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September 11, 2008

MAN!  Tons of entertainment news on all fronts this week!  Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!



Kardinal Offishall's Time May Be Now

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(September 07, 2008) It's not surprising that a catchy tune would score Kardinal Offishall a Top 5 hit in Canada; since his 1996 recording debut, the Toronto native has garnered popular acclaim for a vigorous melange of hip-hop and reggae, noted on tunes such as "Bakardi Slang" and "Husslin'."

But what has industry watchers anticipating the Tuesday launch of his third album,
Not 4 Sale, is that two weeks ago "Dangerous," the lead single that features U.S. pop star Akon, landed at the No. 5 spot on Billboard's decisive Hot 100 singles chart.

Offishall has a bonafide crossover hit in America – an unprecedented feat for a Canuck rapper since Snow hit No. 1 with "Informer" in 1993. And he's not done setting records: tomorrow he performs on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, another first for Canadian hip hop.

"Pretty damn exciting," is how Offishall characterizes the coveted appearance – on the same night as U.S. Olympian Michael Phelps – though he can't recall where he was when he found out he got the gig.

Turns out it's been a dizzying few weeks.

When the Star sat down with the affable entertainer one recent afternoon, he'd just got back to town after a month away, performing in Europe and promoting the album in more than a dozen U.S. cities.

Offishall, who is signed to Akon's Kon Live Records under the Geffen Records umbrella, said it was crucial to lay the groundwork for the album, which his Canadian distributors initially scheduled for release at the beginning of the summer.

"Nowadays, the industry is just focused on a hot single and they were afraid that it might lose steam," he said.

"I guess me and Akon are still keepers of the faith. We believe that good music is still the bottom line; that a good song will be a good song now and two months later."

Offishall can afford to be patient; after all, he's been on the cusp before, when previous albums, Busta Rhymes collaborations and tours with 50 Cent augured big things that never materialized.

"Did I think that it would be 2008 that all this would be going on, as opposed to maybe 2004? No. So to me, a couple weeks, couple months, couple years ... the important thing was to try to execute what we have been trying to execute all along – to have an international successful project."

But success begets scrutiny and while Offishall has never positioned himself as an exclusively conscious rapper, some long-time fans are in a snit over his hot chick ode "Dangerous," which contains lyrics, such as, I wanted to make my black snake moan/Talk and lick a bit then take that on.

Is he selling out to compete with the likes of Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy?

"Some people want me to kick rocks along with their favourite underground MC," said Offishall, grousing about the erstwhile boosters taken aback by his branching out. "If you're a true fan, then you know I had (boundary-pushing songs like) `On Wid Da Show,' `Money Jane' ... I'm not doing anything that's out of my skin. You have to allow me to become that guy.

"I guess it's because every time somebody becomes that guy, they become untouchable. We were in Miami the other day and we went to a legendary spot in the 'hood where any big artist that's come out of Miami has come through.

"Homeboy was like, `This is where Rick Ross got his start, Lil Jon ... everybody came up through here, but we don't see them any more.' It's that kind of feeling I get, that a lot of these people have."

He'd rather his achievements emboldened other Canadian entertainers.

"They think success for me equals success for every other artist that comes out of Canada now. That's not the case, because people have to understand the work that goes into it. They have to absolutely make a million times more sacrifices than they have been doin' . .. I'm just one dude from Toronto, but I'm trying to create history with every line I spit."

And in keeping with his album's title, Offishall said he is not compromising his integrity to do that.

"There's energy you can't buy – the essence of people that can't be bought or bottled, and lives within them. That's how I feel about myself – I can't be bought.

"That's why the relationship that Akon and I have is so dope: it's based on mutual respect. He always loved my music and felt it should never change. He just wants to enhance what was already there and take it to the next level."

Encompassing hard-hitting hip hop, old school reggae and inspirational ditties, Not 4 Sale is vintage Kardi – as he's known to fans. The difference is in the Akon hooks, top-shelf production and A-list guests, such as T-Pain and Rihanna. Tyson Parker – a vice-president at Universal, Offishall's Canadian label – is only stating the obvious when he says, "This record has a chance to be massive in Canada and the U.S."

But Offishall is well aware that one hit single does not guarantee a best-selling disc.

"Akon's album only sold 13,000 in the U.S. the first week it came out and went on to become a multi- platinum album; not necessarily because the label supported him, but because he kept grinding it out and doing whatever he had to and using his resources to make it that way, and that's the same way that we're looking at it," he explained.

So, he's not concerned about first-week sales?


Not at all?


He wouldn't be hurt if he sold, say, only 5,000 copies the first week?

"5,000? Yes, I'd be hurt. Most definitely!"

Fame Has Strange Surprises For Michael Cera

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(September 07, 2008) Brampton's rising star Michael Cera had one major thing in common with last night's TIFF premiere audience for Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, his new romantic comedy.

He hadn't seen the movie yet, either.

Which is entirely fitting, given that Cera, 20, has a knack for playing characters whom the world has caught by surprise – such as accidental teen dad Paulie in Juno, dumbfounded party animal Evan in Superbad and sudden groom George Michael Bluth in TV's Arrested Development.

Then there's the titular Nick in Peter Sollett's Nick and Norah, in which he's the sole straight member of a gay rock band, still pining ferociously for the girlfriend who dumped him ages ago, and about to have the wildest night of his life.

But he doesn't want anyone to confuse the characters he plays with the real Michael Cera, even if he seems in person every bit as sweet natured. He loves the Beach Boys, harmonizing off-camera on "Don't Worry, Baby" with co-star Kat Dennings, who plays Norah.

"I've been playing these parts that were written when I had nothing to do with them. I've just been working. Acting," Cera emphasized in an interview yesterday with The Star.

"I think a lot of people are nice, and a lot of people can relate to a nice character. Everyone has a nice side. I try to be nice but I don't think that defines who I am."

Does that mean he has a dark side? He thought for a moment before responding.

"Not too dark," he said, smiling sheepishly.

Following his runaway career success, though, breaking through last year with Juno and Superbad after enduring advertising gigs and "don't call us" auditions since age nine, Cera has found that a lot of people are prepared to judge him solely on his image, especially on Internet message boards.

He made the mistake Friday night of logging on to see what people were saying about him. What he read – he doesn't elaborate – cut him to the quick.

"I just get so sad. My agent told me someone had written some mean stuff about me. I don't know why he told me. Some people didn't like something I said and really wrote some mean stuff.

"And I can't imagine these things coming out of people's mouths. If someone said that, you'd just think, `Oh, my God, you're so mean! You just said that!' People really disconnect when they write it. I guess there are mean people."

He realizes that stardom, which he's enjoying in his own quiet way, comes with a price.

"It feels like the more people know you, the more people don't like you. That's the feeling I get. I know people really like those movies and stuff, but people write really mean things on message boards and it's kind of disheartening.

"It's strange, when people don't know you at all. I feel like my sisters know me and my parents know me and my friends know me, but whenever I read something that's about me I don't associate it with myself at all. Because they can't be talking about me, since they don't know me."

Cera may need to toughen up if he's going to remain in showbiz, but not too much. Director Sollett said Cera's lack of guile is one his most endearing qualities, and it's partly a reason for his success.

"I just find it very encouraging that somebody as sensitive and intelligent as Michael is embraced by audiences," Sollett says.

Maybe Cera needs to get out of Brampton more often. He's lived in the suburban west of Toronto since birth, with his Italian-born father and Quebec-born mother. He recently rented an apartment in Los Angeles, where he's spending more time than before.

Cera is currently working on several movies, all of them comedies. At least one of them, Youth in Revolt, should demonstrate he knows how to play hard. The character in that film is named Nick, too.

"He's a little bit of a more of despicable character. He does some pretty treacherous things. (The film) is based on a book that I love. I really loved the character in the book before doing the movie for a long time and I was excited to make it."

Will people be able to accept a meaner, rougher Michael Cera? He hopes they will, if they try a little harder to understand him.

Cameron Bailey Steps Into The Spotlight To Host One Of The World's Most Prestigious Film Festivals

www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(September 04, 2008) Cameron Bailey isn't particularly partial to astrology, but the newly minted co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival would be forgiven if he were. His stars have certainly been in alignment.

In the past 18 months, he fell madly in love with a woman he had known casually for 11 years - CBC News: Sunday producer Carolynne Hew. They moved in together, bought a house, then a new car, travelled to exotic places (Berlin, Lisbon) and some less exotic ones (Winnipeg, Sudbury), and finally, last Sept. 30, held a gala of their own, a wedding on the Toronto waterfront at the Palais Royale.

A few weeks later, Bailey, a handsome, 44-year-old Canadian of British and Barbadian extraction, got a call asking him if he was interested in becoming TIFF's co-director, replacing Noah Cowan. The call came from Cowan himself, who had decided to move on to a no-less-challenging position, as artistic director of TIFF's new headquarters, the Bell Lightbox, at John and King streets in Toronto, now under development and slated to open in early 2010.

"It all kind of happened at once," says Bailey, happily ensconced in his office at Carlton and Yonge streets. "It was a year of enormous changes." With chief executive officer and co-director Piers Handling, Bailey now oversees the most important film festival in North America and, with Cannes, Berlin and Venice, one of the world's most prestigious.

Starting tomorrow, of course, Bailey will be basking in another kind of illumination, as they roll out the red carpets and the klieg lights for the 33rd annual Toronto International Film Festival. The 10-day fiesta of filmgoing and partying - 312 films in all - begins with perhaps the most expensive and ambitious Canadian film ever made, Paul Gross's First World War epic, Passchendaele.

Bailey's snagging the No. 2 job at TIFF was hardly a surprise. He had been a TIFF programmer on and off since 1990, is considered an expert in Asian, African and Middle Eastern films, had been Now Magazine's respected film critic for more than a decade, had done the same job for CBC Radio One, had hosted TV shows about film and had curated festivals for the National Film Board, the National Arts Centre and the Australian Film Festival. His cinematic credentials were impeccable.

"Cameron's had a long and fruitful association with the organization," Cowan says, "and he inspired and invented many of the greatest changes we've made, including Perspectives Canada and Planet Africa. Until then, the world tended to see film curation like a game of Risk, where everyone controlled certain territories. Cameron spoke eloquently to Piers and I about how the black experience had transcended borders and needed to be addressed. That changed the face of international curation. It got it out of a rut. His level of understanding and commitment made a big impression on us."

One of Bailey's best friends, filmmaker Clément Virgo - each was best man at the other's wedding - says that "Cameron is very generous of spirit, very conscientious and smart as whip. He's a gentleman in the full sense of that word - a gentle man."

More than a decade ago, the two collaborated on the screenplay for The Planet of Junior Brown, a $3-million film that Virgo directed in 1997. It won a Gemini nomination for best writing in a dramatic program or miniseries. "We argued a lot about plot and character," Virgo recalls, "but the friendship survived the process."

In a wedding diary prepared for their nuptials, Hew described her husband as "a magician, a maverick, and a man with an uncanny grace. He travels light but looks hard for stellar films to show at the Toronto Film Festival. And although he takes his daily podcast dose standing in the kitchen eating breakfast, he never misses a beat. Elvis Costello should be his friend."

It was in college that Bailey, who holds an honours degree in English literature from the University of Western Ontario, first developed a serious interest in film. "I took a course in contemporary cinema that began with Godard's Breathless and went all over the map, everywhere but America - so, Fassfinder, Latin American, Asian, African, stuff I didn't know even existed. That kind of did it for me. I saw that cinema could do different things. Particularly Godard, who is still an influence. He showed me that movies could be more than entertainment. They could perform some kind of analysis, engage with the world."

The challenge for film programmers, Cowan says, is to somehow navigate the line between high art and the popular. "Cameron was able to do that, so that the austere and the commercial could exist side by side. He's beloved the world over for championing the developing world's cinema, arguing that our obligation to program their films was not just a duty, not just a sidebar, but part of the main event. I've learned from him that what happens in Yemen matters in Norway. If we believe differently, we don't really have command."

But if change has been the dominant motif of Bailey's recent personal life, it's unlikely to be transferred into his new professional realm. "I think the festival's working really well," he says, "so I don't think we have to do much to change it. The big challenge will be incorporating what we do for 10 days in September into a year-round program in the Lightbox - with five cinemas, two galleries and other exhibition space."

Bailey sees TIFF as "the leading public film festival in the world. Cannes is an industry event, ultimately. We sell 400,000 tickets to the public. Only Berlin is comparable, but we're in North America and our audience is critical. And being in September, when serious films start to come out, that's a big advantage." Bailey and Handling personally choose the festival's galas, as well as its special presentations, but delegate much of the other decision-making about films to its team of 18 programmers.

Cowan says every TIFF director inevitably brings his own tastes to the festival program, but the fundamental job, which he calls "one of the most stressful in the world," remains alchemical: to somehow find the right ingredients and mix them to maximum effect.

Bailey's own cinematic tastes, he says, are catholic. In this year's line-up, he has high praise for a Kazakh romantic comedy called Tulpan, Steve McQueen's Hunger and Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. Bailey calls it the best work of the actor's career.

To decompress from the film world, Bailey reads The Economist every week and loves to travel. He and Virgo spent the millennium New Year's on a beach in Barbados listening to Bob Marley music. "I've seen him passionate," Virgo says, "especially when we talk about the state of the cinema, but I've never seen Cameron angry. We debate, but it's always very controlled. He's coming back to TIFF at a crucial point, with the Lightbox development in the offing, and has the experience to take it to the next level."

R&B artist Keshia Chanté to star in VisionTV's First Original Hour-Long Drama Series

Source:  VisionTV

(Aug. 28, 2008) TORONTO/CNW/ - VisionTV is set to begin shooting its first original hour-long drama series in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Keshia Chanté in the starring role.  The series, which has the working title Mahalia, tells the story of a young singer torn between different worlds. Principal photography commences on Sept. 2.

The six-part program is being produced for VisionTV by Halifax Film.

Said Joan Jenkinson, VisionTV's Director of Independent Production and Executive Producer on the project: "We have assembled a first-rate creative team to bring Mahalia to life, and are thrilled to have an artist of Keshia Chanté's stature in the lead. We are confident that this series will break new ground, showcasing some extraordinary Canadian musical and filmmaking talent, and telling a story of tremendous emotional resonance."

Mahalia is the first small-screen starring role for Ottawa native Keshia Chanté, who won a Juno Award in 2005 for R&B/Soul Recording Of The Year.    As Mahalia Brown, a gifted gospel singer from Toronto, she plays a young woman on the verge of leaving behind the safety of church and family for the fast track to pop stardom. But at what price? Can she stay spiritual in a material world? Mahalia's story unfolds against a backdrop of violent conflict within her troubled urban neighbourhood - a dangerous world of drugs and guns into which her brother Malcolm is unwillingly drawn.

The series will feature a gospel choir made up of singers recruited from the Halifax area, and led by renowned spoken-world performer, journalist and musician Shauntay Grant. The creation of the choir will be the subject of an hour-long documentary for VisionTV.

The Executive Producers of Mahalia are Floyd Kane (North/South), Peter Lauterman (North of 60), Michael Donovan (Bowling for Columbine) and Charles Bishop (The Guard). Andy Marshall is Creative Producer, and Margaret Harrison (Shake Hands with the Devil) is Line Producer.

The series writers are Andy Marshall, Peter Lauterman and Floyd Kane. The directors include Stefan Scaini (Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Steve DiMarco (The Chris Isaak Show).

Mark Prasuhn, Chief Content Officer for VisionTV's parent company S-VOX, said the launch of production on Mahalia represents a landmark for the multi-faith and multicultural broadcaster. "Throughout its history, VisionTV has been a leading supporter of original Canadian production. It is fitting that, as the network celebrates its 20th anniversary, we are taking this bold new step and creating opportunities for diverse Canadian talent both in front of and behind the camera."

Noted Mr. Prasuhn: "VisionTV has long supported production talent from the Maritime provinces, and we are delighted to continue this tradition with the Halifax Film team that will produce Mahalia."

The six-part program has emerged from the DiverseTV initiative launched by VisionTV in partnership with the National Screen Institute - Canada (NSI), and is the first DiverseTV project to go before the cameras.    DiverseTV was designed to offer visible minority and Aboriginal writers the chance to create a television drama for national broadcast.

For more information on VisionTV programming, please visit www.visiontv.ca.

VisionTV, an S-VOX company, is Canada's multi-faith and multicultural broadcaster, dedicated to entertaining and insightful programming that celebrates diversity and promotes understanding and tolerance among people of different faiths and cultures. VisionTV celebrates its 20th anniversary in2008-2009. Visit VisionTV on the Web at: www.visiontv.ca.

A Canadian First: Actors' Training Program Launched

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(September 8, 2008) The
Canadian Film Centre announced yesterday the creation of a new actor's conservatory to train and market future stars of screen and stage, only weeks after the federal government indicated that it will cut a $2.5-million film and video training program as part of $45-million in cuts to arts and culture.

The conservatory will be the first of its kind in Canada, and has been made possible by millions of dollars in gifts from the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation and CanWest Global Communications Corp..

On Saturday, the CFC also announced it will create a separate international co-production training program, the Canada-U.K. Script Incubation Program, designed to foster cross-Atlantic collaboration between script writers with support from the BBC and CanWest. Both programs were announced at yesterday's CFC annual barbecue, where Ontario culture minister Aileen Carroll also revealed that her government has pledged $2.5-million to help repair the centre's facilities.

The conservatory mandate boasts a number of goals, but entertainment lawyer Michael Levine - who is also the executor for the late Linehan's estate - said the program has three main objectives.

"It's not enough to train people. You have to train them, you have to give them good work, and you have to promote the hell out of them," he said.

The project began with a proposal to the CFC in 2000 from Levine, acting teacher and Professional Actors Lab artistic director David Rotenberg and Montreal-born actor David Julian Hirsh (St. Urbain's Horseman, CSI: NY) to create a high-level training program modelled on New York's Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, where Hirsh was a student; and on British companies that were training actors who could cross between stage and screen.

Linehan, the Canadian interviewer famous for his lengthy, probing questions, had also been involved in early discussions. At his last dinner with Levine before he died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in June, 2004, Linehan told Levine he wanted "to create a star system" to groom the best of the best, leaving it in Levine's hands to use his estate to drive his dream forward.

The result is a $1-million gift from the Linehan Foundation, coupled with a contribution from CanWest that is said to be in excess of $2-million.

Levine added that it is both gratifying and frustrating to unveil plans for the centre so soon after the federal cuts, which included the elimination of a $2.5-million National Training Program in the Film and Video Sector (NTPFVS) and the $1.5-million Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund.

"Isn't it ironic that here are gifts totalling [almost] exactly the amount of money that has been taken away from all those training institutions. Here is the government, at the moment when the private sector is really stepping to the plate, backing away," Levine said.

At yesterday's barbecue, CFC founder Norman Jewison took aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"This federal government wants to cancel support [to this sector]. Why? I mean, what is going on here? Doesn't he like film? Doesn't he like television, and new media? Doesn't he believe that this is the future of this country?" Jewison said.

The CFC recently co-authored an open letter with the Institut National de L'image et du Son (INIS) and the National Screen Institute (NSI) protesting to Canadian Heritage Minister Josée Verner.

The letter, which cites the recent Summative Evaluation of the NTPFVS, raised more questions about the decision-making behind the cuts. Far from recommending cancellation, the evaluation "advised that certain adjustments and realignments of the program be explored in further consultation with the national schools and other stakeholders."

The evaluation reported that "the four funded schools are clearly delivering good quality training and their graduates are highly satisfied," said there was "a strong rationale" for a federal role in the sector, and made clear that the evaluation mandate did not include assessing the impact of withdrawing the program's funding.

Peterson To Chair Pan Am Bid

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Benzie,
Queen's Park Bureau Chief

(September 10, 2008) Former premier David Peterson will today be named chair of Toronto's bid for the 2015 Pan Am Games, the Star has learned.

Premier Dalton McGuinty is to make the official announcement in a move that should give a major boost to $1.77 billion plan to hold the sports spectacle in Toronto and a dozen Golden Horseshoe municipalities.

Peterson, who played a key role in the city's efforts to host the 1996 and 2008 Olympics that fell short, is well regarded in the high-octane world of international sporting politics.

"We needed someone to say to these guys (at the Pan American Sports Organization or PASO) that we're serious. Having a former premier demonstrates the depth of government backing for this," said one source close to the bid.

"He has a huge Rolodex, good connections to government, and his experience on the Olympic bids is invaluable," the insider said.

"Plus people forget that he was also instrumental in helping John Bitove to bring the (NBA's Toronto) Raptors to town."

The source said Peterson, a Liberal who governed Ontario from 1985 to 1990, would not be paid for chairing the bid.

"He's a busy guy, but he's agreed to do this in a voluntary capacity."

Peterson himself was unavailable for comment yesterday.

The Pan Am Games are held every four years and are open to 42 nations in the Americas.

Last year's event was in Rio de Janeiro and the 2011 games will be in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Toronto's likely competitors for 2015 are Bogota, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela; and Lima, Peru.

PASO is holding its annual general assembly Oct. 10-11 in Acapulco, Mexico, and Toronto's bid team will have to be there in full force because it's expected there will be aggressive lobbying by the three South American contenders.

A winning host city will be selected sometime between July and September next year.

In all, the games have a $1.77 billion budget with Ottawa, Queen's Park, and municipalities on the hook for a third apiece and the province guaranteeing to cover any cost overruns.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has predicted the 2015 Games would inject $2 billion into the local economy.

"The greater Golden Horseshoe has a well-deserved reputation for being able to host major international events," Harper said last month.

"By working together to bring the ... games to southern Ontario, we are also bringing an economic boost to the province and shining a spotlight on Canada's outstanding athletes and fans," he said.

Aside from generating $2 billion in economic activity, the fortnight-long event should attract 250,000 tourists and create 17,000 jobs.

McGuinty, who lobbied international sporting officials at the Beijing Olympics for Toronto's bid four weeks ago, has said he wants to bolster athletics in Ontario.

"We are coming up short in terms of adequate amateur sport infrastructure in Ontario and I want to strengthen our ... amateur sporting culture in Ontario," the premier said earlier this summer.

"Montreal's had the Olympics, Calgary's had the Olympics, Vancouver (is having) the Olympics. I find that I run into some of our very best amateur athletes in Quebec, in Alberta and B.C.," he said on July 9.

There is also the lingering embarrassment that Ontario has not hosted a major sporting event since 1930, when Hamilton held the inaugural British Empire Games, now known as the Commonwealth Games.

With that in mind, one senior Conservative confided Peterson was "a smart choice" because he gives the Pan Am bid gravitas – in the eyes of the public and behind the scenes.

"He understands how to play the game and will work well with McGuinty, Harper and the various municipal leaders," said the Conservative, adding the former premier is deft at bipartisanship, having worked closely with former Tory Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Another source agreed, pointing out that Peterson has a good rapport with Guy Giorno, Harper's chief of staff, and Peter Wilkinson, McGuinty's chief of staff.

That should circumvent the intergovernmental wrangling that can bedevil such bids, the source said.


St. Maarten /St. Martin - Bring Your Appetite for Life

Source: Melanie Reffes

Repositioning itself as a luxury destination yet still attracting a wide range of traveler, St. Maarten/St. Martin offers a little Dutch and a little French blended in two lively cultures.  Both sides bustle from dawn to dusk with gourmet eateries, duty-free shopping, casinos, nightlife and an array of accommodations. The smallest territory in the world shared by two nations also boasts some of the finest beaches in the region and is the top pick with the sailing and yachting crowd.

The recipient of two TripAdvisor 2008 Travelers' Choice Destination Awards, St. Maarten is a perennial favourite of American tourists, however with airline cuts and high fuel costs, tourism officials are relying on repeat visitors and new marketing strategies to keep arrival numbers high. 

To stimulate tourism, port authorities are building new docks to accommodate Genesis and Voyager-class ships. Other improvements include palm trees and cobblestone walkways on Front and Back Street in Philipsburg and a new seaside pedestrian promenade. On the French side, upgrades to the Marigot waterfront and the construction of a mega-yacht and cruise terminal are in the works.

To sleep

Adding to the luxury inventory on the Dutch side, the 52-room beachfront Coral Beach Club opened in May near the Westin Resort on Dawn Beach. The five-star boutique hotel mirrors a white Greek village with twenty-four townhouses, condos and apartments placed in the rental pool at the owner’s discretion.   
1-866-978-7278    www.coralbeachclub.net

On a peninsula between two bays, Divi Little Bay Beach Resort is upgrading sixty-three rooms and suites which will bring the total to 210 when complete in December. Sixteen one-and-two bedroom seaside villas opened in March. The Toucan Bar – one of three restaurant options - has also been renovated and attracts a hip crowd during Happy Hour. Unique water sports include swimming with dolphins, lagoon tours of the mega-yachts and cruises on the Island’s only glass bottom boat. . Catering to the growing demand for vacation ownership, the resort converted the hillside casitas into ten premium suites. Travel agents receive 10% commission on bookings.
1-800-367-3484 www.diviresorts.com.  

Upgrades to the restaurants and bars at the Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort will be ready in early 2009.  The 257-room four-star property fronts a one mile stretch of sand and is the less expensive of the two Sonesta properties on the Dutch side
1-800-223-0757     www.sonesta.com/greatbay.

In Simpson Bay, Mary’s Boon may be the best kept secret with rates as low as $75.00 in low season. Opened in 1970, the hotel is with new owners who spruced up the property with cathedral ceilings, wraparound verandas, four-poster beds and stairs leading to the beach. The thirty six rooms, suites and bungalows are arranged among huge natural boulders and a riotous array of flowers. The laid-back Caribbean vibe extends to an “honour bar ‘although bartenders are on duty at night for professionally-shaken, or stirred, martinis. The upgraded Tides restaurant rotates four chefs who have been with the property for more than thirty years.  15% commission to agents booking rooms.  
599-545-7000     www.marysboon.com

On Front Street in Philipsburg, Holland House blends European chic with Caribbean pizzazz following an upgrade by a St. Bart’s design firm.  The 53-room property faces the beach and offers free Wi-Fi, beach chairs and towel service (most of the other seaside hotels charge for these extras). The elegant Ocean Lounge is an international kitchen with an impressive selection of wines. Dutch Chef Ricardo Niels works magic with seafood and produce flown in from Europe. 
599 542-2572   www.oceanloungesxm.com       www.hhbh.com       

Following an $80 million renovation, Radisson St Martin Resort & Spa will open in December as the largest property on the French side.   On eighteen acres nestled in the picturesque cove of Anse Marcel bordered by hills on three sides and the Caribbean Sea on the other, the 188-room property was originally Le Meridian and most recently operated as L'Habitation de Lonvilliers.  Stand-out features include a water taxi from the airport which will take less than half the time of a land taxi, a meal plan that includes dinner in nearby restaurants and Club Les Enfants. 10 % commission offered to agents.
1-800-333-3333    www.radisson.com/stmartin

To eat

The Island’s slogan Bring Your Appetite for Life is appropriate with more than four-hundred restaurants, cafes and bistros dotting both sides of the Island.  A visitor can easily spend one week eating wonderfully well at every meal and never in the same restaurant twice. 
Aura at the waters edge in the Dawn Beach Westin excels with a French fusion menu. Reservations recommended and prices are high but worth the splurge.  www.starwoodhotels.com. 

In the Atlantis Casino Courtyard, Temptations is the best steakhouse on the Island with an impressive selection of dry-aged cuts imported from the U.S. and South America.  www.nouveaucaribbean.com  

Eateries in   Philipsburg include the colourful Creole cottage L’Escargot which does snails half a dozen ways
www.lescargotrestaurant.com,  Oualichi, a nautically-themed eatery on the Boardwalk and nearby Taloula Mango’s, the winner for succulent ribs. 

The original Island “lolo” or roadside BBQ is in Cole Bay. “Johnny Under the Tree” is literally under a tree and there really is a “Johnny”.   Revered for his lip-searing pepper recipe, Johnny Bridgewater sells sixty pounds of ribs daily and eight pound lobsters to tourists who know a good thing when they eat one. “My regulars come here as soon as they land at the airport, “ he smiles, “ with a suitcase  in hand and a taxi waiting, they order take-out and then check into their hotel.”

In the Simpson Bay Yacht Club complex, Top Carrot is one of a few vegetarian restaurants.  Shaded bistro-style on an outside terrace, the new eatery has a fruit and vegetable juice bar and is open early for breakfast.  Close by, gigantic pails of garlic mussels are the star attraction at the Wharf with expansive views of the lagoon and reggae and Soca bands nightly. Sea views are the big draw at Bliss in Maho. Attracting the young and hip, this is the place to see and be seen.  The open-air nightclub and bar stays open until the early hours. www.theblissexperience.com

Off the beaten track on the French side (Grand Case is the beaten track for restaurants) Yvette's is a homespun eatery that has been delighting foodies for three decades.  Founded by Yvette Hyman and her husband Felix, the delectable conch stew and dumplings is a tried and true family recipe. Affordable and without pretension, the countryside ambience is conducive to a relaxing night out. And for no-frills authenticity, the beachfront Lolos on the French side grill chicken, ribs and fish for under $10.00.

To play

Ringed by thirty-seven beaches, clothing-optional on the French side, the island is nirvana for swimmers, divers, sailors and those who prefer to top off their tan from the comfort of a beach chair.

Voted the #1 ‘Shore excursion in the Caribbean’ for ten consecutive years by Princess Cruise Lines, the 12-Metre Challenge is a shortened version of the America’s Cup race.  Sailor wannabees serve as crew aboard the Canadian yachts or Dennis Connor’s Stars & Stripes. Half-day excursions start at $75.
599-542-0045       www.12metre.com

Ludot Shore Adventures offers an array of tours including horseback riding on the beach and excursions on a tall ‘pirate’ ship. Commission is paid to agents.
1 800 638 5153 www.shoreadventures.com

With five locations, Blue Bubbles Watersports & Dive Center sells kayak and cycle tours as well as reef charters, scuba, parasailing and snorkelling.  A half-day deep sea fishing tour for five people on a 37-foot Tiara Motor Yacht is $ 1,250; with participants allowed to keep all the yellow fin tuna and marlin they catch.  
599-55-42502 www.bluebubblessxm.com 

A customized tour with a minimum of eight people is the calling card of Bernard Tours offering shopping, sightseeing and beach excursions.  Tours start at $30.00 pp. 
599 557-0788 www.bernardstours.com

Steps from the cruise ship pier at the Great Bay marina, Scuba Fun Dive Center sells tours to famous dive sites including the wreck of the two-century old British Proselyte, which lies preserved on a reef a mile from the shore. Free shuttle service from most of the hotels with dive times coordinated with the arrival of the cruise ships.  PADI-certified instructors teach classes in shallow water to beginners for $75.00.  
599 557 0505    www.scubafun.com

Tri Sports Tours are sold in most of the hotels with a storefront in Simpson Bay that rents bikes and gear. Tour options include paddling excursions through the largest saltwater lagoon in the Caribbean and kayak and snorkel tours. 
599 545-4384   http://trisportsxm.com   

On the French side, the Butterfly Farm is one of the most distinctive attractions in the region.   Within a large meshed enclosure, hundreds of butterflies flit about freely including the rare iridescent Blue Morpho from South. America.  Gift shop sales support conservation and preservation efforts.   The Hidden Forest Café serves a Caribbean cornucopia of flavours virtually in the middle of the rainforest
Also on the French side, the Fly Zone Extreme is the newest addition to the Loterie Farm, a nature preserve at the base of Pic Paradis, the highest point on the Island at 1400 feet.   Using a series of ropes, cables and suspended bridges, participants soar over the forest between ancient mango and mahogany trees. The junior version, Ti’Tarzan, is designed with swinging ropes for children.  
599-590-8786   www.loteriefarm.net

Getting there

Direct flights to Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) via Continental Airlines, American Airlines, U.S. Air, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Spirit and Jet Blue.

Flying time from New York is three-and-a-half hours. Jet Blue Getaways packages at www.jetblue.com or 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583), option 3.     

Tourist Information

French side, Office de Tourisme   www.st-martin.org
Dutch side- www.vacationstmaarten.com

Toll Free: 1-800- 786-2278 (1 800 STMAARTEN)


Jackson Dances Past Malfunction Junction

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(September 10, 2008) VANCOUVER — Indelibly linked to a wardrobe malfunction that made the Guinness Book of Records and a big-brother pop star whose name frequently appears alongside the term "creepy," Janet Jackson wants the focus of her world tour - kicking off in Vancouver today - to be on her music, the choreography and especially the audience.

"This show is for all the fans," Jackson, 42, said of her Rock Witchu Tour, during a telephone press conference from Los Angeles last week.

"A lot of the kids have told me what they'd like to hear," she said of a call-in number she set up for fans to leave her message. "I've tried to do as much as I possibly can and incorporate it into the show."

The tour, she promises, will be upbeat, dance-heavy and will mix songs from her most recent album, Discipline, with old favourites. Lest anyone think the tour's name is any sort of shout-out to big brother Michael, who scored a smash hit with the song Rock with You back in 1979, Janet Jackson says absolutely not. "It has nothing to do with my brother Mike. The reason I called the tour Rock Witchu is it's nothing but dance. This whole show is two hours of dance."

Jackson is, of course, a pop star in her own right, with 10 No. 1 singles and worldwide sales totalling more than 100 million albums.

It's been more than seven years since she's toured, and like many other acts before her (the Police, Spice Girls), she is kicking things off in Vancouver. "We love Canada and it was just a great place to start."

Jackson does have a history with Vancouver. Production rehearsals for her last tour were held in the city and last week she expressed fond memories of going on Starbucks runs in the mornings, and getting her teeth cleaned by a dentist recommended by one of her dancers. In 2004, in what became a notorious incident, Jackson appeared with Justin Timberlake during the Super Bowl half-time show. At the end of a performance of the song Rock Your Body, Timberlake peeled off part of Jackson's bustier, revealing her right breast (the plan, apparently, was to reveal only her red bra). The incident caused an uproar and the Federal Communications Commission fined CBS $550,000 (U.S.) - a Guinness World Record at the time for highest fine imposed on a TV broadcaster.

When asked at the press conference what she'll be wearing for this tour, Jackson joked: "Clothes."Janet Jackson's Rock Witchu Tour starts in Vancouver tonight at GM Place. She'll be in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on Sept. 28 and at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Sept. 29.

Faith Evans: Silent No More

www.essence.com - By Imani Powell

(September 10, 2008) Thirteen years after the East Coast–West Coast rap wars, which led to the murders of her husband The Notorious B.I.G. and his former friend turned rival Tupac Shakur, Faith Evans finally speaks out. The Grammy Award winner talks exclusively to ESSENCE to set the record straight on drug abuse, ghosts from the past, and how she has found happiness with her husband and four children.

There may be other working mothers chilling in Naked Sushi at two in the afternoon, but none have lived the life of Faith Evans. She leaves her black toy-filled Denali SUV, equipped with a car seat for 1½-year-old son Ryder, and smiles as she enters the trendy Marina del Rey restaurant. The place is convenient to Evans's Venice Beach home, and SoCal seems to agree with her. Freckles emphasize her sun-kissed cheeks, and her soft, golden-brown curls have been air-dried, as if she just hopped out of a swimming pool—which, in fact, she has. Without lipstick, her signature pout isn't evident, save for the beauty marks that stood out on the cover of her platinum-selling debut CD, Faith.

Today the Grammy Award—winning singer, once known for furs and shiny catsuits, pairs a casual emerald-green sundress with a white capelet and gladiator sandals. She has just dropped off her son Christopher, 11, at a local junior high school so he can take an entrance exam. If he makes the cut, next year he may don a Catholic school uniform, not unlike the costume he wears playing his dad at a young age in the film Notorious. The movie comes out in 2009 and chronicles the life and 1997 death of his father, Christopher Wallace, aka The Notorious B.I.G.

Placing her shades on the bar and her black Balenciaga bag aside, Faith, 35, makes conversation with the chef as he whips up her raw fish favourites, jalapeño yellowtail and spicy tuna roll, which she'll wash down with sake, a glass of Sapporo and a ginger ale. Though Faith wears a full figure well on her 5-foot, 6-inch frame, she says she's dieting. She's gearing up for the book tour for her explosive new memoir, which will briefly take her away from her husband–manager, Todd Russaw, and the children (daughter Chyna, 15, and son Joshua, 10, round out the brood). And although she's still in laid-back California mode, there's nothing calm about Keep the Faith (Grand Central Publishing), hitting shelves this month. Caution: The singer covers ground that's been widely reported in various hip-hop magazines, so the cameo appearances by rappers Lil' Kim and Charli Baltimore, Bad Boy Records impresario Sean "Puffy" Combs, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott and others will give the feeling of "been there, done that." However, it's refreshing to see what Faith saw during this music revolution through her often unheralded role as a forceful talent and leading lady in a sometimes tawdry soap opera. But why tell her story now? Faith says Russaw encouraged her to write the book (penned with Aliya S. King): "'People don't know the real story,' he told me.’One day, you're going to have to tell it,'" she explains. "Everybody's not going to accept the real story, but it's my story."


If there's a familiar thread in Evans's life, it's her shyness and tendency to avoid confrontation, which is ironic, given her presence during some of the most explosive moments of hip-hop's heyday. Music is what took her to the hip-hop life, because it came easy to this complicated girl, born in Lakeland, Florida, to Helene Evans, a Black singer, and a music-loving man (who is rumoured to be White, though Faith never met him and doesn't know for sure), and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She found her voice at Emmanuel Baptist Church Incorporated in Newark and kept on singing. "As a child I always shied away from conflict or when people were fighting," she recollects in Keeping the Faith. "I didn't really fight a whole lot. I'm not that way; I'm not trying to have bruises." Yet Faith was drawn to guys with an edge, like "J.T.," her first boyfriend, who was older, a drug dealer and abusive. While still in her teens, she dealt with an STD, had multiple abortions, and became involved with a married man. But she remained focused and earned a full ride to Fordham University in New York—only to give up her education after falling in love with Kiyamma Griffin, a local musician. When Faith learned she was pregnant, Griffin insisted she keep the child, and they moved to Los Angeles.

The relationship didn't last, and Evans returned to the East Coast, a young, gifted and broke single mom. For a time she collected welfare while living with her grandparents, but she ultimately found steady session work, earning $2,000 a week singing background on demo tapes for the likes of Al B. Sure. Her connection to Griffin eventually led her to Combs, and by 1993 she was writing songs for Usher's first album and cowriting the lyrics for Mary J. Blige's "Everyday It Rains."

Evans developed a thick skin and tough shell, even carrying an unloaded .22 in her purse. "I don't like being played, so I had to step up," Faith recalls. Her hard shell would melt when she met the man who would become her first husband at a photo shoot. She drove Biggie and Junior M.A.F.I.A. home to Brooklyn that night and caught him stealing looks at her along the way. "I'ma call you," she remembers him saying—both bold and presumptuous.

He was true to his word. As we now know, less than two months after their first meeting, Faith and Biggie drove to Rockland County, about an hour upstate from New York City, and married on August 4, 1994. She had just turned 21; he was 22. They smoked weed on the way to their wedding and stopped for greasy French fries on the way home. Soon enough they were hip-hop's royal couple, and Faith's first single, "You Used to Love Me," in 1995, was in constant rotation. Yet she was also a young woman in love, taking care of her family. Biggie was crazy about Chyna, eating Chinese takeout and running deep with his crew. Faith describes her husband as a "fun-loving Brooklyn boy." For a while, they were happy.

The keep-it-real fairy tale would reach a darker chapter. Rumours abounded that Biggie had cut out on his wife with rapper and protégé Lil' Kim, then a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., and Charli Baltimore, a lesser known rapper discovered by Biggie. Faith, who never let her personal life interfere with her career, focused on work. "I still had to maintain my daughter and get her to school. I was still mother hen," she says.

In 1996 Faith found it hard to turn down an offer to record a song with Tupac Shakur for a self-negotiated $25,000. Now she knows this was not the best move. "I had no idea that Tupac had been signed to Death Row Records," she writes. "He had only been out of jail a few days when we met at the Hollywood Athletic Club. I hadn't yet heard that Suge Knight had bailed him out in return for signing to the label and immediately recording an album. If I had known, I would have never in a million years agreed to it."

Her decision led to a decade-long rumour that she slept with Shakur, which she denies. Even today she becomes unsettled by the topic of Tupac, and when pushed to talk about him, a clearly rattled Faith parses her words carefully. "I didn't know him. I don't know what (motivated him). That's like speaking for someone, and with him being dead, I definitely don't like trying. I'm glad I got through it the best I could." Unfortunately, she would not see a dime of the money from the recording.


By that time her marriage to Biggie was strained. She once caught another woman in his hotel room. That same year she picked up her belongings and left their Brooklyn home altogether, opting to live out of hotels with young Chyna in tow, crashing on the couch at the group 112's Manhattan apartment, while planning to rent her own place in a Manhattan high-rise. During their separation, she would discover he was having an affair with Lil' Kim after Kim made a bold appearance on Wendy Williams's popular radio show. Faith called the radio show afterward and defended herself.

Still in love, she and Biggie had occasional romantic reunions, which resulted in the birth of their son Christopher. "Everybody that knows me and knew B.I.G. knew that we had a bond," says Faith, who was confident that they would patch things up—until that fateful March night in 1997 when a gunman pulled up alongside Biggie's car while he was waiting at a traffic light. A sombre Faith would put her music career on hold until she was tapped later that year along with Combs and 112 to do a tribute to Biggie, a single titled "I'll Be Missing You." Eventually she returned to recording and began dating Russaw, the friend who had comforted her on the night of Biggie's death.


In 2005, when Evans signed with Capitol Records, she had been married to Russaw for seven years. "(Our relationship) was definitely something I started to lean on a lot," she says. "He was one of the few people that really understood me."

Life wasn't exactly drama-free. In January 2004, she and Russaw were arrested in Hapeville, Georgia, with marijuana and cocaine in their car. The couple agreed to enter a 13-week drug intervention program, and after completion the charges were dropped. Still, rumours spread that she was on drugs, which she addressed in "Again," the first single from her 2005 album "The First Lady."

But today it looks like Faith has her priorities straight. Number one is her family. As the waitress brings the to-go sushi rolls ordered for Chyna, Faith speaks happily about her life. "Other than the times I take the kids to school and pick them up or go to the grocery store, I'm usually at home," she says. Although she parted from Los Angeles–based Capitol Records and has no label, she's staying on the West Coast. "There's something about seeing the ocean every day that I love," she says, smiling. This calm helps keep the haters out of sight and out of mind. "Do you know how many different opinions and off-the-wall stories (I hear)? Like, 'I heard she's doing bad and she's about to sell her house.' I'm just making smarter choices. I'm not trying to have a new car every six months like I used to. I have four kids and I owe the government, and I've got to save up to pay my bills."

She's a little bit older, and a lot wiser. "With experience, intelligence turns into wisdom," she says. She pauses for a moment. "Every decision, every option, every choice has to be really based around if it makes sense for my family. We don't even have a babysitter. I enjoy being able to be that person and no one else." With that, she settles into her Denali and drives off down the long and winding California road that could easily parallel her life.

Imani Powell is a frequent contributor to the magazine.

Jazz/Hip-Hop saxophonist Mike Phillips featured on 'Unwrapped: The Collipark Cafe' Sessions'

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(September 04, 2008) *“I’m from the streets” Jazz saxophonist Mike Phillips said about his style. “Hip-Hop comes from the streets (from) Miles Davis to A Tribe Called Quest. The trend started from the street up. Guys in suits and ties sit in their offices and say, ‘This is good!’ But people in suits can’t make a trend.”

It is that Hip-Hop trend with a twist of Jazz that the new Hidden Beach release “Unwrapped 5.0: The Collipark Café’ Sessions” captures with the help of featured Jazz musicians like Mike. As with the style of Mike Phillips fusing together Hip-Hop and Jazz, producer Mr. Collipark (Lil’ Jon, Ying Yang Twins, Soulja Boy), the brainchild of the project, wanted to combine Jazz with Atlanta’s Crunk. Collipark and his attorney/partner Karl Marcellus approached Hidden Beach Recordings with the idea.

Hidden Beach launched in 2001 its “Unwrapped” series of Jazz interpretations of popular Hip-Hop songs. By then Collipark and Washington had enlisted the help of Abdul Ra’oof to help assemble a group of noted Atlanta-based musicians and producers, but somehow they couldn’t get it off the ground.

Initially Steve McKeever, president of Hidden Beach Recordings turned them down because he had done four series of “Unwrapped” and he felt the market-place was flooded with carbon copies of what they were doing.

When the right time came Steve contacted Collipark and “Unwrapped: The Collipark Café’ Sessions” was completed. It has eleven tracks of which Mike Phillips is on three: Hurricane Chris’ “Ay Bay Bay,” T-Pain’s “Shawty,” and Soulja Boy’s “Crank That.” Artists featured on the CD include Phillips, Peter Black, Jeff Bradshaw, Jimmy Brown, Kofi Burbridge and the albums executive producer Abdul Ra’oof.

“The young rap movement I can’t stand,” Mike says about current-day Hip-Hop. “Be responsible and make…something my 10 year-old can listen to.”

Well, the Hidden Beach CD, “Unwrapped: The Collipark Café’ Sessions,” doesn’t have that problem because it is mainly an instrumental album. You will also find Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz’s “Get Low,” with Jimmy Brown on Sax, flute and trombone; The Ying Yang Twins’ “Salt Shaker,” with Reginald Jones on keyboards and guitar; Akon’s “Soul Survivor,” with Abdul Ra’oof on trumpet and vocals, and a Mr. Collipark original “Bridging the Great Divide,” with Darryl “Wiz” Rouse on Keyboards and Abdul on vocals.

“There’s one thing that will never change, people are looking for music that stirs the soul,” Mike said as our interview concluded, and I totally agree.

Jazz, With A Little Japanese Rock For Good Measure

www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(September 05, 2008) MONTREAL — Consider Satoko Fujii something of a late bloomer. Even though she started playing piano at the age of 4, she didn't realize that improvisation was her calling until she was 20, and she didn't start recording as a jazz musician until 1996, when she was in her late 30s.

Since then, however, the 49-year-old pianist and composer has made up for lost time. She has more than 50 titles in her discography, offering everything from solo sessions and duets to big band and rock albums.

"I'm addicted," she says with a laugh. "I just keep making CDs. I'm happy with doing that."

It's late June, and she and her husband, trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, are sitting in a room at the Hyatt hotel in Montreal, where they will be performing at the jazz festival. A few days earlier, they played the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, where Fujii also played a duet with violinist Carla Kihlstedt. (This week, she and Tamura return to Canada to play the Guelph Jazz Festival with her newest quartet, Ma-Do.) "I have three quartets now," she says. "One is with Japanese [musicians], but more rock - very, very heavy rock feel." Not surprisingly, that group's audience draws more from the noise-rock underground than from jazz circles. "We get a lot of fans from that area, from [bands like] Boredoms or Melt-Banana, because the drummer plays in Ruins, which is also that kind of music," she says.

"Another one is with [bassist] Mark Dresser and [drummer] Jim Black, which would sound more like a cross between free improvisation and jazz. Not so much [the] heavy feel of rock.

"This new band is, I would say, between these two bands," she says. "The drummer plays everything, but he started playing rock, so he has that kind of feel. But the bass player plays only acoustic, and he's a jazz player. So it's not like rock music. Also, I started writing more and more, so it has less improvisation and a lot of structure. So it's probably jazz, but with a lot of rock feel, and also world music, ethno-music feel."

Jazz, rock and world music may seem like a lot of bases for one band to cover, but that's typical of Fujii's interests. At times, her playing can be as dense and virtuosic as free-jazz pioneer Cecil Taylor's, but she just as happily keeps things relatively simple and straightforward when playing accordion in Tamura's Latin jazz combo Gato Libre.

"I do have many different characters," she says. "I'm not like the person who has only one thing. I love Japanese food. I love Thai food. I love French food. I love Italian food." She laughs. "I just cannot stop eating all of them."

Taking such an open approach to inspiration has been a boon for Fujii artistically, but it doesn't make for much of a business plan - not that she worries about such things. "I'm a person who does not plan anything," she says happily. "I just live with my feelings, somehow."

She acknowledges that there are those - particularly on the business end - who wish she would be a little less prolific, or a little more limited artistically. "Some labels actually complain [that] they are having a hard time selling my CDs," she says. "And since I make so many, that makes it harder to sell them, I guess."

But growing up in Japan, Fujii realized early on that making music was something done for love, not money - especially if you're female. "Most high-school brass band players in Japan are girls," she says. "Probably 80 or 90 per cent are girls, not boys.

"But professional musicians? If we find girls, there are very few - probably 10 or 15 per cent. That's because many girls are smart enough to quit, because they know that's not really a great way to make money. Making music means having a tough life."

It's even harder when playing the kind of experimental jazz for which Fujii is known. "If we played post bebop or hard bop - sixties music - there's a market," she explains. "Not big, but there's a market in Japan. But for my kind of music, I don't know if Japan is a great place or not. There is some place underground, but not like mainstream jazz."

Canada, on the other hand, seems much friendlier to her sound. "Japan is more like America now," Fujii says. "Capitalism is getting bigger and bigger. We value everything by money. But in Europe, and in Canada, the government supports culture, and they know there are some things we cannot value with money. That's a great thing for us, because our music never can be valued or measured with money."

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do play the River Run Centre in Guelph, Ont., tonight at 8 (http://www.guelphjazzfestival.com).

Heavy Turbulence

www.globeandmail.com - David Ebner

(September 04, 2008) VANCOUVER — Let me tell you about this song. It starts softly, the sweet sound of violin and viola, then it swirls and swells. The words are all true, an unflinching rendering of emotional pain.

It plays out at a bar in Los Angeles, some time around midnight. There is a woman you are definitely not over. She comes to say hello. The scent of her perfume sends your head spinning.

"All of these memories come rushing like feral waves to your mind: of the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined. And you feel hopeless and homeless and lost in the haze of the wine."

And then she leaves with someone you don't know.

"She makes sure you saw her. She looks right at you and bolts."

And then you fall into a delirium of drunkenness.

And, then, if you are
Mikel Jollett, you go home, hole up in your apartment for three days and write a powerful song called Sometime Around Midnight - a song so alluring that L.A.'s KROQ, the biggest rock radio station in the United States, adds it to regular rotation, even though your band has no manager, no publicist and no label. It is the first time in several years KROQ has done this for an unsigned band.

The band is
Airborne Toxic Event, named for the dangerous cloud that hangs over Jack Gladney after a rail-car accident in Don DeLillo's novel White Noise. Like a chemical spill, the band emerged suddenly.

In March, 2006, Jollett, who was writing a novel and working occasionally as a music journalist, was whipped by a quartet of blows. In a single week, his mother was diagnosed with cancer; he was diagnosed with autoimmune disease (which makes his skin blotchy and, when he is stressed, his hair fall out); he broke up with a long-time girlfriend (not the woman from the song); and he got pneumonia.

Jollett quit his two-pack-a-day cigarette addiction and played the guitar obsessively, drinking and writing. The new words, he realized, were not parts of his novel in progress but the lyrics to rock songs.

"I felt this real, just suddenly, I felt all this music in me I just didn't feel before," said Jollett, 34. "Suddenly, everything sounded like a song."

He paired up with a drummer and discovered that he wasn't a half-shabby singer (he had been in a band before, but never took the mike). Three more players were soon recruited. Jollett wrote a hundred songs and the group spent the next year self-recording its 10-track debut. Along the way, it performed in the United States and the United Kingdom, earning notice in the blogosphere; Rolling Stone eventually dubbed it one of the best unknown bands on MySpace.

And, then, in January, 2008, an unmastered MP3 of Sometime Around Midnight became a hit on KROQ, less than one month after it was recorded. Majordomo, an upstart L.A. indie label, put out the band's self-titled debut in August.

"It wasn't dogmatic, like, 'We're an indie rock band,' " Jollett said. "If any major had come along and said, 'Hey, we'll give you $10-million and put out your record exactly as it is,' we'd have been like, 'Sweet!' But that didn't happen."

Airborne's lack of major-label backing has not held the band back. Sometime Around Midnight opened at No. 34 on the Billboard modern-rock chart and is steady at No. 35 in its third week. In late April, the band played on Carson Daly's show and in early August hit the Conan O'Brien stage. Their 2008 festival tour has included South by Southwest in Austin, Tex., Pemberton in British Columbia and now the Virgin Festival in Toronto. Reviews have been mostly positive and some times more so: The Boston Herald called the record the best debut of the year. Daily Variety said the disc is hard to distinguish from "dime-a-dozen alt rockers," though the L.A. publication did concede Sometime is amazing.

The truth is somewhere in between. It is a good first record: At times, the music sounds generic, but the lyrics are magical gems of storytelling.

While the band has garnered a slew of comparisons, such as Franz Ferdinand and Arcade Fire, the closest players in terms of cathartic literary tales are Austin's Okkervil River.

Jollett calls the 10 songs a carefully ordered series of "pits and valleys and revelations."

The literal telling of tough tales - every story on the record is as it happened, not just Sometime - was in part inspired by Vladimir Nabokov and Philip Roth, whose works Jollett read while holed up in a desert ranch working on The Great Novel.

"These guys, so much about what they do is about trying to find some beauty in some of the darker moments," Jollett said.

"I don't know if you've ever read Sabbath's Theater by Philip Roth. He finds a way to make pissing on his ex-lovers' grave this super-romantic image. That takes some serious mental gymnastics. ...

"You go through this stuff and you write about it. Some people had given me some good advice: 'Just use it. Just write about [it]. Don't be afraid of it. Be unflinching.' "

After all, you never know when an eyebrow will fall off. Jollett's vitiligo (splotchy skin from loss of pigments) and alopecia areata (hair loss) linger - even if they only attack, as he says, his vanity.

"I'm always thinking in my head, when we're playing, 'Don't try and look cool, don't try and look cool, just try and show people how weird you are.' Because that's when people get it. Morrissey used to talk about how he'd sing to someone in the back of the room. I'm always doing that; I'm always trying to sing to someone in the back of the room."

Airborne Toxic Event plays the Virgin Festival in Toronto on Saturday. (http://www.virginfestival.ca/toronto).

Molly Johnson Takes Detour Through Radio 2

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(September 04, 2008) "It's a long way from Gzowksi," Molly Johnson murmurs, her dark eyes flashing inquisitively around the room, occasionally fixing on a face she knows, then widening with her smile.

It's true. The late Peter Gzowski, whose own warm, persuasive curiosity and intimate one-on-one radio manner set, for a generation, the timbre of CBC Radio's main station, Radio One (99.1 FM), would not have been at home here in the top-floor studio of the Mother Corps' headquarters in downtown Toronto on this particular day.

A stagy press-fest and Hollywood-style hoopla are ringing in radical changes to Radio One's sedate sister station,
Radio Two (94.1 FM), which, for longer than Gzowski ruled the larger populist roost, has been the sole repository of soul-nourishing classical music in this country.

And just as most things Gzowski have been swept aside on Radio One, Radio Two, as of this past Tuesday morning, bears little or no resemblance to its former fusty self.

Replacing wall-to-wall classical music is a dramatically reorientated cluster of programs geared to a diverse demographic – younger, too, if style and content are any indication – for whom Radio Two was formerly a waste of space on the dial.

And though CBC's executive director of programming, Chris Boyce, claims it's mere happenstance, the keys to the best real estate in this once serene kingdom have been handed over to musical celebrities untrained in traditional broadcasting arts.

They are Juno-winning folk/pop/hip-hop musician and songwriter Rich Terfry (a.k.a. Buck 65), hosting the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Radio 2 Drive weekdays, devoted to contemporary Canadian songwriters in all genres; Canadian mezzo soprano Julie Nesrallah, host of classical music hits quota Tempo, from 10 a.m. till 3 p.m. daily; and pop/blues/jazz diva Johnson, a concert and recording star who's hosting Radio 2 Morning 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sunday.

This is new terrain for Johnson. A member of a genuine Canadian cultural cluster – her elder siblings are acclaimed movie director and actor Clark Johnson, and singer/actor Taborah Johnson – she has worked the high and low roads of the music business in her 40 years as chanteuse, songwriter, recording artist, band leader and jingle singer/voice-over actor.

At age 4 she was cast by the late Ed Mirvish, in Porgy and Bess at his Royal Alexandra Theatre. While she was the queen of the Queen St. bohemian underground in the early 1980s, churning out smoky, wasted blues classics at the Cameron House for Toronto's druggy demimonde, Johnson was "discovered" by the late, famed booker Gino Empry, and given a week-long engagement at the ritzy Imperial Room in the Royal York Hotel, alongside the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and Peter Allen.

She has entertained the Prince and late Princess of Wales aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, along with sell-out crowds at Paris's famed Olympia cabaret, as well as Nelson Mandela and Quincy Jones.

In the 1980s and '90s she teetered on the verge of international stardom with the bands Alta Moda and Infidels. Along the way Johnson helped establish the Kumbaya Foundation and Festival, raising awareness of and funds for people living with HIV/AIDS. More recently, her performances have made her a bona fide star in France.

"Countless times I've flown over to Paris with my boys on a Thursday night, done a press conference and a show on Friday, caught a train to another city for a Saturday show, then back to Paris in time for a plane to Toronto, which gets me home in time to do their laundry and pack their lunches for school on Monday," says the mother of two during a break in preparations for her inaugural show on Saturday.

"So, yes, this is a new world. Six months ago radio wasn't even on the horizon and here I am in the thick of it, learning as fast as I can."

An unabashed Gzowski fan, Johnson heads across Front St. most days after rehearsals and production meetings at the CBC for trade tips from Shelley Ambrose, the erstwhile master's long-time producer and keeper of secrets, and now executive director of the Walrus Foundation and co-publisher of the Canadian literary and current affairs magazine The Walrus.

"Shelley made Peter great, and she has taught me a lot about how to talk on radio. Much to my surprise, it isn't the same as talking on the phone to your friends."

Determined to balance a schedule she calls "tricky," Johnson says the 4:30 a.m. weekend wake-up calls are the least of her worries.

"I'm the mother of two (pre-teen) boys and I'm used to getting up early. That's how it's been for me for years."

Nor, she adds, will the responsibilities of a salaried CBC gig upset her performing and recording career, which is forging ahead with the release next month of an album of popular jazz standards, featuring pianist Phil Dwyer, bassist Michael Downes and drummer Mark McLean.

They'll also accompany Johnson at her first headlining concert at Massey Hall Oct. 25.

"This is a big one for me," she says. "I've opened at Massey for B.B. King and Ray Charles, and I've sung there with Tom Cochrane and Blue Rodeo, but I've never had that stage to myself. I'm hoping the place will be filled with family and friends."

In November, Johnson is off again to France and England for a round of concert and festival dates, and the European launch of her album, which was jointly backed by Canadian and French divisions of the Universal Music Group.

"This is the album people wanted me to record 20 years ago, when I was still learning my craft," she says. "I knew someday I'd be wiser, that I'd be able to bring something of myself and my own experiences to this material. This is the time.

"I've had my ass severely kicked over the years in the music business and I'm still here. I can sing these songs now with some authority and authenticity."

For all her bravado, Johnson has learned to be leery of intimations of imminent success in music.

"When CBC Radio Two came along I'd been fantasizing about being offered a job, something I'd get paid for on a regular basis," she says. "I think I can do this. I'm looking forward to being able to play so much great Canadian music that doesn't get played on commercial radio. And it's a part-time gig, which suits me fine.

"I'd like to come out a winner in radio."

Britney Spears Tops At MTV Awards

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press

(September 8, 2008) LOS ANGELES — It took a year, but Britney Spears got the comeback she was seeking from the
MTV Video Music Awards — and she didn't even have to sing or dance.

Spears nabbed three VMAs, including video of the year, erasing last year's career-low performance. Her first Moonman trophies came during a 25th anniversary show that otherwise lacked a defining moment, with most of the zaniness coming from host Russell Brand.

“Wow, thank you, I'm in shock right now. I was not expecting this,” Spears, looking spectacular in a shimmering silver dress, said as she accepted her third trophy of the evening for “Piece of Me.”

Spears kept all three of her acceptance speeches short.

 “This is such an honour to have this award right now,” she said. “I want to thank my fans, this is dedicated to you.”

There was no such honour for Spears last year, when the declining diva — by then known more for her tabloid exploits and erratic behaviour — kicked off the Las Vegas telecast. Looking haggard and dazed, Spears bumbled her way through a performance of “Gimme More” that gave new meaning to the phrase “Sin City.”

Though Spears didn't perform this time, she still opened the show, giving a blink-and-you-missed-it introduction of Rihanna. Still, just being there was enough for a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd long before she opened her mouth to get things rolling.

Spears did provide a few laughs during a pre-taped comedic segment with “Superbad” actor Jonah Hill that preceded the live telecast. There were a few more laughs during comedian Brand's opening monologue, but the celeb audience seemed more nervous than amused, as the frenetic Brit took aim at Madonna, the virginity of teen sensations the Jonas Brothers and President George W. Bush, whom he called “a retarded cowboy fellow.”

He clearly got under the skin of one celebrity, however, with his jokes about promise rings, which the Jonas Brothers wear to signify their virginity. Another famous promise-ring wearer, Jordin Sparks, said before giving out one award:

“I just wanna say, it's not bad to wear a promise ring because not every guy and a girl wants to be a slut, okay?” she quipped.

Afterward, a somewhat contrite Brand apologized to a stone-faced Jonas Brothers, saying, “I didn't mean to take it lightly” before adding, “a little sex once and a while never hurt anybody.”

Though the VMAs have been defined by zany, wild moments in the past — the Michael and Lisa Marie kiss, the Britney-Madonna kiss, Prince's butt-out jeans just to name a few — there were more head-scratching moments than outrageous ones at the sprawling Paramount Studios lot.

The prim and proper Leona Lewis gave a graceful opening performance for a song by ... Lil Wayne, who appeared on stage bare-chested, displaying his tattooed torso as his pants hung below his buttocks (Ralph Lauren's underwear line got a nice plug, however). He performed hits “A Milli” and a song with T-Pain.

The Jonas Brothers performed a version of their song “Lovebug” that was so genteel one might have thought they were doing a tribute to the Osmonds. But the trio then segued to a rocked-out version of the song in the final moments, as a throng of screaming fans surrounded them on one of the movie's many sets.

Pink gave perhaps the show's most rousing performance, a pyrotechnic-fuelled performance of her new song, “So What.”

T.I.'s performance was also noteworthy, since the last time he was due to perform at an awards show, he was arrested instead. At last year's BET Hip-Hop Awards, he was accused of trying to buy machine guns and silencers (he was sentenced earlier this year to serve about a year in prison after completing at least 1,000 hours of community service).

He performed a new song with Rihanna, who also appeared on last year's show. But the dazzling singer from Barbados is hardly in need of any second chances, coming into the VMAs as one of music's hottest acts thanks to her two No. 1 hits of the summer, “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia.”

Closing the night was Kanye West who, like Spears, was hoping for a second chance after a disappointing VMA experience last year. In Las Vegas, he had a Kanye-sized hissy fit backstage and vowed never to appear at the VMAs again after he didn't get a Moonman trophy despite several nominations.

This time, he had a stage all to himself, but he still may have reason to be miffed: he won no trophies during the ceremony, and, appearing after Spears accepted her third and final trophy of the evening, may have been more of an afterthought.

Eric Benet Films Duet With Daughter India

Source: www.eurweb.com -
Guy Dixon

(September 09, 2008) *Eric Benet's upcoming R&B album, "Love & Life" will double as the official singing debut of his 16-year-old daughter, India.

The teen lends vocals to the first single "You're the Only One," which is No. 1 this week at Urban (A/C) Radio. The duo recently sang a rendition of the song for a video clip featured on YouTube. [Scroll down to view.]

"She just brings me so much joy and inspiration," he tells People.com of India, whose mother died in 1993. "She's been the best thing that's ever happened to me. But parenthood has its challenges..."

 Like? "India is now dating," he says with a sigh. 

 Benet said a gut reaction about one of India's boyfriends led him to sit his daughter down and have a little heart-to-heart. 

 "Basically it was poetic justice because I was 16 before and my mind definitely wasn't on the most honorable..." he says. "We talked and she made the choice herself but through parental openness. He got edited. He's out of there!"

 As for the other woman in his life, girlfriend Manuel Testolini, Benet says she inspired many of the sensual songs on "Love & Life," which is due tomorrow (Sept. 9) on her birthday.

 "She's a wonderful person," he says. "She's always thinking about how to make the world better. And she's very easy on the eyes."

 The couple met at a charity event in Los Angeles two years ago and became "really good friends," he says. "It naturally progressed into something else. We're feeling good. We are really enjoying each other's company." 

 As for his girlfriend's famous ex-husband, Prince, Benét says, "I met the guy years and years ago and he was very gracious and cool." He adds with a laugh, "But there's no double dating going on."

Doc Walker Cleans Up At Country Awards

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press

(September 09, 2008) WINNIPEG — It's turning out to be a beautiful life indeed for the members of Doc Walker, the Manitoba band that cleaned up at the Canadian Country Music Awards on Monday night.

The hometown favourite walked away with five of the coveted statues at an awards ceremony in Winnipeg.

After winning songwriter of the year for the hit Beautiful Life at a gala on Sunday night, the group picked up everything the following evening from best song and album of the year to best video and group of the year.

“It's definitely probably the most overwhelming thing that I've ever experienced in my life,” lead singer Chris Thorsteinson said after the show. “You hope to get one or two. When something like this happens . . . it overwhelms you.”

The band — made up of Thorsteinson, Dave Wasyliw and Murray Pulver — also took home the sought-after fans' choice award, beating out heavyweights such as Paul Brandt, George Canyon, Emerson Drive and Jessie Farrell.

It was a welcome homecoming for Doc Walker, which recently lost one of its biggest fans, Thorsteinson's mother, Betty.

“This one here I'm going to dedicate to my mom,” said Thorsteinson as the band accepted the award for best single, his voice wavering. “Unfortunately, it was the last song she ever heard us play before she passed away and couldn't make it this year. I'm sure she's here somewhere watching. For me, this one goes out to Betty.”

Beautiful Life, which was one of her favourites, debuted at No. 3 on the country sales charts in Canada when it was released in April — ahead of such country stars as Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson.

After garnering the most nominations of any musician this year, Farrell won female artist of the year, beating out awards host Terri Clark, last year's winner Carolyn Dawn Johnson, Lisa Brokop and Crystal Shawanda.

The Vancouver musician, who burst onto the Canadian country scene this year with her single Best of Me, also picked up the rising star award and top female talent of the year.

“I am totally thrilled,” said Farrell after the show, joking she was also relieved she didn't trip on her way to the stage. “I haven't fully absorbed it yet.”

Male artist of the year and top-selling Canadian album went to Johnny Reid, who belted out his soulful ballad Thank You during the show.

“They say a man is only as strong as the woman who stands beside him so I'd like to dedicate this to my wife and family first and foremost,” Reid said. “I like to dedicate this award to each and everyone of you who spends your hard-earned money to buy a Johnny Reid record.”

Clark, who was shut out of the awards after winning a total of 13 in her career, opened the evening as promised — shunning an evening gown and heels in favour of jeans with a performance of her latest tune In My Next Life.

“It's been quite a year in country music on both sides of the border,” Clark told the cheering audience. “No offence, but the girls are kicking some serious ass this year.”

The crowd was also treated to various country acts including performances by Emerson Drive, last year's host Paul Brandt and Gord Bamford — the singer who won top male talent of the year for his hit Blame It On That Red Dress.

The show ended on a high note when Randy Bachman, joined on stage by Beverley Mahood and Deric Ruttan, paid homage to the host city with the song Prairie Town.

The awards ceremony was broadcast on CBC-TV nationally, with encore broadcasts to be aired on CMT.

Hansons Walk The Talk – Literally – On Social Activism

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(September 10, 2008) VANCOUVER — From the boys who brought you MmmBop comes something they hope will be just as catchy: a social conscience. Hanson - brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zac - have set off on what they're calling their Walk Around The World Tour. Beyond promoting their album The Walk, they're working to raise awareness of the crushing poverty in Africa - and to raise money to try to eradicate the problem through health care, education and basic supplies.

The tour, which hits Vancouver today, includes a charity walk at each stop. Fans are asked to show up at a specified time and location to walk with the brothers for one mile, barefoot. For each mile walked by each fan, the band is donating $1 (U.S.). Money raised goes to various causes, including buying shoes for children in South Africa, building a hospital in Soweto and helping the Toronto-based charity Free The Children raise money for a school in Kenya. The idea is to tally up 24,902 miles (or 40,000 kilometres) - the equivalent of walking around the world.

"It's a call to action to our fans," says Taylor Hanson, the middle brother and the band's androgynous sex symbol back in the day. "We're really saying you have the power to take the lead and get involved."

Hanson (originally the Hanson Brothers) will forever be associated with the ubiquitous MmmBop - a smash No. 1 hit that helped their major label debut, Middle of Nowhere, sell more than four million albums in the United States alone. The super-poppy single catapulted the young brothers to superstardom at a very young age; Zac, on drums, was just 11 when the record came out.

There have been three studio albums since, but the band has never been able to match that early success. The last two projects have been released as independents on the Hansons' own label, including The Walk, which came out last year. Next up: a five-song EP that comes with a coffee-table book called Take the Walk, which both focuses on the band's fundraising efforts and aims to raise more money for the venture.

The brothers' interest in Africa was sparked by their introduction in 2006 to a medical technology firm in Tulsa, Okla., where the band is based. The company had developed technology that would allow doctors to treat patients remotely, in particular AIDS patients. The Hansons were so intrigued - by the invention and the issue - that they decided to put the album they were making on hold and travel to Africa to see the situation for themselves and to determine whether there was anything they could do to help.

"It's something that we have to face or history will turn its back and say, 'How could you not look at this issue, because it's wiping out a whole generation of people,' " says Taylor Hanson, who has three children and a fourth on the way.

While in South Africa and Mozambique, they recorded with a school choir and also took along a tape recorder to capture sounds from the streets. The results can be heard on The Walk on songs such as Great Divide, Been There Before and Blue Sky.

"It sounds cliché, but the best thing we can do is use our music. That's the best tool we have."

Brother Zac, just 8 when he co-wrote MmmBop, is now 22, a father, and deeply passionate about bringing more attention to the AIDS tragedy.

"AIDS is this dirty disease that nobody wants to talk about, but unfortunately it's affecting millions of families and millions of children and it's something that just can't be ignored because [in North America] we're only protected by our affluence," he says.

"We realized that it's going to take something happening here in the heartland of the country - not in L.A. or New York, but in Texas and Oklahoma and the places that are mid-America - for people to really go, 'Okay, what is this issue and how do I face it?' "

The two brothers do exhibit what appears to be a genuine concern and passion for the issue, heightened, they both say, by the fact they are now parents. And any suggestion that this campaign might be a way for the original Jonas Brothers prototype to rebrand themselves as a serious musical group is summarily dismissed.

First of all, Zac says, he has no interest in rebranding; he is proud of all of the band's accomplishments, including - no, especially - MmmBop, for which he and his brothers were nominated for three Grammy Awards. "I wouldn't give that up for anything."

He also points out that the song has been praised by the band's peers - and then some. Its street cred got a boost four years ago when U2's Bono - one of the world's biggest rock stars (not to mention social activists) - said during an interview that MmmBop was one of his favourite songs of all time.

While Taylor acknowledges that The Walk project may shed a different light on the band, he says the shift is coming from the right place: from their heart, not a marketing executive's idea of how to put a new-millennium face on the once-teeny-boppers.

"It's not a fad," he says. "The same way that our band isn't a fad."

Hanson plays an acoustic show at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver tonight, at the MacEwan Hall Ballroom in Calgary on Friday and at the Edmonton Event Centre on Saturday (hanson.net).


All Rebel Rockers: Michael Franti and Spearhead

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Anti) http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(September 09, 2008) The Oakland native's latest is a danceable, dub-rooted disc recorded in Jamaica with the island's riddim kings, drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare. Infused with rock, soul and singable choruses, this album is a soundtrack for respite and romance. But the renowned activist still gets his socio-political jabs in; "Hey World (Don't Give Up Version)" ponders "why/It's okay/To kill in the name of the gods we pray"; and elsewhere Franti is paranoid about governments spying on their citizenry. Interesting Track: All breathy and seductive on "All I Want Is You," the gravelly voiced singer beseeches his beloved with You're so frickin beautiful.

Timbaland To Be Awarded By Trinity College in Dublin

Source: www.allhiphop.com - By Tai Saint Louis

(September 9, 2008) Multi-platinum producer
Timbaland has been chosen to receive the highest award bestowed by Ireland's prestigious Trinity College Dublin. This October, the Grammy Award winner will be inducted into the school's Philosophical Society as an Honorary Patron.  Each year, the society chooses an elite group of individuals to carry on its time honoured traditions, established more than three hundred years ago in 1684.  Those selected, usually politicians and scholars, are then invited to share their knowledge and expertise with Trinity College students.  "Timbaland is a remarkable individual whose contribution to music is simply astonishing," said Philosophical Society president Barry Devlin. "He is the most sought after producer on the planet, and why wouldn't he be. He has produced an impossibly large number of hits. It is a real honour for us to host such an accomplished musician. The [members of the] Society are very much looking forward to Timbaland's arrival."  Previous recipients of the Honorary Patronage Award include Bono, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, authors Salman Rushdie, Bram Stroker, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Becket.

New Beyonce Album Due In November


(September 10, 2008) *Columbia Records has announced that Beyonce will have a new album in stores on November 18.   The as-yet-untitled release, her third solo album apart from Destiny's Child, is led by two tracks "If I Were A Boy" and "Single Ladies," to be shipped to radio on October 7.    Beyonce co-wrote and co-produced all of the songs on her upcoming album, which Columbia describes as "her "most personal, reflective and revelatory collection to-date."    Meanwhile, Beyonce's younger sister, Solange Knowles, debuted at No. 9 on the chart last week with her second album, "Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams."


Ingrid Veninger A Well-Connected Dreamer

www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan

(September 05, 2008) In the midst of the hopped-up-on-hype, celebrity-induced mass swoon that is the Toronto International Film Festival, it's sometimes hard to remember the other reasons to pay attention to Toronto's annual celebration of flickering fluffery: quality films made by talented artists.

If there is any justice, 2008 will be the year Canadian filmmaker
Ingrid Veninger, already an established actress and producer, is given her due. And with two solid films in the festival - Nurse.Fighter.Boy. which she produced and co-wrote, and the lovely, heartbreaking teen drama Only, which she co-everythinged - how can she miss?

With dozens of Canadian television appearances and behind-the-scenes work on many more homegrown feature films to her credit, Veninger is one of those people who has been in the industry so long that she knows everybody and has worked with them twice. In a matter of seconds, we established a fat handful of "two degrees of separation" connections, and I have about as much to do with feature filmmaking as the guy who runs my local laundromat. I know it's a small world, but c'mon. This woman is connected.

And with the debut of Only at TIFF, she's about to become even more so. A deceptively simple film about two lonely, near-pubescent kids stuck in a snowy nowhere town, Only gently unfolds to become a deft - and blunt - exploration of the anxious yet romantic world of teens. The fact that Veninger employed her own son, an actor who looks more like a 7-Eleven loiterer than one of those freakish robo-teens from High School Musical, in the lead adds a layer of unexpected and deliciously rough reality to this often-dreamy film.

After chatting with Veninger, it became apparent to me that, while clearly a practical working woman, she is a bit of a dreamer herself. And now she's got the all-access pass to back it up.

It's great to see kids in a movie who actually look like kids.

Whenever I see kids who are supposed to be 11 or 12 and they're being played by 15- or 16-year-olds, I never understand it. This specific age of 12 is such a small window, I've wanted to capture that for years.

I made a film with Jacob [Switzer, Veninger's son and the star of Only] when he was 8, and I asked him a whole pile of questions. I asked him about God, reincarnation, and the government, and his friends, and his answers blew me away.

The way he talked about how we're born, about what happens when we die - that was kind of the genesis of wanting to make a film with real 12-year-olds who have these random thoughts, who can say things to test them out, get a reaction, but who don't hold onto the reaction. They're still creating their identity. There's a naturalism and purity to that.

We tried to re-record some dialogue three or four weeks after Only wrapped, and Jacob's voice was already changing!

There must have been days during filming when your son gave you a few "Oh, God, please shut up, Mom" looks.

I didn't know what to expect, because this is the biggest thing he's ever done. He's practically in every scene! But he was so professional. He knew exactly what was coming, because we talked about it beforehand, and his instincts are natural. And he really trusts me, he was comfortable on set.

The script was very firm and intact, but we always let the kids do their own take. So, after eight or nine takes, they would get their own. And they really took chances. They had a real fearlessness.

 You're the Will Smith of Canada, farming your kids out to your movies.

Oh, God! Oh, no! I was told I was the Molly Ringwald of Canada, when I was a teenager - now I've graduated to Will Smith. Hmmm ... It's a step up, I guess.

 I love the way the kids walk in the movie, dragging their boots across the snowy roads. Did you direct them to use that slouching teen shuffle, or was it natural?

That's natural! Jacob does walk that way, and he always walks ahead of me. But that's the way they move. Their looks, the way they deliver lines, is completely their own. What blew me away was they would do it differently each time. They never got into that "child actor" mode - pleasing the director, wanting approval, repeating themselves, trying to "get it right." They never fell into that. It was a very small crew, and there was an atmosphere where little accidents and those real, alive, magic moments could happen.

Do you see Only as part of the mumblecore movement?

No, but I know of it. I love that whole movement.

I think it's happening here in Toronto, and everywhere - people working and acting and producing and directing, working in collectives, making things happen on a dime! Because there are just going to be fewer and fewer resources. People have learned to rotate roles, and it's not an ego-driven thing. It's about coming together to make something, and having a lot of fun doing it.

 You were an assistant director on Atom Egoyan's The Adjuster, and I suspect you learned a lot about how to give a film a desolate but seductive look.

Yeah. I think also that that's what I felt, growing up in Parry Sound at the same age as the kids in Only. I mean, I didn't really pay attention to nature then, all the beautiful rocks and the woods and the lake - to me it was just isolating and lonely.

It's very easy to shoot, because it's so gorgeous, easy to capture the feel of it, and we used all practical lighting, 100 per cent - but I didn't want to sentimentalize that world, to gaze lovingly at the lake. The kids aren't really even aware of where they are, and I remember that feeling as a kid, of not appreciating nature.

I like nature, but I don't romanticize it. I don't become One With The Universe when I stare at the moon.



Born: March 21, 1970, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia)

Her big break: Starred in the 1977 TV movie Hide and Seek, about a computer geek who hacks into a nuclear plant (and in doing so creates the storylines for the 1979 movie The China Syndrome and 1983's WarGames).

Good with kids: Her experience as a child actress has come in handy: She was the child acting coach on Jeremy Podeswa's highly acclaimed 1999 film, The Five Senses.

Cronenberg's Opera The Fly Poised For Flight Tomorrow

www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(September 05, 2008) The Metropolitan Opera seemed to be on to a new thing two years ago when it started beaming live performances into movie houses across North America. But the links between film and opera run deep, and are still powerful enough to lure important film directors into an art form that began four centuries before the birth of cinema.

This weekend, three marquee directors have shows opening within a few miles of Hollywood's back lots. Tonight, Los Angeles Opera launches a new production of Puccini's Il Trittico, directed by Woody Allen and William Friedkin, followed tomorrow by the company's North American premiere of
The Fly, an opera based on David Cronenberg's 1986 film, with Cronenberg directing the stage action.

From a certain angle, moving from film to opera seems perverse. Film offers so many more resources than opera, from on-location shooting to CGI animation, and so many more opportunities to control the final result. In opera, the best-laid plans can go awry, and in many cases (if, for instance, a principal singer falls ill) the director can't do a thing about it.

“It's very high-risk,” says Atom Egoyan, who has directed productions of Wagner's Die Walkure, Richard Strauss's Salome and two new operas. “Opera is very subject to human frailty. You have a limited amount of rehearsal time. You have to harness all these separate elements, and have them feel unified. But nothing is as exciting as those moments that work.”

He recalls the incredible rush he felt during the Act I finale of Die Walkure during the Canadian Opera Company's performances of Wagner's Ring cycle two years ago. I was there on opening night, and felt the same thing, and heard the house explode when the act ended.

“That's about as good as it gets,” Egoyan says. “I don't think there's an equivalent in film.”

For film directors, a stint in the opera house requires some major adjustments in attitude, especially toward the music. They're accustomed to asking for more or less music, to turning down the volume in postproduction, and to dropping whatever doesn't suit the final edit.

In opera, the score is a given thing that takes a certain time to unfold, and that enforces its own pace on the narrative.

“In both of the original projects I worked on [Gavin Bryars's Dr. Ox's Experiment and Rodney Sharman's elsewhereless], I had to keep reminding myself that I did not have the same relationship with the composers that I would have had with a film composer,” Egoyan says. He's certain that Cronenberg the opera director would have had to drastically revise his working relationship with Howard Shore, who has scored many Cronenberg films (including The Fly) and who wrote the music for the opera version.

Paradoxically, the distance between opera and film was smallest during the silent era. Dozens of opera films were made in the years before 1920 (including a Carmen by Cecil B. DeMille), a period that may be the golden era of Hollywood opera. Early screen acting was essentially opera acting, and since the camera mostly stayed put, the visual difference between silver screen and proscenium arch was minimal (the music was usually supplied by records, sometimes by live singers). Most of all, the inclusive sweep of grand opera corresponded exactly with the ambitions of the motion-picture way of telling stories. It was a textbook demonstration of Marshall McLuhan's comment that a new medium always absorbs the content of an old one.

It's also true that the old medium anticipated the new. You just have to glance at Richard Wagner's stage directions for the end of the Ring cycle (which include a huge conflagration and a flood by the Rhine River) to know that his theatrical imagination was that of a film producer.

But few important film directors who have staged or shot operas began their careers in opera. Ingmar Bergman, a rare exception, was an assistant at the Stockholm Opera before the Second World War, and later staged a version of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress that the hard-to-please composer described as perfect. Joseph Losey claimed to know little about opera or its production before making his film version of Don Giovanni in 1979. Allen spoke in similar terms before the start of rehearsals for Gianni Schicchi, his part in Puccini's trilogy ( trittico) of one-act works.

“I don't know the first thing about it,” Allen told The Village Voice. “I've never directed on the stage except for my own one-act plays.… I'll just do the best I can and then get out of town and let them tar and feather Friedkin.”

It will be interesting to see what Allen has to say after the show opens. In my experience, film directors who turn to opera tend to tell rather similar conversion stories, in which their doubts about the form are swept aside by the primitive magic of the opera stage and its voices. I've heard those stories from Egoyan, François Girard (director of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex for the COC) and Werner Herzog, whose beautiful production of Wagner's Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival has recently been reissued on DVD.

For some film directors, opera offers a kind of prestige that film can't match, or a chance to make a point that can't be pursued by other means. Zhang Yimou followed his 2004 hit House of Flying Daggers with a production at the Metropolitan Opera of Tan Dun's The First Emperor, in part because he wanted “to draw more Westerners to go to the opera house and understand Chinese history.” Baz Luhrmann's flashy stage version of La Bohème seemed designed to prove that opera could embrace show-biz values without losing itself. The production played various stages for over a decade, including a six-month run on Broadway in 2002.

But in the end, opera's most potent draw for filmmakers may be its invitation to subordinate the directorial ego to one of the great unnatural wonders of the world: the opera voice. Egoyan stands in awe of it.

“We're seeing a human being do something unworldly, emitting a sound that is superhuman, and this elevates the whole thing into a mystical realm,” he says. It's a real-life transformation of the flesh, and what could be more suitable, he asks, for The Fly?

Passchendaele: Love Story Has Grim, Timely Message

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic


Starring Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol and Jim Mezon. Written and directed by Paul Gross.

(September 04, 2008)  Unabashedly romantic while also unstinting in its horrific images of World War I, tonight's gala opener for the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival succeeds on two fronts.

Passchendaele is both a mainstream romantic drama and a vivid testament to history, designed to appeal to a wide audience while at the same providing a needed reminder of Canada's sacrifices during a global conflict that came to be known as "the Great War."

Paul Gross acquits himself well in the ambitious triple tasks of writer, director and lead actor. He has made a major step up from his 2002 directing debut Men With Brooms, shifting gracefully from a small comedy to the big-budget drama that is Passchendaele.

The Alberta shoot involved upwards of 200 actors and the logistical nightmare of recreating the muddy hell of the Belgian plains where both battle and film draw their name.

Passchendaele was one of the signal conflicts of World War I, causing 16,000 Canadian casualties (with 5,000 dead) amongst the 310,000 Allied casualties (with 140,000 deaths) during the fall of 1917.

It's an event that defined a still-young Canadian Confederation, uniting people from sea to shining sea in a common cause, yet it's barely known or understood by many people.

Gross hopes to rectify this situation with Passchendaele. The film realistically depicts the savagery of a trench battle in which combatants often resorted to hand-to-hand combat, after their tanks and other machines became mired in the mud.

While honouring the sacrifice of Canada's troops, Gross is careful not to impart a pro-war message. Indeed, his character, Sgt. Michael Dunne, is a hero conflicted by the violence he had to resort to in his bid for peace.

Gross is also savvy enough to realize that message films are a tough sell, especially ones based on war. At its heart, Passchendaele is a love story of sweethearts separated by duty, fate and a cross almost too heavy to bear.

The film opens with the grim backstory of Dunne's heroics. His battlefield ingenuity leads to an important victory but also results in an act of barbarism that will forever haunt him.

Dunne returns wounded to hometown Calgary, excused from further combat due to shell shock, a condition that prompts scorn from some quarters – most snidely from bullet-headed Major Randolph Dobson-Hughes (Jim Mezon), a recruitment officer whose war experience isn't as vast as he lets on.

While in hospital, Dunne is attended to by young nurse Sarah (Caroline Dhavernas) and in true melodramatic fashion, it is love at first sight. Sarah has a family secret, however, that forces her to keep her emotions in check.

The secret is one that in the hothouse atmosphere of wartime leads to unfair accusations and a rash decision by her brother David (Joe Dinicol). David's participation in the war, despite his medical deferment for asthma, prompts Dunne and Sarah to make hard choices of their own.

Passchendaele hearkens back to war films of decades past, when patriotism, valour and integrity were presented without irony. But it is infused with the stoicism of people who know it is their job to try to find meaning within an insane situation.

With the exception of one scene that stretches credulity, Gross has not attempted to depict Dunne as a superhuman figure fighting his own private war, as so many such films do.

The movie includes a depressing historical note that land gained with so much blood was lost to the Germans again just a few months later.

Passchendaele, opening in regular theatres Oct. 17, may ultimately attract older moviegoers who can understand that lessons learned are sometimes greater than battles won.

But it's exactly the type of movie that younger people should also see, since it illuminates an important chapter of Canadian history that has sadly faded from modern minds.

Spike Lee Brings 'Miracle' To Toronto


(September 04, 2008) *Spike Lee says he hopes the Toronto International Film Festival [TIFF] debut of his World War II drama "Miracle at St. Anna," will be met with the same acclaim and enthusiasm given to his Hurricane Katrina documentary, "When the Levees Broke," which was screened in Toronto two years ago.

"The people in Toronto really appreciate films," Lee said. "Toronto's a great vehicle, a great launch pad for the film to come out in the fall."

North America's largest cinema showcase, the festival runs today through Sept. 13 with a line-up that includes the Coen brothers' dark spy comedy "Burn After Reading" with George Clooney and Brad Pitt; Keira Knightley's historical saga "The Duchess"; Edward Norton and Colin Farrell's cop drama "Pride and Glory"; and the supernatural romantic comedy "Ghost Town," with Ricky Gervais, Tea Leoni and Greg Kinnear, reports the Associated Press.

The TIFF plays out in theatres throughout the city, with everyday movie-lovers making up a large part of the audience.

"This is very much a festival designed for the public," said Piers Handling, festival director. "It's a very broad, inclusive audience and very wide-ranging in terms of the films, from the small, tiny experimental films through to edgier films through comedies and through to major studio films."

Lee's "Miracle at St. Anna," opening Sept. 26 in theatres nationwide, follows a group of four black World War II soldiers in the 92nd "Buffalo Soldier" Division of the U.S. Army who get stuck behind enemy lines after getting separated from their squadron when one of them bravely attempts to rescue an Italian boy. Alienated from their own country, the soldiers find solace in the quaint Tuscan village of St. Anna.

Derek Luke, Michael Ealy, Omar Benson Miller, and Laz Alonso star in the war drama scripted by James McBride.

Move Over, Yorkville

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(September 04, 2008) The Toronto International Film Festival is taking its act from out of darkened theatres into open public space.

For the first time, TIFF is taking over
Yonge-Dundas Square during the 10-day festival, featuring live, free performances showcasing the art of cinema, including a festival "wrap" party on Sept. 13.

"It kind of makes sense to use this public square – this great place – where you can do live concerts and different live events and all kinds of things, and just establish a presence that's maybe a little bit more open to the city than we've been able to do in the past," said festival co-director Cameron Bailey.

An estimated 60,000 people traverse the square on a daily basis, Bailey noted, making it an ideal locale to keep city residents informed and engaged.

"Not everybody has a chance to take part in the film festival and we thought, `Let's give those people ... a little taste of what's going on at the film festival.'" The 10 days of programming are geared towards specific films as well as the broad theme of cinema:

An invitational slam-dunk competition will feature an appearance by NBA star LeBron James Saturday at 12:30 p.m. to highlight Kristopher Belman's doc More Than a Game, chronicling the story of James's winning high school basketball team from Akron, Ohio.

Senegalese musician Youssou Ndour and his 20-piece band Le Super Etoile will hold a free concert on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. to coincide with the festival screening of the documentary Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love.

Cast members of the Broadway musical A Chorus Line will appear on Sunday at 1 p.m. to mark the screening of Every Little Step, a documentary tracing the history of the hit musical.

Jazz trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard will perform Monday at 8:30 p.m. Blanchard created the musical score for director Spike Lee's latest film, Miracle at St. Anna.

See a martial arts demonstration next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in support of Alexander Sebastien Lee's film The Real Shaolin, following students of kung fu in a Shaolin temple in China.

A festival wrap party on Sept. 13 begins at 8 p.m., with performances by Esthero, Cadence Weapon and The Midway State.


Movie screenings in the square include:

Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography tonight at 8:30, a documentary tracing the history of cinematography from Birth of a Nation to the present.

That's Entertainment! on Sunday at 8:30 p.m., featuring MGM musicals from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., the 1991 doc that chronicles Francis Ford Coppola's making of Apocalypse Now, the classic Vietnam War film that came close to destroying his career as a result of myriad production problems, delays and the acute physical toll on cast and crew.

The Celluloid Closet on Friday, Sept. 12 at 8:30 p.m., which explores the history of the queer community in cinema.

For more TIFF events in the square, see tinyurl.com/6ejssv

Former Princess Anne Hathaway Gets Serious

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(September 8, 2008)
Anne Hathaway has come so far from The Princess Diaries, journalists are using language to describe her that is far from regal.

She arrives for a TIFF roundtable interview at the Park Hyatt Hotel yesterday afternoon, and a journalist immediately tells her that her junkie character Kym in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married isn't just a pain in the butt, "she's a colonoscopy!"

Hathaway, 25, smiles sweetly and replies without skipping a beat: "With or without anaesthetic?"

She actually appreciates the comment ("It think that's awesome"), because she's tired of being seen as the goody two-shoes type in movies, which also include The Devil Wears Prada.

Caustic and chain-smoking Kym should have a hurricane named after her for the way she storms into the best-laid wedding plans of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt of TV's Mad Men). Yet deep down, she's trying hard to fit back into her well-to-do family, which has been shattered by tragedy.

"One of the things I love about Kym is people's reaction to her....

"For me, the hard part was making sure that I didn't feel compelled to make her likeable. I didn't concern myself with whether or not the audience loved her; I only worried about whether or not they understood her."

She admits it took her a while to figure Kym out, since the character is so abrasive.

The process of understanding for Hathaway included several repeat viewings of the finished movie, which screened to a standing ovation at Roy Thomson Hall Saturday night, where it had its North American premiere. There's already serious Oscar talk for Hathaway's performance.

Finally figuring Kym out "was a very kind of gushy moment that made me realize what love is. It really is without limits and without preconceived notions or judgments or anything like that. It opened my heart.

"This character has changed my life in the way I view the world. It's really cool."

How has her view changed?

"We all have warts, basically.... We all have faults, things that are difficult to handle, and so often we feel compelled to pretend like we don't. I think we can give each other credit and be ourselves and be more accepting of each other."

Another journalist asks Hathaway if she relished being able to play a really troubled woman for once, even though she has had some tough roles, including playing one of the women whose men cheat on them in Brokeback Mountain.

Hathaway bristles a bit at the question.

"I know everybody wants me to relish it, because I get that question in every single interview, and not to sound arrogant or cocky, but I've never defined myself the way other people did. That's not what they tell you to do in all the Lifetime movies, anyway.

"It's always been about, `Be yourself, be yourself, be yourself.' And the person I am is an actress."

But she does allow that playing a train wreck like Kym has finally made her feel like a real actress.

"I feel like with this movie I've earned that title. I've certainly been striving to earn it since The Princess Diaries.

"I just feel happy now that I don't have to have this weight on my shoulders just in regards to my attitude to myself about being a performer. I actually did something that I'm proud of, where all the intentions that I had for the character made it onto the screen. For me, it's a recognition of my dreams for this role."

Spike Lee's New Film Inspired Trumpeter

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(September 8, 2008)
With more than 40 film scores under his belt, Terence Blanchard is pretty particular about the movies he chooses to compose for.

"I don't necessarily need to see the script, but I want to know about the story," said the acclaimed New Orleans jazz trumpeter who performs a free concert tonight with his quintet at 8:30 p.m. at Yonge-Dundas Square. "Then it's the people who are involved: the director, the actors, the producers."  (See pictures of performance in PHOTO GALLERY.)

But those concerns are moot when Spike Lee calls, Blanchard admitted in an interview. Including Mo' Better Blues, Malcolm X and Inside Man, the Brooklyn director's Miracle at St. Anna, which premiered at TIFF last night, marks their 12th collaboration.

"With a guy like Spike, there's a certain trust. He's a true artist. Whatever he does, he's going to challenge you. When he told me he was doing a movie about people in blackface (2000's Bamboozled) I said, `Are you kidding me?' And when I saw it I said, `Wow!' It was an amazing and very courageous thing to do."

Based on the novel by James McBride, Miracle at St. Anna tells the story of four African-American soldiers of the U.S. 92nd Infantry Division who fought in Italy during World War II.

Blanchard said the plot was inspiration enough to create the 100 minutes of music for a 97-piece orchestra to execute.

"The music just poured. There was no scene that I agonized over in terms of finding something creative to do with it. Early in the film, for instance, the soldiers are marching through a field and instead of using just military drums I brought in some African drums. I brought in some very ethnic rhythms as a part of the sonic palette for those guys, because while they are soldiers, they are African-American solders."

But you won't hear any of the soundtrack at tonight's gig.

"I thought about it, but I really want this music and this film to be something on its own. I think it deserves that. Those (African-American soldiers) gave the ultimate sacrifice and whenever I was working on this film that's what I kept thinking."

Instead, the New Orleans native will perform selections from his current Grammy-winning disc, A Tale of God's Will: A Requiem For Katrina, which the quintet toured extensively last year.

"Emotionally, it was very draining to play that music every night, but we felt a responsibility to play it, because there were so many people who were getting relief in a weird way from it.

"To me it's a testament to how we don't live in a country that's divided into blue or red states. I think that's the biggest fallacy that's been portrayed upon us."

Deepa Mehta Confronts Domestic Abuse In Immigrant Communities In Her New Film

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(September 09, 2008) The hotel courtyard should be teeming with stars and film-festival publicists, not weirdly empty, as multiheaded apparitions of Hindu gods (part of an exquisite video installation by Toronto-based film artist Srinivas Krishna) plays on an outdoor screen across the street.

A fierce wind kicks up and Deepa Mehta shrinks into her courtyard chair, gazing with her incredulous half frown, half smile. Something strange and wonderful lingers in the air, a tinge of mysticism, like the magic realism in Mehta's new film Heaven on Earth.

Depicting the isolation and abuse faced by a Punjabi woman brought to Canada in an arranged marriage, the film shifts halfway through into modern myth as the woman, played by Bollywood superstar Preity Zinta, finds strength in the folk-religious beliefs of a shape-shifting cobra.

But Zinta's character doesn't just find strength in the centuries-old tales. They help define who she is, or at least the value system she comes from. If anything, Mehta would like to see this kind of Indian presence, its culture and beliefs, and that of all immigrant communities stuck out in the periphery of the city, play a bigger role in major cultural events like the film festival - not just remain on the screen.

"What does multiculturalism mean?" Mehta asks. The working-class communities are relegated to Brampton, Ont., where Heaven on Earth was shot, "or [other Toronto suburbs] Mississauga or Scarborough or Markham. Are they living in downtown Toronto? Are they a part of the Toronto International Film Festival? Not at all," she says.

"What do we know of them? What do we know of their isolation? What do we know about women who will not ring up 911 because they are petrified that nobody will understand their language?

"It's not about immigrant families. It's also about the mainstream not having any idea about how to deal with a labour force that we've welcomed, who want to come here. We have no idea. So I think, for me, it was a real desire for responsibility that we as the mainstream have toward these people."

Then she pauses and in the next breath adds, "I sound like a ...." She supplants the missing word with a laugh, indicating she doesn't want to sound too didactic. But the passion in her voice shows the force with which Mehta is drawn to the subject matter of her films.

"That's why I do my films. It's that a subject intrigues me. Widows intrigue me [as depicted in her 2005 film Water]. Why does religion marginalize women? In Fire [1996], why does sexuality or the desire to have a partner of either sex make you into a victim? It's my innate curiosity for subjects that I just don't understand," she says. "And in 2007, which is when I started thinking about it, I couldn't understand for the life of me why women did not leave abusive relationships. That was the catalyst or the starting point for delving deeper into abuse."

Further inspiration came from sources such as Roddy Doyle's novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors and playwright Girish Karnad's Nagamandala, which takes on the folk-tale theme of a cobra assuming human form and the duality within people.

"There are lots of folk tales in India, and in Egypt and Inuit, about the shape shifter. There's another myth in India which is lovely about a ghost who falls in love with a neglected wife," Mehta notes.

Heaven on Earth explores the notion of what is real and what isn't in relationships, she says, and how this is all the more intense for a woman in a foreign land trapped in an arranged, abusive situation. At the same time, Mehta sees all of the Punjabi characters in the film eking out an existence as victims.

"I get very upset. The anger is about the actual lack of ability for the mainstream to understand how difficult it is. I mean, we have no clue. Why don't we?" she asks. "It's always much easier to say, 'Oh, it happens there. It's a patriarchal society. They have a problem, and isn't that sad.' But hey, this is happening in our own backyard. What is your lack of contribution [to a solution], which makes it happen? What is your lack of awareness, which doesn't help?"

The answer? The film doesn't give one. Mehta is trying hard simply to address the problem. Yet, as she suggests, and as Krishna's video display of multiheaded Hindu gods stop festivalgoers in their tracks, more involvement by Indian and other immigrant communities in the mainstream cultural life of the city would be a step in a better direction.

Ruffalo's Turn In Bloom Inspired By Real-Life Thief

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Movies Editor

(September 09, 2008) It takes a thief to help teach an actor to play the consummate con man, says Mark Ruffalo, so he learned from a pro.

"I know a diamond thief who's an ex-con and I often thought about him," Ruffalo says in explaining how he created the character of primo grifter Stephen in The Brothers Bloom, which premiered last night at TIFF at the Ryerson Theatre.

"He's a hustler, a rip-off artist, and he's probably one of the most charming, fun, gregarious, lovers of life that I've ever come across in my life," adds Ruffalo with a grin.

Ruffalo is the brains behind the larcenous brothers who have been reeling in gullible marks since they were schoolboys. Adrien Brody is Bloom, the romantic who is used to soften up the target before Stephen applies his carefully planned, multi-staged fleece. Rachel Weisz plays Penelope, the lonely and eccentric heiress who is the target of the brothers' final and most ambitious con, which takes them to Athens, Prague, St. Petersburg and Mexico.

"I know how to fake it now," Ruffalo said of his diamond-thief mentor. "The way he talks, it's very clear, direct. I knew I had to learn these lines forwards and backwards so I was never stumbling over them. Just fluid. A smile, always a smile. Even when he doesn't know, he pretends he does know."

And just where did Ruffalo meet a 75-year-old diamond thief?

"Hollywood, of course!" he says, laughing, recalling the always well-dressed huckster as "one of the funnest human beings I've ever been with."

The 40-year-old Ruffalo doesn't need any lessons in charm or sense of fun. He's outgoing, gregarious and laughs often. Ruffalo has earned solid reviews for his work in You Can Count on Me (2000), My Life Without Me (2003) and, last year, as homicide cop Dave Toschi in Zodiac.

When he first read writer-director Rian Johnson's script for The Brothers Bloom, Ruffalo had his sights on the romantic lead, Bloom.

"I thought that I was more suited for the young romantic lead," he says.

Although Ruffalo seems as self-assured as they come, he figured he didn't have the stuff to play Stephen.

"He was a little more daunting. He has such a confidence about him (that) I don't necessarily possess. It was a stretch for me," Ruffalo explains. "Bloom's more broken, he doesn't know what he wants, he doesn't have that security ... and it just felt more natural to me."

Johnson convinced him he had the chops to play the showman, Stephen. The diamond thief helped him evolve the character's style, says Ruffalo, but what he does for a living also laid the foundation to play a globe-trotting heist master.

"Here I am, baby! There's not much difference between these guys and us," he says. "We have nice clothes, but they're all scrunched up in a bag and we're going from here to there; we're always constantly selling something, either ourselves or a movie. And we're trying to get someone to like us one way or another."

When it came to working out the relationship between Stephen and his younger brother, Ruffalo also had plenty to draw on. He has a younger brother and two younger sisters.

"Anyone who has a sibling knows that it's a pretty sticky relationship, and especially if you're close and if you come from a dysfunctional family like many of us do," he says. "Some of my favourite stuff I've done has to do with sibling relationships as being one of them, like You Can Count on Me."

Ruffalo has two films at TIFF: He plays the doctor in Fernando Meirelles's Blindness, a role he landed last-minute after Daniel Craig dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.

"I was (filming) Bloom at the time so I was ready to do something heavy and there was Blindness – you can't get much heavier than that," says Ruffalo. "I told Fernando that I've never played a doctor. I saw it and I said, `Ah, it's a nice contrast to Bloom. Totally different. Switch it up a little.'"


A Visit to Tyler Perry’s House of Perry

Source: Kam Williams

(September 8, 2008) Tyler Perry’s path from the perilous streets of New Orleans to the heights of Hollywood is a unique and inspiring version of the American Dream. Born into poverty and raised in a household scarred by abuse, from a young age he found a way to summon the strength, faith and perseverance that would later form the foundation of his award-winning plays, films, books and TV show, House of Payne.

Tyler credits a simple piece of advice from Oprah Winfrey for setting his meteoric rise in motion. Encouraged to keep a diary of his daily thoughts and experiences, he began writing a series of soul-searching letters to himself -- reflections full of pain, forgiveness and, in time, a healing catharsis. Along the way, he spent a challenging period homeless, sleeping in seedy motels and in his car, but his faith in God and, in turn, in himself, only got stronger. Forging a powerful relationship with the church, he kept writing until his perseverance paid off, and the rest is history.

Here, the prolific and versatile Renaissance Man shares his thoughts about his latest production,
The Family That Preys, a movie which he wrote, produced, directed and co-stars in.

KW: Hey Tyler, thanks so much for the time.

TP: Hi Kam, good to talk to you again.

KW: Where did you get the idea for The Family That Preys?

TP: I was just going through some things in my life I was having issues with. This newfound fame was really starting to smother me, and somebody asked me, are you living or just existing? I thought “Wow!” and I started writing, and this film came out of that. At the time I heard Lee Ann Womack singing of “I Hope You Dance” and it really touched me. When you watch the movie, towards the end you’ll see a Gladys Knight remake of the song at the moment that the film takes on the personality of, “Live! Life is short! Live every day like it’s your last.”

KW: I love your work, and admire all that you’ve accomplished which always makes me wonder how your brain works differently from the rest of ours.

TP: You know what I think it is? I just may be a little bit more inquisitive. For example, when someone tells me “No,” I ask “Why?” like I did with House of Payne which will be going into syndication on the 22nd of September. Originally, they told me that I had to shoot one show a week, because that’s how it’s done in Hollywood. But when I questioned that, nobody could tell me why. The same thing happened when they told me you could only shoot one movie per year. When I asked “Why?” nobody could give me an answer. So, I believe it’s the inquisitiveness which breeds everything else that comes along with it. I just ask a lot of questions.

KW: Do you see The Family That Preys as being more of a mainstream movie, or do you see it as appealing to your regular demographic?

TP: I think it’s definitely going to appeal to my same audience. But do you know what I was doing? I was just telling a story. When I imagined the first two characters, I saw Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates. And then when I started developing their relationships, all these kids came out of it. So, I didn’t set out to go mainstream with this film. That wasn’t my intention. This is just me telling a story.  

KW: We recently passed the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Have you had an opportunity to go back to your hometown, New Orleans, lately to check on the progress of the recovery?

TP: I have, and nothing’s changed. Nothing’s changed. The only thing different is that people are being evicted from those FEMA trailers. 

KW: Is there any question that no one ever asks you that you wish someone would?

TP: Yeah, “Can I pay for dinner?” Nobody ever asks me that.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

TP: Certainly, there are times when I feel fear, but I don’t live in it. I think as human beings we all feel fear, but I refuse to live in it. So, it doesn’t last very long.

KW: Have you ever been disappointed.

TP: Certainly, I’ve been disappointed a lot. But you take your disappointments and you learn from them. If you learn a lesson from them, then you’re okay, because as long as you’re human there will be disappointments.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

TP: Yeah, I can honestly say I’m truly, truly, dancing and living my life. And I think this film was my catharsis to getting there.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

TP: I haven’t read a book in a very, very long time, because when I’m writing I don’t like to see other people’s work. I don’t want to see something great and not be able to use it, and I don’t want to have any subconscious influences. So, it’s been an extremely long time. I think the last book I read might have been Maya Angelou’s Hallelujah!

KW: Music maven Heather Covington asks: What are you listening to nowadays?

TP: Everything from Lee Ann Womack to Jay-Z’s 30’s the new 20.

KW: Who are you supporting for president?

TP: Barack. Absolutely Barack!

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

TP: As a person who made people laugh, but inspired us all to be better.

KW: What message do you want people to get from The Family That Preys?

TP: That everyday is a gift. Life is short, so live it like it’s your last.

KW: Well, thanks again for the interview, and good luck with the film.

TP: Thank you, my friend, and I’ll talk to you soon.

To see a trailer for The Family That Preys, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXt-FzVksfM  

Castmates Give Tyler Perry 'Preys'

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(September 8, 2008) “It is politically incorrect,”
Sanaa Lathan said of being slapped by Rockmond Dunbar in the film. “It’s wrong and yet these are flawed characters and it’s a filmmakers right to put in things we don’t agree with. It’s about telling a story. Yes, I think it’s wrong that Chris was wrong in hitting me, but I hear in the screening they were cheering.”

Tyler Perry’s “The Family that Preys” boast a femme-fatale cast including Academy Award winner Kathy Bates, Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard, Sanaa Lathan, and Taraji P. Henson.

The story follows two friends, matriarchs of two families, played by Bates and Woodard, who make a cross-country trip to rediscover their friendship and hopefully find a way to save their families from a web of greed and scandal.

Lathan and Henson star as sisters Andrea and Pam, who are at odds, while dealing with their own issues.

“I had a lot of fun,” Lathan said of starring as the rather evil sis. “I don’t know if it’s more fun, but I had fun. I want to play all types of characters and that’s one of the things that attracted me.  We all have had experiences with this type of person. Maybe not to the extreme, but I’ve known people in my life that have been that ugly to people. We’re all human beings and we have many colors and that’s my job as an actress. I want to be able to do a range of roles, not just one thing. That’s boring to me.”

“It’s just fun stepping out of your normal shoes,” Henson added.

The cast also includes stellar actors Rockmond Dunbar, Cole Hauser, and actor/director Tyler Perry.

“One of the great things about this cast is that we all hit it off and it’s not always like that. We really had a lot of great chemistry,” Lathan said about Hauser, who stars as her love interest. “Cole called me when he came into town because we were going to portray this [couple] that had a history. So he called and said let’s get to know each other so it’s a little more comfortable on set. He’s great; he’s an easy going guy and we all had a blast.”

Dunbar stars in the film as Andrea’s husband Chris, on the other hand. These two certainly “hit it off” on screen, particularly in a scene where Chris knocks her to the ground.

“It is politically incorrect,” Lathan said of the slap. “It’s wrong and yet these are flawed characters and it’s a filmmakers right to put in things we don’t agree with. It’s about telling a story. Yes, I think it’s wrong that Chris was wrong in hitting me, but I hear in the screening they were cheering.”

Dunbar admitted that he worked through the scene pulling from his recent experience and divorce and told reporters that he was rather involved in the scene.
“The thing about acting, we do tap into our own emotions,” Lathan said. “Even if we’ve never been through something, it still touches you. Your brain doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not. That’s good to me that he was affected.”

Lathan said that she does pull a bit from her history, but she explained that she approaches a role and delivers, without any judgment. 

“If it’s on the page, you just take from your experiences. I didn’t model her off of anybody. I don’t believe that you’re supposed to judge your characters. In my mind, when I’m working on that part, she’s not a bad girl. For me, it’s just playing the scene. It’s written and she comes out b*tchy.”

Henson’s character issues came from starring opposite director Perry. The actress said that initially, it was rather odd to work with Perry as he switched from director to actor and back again.

 “When he put the wig on, he was Ben,” she said of Perry and his character in the film. “It’s weird because I’ve never worked with a director that is in the film. That was really odd.”

Although she says she’s always been a big fan of Perry’s, she’s never worked with the writer/actor/director.

“So I wasn’t thinking of Tyler the actor,” she said. “It didn’t click until he put on the wig. It took a minute for it to click in. I could see him getting heady, and it was just good to see him on my level. You put him on this pedestal because he’s accomplished so much and then you see him going through the same struggles that an actor does – he’s just like me.”

Having that perspective, Perry’s sixth film once again opens up another number of female images and opportunities.

“Even just as a viewer, I want to be able to see our stories,” Lathan said in appreciation of the roles Perry has created. “We don’t have one experience. We have a huge array of experiences and Hollywood doesn’t represent that. So it’s nice to have a filmmaker whose primary subject matter is us. You see how he is completely expanding into different areas and different parts of the community. And that’s refreshing. And he’s not afraid of complex women.”

The complexities of characters played by Lathan, Henson, Woodard, and Bates will hit theatres nationwide this weekend. For more on the film, go to www.familythatpreysmovie.com.

Mickey Rourke Caps Comeback With Venice Film Win

www.globeandmail.com - Mike Collett-White And Silvia Aloisi, Reuters

(September 06, 2008) VENICE — Hollywood outsider Mickey Rourke capped his big screen comeback on Saturday when The Wrestler, in which he plays a lonely, washed out fighter, won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice festival.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the moving tale poignantly echoes Rourke's own troubled life in and out of the boxing ring and film studio, and critics are tipping the star for an Oscar nomination early next year.

“Darren Aronofsky came here a couple of years ago and fell on his ass,” Rourke told the packed Sala Grande theatre where the awards were given out. He was referring to the director's critical flop The Fountain, which premiered in Venice in 2006.

“I am glad he had the balls to come back. I don't think he wanted to come. I said, ‘You've got to come.'”

German director Wim Wenders, president of the seven-member jury, added: “This is for a film with a truly heartbreaking performance in the very sense of the word, and if I say heartbreaking, you know I am talking about Mickey Rourke.”

Wenders suggested Rourke, who looked dishevelled with his collar open, tie undone and cigar in hand, could have also won the best actor prize in Venice, but the festival does not allow a Golden Lion winner to pick up best acting awards too.

The Wrestler, for which Rourke said he was not paid, was one of 21 films in the main competition line-up, and the awards ceremony wound up 11 hectic days of screenings, interviews, press conferences and red carpet glamour.

Rourke was accompanied on Saturday by his aging dog, which posed for photographers alongside the star.

“I brought my dog because my dog is very old, she is 16 and she is not going to be around for long so I want to spend every moment with her.”

The 51-year-old star of 1980s hits 9-1/2 Weeks and Angel Heart told Reuters this week that The Wrestler was “the best ... movie I've ever made”.

Asked at a post-awards press conference what he thought about people who came back from the brink, Rourke replied: “Well I had a lot of time, I was out of work for about 15 years so I had a lot of time to think about things.”

Aronofsky added: “It shows how simple a movie can be, when you have someone who is honest in front of the lens.”

The Silver Lion for best director was won by Russia's Alexei German Jr. for Paper Soldier, set on the windswept steppes of Kazakhstan and centring on the 1960s Soviet space program.

The best actor award went to Italy's Silvio Orlando for his role in Il Papa di Giovanna (Giovanna's Father), the story of an overprotective father and his mentally deranged daughter.

The best actress prize was won by France's Dominique Blanc in L'Autre (The Other One), a haunting tale of a woman who becomes dangerously obsessed with a young ex-boyfriend.

Teza, by Ethiopian director Haile Gerima, picked up two prizes – the special jury award and best screenplay.

The story chronicles the life of an Ethiopian intellectual who flees his country during the Marxist “red terror” in the 1980s, only to be attacked in Germany by racist youths.

U.S. actress Jennifer Lawrence was named best emerging actress for her role in The Burning Plain, in which she appears alongside Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron.

Venice was criticized this year for a main competition line-up that some said was generally weak, but a trio of popular U.S. productions towards the end helped lift spirits.

As well as The Wrestler, The Hurt Locker by director Kathryn Bigelow impressed critics with its portrayal of the perils faced by a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, while actress Anne Hathaway generated awards buzz in Rachel Getting Married.

Elizabeth Banks: Just One Of The Guys

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard, Movies Editor

(September 8, 2008) With her angelic beauty, smarts and ability to take potty mouth to a whole new level,
Elizabeth Banks may just be the ideal woman for a whole generation of males.

"I'm a guy's girl," she says with a smile during a chat with the Star in a Yorkville hotel room yesterday. "I'm also a girl's girl. I cherish my girlfriends, too. But mostly because we all swear like truckers and talk about our vaginas."

Those who adore that side of the 34-year-old will find lots to love in
Zack and Miri Make a Porno, where she stars with Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express) as a pair of best friends who turn to making and starring in porn flicks to pay the bills.

The movie premiered at TIFF last night and hits theatres Oct.31.

Written and directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks), the film portrays Miri (Banks) and Zack (Rogen) as roommates who share just about everything, but having never crossed the friends-lovers boundary they're surprised to find feelings starting to intrude on their blue-movie business world.

"I didn't think of Miri as very far away from me, or particularly dirty," Banks says of her character, who has a real facility for salty talk, usually delivered with a smile.

While various players in the film, including adult film stars Traci Lords and Katie Morgan, get naked and have very enthusiastic sex – toned down for a mainstream film – both Rogen and Banks stay pretty much clothed.

"I was willing to do it for this movie," Banks says when asked why she didn't drop her duds. "I really love the character and I felt like if there's a movie to do it in, this one sort of makes sense. Seth and I were both prepared to do it, but Kevin though it would serve the movie better if both were covered."

The movie has one scene – not involving the two stars – that's sure to be controversial, and Banks is reluctant to talk about it for fear she'll spoil the element of surprise.

"I thought this kind of goes too far, but when I saw it in the finished product, I became such a staunch supporter that we had to have it in the movie," says Banks. "It's such a great moment, a moment where we really push it and why not?"

Miri also becomes an unwitting YouTube star, and Banks says the film is "an homage to the power of YouTube, the power of the Internet in general. That's what makes the porn industry so successful."

Banks, who made a name for herself in the Spider-Man films, The 40 Year Old Virgin and on the show Scrubs, also had a hit on YouTube with her version of Sarah Silverman's iconic Matt Damon viral video with "I'm F------ Seth Rogen."

Will she make a similar one about George W. Bush as a lead-up to next month's opening of W, Oliver Stone's movie about Bush's life and presidency?

"I should," she says with a laugh. "I really think I was made to play her," adds Banks about her role as Laura Bush. "There are roles that are little gifts ... I was supposed to play this role and you don't feel that way very often."

She plays Bush from age 30 to 57 and enjoyed trying to get inside the "enigma" that is the First Lady.

But as interested as she is in examining life inside the White House, she doesn't think much of the abstinence agenda being upheld by the woman who could end up as vice-president.

"I really think that we do a disservice to young people in America by not being more open about sex," Banks says, pointing to Sarah Palin's pregnant teenage daughter, Bristol. "Abstinence programs do not work. It's a natural, physical thing having sex. Why aren't we just preparing Bristol Palin with proper education and contraception?"

Banks says making a funny movie about porn shouldn't offend when so much gore makes it onscreen. Case in point, she notes, Saw V opens the weekend before Zack and Miri.

"I'm not that interested in upholding the morality of anybody. I don't feel I have to prove it to anybody," says Banks. "I'm not a slut; I've been with the same man for 16 years and I think I have the moral authority to do and say whatever I want."

She's even role-model material.

"I think any parent should be proud to have their child look up to me," she says. "I have lived my dream and I am a good wife and a devoted friend and I am an honest person. My word is everything."


Keys, J-Hud, Latifah Host Golf Tourney


(September 05, 2008) *Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, and Queen Latifah – stars of Fox's upcoming film "The Secret Life of Bees" – are scheduled to host a charity golf tournament Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival, where their movie is being screened.   The all-day event at Magna Golf Club is being held to raise money for Malaria No More, a grassroots movement to control the preventable disease that kills more than one million people each year.    The golf tournament will also include a concert by veteran music producer David Foster. Other guests expected to attend include Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, Kevin Costner, Bill Maher, Gene Simmons, co-founder of KISS, actor Colin Farrell and actress Sophia Bush of One Tree Hill.

Denzel Washington 'Books' New Role

Source: www.eurweb.com

(September 8, 2008) *
Denzel Washington is confirmed to star in "Book of Eli," a post-apocalyptic drama that will be directed by Allen and Albert Hughes, reports Variety.    Washington will play a lone hero in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future who must fight across America to bring society the knowledge that could be the key to its redemption.    Alcon Entertainment is financing the film and Warner Bros. will distribute. Joel Silver is producing with Washington, Susan Downey and Alcon co-founders Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson. Shooting begins in January.    Washington most recently starred with John Travolta in the Tony Scott-directed "The Taking of Pelham 123."   "Eli" will be the first drama for The Hughes siblings since 2001's "From Hell."

Last Days of Left Eye

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Anchor Bay) http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(September 09, 2008) When Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, one-third of top-selling American girl group TLC, died in a car accident in 2002, it seemed like a predictable end for a star noted for erratic, substance-fuelled behaviour.  The trio was known for hits like "Waterfalls," "Creep" and "No Scrubs," but Lopes's claim to fame was burning down the mansion of football star boyfriend Andre Rison, whom she accused of abusing her, in 1994.  This 86-minute documentary sheds light on the her demons. Originally produced for VH1, the film includes video journals Lopes, 29, was recording for a biopic.  She was killed in a car wreck in Honduras where she was on a spiritual retreat with friends and relatives; her final moments in the vehicle were captured on camera. Lopes's unedited tapes, comprised of therapeutic revelations about her fractured upbringing, battles with alcoholism and evolution as a performer, have been spliced with home movies of her family and archival footage of TLC. The result is an intensely personal look at a compelling personality. The only downside of the film ( besides the despair of knowing how it ends) is that it purports to count down from Day 1 of her arrival in Honduras but, near the end, the filmmakers get sloppy about chronology and several segments are clearly out of sequence. A must see for fans of music and documentary.

Baby Mama

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(September 09, 2008) A distaff knock-off of the much funnier Knocked Up, Baby Mama similarly counts down through an unconventional pregnancy, where one partner is a control freak and the other a complete slob. The twist is that both partners are straight women, and the slob is the one carrying the baby.  She's surrogate mom Angie (Amy Poehler), who has agreed to hatch the fertilized eggs of mama wannabe Kate (Tina Fey). Kate works at a health food chain whose ponytailed entrepreneur (Steve Martin) toasts pine nuts on the edge of active volcanoes. He's pretty much a nut himself; in fact, Martin delivers one of his funniest performances in 20 years.  When Kate learns she'll never conceive the traditional way ("I don't like your uterus," the doc tells her), desperation drives her to a surrogate pregnancy arranger (Sigourney Weaver) and Angie. Kate is big on organic food, abstemious single living and quiet. Angie devours junk food, lives common-law with a bone-headed layabout (Dax Shepard) and loves to rock the night away with the aid of numerous martinis. Naturally, the two end up living together and driving each other crazy, but the gags get wearisome. Fey and Poehler are gifted comics, but they need good material.  Writer/director Michael McCullers, who like his stars hails from Saturday Night Live, has a flair for absurdity but no sense of pace. He allows the film to keep crawling long after it should have learned to walk and run.  

Harold Perrineau To Make A 'Killing'


(September 10, 2008) *Former "Lost" star Harold Perrineau is set to join Michael Madsen and Danny Trejo in the forthcoming indie thriller "Killing Jar."  According to Variety, the story revolves around a stranger armed with a shotgun who takes seven patrons at a remote roadside diner hostage. As the body count rises, the survivors discover that one of the hostages may be more dangerous than their captor.   Perrineau plays one of the hostages, a traveling salesman named John.   Production began over the weekend in North Carolina. Mark Young ("Tooth and Nail") is directing from his own script.   Perrineau recently appeared in the one-hour ABC drama "The Unusuals," which was picked up by the network for a midseason start.


Do You Need A Day Off?

Source:  www.tvguide.ca - By Chloe Tse

[Note from Dawn: Yes, this is an older article but I just ran into Derek at a film fest function and think the show is hilarious so tune in!]  (July 9, 2008) Well, thank goodness it’s ‘Friday’

He’s a frivolous, fruity, fun, frazzled fairy. To earn his huge weekly trust fund cheque, Derek Friday – son of philanthropist, Mama Friday, swaps lives every Friday with a professional and takes on their job, as they get a day off and enjoy his luxurious lifestyle.

This Canadian reality show Mr. Friday debuts on the Slice network this week – and it’s surprisingly entertaining and fabulous.

Derek Friday is a queen – a diva even.  He takes on jobs he’s not qualified for, he’s a horrible hire, but he’s hilarious and fun to watch. In this week’s première, he takes on a job at Reptilia and works as a snake-handler.

See, the thing is, normal, average people – not just blue-blooded, trust-fund babies – probably couldn’t handle this particular job. But Derek Friday is a good, comedic sport and does complete his duties. Mr. Friday provides a healthy amount of guilty pleasure and makes for pretty decent television.

In the first episode, Derek gears up and gets ready to take on a variety of reptiles, while his swapee gets to lead the high life, ride his boat and go dirt-biking.  The editing is good, the contrasting is clever and Derek’s exchanges with anyone are amusing.

His boss and guest co-star this episode is Josh, his leader at Reptilia. Josh talks to the cameras about how he would have filed Derek’s resume immediately had he come in and applied like a normal person. Obviously, Derek is not qualified. He would never be interested in the position and this is clear as viewers watch him walk through the doors of the place.

“I don’t want to be shiny,” Derek says as he puts away his miniature fan in his ‘survival kit’ – in the form of a man-purse, which he refers to as his ‘carry-all.’  He constantly fixes his hair and is constantly in a pose.

During this episode, Josh asks Derek if he’s ever cleaned anything in his life – to which he responds, “I brush my teeth… every day.” Despite the response, he is assigned the task of cleaning snake tanks.

He refers to an iguana as a dinosaur and he squeals as he puts turtles in buckets. If he were a Paris Hilton, he’d be annoying – but he’s lovable, has good intentions and is amusing to watch. He is definitely a prince and most of the show’s charm centres on the fact that he’s so oblivious to the professional world and the notion of watching rich people do grunt work.

Derek’s literally being thrown into a profession he’s neither been trained for nor ever had the desire to do. It’s like throwing him in a kitchen and telling him to cook. Dance, monkey, dance. But that’s why the show works – and who knows?  Working the grill may be an upcoming episode.

Mr. Friday is worth watching – especially if you’re up for a half hour of relaxed, mindless laughs.

Mr. Friday premieres Friday July 11, 200 at 8 p.m. ET on Slice

Anna Paquin Just A Small-Town Girl With A Taste For The Undead

www.globeandmail.com - Kate Taylor

(September 05, 2008) There is not even the ghost of an antipodean accent coming down the phone line from L.A. Fifteen years ago, Anna Paquin was the little New Zealander who won the hearts of millions - and an Oscar - for her role in The Piano.

Today, she's a busy 26-year-old actor about to unveil her first major TV series role, playing a small-town Louisiana waitress with a southern twang and a thing for a vampire in HBO's
True Blood. Paquin's transformation from child outsider into Hollywood starlet is now complete.

"It was an amazing thing but not something I understood at the time," Paquin says of the best-supporting actress Oscar that made her, at 11, the second-youngest person to ever win an Academy Award. (The youngest was a 10-year-old Tatum O'Neal for Paper Moon, although Paquin herself was only 9 during the filming of The Piano.)

"It is difficult in such a subjective art form to say someone did the best performance. There are so many performances every year that don't get recognized," she says, explaining that as a child she could hardly be impressed by something she didn't understand. "It gave me the opportunity to have a career. It started all of this. That's all it is: a really amazing stepping stone. I was really young, and I didn't know what I was doing. I am still figuring it out."

That figuring out has mainly taken place in the United States, where Paquin moved when she was 16. She was born in Winnipeg to a Canadian father and a mother from New Zealand, but the family moved to her mother's homeland when she was 4. Paquin identifies her 12 years in New Zealand as formative - it is the land of her childhood - but just can't say how she would identify herself now. Her immediate family is still in New Zealand and her extended one is in Canada while the peripatetic Paquin, whose parents were once careful to make sure she did not become ensnared in Hollywood, moved to L.A. two years ago after eight years based in New York.

"I did one thing a year, pretty much, until I was about 15," she said, correcting the common impression that her career was simply put on hold after The Piano.

"Frankly, that was all my parents would let me do because they were still trying to make sure I had a childhood and an education. ... Taking a child out of school and letting them do adult work is a pretty big choice to make. I really loved it but they were cautious about how that would affect me. And whether or not it was good for our family. ... If there was something kind of special that came along then I was allowed to do it. If not they were, quite smartly, being picky."

After her Oscar win, she played a young version of the title character in Jane Eyre; she also starred in the Canada goose movie Fly Away Home, but she certainly wasn't overexposed, to Hollywood or to movie goers.

"At 14 or 15, as happens, you start to have opinions of your own, about what you like, what you want to do. I happened to already have this little career that was really still just starting, and it was what I loved doing."

Moving into the adult realm, she has acquitted herself well in supporting roles in various independent movies including Finding Forrester and The Whale and the Squid as well as the HBO miniseries Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, but her most prominent role to date has been playing Rogue, a mutant superhero in the X-Men movies, based on stories from Marvel Comics.

Moving into a series directed by Alan Ball of Six Feet Under fame has certainly allowed her to explore a character more complex than a cartoon, but with True Blood she is still operating in a fantastical realm. In a world where the invention of synthetic blood has permitted the social integration of vampires, her character, Sookie Stackhouse, is a telepathic waitress in a small-town bar, her head cluttered with the patrons' unspoken thoughts. When she meets the 173-year-old Bill Compton (played by Stephen Moyer), she is instantly attracted and refreshed: Because he is actually dead, he has no thoughts to mess with her brain.

Paquin does not pretend to be any expert on vampires - she remains unbitten by that craze - but will happily speculate about their attraction.

"There is something sexy and dangerous and scary about this other-worldly creature who has existed for many lifetimes. Careful if you get too close, you might wind up being dinner ... Opening up and letting yourself be with someone is scary, everyone has been through that, but in this case you can literally end up dead."

She declines to reveal whether the series will feature any sex scenes with the undead, but says it's not that hard pretending to love a bloodsucker: "[It's] not all that different from pretending to be in love with any of the characters that my roles have been in love with. It's all a kind of beautiful and elaborate game of make-believe. ... I love it," she says of the profession she chose as a child.

True Blood premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. PT on Movie Central and 9 p.m. ET on The Movie Network.

Give Your Waning Weekend An Edge

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
Television Columnist

(September 07, 2008) One is tempted to call Sunday night the place to go for cable shows – even if "cable" has an entirely different connotation here than it does in the States, our airwaves not being bound by the same laws of content and commerce.

Either way, though, Sunday night's still the night for the edgy and the envelope-pushing, from new shows like tonight's TMC debut, True Blood (see separate review on Page E8) to returning hits like Weeds, Dexter, Entourage and (sort of) Rescue Me.

I say "sort of" for Rescue Me, because although we're going to have to wait till the spring for the full-on Season Five (guesting our own Michael J. Fox), we can sate ourselves with little 15-minute "minisodes" tacked onto the end of Weeds when it returns to Showcase tonight.

Ah, Weeds ... now there's a tangled bit of television. Talk about upheaval – so what if Desperate Housewives tornado-trashed half the neighbourhood at the end of last season (and that saga resumes on ABC and CTV Sunday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m.) ... Weeds' desperate housewife, pot-dealing Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker), did it first and more thoroughly, burning her entire town to the ground before pulling up stakes and relocating to Mexico.

I can't see Teri Hatcher – or even Eva Longoria – taking it to that extreme.

The fourth season of Weeds, starting tonight at 10 here on Showcase (even as it ends in the U.S. on originating Showtime), abandons not only its suburban setting, but also the tone of its storytelling and even its definitive "Little Boxes" theme, performed the last few seasons by rotating guest artists, from Joan Baez to Engelbert Humperdinck.

"About a year ago, I walked up to Mary-Louise and whispered, `How would you feel if we burned it all down?'" recalls Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. "And she was psyched for it.

"The truth is, the (writers') room was getting restless. We felt we sort of covered the territory and a lot of the writers were talking about the projects they were going to do when the season was over. ... I wanted them to write about the stuff they wanted to write about at Weeds.

"And so we just decided to blow it up and try something new. And it really invigorated everyone."

"I think it was a brilliant, really brave idea on her part," Parker confirms, "I love it and I think it's really the best season (yet).

"There's only one thing that disappointed me. I wanted to do the theme song."

ANGEL ON HIGH: David Zayas doesn't just play a cop on TV – he actually was one.

Zayas' fictional cop creation, Angel Batista, will be reporting back for duty to the Miami Dade homicide squad on the much-anticipated third season of Dexter (TMN at 9 p.m. on Sept. 28).

But before that he was a real-life cop on the beat in New York City.

"For 15 years," the actor confirms. "Without really having any expectations, I decided halfway into my police career that I wanted to be an actor. So I started going to class, and doing a lot of theatre, and I just, you know, started getting jobs and accumulating some credits ... I got really lucky."

Particularly once he landed the role in Dexter, the unlikely breakout hit starring Six Feet Under's Michael C. Hall as a mild-mannered forensic specialist who moonlights as a vigilante serial killer.

Zayas' Batista is Dexter's unwitting colleague and pal – and a far cry from the usual, one-note squad-room support player these characters almost always tend to be.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to the writers with that," he says, "because they write a lot of upbeat stuff for me, which is great, because it really gives me the opportunity to not make this character one-dimensional, not make him just a tough cop or whatever. I love this character. He's got a lot of layers to him, you know, he's a sensitive guy, a complicated guy ... The writers do a great job in creating that for me."

They also do a great job, he says, on depicting the reality of police work – at least, within the confines of a show that proposes a serial killer could effectively hide himself within their very midst.

"It's very reflective," he says. "You are dealing with a lot of technical aspects, and a lot of people with very heightened personalities, as most police forces have. You're going to get a lot of mixed emotions, you're going to have a lot of interesting situations, conflicts, camaraderie ... I think Dexter really incorporates all of that. I'm really proud of that."

All in all, he says, he prefers fake crime-fighting to the real thing.

"It's much better to be a cop on TV," he affirms. "And much more lucrative."

This season, expect a new woman in Angel's life and a new pal for Dexter, a crusading assistant district attorney played by Jimmy Smits.

Entourage, another existing hit returning to The Movie Network, relaunches tonight at 8:30. Expect to see the boys, Vince particularly, falling on (relatively) hard times.

TOONING IN: Cheri Oteri and Edie McClurg provide voices in the new HBO cable cartoon, The Life & Times of Tim (TMN, 8 p.m., Sept. 28). But the real news in Toontown is the series debut of George Lucas's computer-animated Star Wars: Clone Wars (CTV, 7 p.m., Oct. 5, repeating Fridays at 7 on Space) – despite the drubbing the film version got from fans online.

The Fox (and Global) Sunday-night toon block returns Sept. 28, with The Simpsons at 8, King of the Hill at 8:30, Family Guy at 9 and American Dad at 9:30.

CW AND THE CITY: Citytv has picked up several new CW series, including two that debut in three weeks. Neither was available for preview, but I have it on good authority that the 8 p.m. offering, Valentine, is the CW's revenge for not getting Rob Thomas' Cupid reboot.

Following at 9, Easy Money is apparently the saga of a family-run short-term loan business – which sounds to me like "Jumping the Loan Shark." I gather City has also snagged the CW's new Bob Saget sitcom, Surviving Suburbia, which won't debut till Nov. 2.


Heartland (CBC, 7 p.m., Oct. 5)

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (ABC and E!, 7 p.m., Sept. 28 – moving to 8 the following week)

60 Minutes (CBS and SUNTV, 7 p.m., Sept. 28)

The Amazing Race (CBS and CTV, 8 p.m., Sept. 28)

Gossip Girl (A-Channel, 8 p.m., Mondays at 8 on CW)

Cold Case (CBS, 9 p.m., Sept. 28)

Brothers & Sisters (ABC and Global, 9 p.m., Sept. 28)

The Unit (CBS, 9 p.m., Sept. 28)

Caten Brothers Take The Catwalk

Source: www.thestar.com -
David Livingstone, Special To The Star

(September 8, 2008)
Dean is chewing his fingernails. Dan is saying they're nervous because they're at home.

That's the way it was last night as the
Caten brothers arrived for a presentation of their Dsquared2 collection for men and women in a show staged by CTV as part of a special being aired Sept. 13 called Born in Canada, Made in Italy.

Ordinarily these two have no trouble having a good time. When it comes to working and playing hard, the Catens hold their own.

They arrived in Toronto on Friday, coming from Milan via New York where their two-day schedule included the party to launch The Rachel Zoe Project (that celebrity stylist's new reality series), another to relaunch Interview magazine, and a dinner with pop star Fergie hosted by M.A.C, who was also a sponsor of last night's goings-on, which were affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival.

Even as that affair was whirling, a Dsquared2 shop was popping up inside Holt Renfrew on Bloor St. It will be there for a month, and opens today with a personal appearance by the twins who head back to Manhattan this evening.

On Wednesday night, in the middle of New York Fashion Week, the rooftop garden of their new showroom will be the site of a party to celebrate their fragrances, He Would, launched a year ago, and She Would, just coming out.

On Sept. 24, back in Milan, they will be showing their women's collection for spring 2009, which will have a Charlie's Angels theme and will feature a sneak peak at their new line of eyewear hitting stores in February. Meanwhile, they continue to dress Juventus, the Italian football club, whose wardrobes for this fall include, in Dan's words, "a little baby trench and a little baby pea coat."

The Catens are also executing very grown-up plans for expansion.

Their flagship opened in Milan last year; now there are Dsquared2 stores in Capri, Kiev and Istanbul. One new store in Hong Kong is coming in October with another planned for Moscow in a couple of months.

It's a good thing they were able to take a break in August for a holiday on Mykonos. One night at Nammos, the island's hippest eatery, they danced on the table and got sprayed with champagne. Dining at other tables were Valentino and Armani. As somebody – "not us," say the designers –observed, it was as if the room contained yesterday, today and tomorrow.

'Do Not Disturb' Niecy Nash

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(September 10, 2008) *Actress Niecy Nash has made a move from “Reno” to the “suite” life. 

The star has her own TV show premiering tonight on Fox called “Do Not Disturb.” 

The show is being described as an "upstairs/downstairs comedy" that takes place at one of New York's hottest and hippest hotels called The Inn. 

Nash stars as Rhonda, the “brash, fabulous, and brutally honest” head of human resources. 

And as described by the network, the hotel's top-notch reputation and sophisticated look is due in large part to Neal, the hotel’s egotistical, womanizing general manager, played by Jerry O'Connell.

“It’s about a fancy, hip hotel,” Nash described. “I play the Director of Human Resources. Her name is Rhonda. I describe her as an educated, ghetto-fabulous, truth-telling Mary Poppins. She has a few flaws, but she is very, very fun to play. And the thorn in my flesh is the hotel manager, played by Jerry O’Connell.”

Nash told EUR’s Lee Bailey that her character has more depth than what many might expect.

“She is that woman who would like to think she has it all together,” she continued, “but they definitely want you to see her flawed side. I’m glad they wrote her like that. It makes her a little more well-rounded.”

Not unlike Nash herself, her character is confident and charismatic. It was those traits that more than likely led the show’s creator to create the “Do Not Disturb” specifically as a vehicle for Nash. As it turns out, Nash was working on a different show when “Do Not Disturb” writer and executive producer Abraham Higginbotham ("Arrested Development") became very impressed with her.

“I took a meeting with the show’s creator,” she said of meeting Higginbotham. “I had a completely different project that I was working on. I went to talk to him about it. He said, ‘I don’t like that project, but I love you. And I want to create something for you to do.’ So he married my personality with his background of working in a hotel. After we went and sold it, we built the rest of the cast around it.”

Modestly, Nash mentioned how grateful and flattered she was for the opportunity.

“I’m grateful,” she said. “I am the only black woman that got a pilot pickup as the lead of a series.”

“Do Not Disturb” premieres tonight, September 10 at 9:30 E/P. To check out more about Niecy Nash and the rest of the cast of “Do Not Disturb,” go to www.fox.com/donotdisturb.


Heels No Problem For New Dance Judge

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
Television Columnist

(September 04, 2008) "I'm a crier," confesses Leah Miller, citing a clear occupational hazard of her new job as host of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, making its two-hour debut next Thursday at 8 p.m. on CTV (repeating Sunday, Sept. 14 at 6 p.m. on MuchMusic). The glamorous Much veejay, an avowed Dance fan and a former child hoofer herself, steps into the stilletto'd shoes of Cat Deely, the bubbly British host of the show's hit American incarnation.  No mean feat – or rather, feet. Deely herself recently confided to me that the towering heels she is asked to wear on camera sometimes make her toes go numb, and often necessitate her having to be carried on and off the stage.  Miller envisions no such dilemma. "I'm a girlie girl." she says. "And I'm short. I love my heels. I'm wearing 4, 5 inches all the time." The crying thing could get a bit sticky though. "It's already started," Miller says. "The auditions have been rough. We've got some incredible dancers right across Canada, some of the best I've ever seen. "But now they're like my little brothers and sisters. It's going to be really tough to see them go."

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Is The 'Tooth Fairy'


(September 05, 2008) *Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Ashley Judd will star as a dating couple in the new 20th Century Fox comedy "Tooth Fairy," reports Variety. Johnson plays a minor league hockey player nicknamed the Tooth Fairy. Judd plays his girlfriend, a single mother of two kids. Johnson's character is an ordinary man who's brought in to try to save the tooth fairy kingdom. Michael Lembeck, who helmed the second and third instalments of "The Santa Clause," will direct. Production gets underway next month in Vancouver.


Evil Dead Meets Its Bloody End At Last

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(September 06, 2008) Put that chainsaw down, my friends, it's finally kicked the bucket. Evil Dead: The Musical, the show with more lives than any of Andrew Lloyd Webber's felines, is playing its final performance this evening at the Diesel Playhouse.

It's the end of the fifth run the show has had in Toronto since it opened on the night of the blackout in 2003.

For a brewski-fuelled caper thought up by George Reinblatt, Chris Bond and some buddies from Queen's University, this show has really gone places. It's been to Montreal, New York and Seoul. Future engagements in Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are in various stages of discussion.

The one person who's been with it from its first night at the Tranzac Club to this evening's bittersweet goodbye is Ryan Ward, who has played the role of Ash a total of 573 times, by his own calculation.

"It's a great job and it's been fun," he says with the same cheerful air he brings to decapitating zombies in the show. "You just have to keep your head in it and not let your mind wander."

Ward has gotten through the bloodthirsty show with no serious injuries, although he confesses that he "chipped a tooth one night in Montreal."

But there is one lasting physical impact: "I have an enormous callus on the middle finger of my right hand from waving that chainsaw around every night."

You'd think Ward might have had enough mayhem over the last five years in this show. Far from it. Ask him about his next project and the answer is immediate: "Chris Bond and I are doing a new show in February, Cannibal: The Musical." So the bloody beat will still go on.

Goodbye Ryan, goodbye Splatter Zone, goodbye Evil Dead. You were a killer show and we'll miss you.

Two Hit Stage Shows With Very Different Appeal Make Their Welcome Return To The City

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(September 04, 2008) We've all seen some shows that were so good we wanted to go to them twice, but unless they hung around for a very long time (or we got very obsessive) that hardly ever happened.

Sure, there are some people who went to
We Will Rock You more than 30 times during the first year of its run, but – bless their hearts – those types are the exception not the rule.

But what happens when the show itself comes back a second time? That's kind of like having an old flame move back into town and the opportunity to look them up is too good to resist. Not only can you revisit the moments that made it so memorable, but you'll undoubtedly discover new things to puzzle over and enjoy.

That's happening in Toronto this week as two very different first-rate productions come for a return engagement.

Opening tonight at the Tarragon Theatre is a revival of its 2007 hit, Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched.

I usually see more than 200 shows a year and some of them fade from memory even before I've left the theatre. But more than 18 months since I first saw Scorched, there are scenes from the play I can recall as clearly as if I'd seen them last night.

A story of multiple generations in search of the truth of their identity against the bloodstained map of the Middle East, Scorched is not a play for people who go to the theatre for answers.

But if you're looking for a show that will make you ask yourself some very disturbing questions, this one has your name on it.

Director Richard Rose knew just how to keep the pulse of this saga beating at the right rhythm, speeding up when necessary to an almost frantic pitch, then knowing how to slow things down to near stasis, so that we could ponder what we had just seen.

Most of Rose's original cast is back. The leading role of Nawal is played at three different ages by three different women. Nicola Lipman will recreate the scarred older woman while Janick Hébert will once again bring the passion of youth to the younger Nawal.

The great Kelli Fox is otherwise engaged at Stratford, but Sarah Orenstein is bound to bring a stunning intensity to the role.

And connoisseurs of that fine line between tragedy and comedy will again be able to praise the work of Alon Nashman as a notary public who loves nothing more than the sound of his own voice as it mangles the English language.

It would be worth seeing Scorched again just to hear Nashman tell someone they were "stuck between the devil and the Blue Danube."

"And now for something completely different," as the chaps at Monty Python's Flying Circus used to say.

The reference is fitting, since the other returning show is Monty Python's
Spamalot, one of the most sublimely silly musicals to dance its way across a stage. It will cause merriment in the sepulchral Canon Theatre.

Based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, that cockeyed 1975 look at King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Spamalot has been a hit since its out-of-town tryout in Chicago in December 2004.

I recall being there, in the Windy City with my family, not knowing what to expect and finding all four of us laughing ourselves into hysterics during Sir Robin's wonderful number called "You Won't Succeed on Broadway," which both honours and mocks the considerable debt the musical theatre owes to the many Jewish geniuses who have made the art triumph.

When David Hyde Pierce sang, "There's a very small percentile/ That enjoys a dancing gentile," I thought I would have to be taken from the theatre.

I've seen the show three times since and although the hysteria may have diminished, the laughter remains intact.

Each company of the show brings a new comic sensibility to the work – the cast has totally changed since the show's last visit two years ago – but the inspired lunacy of Eric Idle and his fellow Pythons never really changes.

Two superb shows: one to make you laugh, one to make you think. You really can't ask for more than that.

Just the facts

WHERE: Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave.

WHEN: Today to Sept.28

TICKETS: $38-$45 at 416-531-1827

or tarragontheatre.com

Just the facts

WHERE: Canon Theatre,

244 Victoria St.

WHEN: Sept. 9 to Oct. 5

TICKETS: $69-$175 at

416-872-1212 or ticketking.com


Longtime Stratford Director Dead At 64

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 10, 2008) STRATFORD–Richard Monette, the longtime director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, has died in a London, Ont., hospital at the age of 64. Monette ran the festival from 1994 until he retired last year. His death was confirmed this morning by Stratford mayor Dan Mathieson and festival official Anthony Cimolino. Monette, who was born to a poor working-class family in Montreal, first arrived at Stratford in 1965 to perform small roles. In 1988, he directed his first play at Stratford, The Taming of the Shrew, and was appointed Artistic Director designate in 1992. Other Monette productions listed in the Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia include Much Ado About Nothing in 1999, The Three Musketeers in 2000 and The Merchant of Venice in 2002.


Ambitious Spore Lives Up To The Hype

Source:  www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star


Platform: Windows PC, Mac
Price: $49.99
Rated: E

(September 05, 2008)  As a game that was seven years in the making and more than a year past its planned launch, a lot is riding on
Spore, the latest simulation from celebrated game designer Will Wright.

On one hand, publisher Electronic Arts shouldn't be concerned – Wright's last effort, The Sims (2000), a game about managing the lives of little people in a customizable home, went on to become the best-selling computer game series in history with more than 100 million units sold (including a major sequel and more than a dozen expansion packs).

On the other hand, Spore – while one of the most ambitious and mesmerizing examples of interactive entertainment ever created – doesn't appear to have the same mainstream appeal as The Sims. That said, it's definitely a unique and engaging game that's extremely difficult to put down.

Available tomorrow for $49.99, and playable on Windows PCs and Macs, Spore might best be described as an evolution simulation. Your goal is to create a unique species from scratch. Through careful nurturing, interaction with other life forms and developing new technologies, you'll advance through the five main stages, which play out almost as separate games themselves.

Cell Stage: Off the hop, you control a teeny micro-organism by navigating through a pond and consuming other cells in a primal survival of the fittest. You collect parts from other cells or from meteor fragments and score DNA points to add new capabilities to your cell. This basic stage is designed to familiarize players with the mouse-based controls, which work very well throughout this lengthy evolutionary adventure, and the process of adding body parts and colours to your organism. This stage generally lasts less than an hour.

Creature Stage: Your cell will grow larger, and eventually sprout legs and lungs and venture out onto dry land. Now you must explore your environment, hunt for food (you choose whether your creature is a carnivore or herbivore), collect new body parts and other items (used to design a faster or stronger being) and mate with other critters (don't worry, no "act" is seen, other than two beings swooning underneath floating pink hearts). This stage might prove difficult for newbies, though; for example, I failed to impress other tribes by dancing or singing (though instructions were followed closely), so it took awhile to reach the next stage by hunting alone.

Tribal Stage: Your custom-built creature will eventually discover fire (players will first witness a humorous nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey), and will find safety in numbers outside a new hut.

Your creature is now chieftain of a tribe, and by working with your family you'll build and defend shelter and other structures, learn to use tools, collect or hunt for food, and interact with other tribes in the vicinity.

Much like real-time strategy games, players can lasso multiple creatures using the mouse, before clicking on a desired task.

Civilization Stage: Congratulations, your creatures are now, well, civilized.

After you meet all the requirements of the tribal stage and prove to be a self-sufficient and resilient tribe, you'll graduate to Civilization.

Your ultimate goal here is to take over the world – but how you choose to do it is up to you (through war, diplomacy or religious conversion, for example).

Much like how players create a creature, you'll now build vehicles and weapons to reach other parts of the globe. Spice – perhaps a Dune reference – is collected as fuel for your growth plans.

Space Stage: If you're good enough to make it to the fifth and final stage, you'll design spaceships and visit other worlds in the galaxy to perform various missions, ranging from forging peaceful relationships with extraterrestrials to intergalactic war to the terraforming and colonization of new planets.

Spice remains the most sought-after resource in the galaxy, as it powers cities, vehicles and spaceships.

Players who reach this stage in the game can visit other planets created by Spore gamers.

Spore is not universally appealing: Its bioanthropological premise may be too geeky for some (or too bothersome for creationists), and its increasingly challenging gameplay may frustrate beginner players (despite the game's many helpful tips and hints).

That said, it is an ingenious concept that's delivered close-to-flawlessly.

Not only is it hands-down the best computer game of the year so far, but is also one of the deepest and most gratifying titles to grace a monitor in a decade.

If only Darwin was alive to see this.


Sobey Prize Gives Artists More Than Grocery Money

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard,
Special To The Star

(September 04, 2008) The Sobey Art Award has been remarkably fast off the blocks to respond to perceived criticism, given that its support comes from the tradition-minded family behind the Sobey's food chain and is presented by the risk-averse Scotiabank.

Two years back, the prize for an emerging Canadian artist under 40 became an annual event, rather than being handed out biannually, as was envisioned prior to its start-up in 2002.

"We can now showcase twice as much art," explained Rob Sobey as we recently surveyed the work by the five finalists in the newly created gallery space situated on the third floor of the ROM's centre block. Each artist represents a different region of Canada.

Problem solved. Media interest now won't evaporate as it did during the "in-between" year the award wasn't given.

As we talk, we're surrounded by Tim Lee's mixed-media reanimations of a few decisive moments in Canadian pop culture. Four large-scale colour photographic prints show the Vancouver artist reconfiguring Neil Young's cranky genius in a wittily soulful and formally astute self-portrait.

It's Lee's particular genius – even more evident in his compellingly awkward recreation of Glenn Gould playing Bach – to reconfigure pop's echoes of pop as we hear them, and the shadows that pop casts.

Earlier this year, Sobey prize money was ramped up to a total of $70,000. The winner receives $50,000, as before. The four runners-up each now get $5,000, up from the $1,000 that went to past unsuccessful finalists.

Problem solved. Now internationally recognized artists – and this year's line-up has a number of them – won't appear to have been given chump change if they don't score the big one.

By having the exhibition of the nominees' work in Toronto until Oct.13 along with the Oct.1 awards ceremony – the same week as Scotiabank presents Nuit Blanche in Toronto – the Sobey Art Award will be seen to be closer to the heartbeat of the Canadian media world, if not the art world.

Another problem solved, maybe. The Sobey Art Award now vies for media attention with the Toronto-centric Giller Prize, also tied to Scotiabank.

But will the Sobey ever generate the fame-making controversy that accompanies the annual Turner Prize, Britain's top art award? That's a problem the Sobey doesn't want to solve. "Bring it on," insisted Rob Sobey.

The ROM is engaged in some problem-solving of its own. With the Sobey show to complement two installations ready today as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, the museum finally has something to divert attention from the increasingly loud carping directed at its new, gloomy spaces and the ungainly Lee-Chin Crystal.

And this Sobey exhibition – for all its early-'80s, white-cube setting – is well worth talking about. Peter Goddard is a Toronto freelance writer. You can reach him at peter_g1@sympatico.ca

Just the facts:
Sobey Art Prize finalists

WHERE: Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queen's Park

WHEN: Until Oct. 13

Guru Worries We Won't Win War On Poverty

Source: www.thestar.com - Noor Javed,
Staff Reporter

(September 09, 2008) He's a world-renowned economist, a tireless anti-poverty advocate, and a special adviser to the United Nations.

In roles that would hardly garner celebrity-like status, Jeffrey Sachs has become one.

Through his book, End of Poverty, a New York Times bestseller, which reinvigorated the idea that eliminating global poverty is an achievable goal and an individual responsibility, Sachs has acquired an impressive fan base.

Bono, Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon have lent their star power to his cause of eradicating extreme poverty, village by village.

But attracting the attention of world leaders has proven to be significantly more difficult.

"I think both the (George) Bush and the (Stephen) Harper administration(s) have let down the rest of the world in thinking through a longer-term strategy for helping the poor," Sachs said yesterday at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

He was in town for the One X One Foundation gala event for impoverished children, which took place last night at Maple Leaf Gardens.

When Sachs developed a theory to eliminate global poverty, he was optimistic things would get better.

In little African villages, where resources have been put into action over the past three years, life has improved substantially with a reduction in diseases and higher literacy, for example.

The real impediments to his efforts have emerged closer to home.

"Canada and the United States have gone on a military approach to the world's problems, whether it's in Afghanistan or the Iraq war," he said.

"If you bomb villages from the air, rather than helping them grow food (and) build roads on the ground, you don't win these battles."

Instead of finding ways to promote global development, build bridges of understanding and allocating funds to alleviate poverty, these governments are focused on fuelling the war machine, the man billed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world said yesterday.

"I am worried right now that we may veer off into a very violent future," said Sachs. His concern is compounded by the possibility of right-wing parties taking office again, both in Canada and south of the border.

"These issues of poverty, climate change, global instability ... are issues of our planet, and they are the issues that should be in front of us in our election campaigns, but they are not,"

U.S. Republican candidate John McCain, he says, is "much more likely to get the world into a large and expanding war," than fulfill international funding promises.

"The places that he's worried about for terrorism – Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, Sudan – are hungry, drought-stricken, suffering from climate change that we have contributed to (and) facing big population pressures which we don't talk about," he said.

He worries that we lack the interest to understand each other.

"I worry, because if we don't have shared understanding at basic points, then the kinds of solutions that are available will not be achieved."

"I am worried about our capacity to kill each other faster than we can understand each other."


Canadian Furious After Having To Return Wheelchair Gold Medal

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 09, 2008) BEIJING–Diane Roy says having to return her Paralympic gold medal is "an injustice" but the Canadian wheelchair racer fully intends to win it back.

The International Paralympic Committee overturned the results of Roy's 5,000-metre victory Monday night because of a chaotic crash and an official who ran onto the track. The race has been rescheduled for Friday morning.

"It's unjust for a lot of people, for the team, for me, for my coach for the other athletes," a defiant Roy said Tuesday in her first comments about the incident. "What will happen when we have another race and there is a crash? Will they rerun each race?

"It's ridiculous. It's an accident. It's happened often during races. That's the game. We know about that. We know it can happen. We have to deal with that."

As frustrated and angry as the Hatley, Que., resident is over the decision, she plans to compete when the 5,000 is run again, even though it makes for a very crowded schedule.

Roy, 37, will race a 400-metre heat Thursday night. The 400 final is Friday night.

"For sure in the 400 I will be tired," said Roy, who was wearing a red Maple Leaf bandana. "I will try to recover the best I can do.

"I will focus on the 5,000. It is the most important race for me. The 400, we will see."

She also will race the 800-metre heats on Saturday, with the final on Sunday, and 1,500-metre heats Monday with the final on Tuesday. Roy also planned to compete in Wednesday's marathon.

Monday's race at the National Stadium was marred by a spectacular crash that involved six of the 11 athletes.

Roy avoided the melee and had received her gold in a medal ceremony. She learned later she'd have to return the medal and the race had been rescheduled.

"I was disappointed and very sad about that," said Roy. "I have to focus because I have other races. If I want to win again I have to concentrate."

Strangely, no one from the IPC has come around to collect Roy's medal, which remains in her room at the athlete's village.

"Maybe they are confused," Roy said with a grin.

The mishap in the T54 race – for wheelchair athletes with different levels of spinal cord injuries and amputations – occurred just before the final lap. Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler appeared to run into teammate Sandra Graf. That caused a chain reaction crash which left several athletes, including Hunkeler, on the ground.

Two athletes were later taken to hospital.

The remaining racers were further impeded with about 50 metres left when a judge rushed onto the track to help some of the fallen athletes.

Chris Cohen, chairman of the International Paralympic Committee's athletic executive committee, said the race jury made the proper decision to scrub the original result and redo the race.

"The fact over half the athletes in the race clearly were disadvantaged, including the athletes who actually managed to carry on in their chairs . . . they (the jury) felt the race needed to run again but without the athlete who created the situation," Cohen told a news conference.

Hunkeler was disqualified and won't race Friday.

Roy finds the decision strange.

"They said it's because of the official," on the track, she said. "It's not a good reason. We finished the race and the crash was done.

"Yes the official was there but that was the last 50 metres. It was almost done. It's ridiculous."

Canadian team officials were still studying the decision.

Cohen said race protests must be filed within 30 minutes of the results being posted. He received a telephone call 28 minutes after the results appeared.

Officials from three countries – the U.S., Switzerland and Australia – filed the protest.

Letting the medal ceremony go ahead, before the protests were resolved, was a mistake, Cohen said.

"We are obviously very embarrassed that happened," he said. "We know why it happened. We know it won't happen again.

"Mistakes happen. There was a miscommunication between the technical information centre, which should had told the medal ceremony people. That didn't happen because they were under such pressure from the number of coaches who would have been in the room shouting and screaming and asking questions, wanting a solution."

The last time Cohen can remember athletes being forced to return their medals and a new race scheduled was at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics.

"We hope it doesn't happen for another 16 years and longer than that," he said.

Roy finished Monday's race in a Paralympic record time of 11 minutes 54.03 seconds. Britain's Shelly Woods was second and American Amanda McGrory was third.

Roy is confident she can win the 5,000 again Friday.

"I am in good shape for that," she said. "One the track I was the best woman in acceleration and good speed. I only have to do what I have to do."

Roy won bronze medals in the 1,500 and 400 metres at the Athens Paralympic Games and was fourth in the 5,000 metres.


NFL To Honour Gene Upshaw All Season Long


(September 04, 2008) *The National Football League will honour Hall of Fame guard and longtime union leader Gene Upshaw in tributes to take place during the opening games this weekend and throughout the entire season. Upshaw's initials and his uniform number will be stencilled on the field for all 16 games this opening weekend. Also, all NFL players will sport patches with his initials "GU" and the number 63, his former uniform number, for the entire 2008-09 season, the league announced. The league originally said his initials would be stencilled on the field for just two games: the season opener at Giants Stadium between the Redskins and Giants and for the Denver-Oakland game at Oakland, where Upshaw played his entire 15 seasons. It extended that Tuesday to all games. A video tribute to Upshaw will also be shown during games this weekend, the AP reports. Upshaw died of cancer two weeks ago at age 63.

Serena Wins U.S. Open

Source: www.eurweb.com

(September 8, 2008) *With a win Sunday evening over Jelena Jankovic,
Selena Williams won herself another U.S. Open trophy. The victory also put her back on top of the world rankings for the first time in over five years. "I'm so excited. I wasn't even going for number one and it's just like an added bonus," said 26-year-old Williams, who hurled her racket high in the air and bounded up and down after crunching down a backhand winner on match point. The match was rescheduled from Saturday because it was wiped out due to remnants of tropical storm Hannah affecting the area. The bad weather meant it was the first time since 1974 that the women's final in New York was not played on a Saturday. The weather wasn't the only drama associated with the match. It seems Jankovic spent a lot of time laughing during the match at missed opportunities against Williams - much to the amusement of the 23,000 fans packed into the arena. "I should have gotten an Oscar for all this drama throughout the week. I should have gotten a trophy for the acting, for my drama. I think I've done a great job," Jankovic said after contesting her first grand slam final. Maybe Jankovic thought she was on stage acting, but she was really in a tennis match with Serena Williams who won 6-4 7-5.

Canada's Buttle Retires As World Figure Skating Champion

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Zwolinski,
Sports Reporter

(September 10, 2008) Reigning men's world champion Jeffrey Buttle announced this morning he was retiring from figure skating competition. The surprise announcement came at a Wednesday morning press conference at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. Buttle, from Smooth Rock Falls, Ont., said he was undecided about his future, but said it will "include figure skating, because it's always been a part of my life." Buttle, 26, won the bronze medal at the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, but back problems hampered him in 2007 before he made a triumphant turn in the men's singles competition at the 2008 world championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. Buttle is also a three-time Canadian men's champion.


Slimmer Hips: 4 Trimming Exercises

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

When I contemplated writing an article about how to trim the hips, I wanted an outrageously successful eDiets member to help provide the solution.

Cathy, an eDiets member for many years, proved to be a perfect person to speak with.

Cathy has lost more than 100 pounds of fat as a member of eDiets and has propelled her fitness capability to levels she never dreamed possible. She has also shed an amazing 10 inches off her hips!

I asked Cathy how she would advise a person to trim their hips. The following is her unedited answer:

"Raphael, I'd probably just parrot back what you say so often -- that it's not possible to 'spot reduce' any one area, that overall body fat needs to be reduced, plus adding a balanced strength routine and cardio program (like running) works well on the hip area."

Cathy is absolutely correct.

I'm not suggesting that you can't trim your hips. However, most people are confused about how the formula works.

Depending on genetics, people store fat in varying amounts on different areas of the body. Some people are prone to storing fat around their hips and thighs, while others store excess fat around the waist. However, no matter where you store it, you have to come to terms with one physiological fact: you can't tighten up body fat. Generally, the first place you gain fat is the last place that you lose, so patience and consistency is critical.

The bottom line is that you have to reduce overall body fat and focus on a balanced program with an added specialty workout for troubled areas.

That being said, the best strategy for trimming your hips is the following:

1. Calorie-reduced nutrition program -- This is your first line of attack in reducing body fat.

2. Cardiovascular program such as jogging three to five days per week for 30 minutes -- Many of my personal-training clients and eDiets members have experienced great success with a moderate-intensity cardio program (jogging, power walking, videotapes, etc.).

3. Strength training performed two times per week for approximately 20 to 30 minutes -- Even small amounts of muscle revs the metabolism and stimulates fat loss.

4. Specialized routine for the hips -- This allows one to work the hips with concentrated exercises so that when body fat is reduced, you're left with lean and tight-looking hips.

I'm focusing on a specialty workout routine for your hips as well as a cardiovascular recommendation. Follow the parameters of one through four above and your hips will get leaner.

Pay close attention to the exercise descriptions. The animations will provide the basic movements but will not contain one key element (pulsing), which I describe below.

1. Fitness Band Standing Leg Abduction

Starting Position:

·  Attach a fitness band to a door at ankle height (make sure to use the door attachments provided).

·  Attach the fitness band to your left ankle.

·  Stand with your weight on the right leg and your right hand on a chair or table for balancing your body.

·  Place your left hand on your hip.

·  Maintain a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.


·  Contracting the muscles of the outer thigh, raise your leg out to the side and stop when you feel a contraction in the glutes and outer thigh area.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while moving your leg away from your body.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Perform 15 repetitions. After rep 15, continue to perform a partial movement. Meaning, after you can't complete another rep, continue to pulse the leg with a partial movement until you can't perform any additional reps. Rest 30 seconds after completing sets on both legs and immediately go to the next exercise. (A cable machine with ankle attachment at a gym also works very well. If you don't have access to a gym, the fitness band will work well, too).

2. Fitness Band Standing Leg Adduction

Although this exercise also works the inner thigh, it must be worked in tandem with the first exercise for balanced muscles.

Starting Position:

·  Attach a fitness band to a door at ankle height.

·  Attach the fitness band to your left ankle.

·  Stand with your left side facing the door with your weight on the right leg and your right hand on a chair or table, balancing your body.

·  Place your left hand on your hip.

·  Maintain a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.


·  Contracting the inner thigh muscles, move the left leg passed the right leg, stopping when you feel a contraction on the inner thigh.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

·  After the set, perform the movement with the other leg.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while moving the leg across the body.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Perform 15 repetitions. After rep 15, continue to perform a pulse movement just as in the first exercise. After working both legs, wait 30 seconds and go to the next exercise. (A cable machine with ankle attachment at a gym also works well. If you don't have access to a gym, the fitness band will work.)

3. Dumbbell Lunges

Starting Position:

·  Stand straight with your feet together.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.


·  Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, push off your right foot, slowly returning to the starting position.

·  Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while stepping forward.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.

·  Make sure your head is up and your back is straight.

·  Your chest should be lifted and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.

·  Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able to see your toes at all times.

·  If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.

·  Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

Perform 15 repetitions for each leg.


At the conclusion of the above exercises, wait two minutes and go directly to the cardiovascular recommendation below.

4. Jogging

Perform 30 minutes at a moderate intensity. I've found that jogging has a great effect on reducing overall body fat and leaning out the lower body.

Perform the entire routine twice per week on alternate days of the week for six weeks while also incorporating my four-point formula -- and reap the rewards of slimmer hips.

As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Motivational Note

Source: www.eurweb.com — Tom Hopkins

"Do what you fear most and you control fear."