store in an economically (and otherwise) depressed corner of northeast England.

From the diehard fan of Status Quo in his proudly never-washed concert jacket, to the pasty-faced pair of young lads who host a dance music internet radio show from their backyard garden shed, the almost-all male patrons of the store speak passionately about the sense of belonging the only indie record store in town gives them.

Sound It Out owner Tom Butchart doesn’t judge his customers, whether it’s the wisecracking ace from the pub who wants to find a 1980s Top 40 track by Dire Straights or a collector seeking some obscure vinyl who has no intention of actually playing it. Everybody is on equal footing in his store.

The shop is a gathering place for music fans, who speak lovingly about the role Sound It Out plays in their town, where so many businesses are shuttered and employment prospects are dim. Records are memories, Butchart explains wistfully as he sorts through stacks of discs. He can recall what each one meant to him at a specific time in his life.

Finlay takes a gentle approach with her subjects, letting their passion — and hers — guide the doc, which was crowd-source funded by more than 250 donors.

Sometimes words fail them as they talk about themselves and the emotions a certain track evokes, or the purpose a band’s output has given their lives. But the music never lets them down. And that’s the point.

Think Like A Man Review: Good-Hearted Yet Mindless Romance

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

Think Like a Man
Starring Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Michael Ealy, Meagan Good and Regina Hall. Directed by Tim Story. 122 minutes. Opens April 20 at major theatres. PG

(Apr 19, 2012) “It’s a man’s world,” James Brown wails as
Think Like a Man opens, behind animated images of Neanderthal males hunting and grunting, but the point need hardly be made.

This episodic but good-hearted romantic comedy by Barbershop’s Tim Story could as well be subtitled “Business as Usual,” since it deals with the same sexist stereotypes of rom-coms from time immemorial.

The film actually draws inspiration from a real bestselling how-to book by comedian Steve Harvey: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which is used as the glue to a series of interconnected relationships within a fragmented story.

There’s nothing at all new in what Harvey comically yet energetically counsels, which is essentially the same advice your mama gave you about not rushing into sex, and treating mates with love and respect.

But it arrives like divine whispers upon the ears of most of the female protagonists, who include bitter singleton Mya (Meagan Good), cynical businesswoman Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), single mom Candace (Regina Hall) and man-child enabler Kristen (Gabrielle Union), who are all seeking a few good men.

These L.A. women sound as if they’re studying a Berlitz language course, rather than talking about the male of the species, as they use Harvey’s jargon to discuss such dating strategies and situations as “the 90-day rule,” “the chirp-chirp girl” and “the sport fish.”

The women are paired with and vexed by male archetypes identified as the player Zeke (Romany Malco), the dreamer Dominic (Michael Ealy), the mama’s boy Michael (Terrence Jenkins) and the immature non-committer Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara).

Along for comic relief are comedian Kevin Hart as newly divorced Cedric, who also acts as narrator; Jenifer Lewis as Michael’s über-controlling mother Loretta; and the Chiclet-toothed Harvey himself, who offers nuggets of his dating wisdom straight to camera as if he’s making a late-night TV infomercial.

Writer-director Story and his co-writers Keith Merryman and David A. Newman are attempting to juggle way too many balls here, and the script ultimately resorts to just counting off comic beats as it creaks through its unfathomable two-hour running time.

It’s only the sheer likeability and energy of the ensemble cast that keep Think Like a Man from lapsing into unconsciousness. There obviously wasn’t a whole lot of thinking from either gender that went into putting this thing together.

This is especially apparent near the halfway point, when the film attempts the lame plot twist of having the men use Harvey’s book to turn the tables on the women. The ladies are then obliged to ridiculously overreact to having their man-probing tactics not only exposed but used to manipulate their emotions.

For all of its eye-rolling excesses, Think Like a Man still manages to appeal as an adult comedy where the humour is bawdy but not vulgar.

It’s also that exceedingly rare rom-com that is sincerely more interested in love than it is sex — and that’s really something worth thinking about.


It's Confirmed: Lindsay Lohan Will Play Liz Taylor In Biopic

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Apr 23, 2012) Lindsay Lohan will portray Elizabeth Taylor in a Lifetime film about her love affair with actor Richard Burton. Lifetime on Monday made official a casting decision rumoured for months. The network says Lohan will star in Liz & Dick, with production set to begin in early June. There was no mention of who will play Burton or when the film will air. Taylor and Burton met as co-stars of the 1963 epic Cleopatra. They fell in love as the world looked on, left their respective spouses and got married. Then they divorced, only to remarry and divorce again. In recent years the 25-year-old Lohan has gained her own measure of notoriety. Liz & Dick represents a step in her attempted career comeback.

::TV NEWS::    

Canada’s First ‘Bachelor’ To Be Revealed May 1

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Apr 23, 2012) Canada’s first Bachelor has small-town roots and “he is drawn to intelligent women who are comfortable in their own skin.”

That’s about all we know so far about the man who will star in the Canadian version of reality dating show
The Bachelor.

That and his best pickup line is “What’s your name?”

Speaking of names, Rogers Media says his will be revealed May 1 on Breakfast Television.

Until then, there will be daily hints airing on BT and posted at www.BachelorCanada.ca.

On May 1, at 8:10 a.m., CityLine host Tracy Moore will do a one-on-one interview with the Bachelor.

While we don’t have much to go on regarding his identity, at least we know who he’s not.

The small-town roots would seem to rule out Toronto man Justin Rego, who’s best known for leaving Season 6 of The Bachelorette after it was revealed he had a girlfriend back home.

On the other hand, Rego’s Season 6 cast mate Craig McKinnon is originally from Sarnia. Hmmmm.

Rogers also announced the launch of the Bachelor Canada website. Among other features, it will include a photo gallery of the cast as they’re revealed; interviews and videos; and a covered photo of the Bachelor, with a small piece revealed each day.

The nine-episode series will air on Citytv in the fall.

Toronto’s Capybara Games Nabs Five Canadian Videogame Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Apr 22, 2012) VANCOUVER—Vancouver was host city for Friday night’s third annual Canadian Videogame Awards. The awards are given to outstanding games that were developed in Canada and released in 2011.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP from Capybara Games in Toronto and Eidos-Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution were the big winners, each taking home five awards. Sword and Sworcery picked up awards for Best Game on the Go, Best Downloadable Game, Best Indie Game, Best Original Music and the Innovation Award.

FIFA Soccer 12 from Electronic Arts was the public’s choice for Game of the Year, and NHL 12 from Electronic Arts was named the top selling videogame in Canada.

Other winners included Margaritaville Online from Exploding Barrel Games, and Assassin’s Creed Revelations plus Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012, both from Ubisoft Montreal.

Victor Lucas, executive producer of The Electric Playground and CVA co-founder, congratulated the winners and nominees.

“The games we saw at the show this evening are world-class and illustrate once again that Canadian game developers are second to none,” he said.

The CVA’s are presented by Future Shop, and produced by Reboot Communications and Greedy Productions.

A 60-minute special of the CVA’s is scheduled to air on Citytv on April 28 and on G4 Canada on April 28 and 29.

The Canadian Press

Armando Iannucci Talks Veep

Source: www.thestar.com - By Philip Brown Special to the Star

(Apr 20, 2012) A master of humiliation, political satire and creative expletives, writer/director Armando Iannucci makes his North American television Sunday night with Veep, a comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the U.S. vice-president.

Though he lacks brand name recognition outside the U.K., Iannucci's creations have a vast influence. Without his groundbreaking TV news satire The Day Today, there would be no Daily Show; without the cringe-inducing exploits of his brainchild, the genial failure Alan Partridge, all sitcoms might still look like Two and a Half Men; and without his study of the awkward lives of British politicians in The Thick Of It, there would be no Veep. At least he got to supervise the international transition this time.

Iannucci had been in talks with HBO for years before Veep, initially toying with an idea about an Internet start-up company. Then, after his Oscar-nominated movie In The Loop pulled characters from The Thick Of It into American politics, this new idea emerged.

“They were interested in a political comedy and after my research on In The Loop, doing a series in Washington didn't feel like a journey into the unknown. It felt like something that I was already immersed in,” explains Iannucci.

Interviewing experts and politicians in D.C. for Veep proved to be surprisingly easy for the comedy craftsman. “I don't know whether they're terrible gossips or liked the idea of people making a show about them, but they were very welcoming. They even let us take photographs in the White House that are probably quite valuable in the wrong hands,” he quips.

Part of the reason for the easy access was that the director had no desire to dabble in exposé or hero worship. His interest was in the daily grind of back-peddling and confusion.

“I wanted to do the reality rather than an idealized or malicious take. There's a certain pressure that we put on politicians with our desire to see them operate successfully on a 24-hour basis. We expect them to step out in front of cameras on their absolute best behaviour and answer questions perfectly. But of course they aren't perfect and spend more time worrying about that than their elected position.”

Iannucci carries these themes over from The Thick Of It, along with his unique production techniques. Both shows are shot like documentaries with jittery hand-held cameras following actors who are encouraged to improvise.

The loose shooting style deliberately leads to shaggy 50-minute rough cut episodes that he trims in half. This allows the director, as he puts it, “to cut each show down to its essence and create a kinetic energy that replicates what's going on mentally in politicians constantly trying to think of what to do. There's a constant hyperactivity and a constant pressure.”

Despite the considerable similarities between the two programs, the creator promises no crossover, joking “I'm not going to cross the streams, they're two separate things.”

While most people in his position might be nervously anticipating the response of a new international audience, Iannucci is already knee-deep in new projects, currently rehearsing his next BBC series, working on a script for an Alan Partridge movie and preparing his next film, a slapstick comedy about, “someone who has been filmed at work and then put on the Internet to become a bit of a YouTube sensation and have his life destroyed.”

With that much comedy in the pipeline, it might not be long before Iannucci's name is more widely known in North America, regardless of Veep's reception.

Katie Couric To Launch New Web Show For ABC News And Yahoo

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle

(Apr 25, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Katie Couric is launching a weekly Web series for Yahoo Inc. and ABC News in which she will discuss health, nutrition, parenting and wellness issues.

The series, Katie’s Take, will premiere Tuesday. Yahoo is formally unveiling the show Wednesday at a presentation to advertisers in New York.

Couric left the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News last year. She is currently a special correspondent for ABC News. She is launching a syndicated talk show, Katie, this September.

In a statement, Couric says she is “happy to have found a place in the digital world where I can cut through fads and trends.”

Yahoo and ABC last year partnered to share content, with articles from Yahoo News appearing on ABC News' website, and video from ABC News going to the Internet portal.

Yahoo also announced several more original online series in its continuing push to offer hours of premium video content. Matthew Weaver and Chris D'Arienzo, the creators of the musical Rock of Ages, are developing a musical comedy with a working title of Dancing With Myself.

The company is also developing a talk show with Jeff Goldblum planned for July, a series titled Stunt Nation with host Sal Masekela and four other shows targeted at male audiences. Yahoo's most highly anticipated series, the animated sci-fi Electric City, produced by Tom Hanks, is to debut later this year.


Oprah Left Off Time’s ‘Most Influential’ List For First Time Since 2004

Source: www.thestar.com - By Star staff

(Apr 20, 2012) Oprah Winfrey suffered another humiliation this week. On Wednesday, just 48 hours after she stormed Toronto for two sold-out shows, Time magazine released its list of 100 Most Influential People. And for the first time, Winfrey’s name was missing. She was a mainstay on the list since it became an annual tradition in 2004. With nine previous appearances — more than Steve Jobs (five times) and the Dalai Lama (three times) combined — the snub reveals just how far her personal brand has tumbled since her talk show ended last spring. To put it in perspective: Oprah Winfrey is now considered less influential than Pippa Middleton, Jeremy Lin, Chelsea Handler, Mitt Romney, Rihanna and Tim Tebow. Going back to 1999, when the list debuted, Winfrey had a perfect track record. She was to “influence” as Stephen Hawking is to “smart.” But she is fading from view after vanishing from daytime television. Her new cable network, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, has failed to replicate the kind of ratings and buzz the former queen of television once took for granted. Last year, Winfrey lost another crown when Lady Gaga was deemed The World’s Most Powerful Celebrity by Forbes.

Martha Stewart Cooks Up New Show For PBS

Source: www.thestar.com - By Star staff

(Apr 19, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Martha Stewart is cooking up a culinary master class for public television. The TV host, author and media mogul announced Thursday that she’ll launch a new PBS series this fall called Martha Stewart’s Cooking School. Each weekly half-hour will feature Stewart in the kitchen demonstrating classic cooking techniques. She says she will illustrate the building blocks of recipes, from roasting to poaching to braising. The series, inspired by Stewart’s bestselling book of the same name, will air on PBS stations. Stewart’s daily talk show, which aired in syndication before moving to cable’s Hallmark Channel two years ago, is ending this summer.


Christopher House On His Tribute To Ann Southam’s Rivers

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(Apr 22, 2012) As a choreographer, Christopher House, artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre, is always looking for ways to challenge himself and his dancers.

This time around, with a new work for TDT, he’s gone in what could be considered a retro direction. For the first time in many years, he’s forgoing original sound design for a piece of extant music by Ann Southam.

There’s a point here, however. It’s a deliberate decision. Rivers is a tribute in movement, set to the eponymous music of the revered late Canadian composer, who crafted scores for many of the company’s founders.

The Globe sat down with House to talk about his choreographic process, working with a pre-composed music piece.

Of all the options, why pick Southam’s piece Rivers to work from?

In 1981, Ann gave me two cassettes. One was Glass Houses No. 5. The other was the longest movement from Rivers. I chose Glass Houses because I had a better understanding of the music. Rivers was more complex and subtle. When I decided to create a new dance to existing music, I thought of Rivers. I wanted music that was made by the composer for herself, and not a piece made for dance. All these years later, I felt I could enter into the composer’s world.

Rivers is from Southam’s minimalist period.

Yes. She started out with electronic music, and then was influenced by American minimalist/pattern composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Rivers is performed by a solo piano.

What are some of the challenges using an existing piece of music?

You have to be aware of the formal structure imposed by the composer. You may not be finished with a choreographic idea, but the music suddenly changes and you’re left in mid-thought. The composer has defined the musical landscape. The choreographer has to find what he can bring to the music so that the music and the dance can both maintain their individual integrity, yet create a strong relationship between the two. It’s really a duet between the piano and the dance.

So what kind of structure did Rivers impose on you?

It’s really a suite of dances. Rivers is composed of three series. The first is classical in structure with a medium tempo. The second is pointillist and austere, and the third is very fast. There are also different sections within each series. I’m using the one-hour suite that Ann created for pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico. The music is very slippery. The title Rivers suggests an unceasing flow, but there are a lot of surprises.

Not to mention the surprise of getting a pianist with the stature of Petrowska Quilico to perform with you.

She is such a sensitive musician. No two performances are the same. Beautiful musical events emerge and recede. She presents a really exciting challenge for the dancers to counterpoint.

What happens to dancers when there is live music?

They have to be in the present moment. They can’t relax because the music is shifting under their feet. They can’t depend on what they practised. The timing and dynamics aren’t exactly fixed. They have to listen carefully to what the music is doing, particularly for those sections that allow for structured improv.

How did you approach Southam’s music in terms of dance?

I first spent time with Christina learning about the compositional structure of the music. I then had to develop the dancers’ relationship to the music by having them improv to the score. I wanted everyone to focus on their musical imagination. Through improv I discovered the dancers’ individual responses to the music. Gradually a vocabulary began to emerge where everyone was speaking the same language. We always had the video camera running, which was a record of what went on in the studio. That became very important.

You keep mentioning improvisation.

One process was an impromptu unspooling of material. I improvised with the dancers, giving instructions of where to move and what to do in real time. This captured spontaneous movement. In looking at the videos, there might be a phrase I wanted to work with. I’d take it back to the dancers and let them improvise on variations on this theme. Other sections were more specifically choreographed where I would show them the material. The dancers are listed in the program as co-creators of the piece.

What do you want the audience to take away from Rivers?

That the performance is not separate from the choreography. That the audience sees a work that is spontaneous, energetic, risky and joyful. That they feel the sense of play. That they see the partnership between the dancers and Christina and the complexity of the music.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Rivers premieres at Toronto’s Fleck Dance Theatre, April 25 to 28.

Unpredictability Of Adaptation Project Keeps Audience On Its Toes

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Adaptation Project
Choreography by Michael Trent
Dancemakers Centre for Creation
In Toronto on Friday

(Apr 23, 2012) Michael Trent is the idea man of dance. The artistic director of
Dancemakers is always searching for different approaches to choreography. His latest innovation is the intriguing Adaptation Project.

Founded in 1974, Dancemakers is one of the oldest contemporary dance companies in Canada. For most of its life, it has been a repertory company. This is the wellspring of Trent’s Adaptation Project. He and his dancers have “adapted” an earlier work from the company’s archive.

New York choreographer Mitchell Rose set Following Station Identification on Dancemakers in 1974. Adaptation Project is a 2012 reimagining of this work, aided by dramaturge Jacob Zimmer.

It’s important to point out that Adaptation Project is not a recreation or a revival of Rose’s choreography. Rather, Trent and his company (Robert Abubo, Amanda Acorn, Kate Holden, Benjamin Kamino and Simon Renaud) use the 1974 piece as their inspiration to create something new, with Rose’s full approval.

Apparently, the original piece was a light-hearted look at individuals and families. To be perfectly frank, the 2012 work doesn’t seem, initially, to be about anything at all. What does intrigue, however, is Adaptation Project’s unpredictability. There is a parade of “happenings” that pique one’s interest, choreographically speaking.

Trent and his dancers have come up with what seems like a rambling scenario made up of physical movement both for the dancers and a number of folding chairs. In fact, the chairs have their own choreography. They are set in place, sat on, lain under, collapsed, and moved about the space. At one point, they form a seven-seat waiting room.

As for the dancers, they leap, jump, turn, spin, roll and crawl. They balance each other, and engage in dangerous partnering with both the women and men holding other dancers upside down. They form shifting relationships with the chairs. They seem to be in a state of longing.

Over time, one begins to perceive that relationships are forming between the dancers in a leader/follower scenario. Movement becomes a source of attraction/rejection. As much as they seem to favour individuality, they are inexorably drawn to each other. Duets, trios, quartets and quintets come and go.

Sometimes they pause to stare at each other in a group circle. At other times, they relax and watch each other. The environment does not include wing space so the dancers are always on stage. They may go off to the side to relax, or to initiate a new movement sequence, but they are always in the picture.

Some of the more amusing moments have the dancers presenting each other, that is holding their outstretched hands to the side, palms open, as if to say, “Here’s Robert” (or Kate, or Ben etc.) One hilarious section has them putting on layers of clothing in rapid succession. They all wear the identical number of items, but all in a different order.

For example, a long brown dress might be the top article of clothing for one dancer, and the bottom layer for another. When they shed the clothes, it’s like a kaleidoscope of shifting colours passing before one’s eyes. The dancers never lose eye contact with each other in what seems like a competition.

And then the penny drops. At the very end of the dance, a white curtain hanging in the corner becomes a projection screen showing three different sections of the Rose original. In these grainy black and white pictures, we see the dancers, albeit more balletic and graceful, engage in some of the movement from the Adaptation Project.

Here a leap, and there a jump, and now a spin. And yes, there is a chair. And that original cast was a powerhouse – Carol Anderson, Peggy Baker, Robert Desrosiers, Andraya Smith and Mitch Kirsch.

By seeing the original, we understand what inspired the Adaptation Project. It’s as if we have been trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle, and suddenly, all the pieces fit together. It is a most satisfying moment.

The score is very clever. Composer Christopher Willes has taken Rose’s choice of music by Lucian Berio and Lukas Foss, spliced it together with pieces of Crystal Castles and Blossom Dearie, and recorded it on an old fashioned reel to reel tape recorder. Guitarist Thom Gil is live playing Willes’ original music over the taped score – a combination of old technology and new sounds.

All in all, there is never a dull moment in Adaptation Project. Something is always grabbing your attention in the flow of events passing on the stage.

Adaptation Project continues at Dancemakers Centre for Creation until Apr. 29.

Mark McKinney Receives Writers Guild Of Canada Award

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Apr 23, 2012) Former Kid in the Hall
Mark McKinney received a special award from the Writers Guild of Canada on Monday night.

McKinney received the WGC Showrunner Award for his “exceptional leadership (and) unique creative vision” on series such as Slings & Arrows and Less Than Kind.

Other winners of 2012 WGC Screenwriting Awards included: Larry Bambrick in the TV Drama category for Flashpoint; Craig David Wallace, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, for TV Comedy; Bruce M. Smith, John A: Birth of a Country, Movies and Miniseries; Gary Marcuse, Waking the Green Tiger, A Green Movement Rises in China, Documentary; Alice Prodanou, My Babysitter’s a Vampire, Children and Youth; Darrin Rose, Scaredy Squirrel, Animation; Patrick Tarr, Murdoch Mysteries: The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs, in the Short and Web Series category.

The Alex Barris Mentorship Award went to Barbara Samuel (North of 60, Black Harbour) for supporting emerging writers. And Charles (Chuck) Lazer, one of the founding forces of the Writers Guild, won the Writers Block Award for his service to screenwriters in Canada.


Usher Joins Cast Of Off-Broadway’s ‘Fuerza Bruta’ For 1 Day, 2 Shows

Source: www.thestar.com - By Star staff

(Apr 20, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Usher is heading off-Broadway. The Grammy winner will join the cast of Fuerza Bruta: Look Up, the fast-paced, acrobatic and unconventional play where the audience stands as performers dance and jump around. A news release says the performers “frolic in a watery world suspended just above the audience.” Usher will perform at two shows as its lead Running Man on April 28 at the Daryl Roth Theatre. Fuerza Bruta means “brute force” in Spanish. The play was developed by Diqui James, the Argentine creator of the long-running De La Guarda. It has played in Madrid, Berlin and Tel Aviv, and launched its Asian tour in February. Tickets are on sale for $150 and $200. Usher will also release his seventh album, Looking for Myself, on June 12.


Spirit Camera: Cursed By A Paper-Thin Plot

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Chad Sapieha

(April 13, 2012) The diary looks like a serial killer’s scrapbook. One page contains a photo of a boy with the face
scratched out. Another has a piece of sheet music clipped to it, it’s disconcerting notes drawn backward and smeared by black stains.

As I gaze at a page covered in strange symbols, an ornate brooch begins to skitter across it like a gilded cockroach. It’s not a part of the page but rather a three-dimensional object, moving slowly from one glyph to the next. It seems to be spelling out a word. Be...hi...nd....


I spin around in my chair and see the spectre of a young woman lunging forward.

Welcome to
Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir, an augmented reality horror video game that relies on the Nintendo 3DS’s cameras and motion sensors to provide an altered perspective of the real world. The game places the player in the shoes of an unnamed protagonist who has just discovered a supernatural camera (your 3DS) and a spooky diary (a 16-page paper booklet that comes with the game). We’re told of an urban legend that suggests that anyone who can see words on the diary’s first page will become cursed: fated to lose his or her face.

I can see the words.

Compelled to undo the curse, I begin pointing the magic camera at pages in the diary. Viewed through the 3DS screen, they contain hidden messages and drawings that come to life. Virtual objects are often superimposed upon them, including masks, dolls and hands. They often serve as riddles which, once solved, provide clues concerning the curse’s origin.

Sometimes a malevolent soul will escape the diary. When this happens, we’re forced to move the 3DS around (it helps if you play on a spinny chair) and search the room for them. Snapping a picture at the right time causes evil spirits damage; failing to do so provides them an opening to attack.

But these battles feel forced. It’s as though the designers wedged them in simply because this is a video game, and, well, video games need fights. But that’s not true. Spirit Camera would have been much more immersive had it relied solely on the eerie puzzles and sinister imagery sourced from its creepy diary.

Indeed, the effort spent creating combat scenarios would have been better used to expand the story, which lasts only a handful of hours, and to delve more deeply into its characters, which are as thin as the paper from which they spawn. Tales of horror tend to be much more compelling when we actually care about the souls being terrorized.

Spirit Camera has moments that foretell a fascinating future for augmented reality games, but it leaves the fledgling genre still waiting for a breakout hit.

Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir

Platform: Nintendo 3DS

Developer: Tecmo

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB: Teen

Release: April 13, 2012

Score: 6/10

Special to The Globe and Mail

Facebook’s Latest Intrusion: Apps That ‘Tell Everyone What I’m Reading’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Ivor Tossell

(April 17, 2012) In the past few days, a couple of headlines from different news organizations caught my attention
on Facebook: “Supermodels without Photoshop,” read one. “Kate Moss's daughter in Vogue airbrushing blunder,” read another.

These have a few things in common: They're the kind of headline that readers are wont to click. They're the kind of headline that you don't necessarily want to publicize clicking. They're all headlines that Facebook automatically announced that friends had clicked in the past few days. And the people who clicked them didn't realize that Facebook had done so.

This is not a bug. In fact, I read that it's the future. Facebook, and websites desperate for a slice of its precious traffic, are pioneering a new world of automatic disclosure in which the things you do anywhere on the Web can be posted straight to your Facebook page. The idea is called “frictionless sharing” – and it's closed on us like a bear trap.

It works like this: All websites need traffic. The more people visit, the more pages they serve up, and the more ads they can show. Traditionally, search engines like Google have been a dominant source of traffic, but social-network sharing, which thrives when users post links to stories and videos they like on their Facebook pages, has been steadily gaining ground.

The wizards at Facebook saw that the idea of social sharing has only one flaw: It requires users to actually decide to share something. Their new system rectifies the niggling problem of voluntary decision making. Instead of requiring users to choose to share articles, publications can simply get users' permission once, and from then on, share everything the users browse. You could call it “frictionless” – a more appropriate title would be “negative-option sharing.”

Now, for instance, the Huffington Post is happy to post each individual article you've read to your Facebook timeline. Other AOL and Yahoo properties have jumped on-board as well. Even august papers like The Washington Post and The Guardian are using a slightly dialled-back system that reports on clicks the user makes within Facebook. Nor is it just publications: Everyone from Pinterest to Kobo is itching to publish your activities to Facebook and grab a slice of traffic in return.

This is why Facebook feeds are presently clotting up with reports about what various “friends” have read, seen and done, items that range from the erudite to the junky. Reports suggest that it works: The Guardian has reported that its online traffic has gone through the roof, as its users semi-voluntarily spread the word. But at what cost?

As usual, Facebook is cavalier with users' consent. The pop-up consent box that allows websites to start the automatic-sharing process are hardly crystal clear. The big print says, “Read the news with your friends,” while the explanation that your friends will see what you read appears in a jumble of small print. The big blue button that enables the connection says, “Okay, Read Article,” not, “Okay, Tell Everyone What I'm Reading From Here On In.”

Even though we should be long past the point of trusting Facebook with our best interests, plenty of people still don't stop to read the fine print. Last month, I signed up for Pinterest (in my defence, it's my job), and allowed it to connect to Facebook to search for contacts. In an act of desperation to find something interesting on the site, I clicked on a pile of airplane-related picture boards. The next day, I was genuinely taken aback to discover that this fact had been publicly posted to Facebook.

“Wow,” commented a Facebook friend. “You really like airplanes.”

I must have unwittingly given consent somewhere. It was a minor miracle I hadn't gone hunting for something even more interesting.

Does anybody actually want this technology, other than Facebook and the media companies that need every click they can get? My polling is informal, but I have yet to encounter a Facebook user between the ages of 13 and 53 who thinks this is a good idea – especially not the people who inadvertently shared their celeb-news reading habits.

With the significant exception of the 2007 advertising debacle, in which Facebook had to abandon a scheme to auto-publish users' purchases, the site has succeeded time and again at moving the goalposts on users' expectations of privacy and discretion. Yet this could prove to be a polarizing issue.

Facebook has become so convoluted, so full of fine print and ever-evolving privacy controls, that it's all but impossible to keep track of what's being shared and how. The site is creating a creeping paranoia that can't serve it well. Now that it shares data with so many different websites, it's getting hard to be sure it won't broadcast something truly embarrassing.

Part of the allure of Facebook has been the ability to project an image of yourself to your peers. The company has long realized that its users aren't worried about privacy in the abstract, but they do care about appearances. “Frictionless sharing” threatens to strip users of that control. Privacy isn't the heart of social networking, but discretion is. And users who find they can't trust Facebook to maintain that discretion will start wondering if there's a social network that can.


Travel Deals: Our Best Holiday Bargains Of The Week

Source: www.thestar.com - Kathryn Folliott

(April 19, 2012) The Crane in
Barbados is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a special value-added package to kick off a full year of special goings-on, from culinary events to arts and music festivals. The upscale beach property, which opened in 1887 as a home-away-from-home for the island’s elite, will offer the ‘Crane 125’ package from May 1 - Dec. 22, including accommodation in a two or three-bedroom suite plus a $125 (all prices U.S.) spa credit per room, and a $125 dining credit per room. The minimum stay with the package is five nights. Thecrane.com.


Onefinestay is in the residential hotel business, matching home owners leaving behind empty quarters when they go out of town, with travellers interested in ‘living like a local’ in a proper home while on vacation. Onefinestay’s accommodation options in London run the gamut from a bachelor pad in Shoreditch, to a mews house in charming Notting Hill, grand homes in Primrose Hill and Knightsbridge, even a four-bedroom houseboat in Tower Hill. For Harry Potter fans, the real winner is a loft apartment in the rafters of St. Pancras Chambers, just across the way from Harry Potter’s ‘Platform Nine and Three-Quarters’ at King’s Cross Station. The St. Pancras Chambers are housed in what was once the sumptuous Midland Grand Hotel, a turn of the century Victorian gem boasting new-fangled (for the time) revolving doors and elevators. When the Midland Grand closed in 1935, the space was used for railway offices until the turn of this century, when it was converted into luxury lofts with soaring ceilings. St. Pancras rates with onefinestay start at $470 (U.S.) per night, for up to four people. Onefinestay.com.


Hilton Hotels & Resorts is marking the start of Gay Pride travel season with a new promotion called ‘Stay Hilton. Go Out’, offering discounts and special perks. Valid at more than 140 Hilton properties around the world, ‘Stay Hilton. Go Out’ features reduced room rates as well as late check-out (where available), free high-speed Internet and a free one-year digital subscription to OUT. Hilton HHonors members will receive double points with their stay. Hilton.com/GoOut.


Available May 1 - 31, Deerhurst Resort’s ‘Free Golf with Room Deal’ includes accommodation, an 18-hole round at Deerhurst Highlands with cart, and 50 per cent off additional rounds. Rates start at $179 per room, per night, double occupancy. Deerhurstresort.com.

Kathryn Folliott is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Prices quoted are subject to change and availability.


Sunquest: Ocho Rios, air & hotel, $589 (+$346 taxes & fees) (May 10). sunquest.ca

Air Canada Vacations: Four-night Copenhagen, air & hotel, $939 (+$499 taxes & fees) (May 30). aircanadavacations.com

Nolitours: Cayo Santa Maria, air & hotel, $557 (+$276 taxes & fees) (May 18). nolitours.com

Signature Vacations: Eight-night Aruba, air & hotel, $1,195 (+$330 taxes & fees) (May 27). signaturevacations.com

Transat Holidays: Amsterdam, air & hotel, $839 (+$497 taxes & fees) (June 18). transatholidays.com

Bel Air Travel: Four-night Las Vegas, air & hotel, $415 (+$309 taxes & fees) (April 29). belairtravel.com

Sunwing Vacations: St. Maarten, air & hotel, $595 (+$320 taxes & fees) (May 24). sunwing.ca

Sell Off Vacations: Holguin, air & hotel, $278 (+$274 taxes & fees) (May 5). selloffvacations.com

itravel2000: 12-night Western Med cruise, $999 (+$128 taxes & fees) (June 4). itravel2000.com

WestJet Vacations: Bermuda, air & hotel, $1,199 (+$196 taxes) (May 24). westjetvacations.com

Tour East Holidays: 10-night Turkey, air, hotel, meals, sightseeing, $3,199 (+$580 taxes & fees) (July 12). toureast.com

Indulge In A Little Beach Prep In St. Barts

: www.globeandmail.com

(April 19, 2012) Keeping the jet set moisturized isn't an easy business. On the circuit of decadent destinations in
which to show off scantily clad, perfect skin, St. Barts is the ultimate arena. And the spa at Hotel Carl Gustaf is the perfect prep station.

With the soaring popularity of destination spas, a hotel stay, for many, doesn't really start until you've checked into the spa. Here you'll want the Carita Lagoon Hydration Facial, which tackles dehydrated and tired skin. My aesthetician welcomes me with chilled herbal tea and a cold towel, then leads me to a spacious treatment suite where she settles my mind with aromatic inhalations of lavender from her palm.

To revitalize the skin, she works in a heady blend of crushed sunflower seeds, thyme, lemon-oil extract and cloves that's been fermenting for about two years, much like a fine Riesling. (This Renovateur product isn't available to the public: One must make a pilgrimage to a Carita spa.) The formula is rustic and ambiguous, woodsy and delicious. More important, the crushed seeds slough away debris. Thyme purifies, while lemon oil brightens, and clove decongests. She rubs it in until it's transformed from a wet paste to a dry dust. Then her expert hands perform a sculpting massage to activate a gel serum, and yet another massage helps the mask's active ingredients penetrate and restore the skin's elasticity.


This hydrating facial increases the skin's ability to maintain moisture, thanks to skin-barrier-strengthening samphire extract. The divine melting cream mask is speckled with energizing micro-beads that make your skin more radiant.


Perched in a premium enclave above the St. Barts capital of Gustavia, Hotel Carl Gustaf enjoys stunning views of the Lilliputian harbour below. Like clockwork, at the end of each day, a parade of Chanel-clad patrons swans into the lounge bar: This is the most popular venue on the island for sunset champagne, cognac or calvados.

The hotel is named after the current King of Sweden, and in keeping with these imperial roots, facilities here are top-notch. The restaurant serves up refined French-Caribbean fare, and the wine cellar holds more than 300 vintages. The spa offers a comprehensive menu of Carita treatments (Paloma Picasso and Catherine Deneuve are fans) and boasts a hydro-zone area complete with essential oil showers and an outdoor pool with resistance-current jets for strength-building swims.

With only 14 suites, the hotel has an intimate, residential feel. All suites offer magnificent harbour views, private plunge pools, multijet showers, flat-screen televisions, separate living room areas and sleek kitchenettes.


Rue Des Normands, Les Hauts De Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy, French West Indies; 590-590-29-7900; hotelcarlgustaf.com; $163 for 90 minutes.

Special to The Globe and Mail


NHL Playoffs: Vancouver Canucks In Shock After Expected Stanley Cup Run Ends In First Round

Source: www.thestar.com

(Apr 23, 2012) VANCOUVER—Now, the soul-searching begins for the Vancouver Canucks.

A season that began with considerable hype and hope ended Sunday in disappointment and dismay. The Canucks lost 2-1 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth game of their Western Conference quarter-final series.

The underdog Kings only qualified for the playoffs in the final days of the regular season. But they beat a favoured Canucks squad that finished atop the NHL’s overall standings for the second straight season by a decisive 4-1 count in the best-of-seven series.

“We’re all very disappointed with how things turned out right now, and (we’re) just going to step back and figure things out,” said coach Alain Vigneault.

The early elimination was a sharp contrast to what Vigneault and GM Mike Gillis expected at the outset of the season. The Canucks were coming off a seventh-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup final, and management felt minor off-season moves and the early-season addition of David Booth via trade from Florida could help them earn the additional win they needed to sip champagne from the Cup.

But questions about the team’s ability to get back to the final dogged the Canucks for much of the season and they couldn’t produce an adequate response at the most critical time.

The club overcame a slow start to the season as No. 1 goaltender Roberto Luongo went through his usual October funk, centre Ryan Kesler missed the first five games while recovering from off-season hip surgery and others struggled due to a Stanley Cup hangover that resulted from the long 2010-11 playoff run and reduced summer training time.

Luongo regained his form as the club won 17 of its next 25 games before Christmas. When Luongo went down with an injury between late November and early December, backup Cory Schneider played the first prolonged stretch of his NHL career and won six of the seven games he appeared in.

But there were some early signs of trouble. Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who had captured the NHL scoring title the previous two seasons, respectively, struggled to put up points with the same consistency as they drew close attention from opponents.

In January, the Sedins’ difficulties were overshadowed by a continued run of success. The Canucks went into Boston early in the month and beat the Bruins 4-3 with Schneider in goal.

Vancouver scored on four of 11 power-play opportunities, and players, coaches, management and fans hoped the win over Boston was a sign the Canucks had what they needed to get back to the Stanley Cup final.

The Canucks continued to win, posting impressive decisions over the likes of Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey and upstart St. Louis along the way.

But the power play declined considerably and, as the end of February approached, the Canucks began to struggle. The Sedins’ scoring difficulties were felt more profoundly as their teammates failed to pick up the slack.

With the Sedins struggling, linemate Alex Burrows also saw his offensive production falter at times while playing on different lines. Kesler’s output waned as the admitted streaky scorer went cold. Winger Mason Raymond, who had produced seven points in his first nine games back from a career-threatening back injury suffered in the Stanley Cup final, disappeared from the scoresheet — and became a target of fans’ scorn.

Centre Manny Malhotra, never a high scorer, was also off his game due to limited summer training time following off-season surgical procedures on his damaged eye.

A lone bright spot was centre Cody Hodgson, a fan favourite who had established himself as the third-line player as a result of Malhotra’s struggles. Hodgson, classified as a rookie because he hadn’t played the required 25 NHL games the previous season, was also a mainstay on the second power-play unit.

He was emerging as a potential rookie-of-the-year candidate before unexpectedly being dealt to Buffalo just before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. He was the headliner in a four-player deal that brought fellow rookie Matt Kassian and offensive defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani to B.C. and sent rarely used defenceman Alex Sulzer to the Sabres.

However, the deal, designed to give the Canucks two distinct scoring lines and two well-defined checking units, had little offensive impact.

The Canucks won just three of 11 games between late February and mid-March. Then Daniel Sedin was sidelined with a concussion suffered after being elbowed by Chicago defenceman Duncan Keith. But with a resurgent Henrik Sedin making up for his brother’s absence, Vancouver won eight of its last nine games to clinch top spot in the West and first overall again.

However, only one of the wins down the stretch came against a playoff team, ironically the Kings.

In the playoffs, the Canucks were unable to benefit from home-ice advantage, losing all three of their games at Rogers Arena. Vancouver dropped the first two contests by identical 4-2 scores and went 0-for-14 on the power play while also allowing two short-handed goals.

In a bid to gain momentum, Vigneault replaced Luongo, who prevented a blowout in the first game, with Schneider for the final three contests. Schneider was steady while going 1-2, but the move merely raised questions about Luongo’s future.

More importantly, it didn’t resolve Vancouver’s main problem — a continued lack of scoring.

“Both of our goaltenders did what they were supposed to do,” said Vigneault. “They gave us a chance to win.

“Unfortunately, the rest of our game wasn’t good enough.”

The Canucks managed only eight goals in the five games, relying for offence again from Henrik Sedin throughout the series and Daniel Sedin, once he returned from his concussion, for the last two games.

Traditionally, the post-season is a time when unsung heroes step to the forefront, but Vigneault’s repeated calls for difference-makers to identify themselves went unanswered.

And Vancouver’s lack of playoff success has created plenty of questions about the hockey club, namely the immediate future of both Luongo and Vigneault.

Who is Jakob Silfverberg? Meet The Newest Ottawa Senator

Source: www.thestar.com

(Apr 23, 2012) OTTAWA—It is not unusual for teams to add players during the NHL playoffs. What's remarkable, however, is for a team to add a player of some significance.

The Ottawa Senators have done just that, bringing in winger
Jakob Silfverberg from Sweden in time for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final against the Ottawa Senators.

“I feel good in my head and my body is fresh as well,” Silfverberg said before the game.

It's not like the Senators needed another body: Captain Daniel Alfredsson made his return from a concussion, after missing three games. And rookie Mark Stone, called up from AHL Binghamton, had a pretty good debut in a Game 5 win in New York.

It would appear the Senators are awash in young prospects, the latest being Silfverberg — who came with his own media ensemble following his every move. He is less than a week removed from leading Brynas to the Swedish Elite League championship where he was named the tournament's most valuable player after being MVP of the regular season.

It might have been an odd decision to some to insert a raw rookie — Silfverberg is just 21 — whose only experience with the NHL playoffs is watching a few games on TV.

“It’s a small rink, that’s what I noticed so far, and it’s a (more) intense game here than back at home, but more than that I don’t know,” said Silfverberg.

Silfverberg, the 39th overall pick in 2009, ruffled a few feathers last fall when he bolted the Senators for Sweden instead of playing for AHL Binghamton. GM Bryan Murray wanted Silfverberg to get used to the smaller North American rinks and the lifestyle on this side of the Atlantic.

But Silfverberg — given No. 33 — said going home was good for him.

“I'm very happy I went home,” he told reporters gathered around his stall. “I grew not only as a hockey player but as a person. It's been a big step for me in the right direction. I'm very happy to be in Ottawa.”

So important is Silfverberg to Swedish hockey that a media contingent at coach Paul MacLean's news conferences asked — loudly, but politely — if they could ask the first questions because of the time change and deadlines.

All they wanted to know is if Silfverberg was playing.

“We're considering playing Silfverberg, but at this point we have to decide between Silfverberg and Alfredsson,” said MacLean.

“Are you serious? Silfverberg or Alfredsson?” came the reply from the panicked Swedish media mob.

“Or both,” MacLean added with a smile.

The Swedish media asked what MacLean was expecting from Silfverberg.

“You guys could probably tell me better,” said MacLean. “He’s been the best player in the Swedish Elite League in the regular season and the playoffs, I believe. His team, Brynas, just won the Swedish Elite League championship and he was the best player.

“I like that.”

He could become the second youngest player to make his NHL debut for the Senators during this series. Stone, a sixth-round pick by Ottawa in 2010, picked up an assist with a gorgeous pass to Jason Spezza early in Game 5 — his first on the big stage. It ended up being the game-winning goal.

“I thought he made an NHL play on the goal, just a flat-out NHL play,” MacLean said of Stone. “For being his first game ever playing at Madison Square Garden, I thought he played real good.”

The Senators have gone out of their way to make the young players feel welcome.

After arriving on Sunday afternoon, Silfverberg was invited to dinner by new teammate Erik Karlsson, another Swede. They had a meal at Karlsson’s house and watched Game 5 of the Kings-Canucks series.

He was then thrown into the middle of a stretching circle at Monday’s morning skate, getting playfully chided when he led them through a quicker session than normal. “That’s how we used to do it in Sweden,” said Silfverberg.

More than anything, it was a sign that he had arrived. What a way to end a year he’ll never forget.

“It’s the best league in the world,” said Silfverberg. “It’s a dream come true to just be here and I’m very excited.”

With files from The Canadian Press

Canadians Could Make Mark In NFL Draft

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Rachel Brady

(Apr 24, 2012) Several men wait this week, wondering if their names will be added to the elite list of Canadians
selected in an NFL draft.

Last year, offensive linemen Danny Watkins of Kelowna, B.C., and Orlando Franklin of Toronto made history as the top pair of Canadians selected in a single draft. Watkins was chosen 23rd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles; Franklin 46th by the Denver Broncos.

(Fellow O-lineman Tony Mandarich of Oakville, Ont., remains the top individual Canadian draft pick, going No. 2 overall in 1989.)

In the past 30 NFL drafts, only 18 Canadians have been chosen.

The three-day 2012 event kicks off Thursday in New York.

Here is a list of Canadians who have garnered football scouts' attention this year:

Philip Blake

Baylor University

This 6-foot-3, 320-pound centre was a former linemate of Watkins, and protected quarterback Robert Griffin III during his Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2011. The Toronto native didn't start football until his last year of high school, so in order to get the attention of U.S. college scouts, he put in two seasons at Champlain College Lennoxville in Sherbrooke. He is expected to be selected in the second or third round. Some call him the No. 2 centre available. The Montreal Alouettes hold his CFL rights.

Tyrone Crawford

Boise State University

This 6-foot-4, 275-pound pass-rush specialist hails from Windsor, Ont., and landed at Boise State after two seasons at Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College. He recorded 13 1/2 tackles for loss last season, and impressed many at both the East-West Shrine Game and NFL Combine. He is projected to go in the third to fifth round. Crawford is also the top-ranked prospect for the CFL draft on May 3.

Austin Pasztor

University of Virginia

Langton, Ont., native moved south to play his senior high-school season at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, after its coach noticed him in an exhibition game. Pasztor was a four-year starter in college. In 2011, he was second-team all-America after anchoring an offensive line that set up 1,984 rushing yards. The 6-foot-7, 306-pounder is projected as a possible late-round pick, but is the No. 4 prospect in the CFL draft.

Christo Bilukidi

Georgia State University

At 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, Bilukidi played both defensive end and tackle. He is projected as a free-agent signing rather than a draft pick and has already worked out for a few NFL teams. He was born in Angola, and his father is an Angolan diplomat. Bilukidi headed to Eastern Arizona Junior College after showing promise in just one year of high-school football in Ottawa. No. 6 on the CFL prospects list.

Ameet Pall

Wofford University

Before Wofford, the Montreal product went to Vanier College, the same English-language CEGEP as Tim Biakabutuka, the former Carolina Panthers running back. At 5 foot 10 and 243 pounds, Pall is known as hard-working yet undersized defensive lineman/linebacker, and is projected as a likely free-agent signing. He is the No. 7-rated CFL prospect.

Yu Darvish Expected To Make Toronto Debut May 1

Source: www.thestar.com

(Apr 23, 2012) Highly touted Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish is expected to make his Canadian debut on Tuesday, May 1, when the Texas Rangers visit Toronto to take on the Blue Jays in the second of a three-game series.

Darvish was originally scheduled to pitch in Game 1 of the series, but the Rangers doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers on Saturday — necessitated by a Friday night rainout — means they will need to use a sixth starter this week, bumping Darvish’s Toronto appearance by a day.

Darvish, a 6-foot-5, 25-year-old right-hander who dominated Japan’s Pacific League for the last seven years, was signed by the Rangers in January on a six-year, $60 million contract.

The Rangers were also required to pay an additional posting fee of $51.7 million to Darvish’s former team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, who held a blind auction for the rights to negotiate with their prized pitcher.

The Blue Jays were reportedly among a small group of teams to bid for Darvish’s services, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos has refused to confirm or deny whether the club made an offer. Anthopoulos and other team officials travelled to Japan last year to see Darvish pitch in person.

Darvish, who posted a career ERA of 1.99 in Japan and was twice named league MVP, has yet to live up to his considerable hype in his three starts with the Rangers this season.

He has been solid — garnering a 2-0 record — but hardly dazzling, posting a 3.57 ERA over 17 and 2/3 innings.

He has impressed batters and pundits with his six different pitches — all with lots of movement — and a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s. But he has struggled with his command, particularly to left-handed hitters.

Darvish has yet to give up a home run, but has allowed 1.81 walks and hits per inning. The number of walks he has given up — 13 in fewer than 18 innings — is particularly surprising given he only walked 1.4 batters for every nine innings last year.

Barring injury or change to the Blue Jays rotation, they will send 21-year-old Drew Hutchison to the mound to face Darvish, in what would be Hutchison’s third major-league appearance.

All-Star Catcher Ivan Rodriquez Announces Retirement

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Stephen Hawkins, The Associated Press

(Apr 23, 2012)
Ivan Rodriguez was back in Texas again. This time, the 14-time All-Star catcher said he has played his last game.

Calling it a very hard day after a great run, Rodriguez fought back tears Monday as he announced his retirement at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It came nearly 21 years after the fan favourite known as Pudge made his major league debut as a 19-year-old with the Rangers before later playing with five other teams.

Surrounded by his wife and their three children, including his 19-year-old son who is a prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization, Rodriguez's eyes glistened and he spoke slowly at first when announcing his retirement.

He thanked his parents and brother who sat in the front row for supporting him since he started playing baseball at age 5 in Puerto Rico.

Rodriguez said he planned to remain in baseball in some capacity. Ryan said the Rangers have already had some preliminary discussions with him about what that might be.

"I'm always going to be in baseball the rest of my life," Rodriguez said. "I'll be in baseball, and I'll be active and I'll be doing things, you'll definitely see me around."

Rodriguez caught a major league record 2,427 games, surpassing Carlton Fisk's record of 2,226 during a game for the Houston Astros three years ago at Rangers Ballpark. It was later that season that Pudge returned briefly to the Rangers, the team he played for the first 12 of his 21 seasons.

"It was interesting to have witnessed Pudge's career and be involved in it at the start and see the player that he grew to be and the impact that he had on our organization," said Rangers president Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who was still playing when Rodriguez made his major league debut on June 20, 1991.

Rodriguez hit .296 with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBIs in 2,543 games overall with Texas (1991-2002, 2009), Florida (2003), Detroit (2004-08), the Yankees (2008), Houston (2009), and Washington (2010-11). His 13 Gold Gloves were the most for a catcher.

"The first time I threw to Pudge and saw him, I really thought he was going to be a good receiver, and he had a great arm, we all knew that," Ryan said. "I never anticipated or expected, I don't think, for him to have the career that he had and have the impact on the organization that he had. It was really exciting and fun to watch."

Rodriguez, who didn't take questions during the news conference, was part of the Rangers' first three AL West titles in a four-year span in the late 1990s. He later appeared in two World Series, with the champion Florida Marlins in 2003 and Detroit in 2006.

Texas won its first three AL West titles in a four-year span in the late 1990s, but didn't win a playoff series then. Rodriguez hit .332 with 35 home runs and 113 RBIs in 1999, when he was the American League MVP.

The two-time defending AL champion Rangers have no immediate plans to retire his No. 7 jersey, but have discussed the possibility.

Raptors Report Card: Andrea Bargnani, Jamaal Magloire Get Highest Marks

Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(Apr 25, 2012) There is likely to be significant change in the Raptors roster from the team that finishes the regular season Thursday night and the one that arrives at training camp next September.

But it’s worth looking at who did what this season and measuring them against their own abilities and expectations. Little was expected from this team this season, here’s how the players and management fared in that regard:


Status: Signed through 2012-13.

Good and bad: Perhaps team’s MVP this season, fourth in NBA in assists on low-scoring team; defensive liabilities masked by solid team concept. Longest-serving Raptor emerged as team leader and trusted confidant of coach Dwane Casey. Shooting percentages off slightly this year but steady on-court play invaluable. Could morph into mentor to younger point guard if one is obtained via trade this summer.

Future: He should be back to give some continuity to the roster.

Grade: C-plus


Status: Signed through 2012-13 season with team option for 2013-14.

Good and bad: Assumed far greater scoring load with absence of Andrea Bargnani for more than half the season; showed at times a great understanding of the balance needed between drives and jumpers. Still has to work to do on defence but Dwane Casey lauded him for improvement as the season went on. Still needs to work on ball-handling skills to be able to attack more successfully. Probably more a complementary player on a very good team as opposed to a go-to guy right now.

Future: If his game continues to develop as it has, a key part.

Grade: C-plus


Status: Unrestricted free agent this summer.

Good and bad: Came on like gangbusters at times after being picked up on a couple of late-season 10-day contacts. Steady but unspectacular at both ends, and not sure if there’s much upside left in his game. Casey likes his steady play but undoubtedly better suited as a backup than a starter. Doesn’t have great ball-handling skills but has shown an ability to make three-pointer, something lacking on this team.

Future: Will get some interest as a training-camp invitee on non-guaranteed deal.

Grade: C


Status: Signed through 2014-15 season.

Good and bad: Missed more than half the season with a wonky calf muscle but was excellent for most of the
games he played; showed a willingness, and an ability, to play defence that had been hidden in his first five years with the franchise. Still an offensive matchup problem for opponents and Casey structured the offence to run through him. He won’t ever be a great rebounder but he can definitely improve in that area.

Future: No reason to think Casey won’t keep him in same key role.

Grade: B-plus.


Status: Unrestricted free agent.

Good and bad: Started the majority of games but finished few of them; was solid defensively, not the most mobile or athletic big man in the game but took up space in the paint and was defensive anchor. Offensive limitations glaring but he set the best screens on the team and knew better than to try to do too much scoring.

Future: As a fourth or fifth big man, a good fit; may attract other interest, though.

Grade: C


Status: Team option of qualifying offer for 2012-13.

Good and bad: Hobbled by injuries a lot of the season. Was used in a couple of different roles, a primary backup point guard often and scoring sparkplug off the bench. Grew as a point guard with his decision-making but still a work in progress trying to figure out how to best involve teammates. Solid defender who can guard both backup positions. Would have been interesting to have seen how he’d have handled the “Barbosa” role over time.

Future: A tough call, and will depend on other roster moves but worth a look as a combo guard off the bench.

Grade: C


Status: Signed through 2012-13 season with team option for 2013-14.

Good and bad: Began the season trying to find his way in a Casey system that counts heavily on discipline but figured out a role and was solid for long stretches. Regressed a bit in middle of the season, lost starting job, regained coaches trust and finished strong. Still not the greatest offensive player by any stretch but on way to becoming first player in franchise history to lead a season in blocked shots and steals.

Future: Still a lot of potential if he can harness it; probably a solid backup on a good team.

Grade: C-minus.


Status: Signed through 2012-13

Good and bad: Was asked to play too much of the season out of position at point guard and confusion over his role probably hurt him; showed flashes at shooting guard and small forward when given extended playing time. Needs to be a more consistent shooter but after just two seasons in the league still has plenty of potential to reach. Willingness to do what team needed a plus in the eyes of coaching staff.

Future: Will be given every opportunity to crack rotation as his normal positions next fall.

Grade: C



Status: Signed through 2014-15 season but final year not fully guaranteed.

Good and bad: Far too many nights when he had marginal impact on the game. Might have been bothered by residue of off-season ankle surgery and bumps and bruises that come up during the season but never really got in the groove at any time in the season. Was hurt offensively by absence of Bargnani, who created space for him to operate. Good finisher at the rim but still lacks go-to post move.

Future: Management may explore trade options; if not, he’ll likely come off the bench again next season.

Grade: D-plus.


Status: Signed through 2012-13 with team options for the following two seasons.

Good and bad: Struggled at times with role defined for him as interior defender but that has as much to do with physical strength as anything; still needs major reconstructive surgery on jump shot and free throw shooting and is about to enter huge summer where personal growth is paramount; still has great instincts around the rim, needs some post moves that should come when he grows into his body.

Future: Not sure there’s room for him and Amir Johnson on roster but Davis would seem to have the brighter future, if he works hard.

Grade: C-minus.


Status: Signed through 2013-14 season.

Good and bad: Began year slowly as he recovered from microfracture knee surgery and knee still gives him trouble at times; inconsistent at both ends of the court but is one of the toughest guys on the team, quite willing to get physical when it’s necessary; good shooter now and then but has tendency to take possessions off and lose focus; a plus is he can play both forward positions.

Future: Depending on other moves and financial needs, could be a victim of contract amnesty to facilitate other moves.

Grade: C-minus.


Status: Unrestricted free agent

Good and bad: They brought him in to provide some veteran leadership in the locker room and at practice and by all accounts he shone in that job; seldom plays but if you need a tough guy to mix it up under the boards, he’s more than capable of providing that service; quite willing to call out teammates who aren’t doing their job, an attribute appreciated by coaches and management.

Future: If he’s willing to play same role next season, every chance he’s back on another one-year deal.

Grade: B-minus.


Status: Unrestricted free agent

Good and bad: Came into an unenviable position of having to assume significant role on a team he knew nothing about at the end of a season that was going nowhere; did precisely what was asked of him, didn’t hurt them an awful lot, didn’t help them an awful lot; limited offensively but that’s not entirely surprising; he is what he is, a late-season pickup to get them through tough times.

Future: None in Toronto, may join summer league team to try to generate some interest.

Grade: C


Status: Unrestricted free agent

Good and bad: A good guy, no question about it but, again, he is what he is. A late second-round draft pick that they took a flier on, he didn’t really show enough in practice to warrant a longer look and had marginal impact on nothing games against other out-of-it teams at the end of the season. Universally liked, no question, but that’s not enough.

Future: None in Toronto.

Grade: C-minus



Status: Signed through 2012-13 with team option for another year.

Good and bad: His job from Day 1 was to help change the lax defence the franchise had been known for and he accomplished that in spades as team went from one of the worst defensive teams in the league to middle of the pack with much the same personnel; had to spend too much time on defence at expense of offence and sorely missed training camp and pre-season; will be interesting to see what he does with a regular off-season.

Future: Team should pick up the option year of his contract today.

Grade: B-plus.


Status: Signed through 2012-13 with team option for another year.

Good and bad: He set out a plan at the beginning of the season and didn’t deviate from it one iota; it might not have sat well with some fans but no one can say they were surprised; preserved financial flexibility — increased it, actually, with trade of Leandro Barbosa (Raptors can add salary at draft time now instead of having to wait until July) — and his job really starts as soon as the season ends. But he did what he said he’d do all along, like it or not.

Grade: B

Bayern Munich Beats Real Madrid 3-1 On Penalties To Reach Champions League Final

Source: www.thestar.com - Paul Logothetis

(Apr 25, 2012) MADRID—Bayern Munich beat Real Madrid 3-1 on penalties Wednesday to secure its place against Chelsea in the Champions League final following a memorable contest between the longtime European rivals.

Cristiano Ronaldo looked to have put the home side on its way to the final with two early goals, but just like its Spanish rival Barcelona the evening before, Madrid faltered and Arjen Robben’s 27th-minute penalty levelled the score over two legs at 3-3.

In the shootout, Manuel Neuer stopped Ronaldo and Kaka to put Bayern on course after it had scored on its opening two kicks, but counterpart Iker Casillas denied Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm to drag Madrid back into it.

After Xabi Alonso scored Madrid’s first, Sergio Ramos sent his shot high over the bar and Bastian Schweinsteiger sent his effort straight down the middle to ensure four-time champion Bayern will become the first team to play the final on its home ground.

The final is on May 19 at the Allianz Arena.

Defending champion Barcelona was knocked out by underdog Chelsea on Tuesday despite the London side being down to 10 men for most of the match. Barca star Lionel Messi missed a penalty early in the second half and left the Camp Nou pitch in tears.

Some of Madrid’s players were also crying as they walked off with their heads hanging after coming so close to reaching their first final in 10 years.

“It’s a big blow for us. It was a very exciting game, but penalties are always a lottery,” Casillas said. “We played well, but Bayern are a great team. We now have to concentrate on the league.”

Madrid’s 2-1 win over Barcelona on the weekend gave Jose Mourinho’s side a seven-point lead in the Spanish league with four games remaining, but its wait for a first Champions League title since 2002 goes on.

The 20th meeting between Madrid and Bayern maintained a relentless pace in the first half.

Madrid charged out to an early lead after David Alaba handled the ball when sliding to block Angel Di Maria’s cross. Ronaldo showed no jitters as he stepped up to drill the spot kick into the right of the goal with keeper Neuer guessing left.

Bayern could easily have cancelled out Ronaldo’s opener minutes later as Robben shot over the bar with only Casillas to beat.

Ronaldo’s 10th goal of the tournament made it 2-0 following an excellent buildup that saw the Spanish leaders spread the ball around with Sami Khedira finding Mesut Oezil, who spotted a wide-open Ronaldo outside the area to coolly pick his spot low and to the left.

While Madrid thrived off the break, Bayern’s reliance on possession and wingers Franck Ribery and Robben finally paid off in the 26th when Pepe was late to cover Mario Gomez, the Portugal centreback booked for bundling the Germany striker down as they chased a ball into the area.

Casillas guessed right and got a touch but could not keep Robben’s powerful spot kick out.

Ronaldo and Karim Benzema continued to create problems for Bayern as Benzema curled around the far post after the half-hour mark, while Neuer denied Ronaldo from long range.

Casillas stopped Gomez moments later before capping an electric first half by diving to push Robben’s free kick from just outside the area wide.

The European heavyweights kept pushing forward in the second half but, with the stakes rising, neither wanted to expose itself and the chances dwindled, with Gomez heading wide before Neuer pushed Benzema’s shot out in the 56th.

Ronaldo couldn’t muster up much either as he tamely sent several free kicks straight at Neuer. Gomez wasted a golden opportunity for Bayern when he delayed his shot too long in the 86th, allowing Ramos and Khedira to smother the chance.

The tempo dipped dramatically in extra time, when Thomas Mueller replaced Ribery and Gonzalo Higuain came on for Benzema. Madrid conjured up a few more opportunities than its opponent with substitute Kaka misplaying a fine chance in the 112th.

Alaba and Gomez scored Bayern’s first two penalties to pressure Madrid, which came apart with its first final appearance in 10 years so close.