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LE NEWSLETTER

February 9, 2012

Black History Month is in full swing! This week I have a couple of reviews of two of those
celebratory events that took place. First of all is a review written by Dayne Jackson (along with photos) about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's stellar performance at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

The other is a couple of reviews, one written by Dalton Higgins and the second by Aisha Wickham-Thomas, with respect to the legacy of Ebonnie Rowe's Honey Jam, as part of Harbourfront Centre's KUUMBA. Check out GREAT photos for both in my PHOTO GALLERY.

Now, you've still got time to get your tickets for Obeah Opera, a new musical that is for anyone appreciating the legacy of Black music which hits Bathurst Centre on February 16th. Do NOT miss this important play created by Nicole Brooks. Get all the details under HOT EVENTS.

And for the lovers in our midst, Tuesday is Valentine's Day ...

Also in news, Juno nominees are announced with William Shatner as host; black musicians are celebrated in Archie Alleyne's collection of photos; the New York Giants win the Superbowl; documentary on depression and the sports world; Madonna rocks at the Superbowl; 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!

::HOT EVENTS::

February 16 - March 4, 2012:: OBEAH OPERA a new Play Exploring Black History

Source: b current and Theatre Archipelago

b current
Performing Arts and Theatre Archipelago proudly present the full stage mounting of Obeah Opera. A total musical journey with a twist, the evocative production celebrates significant influence of black music combining blues, folk, jazz, gospel, spirituals, R&B, and traditional genres. Created (book, libretto, and music) by Nicole Brooks, this mesmerizing work will be presented as part of Black History Month at the 918 Bathurst Cultural Centre from February 16 – March 4, 2012.

Obeah Opera explores the Caribbean connection of a notorious time in North American history and tells the story of five woman accused of abominable spiritual acts in the peaceful Puritan Town where they live. The opera is loosely based on historical texts of the infamous witch-hunts and 17th century trials in Salem Massachusetts, journeying musically with some of the women first accused of the derided practice of obeah. "This Caribbean-themed opera is a pioneering Canadian theatre piece, which gives an intimate look into some lost pages in history,” says Dub Theatre mistress and Founder of b current, ahdri zhina mandiela, who also directs Obeah Opera. “Producing the piece renews creative and cultural pride for both theatre companies, our artists, and much of our audience.”

The cast of Obeah Opera includes multi-winning Canadian Calypso Monarch, Macomere Fifi*, renaissance performance artist Nicole Brooks, vocalist and recording artist Joni NehRita, newcomer Saphire Demitro, and Canadian soul rocktress Saidah Baba Talibah. The production is rounded out with an all-female 10-member chorus.

Musical direction by contemporary composer and vocalist, Tova Kardonne; choreography by Anthony Prime Guerra; set and costume design by Julia Tribe; Lighting design by CJ Astronomo; and stage management by Sandi Becker. From its early showcasing and recent workshop production in May 2011, Obeah Opera audiences have generated exciting response. "Producing this piece solidifies our mandate to present works from the Diaspora inspired by a Caribbean understanding" says Rhoma Spencer, Theatre Archipelago's Founding Artistic Director and Artistic Producer for the opera. This is a production not to be missed.

*Due to unforeseen circumstances, Ella Andall the acclaimed roots chanteuse from Trinidad & Tobago, is unable to make it to Toronto to perform in b current and Theatre Archipelago’s World Premiere of Obeah Opera. However, the producing companies are pleased to announce that Calypso Queen supreme Macomere Fifi (aka Eulith Tara Woods) will be replacing her and stepping into the role of Elder.

FEBRUARY 16 TO MARCH 4, 2012
OBEAH OPERA
918 Bathurst Centre
918 Bathurst Street (north of Bloor St)
OPENING GALA: Wednesday, February 22 at 8:00 PM
Performances:
Wed. to Sat. at 8:00 PM
Sunday matinee at 2:00 PM
General Admission: $30; Seniors & Students $25
[Previews: February 16, 17 & 19:: Tickets: $15]

Tickets and info: www.obeahopera.com
Group Bookings (10 or more): 416-533-1500

::RECAPS::

A Celebration! Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Review by Dayne Jackson (www.daynejacksonphotography.com)

What a celebration! Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's great masterpiece of modern American dance played to a predictably packed and cheering house last Thursday at The Sony Centre of Performing Arts in Toronto. I was asked by Langfield Entertainment to shoot the performances and I was privileged to capture this astonishing performance. See a sampling of photos in Langfield Entertainment's PHOTO GALLERY.

But while the company has a loyal following, with this strong support comes astronomical high expectations. Thursday night the Alvin Ailey Company more than earned that respect. No work in Ailey's repertory seems to occur without warm audience cheers.

Founded in 1958 by the choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey, the troupe is known for its vibrant artistry and repertory as well as for Mr. Ailey's humanist vision. Mr. Ailey saw his troupe as fulfilling the need for a repertory company that would perform modern-dance classics along with his own works. The company has survived and flourished since Mr. Ailey's death in 1989. In 2003, it moved into a $50 million building, the Joan Weill Center for Dance.

Given Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s penchant for celebrating the human spirit, every program the company presents can seem like spiritual experience. It’s no small accomplishment. Physically, Alvin Ailey dancers seem capable of almost anything.

Seeing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is an extraordinary experience. It is an absolute joy to watch this company of unforgettable dancers.

I will be uploading the full photography of the event shortly at www.daynejacksonphotography.com.

~ Dayne Jackson

Defying Shallow Choreography – And Gravity, Too

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(Feb. 3, 2012) The dancers are sleek and sexy; the repertoire, shallow.


Under artistic director Robert Battle, appointed last year,
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre lacks substance. But that didn’t seem to bother the audience on Thursday, who cheered every showy move. This concert was clearly a showcase for the formidable Ailey dancers, with the choreography relegated to a supporting role.

What choreography was on show was a mix of old and new: Rennie Harris’s Home (2011); Battle’s own Takademe (1999) and The Hunt (2001); and, from the company’s storied past, Ailey’s Revelations (1960) and Joyce Trisler’s Journey (1958).

Collectively, the works deal with superficial themes. The audience-friendly program requires no deep thought: It’s aimed less at provocation than at entertainment. Regardless of the relative merits of the dance pieces, though, the performers are indeed a joy to watch. Boasting some of the best modern dancers on the planet, this mostly Afro-American company moves like liquid honey – smooth and silky. Their supple bodies bend, stretch and contract in ways that defy gravity.

Take Battle’s droll solo in Takademe, performed by Kirven James Boyd. The most interesting work on the program, the piece includes a score taken from British pop singer Sheila Chandra’s CD Speaking in Tongues II, where she mimics the chanting cadence of counting beats and rhythms found in Indian classical dance. For every beat spoken, Battle provides a corresponding physicality. When the count is fast, Boyd’s bare-chested body moved as if waves were rippling up and down his frame. From the most infinitesimal muscle isolation to total body jumps, this dancer performed an absolute translation of music into movement.

Battle’s gift for matching bodies to rhythm – and showcasing his deft dancers – is also seen in The Hunt, a ritualistic number set to a score by famed percussion group Les Tambours du Bronx. Driven by the beat, the piece includes intense circle dances as well as men dragging other men like dead animals, as well as scenes of one-on-one combat – physical images expressing how bonding takes these men to a higher plane. The six-member ensemble, garbed in long black skirts with red lining, embody a testosterone-infused primitive priesthood. Their hunt is for spiritual empowerment.

Home, meanwhile, is from an American choreographer best-known for transforming hip-hop moves into concert dance. Melding hip-hop, modern and contemporary dance moves, he creates a piece with rapid footwork and gymnastic jumps and turns.

Beyond the physical, Home seems to be about searching. It is accompanied by spoken text, about finding one’s place, from Dennis Ferrer and Raphael Xavier. This is also expressed by dancer Matthew Rushing as he breaks away from the group, only to join it again at the end of the piece. In between, Rushing engages in a wide variety of movement along with different combinations of dancers from the 13-member ensemble. This makes the audience a sort of witness to the individuals that make up a crowd. The movement also speaks of religious rapture, filled as it is with shudders and quaking.

Trisler’s Journey, a solo performed by the stately Linda Celeste Sims, is another piece about searching – this time a controlled and elegant quest.

The only question mark on the program: The ever-and-always present Revelations. Ailey’s homage to the gospel roots of his rural Texas childhood, this piece appears on every bill. But if it’s a signature Ailey work anchored in the Afro-American experience, the company’s new artistic director needs to ponder whether familiarity breeds contempt. Surely, there’s more to show off from Ailey. He’s hardly a one-trick pony.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

At the Sony Centre

In Toronto on Thursday

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performs at the Sony Centre until Saturday.

Honey Jam: Then and Now Recap

Source: Dalton Higgins for Langfield Entertainment

(Feb. 6, 2012) Friday night's
Honey Jam: Then and Now was like a localized edition of Black Girls Rock, minus Beverley Bond, and add Ebonnie Rowe, and it actually reminded me of why I still continue to engage the music industry. It's way more than just about hot (guitar) riffs and rhymes my friends. Seeing Kellylee Evans control the crowd like only a seasoned jazz chanteuse can do, Tara Chase rip rhymes like it was the 90's all over again, Saidah Baba Talibah rock out, Motion reminding us that it's "Ladies First" always, and it goes on and on.

Couple that with knowing that the large crowd were contributing to something with a strong social purpose, providing a platform for strong talented women to showcase their wares, with part proceeds from the gate would be going to support YWCA programs for girls and it's a wrap. Game. Set. Match. Ebonnie Rowe. And you can file this one under the "You Had To Be There to Witness History In The Making" category. Like, where and when else are you going to see this much talent, across genres, across generations, all on one stage with one aim? How about, like, never.

See photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.

::TOP STORIES::

Junos 2012: Drake, Nickelback, Feist Among Leading Nominees

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press


(Feb 07, 2012) City and Colour, Dan Mangan, Drake, Feist, Hedley and
Nickelback led the Juno Award nominations Tuesday with four nods apiece, setting up a wide-open race at this year's gala in Ottawa.

Close behind with three nominations each are Avril Lavigne, Deadmau5 and Michael Buble.

There was also some Juno love for teen sensation Justin Bieber, who
will vie for album of the year against Lavigne, Drake, Buble and Nickelback.

Read the full list of nominees.

City and Colour, Deadmau5, Drake, Feist and Buble are in the running for artist of the year.

Star Trek icon William Shatner, meanwhile, has been named host of the April 1st gala, to be broadcast on CTV.

The choice marks a sharp generational shift from last year, when Toronto rapper Drake received strong reviews for showcasing his comedic side during his turn as MC.

“William Shatner is a Canadian hero, and with his love for music, the stage, and entertaining as a whole, it's sure to be an incredible show!” said Melanie Berry, who is president and CEO of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the group that administers the Junos.

Shatner hosted the Genie Awards — which honour the best in Cana
dian film — last year in Ottawa.

The multiple nods for Vancouver-based Mangan come as somewhat of a surprise.

In addition to nominations for songwriter of the year, alternative album of the year and video of the year, he'll face off in the new artist category against Alyssa Reid, Diamond Rings, JRDN and Lindi Ortega.

Competing for group of the year are: Arkells, Down With Webster, Hedley, Nickelback and the Sam Roberts Band.

Feist, Deadmau5, Nickelback and City & Colour are among the scheduled performers.

This year’s show will also mark the addition of a new category honouring the best metal/hard music album of the year. A sentimental favourite in the category may be long-soldiering, long-suffering metal stalwarts Anvil, who got the nod for last year’s Juggernaut of Justice.

Quebecers may be equally sentimental about the Fan Choice category, where against eight anglo pop artists, mostly half her age or less, stands veteran pop chanteuse Ginette Reno, at age 65. Fan voting will determine the winner in that one field.

The Juno Awards have rotated to various cities around Canada for the last decade to great success. They returned to Toronto last year to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Tickets to this year's show go on sale Friday.

Rare Photos Show Toronto’s Golden Era Of Black Musicians

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish


(Feb 05, 2012) Part of Toronto’s dynamic musical history could have been lost to the ages. But thanks to the dedication of
Archie Alleyne, that history has been preserved through black and white photos.

The 79-year-old drummer was part of the black music scene of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s and has gathered about 40 portraits of various Toronto acts that played the music of the day: jazz, and rhythm and blues.

The works will be shown for Black History Month as part of “
SYNCOPATION: Life in the Key of Black” at the Africentric Alternative School this week.

Alleyne said the Toronto music scene through the ’30s and ’50s was unique compared to other centres in North America because black musicians eventually broke the colour barrier and played in predominantly white clubs.

Traditionally, black acts played the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) to black-only audiences at 355 College St. But in 1947, a black act finally played the Colonial Tavern, a club catering to white audiences and white bands.

Another victory came in 1951 when another black group, which included Alleyne, played a traditionally white club called the Town Tavern near Yonge. and Queen Sts.

“It wasn’t easy ... but we did it,” says Alleyne, who was recently named to the Order of Canada. “I remember one time during a break a woman just stared at me and said, ‘Quit playing that nigger music.’”

You “just had to let it fly by,” he says, and eventually the white audiences loved what they heard.

Alleyne recalls some significant players that influenced the music scene, now preserved in his personal gallery:

Harlem Knights

Sam Morgan, known as Singing Sam, led the Harlem Knights, a large band known for playing popular hits from acts such as Count Basie and Duke Ellington. They were billed as “Canada’s outstanding coloured orchestra” in the 1930s and were in demand at venues across the province. They were regulars at the city’s Palais Royale and well known at the UNIA. A highlight of the year for many black families was the Port Dalhouise boat cruise and picnic, with music supplied by the Harlem Knights.

Johnny Hunt

Johnny Hunt was one of the top black vocalists of the mid-1950s and was always a big audience draw. Alleyne says he was a genuinely nice man and that the entire music scene was one big happy family. “We helped each other out,” he says. “We loved the music ... but there wasn’t a lot of money.”

Rhythm Rompers

Originally led by trumpeter Roy Worrell, the band operated under Cy McLean’s leadership, at piano, following a friendly takeover sometime around 1940. This act made Toronto musical history in 1947 when it became the first black band to play at the Colonial Tavern. Alleyne said it was imperative to get bookings at the “white” Yonge St. clubs because they were paid gigs, while performances at places such as the UNIA were put on for free. “I call it infiltration, because that’s what it really was,” he says. “It was hard ... there were (racist) comments, but you just had to let it fly by.” The Rhythm Rompers were in high demand in their prime, touring all over the province with a large following at each venue.

The Hal & Al Comedy Duo

As a unit, Alan McLeod and Harold Hayes were the popular Hal & Al Comedy Duo that had audiences laughing for years. But both had significant solo careers in the music industry, including McLeod’s operation of a theatrical agency responsible for booking black artists into local venues. McLeod is also credited, along with Lorraine McComb and Ken Holdip, for arranging the use of the third floor space at the UNIA hall for popular jazz jam sessions that gave serious musicians an important venue to perfect their skills. Hayes was an excellent sax man known throughout the city and was a regular performer at the UNIA as well as a member of a popular performing ensemble called Mr. Leonard’s Troop.

Douglas Salmon

Douglas Salmon was an accomplished jazz pianist who became president of Centenary Hospital’s medical staff and was later appointed chief of surgery, the first black person in Canada to hold such positions. He had always wanted to be a physician but was also enamoured with music. He was known for his impeccable chords and great timekeeping. His band, Doug Salmon & his Orchestra, was popular all over Ontario, playing at dances, parties and lodges. An incident involving music turned his attention to civil rights. In 1942 he became a protest leader on the Race Discrimination Committee, which battled for the rights of blacks to enter Toronto’s Palais Royale to see jazz greats such as Duke Ellington. This came after Salmon, who died in 2005, and a group of friends were denied admission to the venue to hear Earl “Fatha” Hines play piano.

SYNCOPATION: Life in the Key of Black is at the Africentric Alternative School, 1430 Sheppard Ave. W., daily from 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. from Feb. 6-10, and at the BAND Gallery (Black Artists’ Networks in Dialogue) at 823A Bloor St. W. from March 12-18.

Riveting CTV Doc On Depression Strikes Chord For This Reporter

Source: www.thestar.com - By Randy Starkman

(Feb 07, 2012) The honesty of the athletes featured in Michael Landsberg’s documentary Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sports and Me is remarkably compelling.

Former NHLer Stephane Richer (photo), baseball slugger Darryl Strawberry and Olympic great Clara Hughes lay themselves bare in sharing their struggles with the debilitating mental disease in the show airing Wednesday at 7 p.m. on CTV.

I watched it twice in preparation for a front-page story in the Star’s sports section on Wednesday.

I felt like they were telling my story, too, that I could totally relate to them.

Not to the Stanley Cup rings. Or the World Series title. Or the Olympic
medals.

But I’ve battled depression for most of my life.

The multi-million dollar campaign Bell is running using Hughes as a spokesperson to spark more discussion on mental health is a very important one.

It’s called “Let’s Talk” and it’s well named because talking about the problem is critical. How many people are out there staying silent about their pain? The answer is way too many.

This is a disease that affects and potentially destroys families.

Depression is insidious.

It makes you feel worthless, that you don’t deserve the compassion of even those closest to you right at the very time when you need their help and compassion more than ever. As Hughes says of her own depression in the documentary: “I felt really afraid and really alone.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is help out there. Really good help. People are way more understanding than those in the grips of the disease realize. When depression has hold of you, it feels relentless and that the mental anguish is never going to end. But when you get help, you look back on that time and can’t believe you ever felt that way.

Landsberg, whose depression is also detailed in the documentary, said he believes the willingness of successful athletes to share their stories will help de-stigmatize the disease.

“Depression is going to touch someone in some way,” he said. “You may not get it, but someone you care about will and your ability to be empathetic to them and to be supportive of them and to be encouraging of them to get the help could ultimately make the difference between happiness and sadness for them and, perhaps, life and death.”

Those who think of Strawberry in terms of all the negative headlines he generated with his off-field troubles will gain a whole new appreciation for him as a person. A lot of his problems stemmed from abuse from his father, who continually told him he would never amount to anything.

“As you lay across that bed and you have no shirt on and he’s beating the living crap out of you, you believe that,” he said in the documentary. “I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how great you become.”

Depression strips away so much from you. But you can fight it and carve out a very meaningful life.

There may not be a better face for a campaign like Bell’s than that of Hughes. She’s shared her strengths with us for so many years in the Olympic arena. Now, she’s sharing her vulnerability.

We should thank all these athletes for doing that. It’s a greater act of courage than any on the playing field.

(There will be a live chat with Michael Landsberg and Randy Starkman @ 1 p.m. Wednesday on thestar.com)

New York Toasts Giants With Ticker-Tape Parade

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Verena DoBnik, The Associated Press

(Feb 07, 2012) NEW YORK — Thousands of fans roared as
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hoisted the team's Super Bowl trophy from a glittering blue-and-white float Tuesday during a victory parade through New York City, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped should now be nicknamed the “Big Blue Apple.”

The parade set off from the southern tip of Manhattan and moved slowly north to City Hall as fans stood dressed head-to-toe in Giants gear and confetti wafted slowly down from the high-rises that line the street.

Manning, joined by coach Tom Coughlin, Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other teammates, waved and grinned from the float as a deep roar rose from the crowds.

The team was introduced with thunderous applause from the lucky 250 fans who got tickets to a ceremony at City Hall Plaza, where the Giants were honored with symbolic keys to the city. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz did his trademark salsa moves as he accepted his key.

Bloomberg asked: “Are you feeling `deja blue' all over again?” referring to the team's 2008 win against the New England Patriots. The crowd cheered.

Coughlin said the Giants were successful because they never gave up.

“The key thing was to remember this: All things are possible for those who believe,” Coughlin said. “We always believed.”

Some fans waited since 6 a.m. to catch a glimpse of their favorite players. About half of a Long Island high school class skipped school to see “a whole nation coming together in one place — this parade,” said Mike King, 16, of Wantagh, N.Y.

King and seven school friends got up at dawn, arriving by subway in lower Manhattan to join the crowds packed behind police barricades lining Broadway. He attributed the win to the stellar performance of Manning and the hold-your-breath catch by Mario Manningham that led to the game-winning drive.

“It was one small step for the Giants, and one giant leap for the fans and the nation,” King said.

Frank Capogrosso, 11, from Staten Island, with his dad and his best friend, standing at this beginning of parade route, leaning against the barricade with a grin on his face.

“This is better than TV. I love the cop cars, the toilet paper, and the ecstatic fans.” He added: I'm ecstatic. I love the Giants, I love their style: They play, they don't talk.”

The parade for the Super Bowl champions will have an estimated economic impact of up to $38-million for the city, depending on the number of spectators, Bloomberg said. As many as 1 million are expected — about a third of them from outside New York.

After the parade, the team will travel to New Jersey for a 3 p.m. rally at MetLife Stadium.

This will be the second Super Bowl championship parade for the Giants in four years. They also beat the Patriots in the NFL title game in 2008.

But it's hard to imagine a victory more exciting than the Giants' last-minute 21-17 victory over the Patriots. The hero of this year's parade undoubtedly will be Super Bowl MVP Manning. Manning and Manningham connected on the clutch play, as the receiver made the over-the-shoulder catch along the sideline.

From a Broadway high-rise older than the ticker-tape tradition, members of the law firm Kenyon & Kenyon dumped shredded paper out their windows to the spectacular view below of the lauded athletes.

Jun Kim, 28, a Korean linguist, reserved his biggest batch for Manning. “You are a star!” he yelled as the quarterback passed by. “People thought he would crumble under pressure, but he didn't. He's the best.”

New York City Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty said he expected to see about 40 tons of paper showered down. That's a lot but not one for the record books. The city threw 5,438 tons of ticker tape on returning veterans at the end of the Second World War in 1945.

Even before the parade started, city sanitation crews with hand-held vacuums were ready to suck up the piles of confetti that would rain on Broadway.

The second-highest amount of paper was thrown to honor astronaut John Glenn in 1962 — 3,474 tons. The actual ticker tape from those days has been replaced by recycled paper that's shredded into confetti.

Sanitation spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins says the department picked up 34.2 tons of paper after the Giants' last parade in 2008.

The streets Tuesday were a mass of metal police barricades, and security was tight with helicopters flying overhead and police command centers parked nearby.

Sanitation worker Joey Lobosco, 38, from Staten Island, cheered as the team passed by.

“I like the whole atmosphere here — of winning in New York — there's nothing like it. Winning in the greatest city in the world,” Lobosco said.

Mindy Forman, 53, of Yorktown, N.Y., was one of the lucky few who scored a ticket to the festivities at City Hall. She said the win was a much-needed victory at a time when many could use some cheering up. She counted herself among that group: She was laid off two weeks ago from her job as a college administrator.

“It celebrates New York,” she said. “It celebrates the city. It celebrates the state. And it gives people something to believe in in very hard times.”

Four Reasons Madonna Rocked The Super Bowl

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(February 6, 2012) Her new single Give Me All Your Luvin' is retro
bubblegum pop, its style third-generation from Toni Basil's Mickey (1982), which was already echoed in Avril Lavigne Girlfriend (2007).

But if
Madonna had her Cleopatra moments at Sunday's Super Bowl during her Roman Empire-themed halftime show, she's hardly ancient history. Four aspects of her ambitious 12-minute concert showed her taste for au courant antics.

Slacklining That wasn't a toga-wearing Richard Simmons or Will Ferrell bouncing on twangy rope as if it was a trampoline, it was Andy Lewis, a.k.a Sketchy Andy. His low-wire high jinks involved the obscure and relatively young sport of slacklining (or tricklining), apparently developed by rock climbers.

M.I.A. Madonna is no spring chicken; her bad-girl days behind her. So, hire Maya Arulpragasam - a rebel-rapper who makes Lady Gaga look like, well, Lady Madonna - to do the bird-flipping and bad-wording on prime-time TV.

Cirque du Soleil By working with the Montreal-based circus franchise, Madonna was doing much more than sending in the clowns. Cirque is behind Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, a wildly successful production. The sets and costumes were equal doses Vegas vamp and weird gladiatorial ceremony.

LMFAO The Material Girl makes no apologies for jumping on the shoulders of DJs Redfoo and SkyBlu, the electro-dance duo with the smash Sorry for Party Rocking album, even audaciously borrowing their "I'm sexy and I know it" line.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Emma-Lee’s Mood Improves On New Album

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner


(Feb 08, 2012) Toronto singer/songwriter
Emma-Lee had significantly wearied of singing slow, sad songs by the time the touring cycle in support of her 2008 debut album, Never Just a Dream, wrapped up.

Her rather more rockin’ (albeit still kinda sad) new record, Backseat Heroine (hear it all here), might come as a slight surprise to those who haven’t kept up with her live shows over the past couple of years, then, since this one should more or less obliterate the lingering “jazz-pop chanteuse” label that’s never sat all that well with Emma-Lee herself. The ballads still make an appearance from time to time, but Backseat Heroine — which features collaborations with Jill Barber, Luke Doucet and Nicole Atkins — shares more currency with rootsy Canadiana, soulful ’70s pop and occasionally old-school R&B than any torch songs you might hear late at night at the cocktail bar.

The Star spoke to Emma-Lee in advance of Thursday night’s album-release show at Lee’s Palace about her stylistic transformation, her dogged growth as a songwriter and her shady “raver” past as an anonymous dance-music vocalist.

You wrote a lot of songs for the new album, so how did you narrow them down to this particular bunch?

I think a lot of it came from just playing the songs live. Some of them worked together and some of them didn’t. Over time playing live, some songs became pairs and others became threesomes and families and others that didn’t really fit in with the set kind of fell by the wayside and became black sheep, I guess.

Do you think you might surprise some people with Backseat Heroine?

The sound is different, yes, but the major improvement, for me, is just my ability as a writer. I never really thought that I was a jazz singer to begin with, anyway, so if there’s anyone following me from the first album who really, really thought I was a jazz singer and is disappointed that I didn’t make a jazz record, I would think to myself that they were never really listening to begin with.

You have another life as a behind-the-scenes songwriter for commercial pop acts. That doesn’t strike me as the easiest gig to come by.

It’s something you have to really want to do and seek out, especially in Toronto. It’s not like Nashville. It’s not commonplace. And it’s sad because I’ve been to Nashville and it’s an inspiring place to be as a writer. I wish we had more of a scene like that here, buildings just filled with writing rooms and people are there at nine in the morning co-writing with each other.

I actually got my start doing it with my friend Karen Kosowski, one of the people who co-produced this record with me. She used to have a solo-artist career and she’s mostly abandoned that in favour of writing for other people, and I guess that kind of opened my eyes to it . . . I’ve found a way to balance both my own music and finding an outlet for all those other genres that I really, really enjoy being a part of but aren’t prepared to mix into what I do yet.

I hear a lot of classy, classic pop from the 1970s in the new record. Is your heart in another era?

My brother actually just gave me the vinyl of Carole King’s Tapestry yesterday for my birthday and it reminded me how much I absolutely adore that record. It’s just extremely well-written, well-structured songs with memorable melodies and simple lyrics that are easy to sing along to and remember. And I feel like there’s more simplicity in my new record than there was in my last record.

I think that’s what I was trying to tap into, making music that wasn’t necessarily just for music-centric people but music that a lot more people could remember and fall in love with . . . I like music that’s a little bit weird and left-of-centre, but I also love really, really catchy pop music that makes me happy. And I want to create songs that give other people the same kind of feeling those songs give me. The other thing about the way this album was written was I really wanted to write songs that would be enjoyable from the stage. I knew I’d be playing them night after night and the first album was just too sleepy. I wasn’t excited about my own material. And this one, I look down at the set list every night and I get excited about playing these songs.

You did some anonymous vocals for electronic dance records back in the day. Are we ever going to hear Emma-Lee's voice on another drum 'n' bass or house track?

Never say never.

Montreal’s Moment Factory Designed Madonna’s Super Bowl Stage

Source: www.thestar.com - By Anita Li


(Feb 06, 2012) M.I.A.’s bird-flipping aside, the most water cooler-
worthy part of Sunday night’s Super Bowl halftime show was Madonna’s performance, where the stage almost upstaged the Queen of Pop herself.

Projecting animated images of Vogue magazine, classic Hollywood stars and booming loudspeakers, the floor was a visually dynamic display upon which Madonna, joined by younger pop stars such as Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green and LMFAO, debuted her new single “Give Me All Your Luvin’” and revisited old hits “Vogue,” “Music” and “Like a Prayer.”

Designed by Moment Factory, a Montreal-based multimedia studio, the video concepts for the stage took three months to develop, according to founder and creative director Sakchin Bessette.

The studio also faced constraints, like the short length of the show and working in a stadium (as opposed to a concert arena), which forced the team of 12 to get creative.

“We had to find a solution that would be spectacular and that would fit within those parameters,” Bessette said.

There was also the added pressure of designing something eye-catching for both the 100,000 live audience members and more than 100 million television viewers watching from home.

“It’s really two very different ways of designing it,” he said, adding that the team collaborated heavily with lighting, sound and set designers.

Madonna connected with Moment Factory through the recommendation of Cirque du Soleil, for which the studio has frequently created interactive visual installations. Over several meetings, the pop star developed a clear vision for her show: active, intricate and music-driven.

“She really likes to push the boundaries and make it as much as she can. Not all artists are as involved in the work,” Bessette said. “She gets into all the little details of everything.”

Designing the stage as an interactive art piece instead of a static backdrop proved successful, with post-Super Bowl interview requests and congratulations pouring into their office, Bessette said.

“We do see our work as art,” he said. “We design public experiences, so we design stuff that’s meant to be viewed or experienced physically.”

Since 2001, Moment Factory has created installations for more than 300 events in Canada, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Its clients have included Céline Dion, Disney and Microsoft.

Madonna To Perform In 5 Canadian Cities This Summer

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(Feb 07, 2012)
Madonna has announced a world tour with five Canadian stops, including an outdoor show at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

But while artists including Paul McCartney and Celine Dion have previously given free concerts at the historic battlefield, fans will have to pay to see the Material Girl.

Local promoter Sylvain Parent-Bedard said charging admission means concert-goers won't be crammed in like “sardines” as they have been at past shows on the Plains.

“(Madonna) really wants to have a big dance party,” he said of the Sept. 1 show. “It's a big party for fans – she wanted a big party for fans.”

Tickets for the Plains of Abraham performance go on sale Feb. 17.

Madonna is also set to play the Bell Centre in Montreal on Aug. 30, Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Sept. 10 and the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sept. 12.

The final Canadian stop of the tour is Sept. 29 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Madonna's 2012 World Tour begins May 29 in Tel Aviv and includes stops in Istanbul, Brussels, Helsinki and Zurich. The tour will also visit South American and Australia.

Madonna's last tour, 2008-2009's Sticky & Sweet, grossed more than $400 million (US).

On Sunday, she was the Super Bowl halftime performer at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Grammys 2012 Smackdown: Kanye West Vs. Himself

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner


(Feb 08, 2012) Every day this week, we look at a Grammy category with
the makings of an interesting race.

Today, we delve into the
Best Rap Album category, which would appear destined to feed the already well-fed ego of infamous awards-show embarrassment Kanye West in one way or another.

BEST RAP ALBUM

NOMINEES: Jay-Z and Kanye West, Watch the Throne; Lil’ Wayne, Tha Carter IV; Lupe Fiasco, Lasers; Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday; Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

WHO WILL WIN: Jay-Z and Kanye West should have this one handed to them on a platinum plate simply in recognition of their individual statuses as two of the biggest 21st-century pop stars, hip-hop or otherwise, that America currently has to share with the civilized world. Lil’ Wayne is as huge as he’s ever been since getting out of prison, but he’s been recognized with an armload of Grammys before and Watch the Throne and its accompanying, triumphant, double-headlined arena tour marked 2011 as Jay-Z and Kanye’s year to take a joint victory lap rather than Wayne’s. Nicki Minaj has arrived as a proper force in her own right, but as an MC she’s not quite on the same skill level as these four contemporaries and she’s got nominations in the Best New Artist and Rap Performance categories available if Grammy jurists feel compelled to share the love around. Lupe Fiasco is a major talent, too, but likely far too offbeat to pull off an upset in such a high-profile forum. And in any case, if the Grammys don’t give Kanye at least one trophy, he’ll never shut up about it.

WHO SHOULD WIN: Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a runaway critical smash, but Watch the Throne was a surprisingly raging hip-hop record from a pair of superstars who could have coasted lazily through the rap equivalent of a rock ’n’ roll “supergroup” project and didn’t. Jay-Z and Kanye made a point of defending their shared throne, not just laying claim to it and coasting to another round of easy paycheques.

THE DARK HORSE: Tha Carter IV. Wayne has proven uncommonly popular with Grammy voters before and he came back hard last year with another hit. If anyone’s gonna steal this one from Kanye and Jay-Z, it’ll be him.

The Grammys air Sunday, Feb. 12 on Global at 8 p.m.

Grammys 2012: Axed Musicians Will Protest Outside Awards Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner


(Feb 08, 2012) LOS ANGELES — Angry musicians will protest outside
Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony over a decision to cut 31 ethnic and minority musical categories from the music industry’s top awards.

Organizers said on Wednesday they hoped dozens of music artists and fans of Latin jazz, gospel and blues music would join in the demonstration, and attend an alternative concert.

Some 23,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the Recording Academy reinstate Grammy awards for Native American and Hawaiian music, and reverse cuts in categories for Latin Jazz, Gospel, R&B and Blues that were axed in a major overhaul last year.

Paul Simon, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt and Bobby Sanabria are among the dozens of artists who have spoken out against the decision. Musicians say the Grammy cuts will harm their careers financially and diminish the profile of music enjoyed by minority communities.

Spokesman Robert Sax said on Wednesday that the protest would be held outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles as stars like Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys and Tony Bennett arrive to perform at the Grammy Awards show on Sunday.

The demonstrators will later celebrate the Not Those Awards All-Star Latin Jazz Jam at a Los Angeles nightclub, with performers including two time Grammy winner Oscar Hernandez, John Santos and Bobby Matos.

“We are holding this concert to remind music fans about all the great music that has been eliminated from the Grammys. To paraphrase what Frank Sinatra said at the first Grammy Awards in 1959, ‘Remember, the awards are about excellence, not popularity.’”, Latin jazz artist Matos said.

The Recording Academy announced in April that it was slashing the number of Grammy categories to 78 from 109 for the 2012 Grammy Awards, saying the cuts were necessary to maintain “the prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music.”

Rapper Kanye West leads the field of Grammy contenders with seven nominations, followed by Adele, Bruno Mars and Foo Fighters.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Timbaland, Missy Elliot to Release Solo CDs in June

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 08, 2012) *Longtime friends and collaborators Timbaland and Missy Elliot are both planning to release solo albums in June. The artists – who last worked together on the 2011 track ‘Take Ur Clothes Off’ – want to drop their forthcoming records, Timbaland’s “Shock Value III” and Missy’s “Block Party,” at the same time so they don’t move “too ahead” of each other. “Right now, we’re just preparing to get both our videos, our first singles, shot kinda at the same time,” Timbaland told MTV News. “We want to do it as a movement and spontaneously. I just don’t want to move too ahead of her, and she doesn’t want to move too ahead of me.” Missy has recently been working as a songwriter and producer for Keyshia Cole, Monica and Jazmine Sullivan, but she hasn’t released a full-length album since 2005′s “The Cookbook.” She will be featured on Timbaland’s star-studded album along with Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and Chris Brown.

Diana Ross to Be Honoured at Grammys

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 08, 2012) *After all these years of inspiring young artists, glamorous styles, and influencing lives, Diana Ross is finally going to be the recipient of the Grammy Award’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The announcement was made Tuesday that she will be honoured as part of The Supremes and as a solo artist. “Through her role as the lead voice of America’s top singing group, a solo music career that resulted in a number of signature hits, and a film and Broadway career that proved she was a multidimensional talent, Ross became a beacon of hope and possibility not just for young African-American women, but for any woman aspiring to prove her worth in a professional world stacked against her,” the Recording Academy reports. “Ross and friends Florence Ballard, Barbara Martin and Mary Wilson formed the Supremes (originally the Primettes) in the Brewster housing projects in Detroit. The group didn’t emerge as stars immediately, and after their first few mid-chart singles, Martin left. But starting with “Where Did Our Love Go?” in 1964, the Supremes would ultimately chart 12 No. 1 pop singles with Ross.” Over the years, the 67-year-old singer has been nominated 12 times, but has yet to receive the golden gramophone. But three of her songs have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Audio: Monica and Brandy Spit Hot Fire … Together … on New Ballad

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Feb 07, 2012) *Fourteen years after the formerly feuding singers released “The Boy is Mine,” Monica and Brandy have put something new on wax. But this time, the girls are confiding in one another. The 1998 hit was a testament to their’ beef with one another as they competed over the same guy. Now that they’ve grown up and seen a little heartache in their lives, they can now come together in a sisterly way. Entitled, ‘It All Belongs to Me,” the song captures the anger of two women who’ve been betrayed and hurt by their respective men. (Hear it below.) “It’s a very soulful R&B song with pop sensibilities,” producer Rico Love told Rap-Up.com. “I wanted to make sure I made it a classic R&B record, but I definitely wanted to make sure that it had enough appeal to cross over and become a Top 40 record.” Despite the industry’s innate competitive character, Brandy told Rap-Up that she’s excited to do something new with Monica. “This business is all about competition,” she said. “They forgot about what is the most important, which is two talents coming together. It’s just great to come back and do something with [Monica]. This is definitely a blessing.” If you haven’t heard the duet, here it is:


::FILM NEWS::    

Ontario Film, TV Production Has Record Year In 2011

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Feb 07, 2012) Ontario’s film and television production industry the vast majority of which is centred in Toronto — had its best year ever in 2011, setting a record for total spending of $1.26 billion.

The surge — a 31 per cent increase over 2010 — comes despite fierce global competition.

“(It’s) the strongest result since we began keeping records in 1986,” announced Karen Thorne-Stone, president and CEO of the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) on Monday. The agency oversees the industry and administers the province’s tax credit program.

“What’s even more impressive is that these results are rolling in at a time when the Canadian dollar is strong,” Thorne-Stone said.

While foreign production — mostly from the U.S. — is on the rise, with big-budget Hollywood films like the remake of Total Recall, starring Colin Farrell, coming to Toronto last year, domestic television and film production are also surging.

Foreign spending increased to $412.9 million in 2011 — up from $318.1 million a year earlier, while domestic film and television spending increased to $852.1 million in 2011 from $646.2 million in 2010, representing 70 per cent of the total.

The OMDC estimates the industry accounts for 30,000 full-time direct and spinoffs jobs.

“We’ve built a stable and growing domestic industry,” Thorne-Stone noted.

Producer Martin Katz, chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television Arts, said the quality of talent and studio space — and not solely a stable tax credit — is driving the success.

“It takes more than just a tax credit program to create an industry. The fact that Ontario ... has been at this for so long and has created such a developed infrastructure here means that we are among the most capable producers of film, television and computer-generated intellectual property in the world. That level of expertise drives more interest and more business here,” said Katz, whose company produced David Cronenberg’s newest film, the Genie-nominated A Dangerous Method.

A decade ago, the industry needed a cheap Canadian dollar to drum up business, Thorne-Stone noted.

“We have overcome that. Ontario is no longer the discount location. People are coming here because we’ve got quality, reliability and world-class talent right across the system,” she said.

Ontario Film Commissioner Donna Zuchlinski said the increase in domestic television production — shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Listener and Flashpoint that are sold around the world — is an important part of the industry’s strength.

Zuchlinski pointed out there’s an increasing number of co-productions on shows like The Tudors, The Borgias and Camelot, which may shoot overseas but do much of the production and post-production work here.

One major U.S. player, Universal TV/NBC, have recently given the industry a vote of confidence by bringing five series — including Suits, Covert Affairs and Warehouse 13 — to shoot in Toronto, Zuchlinski noted.

“It’s a total package our clients are looking for, it’s not just about the dollar, it’s not just about tax credits. It’s ‘what’s the total package that a jurisdiction can deliver to me so I can shoot confidently, with no excuses?’ That’s what the majors are looking to us for,” Zuchlinski said.

Pinewood Studios Toronto is another key part of the equation. With one of the largest sound stages in the world, it allows the city to play host to big budget films like Total Recall and Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro’s alien blockbuster, Pacific Rim, starring Ron Perlman, which is still in production, said president Blake Steels.

“We’re starting to get recognized as a great place to shoot larger films. It’s all coming together just beautifully to (attract) ... the ‘tentpoles,’” Steels noted, referring to the industry term for big-budget films.

Steels added OMDC officials regularly liaise with Pinewood executives and even hold joint meetings with Hollywood decision-makers as part of selling the city’s industry.

Quick Facts:

Total film/television spending in Ontario (Toronto is more than 90 per cent of total):

1991: Foreign $54.1 million/ domestic $174.3 million. Total: $228.4 million

1996: Foreign $252.8 million/ domestic $277.4 million. Total: $530.2 million

2001: Foreign $561.1 million/ domestic $420.5 million. Total: $981.6 million

2006: Foreign $338.7 million/ domestic $549.4 million. Total: $888.1 million

2011: Foreign $412.9 million/ domestic $852.1 million. Total: $1.265 billion

New Canadian Film Explores The Stylish Paradoxes Of Bruce Lee

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Feb 07, 2012) "Every piece of film fight choreography has been influenced by Bruce Lee, whether the people involved know it or not."

So muses author Paul Bowman in a new film about the martial-arts phenomenon that explores Lee's great influence on the culture - and his own, sometimes surprising, influences.

In I Am Bruce Lee, which has its world premiere in Vancouver on Wednesday, local documentary maker Pete McCormack (Facing Ali) lines up a star-studded list of acolytes to reflect on how Lee's influence - whether in acting (Mickey Rourke, Ed O'Neill), basketball (Kobe Bryant), dance (Jose Ruiz) or, not surprisingly, mixed martial arts (UFC world champion Jon Jones).

"Always bring it says Black Eyed Peas rapper Taboo. "That's the vibe that Bruce Lee taught me."

Even for those who have never seen one of his films, Lee is a familiar name, synonymous with the martial-arts movie. But his personal influences were wide - and sometimes contradictory.

Lee was born in 1940, in San Francisco to a Chinese father and a half-Chinese/half-Caucasian mother. Months later, his family moved to Hong Kong. There, he was exposed to war and conflict, and, later, British control. The overriding result was a feeling that others were dictating his future. He learned early the importance of self-defence and independence.

He also got an early start on screen. Beginning as a baby - and long before he discovered martial arts - Lee appeared in Hong Kong-produced films became a prolific child star (in the documentary, historian David Tadman compares him to Macaulay Culkin).

Another surprise influence? Dance: Lee was the 1957 Hong Kong cha-cha champion. "People don't know that about him," says Bryant, in the film. "His footwork was impeccable."

He has said that it was insecurity that drew him to martial arts. But Lee was also a fighter on the streets of Hong Kong and got into some trouble - with both police and gangs. Those conflicts ultimately led to his return, at age 18, to the United States. And there, beginning in Seattle, he found a new influence - a country in an era of liberation.

"He's sort of a product of the sixties in a way ... of civil rights, of women's lib coming into its own, even gay rights," McCormack said recently. "He's a product of that, but also a pioneer inside of that."

In the U.S., Lee eventually landed a role as Kato on TV's The Green Hornet in 1966. And although he tells Pierre Berton he "did a terrible job," he later graduated to film.

Work in Hollywood was drying up, however, so Lee went back to Hong Kong. There, he found the film projects that would make him a star - Fists of Fury and Way of the Dragon. Eventually it was Hollywood who came calling with Enter The Dragon.

What's remarkable is how influential Lee remains, almost 40 years after his sudden and mysterious death in Hong Kong, shortly before the world premiere of his seminal Enter the Dragon.

"Bruce really brought kung fu to film. And now you can't really watch a movie without the guy spinning and kicking and that kind of stuff, whether it's The Bourne Identity or The Matrix," says McCormack, who - along with Vancouver-based Network Productions - won the co-operation of Lee's wife, Linda Lee Cadwell, and daughter, Shannon Lee (who serves as executive producer), largely on the strength of their previous joint venture, Facing Ali, which was in the running for an Academy Award in 2010.

"Bruce Lee completely changed the way action scenes look today in cinema," author and martial artist Daniele Bolelli says in the documentary. "It's about making violence look beautiful."

Lee's influence goes beyond film. He pioneered the belief that the martial arts should not be practised in silos, but combined for maximum impact. All these years later, that philosophy helps guide what has become a huge movement.

"Bruce Lee is 100 per cent the father of mixed martial arts," Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, says in the film.

Lee was a stylish paradox: a mix of two cultures who called both America and Hong Kong home. He explored Zen Buddhism but fought for a living. He hated the idea of superstardom, but embraced what it brought: the ability to make films. He practised and taught martial arts at university with a deep-thinking passion, but always ran home to catch General Hospital.

He is many things to many people: a fighter, a charmer, a rare Asian Hollywood leading man. And this is where McCormack found his title, I Am Bruce Lee.

"When someone is so charismatic and crosses so many boundaries, we start to project ourselves onto those people and we become them. We are Bruce Lee. Whatever Bruce Lee has offers you such strength that we tend to take it on," McCormack says.

"I like Bruce Lee for the philosophy. Kids at school getting bullied like Bruce Lee 'cause he beat up people in those movies, which they dream of doing. People in martial arts like him because he's so fluid and beautiful to watch. Other people like him because he's sexy. More than most icons, we take him on for different reasons."

Still.

I Am Bruce Lee has its world premiere in Vancouver on Wednesday, followed by screenings in select U.S. cities Feb. 9 and 15 and then at select Cineplex theatres across Canada March 8 and 17.

Editor's Note: Bruce Lee and his family moved to Hong Kong in early 1941, before it was occupied by Japan. This article has been updated.

Oscars 2012: U.S. Campaign Puts A Smile On Quebec’s Monsieur Lazhar

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell


(Feb 06, 2012) Quebec’s
Monsieur Lazhar, a Best Foreign-Language Film contender at the Oscars Feb. 26, is being sold as a feel-good flick in the U.S., very different from its Canadian campaign.

Philippe Falardeau’s melancholic movie about an immigrant teacher, played by Algeria’s Mohamed Fellag, has humorous and uplifting moments. But it’s steeped in tragedy, including the suicide of a popular elementary teacher in her Montreal classroom.

You wouldn’t get that from the U.S. promotional campaign for Monsieur Lazhar, which downplays the sadness while emphasizing the film’s feel-good aspects in the hope of expanding its potential audience.

The U.S. poster shows a smiling Fellag standing amidst his happy Grade 6 students as they all clown for a class photo. It’s reminiscent of posters for The Class (2008) and The Chorus (2004), two previous school-themed contenders for Best Foreign-Language Film at the Academy Awards.

The Canadian poster depicts an apprehensive Fellag walking through a messy school corridor, lockers askew, as he approaches an open classroom door. He has a paper fish affixed to his back, the result of a student prank. His task is to help his young charges recover from their teacher’s suicide, but he has serious issues of his own to deal with.

The U.S. poster promotes the film festivals Monsieur Lazhar has played, including TIFF, where it won the 2011 prize for Best Canadian Feature.

The accentuate-the-positive theme by U.S. distributor Music Box Films also includes two carefully selected quotations from film trade journals Variety (“clear crowd-pleaser appeal in the arthouse”) and Indiewire (“intelligent, generally cheery comedy”).

In his TIFF program notes last September, programmer Martin Bilodeau described Monsieur Lazhar as a “complex character study (that) speaks of loss, innocence and imposture in an eloquent yet simple manner.”

No one from Music Box Films was available for comment, and Falardeau was similarly inaccessible.

But a quote from the writer/director posted on the U.S. distributor’s website, made following his Oscar nomination last month, suggests he’s good at adapting to different audiences and marketing strategies.

“I rejoice in the fact that such an intimate film can find its way alongside Hollywood productions, proof that there is not only one path to artistic and public recognition,” Falardeau said.

Monsieur Lazhar is scheduled to open in the U.S. in April. It’s currently playing in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Varsity Cinemas.

Falardeau: “I rejoice in the fact that such an intimate film can find its way alongside Hollywood productions, proof that there is not only one path to artistic and public recognition.”

Monsieur Lazhar opens in Toronto Jan. 27.
directed by Philippe Falardeau
starring Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart
directed by Philippe Falardeau
starring Fellag, Sophie Nélisse, Émilien Néron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart trying to help Montreal schoolchildren cope with their teacher’s suicide.

Music Box Films will release MONSIEUR LAZHAR in theaters April 2012.
For information please visit HERE
View the poster’s online premiere HERE

'Foxy' Action Queen Pam Grier Empowered By Grandfather

Source
: CTVNews.ca Staff

(Feb 02, 2012) To her loyal fans,
Pam Grier will always be Hollywood's first female action star -- and the first African-American to fill those heroic shoes.

But at 62, the ground-breaking actress now finds deeper meaning to the fame that found her thanks to career-defining roles in '70s films such as "Foxy Brown" and "Coffy."

"When I look back, I think those films and the others that followed said more about my spirit than my ability to kick the heck out of bad guys," Grier said in Toronto on Thursday to CTVNews.ca.

"I'm a child of the Women's Movement. I always believed that I could do anything. That women didn't have to be limited in any way," Grier said in Toronto on Thursday to CTVNews.ca.

Grier owes that fighting spirit, ironically, to two men: Plato and her grandfather.

"Plato once said that woman should be able to rule and be leaders. That was one of my mantras growing up as a little girl -- that, and listening to my grandfather," said Grier.

"My grandfather was always telling me ‘If the boys could hunt, I could. If the boys could fish, I could.' He planted the spirit of empowerment in me. He was the first feminist I knew."

That fighting spirit is also what Grier would like audiences to remember when she appears at Toronto's Varsity cinema at 7 p.m. on Thursday evening. In celebration of Black History Month, the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and the TD Bank Group will present director Clement Virgo in conversation with the iconic actress.

"I don't know what people will ask me. But I know this. If I can make just one person believe that they can rise above the obstacles in their lives and fulfill their dreams, I'm good with that. We all need a purpose in life. I believe that is mine," said Grier.

Like most maturing actresses, Grier's career had ups and downs over the years.

Grier's career saw a huge revival in 1997, when she starred in Quentin Tarantino's film "Jackie Brown."

Her plucky turn as a flight attendant who smuggles money from Mexico earned critics' praises and numerous nominations, including a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.

Since then, Grier has turned in other memorable performances as Kit Porter in Showtime's "The L Word" and the Tom Hank's comedy "Larry Crowne."

Grier will appear next in the crime drama "Mafia" and The Man with the Iron Fists," the forthcoming martial-arts extravaganza directed by RZA, the Wu-Tang Clan rapper turned filmmaker.

"The film industry is a business. Bottom line, they want to make money," Grier said on CTV's Canada AM on Thursday.

The question for African-Americans, according to Grier, is simple: "How do we project our history and our image and make money," she said.

Films like "The Help," which received four Oscar nominations in January, and won the Screen Actors Guild prize for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, get kudos from Grier.

"My mom and friends of her generation had a tough time watching that movie because they served people," Grier said.

"But what resonates most about that film is empowerment," she said.

"I can't say it enough. When we do all that we can to empower ourselves, whether through wonderful movies like this or our own actions, we make this world a better place."

Big Miracle Review: A Whale Of A Comic Tale

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell


Big Miracle
Starring John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore, Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, Ahmaogak Sweeney and John Pingayak. Directed by Ken Kwapis. 107 minutes. Opens Feb. 3 at major theatres. PG

(Feb 02, 2012) A movie so feel-good it cites providence in its title,
Big Miracle is like an old Disney family comedy by way of a 1980s news story.

And it is a whale of a comic tale, if also one overly crowded with characters and incidents.

Sticking to the main facts while fictionalizing many details, it tells of the October 1988 effort by northern Alaskan residents, the U.S. military and two global superpowers to rescue three whales trapped in Arctic ice.

Environmentalists recall the story as a turning point in public understanding of nature’s fragility. But broad-strokes director Ken Kwapis keeps didacticism in check, confining it to Drew Barrymore’s character: shrill Greenpeace activist Rachel Kramer, who often alienates the people she needs to win over.

These include her ex-boyfriend Adam Carlson (John Krasinski), an ambitious small-time TV reporter who has been working in Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of the U.S. He’s been trying to dig up stories that will interest people in the south, maybe even network news bosses, but he has just about run out of angles about life amongst the friendly Inupiat people.

Opportunity knocks with a hunter’s report that a family of whales — a father, mother and baby quickly named Fred, Wilma and Bamm-Bamm — have been surrounded by winter ice that arrived before these majestic creatures could migrate to warmer waters.

The whales need to surface regularly to breathe, but all they have is a rapidly closing pond not much bigger than a small swimming pool. Too large to be helicoptered to safety, they need to find a way past eight kilometres of ice to reach freedom and survival.

Inupiat whale hunters consider it a stroke of luck and an easy catch, but that’s before Carlson sounds the alarm and the world tunes in.

His reports bring the righteous Kramer and also scoop-hungry media (Kristen Bell pries and poses), PR-seeking oilmen (Ted Danson represents the 1 per cent gang), put-upon military roughnecks (Dermot Mulroney stiff-upper-lips rescue efforts) and various gawkers and hawkers, including two Minneapolis knuckleheads (Rob Riggle and James LeGros) who have MacGyvered an ice-melting device out of pool-heating equipment.

The many bit players in the film include fictional characters played by John Michael Higgins, Tim Blake Nelson and Stephen Root, and real people seen in vintage news footage: TV heads Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather and a pre-politics Sarah Palin.

The Inupiat people fare better, represented in the main by boy narrator Nathan (Ahmaogak Sweeney) and his wise grandfather Malik (John Pingayak), who bring spirit and spiritualism to the rescue efforts.

Perhaps most remarkable of all are the whales, animatronic robots that look incredibly real.

Screenwriters Jack Amiel and Michael Begler shamelessly but good-heartedly embellish the truth, no doubt egged on by Kwapis, whose lightweight TV and movie credentials include directing the rubber-faced Krasinski in episodes of The Office and the comedy trifle License to Wed.

They’re at their most outrageous in an Oval Office scene where an actor playing then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan calls then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, beginning the call with, “Gorby, it’s Ronnie.”

But Big Miracle also adeptly gets the tenor of pre-Internet times, when remote communications were a lot harder and the big TV networks determined what was news and what wasn’t.

We realize that truth of this when the first network broadcast of the whales’ plight happens not out of environmental zeal, but because, in the words of a cynical TV boss, “Brokaw’s a sucker for these stories.”

Kickstarter A Fundraising Game Changer For Artists

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chantaie Allick


(Feb 04, 2012) Toronto-based independent filmmaker
Malcolm Ingram wanted to do a movie about the famed Continental bathhouses in New York City. The problem: paying for it.

Instead of going the usual route of finding investors, applying for grants and pitching to broadcasters, he turned to the Internet. Specifically, to Kickstarter.com, a crowd-sourced fundraising site that allows artists and other creative types to make appeals for money, doled out in portions as small as $1, to finance projects.

The platform has had a huge impact on the way independent films are funded and is changing the way filmmakers connect with audiences.

Three Kickstarter-funded films are shortlisted for Academy Awards this year.

Seventeen films that premiered at last month’s Sundance Film Festival — about 10 per cent — were partly funded by Kickstarter campaigns, including the documentary Indie Game, by Canadians James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, which won an editing award and was optioned as the base for a half-hour HBO comedy series.

“This project was completely born on Kickstarter,” Swirsky said in an interview with the Star.

“I think the network that exists there is really valuable,” added Pajot.

The methodology of Kickstarter is simple: Members outline their projects with a video appeal and set a monetary goal. They then have up to 60 days to reach it.

“Kickstarter was founded on the notion that there are ideas out there, that should be able to exist in the world, that don’t have the ability to make money,” said Justin Kazmark, a communications manager for the New York-based company.

Film is the largest of the 13 different creative categories on the site, said Kazmark. Since Kickstarter’s launch in 2009, 17,000 creative projects have met their goals. Of the $130 million pledged on Kickstarter in the past three years, $45 million has gone to film projects.

Ingram credits Kickstarter for the development of his latest project. It helped him fund a trip to Australia to do an interview with Steve Ostrow, who opened the Continental Baths in the 1960s.

“It’s just a totally new age of the arts,” said Ingram, marvelling that it’s possible to raise money as long as you have some Internet savvy.

He raised $22,000 in the first campaign and is in the middle of another to pay for the final stages of the project, including an interview with Bette Midler, who was an important figure in the culture of the bathhouses. For a project with a total budget of about $100,000 to $150,000, $50,000 will have been raised through Kickstarter.

It isn’t charity, Kazmark said. It’s also not an investment or loan. (And yes, Kickstarter itself takes a 5 per cent cut of all money successfully raised.)

“It’s at the intersection of commerce and patronage,” he explained. “You get to be part of the experience and you get to join the creator on his or her journey.”

The only catch is that campaigns have to reach their goal or they don’t get anything, so goals need to be realistic.

About 45 per cent of projects on the site do meet their goals. The most successful projects create a compelling reward structure, said Kazmark. There needs to be a value exchange of some sort, even if it’s just a T-shirt or a CD of the final album for the generous donors.

Jeronimo Mazarrasa ran a successful Toronto-based Kickstarter campaign for his film The Jungle Prescription, raising more than $50,000. He said about 60 per cent of the money will go to the intended project. The other 40 per cent pays for running the campaign and making and distributing the promised swag.

Mazarrasa offered a range of prizes, depending on the funding level, from a CD for a $20 pledge, three prints from the film for $300, an associate producer credit on the film for $1,800, all the way up to a guided tour of the Amazon for $10,000 (no one took advantage of that).

“Doing a Kickstarter campaign is a full-time job,” said Ingram. “You’re walking a very fine line of getting people’s attention and harassing them.”

Toronto’s Hot Docs has picked up on the phenomenon. The annual documentary festival plans to launch its own crowd-sourced fundraising site, Doc Ignite, on Feb. 13. It will help filmmakers tap into documentary film fans for financing. The festival also has its own “curated” Kickstarter page.

The new project will be quite different from Kickstarter but based on some of the same ideas. “I love that it allows access to a place that audiences never really had participation,” said Elizabeth Radshaw, Hot Docs’ forum and market director. “It allows individuals to be active parts of creating.”

Radshaw said they want to cultivate a culture of crowd-funding in Canada.

Docs Ignite will feature one project at a time, selected by the organization, and help produce five or six films a year.

Docs Ignite, Kickstarter and similar efforts formalize what was already happening among independent filmmakers: canvassing family, friends and acquaintances to kick in a few dollars to fund a new movie. Now the audience of the eventual film is involved in that process, which changes the dynamics.

“They come for the money, but they leave with an audience,” said Kazmark.

“You’re really doing a lot of work that was traditionally done by marketing companies,” added Mazarrasa. You’re just doing it from a grassroots level long before the project exists. “It’s a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it.”

Artists using the site retain 100 per cent creative control and ownership of their ideas. In traditional funding you have to cede some of that, said Kazmark. This is even the case with grant organizations. “Generally you have to contort your ideas to fit the expectations of somebody else.” With Kickstarter, filmmakers are able to retain strong fidelity to their original conception.

“I can find new ways to make my movie and I don’t have to go talk to a bunch of people to figure out how to do it,” seconded Ingram.

“With all the changes in the industry, the traditional sources of funding are drying up,” said Mazarrasa. Innovations such as Kickstarter provide a new option.

While Ingram said he’d do it again, it won’t be anytime soon once his current drive is over. He thinks at this point he has almost tapped out his audience or the segment of it willing to throw in enough to get a project done.

There are limits to what even the Internet can do.

Some films funded on Kickstarter

The Ayahuasca Project/The Jungle Prescription

Goal:
$40,000

Raised: $53,193

Backers: 691

How they did it: A convincing reward structure: The fundraisers offered a signed copy of Gabor Maté’s most recent book at the lowest donation level of $60 and three high-quality prints from the film for $300. The highest level, $10,000, would get the backer a guided tour of the Amazon.

Continental (A Documentary)

Goal:
$20,000

Raised: $21,865

Backers: 187

How they did it: Malcolm Ingram tapped into his online network and established audience to raise funds to develop this project. He is now focused on doing the same thing for the last leg of the film.

The Defector: Escape from North Korea

Goal:
$20,000

Raised: $20,130

Backers: 174

How they did it: The filmmakers had a couple of big contributions from supporters, but were surprised by the number of new donors who kicked in during the final two days of the campaign. “We reached out to the handful of supporters who had actually messaged us, and they reached out to other people they thought might be interested in supporting the project, and a lot of contributions came in that way,” said director and producer Ann Shin.

Within Every Woman

Goal:
$50,000

Raised: $56,525

Backers: 590

How they did it: During the last 30 days of the Kickstarter campaign, the filmmakers focused on social media. They also ran fundraising events around Toronto, including talks, parties and an Epic Garage Sale, said producer Lucy L. Zhao.

Indie Game

Goal:
$35,000

Raised: $71,335

Backers: 1,596

How they did it: Research, two months of preparation and a carefully thought out pitch video, which could have been a clip from the film. The filmmakers also reached out to people in the independent game community to become advocates within the industry. James Swirsky, one of the film’s creators, said they reached the goal of their first campaign in less than two days.

FILM TIDBITS

The Bourne Legacy Trailer: Jeremy Renner Shoots To Kill Matt Damon Memories

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


(Feb 08, 2012)
The Bourne Legacy trailer drops, and in it Jeremy Renner shoots to kill off memories of Matt Damon, who has left the series after three films. Here are 5 fast thoughts: 1. Renner isn't becoming spy guy Jason Bourne, he's replacing him with a new character named Kenneth Gibson (for now). 2. The trailer's slow reveal tells us he's already more beaten-up than Bourne ever got, but once he gets going, he's as buff as James Bond. 3. "Will you give yourself up for this program?" "Yes, sir." Is this Bourne, or The Manchurian Candidate? 4. "He's Treadstone (Bourne) without the inconsistency." Is this a veiled shot against Damon? 5. Will this be the summer of the replacement superheroes? We've also just seen Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-Man. The Bourne Legacy is due in theatres Aug. 3.

::TV NEWS::    

Canadian Actress Leslie Hope Stars In The River

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Feb 06, 2012)
Leslie Hope has been sent up the river, which in this case is a good thing, since The River is the title of her new mystery thriller, debuting Tuesday at 9 p.m. in a special two-hour double episode on ABC and CTV.

It also describes its ostensible location, the Amazon River, where the TV adventurer husband of Hope’s character, played by fellow Canadian Bruce Greenwood, has mysteriously vanished. Very mysteriously. We’re talking Lost-level mystery here, complete with scary monsters and paranormal manifestations.

Except that it’s not the Amazon at all. It’s Oahu, Hawaii, which actually has no rivers. But from the right angles and with a little judicious tweaking, the location is entirely convincing.

And even if it actually was the untamed Amazon, that would suit Hope just fine. The busy expat actress — perhaps best remembered as Jack Bauer’s ill-fated wife, killed off in the closing moments of the first season of 24 — is entirely comfortable roughing it in the wild, accompanied by a camera crew (the harrowing river odyssey that The River depicts is being “filmed” as a documentary-within-the-show).

Hope’s own 2008 documentary, What I See When I Close My Eyes, which she both produced and directed, was shot on location in Cambodia.

“I couldn’t be happier,” says the avid world traveller. “(The River role) is falling really close to my own character — I mean me, Leslie. I’m playing a documentary filmmaker. I’m bossing people around. I’m wearing cargo pants and comfortable shoes.”

Hope’s latest self-produced, written and directed effort, GayKeith, is something else entirely.

The hilarious and twisted comedy short tells the story of an out-of-work actor who . . . well, you kind of have to see it. Which you can right now at www.gaykeith.com — though be warned, many will find it patently offensive.

“And I am proud to say that we’ve just been labelled ‘adult content,’” beams Hope. “I love that when you type in GayKeith on YouTube, it comes right up and all of this other freaky stuff comes right behind it.”

The award-winning film shows an assured and uniquely inventive filmmaking style. It has already gone significantly viral. And again, she says, the work is very reflective of her real sensibilities.

“Well, I like to think of myself as phenomenal and sick, and that this little movie is a true reflection of my character or at least what I think is funny,” she laughs.

“I’d just come off another job, where I was working with executives and having to answer to a series of authority (figures), and GayKeith was my reaction to (that). ‘What if I could just do whatever I wanted? What if I could just open up the window a little bit, see what’s going on in my brain?’ And out comes GayKeith.”

Nothing wrong with headlining a major network series, but Hope has high hopes for her burgeoning directing career.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff that I’m trying to cook along,” she says. “One of the projects actually is with Jason Blum, who comes from Paranormal Activity and Insidious, and is one of our producers on The River.

“So I’ve got that going, and I’ve got a little thing going on with (American cable networks) Lifetime and Hallmark . . .

“And of course GayKeith.
Everybody needs a little GayKeith.”

PAUSE FOR THE GOZ

Ryan Gosling may have been denied an Oscar nomination for his stellar work this year — including The Ides of March and Drive — but he can take some comfort that every movie he’s ever made is instantaneously available all month across the U.S. on Time Warner Cable.

Ironically, Gosling’s hometown fans — the hot young actor was born in London, Ont., and raised in Cornwall — are not able to access the exclusive on-demand service, which will cost Americans $2 to $5 (U.S.) per film.

Rapidly rising star Gosling, who currently has another four major films in various stages of production, must also be pleased that none of his early TV work, from the Mickey Mouse Club to Breaker High to Young Hercules, will be available on the channel.

IT’S A BIRD . . .

Predictably enough, the Parents Television Council has weighed in on Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show and M.I.A.’s impulsive middle-finger salute, calling it “yet another slap in the face to families.”

Forgive me, but is that even possible?

Nickelodeon Buys YTV’s Life With Boys

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar


(Feb 06, 2012) Nickelodeon has acquired Canadian teen sitcom
Life with Boys in a deal that will broadcast the show in the U.S. and across Europe.

The series, which launched in September on YTV, stars Torri Webster as 14-year-old Tess Foster, who is outnumbered at home, as she lives with her overprotective, single father and three brothers.

The series was created by Michael Poryes, who also created mega-hit Hannah Montana. He told Kidscreen magazine that he brought the show to Canadian television because it didn’t need an outrageous foundation, like a character with several identities.

“American broadcasters want a hook,” Poryes told Kidscreen about creating the project in Canada. “It gave us the freedom to try something different and to write something that relies more on dialogue and characters.”

Created by Corus Entertainment’s Nelvana, the series is often based on misunderstandings of perspectives of a young girl living in a home with several males.

The Nickelodeon deal follows a separate acquisition to air the series in the U.K., setting up Life with Boys as the next youth-focused Canadian series that could possibly make waves around the world.

Smash, Starring Debra Messing, Review: More Than A Thinking Man’s Glee

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Feb 03, 2012) “Overture, curtain, lights. This is it, the night of nights
...”

The much-anticipated
Smash officially debuts on NBC and CTV Monday night at 10. But for those who cannot wait, CTV is previewing the musical drama on its website for three days, starting today.

Smash, the singular, sensational saga of a Broadway musical in the making, will be far and away the most all-round entertaining weekly hour you are likely to spend all season.

The only problem with watching it early is that you will have to wait that much longer for Episode 2. And then Episode 3, and then the revelation that . . . ah, but that would be telling.

Smash has widely been referred to as “a thinking man’s Glee,” though I would hesitate to even put them in the same sentence.

The show casts Will & Grace’s Debra Messing, who has never been more engaging, as the frantic collaborator (with Christian Borle of Legally Blonde: The Musical) of a new stage musical based on the storied life of Marilyn Monroe. Two actresses, played by actual Broadway star Megan Hilty (Wicked, 9 to 5: The Musical) and American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee (she lost to Taylor Hicks) are vying for the role.

Jack Davenport (FlashForward, Swingtown) is all grit and grizzle as the show’s snidely cynical, Simon Cowell-esque director, with a positively regal Anjelica Huston as its “angel,” which is stage-speak for producer.

But the real-life angels here are the Emmy- and Tony Award-winning composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and Hairspray film producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.

Shaiman and Wittman’s imprint — through screen surrogates Messing and Borle — is apparent from the first, contextually tentative musical number, your classic Broadway “I Wish” ballad, belted by Marilyn-for-hire Hilty.

Then you get to see what’s ultimately in store, as Davenport-as-director is charged with full-on staging of an inspired, double-entendre song-and-dance routine celebrating baseball, referencing the Marilyn marriage to slugger Joe DiMaggio.

And herein lies the show’s initial brilliance: the rehearsal number is intricately intercut with an imagined representation of how it will eventually look in costume and onstage.

These are just a few of the pilot’s many delights, which are not by any means all musical. That’s a good thing — even the prolific Shaiman and Wittman would be hard-pressed to crank out two or three of these numbers per episode for the rest of this 15-episode half-season.

Nor is it necessary. You would be emotionally invested in these characters even if they were staging an all-mime production of Waiting for Godot.

I will not reveal more; this peek behind the curtain will suffice until that curtain rises.

Now “On with the show, this is it.”

The Voice, Blind Auditions: Review

Source: www.thestar.com - By Deb Yeo


(Feb 07, 2012) Is there anything quite as daunting for an aspiring singer as the backs of those four red chairs on
The Voice?

I was pondering that as I watched Monday’s blind audition episode. There’s no begging for second chances as the song plays out and the judges’ chairs remain motionless. The unlucky ones take their leave and save their tears for their loved ones waiting backstage.

And again, we’re not talking bad singers here since the auditioners need invites to hit The Voice stage. Among those unable to turn chairs on Monday were Neal Middleton, 33, who gave a CCRish rendition of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and was longing to support his wife and child through music; Aly Jados, who made it to Hollywood on American Idol last season; gorgeous Pamela Rose, whose pitch wasn’t good enough for the discerning Voice judges; handsome Dez Duron, 21, who skipped out on the Yale football team to audition and came oh so close; Hoja Lopez, a 25-year-old who hoped to prove size doesn’t matter but got torpedoed by her nerves on “Teenage Dream.”

Some heartbreaking stuff, I tell you.

Even some of the ones who did get chosen had to wait an agonizingly long time for a chair or two to turn. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for someone to push a button for Jamar Rogers, 29, from the Bronx. He was jamming away on “Seven Nation Army,” had the crowd eating out of his hand, but Cee Lo Green didn’t turn for ages despite his fellow coaches urging him to.

You’ll remember Jamar from Idol. He auditioned with his friend Danny Gokey in Season 8 and didn’t make it past Hollywood, tried out again in Season 9 and dropped out of the competition. We heard things about him Monday that I don’t recall hearing about on Idol, that he was once a crystal meth addict, that he was homeless for a while, that he’s HIV positive.

I was captivated by his back story, by the excitement on his face when Carson Daly hand-delivered his invitation, by his mother’s tears and by the way he bounced across the stage like he had springs in his feet after he was chosen by his idol, Cee Lo.

By the end of the two-hour episode, Cee Lo had filled three of the 12 spots on his team; Adam Levine, 3; Blake Shelton, 3; Christina Aguilera, 4.

The entertaining rivalry between the coaches continued, but they also entertained with a medley of Prince songs. Cee Lo was in head-to-toe red glitter; Christina looked like a dominatrix in a leather dress and spiked leather hat; Adam was in a tank top; and Blake just looked like Blake.

As an aside, is anybody else loving Cee Lo’s Dr. Evil-like bits, where he makes pronouncements for the camera stroking a large white cat? The man is seriously eccentric.

Back to the singing. Here’s a brief look at the contestants who joined the coaches’ teams.

The Line: Duo Hailey and Leland, who insist they’re not a romantic couple, had all four judges turn their chairs for their take on Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” Blake was the first to hit the button and was dying to work with them, but Christina reminded them “last year ... he had a (duo) and he ended up sending them home.” They picked Christina, with Leland marvelling, “It was four of the biggest names in music fighting to work with us.” Blake, in arguably the best line of the night, said, “I actually feel bad for that. I think they were fooled by flash and boobs.”

Gwen Sebastian: This 37-year-old from Hebron, North Dakota, put her desire to start a family with her drummer boyfriend on hold to give The Voice a shot. She displayed a sweet voice on Sugarland’s “Stay,” good enough to have Blake, Adam and Cee Lo turn their chairs. Blake won this one, though. “You are a great country vocalist,” he told Gwen. “If you look across this panel here, you’ll see spikes and you’ll see tattoos and things like that. I’m your country guy. I’m your man.”

Kim Yarbrough: You want to talk perseverance? Kim is 50 and she’s been singing since she was 18, supporting herself in between gigs with jobs like working in a potato chip factory and doing security for the Dave Matthews Band. But all the judges knew was that she brought a giant voice and the appropriate amount of funk and sex appeal to Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good.” Part of the joy of this show is seeing the coaches get as excited as the contestants when they find a voice they like and Adam was practically giddy when Kim picked his team over Christina’s.

Angie Johnson: She’s a 31-year-old military staff sergeant in an air force band, whose claim to fame is a video that went viral of her and the band singing “Rolling in the Deep.” That brought her to Carson Daly’s attention and to The Voice. Carson was really invested in this one, yelling, “C’mon, somebody turn your chair!” at the backstage monitor. I didn’t love her take on Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker,” but it was good enough to get Cee Lo to push the button. “Are you as beautiful as I think you are?” he asked, replacing his customary dark glasses with an even bigger pair of dark glasses. “I love a woman with guts, with power, with confidence.”

Lindsey Pavao: This 22-year-old from Sacramento, Calif., had never sang in front of more than 40 people and was understandably nervous, but Blake, Christina and Cee Lo all turned their chairs, intrigued by her Fiona Apple-like take on Trey Songz’ “Say Aah.” Cee Lo called it “probably the coolest thing that’s ever happened on the second season so far.” He and Blake fought hard, but Lindsey picked Christina’s team.

Jermaine Paul: Not many people audition with the blessing of Alicia Keys, but this 33-year-old family man has been her backup singer for years. He did a blistering version of the Avril Lavigne hit “Complicated,” but only two coaches turned their chairs, Cee Lo and Blake. Jermaine wasn’t content just to accept Cee Lo’s praises. “You said you want me on your team. Want is a cool word, need is even a better word, but I want to hear that word keep. I want to be kept,” Jermaine said. But Blake gave him the straight goods: “I think the word keep is up to you. You still got a lot of work to do.” Jermaine went with Blake, “another tall brother to another,” as he put it.

Angel Taylor: The 23-year-old from Los Angeles is the youngest of five daughters who fled their abusive father with their mom. She brought emotional resonance if not vocal purity to Adele’s “Someone Like You.” Adam, Blake and Cee Lo were all vying to recruit her. “I don’t know what I can do for you, but I’ll be damn proud to try,” Blake told her. “I do know what I can do for you. I did do well last year,” said Adam, referring to his win with Javier Colon. Angel overlooked her admitted crush on Blake to pick Adam.

The blind auditions continue Monday at 8 p.m. on CTV.

Big Bang Theory Star Johnny Galecki Savours The Ordinary

Source: www.thestar.com - By Yvonne Villarreal


(Feb 08, 2012) LOS ANGELES—
Johnny Galecki seeks to be average.

The star of The Big Bang Theory is seated outside a small Hollywood restaurant, talking about his longing to play ordinary, run-of-the mill figures rather than larger-than-life characters.

“Guys like Dustin Hoffman and Jack Lemmon have always been my leading men,” said the 36-year-old, leather jacket-clad actor. “Those are my guys. I know there’s something to be said for the leading men who veer more toward action and stuff like that: the John Waynes, the Harrison Fords and guys like them. But my acting heroes were the guys that men might not necessarily aspire to be because they already are them. That’s what (Hoffman and Lemmon) represented to me and that’s what I want to try to help carry a torch for in my career.”

The relay is in full effect. Fondly remembered for his supporting role on Roseanne as Darlene’s wishy-washy boyfriend, David, Galecki has quietly moved to the forefront as one of the stars of The Big Bang Theory, playing an average nerd named Leonard. But there’s nothing average about the CBS sitcom’s performance: the series, now in its fifth season and past the 100-episode mark, is up 17 per cent to an average of 15.7 million U.S. viewers, according to Nielsen. In recent weeks, it has even managed to beat behemoth American Idol in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

“Putting it simply: it’s amazing,” Galecki said of the gain over Idol. “It’s really shocking to me. I mean, Idol is event television, it’s not something people really TiVo. I’m not sure how we got here. I almost don’t want to question it. It only raises the bar for us. None of us feel like, ‘Oh, we can relax.’”

Besides the ratings success of Big Bang Theory, its stars have also been riding a wave of awards recognition in recent years. Jim Parsons, who plays the fussy geek Sheldon opposite Galecki in the series, is a two-time Emmy champ. And Galecki finally broke the barrier, nabbing an Emmy nomination last year and a Golden Globe nomination this year for his character, the Cal Tech professor caught up in an ongoing on-again-off-again relationship with his hot neighbour Penny (played by Kaley Cuoco).

“My 14-year-old self would tell you to (bleep) yourself if you said all this would happen,” Galecki said. At that age, the Belgian-born actor had moved to Los Angeles from Chicago, where, as a young boy, he began acting in theatre productions. Galecki and his family were set to move back to the Midwest a year later, until a last-minute role on the TV series American Dreamer sprang up.

Galecki, then 15, stayed behind on his own, living in a studio apartment in Burbank and riding a motorcycle to the studio every day.

“There was no clubbing or any nonsense like that on my part,” he continued. “I probably would have gotten into some trouble if I didn’t always have early call times. That kept me on the straight and narrow. I was all about work.”

That work ethic would get exponentially stronger when he was brought onto the fourth season of Roseanne, which was already an established powerhouse on ABC when he joined in 1992.

His former boss was impressed with him, and what was supposed to be one episode turned into many seasons. “I knew he would do well in TV, and that’s why I kept him on my show year after year,” Barr said via email. “He is very focused on succeeding and can navigate his way through Hollywood’s twists and turns.”

TV TIDBITS

Ryan Gosling Gets His Own Cable Channel

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Feb 06, 2012) It’s all
Ryan Gosling, all the time, all this month on the Time Warner Cable. Ironically, Gosling’s hometown fans — the hot young actor was born in London, Ont., and raised in Cornwall — are not able to access the exclusive On Demand-only service, which will cost Americans $2 to $5 (U.S.) per film. Gosling may have been denied an Oscar nomination for his stellar work this year — including The Ides of March and Drive — but he can take some comfort that every movie he’s ever made is now instantaneously available across the U.S. Rapidly rising star Gosling, who currently has another four major films in various stages of production, must also be pleased that none of his early TV work, from the Mickey Mouse Club to Breaker High to Young Hercules, will be available on the channel.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Stacey McKenzie: Homegrown Norm-Busting Model Flaunts Her Defiant Charisma On The Catwalk At Kuumba

Source
: www.nowmagazine.com - By Andrew Sardone; HAIR: Mikah Styles/mikahstyleswigworld.com MAKE-UP: Chantal Hubens, judyinc.com/MAC Cosmetics; Photo By David Hawe

Stacey McKenzie admits that her fashion career got off to a rocky
start.

Just a few seconds into her first strut down the runway – Jean Paul Gaultier’s Paris catwalk in 1996 – she spotted Lenny Kravitz in the audience and ditched her modelling duties to sashay over to the rock star, sit on his lap and plant a big smooch on his lips.

“You know you’re in a show, right?” asked a cool Kravitz, prompting McKenzie to make a quick return to the runway, where she wondered if she’d just ended her career as it was getting started. “What was that?” demanded Gaultier backstage later. “It was perfect! Amazing! I loved it,” gushed the designer. “That showed me right there that modelling isn’t just about my look and my body,” says McKenzie. “It’s about my personality.”

That personality pours from every inch of her 5-foot-10 frame. It makes watching her sit in the front row at a fashion show almost as much fun as seeing her work the runway. Often dressed in over-the-top looks that show lots of leg, the exaggerated, posey way McKenzie moves is upstaged only by the bold raspiness of her voice. The seasoned Canadian catwalker regularly attends Toronto Fashion Week, and doesn’t hide her appreciation when a fellow model really struts her stuff. “I love to see a model on the runway who exudes the confidence of ‘I’m the shit,’” she says. So it’s not surprising that her latest career move is hosting Walk This Way workshops, where she bolsters the self-esteem of fans – not just models – seeking a confidence boost. McKenzie brings her runway tutorial to Harbourfront Centre’s Kuumba Festival as part of its Fashion Blackout event on Saturday.

She launched the workshops after years of working in front of audiences and cameras as a model-slash-actor-slash-TV personality. McKenzie appeared alongside Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich in the model-stacked cast of 1997’s The Fifth Element and judged aspiring catwalkers on two seasons of Canada’s Next Top Model. One of the amazing things about her career is that she’s come all this way without many role models. “I never had any mentors. A lot of [models] don’t,” she says. “As the unconventional beauty who wasn’t supposed to make it [in the fashion industry], I thought it was important to put my experiences out there to help others.” Critiquing the fashion industry’s narrow idea of what models should look like drives a chunk of Kuumba’s programming. Fashion Blackout also includes a screening of Elizabeth St. Phillip’s fashion documentary The Colour Of Beauty, about Toronto model Renee Thompson’s attempt to break into the industry in New York City, and a panel discussion about the state of diversity on the runway.

McKenzie is no stranger to that ongoing debate, and has witnessed the industry’s fickle and often entirely clueless approach to black models first-hand. “I almost had a heart attack when one campaign came out,” she says, remembering the thorough retouching job. “I was completely revamped: straight nose, no freckles, small lips, super-extra-high cheekbones, smaller and more wide-set eyes, extra-straight hair. I was a straight-up white girl in that ad. “My agency had to fight for me, but there’s only so much they can do,” she says. “It’s up to me to stand up for myself.” McKenzie has been standing up for her right to be fierce since she first started flipping through fashion magazines as a six-year-old in Jamaica. After years of practice posing in front of the mirror and walking imaginary catwalks in her mom’s pumps, the 15-year-old McKenzie, then living in Toronto, crashed the casting for Ryerson’s Mass Exodus fashion show wearing a black cat suit and sky-high stilettos.

Most of the student designers didn’t give her a chance, but Joeffer Caoc, today one of the city’s biggest fashion names, took one look at McKenzie’s walk and declared, “I got dibs on her!” The path from there to Gaultier’s door was full of false starts, but McKenzie hustled, often pretending on the phone to be a Jamaican model agent to get herself appointments with reps in New York and occasionally spending a week’s worth of after-school job earnings to buy a Greyhound ticket to the Big Apple.

That paid off when she landed her first cover shoot, for New York Magazine, and made a name for herself on Paris runways. But the amount of adversity she faced prompts the question, why host workshops that encourage other young women to enter such a cutthroat industry? “At the end of the day, it’s up to the person,” she says. “But if you have a dream, why not go for it? Even if there are going to be lots of obstacles, go for it 100 per cent.” She’s had the opportunity to travel the world and collaborate with a cast of renowned creative types. Still, McKenzie wishes the industry took diversity more seriously, especially here at home. “Toronto needs to step up. We are known as a diverse city of people from all over the world, so why not put everybody in the forefront? I still have a hard time, even with all my accomplishments,” she says, getting a bit choked up. “But this is me.”

Which brings us to our photo shoot with McKenzie, where her me-ness is out full force. We’re in photographer David Hawe’s downtown studio, and there’s a wig on the makeup table. McKenzie, who’s wearing her hair in short curls, isn’t impressed. “I hate wigs,” she confesses. She’s also skeptical of a pair of black leather leggings hanging on a rack with a mix of pieces from her own wardrobe (an oversized-floral mini-dress from H&M’s Versace collection; a BCBG jacket with a massive ruffle falling over its left shoulder) and pieces by Toronto label Chine Design (see profile, this page). “People often try to make me look like a drag queen,” she says. “As a model, I don’t usually have a voice, but as a personality, I’m being myself. This is what Stacey McKenzie is about. I like my naturally curly hair. I like my cat eye [makeup] and big red lips. I like to be a little in your face.”

Some people might read the scene as a model having a diva meltdown, but that’s not the case at all. It’s just Stacey watching out for Stacey.

fashion@nowtoronto.com

Bistro 990 To Close

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish


(Feb 03, 2012) Beloved restaurant of the film crowd
Bistro 990 will be closing its doors.

Just when that will happen, or whether it will reopen at another location, remains unknown, but Kyle Kristenbrun, son of owner Tom Kristenbrun, confirmed the hot spot is shutting down.

Cresford Developments purchased the restaurant — a haunt of movie stars, politicians, journalists and professional athletes —along with a patch of vacant of land at the corner of Bay St. and Joseph St.

A 32-storey condominium project called 1 Thousand Bay will soon occupy the spot, with units already for sale.

“Yes … it’s closing,” said Kyle Kristenbrun. “It’s closing, but I don’t know when or anything else about it. It’s my father’s restaurant, he knows a lot more than I do.”

Rumours about the closure were circulating this week, with some of the restaurant’s staff speculating its final day could come as early as March.

“It will never be replaced, it was just so special,” said former Toronto Star entertainment reporter/columnist Rita Zekas, who spent countless hours there interviewing the world’s top talent.

“Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington … they’d all go because they could just be themselves. Nobody bothered then. They’d chat, read scripts over dinner. It was just a very special place.”

Zekas said the restaurant was at its zenith when the headquarters for the Toronto International Film Festival — now relocated to King and John Sts. — was nearby.

She said there was excitement, French speaking waiters, a packed “upstairs mosh pit” and scenes such as Nicole Kidman walking through the crowd — red wine in hand — with a “minder” refreshing her drink every few minutes with Perrier water

Stars the likes of Liam Neeson, Sean Connery and Mike Douglas included it as one of their favourite spots and could be seen enjoying dinners and lunches between screenings.

Zekas said Tom Kristenbrun would join in the festivities talking with producers, directors and actors and making them feel secure, safe and at home.

“I would have to tell him to go home for dinner,” she said. “I just don’t think anything will ever surpass that place … it was the place to go.”

Cresford Developments would not comment on the future of the restaurant.

Tom Kristenbrun did not respond to requests for comment.

Jason Priestley To Return To Stage In T.O. Production of Mamet's 'Race'

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

(February 2, 2012)
Jason Priestley is to step on stage for the first time in over a decade next season at Toronto's Canadian Stage.

Priestley, Victoria-born star of the acclaimed HBO Canada series Call Me Fitz who first found stardom in the original Beverley Hills 90210, will take the lead role in David Mamet's Race, the recent controversial Broadway play about a wealthy white businessman accused of raping a young black woman.

Artistic and general director Matthew Jocelyn revealed the news as he unveiled Canadian Stage's 25th anniversary season Thursday morning.

Opening the 2012-2013 programming on the Bluma Appel stage, as previously revealed in The Globe and Mail, will be the film/theatre hybrid Tear the Curtain! from Vancouver's Electric Company.

Later in the season, director Morris Panych and set designer Ken MacDonald will tackle Max Frisch's The Arsonists. Fiona Reid and the Shaw Festival's Michael Ball are set to star in this classic political parable about unreasonable accommodation, while songwriter Justin Rutledge will compose original music for the production.

Also on the main stage, Jocelyn will direct the long-awaited Toronto premiere of Canadian-American playwright Melissa James Gibson's "un-romantic comedy" This; Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shetcher will visit with his dance work Political Mother; and Canadian choreographer Marie Chouinard will be back with a new piece called The Golden Mean (Live).

The Company Theatre once again returns to Canadian Stage's Berkeley Street Theatre with a thriller called Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, the Australian writer behind last summer's Shaw Festival sensation When the Rain Stops Falling. Philip Riccio directs.

Also at the Berkeley, Calgary's acclaimed troupe the Old Trout Puppet Workshop will bring their latest, Ignorance, described as "a documentary about the evolution of happiness."

Director Chris Abraham's company Crow's Theatre will also pay a visit with a new play by I, Claudia creator Kristen Thomson called Someone Else.

And finally, after a year off, Canadian Stage's international festival will return with Spotlight on Japan, a showcase that will include performances from hip-hop dancer Hiroaki Umeda, the Android Robot Theatre, playwright Toshiki Okada and the "grande dame of butoh dance," Carlotta Ikeda.

As previously announced, Canadian Stage's 25th anniversary season will officially kick off with Richard Rose directing A Midsummer Night's Dream in High Park this summer.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Women-Friendly Video Games

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Kate Taylor

(February 4, 2012) The stereotypical video-game addict is an
adolescent boy who likes to blow things up, but the world of games is moving far beyond the first-person shooter. Here are some games with a different appeal.

CastleVille

The popular Facebook game invites players to dispel the Gloom and build a happy kingdom in a medieval setting. To do that, they must execute all sorts of practical tasks, such as constructing buildings, fetching water, and feeding animals - but may be distracted by magical occurrences. The game is made by Zynga, the San Francisco developer of several social games, including FarmVille and CityVille.

Dragon Age

Developed by BioWare in Edmonton, this dark, mythical role-playing game for consoles pits an order of Grey Wardens against an invasion of demonic creatures known as the Blight. Female players praise the great range of options when creating customized characters, as well as the strong female companions available to the player. The game allows for both gay and straight romances.

School 26

This casual game is intended for 12-to-16-year-old girls using mobile devices or PCs. The player is Kate, a new girl who has changed schools repeatedly. To stay at School 26, she must make friends and influence people through empathy, intuition and strategy, as she negotiates social hierarchies and moral dilemmas. The game is produced by Silicon Sisters in Vancouver.

Journey

The forthcoming PlayStation 3 game is from Thatgamecompany in Los Angeles, which also made Flow and Flower and is known for non-competitive games with stunning visuals. A robed player journeys through a desert and the ruins of an ancient civilization toward a mountaintop, choosing whether to help or be helped by other players online who cannot speak or text.

Smartphones Killing Demand For Point-And-Shoot Cameras

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Christina Cheddar Berk

(Jan 31, 2012) NEW YORK— This year, as I was sorting through
pictures for my annual family calendar, I noticed something. A good portion of the pictures I was using were taken not on the brand-new camera we purchased this year, but on my smartphone.

Apparently, I’m not alone. A new study from market researcher NPD confirms that consumers are now taking more than a quarter of their photos and videos on their smartphones.

The percentage of photos taken with a smartphone iPhone (or any other smartphone) rose to 27 per cent from 17 per cent last year, while the share of photos taken on any camera dropped from 52 per cent to 44 per cent.

Already this behaviour has hurt demand for camcorders and lower-end point-and-shoot cameras. According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, the point-and-shoot camera market was down 17 per cent in units and 18 per cent in dollars for the first 11 months of this year.

Sales of pocket camcorders also fell, dropping 13 per cent in units and 27 per cent in dollars while traditional flash camcorder sales declined 8 per cent in units and 10 per cent in dollars, according to NPD.

“There is no doubt that the smartphone is becoming ‘good enough’ much of the time; but thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before,” said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD, in a press release.

That’s an observation that’s not likely to surprise many people who have now grown accustomed to seeing people frequently taking pictures of their dinner or documenting every event – big or small – in great detail.

“Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments, but for important events, single-purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice.”

That may explain why there still is some growth in the camera market. Sales of cameras with a detachable lens rose 12 per cent in units and 11 per cent in dollars during the same 11-month period. These high-end cameras cost an average of $863 (U.S.).

Also popular were point-and-shoot cameras with optical zooms of 10-times or greater, which grew by 16 per cent in units and 10 per cent in dollars. Cameras in this category cost an average of $247.

These types of cameras are likely to continue to have their supporters, as photography is a popular hobby. However, with smartphone cameras getting better and better, consumers will rely on them more and more.

A lot of that has to do with convenience. Smartphones make it easier to share photos with family and friends. A few clicks and the image is posted to Facebook, emailed off to a grandparent, or published in a blog. And smartphone apps like Hipstamatic make it fun and easy to tinker with special effects on the image.

Also, smartphones are always in your pocket, allowing you to snap when the moment is right. Because you never know when you’re going to see a rainbow, stumble on a funny sign or see a FedEx guy drop your package over your fence.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Beres Hammond The Headliner for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta!

Source: St. Maarten Heineken Regatta

(February 6, 2012) Simpson Bay, St. Maarten - Are you ready for “SERIOUS FUN!”? Get ready to witness the biggest name in contemporary Reggae,
Beres Hammond, grace the Kim Sha Beach stage for the closing night of the 2012 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta!

Beres Hammond, (born Hugh Beresford Hammond, 28 August 1955, Annotto Bay, Saint Mary, Jamaica) is a World-renown reggae singer known in particular for his romantic lovers rock and soulful voice. While his career began in the 1970s, he reached his greatest success in the 1990s and continues to thrill audiences today.

When looking at Beres Hammond don’t be deceived by his cool profile. The playful smile, the unassuming demeanor, the beard and the cap and the spectacles might lull you into forgetting that you’re in the presence of an awesome musical talent, Jamaica’s greatest practicing singer/songwriter. Beres remains cool, though he knows that he’s one of a handful of people responsible for maintaining a mighty legacy of soulful reggae music—a select group of artists like Toots and Gregory, like Dennis and Bob. “Father bless me with a song,” he pleads on the last cut of his latest album, Music Is Life, “to make the whole world sing along. Regardless of the race, regardless of the taste.” For Beres the blessings just keep coming, and the world is just starting to catch on.

Over the course of a 30-year career, Beres has poured his smoky-sweet voice — an instrument of subtlety and power reminiscent of an Otis Redding or a Teddy Pendergrass — over every kind of riddim track, from the funked-up reggae jams of the fusion band Zap Pow to the lush instrumentation of his album Soul Reggae to the spare digital beat of his 1985 dancehall breakthrough “What One Dance Can Do.”

He left his fame in Jamaica for New York in 1987, after being tied up as thieves ransacked his house during a home invasion. There he recorded the Have a Nice Weekend album and the duet single "How Can We Ease the Pain" with Maxi Priest - the 2010 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta headliner.

Hammond returned briefly to Jamaica to record Putting Up Resistance, which was significantly harder than his typical ballads, produced by Tappa Zukie, which spawned the hits "Putting Up Resistance" and "Strange". He signed with Penthouse Records in 1990 and returned to Jamaica permanently to record the dancehall smash "Tempted to Touch", with producer Donovan Germain. This is perhaps his best known song in the United States and United Kingdom.

Beres started building his home studio in the early ’90s, setting the trend among successful reggae artists to take over their own production duties. But his spontaneous method of composing, and his unwillingness to compromise, made a home studio the natural choice. Beres’s home studio attracts a steady stream of Jamaica’s most talented musicians.

The ’90s proved to be Hammond’s decade, during which he blazed a trail of modern classics for a variety of producers, from the strugglers’ anthem “Putting Up Resistance” (Tappa) to lovers’ laments like “Come Back Home” (Star Trail) and “Double Trouble” (Steely & Clevie).

Now garnering interest from major studios such as Elektra Records, Hammond recorded five more albums in the 1990s as well as several compilations, establishing himself as one of the top lovers rock artists. His first album of the new millennium was 2001's Music Is Life, which featured an appearance by Wyclef Jean – the 2011 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta headliner, and contributions from Earl "Chinna" Smith and Flourgon. The album spawned several hits, including "They Gonna Talk", "Rockaway" and "Ain't It Good To Know". The 2004 release Love Has No Boundaries, had guest spots by Buju Banton and Big Youth.

In 2007 he returned to Jamaica to perform at the Opening Ceremony for the Cricket World Cup. He released yet another album in 2008, A Moment in Time, on VP Records, which featured the single "I Feel Good" and the album “Just a Man” in 2010.

One thing is for sure, even if you have never heard of Beres Hammond, you can be confident his live show will ignite the “SERIOUS FUN” vibe that has made the St Maarten Heineken Regatta World-Famous.

Join us in St. Maarten March 1-4, 2012 for the 32nd edition of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and experience Beres Hammond live in concert Sunday March 4

All the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta parties are free and open to the public. Food and drinks are available each night. Secure Safe Parking is available Sunday March 4th at Kim Sha Beach and Port de Plaisance.

For full information on the 2012 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta, including entry information, the Notice of Race, photos, videos, party and band information, and much, much more, visit www.heinekenregatta.com.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canadian Hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep Ready To Roll After Pregnant Pause

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman


(Feb 06, 2012)
Priscilla Lopes-Schliep pats her flat belly to indicate all is right in her world as she prepares for the 2012 London Olympics.

Five months before, baby Nataliya was nestled in there.

Now, the Whitby native’s abs are well on their way to being a six-pack again.

“I already have these four back, just working on the bottom two,” she laughed.

Lopes-Schliep joined with fellow hurdlers
Perdita Felicien and Phylicia George to help launch the first-ever national high school track and field meet. Plans were unveiled Monday for the top 312 track and field athletes across Canada to compete on May 12 at Varsity Stadium in the Nike High School Grand Prix.

The hurdling trio knows all about heated competition. Their event is by far the most competitive in Canada, as five athletes — the other two are Nikkita Holder and Angela Whyte — are top-notch international competitors. The problem is that there are only three Olympic berths.

The women’s 100-metre hurdles at the Olympic trials this summer in Calgary promises to be a barnburner.

“I know a lot of people are excited to see that showdown,” said George, of Markham. “It makes you hungry and it makes you work hard in practice every day, because you know it’s not going to be easy to get there.”

George credits Lopes-Schliep and Felicien for spurring more young athletes to venture into sprint hurdling because of their success. Lopes-Schliep won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, silver at the 2009 worlds and was world ranked No. 1 in 2010. Felicien won the world title in 2003, world indoor in 2004 and captured silver at the 2007 worlds.

“It makes me excited to know the event has come this far and I was one of the early birds,” said Felicien, 31, from Pickering. “The lifespan of an elite hurdler doesn’t usually go as long as it has with me — eight years. That excites me. I’m not ready to be booted out yet. I’m not ready to be shown the door. And I’m going to work my tail off to make sure that it goes my way.”

Lopes-Schliep has the same mindset. With George and Holder in the same Elite Edge track club under hurdles guru Anthony McCleary, she doesn’t have to go far to get some extra incentive.

“Basically, to have that kind of push and drive, it’s phenomenal because it’s a big year and I really, really want to be back,” she said. “I’m not just saying it; I’d love to be back and I want to be on the podium.”

She wants the top rung of the podium, too, and chooses to see her situation as a big advantage.

“I have all those hormones racing through my body from pregnancy — take advantage of it, right, for the training and everything,” she said. “Training’s going really well. Granted, I still have a little bit to go. But Anthony said I’m ahead of where he thought I would be. I’ll take that. That’s exciting.”

Little Nataliya is already becoming something of a world traveller, having made the trip down to St. Kitts twice for training camps already. Lopes-Schliep admits it can be tough at times to juggle everything.

“It was a little harder than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “I’m not going to lie. I thought I would get more rest.”

It’s all worth it, she says.

“She is the happiest baby. Whenever we come in, big smiles. It melts my heart.”

Canadian Skateboarder Hoffart Living The Dream In California

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Mark Lamport-Stokes, Reuters

(Feb. 7, 2012) Ever since
Jordan Hoffart decided to turn his back on the seemingly incessant rain of his native Vancouver, he has been living his dream as a professional skateboarder in the perpetual sunshine of southern California.

The 27-year-old Canadian, who briefly worked in construction and also as a stunt man in the movie industry to help pay off a mortgage, is now able to twin his ideal career with a near-perfect lifestyle.

Whether he is competing on the professional circuit, filming video footage for one of his brand sponsors, giving advice to up-and-coming skateboarders or simply trying out a new trick, he is exactly where he wants to be.

“Eat, sleep and skate, it is just how I pictured it,” Hoffart, who has lived full-time in the United States since early 2009, told Reuters. “You get this feeling when you skate, a sense of freedom to create and do whatever you want. It’s like a thrill.

“When I first stepped on a board, it just struck me as very intriguing. It was the only thing that held my attention long enough for me to progress at something. And now here I am, living the dream.

“I believe San Diego has the best weather in the world. It’s sunny and 80 degrees every day. I was miserable working up there in Vancouver and sick of the rain.”

Hoffart, who is renowned for his “Big Spin Heel Flip” where he blunt slides down a handrail, has excelled in competition but he is happiest when exploring the more artistic side of skateboarding.

“My priority is to keep it interesting, new and fun as opposed to being competitive and making a lot more money,” said the Canadian, who played a minor role as a vampire skater in the film “Blade: Trinity,” which starred Wesley Snipes.

“I love doing all the contests but to win, you either have to be a freak of nature or you have to really concentrate on the contest season, concentrate on those 10 or 12 tricks you have and go to the park every day and just repetitively do them over and over and over.

“I don’t think I have the attention span to do those same tricks 100 times every day. I’d rather just get a normal job,” Hoffart added with a broad grin.

Asked how he developed new skateboarding tricks, Hoffart replied: “A lot of the time it will be through inspiration from skating at a new spot.”

“Other times, you will end up skating that spot and maybe by accident you will slip out of the trick you are trying and land into something else and think: ‘Wow, I didn’t even think of that.” Then it spirals into a whole other trick.

“When you skate with new people and see how they skate spots differently from you and what they think of, you can also get a bunch of inspiration.”

Born in Maple Ridge, British Columbia, where he was introduced to skateboarding at the age of six by his freestyle skating uncle, Hoffart loves passing on tips to his younger fans.

“When we hold demos for the kids and have product give-aways, that’s my chance to get some one-on-one face time with the kids and answer any question that they might have,” he said.

“Many of them are aspiring to be in my position so that’s when I find I have the most impact. Kids want to relate to the pros, or feel like they are part of what you have going on.”

Hoffart, who competes regularly in the United States on the Dew Tour and the Maloof Money Cup, has set his sights on being able to keep skating well into his 40s.

“Hopefully I am still skating and my body is in good enough shape,” he said. “It would be nice to keep on travelling and spreading the good news about skating because I think it’s a pretty amazing feeling.

“I would definitely like other kids to be able to share that feeling and grow up having that because when all else fails, you can just roll down the street on your board and kind of forget about it all.”

Hoffart has been especially inspired by American Tony Hawk, who helped to transform skateboarding from a gritty street sport into a multibillion-dollar industry while winning nine X Games gold medals.

“Tony Hawk has just released a new 2012 video part and he is 43,” Hoffart said. “It’s incredible to see him being still able to do all those tricks at that age. It just inspires me to keep going.

“People ask: ‘How long have you got?’ And they think you will have to stop at 30 or whatever but skateboarders keep defying reality by pushing the limit. I’d like to be able to jump on that train and show people who otherwise have that doubt about the longevity of this career.”

Kobe Bryant Passes Shaq On All-Time Scoring List In Loss To 76ers

Source: www.eurweb.com - Dan Gelston

(Feb 07, 2012) Lou Williams nailed the go-ahead three-pointer, scored 14 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and spoiled Kobe Bryant’s record-setting night while leading the Philadelphia 76ers to 95-90 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

With “Beat L.A.!” echoing through a second straight sellout crowd, Williams hit the tying jumper, then followed with the three for a 91-88 lead. He hit another floater to make it 93-88, part of a fantastic fourth that saw him hold off Bryant and help the Sixers improve to 13-3 at home.

Bryant scored 24 of his 28 points in the first half. He passed former teammate Shaquille O’Neal and moved into fifth place on the NBA’s career scoring list. Bryant got 24 points in a hurry to pass O’Neal, but stumbled down the stretch and missed nine of his 10 shots in the fourth.

Andrew Bynum had 20 points and 20 rebounds for the Lakers. Pau Gasol had 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The Sixers went 3-1 last week against a fierce lineup of Orlando, Chicago, Miami (the loss) and Atlanta. It’s more of the same this week: San Antonio is here Wednesday and the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

The Sixers have proven they can handle the rugged schedule.

They committed only four turnovers, a minuscule number that was enough to make up for getting pounded on the boards. Led by Bynum and Gasol, the Lakers outrebounded Philadelphia 55-30.

Williams, one of the top sixth men in the NBA, has never been afraid to take the clutch shot. While the Sixers have soared in the East this season with a team-oriented approach, Williams is the one the Sixers want with the ball and the game on the line.

Lakers coach Mike Brown served a one-game suspension for making contact with a game official and failure to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection in Saturday’s game. He also was fined $25,000 (U.S.). John Keuster filled in for Brown.

Bryant started like a shooter determined to score 50.

His first bucket saw the ball take a few whirls around the rim before plopping through the net. Bryant buried a three, then backed down Evan Turner and used a soft touch off a spin move for seven quick points.

He stared down Andre Iguodala for a three. Bryant nailed two more three-pointers – each one drawing more boos than the last – and had 22 points in the second quarter.

For the record setter, Bryant cut toward the top of the three-point arc, took as a fast feed from Matt Barnes and hit the 23-footer.

Originally called a three, Bryant had his foot on the line. Three points or two, it was enough to pass O’Neal.

Bryant went 8 for 14 from the floor and made 4 of 6 threes in the first half to help the Lakers lead 50-46 at the break.

He went into hibernation until an up-and-under bucket late in the third pulled the Lakers to 63-61.

O’Neal and Bryant often clashed, even while leading the Lakers to NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. O’Neal won an NBA championship with Miami in 2006 to briefly edge Bryant in total championships. Under coach Phil Jackson, Bryant won consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, and had long ago cemented his spot as one of the NBA’s all-time greats.

Kobe already had more championship rings than Shaq. He has more points, too.

The Sixers failed to acknowledge the special achievement.

Bryant, who spent eight years of his childhood in Italy before returning to the area to attend high school, had already been the youngest player in NBA history to reach 28,000 points.

Bryant led Lower Merion to a state championship in 1996 and still makes visits and donations to the school.

The relationship between Philly fans and Bryant has been strained since the 2001 NBA finals against the Sixers, when he proclaimed he was “coming to Philly to cut their hearts out.” That began an unforgiving attitude from Sixers fanatics that continues to this day.

When commissioner David Stern presented Bryant with the All-Star game MVP trophy in 2002 in Philadelphia, the boos were long and loud, and he later admitted he was hurt.

He now feeds off Philadelphia’s official sound and delights in upsetting the home crowd.

It just wasn’t enough to upset the 76ers.

Notes: 76ers F Elton Brand sat out with a sprained right thumb. Lavoy Allen got the start. ... Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain are ahead of Bryant on the scoring list. ... The Sixers 14 rebounds in the first half was a season low.