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January 19, 2012

Black History Month is just around the corner so look out for some HOT upcoming events in the next couple of weeks.  I think that you'll be excited about them so stay tuned!

In the meantime, my friend Norma Pasquale from
RefreshMedSpa by Norma offers a special discount at her spa in Yorkville EXCLUSIVELY for my readers!  This is an exciting offer, not to mention that I fully recommend her, so don't miss this opportunity to save and refresh your look!

This week's news features the news that aboriginals are front and centre in the new series,
8th Fire as well are part of the focus in celebrating Women in Sport featuring the trailblazer boxer Mary Spencer; in celebration of Martin Luther King Day, here are some excerpts from one of his most famous speeches; scoop on both the upcoming Genie Awards and the Grammys, hosted by LL Cool J; and and so much more!  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

 Don't forget to check out the new section this week for those in the GTA that includes
new movie listings, compliments of toronto.com!

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly.


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CBC Series 8th Fire Aims To Dispel Native Stereotypes

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Jan 17, 2012)
Aboriginal Canadians do indeed pay taxes. The majority of them no longer live on reserves. They’re also the fastest growing community in the country.

Those are a few of the facts contained in the CBC’s new four-part series
8th Fire, which debuted Jan. 12 (you can watch the first episode at http://bit.ly/yEUZOw). It aims to dispel many of the misconceptions and negative stereotypes held about First Nations people by average Canadians.

The series argues persuasively that now is the time to rethink and improve the relationship between natives and mainstream society, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes sound economic sense.

“For so long, we’ve been conditioned to believe that what’s in the interests of native people and what’s in the interest of the rest of Canada are mutually exclusive. That’s a way of thinking that’s in the past,” said series host Wab Kinew, an Ojibway born in northern Ontario who is a CBC News reporter based in Winnipeg.

“Today our needs line up. You have a growing aboriginal population, particularly in the West, where there are tons of resources that are driving the economy in many ways. And you have this aboriginal population that wants to work, that wants a better life for themselves and for their children,” Kinew said in an interview.

The series offers perspectives from a range of articulate and engaging native voices — educators, doctors, community activists, native elders and young artists — all of whom, through their successes, set examples of hope for their communities and challenge outdated thinking about Canada’s native peoples.

No one can reasonably deny the damage done to First Nations communities in the five centuries since the arrival of the first European colonizers to North America.

What may come as a shock, as viewers will learn, is how recently many of the outrages occurred.

The last residential school in Canada — where native children were sent for generations as a way to integrate them into white society — didn’t close until 1996. The adoption of native children into white families, against the will of their families, haunts many of them to this day. Natives on reserves didn’t legally get the right to vote until 1960.

“It’s just that we’re not in this country taught our own history. We’re not always presented a clear picture when we talk about these issues in the public discourse,” Kinew said. “What I’m trying to do with this series is I want to fill in some of the missing links for people who maybe didn’t hear that, yeah, aboriginal people do pay taxes, they live and work off the reserve, which the majority now do.”

That lack of knowledge may explain why so many Canadians retain unenlightened attitudes about First Nations peoples, he said.

“I hear tons of racism, I hear tons of misconceptions about aboriginal people, but I try not to let it discourage me. To me, it’s just a question of knowledge and education. I believe, at their heart, Canadians are good people, they have open minds and open hearts and, presented with the truth, they do want to do the right thing.”

The Substance of a Speech, the Hope of a Dream

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 16, 2012) *The words of  Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, infused hope and inspiration to the mixed masses in a most profound way. Now almost 50 years later the profundity of that speech remains a brilliant evergreen benchmark as we look around and still see the “flames of withering injustice,” “the manacles of segregation,” “and the chains of discrimination” even today.

Unfortunately, since 1963 the milestones of the road to equality – from the passing of the Civil Rights Act, to the election of a black president – have done little to bridge the racial divide. Sure we can point to some gains in the black culture like in sports, entertainment, politics, etc., but when it comes right down to it, it’s still “us” and “them,” not “we the people.”

Dr. King’s speech said in part, “…Now is the time to make real the
promises of democracy; now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice; now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now is the time to make justice a reality for all God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”

What a difference it would make if we could funnel and re-direct all the negative energy demonstrated by some on Capitol Hill and use it for a higher purpose. Many of our so-called leaders spin the rhetoric for democracy, but their objective is far from it. One of the definitions of democracy is, “The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.” It’s been said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

There is still so much hatred and prejudice prevalent today. There is
even unprecedented blatant disrespect for the highest office in the land – the presidency – just because of skin color! If the disenchantment looms there, what does that say for the rank and file? How can some people be so blinded by prejudice while claiming to have so much faith in God? Do they think God only sees things the way they do?

To Black America Dr. King said, “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plain of dignity and discipline.”  The Staple Singers once recorded a song called “Respect Yourself” that said “If you disrespect everybody that you run into, how in the world do you think anybody’s gonna respect you?” Those are powerful messages for us all.

As a reminder, although Dr. King is remembered as the champion of  the civil rights movement, he was first and foremost a minister of the gospel as evidenced in his 1963 speech. The movement was rooted in the gospel of truth, righteousness, and dignity; and there is no dignity in the behavior of some who for their own agendas, wish to jump on board the civil rights bandwagon. Dr. King appealed to the spirit of God in mankind. I urge those who have read his speech to read it again, and those who have not to do so for the first time. Dr. King’s legacy is like the “hope of a tree” as mentioned in the Book of Job chapter 14 [KJV]. There it says, “If  it [the tree] be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.”

As we celebrate Dr. King’s birthday, let us pause and remember what he stood for. Let’s keep hope alive! The hope he offered is the substance of our faith and the substance of his dream!

Aboriginal Boxer Named One Of 20 Most Influential Women In Sport

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(Jan 18, 2012) The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) has named 20 women in its Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity list for 2011, including trailblazing boxer Mary Spencer of Wiarton, Ont., an aboriginal woman who is expected to win an Olympic medal as women's boxing makes an appearance at the London Games this summer.

Spencer moved up from last year's Ones to Watch list issued by CAAWS.

Among other names listed as influential women this year are Anne Merklinger, the former top curler who was in charge of Canadian canoe-kayak sport when it rose to be an Olympic power and now director of summer sport for Own the Podium. Also included is federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq who is from Nunavut.

"CAAWS publishes its Most Influential Women list to celebrate and honour Canadian women who are influencing change in their area of expertise of sport and physical activity," said CAAWS Executive Director Karin Lofstrom of Ottawa. "These leaders share a passion for sport and physical activity - and use it to improve the lives of others. These women are game changers who motivate others to become leaders."

The CAAWS list - which has been published for 11 years - includes athletes, officials, coaches, politicians, professors, administrators and volunteers. Some women have been named to the list several times, such as Paralympian and coach Chantal Petitclerc; and some are new to the list like Olympic boxer Spencer, and Karen Rackel, who is the first woman president of the Royal Canadian Golf Association in its 116-year-old history.

Nine women are first-timers on the list, while Olympian Beckie Scott and Paralympic wheelchair racing legend Petitclerc have each been named six times, and Olympian Charmaine Crooks has appeared a record seven times.

The CAAWS Most Influential Women For 2011

(in alphabetical order)

Dr Jodi Abbott, Official and volunteer with Skate Canada, (Edmonton, Alberta)

Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, (Gjoa Haven and Iqaluit, Nunavut)

Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO, Women's Tennis Association, (St Petersburg, Florida/Welland, Ontario)

Caroline Assalian, Chief Sport Officer, Canadian Olympic Committee, (Ottawa, Ontario)

Claire Buffone-Blair, President and CEO, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, (Calgary, AB)

Canadian Women's National Soccer Team (2011 team)

Charmaine Crooks, Board of Directors, Canadian Olympic Committee, (Vancouver, BC)

Dr. Wendy Frisby, Chair of Women's and Gender Studies, University of British Columbia, (Vancouver, BC)

Wendy Gittens, Executive Director, Wheelchair Basketball Canada, (Ottawa, Ontario)

Andrea Grantham, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of Physical and Health Education Canada, (Ottawa, Ontario)

Dr. Vicki Harber, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, (Edmonton, Alberta)

Lindsay Hugenholtz, Deputy CEO, 2011 Canada Winter Games, (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Clara Hughes, Olympian and advocate, (Winnipeg, Manitoba / Glenn Sutton, Quebec)

Élaine Lauzon, Director General, Égale Action, (Montreal, Québec)

Anne Merklinger, Director Summer Sports, Own the Podium, (Ottawa, Ontario)

Kelly Murumets, President and CEO, ParticipACTION, (Toronto, Ontario)

Chantal Petitclerc, Spokesperson, volunteer and coach, (Montréal, Québec)

Karen Rackel, President of the Royal Canadian Golf Association, (Edmonton, Alberta)

Beckie Scott, Olympian and advocate, (Vermillion, Alberta)

Mary Spencer, Athlete and volunteer, (Windsor, Ontario)

CAAWS also nominates emerging leaders as Ones to Watch. The two outstanding women selected for 2011 are:

Andrea Carey, Director of Operations & Community Engagement, Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (Victoria, British Columbia); and Alexandra Orlando, Marketing Associate, Toronto 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games Organizing Committee (Toronto, Ontario). We look forward to following their careers in sport and physical activity. Boxer Spencer was on the Ones to Watch list for 2010.

‘Café De Flore’, ‘A Dangerous Method’ Lead Genie Awards Race

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Jan 17, 2012) The story of the love between a man and a woman and
a mother and son, and a drama about the birth of psychiatry are neck-and-neck in the Genie Awards race.

Jean-Marc Vallee’s Café de Flore (now showing in Toronto at the Cumberland and The Fox) netted 13 nominations, including Best Motion Picture, while David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (opened in theatres across Canada on Jan. 13) had 11 nominations, also including Best Motion Picture.

Both were also nominated for Achievement in Direction.

The 32nd Genie Award nominations for the best in Canadian film were announced in Toronto Tuesday morning.

Rounding out the Best Picture race is Canada’s entry in this year’s Oscar race, Monsieur Lazhar (opening in Toronto and Vancouver on Jan. 27), the Quebec comedy Starbuck and drama The Whistleblower.

Monsieur Lazhar director Philippe Falardeau, The Bang Bang Club’s Steven Silver and The Whistleblower’s Larysa Kondracki were also nominated for Achievement in Direction.

The Bang Bang Club¸ Starbuck and Daydream Nation are currently available on DVD, while The Whistleblower will be available on DVD and Rogers on Demand on Jan. 24.

The Genie Awards will be broadcast March 8 at 8 p.m. on CBC television.

Helga Stephenson, interim CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television called 2011 “truly a vintage year for Canadian film.

“Between our master filmmakers and a whole bunch of new filmmakers that are coming on stream, there’s fantastic talent and it’s obviously a fantastic beacon for the future. We’re going to have great films for a long time to come,” Stephenson said.

Martin Katz, producer of A Dangerous Method, expressed his pleasure at the film’s 11 nominations.

“We’re delighted that in every category of craft, the film’s been recognized by the Genies as it has ... around the world,” Katz said.

“I think it’s a sign of maturity that so many international stars are ready to participate in (Canadian) films. It’s only good news that there are brilliant international stars who are participating (in works) written, directed and created by Canadians. And I think it’s great for Canadian actors to get a chance to play with those people,” Katz said.

Katz called the calibre of films in 2011 “a great testament to the strength of the industry now.”

Actor Kevin Durand, who was nominated for best supporting actor for his performance in Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster (opening spring 2012) as “the greatest honour that I’ve received so far and I’m so thankful for it and humbled by it.

“In terms of Canadian film, I think we’re in such a great spot. So many established filmmakers and upcoming filmmakers are really stepping out to the world and making film that’s resonating on a global stage. So it’s a really exciting time and exciting to be part of that,” Durand said.

Other nominees currently available on DVD or iTunes include Snow & Ashes, BumRush, Jaloux, Marecages/Wetlands, Oliver Sherman and The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom. Afghan Luke will be available on DVD on Jan. 23.

The nominees:

Best picture: A Dangerous Method, Cafe de Flore, Monsieur Lazhar, Starbuck, The Whistleblower.

Best director: David Cronenberg, A Dangerous Method; Steven Silver, The Bang Bang Club; Jean-Marc Vallee, Cafe de Flore; Philippe Falardeau, Monsieur Lazhar; Larysa Kondracki, The Whistleblower.

Best actor: Mohamed Fellag, Monsieur Lazhar; Garret Dillahunt, Oliver Sherman; Michael Fassbender, A Dangerous Method; Patrick Huard, Starbuck; and Scott Speedman, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster.

Best supporting actor: Antoine Bertrand, Starbuck; Kevin Durand, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster; Marin Gerrier, Café de Flore; Taylor Kitsch, The Bang Bang Club; Viggo Mortensen A Dangerous Method.

Best actress: Catherine de Lean, Nuit #1; Pascale Montpetit, The Girl in the White Coat; Vanessa Paradis, Café de Flore; Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower; Michelle Williams, Take This Waltz.

Best supporting actress: Roxana Condurache, The Whistleblower; Helene Florent, Café de Flore; Julie LeBreton, Starbuck; Sophie Nelisse, Monsieur Lazhar; Charlotte Sullivan, Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster.

Best original screenplay: Anne Emond, Nuit #1; Eilis Kirwan, Larysa Kondracki, The Whistleblower; Ken Scott, Martin Petit Starbuck; Jean-Marc Vallee, Café de Flore; Ryan Ward, Matthew Heiti, Son of the Sunshine.

Best adapted screenplay: Philippe Falardeau, Monsieur Lazhar; Ryan Redford, Oliver Sherman; David Shamoon, In Darkness; Steven Silver, The Bang Bang Club.

Best feature length documentary: Beauty Day, Family Portrait In Black and White, The Guantanamo Trap, At Night, They Dance, Wiebo’s War.

Grammys 2012: LL Cool J To Be Show’s First Host In 7 Years

Source: www.thestar.com - By Associated Press

(Jan 18, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — After seven years with a no-host
format, the Grammys will have an emcee — LL Cool J.

The Grammy-winning rapper and actor says the Feb. 12 broadcast is “gonna be a great night” and says his hosting duties are a dream come true.

The Recording Academy has already named some performers — the Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Jason Aldean.

While it will be LL Cool J’s first time hosting the Grammys, he has hosted the live Grammy nominations concert since it began in 2008.

The Grammys will be broadcast on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The rap legend is a star on the network’s NCIS: Los Angeles.

The Recording Academy seems to have a thing for rappers-turned-actors. The last host of the Grammys was Queen Latifah.


Colleen Brown's Latest CD Is A Declaration Of Independence

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

(Jan 17, 2012) At the end of a prairie winter, the crusted old snow seems to recede like the latest ice age, and the dirt underneath shows through. It can be a bit startling to see how raw the earth looks when it has been out of sight for a few months, but you know that that muck is where the life is.

That natural sequence is a pretty good metaphor for what happened to
Colleen Brown over a year or so. The Alberta singer-songwriter realized that much of what she took for the whole of life was happening up on the snowdrifts, and when those started to clear away, the mucky solid ground came up under her feet.

Dirt is the title of her latest album, and she's not shy about connecting the dots between the songs and her life. The lyrics are preceded in the CD booklet by a short written account of what was happening in her life that needed to be sung about in those lyrics and that music.

You don't need to read the notes to perceive the good bones in Brown's songs, or to appreciate her fluid, powerful voice. She's one of the best singers in Canadian pop, and a superb maker of music for her own voice. Her talents as singer, writer and instrumentalist - she's also terrific on keyboards - are well known in Alberta, where she performed with two bands (the Kit Kat Club and the Secretaries) before striking out her own.

Dirt is a declaration of hard-won independence, from some kinds of relationships and from many of the expectations Brown absorbed while growing up. She was a good Catholic girl from a big family, an overachiever who aimed to please, and it took her years to discover how punishing it could be to play that role as an adult.

"A lot of my relationships were failing and being really hurtful to me, because I was trying to be this perfect, good woman," she says.

When she started to question that goal, her perspective changed radically. The CD cover visualizes the change: It shows Brown in a pretty dress and jewellery, kneeling in the dirt, her legs and arms grimy. "I like the idea of this woman dressed up pretty, falling into a normal social profile of a good, respectable attractive woman, and then something occurs that allows her go back into this liberated animalistic state," she says. "This woman doesn't care how she's perceived anymore."

Growing up in Lloydminster, a town right on the boundary between Alberta and Saskatchewan, Brown was one of those kids whose every moment was booked for some kind of extracurricular activity: ballet, piano, crafts, singing in church or in school musicals. When she was done with high school, she veered away from teachers college (her mother's preference) and studied music at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton.

She learned much there that she had to unlearn later, she says, but she got a lot of technical grounding, and discovered a different kind of musical community, which made its own music and played in bars. She waited on tables, performed a lot of shows and conquered her stage fright. She wrote and recorded an excellent solo debut album, Foot in Heart, that singer-songwriter Emm Gryner heard and relaunched on her Dead Daisy label in 2009. Dirt is an independent release - incredibly, Brown is still not signed to a label.

Her variable pop idiom has room for a bit of R&B and rock, and has a pleasant retro feeling to it. Distinctive as they are, her songs usually connect in some way with the best radio pop of the sixties and seventies. Her voice has a pure soaring quality that at times recalls the young Joni Mitchell or Anne Murray. Still, her music can be a bit hard to place in the current scene, which may be a hindrance or a virtue.

Dirt was obviously a record that had to be made, for reasons that weren't just about music. Brown talks like an explorer who still has other destinations in sight, though she is happy to have reached a place where she feels less swayed by illusory goals and unsustainable expectations.

"I think my dad was a little put off by how personal the record is," she says. "He said something like, 'You sure are brave for putting this out like that.' I'm grateful that that was his response, that I shouldn't be embarrassed by my emotions and this struggle."

You can hear the struggle in the lyrics, but not in the songs. They come out smooth and strong, like a natural process that can't be restrained, like something that heals even as it measures the wound.

Colleen Brown performs at Hamilton's This Ain't Hollywood on Jan. 19, the Dakota Tavern in Toronto on Jan. 20, Jimmy Jazz in Guelph on Feb. 2, London Music Club in London, Ont., on Feb. 3 and Ottawa's Elmdale House Tavern on Feb. 8. For western tour dates in March and April, check colleenbrownmusic.com. [http://colleenbrownmusic.com]

Toronto Group Azari & III Reportedly Tapped Open For Madonna On Next Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Jan 16, 2012) The Sun newspaper in the U.K. is reporting that Toronto dance music quartet
Azari & III will be the opening act for Madonna’s on her next tour.

A spokesperson for the group’s management said they “cannot confirm or deny the rumours about the group and Madonna.” The British tabloids are notorious for reporting news that is not always true.

That said, the group is definitely blowing up in Europe, garnering a much higher profile than in North America, and even in their home city.

The four-person group is made up of producers Dinamo Azari and Alixander III, and fronted by singers Starving Yet Full and Fritz Helder. The group has been together since 2008, but all of the members have performed in other bands over for years. Azari & III released its self-titled album last year to good reviews, and ending up on Spin’s list of the Top 50 albums of 2011.

The group’s music has a retro feel, blending classic house sounds with dance-pop hooks. The single “Hungry for the Power” is charting well all over the world. It was named influential BBC DJ Pete Tong’s essential tune of 2011.

The group’s producers also just recorded a two-hour Essential Mix for the BBC that can be heard here for the next five days.

The group has also been in demand for remix work, having already done reworking of tracks for Friendly Fires, Cut Copy and Booka Shade.

While the band is already fairly well known by dance music aficionados around the world, if they were to land a high-profile slot opening for Madonna it would surely only carry their star ever higher.

Carnegie Hall calls Toronto’s Mireille Asselin

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Jan 16, 2012)
Mireille Asselin is facing the happiest of difficulties: three gigs in three days.

The 27-year-old member of the Canadian Opera Company’s studio ensemble will sing at a lunchtime concert at the Four Season’s Centre for the Performing Arts on Tuesday.

She will immediately jump on a plane to New York City where she will perform at Carnegie Hall Wednesday in a solo recital at 5:30 p.m. Then, it’s back on a plane for a performance the next night in Hamilton at the opera gala “Popera Plus” (and again on Saturday).

How is the soprano preparing? Hitting the gym.

“An opera singer has to have strength,” she says in an interview. She has to be heard over a 100-piece orchestra. Opera singers are not like “pop singers who can use amplification.”

She thinks of fitness as a way of protecting her future, she says, “You want to make sure you have longevity of career. You have to physically have stamina.”

She’s not complaining about all the back-to-back work she’s getting saying, “It’s the life. It’s lots of fun.”

Work has been steady since she got a BA in music from the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School followed by a master’s in opera at Yale University in 2010. In the year before she joined the COC studio ensemble, she performed with Opera Atelier in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito and Handel’s Acis and Galatea.

In April 2011, she sang Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem with the Yale Symphony at Carnegie Hall. That was quite an experience, she says, because she felt connected to the many wonderful artists who’ve gone before.

“It’s like La Scala or even the Met (Metropolitan Opera), it’s such an old institution, but the building isn’t grand or ornate,” she says, adding that the Four Seasons Centre is a more beautiful building.

“But it’s all about its history and its place in the musical development of the world.”

While she appeared with a full orchestra and choir last time, this performance will just be Asselin and her pianist onstage in a program that she has personally selected.

“There’s nothing else to distract from your music,” she says, admitting that this makes her feel very exposed as a singer.

The soprano will not sing opera as the program is devoted to “art songs,” basically poems set to music. She has selected two songs about violets written by Mozart and Schubert for her first set, and then two “surrealist” songs written by Debussy and Joseph Schwantner for her second set.

This is a chance to show her versatility, says Asselin, who would like to have the “diverse repertoire” of Dawn Upshaw or Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.

In the meantime, she was deciding what dress to wear to Carnegie Hall. She wore a purple gown designed by Rosemarie Umetsu last time.

This time, she was looking for something fancy but also “respectful and elegant.”

Disc of the week: The Weeknd's Echoes of Silence

www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

(Jan 13, 2012) In her poem My Muse, Stevie Smith asks "why does my
muse only speak when she is unhappy? / She does not, I only listen when I am unhappy." Could this be true also for the Weeknd's Abel Tesfaye? Maybe the maker of this and two previous digital albums (House of Balloons and Thursday) doesn't waste his happy moods on the work of making music. Certainly his muse speaks in a very dark and even miserable way, at least when Tesfaye is listening.

Like its two predecessors, this is a collection of nocturnes, about the nasty things that go down in the hours when the happy world sleeps in peace. These coldly delicate songs describe the exact moments at which desire and disgust become indistinguishable. There are many characters on the album, all of them hungry for something, each of them carrying their isolation like a bag of something filthy that must be discarded but can never be put down.

Echoes of Silence confirms that the truest identity we can ascribe to Tesfaye (who doesn't give interviews and has only done one public performance) is that he's a storyteller who wants his night-world tales to get under our skin. His favourite gambit is to wrap his sweet, light tenor around a monologue that aims to manipulate or degrade some woman.

XO and Initiation are addressed to women whose only power is to act as the catalyst for a fantasy that will run them over like a car speeding through the night. The weightless pretty sound of Tesfaye's voice, slicked and smoothed by Auto-Tune, bobs like a balloon over these sordid sexual tableaux. Is he telling a fiction, or quoting from his diary? The question nags at you, and makes you listen for clues.

In Outside, our anti-hero zeroes in on a woman who's busted-up about being left by another man. He offers to fill that void, to be the other guy for a night, even to copy his moves: "if you pretend, then girl, I'll pretend." In Next, he addresses a stripper who seems impressed to be dancing for the man whose music is playing; his scorn is her tip.

The album opens with a cover of Michael Jackson's Dirty Diana, a song about a groupie that shows that the wide river of R&B had nasty things floating in it long before Tesfaye came along. Montreal opens with a reminiscence of Serge Gainsbourg's Laisse tomber les filles, the French text of which means "forget the girls before they drop you." The pain of not doing so drives Same Old Song, about a former flame who never believed in our man till he became a success, and now dials him up over a beat as solemn as a funeral march.

The resonant synthetic sound-world of Echoes of Silence is very similar to that of Tesfaye's previous discs. When a real piano enters in the penultimate track, and comes on even more strongly in the closing title song, it feels like an exotic import. In that final song, the clammy bravado of earlier tunes evaporates, the first-person lyric turns fragile, and the guy begs the girl not to leave him alone for the night: "don't you leave my little life." Tesfaye, for whom all thrills seem ultimately hollow, hands us the cliché pleasure of seeing this arch-heel at the feet of poetic justice, curled up in the fetal position.

Echoes of Silence can be downloaded for free at the-weeknd.com.

Echoes of Silence

The Weeknd


If ...

Bill Ryder-Jones

Three and a half stars

This album from the former guitarist of the Coral is titled in Kiplingesque fashion, a supposition but with the added effect of an ellipsis which is left open-ended. Purposefully, obviously, because the mood of the 10 pieces - mostly instrumental, the work is a soundtrack of sorts to the novel If On a Winter's Night a Traveller, recorded in part with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra - is one of discovery, both physical and emotional. For me, the mid-disc Enlace stirs the most, its serene sense of arrival disrupted with a burst of nervous electric guitar. The album, one suspects, would work as a walking companion. Ryder-Jones, like fellow young Brit composers James Blake and Alex Turner, has a bright mind and new ideas. His possibilities are endless. - Brad Wheeler


Come Sunday

Charlie Haden and Hank Jones

Three stars

Give them that old-time religion, it's good enough for them. On their second and final collaboration, the double-bassist Charlie Haden and the late pianist Hank Jones offer radiant humanism, warm elegance and assured duets for any o'clock and any day, but especially Sundays, say 11 a.m., the sweet hour of prayer that Martin Luther King called the "most segregated time in America." Southern hymns and spirituals (and two Christmas carols for peace) are arranged here simply for the great players' two instruments - no show-off or swing, though Down by the Riverside does the latter and Haden niftily stretches out on the break of Give Me That Old Time Religion. It's all soft music, but to be played at full, rich volume - filling halls and hearts both. - Brad Wheeler


Fallen Empires

Snow Patrol

Two and a half stars

The cynical take on this Irish quintet would be that Snow Patrol is to U2 as Coldplay is to Radiohead - pop-savvy and charming, but essentially second-hand. With its lush orchestrations, added vocal sweetening, and dusting of electronica, Fallen Empires tries hard to change that perception. In place of the heroic strumming that powered previous hits, the songs here carry a brooding intensity that neatly suits Gary Lightbody's mournful tenor, while the detailed, carefully coloured arrangements (mostly by Owen Pallett) add emotional heft to the wistful sentiments of New York and Life-ning, a shift that makes it sound as if the Patrol has traded its U2 worship for a careful study of Elbow. - J.D. Considine


Claude Debussy: Pour le piano; Estampes; L'Isle joyeuse; Karol Szymanowski: Prelude and Fugue in C sharp minor; Sonata in G minor, op. 8

Rafal Blechacz, piano
Deutsche Grammophon

Three stars

The young Polish pianist Rafal Belchacz, who won the International Chopin Competition in 2005, doesn't overdo the blurred edges we associate with impressionist painters when he plays Debussy. His spunky L'Isle joyeuse isn't shrouded in mist; it even sounds like a fun place to be. But although Belchacz creates some truly magical colours in Debussy's Pagode, he gives the piece a rhetorical urgency that questions the very qualities that make Debussy modern. A neutral reading of those pentatonic fragments would be fine: They don't need to go anywhere. The three baroque-inspired movements of Pour le piano well paired with Szymanowski's Prelude and Fugue, are clear and a little stern. He lets the contradictions in the music speak for themselves. - Elissa Poole

Matt Andersen A Triple Winner At Blues Awards

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Jan 16, 2012) Matt Andersen's nickname for himself is "Stubby Fingers," all the better to handle the many awards coming his way.

The dynamic New Brunswick bluesman hauled in three trophies at the national
Maple Blues Awards gala in Toronto on Monday, reaping accolades as the year's top acoustic act, male vocalist and entertainer, all on the strength of extensive touring and his latest album, Coal Mining Blues.

Other multiple winners at the Koerner Hall ceremony were Ottawa's Monkey Junk (electric act, top drummer and recording of the year for To Behold) and the soulful Saskatoon native Suzie Vinnick (songwriter and female vocalist).

Full list of winners from the 15th annual Maple Blues Awards:


Matt Andersen


Monkey Junk


Matt Andersen


Matt Andersen


Suzie Vinnick


Sabrina Weeks & Swing Cat Bounce


To Behold, by Monkey Junk

Blues With A Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement)

Paul James


Gregg Allman


Steve Strongman


Carlos del Junco


Kenny (Blues Boss) Wayne


Chris Whiteley


Matt Sobb (of Monkey Junk)


Alec Fraser


Suzie Vinnick


Liz Sykes (President of the Ottawa Blues Society)

Kathleen Edwards Outgrowing Roots On Voyageur

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Jan 16, 2012)
Kathleen Edwards gets a lot of goodwill because Kathleen Edwards is an exceptionally likeable musician and an exceptionally likeable gal, but even she was starting to wonder a couple of years ago if the world really needed another female singer/songwriter in the Kathleen Edwards vein.

Where once she'd been “flattered,” circa her 2003 debut Failer, by the “alt-country” label, Edwards admits she regarded the designation as a “black hole” by the time 2008's Asking for Flowers was behind her. A black hole into which, she feared, she was sinking by aiming short of her potential.

Out of that existential crisis — not to mention another, more personal crisis at home that saw the Ottawa-raised Edwards's marriage to Hamilton musician Colin Cripps dissolving while the two were touring Flowers together — came a fierce determination to do things differently on her fourth album, Voyageur, which arrives in stores this Tuesday.

“I won't lie, the calculating part was me saying: ‘Holy sh--, this might be my last kick at the can,' ” says Edwards, 33, fighting off yawns during a break from a week's worth of marathon band-practice sessions in a lakeshore studio.

“I love my last record and I'm really proud of it (but) I could see my career — the part where you actually wanna grow as an artist — diminishing. I could see that less had happened for me.

“Sometimes it's the work and sometimes it's just the right place at the right time and all those things, but . . . I just thought there are so many people putting out records that this might be the last record I'm ever given the opportunity to put out with all the people who've supported me and a record company and a budget and all that.

“I want to move on with other things in my life, maybe, and not try to f---ing have a statue built after me for accomplishing travelling so many miles on American highways. I might want to be a mom and do all these other things.

“So have I achieved what I wanted to achieve yet? And the answer is ‘no.' I've got to knock this out of the park if I'm going to keep doing this.”

Voyageur does achieve a welcome refreshing of Edwards's emotionally gritty roots-'n'-roll sound, with much of its new-found sonic sparkle and stylistic adventurous traceable to the presence of Bon Iver main man Justin Vernon in the producer's chair.

Edwards and Vernon struck up an email friendship through a mutual friend not long after Bon Iver began covering Failer's “Mercury” in live shows, which led to Edwards traveling to Wisconsin to track her song “Wapusk” for the National Parks Project soundtrack with Vernon in his home studio in the fall of 2010.

Somewhere along the line, the two became a couple, but Edwards hit upon the idea of making the record with him because Vernon proved himself “hugely respectful and in tune with the person he's working with” as a producer. “Justin was just more involved every day because, obviously, we were spending a lot of time together,” she says. “I was really open to anything.

“I already trusted him kind of unequivocally, but he said to me one day: ‘If I've recorded a track and I've spent two days on it and you don't like it, all you have to do is tell me you don't like it. My feelings are not going to be hurt. This is about making sure you're going where you want to go.' No one had really said that to me before.”

Edwards wasn't looking to make “hits,” she says, only to “do something that shows I'm not just this folky/rootsy/country singer/songwriter who writes character songs.”

She might wind up with her first proper hit record, mind you, and not just because the mix of sad, stately ballads and gutsy rockers on Voyageur seems destined to broaden her appeal in both mainstream and indie-rock circles. The connection to Vernon is particularly well timed, since Bon Iver is up for four Grammy Awards next month and currently in the throes of a major breakthrough.

Edwards, for her part, wouldn't complain if she could make the modest shift to something greater than mere “visibility” in the U.S. and overseas, and is on the road through June — including her fifth appearance on David Letterman on Tuesday night and a Toronto show on Feb. 11 at the Phoenix — in hopes of making that happen.

“Visibility south of the border is a 200-seat club in Columbus, Ohio on Thursday night and there's not even a clean toilet,” she says. “That doesn't feel awesome.

“It's okay when you're 22, but when you're 33, it's like: ‘Who the f--- cleans the f---ing toilet in this f---ing club? Could someone just get me a clean glass?' You have very basic expectations.

“You get to open for artists who play these beautiful theatres and they have catering and stuff and there's not a part of me that hasn't at some point gone: ‘I would love to reach that level of success, to have this. To be more comfortable.' ”

Funk Legend Jimmy Castor Dies In Vegas At 71

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ken Ritter

(Jan 18, 2012) LAS VEGAS, NEV. —
Jimmy Castor, a New York funk and soul saxophonist, singer and songwriter whose tune, “It’s Just Begun,” morphed over 40 years into an anthem for generations of hip-hoppers and mainstream musical acts, died of apparent heart failure in a Las Vegas hospital, family members said Tuesday. He was 71.

Castor’s music, including another 1972 hit, “Troglodyte,” spoke for itself thousands of times in riffs and samples by groups like N.W.A., the 2 Live Crew, Kanye West, Ice Cube and Mos Def, as well as acts such as the Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera and Madonna.

His son, Jimmy Castor Jr., 45, a filmmaker from Redondo Beach, Calif., told the Associated Press he’s seen instant recognition hundreds of times at the first sax chords of “It’s Just Begun” — even before the lyrics begin. (“Watch me now. Feel the groove. Into something. Gonna make you move.”)

“No matter what country you’re in, no matter what language you speak, everyone knows it,” Jimmy Castor Jr. said in Las Vegas.

Jimmy Castor was hospitalized in November after suffering a heart attack, and underwent quadruple bypass surgery. He died Monday at Saint Rose Dominican Hospital, his son said.

Castor, head of the musical group the Jimmy Castor Bunch, lived with his wife, Sandi, in suburban Henderson near Las Vegas.

His work was sampled by other artists more than 3,000 times, his son said, and he continued to work and perform until last August, when he played at the Long Beach Funk Festival in California. Jimmy Castor Jr. said his father had booked dates for a European tour this year.

Alex Ovechkin Raps, Dances (Sort Of) In Russian Music Video

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford

(Jan 16, 2012)
Alex Ovechkin’s scoring may have cooled off but he’s a hot topic again after performing in a Russian rap video.

The Washington Capitals star appears in a video for rapper Sasha Belyi’s sports-themed song “Champion,” which was released this weekend and became an instant hit on YouTube.

After some bad dancing and making sometimes blurred-out hand gestures beside Belyi’s rapid-fire rapping in Russian, the gap-toothed Ovechkin takes over about 2:55 into the video.

According to a translation on Puck Daddy, Ovechkin’s rap begins “Alumni of Dynamo, Eight on the back, In the all-star game all attention is on me.”

He then lists some accomplishments such as scoring 100 NHL points and winning the 2008 world championship before saying “Stick in my hands, Rap in the headphones, Saying hello from Washington” and ending with “For every champion.”

Ovechkin starts the video dressed all in black, then switches to a white shirt with a Capitals’ cap on sideways.

The 26-year-old is certainly a showman, as his antics at NHL all-star games, including donning a wig and funny glasses, have shown.

That side hasn’t dimmed, even though his points production has.

Ovechkin had three straight 100-point campaigns from 2008 to 2010, but dropped off to 85 last season. The two-time MVP and Rocket Richard Trophy winner, who led the league with 65 goals and 112 points in 2007-08, sits 44th in NHL scoring after 43 games with 18 goals and 17 assists.


Feist Lands Brit Award Nomination For Best International Female Solo Artist

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 13, 2012)
Leslie Feist has landed another Brit Award nomination after releasing her fourth studio album, Metals. The Toronto-based songstress is up for best international female solo artist at the show. She’ll compete with Beyoncé, Björk, Lady Gaga and Rihanna for the honour. The eight-time Juno winner was previously nominated in the same category in 2008. The Brit Awards will be handed out on Feb. 21 at London’s O2 Arena. Feist, who is preparing to tour Australia later this month, will head out on a European jaunt in the weeks following the awards gala, with dates scheduled in Germany, Switzerland, France, Portugal and the U.K.

Lil Wayne Writing Prison Memoir

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 12, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. —
Lil Wayne is offering a literary tour of his prison days. The million-selling rapper has signed with Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, for the memoir Gone Till November. Hachette announced Thursday that the book will tell of his eight months spent at the Rikers Island complex on a gun possession charge. Scheduled to come out in November, two years after his release, the book will be an “internal monologue,” based on diaries he kept while in prison. Born Dwayne Carter Jr., Lil Wayne had the bestselling album of 2008 with Tha Carter III, which won a best rap album Grammy.

Grammys To Host Performances By Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 12, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Foo Fighters and Bruno Mars
both have six Grammy nominations, including album of the year. And now both acts will perform at the award show. The Recording Academy announced Thursday that Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson will also hit the stage at 54th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 12. Kanye West leads with seven nominations. Adele is also up for six Grammys, including album, song and record of the year. She’s currently recovering from surgery on her vocal cords and her sophomore album, 21, was last year’s top seller. Other multiple nominees include Skrillex, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Chris Brown, Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons. The Grammys will air live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Maestro Halts NY Philharmonic’s Performance Until Ringing Cellphone Is Shut Off

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 12, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y.—It’s the dreaded sound at any live performance — a ringing cellphone. That’s what happened Tuesday night at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall during the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony by the
New York Philharmonic. Maestro Alan Gilbert was forced to stop the orchestra until the phone was silenced. The Wall Street Journal reports that when an iPhone’s distinctive “Marimba” ringtone initially went off, Gilbert turned his head to signal his displeasure. But the ringing from the first row persisted and minutes went by. Gilbert asked that the offending noise be turned off and finally stopped the orchestra until it happened. The Philharmonic said it was the first time the music director had ever interrupted a performance due to a cellphone or other disruption.

Nicki Minaj Booked to Perform at the Grammys


(Jan 13, 2012) *Rapper
Nicki Minaj will make her Grammy
performance debut next month, joining Foo Fighters, Bruno Mars and country singer Jason Aldean on the list of artists scheduled to take the stage. Grammy organizers announced Thursday that Minaj, who has four Grammy nominations, will perform at the Feb. 12 awards show, as well as country sensation Taylor Swift, and Kelly Clarkson. Meanwhile, there was no official word on whether Britain’s Adele, whose album “21″ was the biggest seller of 2011, will perform at the Grammys following surgery on her vocal cords in November. Adele, who has been on doctor-ordered vocal rest since November, was not among the first list of Grammy performers. But the 23 year-old “Someone Like You” singer was listed on Thursday as being down to sing at the BRIT music awards ceremony in London on Feb. 21. Organizers said additional performers and presenters will be announced in the coming weeks.

::FILM NEWS::    

Jay Baruchel Helps Launch Guidebook For Parents Of Actors

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nelson Wyatt

(Jan 13, 2012) MONTREAL — Film star
Jay Baruchel says he couldn’t have made it without his mother’s help during an 18-year acting career that has seen him work with stars including Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Robert Downey Jr.

“She’s amazing,” Baruchel said of his mom Friday at the launch of the newest edition of her guide aimed at helping the parents of budding actors.

“She’s a soldier, she’s a warrior, she doesn’t suffer fools lightly and her priority was making sure that I was rested, fed and taken care of, which is what a parent’s concern should be.

“I literally couldn’t have made it without her.”

The star of Tropic Thunder and How to Train Your Dragon was at a news conference in Montreal with his mother Robyne and younger sister Taylor.

Robyne Baruchel is the author of the updated The Stage Parent Survival Guide, first put out by actors’ union ACTRA in 2002.

The guide spells out ACTRA rules for parents and guardians of school-aged kids who want to work in Canadian film and TV.

Robyne Baruchel says it’s crucial for parents to learn the ropes of the industry so they can ensure their kids are protected.

“When I started, I knew nothing,” she said.

“I didn’t know where to go, I didn’t know what to do and I always thought if I had someone to go to or some sort of resource that I could go to I would have probably avoided some of the pitfalls that are part and parcel of raising kids in that industry.”

Although slim, the book is comprehensive in its look at such issues as finding an agent, the rights of child actors, preparing to go to the set and set etiquette.

Jay Baruchel began his acting career at age 12, appearing in such TV shows as Popular Mechanics For Kids with Elisha Cuthbert, who went on to appear on 24 and the hit comedy Happy Endings.

Baruchel is starring in the upcoming Winnipeg-shot hockey flick Goon. His sister Taylor has appeared in a handful of movies.

The book will be available online and in select bookstores.

CollegeHumor Expanding From Web To Film

Source: www.thestar.com - By Steven Zeitchik

(Jan 13, 2012) LOS ANGELES — Hoping to follow in the footsteps of
National Lampoon, the digital-comedy company CollegeHumor Media is taking a stab at the film business.

The firm has signed on to make a movie about thirty-something underachievers called Coffee Town, buying a script from former Arrested Development writer-producer Brad Copeland and hiring him to direct it. The low-budget movie, which will star a group of up-and-coming actors, is being financed by CollegeHumor and aims to begin shooting in February in Los Angeles.

Although known primarily for its slapstick Web videos across a network of sites, CollegeHumor has been branching out to other platforms. The company, which is owned by the Barry Diller-led IAC, had a short-lived MTV show and also has spun off several books.

The goal with Coffee Town, CollegeHumor co-founder Ricky Van Veen said, is to take advantage of the firm’s in-house talent as well as capitalize on its brand.

“We think we can leverage what we’ve done into longer things, including features and TV shows,” Van Veen said. “There’s a market for high-quality long-form content that can go directly to consumers, and we’re well-positioned to do that.”

He cited a paid web special from Louis C.K. that has gained attention in the digital world. The comedian made his one-man show from New York’s Beacon Theater available for download at a cost of $5; in the first several weeks, he received nearly 200,000 downloads.

Van Veen said there have been no decisions on whether to distribute Coffee Town online. The movie does not yet have traditional theatrical distribution. It is expected to seek that, and other models are being considered as well.

The film will star Glenn Howerton (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Steve Little (Eastbound & Down) and Ben Schwartz (House of Lies) as friends who hang out at a cafe, with singer Josh Groban playing a barista. “It’s a little like Cheers,” Copeland said. “They go about their day, but they always end up in the same place.”

For about a decade, beginning in the mid-1970s, Diller served as chairman and chief executive of Paramount, where on his watch the company released blockbuster films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Beverly Hills Cop. He later ran Fox, overseeing both the film and television studios until 1992. But he has often said since then that he doesn’t like the risks or general business model of the movie business.

Van Veen, however, said this may be changing. “Barry is led by curiosity,” he said. “When there weren’t a lot of new relevant things in the film business, he wasn’t as interested in pursuing them. But that’s changed with so many new distribution models.”

Through a network of sites that includes CollegeHumor.com, Jest.com and SportsPickle.com, CollegeHumor often scores more than 15 million monthly views, according to ratings service Nielsen Online. But it has had to fight for mind-share in Hollywood with competitor Funny or Die. That company has spawned a TBS reality series and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, a comedy set to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The model for both companies’ efforts is National Lampoon, the magazine brand that spun off film franchises such as Vacation in the 1980s. The task is made more difficult in the modern era, as thousands of niche sites fragment the audience. But Van Veen said he believed that this was a hurdle CollegeHumor could overcome.

“It’s all about quality,” he said. “Justin Bieber started on YouTube and then went to big labels. If what you have is good, people will love you no matter where you are.”

Keira Knightley Was Ready To Live Dangerously For David Cronenberg In A Dangerous Method

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Jan 12, 2012) Keira Knightley spent a lot of time in the mirror “pulling
faces at myself” to help craft the grotesque grimaces and facial tics that dramatically convey her character’s mental illness in A Dangerous Method, opening Jan. 13.

Then she tried them out on Canadian director David Cronenberg via Skype. “Which one do you want?” the Oscar-nominated actress asked the filmmaker.

He made his choices and Knightley was ready to play psychiatric patient Sabina Spielrein, a deeply disturbed woman who battles a humiliating sexual dysfunction as she undergoes a new kind of “talking cure” therapy with Carl Jung in the early 1900s. Michael Fassbender plays Jung and Viggo Mortensen plays his mentor, Sigmund Freud.

“We had two conversations prior to starting to shoot,” Knightley said during an interview shortly after the film’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere last September. One concerned the tics: did he want body only or just face (Cronenberg chose the face) and the other was his request that she work on “mid-Atlantic with a Russian blush as far as the accent goes.”

Other than that, the only advice from the director of Eastern Promises and A History of Violence was, “Go for it.”

The 26-year-old Knightley did. The British star of Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies said she’s never been offered a part like Spielrein before. Her character arrives at Jung’s office a sexually disruptive and violent woman who submits to the new psychotherapy treatment to uncover past abuses. She is a highly intelligent pupil who goes on to become a psychiatrist herself while embarking on a relationship with Jung.

Knightley said she was helped into the character by screenwriter Christopher Hampton, who worked with her on Atonement and wrote the script for A Dangerous Method from his stage play, The Talking Cure.

“I phoned Christopher and said, ‘Okay, I’m on board. Help. I haven’t got a clue,’” said Knightley. “He handed me a big pile of books and said, ‘Read all of these.’”

She spent four months “just reading,” Knightley added with a smile. Spielrein’s diaries were especially helpful — she described herself as “a demon or a dog,” Knightley learned — and she watched videos of people with Tourette’s syndrome. She was determined to get it right.

“There’s a lot of pitfalls to playing a mad character. She knew that she was ill, but there was a complete logic in the way she behaved.”

When it came time to start shooting, Knightley was also prepared for Cronenberg’s “lean” way of moviemaking, thanks to a tip from Hampton.

“There was no rehearsal, no discussion,” said Knightley, who tends to speak very quickly in her clipped English accent, as if she can’t wait to get the words out.

Even her most physically taxing scenes were done in “one or two takes,” Knightley marvelled.

“He’s extraordinary because he’s like a magician,” she added of the director, who she says edits scenes as he shoots them, not wasting time shooting things he won’t need. “It’s quite extraordinary.”

Knightley admitted she was anxious about filming two sex scenes, including one involving spanking, and voiced her concerns early on to Cronenberg. She said she wasn’t sure she could play the part because of them.

“There were these two scenes and those were the sex scenes and I went, ‘I don’t know if I can do that. I think in the age of the Internet, I don’t want to have those kinds of images (available),’” Knightley said.

“He said, ‘It’s going to be tragedy if you don’t play the part because of that, so we’ll take the scenes out, we just won’t shoot them,” Knightley said with a grin. That was enough to make her want to discuss the issue and when Cronenberg assured her the scenes wouldn’t be “sexy or voyeuristic,” Knightley was ready to take on the role.

“Part of the reason I love his work is its explicit shocking nature, so as an actor you are going in there and you have to be very clear with yourself you are either doing that or not doing that,” Knightley said.

“I didn’t ever feel like we weren’t completely prepared. You walk into his sets and it’s absolute focus, totally supportive and incredibly creative. He has this ability to make everybody believe they are the perfect person for the job.”

Golden Globes Go to Octavia Spencer, Idris Elba & Morgan Freeman

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 16, 2012) *The 2012 Golden Globes were given out Sunday night in Hollywood. Among the many winners were Octavia Spencer, Idris Elba and Morgan Freeman.

Spencer won best supporting actress for her role as a brassy housekeeper joining other black maids to share stories about life with their white employers in the 1960s Deep South tale “The Help.”

“With regard to domestics in this country, now and then, I think Dr. King said it best: ‘All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.’ And I thank you for recognizing that with our film,” Spencer said.

Idris Elba of “Luther” won the Golden Globe award for actor in a series, miniseries or motion picture made for television.

Morgan Freeman, awarded this year’s Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes, is well aware of how influential movies and the film industry can be on its audiences.

“One of the more effective avenues for learning American history is movies. I was always a big reader when I was a kid, but movies -– they’re so impactive,” Freeman told reporters backstage at the Globes on Sunday.

Since Meryl Streep won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama for her turn as Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” that means Viola Davis didn’t win for her lead role as Aibileen in “The Help.” That could portend things to come for Davis as some see the Globes as a key step to winning an Oscar. On the other hand, noted and super snarky Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke says that the Globes very seldom pick Oscar winners. She gave the best film category as an example.

Speaking of “snarkiness,” Finke also dropped this lug about Tyler Perry and Idris Elba winning for his “Luther” role:

“Considering that Tyler Perry stole Elba’s Alex Cross role, this is small comfort indeed for Idris. Really, Tyler, stick to cross-dressing in your movies and holding Oprah’s handbag the rest of the time.”

Dayuum, like we told you, she’s super snarky and straight crazy, we think.    Anyway, she’s no joke. In fact, check out her Deadline blog for the full scoop on who won what at the 2012 Golden Globes.

Golden Globes: Full List Of Winners

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(Jan 15, 2012) Following is a list of winners on Sunday at the Golden Globe Awards, which annually is among the most-watched Hollywood honors programs and a precursor to the Oscars. Winners are grouped into separate categories for film and television.



The Descendants


George Clooney, The Descendants


Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady


The Artist


Jean Dujardin, The Artist


Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn


Christopher Plummer, Beginners


Octavia Spencer, The Help


Martin Scorsese, Hugo


Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris


Ludovic Bource, The Artist


“Masterpiece” from the film, W.E.


The Adventures of Tintin


A Separation, Iran





Kelsey Grammer, Boss


Claire Danes, Homeland


Modern Family


Matt LeBlanc, Episodes


Laura Dern, Enlightened


Downton Abbey


Idris Elba, Luther


Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce


Jessica Lange, American Horror Story


Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones

Cecil B. DeMille Award

Morgan Freeman

Joyful Noise Preaches To The Choir

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

Joyful Noise
Starring Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Jeremy Jordan and Keke Palmer. Directed by Todd Graff. 117 minutes. Opens Jan. 13 at major theatres. PG

(January 12, 2012) At the intersection of God and Glee, you’ll find
Joyful Noise.

Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton go toe to tapping toe as a pair of scrapping singers in a poor church choir in a financially depressed Georgia town, who are not above a little sinning when it comes to being prideful and talking smack about each other.

Written and directed with heavy hands by Bandslam’s Todd Graff, Joyful Noise subscribes to the Tyler Perry school of filmmaking — broad laughs beget life lessons and wisdom about the power of family and the joys of doing the right thing.

In this case it’s wasp-waisted and lush-chested Parton, who appears to be one plastic surgery procedure away from Howard the Duck, spouting enough corn to fill a silo.

“Don’t you look happy as a puppy waggin’ two tails?” she drawls. She also gives advice: “When folks get wrapped up in themselves they make very small packages.” And on the subject of forbidden love: “You date that little girl and Vi Rose will just about lay square eggs.”

Parton plays gun-totinlil’ spitfire G.G. Sparrow, whose choir-directing hubby Bernard (Kris Kristofferson) has the good fortune to drop dead in the first five minutes and miss the rest of this aimless rambler. Kristofferson doesn’t get away completely; he returns in a creepy ghost waltz with a warbling Parton.

To G.G.’s annoyance, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) is appointed the new church choir director. Vi Rose likes the tried and true path of gospel music; G.G., perhaps inspired by her wild child — in a PG-rated sense — music-loving grandson, Randy (Broadway import Jeremy Jordan), wants some more current tunes.

To add a bit of romance to the mix, Vi Rose has a gorgeous daughter, Olivia (Akeelah and the Bee’s Keke Palmer), a frequent choir soloist with a mind of her own. Randy has his eye on Olivia, but she’s not convinced, so Randy makes his move by singing “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Like the other pop tunes in the soundtrack, it is converted to an ode to the Almighty with the addition of eyes lifted to heaven and index fingers pointed skyward.

Vi Rose and G.G. are out to win at a church choir rodeo known as the Joyful Noise competition, hoping it will help the town’s sagging fortunes. But that means taking on the pint-sized powerhouses in the Our Lady of Perpetual Tears church choir. The soundtrack is entertaining in a Bible Belt way, including Grammy-nominated gospel singer Karen Peck awkwardly belting out a white bread version of “Mighty High.”

Joyful Noise marks Parton’s first trip to the big screen in 20 years (aside from a voice bit in the animated Gnomeo & Juliet), since playing a radio advice show host in the underwhelming Straight Talk.

A talented songwriter and performer, Parton has never been a great actress so it’s easy to see why she was drawn to this role, chewing up the scenery in a diner fight scene with Vi Rose — “Ow, you’re breakinmah hair!” she hollers — and gleefully accepting slags about her looks and fondness for the surgeon’s knife. “God didn’t make plastic surgeons so they would starve!” She says. But she gets her own claws in too, telling Vi Rose: “My doctor does good liposuction too!”

Latifah is more puzzling. Is this the former rapper who was nominated for an Oscar for Chicago doing all this eye-rolling, rigidly awkward business?

The faithful in this choir, who require no preaching to, will adore Joyful Noise, but it will stir painful memories of 1970s made-for-TV movies in the rest of us. There’s no sin in making a movie with an inspirational message, but there must be a way to do it that doesn’t leave you feeling like you are covered in a sticky film as the credits roll. Let the congregation say Amen.

No Rust On Meryl Streep’s Thatcher In The Iron Lady

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

The Iron Lady
Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. 105 minutes. Opens Jan. 13 at major theatres. PG

(Jan 12, 2012) Margaret Thatcher remains divisive, even as she uncharacteristically retreats from the spotlight at the age of 86.

To some, she was Britain’s energizing saviour during her 11 years, 1979 to 1990, as the country’s first female prime minister. To others, she was “Attila the Hen,” destroyer of rights and traditions.

Phyllida Lloyd’s biopic
The Iron Lady, penned by Shame screenwriter Abi Morgan, has met with similar extremes across the Pond: applause at some screenings, angry picketers at others. Critical reaction has been equally mixed. No less an authority than British PM David Cameron has sighed over the emphasis the film places on Thatcher’s long fight with dementia.

There is but one constant in all of this, which continues as The Iron Lady finally arrives on these shores: Meryl Streep’s towering portrayal as Thatcher.

It’s almost beside the point to praise a Streep performance, or to predict Oscar glory once again, since she rarely makes a false step.

But all kudos are deserved, because her Thatcher represents a career achievement.

She nails the accent perfectly: that mix of shopkeeper’s daughter and Harvard-schooled toff that made Thatcher such a contradiction in terms. Streep has also mastered Thatcher’s withering stare, so often directed with lethal malice at the many men who dared to cross her.

More than this, Streep gets under the skin of one of the 20th century’s most dynamic and also most contained personalities. She fully intuits the public and the private Thatcher, playing her with energy and empathy both in her potent middle years as a controversial and groundbreaking politician and as an elderly widow vexed by memories real and imagined.

Alas, Streep’s achievements exceed those of the film, which would have served better as the concluding chapter of a quality BBC miniseries.

Cameron has a point when he complains that The Iron Lady spends too much time on Thatcher’s diminished later years, where victory is marked by how well she eludes her police security team as she toddles down to the corner market to fuss over milk prices.

Lloyd and Morgan employ the controversial device of the ghost spouse. Thatcher’s late husband Denis, played by the reliable Jim Broadbent, appears frequently as Thatcher’s spectral companion, offering advice and admonishments with equally loving devotion.

It’s a difficult trick to pull off, and its use here has not been universally applauded. But to me, it’s a perfect evocation by two superlative actors of the almost supernatural bond that longtime couples achieve.

Less impressive, though understandable given the 70-odd years the film traverses, is the significant compression of events. A few quick scenes carry us through Thatcher’s transformation from prim 1940s schoolgirl Margaret Roberts (ably played by Welsh actress Alexandra Roach) into the ruthless politician Margaret Thatcher of the 1970s, determined to free Britain from government coddling and trade union grasping.

Along the way she also manages to find a husband in businessman Denis Thatcher (Harry Lloyd, TV’s Games of Thrones), to whom she theatrically warns, “I cannot die washing up a tea cup.”

Thatcher’s many battles with union leaders and their political allies are reduced to a shouting match in Parliament and to a moment where she walks by rotting bags of refuse during a garbage strike.

Her political tango with then-U.S. president Ronald Reagan, her friend, ally and inspiration, is made literal by one quick waltz across the floor.

At least Reagan makes the film, if only for an eye blink. Queen Elizabeth is MIA, and so is what would have been a casting coup: imagine if Helen Mirren had returned in a cameo as the monarch, meeting with Streep’s Thatcher as she did with Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair in The Queen.

But The Iron Lady is not for nuance; it’s as direct and unalloyed as its subject.

The film makes its Oscar aspirations a little too obvious, as in a scene where Thatcher takes diction training, reminiscent of The King’s Speech, last year’s Best Picture winner.

Another moment betrays the screenwriter’s weakness for the obvious metaphor. Giving a driving lesson to her daughter Carol (nicely rendered by Tyrannosaur’s Olivia Colman), Thatcher intones: “One must be brave, if one is to take the wheel.”

The lesson is immediately followed by Thatcher announcing her decision to run for leader of the Conservative Party, the penultimate step before becoming PM in 1979.

Those too young to remember Margaret Thatcher might well leave The Iron Lady wondering what all the shouting was about. On the plus side, it’s a major improvement from Mamma Mia!, Lloyd’s previous collaboration with Streep, which was as artless as it was tone deaf.

But any person of any age can appreciate Streep’s remarkable work in The Iron Lady. She deserves the Best Actress award she will surely be nominated for.

It’s a performance of depth in a film of surfaces.

Academy Awards 2012: Five Reasons Why The Oscars Could Still Surprise

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Jan 16, 2012) The question you may have been asking yourself after the
Golden Globe Awards Sunday — apart from “Why wasn’t Ricky funnier?” — is whether there’s now any point in watching in the Academy Awards.

Coming just three days after the Critics Choice Movie Awards, which had many similar results, the Globes had a feeling of déjà vu:

The Artist for Best Picture? Check.

George Clooney for Best Actor? Check.

Octavia Spencer for Best Supporting Actress? Check.

Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor? Check and double check.

It’s looking like a very long and familiar road towards the Oscars on Feb. 26, with many of the prizes for 2011 movies now mostly locked in.

But a closer examination of the Globes and CCMAs suggests there will still be reasons to tune in to see Billy Crystal do his Academy strut once again.

Here are five of them:

 • Best Actress is still up for grabs: Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady and Viola Davis’s stalwart servant Aibileen Clark in The Help represent opposite extremes of social and economic clout.

But the two performances are neck-and-neck in prize momentum, with Streep taking the Globe for Best Dramatic Actress and Davis taking the CCMA’s Best Actress accolade. Both will surely be nominated for Oscar’s Best Actress glory; either of these popular women could win. The outcome is impossible to predict.

There’s also the chance of a spoiler from Michelle Williams, whose well-received turn as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn won her the Globe for Best Comedy/Musical Actress. If votes split between Streep and Davis, Williams could come up the middle, like the NDP in a Canadian election.

 • Best Director is a dogfight: “I don’t know what Best Director means, actually,” said The Artist’s humble Michel Hazanavicius after receiving this prize at the CCMAs. He didn’t get a chance to ask the question again at the Globes, because the ever-charming Martin Scorsese took directing kudos for Hugo. The little-known Hazanavicius is theoretically the Oscar front-runner, since The Artist is now the odds-on favourite for Best Picture. But there appears to be a growing sentiment in Hollywood that a split giving Best Picture to The Artist and Best Director to Scorsese for Hugo might be the preferred way to proceed.

We also can’t rule out sentimental votes for Woody Allen, riding a career peak with Midnight in Paris, or Steven Spielberg, whose War Horse has stumbled but still canters. And art house fans in the Academy may well choose Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) or David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). The nominations seem obvious but the winner doesn’t.

 • Late rallies for The Descendants and The Help may be happening: After a long Oscar race where several films had a serious shot at getting Best Picture, it now looks as if The Artist will silently take the prize. Winning Best Picture at the CCMAs and Best Comedy/Musical at the Globes pretty much sealed the deal, if history is any guide.

However, there is strong support for Alexander Payne’s The Descendants and Tate Taylor’s The Help, as evidenced by the top awards for acting that the films received at both the Globes and CCMAs. The Help actually looked like the main winner at Thursday’s CCMAs, where it took three prizes and had George Clooney joking that he’d like to be at that film’s after-party. And The Descendants took the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Picture.

The Artist hasn’t aced the acting categories, never a good Oscar omen, although lead Jean Dujardin took the Best Comedy/Musical Actor prize at the Globes.

All three of these films will be nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture. But if The Artist’s Tin Lizzie slows, watch for it to be overtaken by The Descendants or The Help.

 • Billy Crystal may be the cheeky host that Ricky Gervais wasn’t: Comedians are nothing if not competitive, and it certainly wouldn’t be lost upon Crystal that Gervais is generally seen as having underwhelmed in his third stint as Golden Globes host.

Cracks about boy singers, Eddie Murphy and Martha Stewart? Crystal might have pitched these softball lobs a decade ago, but instead they came from Gervais in 2012.

Will Crystal seek to be the amusing shocker that Gervais wasn’t? Chances are he might, if he’s of a mind to. He’s got to prove to younger viewers that he can still kill on stage, and not just tickle tummies with lame jokes and song parodies.

 • There’s often an Oscar surprise: Rare is the Oscar nomination day that doesn’t include at least one movie or actor that didn’t figure in the forecasts of pundits or prior awards. Remember when Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima made the Best Picture cut in 2006 and Atom Egoyan grabbed a Best Director berth in 1997 for The Sweet Hereafter?

With nearly 6,000 voting members and a variety of rules as to how nominations break down, there’s always a good chance that something unpredictable might happen.

This year’s surprise may come from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the Stephen Daldry 9/11 tearjerker that I loathed, but which reportedly has been lubricating the tear ducts of Academy members.

Juliette Lewis, Triple Threat

www.globeandmail.com - By Dave Mcginn

(Jan 15, 2012)
Juliette Lewis won't mind if you go ahead and ask the
question that everyone probably wants to. Is she really crazy?

"I much prefer that reputation to, 'Is she a bitch?' 'Is she uptight?' 'Is she boring?,' " the 38-year-old actress said in a telephone interview.

From a child actor with early roles in My Stepmother Is an Alien and Christmas Vacation, Lewis gave her breakout performance at 19 in Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear, for which she earned an Oscar nomination.

Her unhinged rep came from playing a number of wild, frequently violent characters, especially her role in Natural Born Killers, released three years after Cape Fear.

"You're sort of known for what hits," Lewis said. "For me it was Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers. ... But what I set out to do from the very beginning is variety."

To that end, Lewis has demonstrated a comedic streak too, from Starsky & Hutch, Old School and Mixed Nuts, the Nora Ephron movie that also starred Steve Martin.

Then there's Lewis's music career - she's toured the world as a rock singer - her television work, which earned her an Emmy nod, not to mention starring in a viral video and, most recently, a return to TV in The Firm.

On Monday night in Toronto, Lewis gets the career-retrospective treatment at TIFF Bell Lightbox, joining artistic director Noah Cowan to discuss her work with some of today's greatest directors, including Oliver Stone, Woody Allen and Scorsese.

One question that may come up is how hard it is to be so many things - actor, musician, crazy person, comedian - when the world likes to put its celebrities in safe little boxes. Lewis knows that's often the reality; she just doesn't care.

"I never am striving for acceptance. For me it's about experience," she said. "Once you begin to worry about how you are being perceived then all sorts of pernicious thoughts will creep into your head.

"Then you'll get lost in [wondering], are your teeth white enough? And that ... doesn't appeal to me."

One thing she does not want to do is direct; she'd much rather seek out directors whose work she admires, citing Alexander Payne (Sideways and The Descendants) - "He blows my mind ... the way he captures the nuance of life's minutiae" - and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel).

There are too few strong female role models in the entertainment business today, Lewis said. But she is happy to see young actresses like Ellen Page and Emma Stone. "It's reassuring when I see these younger girls who do have an identity. They have a strong presence that's all their own, and they haven't become homogenized by that well-worn path," she said.

Lewis has studiously avoided that path, drawn, she said, to opposition.

"I'm as fragile as I am strong. I'm as vulnerable as I am invincible. It's this dichotomy. It's throughout my work. What I love in characters, too, is contradiction," she said.

That's why so many of her career choices have been intentionally against the grain. The way she sees things, it's not her being crazy, it's her being an artist.

"When you're an artist, you're always trying to fight or evolve what's in the mainstream," she said.

In Conversation With ... Juliette Lewis is at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 16, at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.


Denis Villeneuve’s Family Drama ‘Incendies’ Snags France’s Lumiere Award

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(Jan 15, 2012) PARIS — Denis Villeneuve’s war-torn family drama Incendies is still hot.  The Quebec movie has been named best foreign film in the French language by the Lumiere Awards in Paris.  The awards are considered France’s counterpart to the Golden Globes, which are voted on by foreign press correspondents.  Villeneuve, whose film was nominated for an Oscar last year in the best foreign language category, had been up against fellow Canuck Denis Cote, who was nominated for CurlingIncendies, about Montreal twins who explore their mother’s dark past in the Middle East, is also in the running for a British Academy Film Award nomination.  The U.K. prize — commonly referred to as the BAFTA Film Awards or the British Oscars — put Incendies on a longlist for best film not in the English language. Nominees will be announced on Tuesday.  The Lumieres often serve as a harbinger for what might unfold at France’s prestigious Cesar awards ceremony, which take place Feb. 24.

::TV NEWS::     

Rookie Blue, L.A. Complex Bode Well For Canadian-U.S. TV Deals

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bill Brioux

(Jan 18, 2012) PASADENA, CALIF.—If you want to get the scoop on
what’s next in Canadian television, you have to come to L.A.

More and more, with production costs ever rising, Canadian networks are looking to partner up with American broadcasters on content deals both countries can share.

It doesn’t always work. For every Flashpoint you have a couple of Combat Hospitals. That shot-in-Toronto series was the most watched scripted hit in Canada last summer, but when it failed to find an audience on ABC it was shut down, an example of a Canadian hit being cancelled by a U.S. network.

Still, costs being what they are, there are enough Can-Am successes for executives at CTV, City and Global, as well as CBC, to continue to explore deals with ABC, CBS, NBC and vice versa.

Rookie Blue is the poster child for that,” says Paul Lee, ABC’s entertainment president. The ABC/Global drama is a consistent summer hit in both countries and begins its third season in June. “Audiences love it and it is very on brand for us,” says Lee. “Obviously it doesn’t cost us at the levels of the big launches we have at fall. So yeah, we love co-productions.”

Being on brand may be the key to landing a two-country content deal. A good example is The L.A. Complex, a shot-in-Toronto drama about aspiring young Canadian actors in Hollywood just picked up by The CW network.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned, we’ll look at everything,” says Thom Sherman, head of development at The CW. Sherman says The L.A. Complex was brought to him by CTV and the agency that represents the project for international sales, William Morris Endeavor.

“We loved it,” says Sherman. “It’s an authentic look at people trying to make it in Los Angeles. It was edgy and smart, funny and fresh, and it just felt like a show that belonged on our network.”

The original plan was to air the series in summer, but The CW is so high on The L.A. Complex, which hails from the people behind the Degrassi franchise, the plan now is to put it on after One Tree Hill ends in April or May.

Networks on both sides of the border are looking to reduce risk and share costs. That was the reason NBC picked up Global’s The Firm, a big-budget legal drama shot in Mississauga. “They came to us with that show fully financed around the world and Canada being key to it,” says Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment.

Sony Pictures Television launched the series across Asia, Latin America and Central Europe close to the North American premiere. The international sales and partnerships lowered the cost to NBC, which basically got 22 episodes for the cost of 13.

Still, as Greenblatt says, “it’s not just about a great deal or great financing. You’ve got to find the right show.” NBC thought they had it in the John Grisham-inspired legal drama but, while the series opener did well last week on Global in Canada, the U.S. launch was NBC’s lowest rated in-season series debut ever.

The weak start for The Firm has not soured NBC on future Canadian creative partnerships. One of the comedies the Peacock network has in development for next season in Isabel, from Howard Busgang and Tom Nursall (Single White Spenny). The series is based on the Radio-Canada hit Le monde de Charlotte. A pilot, starring Marcia Gay Harden as the matriarch of a magical family, goes into production next month.

Rolling the dice on a big budget series launch can be a risk. That’s why it takes several countries to make a historical epic like The Borgias. The first season of the Gemini Award-winning drama was reportedly budgeted at more than $40 million. That gamble, spread between Canada, Ireland, Hungary and the United States, appears to have paid off, with a third season already in production.

Thinking big, however, isn’t always the path to a Canada/U.S. co-production deal. FX, for example, isn’t looking for the next Borgias. “We don’t do that,” says FX president John Landgraf, who feels budget isn’t as much of a consideration as ideas.

“I’m more interested in the fact that there’s a history of really, really good Canadian artists,” says Landgraf. “The financial underpinnings are just the icing on the cake.”

The recent deal with Rogers to launch FX Canada should eventually help open doors to Canadian production deals, he says. “I think it’s inevitable that there will be Canadian creators and writers out there who will get familiar with our brand and get to like some of our shows and go, ‘I can do a show like that,’” says Landgraf.

Canadians may be shopping shows to FX, but a co-pro deal with Fox is less likely. That network has fewer hours to fill (only programming until 10 p.m.) and likes to keep its hits in house. CBS, no longer a partner on Flashpoint, is also less likely to be in business with Canadian dramas this summer, having committed to an unscripted strategy for the coming off-season.

CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler says that doesn’t mean she won’t partner up with Canadian networks on future projects. “We respect the process and welcome Canadian showrunners who want to be on this network.”

Alcatraz: J.J. Abrams's Latest Escapist Fare

Source: www.thestar.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Jan 16, 2012) Vancouver - It tells a story shrouded in mystery, meant
to unravel over time - and it's even set on an island - but the team behind J.J. Abrams's latest television venture wants viewers to know that Alcatraz is not Lost. Nor is it lost, they say, despite a shakeup in its creative team and a rejigging of the pilot before it airs on Monday.

"I'm not going to compare anything to Lost, because it's a mistake to try to repeat anything you've done before," says Jack Bender, an executive producer and director on Alcatraz, who also served those functions on Lost for its six seasons. In fact, he insists his new show is unlike anything he or Abrams have done before. "I always say I'd rather fall off a cliff than just kind of drift away."

The pilot starts off like a typical procedural television drama: There's been a murder, and investigators are called in. But when fingerprints at the scene match those of a long-dead Alcatraz inmate, things get interesting. (At least, the show's creators hope they do.) It turns out that in 1963, on the night 302 inmates and guards were to be transferred out of the closing prison, the whole group simply vanished. Now, they're coming back - one by one, week by week.

"You're sort of, like, chasing these ghosts," says Parminder Nagra, the former ER star who plays government agent Lucy Banerjee. "They disappeared and now they're here and now you don't know where they are. But we know what they did."

The series is set in two time periods: the past, when Alcatraz was a working prison; and the present day, as four investigators (Nagra, Sam Neill, Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia) try to unlock the mystery.

Walking onto the Vancouver-area set is a bit surreal. The made-for-TV Alcatraz evokes the real deal: a cavernous, bone-chilling edifice housing cells stacked upon cells, with standard-issue toilets and sinks, peeling paint and the odd personal touch - some books, a guitar. There's also a present-day control room in the Alcatraz dungeon, where gleaming modern-day equipment clashes with the cold stone walls of the notorious prison.

The real San Francisco prison has been closed for almost 50 years, but continues to inspire popular culture of all kinds, as both a setting and a metaphor for prison horrors. Abrams obviously isn't anywhere close to being first at this table, and some critics and bloggers have been wondering if he will simply apply his multilayered supernatural formula (which sold audiences on Lost) to the storied prison.

The Lost comparisons are inevitable. But an apparent difference in creative philosophies offers a window into the new show's behind-the-scenes troubles. Original show runner Elizabeth Sarnoff was quoted last summer saying that she and Alcatraz's creators "totally embrace" the series' similarities to Lost. In November, however, reports surfaced that production on new episodes had been halted as Sarnoff stepped aside as head writer (she remains an executive producer). There were rumours of extensive reshoots, and the pilot that airs next week has been altered from the original.

Speaking to The Globe and Mail from Los Angeles earlier this month, Bender said that Alcatraz is "a very challenging formula" and that the show's creative problems were about nothing more than the complex premise. "It was clear that the growing pains of the show were better in the hands of somebody else," says Bender (who takes pains to add that he and Sarnoff remain friends).

In Vancouver, meanwhile, the actors steered clear of the thorny subject of creative differences, and carefully answered questions about how much they know about the plot - and their own characters' background and trajectory. Like Lost, Alcatraz is meant to unfold in stages, even for the actors.

"I like being in the dark about where stuff's going," says Garcia, who's been through it before as Lost's Hurley. This time, he geeks out as a present-day Alcatraz historian who teams up with San Francisco Police Department detective Rebecca Madsen (Jones). "We're still trying to figure out who's the guy who's working the levers and turning the knobs on the whole thing," Garcia adds. "[I] haven't been able to figure it out yet."

Most of the cast members have been to Alcatraz, a U.S. National Parks Service-run museum that attracts throngs of tourists. For Neill (The Tudors), that visit was long ago, but also unforgettable.

"It's slightly disturbing that such a dark place where dark things happened is a kind of place where people take photos of each other with their Instamatics," Neill said, after a long day of shooting in Vancouver - which doubles for San Francisco in the series (with locations ranging from school playgrounds to the beach at Spanish Banks). "But it's also sort of beautiful in the middle of this lovely bay. It's full of ironies. Irony on irony."

Neill's role as a government investigator who has been involved in the Alcatraz mystery from the beginning has had him thinking about the prison's hold on our imaginations, and the history of the place. "It's so extreme - and cruel too - to isolate people, but in full view of the world. And they have the world to look at, you know, a normal world. It must have been torture. It must have been really torture to just look out the window and see real life. There's something awfully kind of bleak about that."

Bender, who has been spending a lot of time in Vancouver, says bleak is good - at least in terms of the show's aesthetic. He even welcomes the rainy weather. "If the look of this show was always wet and grey, that would be a great thing, just in terms of a creepy vibe."

Alcatraz premieres Monday on CITY-TV and Fox at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Check local listings.

After Getting A Late Start In Showbiz, David Duchovny Has Starred In Two TV Hits

Source: www.thestar.com - By Alicia Rancilio

(Jan 13, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. —
David Duchovny has starred in two hit TV shows, The X-Files and Californication, and yet the thought of going into showbiz never occurred to him when he was growing up.

“I never even had the wayward thought. It never even entered even the furthest reaches of my imagination. ... I never thought about the actors on television or film like what kind of life they had,” he said in a recent interview.

Duchovny, 51, said he didn’t begin acting until his late twenties

“I wanted to write plays. I was at Yale graduate school at the time for English literature not for acting. ... I liked the idea of collaboration and I thought if I’m gonna write plays I should learn something about speaking the lines that I might try to write. It might help me as a writer to actually know it from that side,” he said. “So that’s pretty much how it started.”

His career took off with roles on Twin Peaks, Red Shoe Diaries and, of course, The X-Files, which made him a star and a sex symbol.

“I was kind of blissfully overconfident at first and I don’t say that as a joke,” he said. “I knew I thought I was good. Not great. Not in a conceited or cocky way, but in a way like, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ You need in a way to believe sometimes.”

Duchovny credits The X-Files with helping him with acting.

“Every day I had to go to work and every day for 14 hours year after year after year I don’t know if I would’ve made it to this point if I would’ve just gone from movie to movie to movie like a three-month stint here and a three-month stint there. It was very good for me and my particular sense of myself or my craft to have to go in every day and do it.”

Now when he looks back at old X-Files episodes, they remind him of home movies.

“I’ll remember the day, you know I’ll remember the lunch, I’ll remember the weather ... and, as I said, I will laugh at how bad I am or stuff like that. It used to come on and I’d say to (wife) Tea (Leoni), ‘Can you just see how bad I am?’ and she’d never agree but it’s kind of funny embarrassing. Like home movies.”

Californication is now in its fifth season on Showtime.

Duchovny plays Hank Moody, a sharp-tongued writer who consistently finds himself embroiled in outrageous and often sexual situations.

He says it’s not easy to pull off the show’s quick-witted dialogue.

“Sometimes the better the writing, the harder it is to play because you really want to service it,” he said. “It’s hard to be that quick and articulate in life. You’ve got to try to make it seem discovered, you know, not rehearsed.”

Much of the series is devoted to the push and pull of Hank’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend Karen (Natascha McElhone) and whether they will ever get back together permanently.

“Both Hank and Karen are changing in their own ways over the years and I just think they have to believe that they got it right the first time,” said Duchovny. “They have to get back there, get back to the beginning.”

Kathleen Robertson On Grammer, Gossip And A Good Role

Source: www.thestar.com - By Gayle Macdonald

(Jan 16, 2012) The woman who walks into the lounge in the Four Seasons Hotel bears little resemblance to the brunette bombshell who turned heads 15 years ago as Clare Arnold in the teen soap, Beverly Hills, 90210.

Sporting a black bowler hat, laced boots, jeans and an Urban Outfitters sweater, Hamilton-born
Kathleen Robertson is now a closely cropped blonde. And while she prefers dark tresses, she explains that if director Gus Van Sant asks you to dye your hair, you do just that.

Landing the juicy, demanding role of serial careerist Kitty O'Neill in Van Sant's first-ever TV show,
Boss, has redefined the 38-year-old actress's career. The series, which airs on Starz in the United States, is drawing raves from critics, who have applauded performances by both her and co-star Kelsey Grammer (who won a Golden Globe on Monday for his role as Chicago mayor Tom Kane).

In Toronto recently to chat up her new indie feature film, Not Since You (in theatres on Friday), a chatty Robertson talks about the thrill of working with two-time Oscar nominee Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk), the media hype surrounding Grammer, and how excited she is that her family - still all based in Steeltown - will soon be able to watch Boss in Canada, where it's slated to air on Superchannel in April.

How did it feel when your co-star Kelsey Grammer won the Golden Globe?

Kelsey's win is incredible on so many levels. For Kelsey personally, he spent 20-years embodying the most iconic comedic character on television, and to wipe that slate clean and be seen in such a drastically different way, was thrilling to witness on set every day. It was a happy night for our show and for Kelsey.

You begin shooting season two of Boss in March. Did you ever expect the show to generate this buzz?

I have to say, kind of. I mean it's Gus and it's his first TV series. He hasn't done anything that hasn't been interesting, if not brilliant. I grew up with My Own Private Idaho and To Die For. And when I read this script, I thought oh my God, this is good.

What's it like working for a director of his calibre?

He's so confident, calm and mellow. He doesn't like to rehearse. He doesn't like to block. He doesn't like lighting. He doesn't like hair and makeup on set. You feel like you're in a documentary. At the end of every episode, we all say we've never worked on anything before where you feel less witnessed. He doesn't want any of that artifice. He's all about let's just do it.

Grammer's messy divorce from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills's Camille Grammer - and his subsequent marriage to British belle Kayte Walsh [26 years his junior] - has been non-stop fodder for the media. Is the man portrayed in the tabloids anything like the one who showed up for work?

There are a lot of stars I've worked with - big stars - who, when they walk on set, the energy just changes. It's their set and you're just in service to them. Kelsey is completely different. He's courteous, helpful and solicitous. He'll say things like, how do you feel? Do you think that was good? Do you want to do it again? There's all this drama around Kelsey - and the truth is within an hour of meeting him you simply can't help but like him. He's just completely self-deprecating. I can't say enough great things about him. And he's James-Gandolfini-good in this role.

What's your take on the professionally competent, but personally messed-up Kitty O'Neill?

It's by far the most challenging role, and the most nuanced material, I've ever worked on. The script is loosely based on King Lear, and I play Kelsey's right-hand man. She's a woman whose dedicated her entire life to her profession and she's sacrificed everything for it. She doesn't have a boyfriend. She doesn't have many friends. She doesn't deal with her family. And she doesn't have pets. Her life is this man and her job. We meet her when she's at the point where she's starting to question if the sacrifices have been worth it. She's fantastic at her job, but she's emotionally wrecked. She makes reckless, bad personal choices, which is always a fun character to play.

You're happily married, with a three-year-old son, William. How do you relate to Kitty at all?

I think everyone can relate to the idea of making a bad choice - and knowing it's a bad choice - but doing it anyway. Not being healthy enough to stop yourself from making that choice. That, I can connect to - maybe not so much now, but definitely when I was younger.

Your new feature film, Not Since You, was shot two years ago in Athens, Ga. In it, you play the girl-next-door type, which is something of a departure for you. What attracted you to the part?

The director is a Canadian, Jeff Stephenson, and any time I get a script that has any Canadian component, I'm always immediately much more interested. Plus, it was a role I don't get offered very often. For whatever reason I tend to get roles that are more damaged. To be the healthy, girl-next-door was, in a weird way, a challenge to play. She's a schoolteacher. She's married and she's happy. She's simple so it was a bit of a reverse challenge.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

British Series Downton Abbey Has Created A Craze And Set PBS Records

Source: www.thestar.com - By Chantaie Allick

(Jan 14, 2012) A television craze that started in England two years ago
has taken firm hold in North America with the premiere of the second season of the popular British period drama, Downton Abbey. With it, PBS has landed the most popular show in the American public broadcaster’s history.

The early 20th century drama garnered the station record viewership for last Sunday’s season premier. It features an ensemble cast and premiered in Canada and the U.S. on Jan. 9, 2011.

4.2 million viewers tuned in to watch fictional early nineteenth century aristocrats and their servants deal with Upstairs Downstairs-esque drama and the start of the Great War.

The series premiered with double the average PBS prime time rating and exceeded the average ratings of the first season by 18 per cent. It is among the most popular shows on PBS ever.

“I’m so pleased that audiences have flocked to their local PBS station and Downton Abbey to enjoy some of the best drama on television this season,” said PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger.

Downton Abbey is set during the late Edwardian era on the fictional estate in North Yorkshire, England. Creator and principal writer Julian Fellowes also wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park and is well acquainted with British tales from this period.

These types of period dramas have developed a new cachet and unexpected popularity among television viewers in the UK and North America.

Fan of the show Deborah Kimmett, 54, watched both seasons in one weekend last year after discovering the DVDs at her local video store. “It’s so sad because it was over so fast,” she said.

Kimmett said the appeal is how intertwined the lives of both classes are. It isn’t the stereotypical show of snobbery and class wars. “It’s not like a British version of The Help,” she said.

Yasmina Male, 13, is also a huge fan of the show. “I love how Downton Abbey is so different from what I watch on TV here,” she said. She’s a fan of comedies like The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.

“I find it really interesting to see a program that talks about the relationships between the different classes,” she added. She said the show is hard to classify because it’s a drama that involves romance, but is also quite funny.

Filmed on Location at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, England the show is produced by British media company Carnival Films for the ITV network. The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 set the events of the series in motion.

It’s a series of proper accents, pursed lips, austere clothing, genteel manners and irresistible family drama. The first season focuses on a familiar topic in British period drama: succession. But WWI is expected to greatly influence the second season as the main male characters go off to fight the Germans.

“It’s so different from the last season, you get a sneak peak to what’s going to happen and it adds an extra little twist,” said Male.

And while old fans like Male and Kimmett keep up with or rewatch the current season, new ones are working to catch up. The first episode of season one was streamed online 400,000 times in its initial release and the entire season has gotten over one million downloads on iTune and shoppbs.org. These figures don’t include downloads from bitTorrent sites.

Fans have another season to look forward to. Producers announced in November that the show had already been picked up for a third season which is set to start in the UK in September. Kimmett said she can’t wait.

HBO Sets Sights On Women In The White House

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jan 13, 2012) HBO wants a woman in the White House. In the worst
way. Literally.

Seinfeld’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a harried vice-president in a terrific new HBO comedy,
VEEP, from Armando Iannucci, co-writer of In the Loop. VEEP is similar in tone, and dark humour, and also features Anna Chlumsky, and Arrested Development’s Tony Hale as her put-upon flunkie. The eight-episode inaugural season takes office April 22.

It gets a little closer to reality, or at least possibility, with the new HBO movie Game Change, starring Ed Harris as presidential hopeful John McCain and Julianne Moore as vice-presidential hopeless Sarah Palin. Woody Harrelson plays campaign strategist Steve Schmidt.

Again, the creators are in familiar territory, director Jay Roach and screenwriter Danny Strong last collaborated on the similarly political and fact-based Recount.

As Laura Dern so memorably evoked Katherine Harris in Recount, Moore is an absolutely uncanny, uncomprehending Palin — putting even Tina Fey to shame, which we are permitted to observe at length, as Moore’s Palin sits numbly transfixed by Fey’s, on tape, on the road, in the air, in hotel rooms, at home.

The HBO movie debuts March 10. And you know that the real Sarah Palin will be watching it too. And that she will not be happy. Not happy at all.


‘The Game’ Scores Big Season Premier Numbers


(Jan 12, 2012) *Greg Braxton of the LA Times is reporting that BET’s
The Game” is still at the top of its game in the ratings department. If you recall, the show’s season premiere last year topped 7.7 million viewers, making it the top-rated ad-supported sitcom broadcast in cable history. Well, “The Game” came back for its second BET season Tuesday night, and while it did good, it didn’t match the previous record. The show, about a fictional San Diego football team, drew 5.3 million viewers.


Cirque’s Newest Show To Arrive In Toronto In September

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jan 16, 2012)
Cirque du Soleil announced Monday that their next touring show, Amaluna, will have its Toronto debut at the Grand Chapiteau at the Ports Lands on September 6 after an April premiere in Montreal.

The show will be directed by Diane Paulus, the internationally acclaimed director of the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair, the Canadian Opera Company’s The Magic Flute and the current Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess.

The brief description of the production provided by Cirque indicates that it owes a great deal to William Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Amaluna invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Their queen, Prospera, directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honours femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next.

“In the wake of a storm caused by Prospera, a group of young men lands on the island, triggering an epic, emotional story of love between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor.”

Paulus is well-known for putting a contemporary spin on Shakespeare and her irreverent after-hours cabaret, The Donkey Show, inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, ran six years off-Broadway and is currently still playing in Cambridge, Mass. where Paulus is the Artistic Director of the American Repertory Theatre.

Specially-priced tickets for Amaluna are now available to Cirque Club members at cirqueclub.com. Membership is free.

New Musical Based On Craigslist Ads Captures Human Longing

Source: www.thestar.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Jan 16, 2012) We've all read them: those Craigslist ads so good (or bad) you just have to pass the URL on to a couple of friends, before resuming your search for a couch/babysitter/love.

Or turning them into a musical.

Next week, as part of Vancouver's PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, veteran CBC broadcaster Bill Richardson and local singer/songwriter Veda Hille premiere
Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, made up largely of verbatim ads Richardson has found while trolling Craigslist.

It was an idea originally created as a 20-minute song cycle for the 2009 PuSh Festival. Inspired by the trajectory of The Drowsy Chaperone, Hille - a stalwart on the Vancouver indie music scene - began working on a series of short musicals and wanted to collaborate with Richardson, an old friend and host of CBC Radio 2's Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and In Concert. When she asked what he'd like to write about, his immediate answer was Craigslist.

"It just seemed like it was ripe for mining; a rich, rich vein of stuff," Richardson said during an interview on Granville Island, next door to the theatre. "Because it's just so full of stories and weirdness and all the evidence of humanity. A kind of humanity, anyway."

It was a bit of a surprise idea for someone who had never bought or sold anything on Craigslist (still hasn't, although he did conduct a search - ultimately aborted - for an accordion this month after giving the instrument a whirl at a New Year's Eve party).

But what Richardson quickly found was that a Craigslist ad can reveal a lot about a person, often unintentionally.

Consider the ad-sourced lyrics for the musical's Decapitated Dolls: "My daughter likes to pull the heads off dolls. The therapist says we should let her, so we do. We have lots of headless dolls. Some of the heads may be retrievable. Most probably not. Free to a good home. Washington, DC."

Hille composed the music for the initial six songs in the weeks after her son was born in 2008 (you can hear him crying on the early demos), and premiered the work in the Club PuSh program two years ago. There was a strong feeling from the Arts Club Theatre that the material could support a full-length work.

Hille wasn't convinced initially, but she and her librettist got to work, finding and writing new material and work shopping it along the way. Meanwhile, Craigslist usage became ubiquitous, they found. (Heck, even part of the show's drum kit was bought on Craigslist.)

Now at about 80 minutes, the Cantata includes numbers such as 300 Stuffed Penguins, Chilli Eating Buddy, Clown on Stilts and RIP Steve Jobs (a fairly recent - but not the most recent - addition).

The work has a loose story arc and no real through-line, according to its creators. And finding the happy (or not) ending was challenging, given the source material.

"The thing about Craigslist is you don't get to see the results," says Hille, who also performs in the show. "People don't say 'I sold it to this person or I met this person and now we're happy.' All you get is the initial question. So that was sort of a trick. Because how do we keep it questioning and yet still make it satisfying? We've written a few little tiny storylines that tie up, but mostly it is just a relentless onslaught of desire."

Ultimately, this is not a show about missed connections, quirky merchandise for sale or trying to find that perfect roommate. The ads serve as a window into the collective psyche in the age of social networking.

"What comes through in these ads so often is just this bald longing and tenderness. It's a kind of searching. People are looking for something," Richardson says. "It turns out that it's a piece about hunger, as much as anything else."

Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata is at the Revue Stage in Vancouver Jan. 19 to Feb. 11; opening night Jan. 24 (artsclub.com[[LINKTEXT]]artsclub.com[[/LINKTEXT]][[URL]]http://artsclub.com[[/URL]][[TARGET]]_blank[[/TARGET]]). The PuSh Festival runs Jan. 17 to Feb. 4 in Vancouver (pushfestival.ca[[LINKTEXT]]pushfestival.ca[[/LINKTEXT]][[URL]]http://pushfestival.ca[[/URL]][[TARGET]]_blank[[/TARGET]]).

Other PuSh festival highlights


Renowned Mexican touring ensemble Teatro Linea de Sombra presents the story of a Mexican man who departs for the U.S. border - Amarillo, Texas, specifically - but never arrives. Through a multimedia performance, his story slowly emerges. Jan. 17 to 19, Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts

Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot

Neworld Theatre and Vancouver Moving Theatre, whose adaptation of Crime and Punishment was a 2005 PuSh highlight, have created a musical adaptation of Dostoyevsky's tale of a prince whose goodness ultimately contributes to his demise. Adapted and directed by James Fagan Tait. Jan. 20 to 29, Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC

Guided Tour

Peter Reder (City of Dreams) collaborates with Vancouver's Boca del Lupo to take the curious through the darkened passages of the Vancouver Art Gallery after closing time, with a live performance complemented by multimedia elements. Jan. 25 to 29, Vancouver Art Gallery

Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca

Spain's world-renowned flamenco group and its celebrated premier dancer Soledad Barrio return to Vancouver, following a sold-out performance at the 2009 Cultural Olympiad. A glowing New York Times review last fall called Barrio's dancing "thrilling" and "invariably charged with intense drama." Jan. 21, Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Eat the Street

From Mammalian Diving Reflex - the company that brought you Haircuts by Children - comes food reviews by children, where Grade 5 and 6 students hit a string of Vancouver eateries. Book a table nearby and eavesdrop on their commentary. Or attend the awards ceremony Feb. 4 at The Roundhouse. Various restaurants Jan. 25 to Feb. 2

For a detailed schedule, visit pushfestival.ca.

Original Yellow Wiggle Greg Page Rejoins The Band

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 18, 2012) SYDNEY — The Yellow Wiggle is back. The original lead singer of the world-famous preschool entertainment band The Wiggles has made a surprise return, five years after he left the group because of illness.

Greg Page announced Wednesday that he is immediately rejoining founding members Anthony Field (Blue Wiggle), Murray Cook (Red Wiggle) and Jeff Fatt (Purple Wiggle) to produce new CDs and DVDs before touring Australia, United States and Britain beginning in March.

“I’m feeling great and looking forward to doing what I love,” the 40-year-old said in a statement.

A rare nervous system disorder, dysautonomia, forced Page to retire in 2006. He handed over his yellow shirt to longtime understudy Sam Moran and became a spokesman for the Dysautonomia Youth Network of America.

Moran will now leave the band he has toured with for nine years.

“I am very proud of my five years as the Yellow Wiggle and the group’s continued success with me as their lead singer,” Moran said in a statement.

“I have enjoyed every minute of my nine years touring with the group, but I now look forward to new opportunities and more time to spend with my wife and 2-year-old daughter,” he added.

Page, Field and Cook had studied early childhood education before they founded The Wiggles in Sydney in 1991. The band has sold more than 23 million DVDs and 7 million CDs worldwide, and its TV shows are broadcast in more than 100 countries, according to The Wiggles’ website.



Canadian Comedy ‘Starbuck’ Wins Audience Prize At Palm Springs Film Fest

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Jan 16, 2012) PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — The Canadian French-
language comedy Starbuck has won the audience prize for best narrative feature at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. The flick about a sperm donor who unknowingly fathers 533 kids was also a hit at September’s Toronto International Film Festival, where it was chosen as a first runner-up for the Cadillac People’s Choice Award, voted on by audiences. Patrick Huard stars as a 42-year-old man who seems to have everything going wrong in his life. His pregnant girlfriend is breaking up with him, he owes money to the mob, and his family has written him off as a lost cause. Then he finds out there’s a lawsuit underway to unmask him as the father of the hundreds of children he helped bring into the world. According to Variety magazine, the rights to the Ken Scott-directed film have been sold for France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain and Israel.


Relief Donations Via SMS Remained Popular After Haiti Outpouring: Survey

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By BarBara OrtutaY, The Associated Press

(Jan 12, 2012) The massive earthquake that devastated
Haiti two years ago prompted an outpouring of charitable donations and propelled a new way of giving - through text messages - into the public eye.

A new study shows that text messages are becoming a viable avenue to give and receive charitable donations, even though the amounts people give are smaller.

A nationwide campaign after the January 2010 disaster encouraged people to donate $10 to recovery efforts by texting the word "Haiti" to a number, such as 90999 for the Red Cross. The donation would be added to their monthly cellphone bill.

A survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project asked the people who sent those text donations why they gave, who they are and whether they have contributed to charity since.

Only donors who agreed in advance to be contacted were included in the survey. This amounted to only about 13 per cent of those who contributed to the Haiti relief effort via text, so it's possible that the people who were excluded have different attitudes.

With that caveat, here are some of the findings:

- Eighty per cent of the Haiti donors did not contribute money to the relief efforts through any means other than texting.

- Most donations were the product of impulse-giving. Eighty-nine per cent of the donors heard about the "Text to Haiti" campaign on TV and half of them donated right away.

- Three-quarters of the donors said they don't do a lot of extra research when donating via text message.

- The majority of those surveyed - 56 per cent - have contributed to more recent disaster recovery efforts via text since the Haiti quake. These include the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March and the Gulf oil spill in 2010.

- Text donors tend to be younger and more racially diverse than the people who give to charity through more traditional means.

The survey conducted in September and October by Princeton Survey Research Associates International on behalf of Pew, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the mGive Foundation, a mobile-giving non-profit. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The results of 863 donors randomly selected from those who agreed to participate were included in the study.

iPhone 4S Devours Data Twice As Fast As Previous Model

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Tarmo Virki, Reuters

(Jan 06, 2012) Apple’s new iPhone 4S consumes on average twice as much data as the previous iPhone model and even more than iPad tablets due to increasing use of online services like the virtual personal assistant Siri, an industry study showed.

When Apple rolled out the iPhone 4S in October, its small improvements disappointed many analysts and reviewers, but consumer demand for the device has been strong, and buyers have extensively used their devices.

IPhone 4S users transfer on average three times more data than users of the older iPhone 3G model which was used as the benchmark in a study by telecom network technology firm Arieso.

Data usage of the previous model, the iPhone 4, was only 1.6 times higher than the iPhone 3G, while iPad 2 tablets consumed 2.5 times more data than the iPhone 3G, the study showed.

Today’s generation of smartphones is placing increasing demands on available carrier bandwidth as applications become slicker and average personal usage of videos intensifies.

That sharp rise in data consumption puts more pressure on wireless operators to speed up capacity investments, as they are struggling already with clogged telecom networks to keep up with growing demand for data services on the go.

A smartphone’s consumption of data depends upon what the user asks it to do.

The iPhone 4S is perceived by some as a data hog because of Siri, a well-reviewed virtual personal-assistant and search app. It is integrated into the iPhone 4S and responds to voice commands.

“I use the iPhone 4 myself and when I first heard of the iPhone 4S features I was not compelled to rush out and get one. However, the data usage numbers I am seeing make me wonder what I am missing,” said Arieso’s chief technology officer, Michael Flanagan.

He said as tablets use smartphone-like user interfaces and software platforms, their data usage was similar to top-end smartphones.

“A tablet still looks like a big smartphone,” he said.

Mobile data usage has skyrocketed since the introduction of Apple’s original iPhone in 2007, with usage of data networks seen roughly doubling each year. Emerging mobile cloud services such as Siri are expected to further boost growth.

Wireless operators are keen on raising revenue from Internet browsing and the social networking boom as revenue from traditional voice calls declines, but they are facing increasingly congested networks.

Fearful of losing customers, only a few operators have publicly admitted to the problem of keeping pace with data traffic, but the majority are experiencing difficulties.

“There is no silver bullet,” Mr. Flanagan said, adding that the introduction of new, more efficient LTE networks will help. But he said operators should also identify heavy users of data and distribute small cellsites to them to offload traffic from mobile networks.

New, so-called small cell technologies enable operators to use tiny, almost personal base stations which cost around $100 to remove mobile data traffic from the big base stations which serve hundreds or thousands of clients around them.

Telecoms gear makers Ericsson, Nokia Siemens Networks and Alcatel-Lucent – which have had to battle aggressive pricing by Asian rivals – hope rising data traffic will lead to new orders.

Frustration Grows Over Google’s Search Priorities

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Richard Waters

(Jan 16, 2012) San FranciscoThe dispute that broke out last week over Google’s latest attempt to promote its Google+ social network marks growing frustration among internet competitors about the way the search company gives preferential treatment to its own services in search results.

Despite indications that regulators will study the latest move, however, some rivals warned that the U.S. has been slow to pursue its investigation of the wider issue and that Google’s persistence with the tactic has allowed it further to reinforce its search dominance.

Google last week added a greater degree of personalization to its search results by injecting content from its Google+ network for users who are signed on to the network. The feature, called “Your World”, drew complaints from Twitter, whose tweets are not included in search results in the same way.

The dispute echoes a series of complaints over earlier Google efforts to integrate other services into search, most recently last month with the addition of airline flight information derived from its acquisition last year of ITA Software. Adding in-house services like this, including shopping and maps, unfairly favours the company’s own services and risks killing innovation on the Web, critics warn.

Google argues that bringing in results from specialized, or “vertical”, services like this benefits users by giving them direct answers to questions. It also said last week that it would be happy to draw on content from other social services but that it was unable to access the content adequately.

Regulators at the Federal Trade Commission, which began a wider anti-trust review of Google in the middle of last year, indicated last week that they would add the Google+ case to their investigation, according to a person familiar with the situation. Regulators had yet to show their hand late last week with any requests for information, another person said, though several people involved said it appeared inevitable that the incident would be added to the case file, given the wider issues already under review.

For its part, Twitter has carefully avoided being drawn into a row with Google over anti-trust issues, instead limiting itself to accusing the company of giving up its ethical high ground by risking the quality of its search results.

One person close to Twitter’s board said that the company had been caught in the middle of a fight between Google and Facebook, at whom the “Your World’ feature was mainly aimed, but that the company’s position would not be helped by getting into a regulatory fight. With the number of tweets growing rapidly, it already has enough content to attract users and is not reliant on search for traffic, this person said.

Another person close to the situation contrasted Twitter’s stance to other companies that have been more direct in challenging Google on anti-trust grounds, including taking their cases to Washington. These companies, including travel search company Kayak and local information service Yelp, risk casting themselves as victims of Google’s continued dominance, this person said.

Legal precedents also suggest that regulators might find it hard to lean on the Google+ incident if they eventually mount a case against Google for preferring its own services, said Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer who represents other Google rivals.

They would have to show that the company was illegally “tying” its social networking service to search in order to gain an unfair advantage in a new market, he added – a principle that was not upheld when a U.S. appeal court looked at Microsoft’s tactic of tying its browser to the Windows operating system in order to dominate the browser market.

Nintendo Game Apps Offer Big Fun Without The Big Prices

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Chad Sapieha

(Jan 16, 2012) Most people assume the Nintendo 3DS runs only pricey boxed games. Truth is, some of the most compelling experiences available for the stereoscopic handheld are inexpensive downloadable games – essentially apps – available through the Nintendo eShop. Here are four such games that will deliver hours of fun at a fraction of the price of a retail release.

Pushmo ($6.99; Everyone)

Each stage in this innovative collection of blocky conundrums is a tower composed of sliding parts. We control a pudgy, blushing sumo wrestler who pushes and pulls pieces forward and back to create steps up to the towers’ summits.

The catch is that we have limited space to move about and we can’t pull pieces onto the blocks on which we stand – though you can sometimes tug them forward by gripping their sides.

It’s trickier than it sounds. Serious lateral thinking is necessary to figure out all 200 spatial stumpers. If you do manage to solve them all, you can keep playing by creating your own puzzles in the Pushmo Studio.

Mighty Switch Force ($5.99; Everyone 10+)

Best not to think too hard about the premise behind this strange little side-scroller – it involves a scantily dressed female police officer rescuing women chained to iron balls – and just sit back and enjoy the smartly designed action.

Players navigate two-dimensional stages filled with blocks that can be sent into the foreground or background at the touch of a button. This novel mechanic allows us to access new areas, obstruct bad guys and cross platforms in the sky. You can even squish enemies up against the 3DS’s screen by bringing a block forward while they’re in front of it.

Sixteen stages provide about three or four hours of fun. You can play again, but the only incentive is to post better times.

VVVVVV (Everyone 10+; $7.99)

Already a darling in the PC gaming community, this retro-styled delight runs the risk of breaking the brains of more traditional gamers.

Players control a smiling stick man who avoids the spiky corridors of a perilous space station not by jumping, but by switching the gravitational pull between floor and ceiling.

It’s simple at first, but before long you’ll find yourself forced to make precise adjustments to gravity and momentum in rapid succession in order to land on tiny platforms dotting vast expanses of pointy death.

It’s gratifyingly challenging, but not for the easily frustrated – even with checkpoints located only a few seconds apart.

Zen Pinball 3D (Everyone; $5.99)

The 3DS’s small, horizontal screen isn’t ideal for displaying Zen Pinball 3D’s long arcade tables, even with several camera options. However, this is the rare case when three-dimensional effects really do enhance the experience. It feels like you can reach in and touch each themed machine.

Once you have your viewing preferences sorted out, it’s easy to do as the game’s title suggests and enter a Zen state of flipping balls up into satisfyingly complex mechanical contraptions governed by authentic physics.

Sadly, the controls prove mildly laggy. I learned to compensate by tapping the flippers a split second early, but it’s a nuisance.

Special to The Globe and Mail


Sail On A Catamaran (Not A Cruise Ship) To Explore Tiny Caribbean Outposts

www.globeandmail.com - Jillian Dickens

(Jan 14, 2012) GUADELOUPE, LESSER ANTILLES — Perched on the
starboard bow of New Beginnings catamaran, with my legs dangling over the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Guadeloupe, I watch a school of fire-engine-red parrot fish glide through the blue beneath my feet. Knowing the water is nearly as warm as the soft air, I dive in after the fish and swim to the uninhabited lush green island of Îles de la Petite Terre, where we have been anchored since last night. In a few hours, the oasis will be crawling with snorkel-gear-toting tourists attracted by the coral reef nature reserve framing the island. But right now, we have the place to ourselves.

There are cruise people and then there are people who want to explore multiple destinations without a crowd. Sailing on a small intimate yacht like New Beginnings is for the latter group. New Beginnings is part of the TradeWinds Cruise Club, which at the minute is the only outfit providing this experience at a luxury level. You can rent a cabin and sail with a group of like-minded travellers, or you can charter the entire vessel. There are TradeWinds yachts scattered throughout the Caribbean, Greece and Turkey, and itineraries typically run a week, stringing together secret discoveries like uninhabited beaches, unspoiled villages and crowd-free snorkelling spots.

I'm with a group of six friends who make up the guest list of the 70-foot Galathea catamaran. She's plush and treats us well with queen beds and private ensuite baths.

I'm not used to such lux on the open seas. As a fisherman's daughter from British Columbia, I've spent lots of time on the ocean, but I've always been working. So this week, while my friends take lessons on steering the boat, tying knots, laying anchor and setting the sails, I'm happy to leave everything to the capable crew. And when I say everything, I am including paddling to the local French grocer for fresh baguettes, mixing a new Caribbean cocktail every evening, playing DJ and baiting hooks during afternoon fishing adventures. Sadly all we catch is a metre-long barracuda – it's beautiful, but not fit for eating. We give it back to the sea.

Our itinerary goes something like this: We sail from Guadeloupe through the surrounding French islands, including Marie-Galante and Îles des Saintes, Îlet du Gosier and back to Guadeloupe, tucking into various points along the way. I feel like an early explorer, mapping out my new colony, and tie a bandana around my head for dramatic effect.

For me, the week is a mix of decadence and adventure. I wake with the sun and climb the few stairs up to the main deck, where breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, granola and yogurt are already waiting. “It's another beautiful day in paradise,” Captain Mick says after the meal. He's describing the day's plans, pointing out the route we'll take to our next secret hideaway. I can't argue with his outlook. While my friends lower themselves into kayaks to explore the mangrove overhangs lining the islands, looking for mongoose and wild ducks, I wade ashore and bushwhack into the jungle, careful not to step on any critters lining the forest floor. I allow myself to think I'd do okay being stranded on this deserted tropical island. Easy to say when New Beginnings is tethered close by.

On board there's enough room for people to gather or get away on their own. Two seats at the ship's prow prove to be the most popular spot for us to ride the waves, yelping with each big splash, trying to dip our legs into the water. The boat is one big bed on floats. I move from trampoline to chaise longue to over-the-water netting, never short of a place to settle. When too hot for comfort, we dive from the bow into the cool water below. At night, we swim through the dark and our strokes start the water glowing phosphorescent, twinkling around our fingers and toes as we move.

In the small group of islands known as Îles des Saintes, we tender into the little French fishing village of Bourg des Saintes. Bright coach houses line the narrow streets, and rowboats anchored in the harbour are painted in vivid teals, oranges and reds. This piece of France (I swear I hear someone wearing a striped shirt and beret sing, “Oui, oui mon chérie”) is folded against a fertile mountainside smack in the most luscious of the Caribbean. It's here my fellow sailors let off steam and rent scooters to explore the island.

We set off, looking silly in mismatched, ill-fitting helmets, giggling our way through the village and countryside, locals waving as we putt-putt by. We drive up to the mountaintop to explore Le Chameau, an old lookout tower, and Fort Napoleon, a former jail-turned-museum. We cross town and zoom up the other side, passing goats, donkeys, horses and makeshift gardens overlooking a turquoise sea and volcanic island archipelago. After cruising down a one-way street past what feels like the entire village frowning and shaking their fingers at us, we call it quits. After admiring the sunset, we head back to New Beginnings for a feast of lobster and chardonnay.

Aside from the odd tomfoolery, most days are spent dropping anchor in a secluded bay for an afternoon of basking and swimming and playing Robinson Crusoe. I want all my new beginnings to be just like this.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Design Savvy And A True South Beach Vibe Draw Guests To This Hotel

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Simona Rabinovitch

(Jan 13, 2012) MIAMI — The Dream South Beach: 1111 Collins Ave., Miami, Fla.; dreamsouthbeach.com; 108 rooms with winter rates from $279 (U.S.). No eco-rating.

Walking into the Dream South Beach feels like entering another
dimension of art deco glamour, Eastern sensuality and Bollywood charm.

Open since July, the Dream South Beach brings whimsical Moroccan fantasy to Collins Avenue's fabled swagger. With a chic rooftop pool lounge and neighbourhood restaurant by Michelin-starred chef Geoffrey Zakarian, this gorgeous 108-room boutique hotel is the latest addition to the Dream brand (an offshoot of Chatwal hotels).

With properties in New York, Thailand and India, the Chatwal's hip luxury lifestyle formula clearly works. Like other Dream joints, this one feels authentic to local culture, but also subtly radiates jet-setting glamour and accessible urban cool. It's pleasantly quirky, too.

Vikram Chatwal, the 40-year-old son of hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, is the brand's founder. Well known for his personal life and global gallivanting, he has achieved some success as a film actor, yet in person he is a gracious, chilled-out host. At the Dream's opening party, he kept a low profile. Nicky Hilton was in attendance, as were fire-eaters and models sporting teeny gold shorts and Marie Antoinette wigs. And did I mention the vodka popsicles? Delicious.


Located behind the former Versace mansion, the gorgeous Dream merges two historic art deco hotels, the Palmer House and the Tudor Hotel, which opened in 1939. While creating their French Moroccan concept, design house Architropolis honoured the site's architectural legacy and preserved many existing features (the former check-in desk of the Tudor, a stunning marble surface, now serves as the bar of the Tudor House restaurant). Adjacent to the restaurant is an exotic, bright orange Moroccan lounge, with plush fabrics, rugs and sofas. It's eye-popping.

The second building houses the lobby, and the hotel's main entrance is a lovely courtyard between the two that is landscaped with bamboo, fountains and an underlit pathway.

Designed with Vikram Chatwal in mind, lush fabrics make the ornate two-storey penthouse feel tastefully decadent. A marble table was built specifically to be danced upon, and a massive hookah pipe is fully functional. Yet the Dream's crowning jewel is its rooftop infinity pool and deck, which doubles as local hot spot Highbar.


To say these rooms are made for after-dark high jinks would be an understatement. When you first walk in, blue backlight hits you and the dim halogen lighting – while less than ideal for makeup application and other grooming – is soothing, otherworldly and sexy. Blackout curtains stretch twilight to 24 hours a day. The bed takes up most of the room, so comfy you might never want to wake up.

Separating the bathroom and entrance area from the bedroom are white mirrored double doors carved with an intricate Moroccan pattern that creates a “jewel box effect.” Sparkly crystal chandeliers add to the fantasy.

Now, for the open-concept bathroom: The toilet and shower are on opposite sides of the narrow entrance hallway, and while the loo has a door that closes, only transparent glass separates the shower from the rest of the boudoir. It's sensual and beautiful, but don't bring your mom here, or anyone else you don't want to see naked.


If you manage to leave the compound, the Dream offers beach towels and chair service through the Boucher Brothers' stand on the sand. In-house, complete concierge services are available.


Warm and personal, yet professional. Staff was warm, gracious and eager to go beyond the call of duty to take care of you.


The Tudor House restaurant features simple American cuisine (with Mediterranean accents) and indoor and outdoor seating – its casual, airy ambience makes it as much neighbourhood beach café as fine-dining destination. The restaurant provides room service and takeout, and the dishes I sampled were fresh, light and flavourful.


Magical. Nothing like some art deco glamour paired with Eastern sensuality and humour to spice up your South Beach sojourn. Plus, Dream's ideal location makes its restaurant a local hangout. My only complaint? The Tudor building only has one (slow) elevator.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Top 10 Best Places To Spend Winter

Source: By Annette McLeod, MSN Travel

(January 15, 2012) When it comes to winter, we Canadians tend to fall into two camps: those who relish every snowflake, and those who hide like grizzly bears, trying to stay asleep until April. The former take their winter vacations in Banff or Mont Tremblant or Whistler, or some other perfectly gorgeous, snow-laden resort town where an affinity for hot chocolate is as easily indulged as a need for downhill speed. The latter take to the skies like Monarch butterflies, desperate to get to Punta Cana or Cuba or Bermuda as quickly as possible.

In either case, it's time to shake things up. Our winter-lovers tend to think a Canadian winter is the quintessential winter, so why go anywhere else? Our winter-haters need to be lured away to a snowy destination with an activity so unique and a place so worth seeing, not even they will want to stay in the house. Here are 10 great wintery winter holidays both tribes of Canadians will love.

1. Cruise the Norwegian fjords

There are a number of companies offering an array of Norwegian fjord winter cruises, but they all have one thing in common: stunning scenery. Norway's mountains, valleys, quaint villages and glaciers glide past like something out of a fairytale. Ports of call let you dip a toe into Russia, stay overnight in an ice hotel, join a dog-sledding or snowmobiling excursion or splash around in the icy Barents Sea. If you're really lucky, you may even find yourself cruising under the Northern Lights.

2. Break the ice in Moscow

Take a cruise down the Moscow River in an icebreaker, one of several thick-hulled boats that can navigate the icy water year-round. Glass-enclosed decks let you view the city sights, including the Kremlin, without getting frostbite. Sample some borscht or just tuck into the local vodka, an especially tempting pleasure at night when the city is illuminated as you sip to a symphony of cracking ice, both outside the boat in and inside your glass. Boats are clean and spacious, and you may even find a crew member who speaks English.

3. Camp out on an Icelandic glacier

Join an expedition leaving Reykjavik by 4x4; when you hit the edge of the glacier, your guides will let a little air out of the tires to prepare for the rough ride ahead. Pitch in setting up camp for an unforgettable night beneath arctic skies. Various tours include an overnight in a highland chalet en route or a visit to a hot spring. Or, if you think winter camping sounds intrepid, try lava caving in the Stora-Bollahraun lava field or winter snorkelling in the Silfra Fissure while you're at it.

4. Run away and see the circus in Budapest

The International Circus Festival comes to Budapest, Hungary, every second February to pit the best international and Hungarian acts against one another for awards and bragging rights. Acts for 2012 include banana-wielding American comedian Kirk Marsh (shown), Germany's Leonid Beljakov and his comedic dogs, a Colombian teeterboard troupe, Ukrainian living statues and a Russian foot-juggler. Canada represents with Becky Hoops and her hula hoops and Chilly & Fly with their standing cradle, whatever the heck that is.

5. Take a chilly dip in Helsinki

I must confess to not really understanding this one. Perhaps it's like hitting your head against a wall because it feels so good when you stop. But the Finns swear by it — Avantouinti or, literally, 'ice hole swimming.' You'll find clubs throughout Finland that offer a thoughtfully ladder-equipped hole in the thick Nordic ice, through which you can plunge your crazy Canadian patootie before high-tailing it into the nearest sauna. Then you do it again. And if your heart hasn't stopped yet, again. Try the Kuusijärvi Recreation Centre, Oittaa Recreation Centre or Rastila Camping.

6. Celebrate snow in Sapporo, Japan

Over seven days in February, the Sapporo Snow Festival (or Yuki
Matsuri) brings two million people to the largest city on the island of Hokkaido to check out hundreds of snow and ice sculptures, some of which are the size of a duplex. The main festival site, Odori Park, which spans the width of the city, features concert stages with a variety of entertainment. The Tsudome site features snow slides and mazes. The Susukino site is home to the ice sculpture contest, as well as the reigning Ice Queen. Also be sure to try the region's renowned Sapporo beer.

7. Follow the light in Beijing

The Longqing Gorge Ice Lantern Festival happens about 90 km northwest of Beijing in a canyon well-travelled by rowers and hikers in summer. In winter, the area is transformed into a wonderland, with more than 400 sculptures carved out of the ice, glowing with the lights captured within. And of course, there's many a lantern to be admired. Or you can slide down the ice slide or bungee off a 48-metre-high platform.

8. Bundle up for Kiruna, Sweden

Kiruna's annual Snow Festival features snow sculpting (of course), as well as reindeer and dogsled races, skiing and skating competitions and a winter fair for a five-day stretch at the end of January, and all of it above the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland. The first of its kind and the world's largest, the Icehotel in nearby Jukkasjärvi offers indoor temperatures of between -5 C and -8 C, regardless of outside temperature, but the reindeer skins should keep you toasty. If you go in March, you can watch them harvest blocks of ice from the Torne River to store until next year.

9. Say goodbye to winter in the Ukraine

Maslenitsa, which takes place the week before Lent, is a great way to say so long to another winter by scarfing blini (traditional pancakes) and other Slavic goodies, like sausages and perogis. At Pirogovo, an open-air folk museum at the south end of Kiev, you can check out historic folk architecture, including windmills, churches and school houses, while enjoying the festivities. On Shrove Tuesday, the last day of the event, enjoy the burning of a straw man that symbolizes the past winter.

10. Go south for some wintery fun

Of course, you won't want to go too far south, or you'll miss all this
great winteriness! Instead, visit our American cousins in Manhattan, where you can ice skate at Rockefeller Centre, take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, go sledding at CiCo Park, take a boat tour on the Hudson — or pack it all in and do something cultural like visit a museum. Of course, you can always just have a hot chocolate and shop 'til you drop.


Muhammad Ali Comes Home For 70th Birthday Party; Crowd Serenades Him

Source: By Bruce Schreiner, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press 

(Jan. 15, 2012) LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Muhammad Ali soaked in familiar cheers and chants along with a rendition of "Happy Birthday" on Saturday night as friends and admirers celebrated the boxing champ's coming 70th birthday at a party in his Kentucky hometown.

As party-goers mingled in a lobby of the Muhammad Ali Center before the party, Ali walked slowly to a second-floor balcony overlooking them. The crowd immediately began to clap, then broke into chants of "Ali! Ali!" followed by singing as Ali watched for about two minutes.

The three-time world heavyweight champion, who is battling Parkinson's disease, leaned against a rail and raised his right hand to wave to the crowd. Ali walked on his own but was at times assisted by his wife, Lonnie, and his sister-in-law. After the brief appearance, Ali went to his party.

Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis said his boyhood idol is "still the greatest."

"I feel so proud and honoured that we're able to show our feelings and show our support for him," Lewis said.

Lewis said Ali's strength and influence extended far beyond the boxing ring in his humanitarian efforts.

"What he's done outside the ring — just the bravery, the poise, the feeling, the sacrifice," Lewis said "... He's truly a great man."

The guest list numbered 350 for the private party, which doubled as a US$1,000-per-person fundraiser for the Ali Center, the six-year-old cultural and education complex designed to be a legacy to his social activism. The six-story centre also retraces Ali's career, including his epic bouts against Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Sonny Liston.

Guests paid tribute to Ali beforehand.

"The reason I loved him is because of his confidence," University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari said. "He would talk and then back it up. He had great courage and who had more fun than him?"

The guest list also included Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee and three American hikers who were imprisoned in Iran. Ali, perhaps the most prominent U.S. Muslim, lobbied for their release. Rocker John Mellencamp headlined the entertainment.

Dundee, who travelled from Clearwater, Fla., to attend the celebration, said he hears from Ali about once a month.

"We're like family," Dundee told The Courier-Journal of Louisville. "We've always been family and we're always going to be family. He'll say, 'Angie, I want to come and train. That's what I miss the most. Being in the gym. Working up a sweat.'"

"I'll say, 'Me, too, kid. Me, too. We can't do that. But what I can do is make sure you know that I love you.' "

Ali turns 70 on Tuesday, and the party in his hometown is the first of five planned in the next few months. Not long after Ali's dramatic appearance on the balcony, the crowd began filing into a banquet hall for the party, which was closed to the public and reporters.

The self-proclaimed "Greatest of All Time" remains one of the world's most recognizable figures, even though he's been largely absent from the public eye recently as he fights Parkinson's disease.

Lonnie Ali said Friday that her husband has mixed feelings about the landmark birthday.

"He's glad he's here to turn 70, but he wants to be reassured he doesn't look 70," she said.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on Jan. 17, 1942, Ali took up boxing at age 12, when his bike was stolen and he wanted to find and whip the culprit. The boy was introduced to Joe Martin, a police officer who coached boxing at a local gym.

Ali's brother, 68-year-old Rahaman Ali, recalled on Saturday night that the champ was cheerful and happy as a youngster.

"As a little boy he (said) he would be the world's greatest fighter and be a great man," he said.

Ali flourished in the ring, becoming a top amateur and Olympic gold medallist. He made his professional debut in Louisville and arranged for a local children's hospital to receive proceeds from the fight.

Lewis said Ali ranks as the greatest of heavyweights, and he said he was inspired by Ali's fights.

"I used to get mad if I didn't see the Ali shuffle," Lewis said. "So I was always watching him, expecting some type of antic."

Ali won the heavyweight title in 1964, defeating the heavily favoured Sonny Liston. Soon after, Ali — who was raised in a Baptist family — announced his conversion to Islam and changed his name.

While in his prime, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight crown in 1967 for refusing to be drafted for military service during the Vietnam War. He cited his religious beliefs as the reason for his refusal.

His decision alienated Ali from many across the U.S. and resulted in a draft-evasion conviction. Ali found himself embroiled in a long legal fight that ended in 1971, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favour.

Ali lost his first bid to regain the heavyweight crown when Frazier knocked him down and took a decision in the "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden in 1971.

Ali regained the heavyweight title in 1974, defeating Foreman in the "Rumble in the Jungle." A year later, he outlasted Frazier in the epic "Thrilla in Manila" bout.

Last year, a frail Ali rose from his seat and clapped for his deceased rival at Frazier's funeral.

Ali's last title came in 1978 when he defeated Leon Spinks.

Ali retired from boxing in 1981 and devoted himself to social causes. He travelled the world on humanitarian missions, mingling with the masses and rubbing elbows with world leaders. Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.


Update: Skier Sarah Burke's Heart Stopped Immediately After Halfpipe Crash

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Janet Rae Brooks

(Jan 16, 2012) Sarah Burke's heart stopped beating immediately after she crashed while training last week, and ski patrollers had to resuscitate her in the halfpipe before she could be evacuated to hospital, University Hospital officials said Monday.

Besides cardiac arrest, Burke suffered severe head trauma, and remains sedated in critical condition, with a breathing tube in her throat almost a week after the accident.

Burke's family cancelled a scheduled news conference on Monday morning, citing the need for further tests before speaking publicly for the first time about the medical condition of the 29-year-old freestyle star.

Even Burke's agent, Nicole Wool, who travelled to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles for the event, only learned of the family's decision on Monday morning.

"I'm sure they have other things they're concerned with more," Wool said. "Please understand this is difficult for us on a professional and personal level."

Further tests will be conducted this morning and in coming days, said a statement given to reporters at the Clinical Neurosciences Center at the University of Utah.

Neither the family nor the hospital will provide further updates on Burke's condition "until further notice," the statement said.

Burke's husband, Rory Bushfield; her surgeon and attending physician; and a neurointensivist were scheduled to speak.

Tables and microphones had already been arranged at the site when Chris Nelson, assistant vice president for public affairs for University of Utah Health Sciences, learned of the cancellation.

Burke's family initially made the decision on Friday to provide an update, but after the weekend, the family and doctors felt uncomfortable speaking about her condition until further tests could be done, Nelson said.

The day after her crash, Burke underwent brain surgery to repair a torn artery that caused bleeding in her brain. She remains in the University Hospital's neuro critical care unit.

"The family wants to express their deep appreciation for the overwhelming support Sarah has received from all over the world," the statement added. "They ask that everyone continue to keep Sarah and Rory in their prayers."

Figure Skating Phenom Nam Nguyen A Small Wonder

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Jim Morris

(Jan 16, 2012) BURNABY, B.C.When Nam Nguyen attended his first skating lesson, he was the only child in the class who couldn’t stand up.

While the other children teetered around the rink, the future figure skating champion laid on the ice and cried.

“He was scared,” his mother Thu recalled with a smile. “He was screaming, ‘Help, help.’” Some parents might have given up. Thu and her husband, Sony, who knew nothing about skating while growing up in Vietnam, bought their own skates.

“We didn’t know how to skate very well,” Thu said. “We accompanied him to every public session, every evening after work. After a month he improved.”

Last January, at 12, Nam defeated skaters seven years his senior to become the youngest person to win the Canadian junior men’s figure skating championship. He also was the 2009 novice champion, earned the pre-novice title in 2008 and won the juvenile crown in 2007.

After turning 13 last May, the Burnaby, B.C., resident will take the next step when he competes against veterans such as reigning world champion Patrick Chan in the senior men’s category at the Canadian figure skating championships, which began Monday in Moncton.

Michael Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s director of high performance, said a top-12 finish is a realistic goal for Nam.

For someone who has won on every rung of the skating ladder, finishing in the middle of the pack could be a blow to the confidence. But Thu expects her son to learn from the experience, the same way the terrified four-year-old overcame his fear and grew into one of Canada’s top prospects.

“As parents we think this will be difficult,” Thu said about the coming championships. “For Nam, he’s used to it.

“When he was 8, he competed with 12- and 13-year-olds. Every year he’s stepped into a higher level. He has a goal. Every time he’s out there, he says he wants to enjoy the competition. He wants to entertain people. He wants to do a very clean solo. That’s what we have been teaching him to focus on.”

Standing about five feet tall, and weighing just 85 pounds, Nam was the smallest skater on the ice during a recent practice session at Burnaby’s 8 Rinks. His raw enthusiasm and strong technical skills made him look much larger.

While the others skated, Nam floated across the ice. His jumps were effortless. He spun like a top.

Coach Joanne McLeod remembers being “completely wowed” the first time she saw Nam skate, as a nine-year-old.

“He had the X-factor,” said McLeod, who has coached top Canadians Emanuel Sandhu, Mira Leung and Kevin Reynolds, among others.

“He is a natural performer. The more people that are watching him, the more he kind of brings it up. He is extremely musical. Some children interpret the music. He is the music.”

While his talent is extraordinary, McLeod is most impressed by the attitude Nam brings to the rink. “He has no ego,” she said. “When you are training Nam, he is in the present moment.

“A lot of talented athletes are still gloating on who they are. They are thinking in the past or about where they want to go. You are not getting them in the now moment.”

McLeod credited Nam’s parents for keeping their son grounded.

“What is fantastic about his parents is when he wins, they don’t gloat,” she said. “There is a 24-hour pride, and then it’s right back to training and what do we need to do to go up the next step? “Sometimes, in previous situations, that pride period could end up being a year. You can’t move up a level and formulate new goals if you are still celebrating the previous.”

Nam’s parents both graduated from university in Vietnam. Sony is an engineer. Thu graduated as a medical doctor.

Sony came to Canada in 1988. He sponsored his wife to come in 1994.

Both parents now work as engineers and business analysts. Thu is employed by a medical software company.

The parents learned English in university but still faced many adjustments upon arriving in Canada.

“Everything was difficult,” Thu said. “We got through it.

“We don’t have ice skating in Vietnam but my husband is really active. He likes sport. When we came to Canada and saw a lot of opportunities for the kids, we wanted our kids active and involved in a lot of activities.”

Nam was born in Ottawa and the family moved to Richmond, B.C., when he was 1. They now live in Burnaby, a city that borders on Vancouver. Nam’s seven-year-old sister, Kim, also is a figure skater.

Like many other Canadian kids, Nam was first interested in playing hockey. That changed the day he became enthralled watching a group of figure skaters.

As a child, Nam was often impatient and in a hurry to learn things. Thu was surprised by the dedication he showed to figure skating.

“Everything he wanted to learn quickly,” she said. “Figure skating requires a lot of focus. After the first private lesson we found out he was really focused and liked doing it.”

Nam was a crowd favourite when he performed during the skating gala at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. His goal is to represent Canada at a Winter Games.

Thu appreciates the potential her son shows and understands the dedication needed to succeed as a skater. But what makes her the most proud is the way he has dealt with his success.

“He’s grown with that and he’s got used to that,” she said. “I don’t see any difficulties for us to deal with that. He likes to be a good boy. People have looked at him since he was young and achieved something. It’s really easy for us. For now he just wants to be a teenager.’’

Special to The Globe and Mail

Time For The PGA To Make Way For Canada’s Young Blood

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Beverley Smith

(Jan 16, 2012) After weeks and months and years of swinging clubs and living out of a suitcase, how old is too old on the PGA tour?

Mike Weir, glorious from 2001 and 2005 when he spent 110 weeks in the top 10, is now 41 and struggling to make cuts and to even keep his PGA tour card, after having to deal with a torn ligament in his right elbow.

Stephen Ames might be perhaps the best oldest player on the tour, but over the past couple of years, his ranking has been sliding (to 139 in 2011) into a mediocre (for him) year. He hasn’t won a PGA tournament since 2009 and yearns to spend more time with his family in Calgary. He’s 47 and heading precipitously toward 48.

Perhaps it’s time to make way for the (relative) youth among Canadian players.

On Sunday, David Hearn of Brantford, Ont. – who grew up a few doors from Wayne Gretzky – finished in a tie for 10th in the Sony Open golf tournament in Hawaii, the first full-field event of the PGA tour season.

Hearn shot a consistently adept 66-66-70-69 to finish at 9-under par. He’s 32 and hungry and ready to challenge the way Weir did a decade ago.

Graham DeLaet, who turns 30 this month, missed all of last year with a back injury, woke up last weekend, leading the leaderboard with a sizzling 63 on day one of the Sony Open. He ended up tied for 29th, with Ames tied for 46th. Ames roared along for the first three rounds, shooting 67-68-67 but tailed off with a 75 on the final day.

All it takes is confidence. Hearn has a wonderful swing, although he’s not a power player. He has the talent to play on the tour, and the Sony Open may just give him the opening momentum he needs to do something special this year.

Also look out for Adam Hadwin, already an aggressive young player who has twice been the top Canadian player in the past two Canadian Opens. He finished fourth in 2011.

And he’s 24! Canadian players seem to spend a lifetime just earning their PGA Tour card. Hadwin is different. Hadwin is the real future.

Canadian Skaters Ian Beharry And Katie Bobak Win Junior Pairs Title

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman

(Jan 18, 2012) MONCTON, N.B. — Scarborough native
Ian Beharry’s amazing rise up the world figure skating ladder with pairs partner Katie Bobak this season hasn’t cut him any slack in his other job as a Zamboni driver.

“Sometimes when the Zamboni breaks down, they tell me to hop out and fix it and get it done,” said Beharry.

It turns out the guy is not only adept at cleaning the ice; he does a heckuva job cleaning up on it.

To put it in football terms, Beharry and Bobak captured the junior pairs title Wednesday by about four touchdowns, or a whopping 16-plus points.

It’s just the latest exclamation point in a breakout season for a couple that hooked up less than a year ago. Beharry, 20, and Bobak, 17, won a silver medal in the junior ISU Grand Prix Final last month in Quebec City to go with a gold in Estonia and silver in Poland at previous junior Grand Prix stops.

“They’ve really opened a lot of eyes worldwide,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s director of high performance.

It wasn’t all that long ago that both skaters were stressing “big time,” as Beharry put it, after parting ways with their previous skating partners and wondering if the right person was out there for them.

“When you skate like this for so long, it becomes part of who you are,” said Bobak. “The thought of not finding another partner and maybe not being able to compete at the level you’d like to is a little scary.”

It turns out that former Canadian pairs champions Kristy and Kris Wirtz, who were coaching Bobak, had their eyes on Beharry for several years before he became available. Both skaters live in Guelph.

From all accounts, their first practice was pretty magical, though there was a point where Bobak was struggling on the triple throw, one of her favourite things in skating. There seemed to be more pressure on her to prove herself.

“She wanted it badly,” said Kristy Wirtz. “We said, ‘If you want this boy, you have to go out there and land this throw triple.’ It took her three tries, but she got it and hooked the boy in.”

It doesn’t sound like Beharry needed much convincing.

“It was amazing. It was good,” he said. “We pretty much sold the deal right there. We said we’d skate together our first tryout ever. It was natural. Everything was so easy right off the bat.”

Wirtz believes they have the potential to be world champions one day. It’s certainly interesting these days at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club run by the Wirtzes, where reigning Canadian champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch also train.

“There’s a lot of dynamics to the rink. Some days, it’s different because they could go into senior and do quite well. But it pushes everyone. They see them coming up, so they work harder. Our rink has a great atmosphere. We try to keep it light and happy, but serious at the same time.”

Steve Nash Scores Double-Double In Suns Loss To Spurs

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(Jan 15, 2012) SAN ANTONIOTim Duncan scored a season-high 24 points and added 11 rebounds to pace the San Antonio Spurs to a 102-91 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

Tony Parker added 17 points and nine assists and DeJuan Blair scored 14 points as San Antonio improved to 9-0 at home.

Marcin Gortat had 24 points and 15 rebounds and
Steve Nash had 20 points and 10 assists for Phoenix, which lost its fourth straight contest.

The Suns rallied back from a 19-point second-quarter deficit and trailed 94-89 after Nash’s basket with 4:41 left. But Parker hit a runner, Richard Jefferson drained a 20-footer and Duncan nailed a 17-footer to boost the lead back to 11 points with 1:47 to play.

Duncan made 10 of 14 shots and passed Gary Payton for 26th place on the all-time scoring list. Duncan has 22,829 career points.

Markieff Morris added 14 points and Jared Dudley scored 12 for Phoenix.

Kawhi Leonard scored 12 points for San Antonio.

San Antonio led 56-42 at halftime lead, but Phoenix narrowed its deficit to six points with just over four minutes left in the third quarter.

Super Bowl XLVI Kicking Off with Fantasia, Wayne Brady and Gospel Celebration

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 18, 2012) *Every year the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration seems to get bigger, better and more inspirational. The 13th annual is going to be a hit with singers like CeCe Winans, Natalie Grant, Donnie McClurkin, Wess Morgan, Hezekiah Walker, and Fantasia Barrino.

This year’s host is none other than Wayne Brady, who also has a knack for music.

Super Bowl XLVI will kick off with this traditional event on Friday Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University

The highlight of the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration is the NFL Choir. Featuring current and former players, the choir has become one of the most anticipated performances during Super Bowl Weekend. Celebrating its five-year anniversary, the NFL Choir made its debut at the 2008 show with more than 40 members, including Ray Lewis and Bryant McKinnie (Ravens), under the direction of McClurkin, who will reprise his role this year joined by Myron Butler. The Choir was formed by several Christian NFL players who wanted to share their faith through their musical talents in song and instrument. The group offers fans an opportunity to see a very personal side of the players, as they make a joyful noise. The NFL Players Choir will celebrate its anniversary singing a gospel favourite with Fantasia.

This year’s event will feature faith inspired video vignettes by several current and former NFL players including Ray Lewis and Ray Rice (Ravens); Hines Ward and LaMarr Woodley (Steelers);  Derrick Brooks (retired Buccaneers); and former NFL Coach, Tony Dungy to name a few.  To-date, NFL players scheduled to participate in this year’s show include Donald Driver (Green Bay), Dwight Freeney (Colts), Antwaan Randle El (free agent/Steelers), Benjamin Watson (Browns), Tim Brown (retired Raiders), Ray Buchanan (retired Colts/Falcons), Dextor Clinkscale (retired Dallas), Darrell Green (retired Redskins) and many more.

Prior to the event, guests can watch talent and players walk the Red Carpet hosted by Indianapolis’ on-air personality, First Lady Khris Raye of WTLC, and Leonard Weaver (free agent/Eagles), followed by a pre-show with a soon-to-be-named artist, all beginning at 5:30 p.m.  Tickets are on sale at Ticketmaster locations in Indianapolis and www.ticketmasters.com or you can buy tickets directly from your mobile

phone by logging onto www.superbowlgospel.com.  Prices are $99, $79, $59, and $39 (additional service fees and taxes apply).

Since its inception in 1999, the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration has donated a portion of its proceeds and more than 5,000 tickets to local and national charities. This year, Gary Brackett’s IMPACT Foundation has been selected as the local charitable partner.

The Gospel Celebration not only serves as a christening for the big event, but it also raises money for local and charities and gives away over 5,000 tickets.

For more information on the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration visit www.superbowlgospel.com. “LIKE” the Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at www.facebook.com/SuperBowlGospel or follow on Twitter, and find out about Twitter Parties with giveaways, at www.twitter.com/SuperBowlGospel.

Tom Brady-Eli Manning Super Bowl Rematch Would Set TV Records

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 17, 2012) A New York Giants-New England Patriots matchup in the Super Bowl might become the most-watched show in the history of U.S. television.

The game will surely be the most-watched online as well as this year’s Super Bowl will become the first live-streamed by the NFL.

Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes to lead the Giants, as 12-point underdogs, to a 17-14 win against quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots in the National Football League title game four years ago.

A rematch of those teams and quarterbacks would have enough subplots to draw even more viewers than last year’s record-setting Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers, said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at New York-based Horizon Media Inc.

“These two teams accounted for one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history,” Adgate said. “The Patriots and Giants are the most likely to draw in the casual fans.”

The Hockey Injury That's More Than A Footnote

www.globeandmail.com - By Allan Maki

(Jan 13, 2012) There are 26 bones in a human foot, and hockey players
will tell you a puck travelling at the speed of pain is sure to find most of them at one time or another.

Just ask Jay Pandolfo of the New York Islanders or any one on a growing list of
foot-stricken NHL players - Ville Leino of the Buffalo Sabres, Nik Antropov of the Winnipeg Jets, Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Devante Smith-Pelly of the Anaheim Ducks (hurt while playing for Canada at the 2012 world junior tournament), to name but a few.

While concussions have dominated the game's attention - and rightly so - more and more players have taken a puck off a skate and found themselves hobbled for weeks. The exact number of foot fallen is hard to pin down since many teams classify their injuries by region - upper body, lower body - or by insisting it was a pre-existing condition complicated by a bone bruise, à la James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins. But more than a dozen players have been officially downed by a foot ailment and the wondering is, why exactly is that?

Is it because bigger, stronger players are using composite sticks and shooting harder than ever before? Is it because more players now measure their worth via shots blocked, welts received? Or are not enough players wearing some sort of guard to protect the instep and middle part of the foot?

The fact most players don't wear any kind of foot protection (beyond defencemen using ankle guards) is a significant contributor as much as something of a mystery. Some players who have tried guards over the top of their skates don't like the feel of them. Others say they hardly notice they're wearing them. One thing is certain: Half the Montreal Canadiens' lineup believes in them, especially defenceman P.K. Subban.

He took a screaming one-timer off the top of his foot from Washington Capital Alexander Semin last year and saw the puck fly "right up into the stands, probably 15 rows back. I was down on the ice. I couldn't feel my foot."

"When I went back into the room, all the bones on my foot were like this," Subban said, making a steeple with his fingers. "I would have broken my foot for sure if I wasn't wearing [a guard]. The pressure made the bones come up. They had to crunch my bones back into place. They told me if I hadn't been wearing them I'd have been out six weeks."

The Canadiens began equipping their players with protective foot guards in 2009 at the encouragement of Bob Gainey, then the general manager. An orthopedic/orthotics outfit in Saint-Laurent, Que., produces the custom-made shields, which are also used by several Montreal forwards. Other NHL teams are now calling and asking how to best protect their players.

"I can't recall using extra protection when I played," said Edmonton Oilers scout Frank Musil, a former NHL defenceman. "If you got hurt, the trainers would make you a custom brace and you'd wear it until you didn't need it any more. Now I see guys in junior wearing covers on their skates in practice. The last thing you want to do is get hurt in practice."

When Lawrence Parrott took a shot off his foot playing in a men's recreational league in Minnedosa, Man., he had to walk on crutches for weeks. Suitably inspired, he came up with his own version of a guard called SPATS skate armour. The idea, he said, wasn't for the big-money pros; it was meant to protect kids and people who play the game for fun and can't afford to be off their feet for long.

"I'm involved in minor hockey and I see kids limping around," said Parrott, whose protective cover can be removed if the skate laces need tightening. "It happens at all levels. People just disregard protection for the foot and they shouldn't."

With a report from Sean Gordon in Montreal

Beckham Signs Two-Year Deal With Galaxy

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Jan 18, 2012) LOS ANGELES — David Beckham is staying in Los Angeles for another two years after signing a new contract with the Galaxy on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old former England captain signed the two-year deal with the Major League Soccer club after turning down a chance to move back to Europe with Paris Saint-Germain.

“This was an important decision for me,” Beckham said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “I had many offers from clubs from around the world, however, I'm still passionate about playing in America and winning trophies with the Galaxy.”

Beckham made the surprise move to the Galaxy in 2007, joining from Real Madrid on a five-year deal. But he took until last season to lift his first trophy in the United States, winning the MLS Cup in November.

Beckham, who started his career at Manchester United, opted against moving to France or returning to the Premier League because his family is settled in California.

He is targeting a spot in Britain's Olympic football team at the London Games by playing regularly for the Galaxy.

“I've seen firsthand how popular soccer is now in the States and I'm as committed as ever to growing the game here,” Beckham said. “My family and I are incredibly happy and settled in America and we look forward to spending many more years here.”

The Galaxy, though, knows how close it came to losing the player who gives the team international fame.

“I am thrilled that David has chosen to rejoin the Galaxy, especially as he had numerous options where he could continue his career,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “I felt that he was one of the best players in all of MLS last season and we could not have achieved the success that we did without him. We look forward to trying to replicate that success this season with David once again in a Galaxy uniform.”

It is a jersey that the Galaxy said is the bestselling in the MLS and “one of the best in the world.”

“There has been much speculation in the past four months on where David was going to play and we did not get caught up in this and remained focused on re-signing him,” said Tim Leiweke, president of team owner AEG. “David had many options and we are pleased he felt comfortable, not only with our organization but also with Los Angeles, and will remain an important part of our club, our AEG family and our City.”

Beckham's deal was negotiated by Simon Fuller, the creator of reality TV hit “American Idol,” who is the player's business partner and manager.

“When David and I discussed making the move from Real Madrid to the LA Galaxy back in 2007, our minds were firmly focused on the massive opportunity of helping to grow soccer in the United States,” Fuller said. “We have made great progress over the past five years in raising the profile of soccer domestically and the MLS on a worldwide stage, and we are encouraged by all the results.

“However, clearly this is an ongoing mission and this new deal confirms our commitment to continuing our journey and making sure the world's biggest sport, soccer, continues to grow in the world's most passionate sports loving nation, the USA.”


Giants Conquer Defending Champion Packers At Lambeau Field

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 15, 2012) GREEN BAY, WIS.—For Eli Manning and the
New York Giants, Lambeau Field has become a familiar launching pad. After beating the Green Bay Packers at home for the second time in four years, they only hope this trip ends the same way — at the Super Bowl. Manning threw three touchdown passes and the Giants shocked the Packers 37-20 in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday. Manning threw for 330 yards, sending the Giants to San Francisco for the NFC championship game next Sunday night. The Giants stunned the reigning Super Bowl champs with a touchdown off a long heave just before halftime, then knocked them out with a late touchdown off a turnover. Lambeau Field fell silent as the Giants swarmed the field in celebration.