July 30, 2009
End of July and I still don't feel that we've had summer yet! But what it DOES mean that Caribana is back and the organizers say it's going to be more organized and timely than previous years. There are a million people descending upon the city so let's embrace them and celebrate!
Now. One of the hottest female concerts that musical director Andrew Craig has put together hits Toronto! Check out the details for The Sistah's Concert on August 9th with very special guests ... see below for details!
Now there's a CD that I just HAVE to promote ... I can't stop listening to Shontelle's CD Shontelligence! Remember when Rihanna first came out? Shontelle is a singer from Barbados with a pop vibe and mixes it up with some reggae vibes too. Some of my fav tracks would be T-Shirt, Stuck with Each Other featuring Akonand Flesh and Bone, just to name a few. So, thanks to my friends at Universal, I'm doing a Shontelle giveaway if you can tell me the name of her producers. Enter HERE and answer is under SCOOP.
Went to see Harder They Come last week - TONS of fun and a good time guaranteed! Check out my review below!
Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
"Sistahs" Move Into Toronto's Distillery District! – Sunday, August 9, 2009
On August 9th, eight of Canada’s most powerful, most prominent, and most loved Black female vocalists will come together on the same stage, for one night of extraordinary music! The Young Centre for the Performing Arts and Andrew Craig Productions present The Sistahs Concert, featuring Molly Johnson, Jackie Richardson, Ada Lee, Divine Brown, Toya Alexis, Alana Bridgewater, Shakura S’aida and Kellylee Evans.
The Sistahs Concert is a coming-together of generations of Canadian talent, and a celebration of these women as performers, interpreters and songwriters. Musical Directed by Andrew Craig, the programme includes solos and multi-generational duets and culminates in awe-inspiring group numbers!
The Sistahs Concert will be the most talked-about event of the summer of 2009 – don’t miss your chance to see and hear these extraordinary women in action – together!
SUNDAY, AUGUST 9, 2009
THE SISTAHS CONCERT
YOUNG CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
55 Mill St., Building 49 (in the Distillery District)
Two shows: 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm
$20 adults; $5 students
Source: Universal Music Canada
[Note from Dawn: I cannot stop listening to this Bajan singer’s CD – there are so many that are my new favourite tracks. Shontelle has a pop vibe and mixes it up with some reggae vibes too. Some of my fav tracks would be T-Shirt, Stuck with Each Other featuring Akon, and Flesh and Bone, just to name a few.]
Shontelle is a singer-songwriter, championship swimmer, stunning model, childhood friend of Rihanna, Army Cadet, competent rapper, superstar-in-waiting who is proving she's more than just a very pretty face with her debut album Shontelligence now in stores. Shontelle, a native from Barbados, is the latest discovery by Rihanna's production team Sturken & Rogers and both artists share the same management.
Shontelligence is a body of work that Shontelle's put a lot of heart and work on which shows in suck tracks as the sexy single "T-Shirt" and albums second single "Stuck With Each Other" featuring Akon, penned by legendary songwriter, Dianne Warren. Not only being a solid debut effort the second single was even featured in the Disney film Confessions of a Shopaholic.
You can learn more about Shontelle and listen to some tracks off her album at www.myspace.com/shontelle.
Mirvish's The Harder They Come
I went to see The Harder They Come on the weekend thanks to the folks at Mirvish. What grabs you upon entering the grand Canon Theatre is that some members of the cast from the play are already on stage participating in a staged street sing-a-long. While people are settling into their seats, cast members then come off the stage, interact with the audience and welcome them to the show. A very cool and personal touch, I thought.
The set, while crude, created a raw and appropriate setting for the play with the band members dispersed among the cast for most of the play. If you like reggae music at all, you will most certainly enjoy this play. Even if you don't catch all of the Jamaican patois, you will probably still follow what's going on. Plus the programme contains a patois 'cheat sheet' so read it before the show and you'll be good (i.e. ganja = marijuana; Babylon = the establishment; rudeboy = a criminal; mash up = smashed, broken, destroyed).
The story is based on Ivanhoe Martin, a country boy who comes to the big city of Kingston to find fame and fortune as a reggae star. Obstacles abound and he resorts to selling 'ganga' in order to make a living and support the cost of making a record in the corrupt music industry. Eventually, the law catches up with him - all the while his first song is a hit - and the people of the community paint him a hero for being on the run and standing up to the corrupt government officials.
Perry Henzell adapted the legend's story for film with Jimmy Cliff in the starring role (which launched his career) as Ivan or 'Rhygin' - patois for 'raging'. The release of the film created chaos in Jamaica with a mob of people outside the theatre. Even Jimmy Cliff could not get into the premiere!
The film was widely accepted and hailed across Europe and North America, sparking the reggae revolution in Jamaica. With hits like The Harder They Come, Many Rivers to Cross, You Can Get It If You Really Want and Rivers of Babylon (beautifully sung by the talented Lain Gray, originally of the group Nu Colours).
Author E. Lynn Harris Dead at 54
Source: www.essence.com - Patrik Henry Bass
E. Lynn Harris, whose self-published 1991 debut novel "Invisible Life" endeared him to millions of readers, died on July 24, 2009. He was 54 years old. According to the Arkansas Times, Harris suffered a "serious health setback" while on a West Coast book tour for his recent novel "Basketball Jones." In subsequent novels such as "Just As I Am," "If This World Were Mine" and "Any Way The Wind Blows," featuring the glamorous and gritty lives of Black strivers, closeted and openly gay men, the former IBM executive became one of the country's most popular writers, whose book signings were often standing-room-only events.
In a glossy style that combined elements of posh 1950s melodramas, daytime soap operas and homespun morality tales, Harris detailed the fictitious lives of young and stunningly attractive African-Americans, navigating their way through the NFL and NBA; Hollywood and Broadway; magazines and the music industry. Readers eagerly anticipated the return of Harris's fictitious fixtures such as closeted attorney Raymond Tyler, Jr., Johns "Basil" Henderson, and Yancey Harrinngton, and propelled nearly all of his novels onto the New York Times Best-Sellers List. Harris, who had more than 2 million copies of his novels in print, ranks as one of the most popular African-American novelists of all time.
Everette Lynn Harris, who often spoke in a soft, Southern drawl courtesy of his Arkansas upbringing, always dreamed of becoming an author. His road to his true calling wouldn't come easy, yet would inspire countless writers to tell their stories. Born in Flint, Michigan, Harris grew up in Little Rock. "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted," his 2003 memoir, documented his painful childhood, including abuse by his stepfather and a 1990 attempted suicide. For nearly a decade, before he tried to end it all, Harris lived a double life: He was a closeted, successful executive by day. After hours, he slept with men on the down-low and fell into a depression. A close friend asked Harris to write his story. In 1991, Harris wrote "Invisible Life," which received countless rejection letters from mainstream publishers.
In a now legendary story, Harris, who had relocated to Atlanta, sold the novel out of the trunk of his car at local beauty parlours. The novel soon landed in the hands of Martha Levin at Doubleday, Harris's long-time publisher. Harris's story inspired dozens of authors to self-publish their novels. ESSENCE was one of the first publications to feature Harris's work and he began a long affiliation with the publication.
He visited our offices last year, met with interns and signed copies of "Basketball Jones," and gave us a sneak peek of his latest novel featuring Yancey, including the first working lines of the novel: "How did this b---- get my life?"
Harris single handedly carved out a space for contemporary African-American male novelists such as Eric Jerome Dickey, Colin Channer, RM Johnson, Carl Weber, Van Whitfield, and Omar Tyree. He was a tireless champion for the Hurston/Wright Foundation and had his own foundation. Harris was known in the literary community for his generosity to his fans (often remembering birthdays and holidays); his love of the Arkansas Razorbacks (he was the first Black male cheerleader for the school), and his support for burgeoning writers. He combined his passion for both of the latter by returning to his alma mater as an adjunct professor, where he taught as recently as last fall. He divided his time between Atlanta and Arkansas, but ultimately, always made the time for his readers, who he credited with saving and changing his life.
Bachelorette Picks Ed In Teary Finale
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(July 28, 2009) Jillian Harris, the first Canadian star of "The Bachelorette," has given her heart to the sensitive technology consultant Ed Swiderski following a tear-filled finale to the reality dating series that featured a last-ditch plea from a previously dumped contender.
The bubbly brunette chose the dark-haired suitor from Chicago over the charming Kiptyn Locke from Encinitas, Calif., after a final compatibility test in Hawaii that involved introducing the two men to Harris' parents, grandmother and cousin.
"There is no doubt in my mind that I am madly in love with you, I love you so much,” the 29-year-old Harris, a Vancouver-based restaurant designer, said before accepting a marriage proposal from Swiderski.
"I've never felt this positive about being with someone, ever," Swiderski said before pulling out an engagement ring to Harris' squeal of delight.
In choosing the 29-year-old Swiderski, Harris bid farewell to the 31-year-old Locke, a business developer that Harris had said charmed her from the moment he arrived on the show as the first of 30 bachelors to greet her on the first episode.
But perhaps the bigger shock was a surprise appearance from third-placed finisher Reid Rosenthal, a 30-year-old realtor from Philadelphia that was dumped in a previous episode.
Showing up after Harris broke up with Locke but before she was poised to accept a proposal from Swiderski, the confident Rosenthal strode towards the stunned bachelorette and told her he should have been more upfront with his feelings while on the show.
Extending an engagement ring towards Harris, a contrite Rosenthal declared his love and asked for a second shot.
"I was just an idiot," Rosenthal said. "I came back to tell you that I love you and hopefully you feel the same way."
Fighting tears, Harris told him she was in love with someone else and sent Rosenthal home a second time.
Swiderski himself very nearly missed out on a chance at love.
Earlier in the series, he quit the show saying he felt pressured to return to his job, only to return weeks later pleading for a second chance, saying he'd made a terrible mistake.
"The Bachelorette" began with 30 suitors from across the United States competing for the affections of the gregarious Harris, a third-placed finisher on the most recent edition of "The Bachelor".
Her colourful contenders included an unabashed foot fetishist, a hot-tempered trucking contractor and a guitar-wielding country singer that other bachelors accused of having a secret girlfriend.
Choking back tears, an emotional Locke admitted to taking the rejection hard. "This hurts a lot," Locke told Harris upon hearing her say she had fallen in love with another man. "I want you to be happy".
"I never had my heart broken before but I'm definitely heartbroken,`` he added later in a camera address as a limo drove him away.
Harris and Swiderski were to discuss their future in a TV special entitled, "After The Final Rose," airing Tuesday on Citytv.
Sway Goes Behind The Scenes With The Mas Bands Of Caribana
Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Zola Reeves
(Summer edition) The 2009 Scotiabank Caribana Festival is off to a resounding start with the launch of the parade's mas bands. Sway got a sneak peak at the costumes, energy and revelry of this year's festival.
Borokeete Nex Generation (Anthony Joseph)
2009 Theme: 20TEN — A Tribute to the Olympics
borokeetecanada.com | bcmas.com
After 20 years of success at the helm of Borokeete, Frank Ramsaroop has passed the torch to Anthony Joseph, a long-time designer with more than 30 years' experience building costumes in Trinidad, Montreal and Toronto. Now he plans on taking Borokeete to the next level.
Nip Davis & SCSC (Selwin "Nip" Davis)
2009 Theme: Dis Is Africa
nipdavis.com | scsc.ca
Before coming to Canada from Trinidad, Nip Davis placed second in the Island's "King and Queen" competition and the government chose to put a replica of his costume on its 15-cent stamp. Since his arrival in Toronto, Nip's presentations have garnered great success, including six Band of the Year titles; King of the Band eight times; Queen of the Band eight times. This year the band revisits roots with a "Dis is Africa" theme.
Carnival Nationz (Marcus Eustace, Bryce Aguiton & Dwayne Pitt)
2009 Theme: In Full Bloom
Images of flora energize this year's perennial powerhouse, Carnival Nationz. Thriving on past success, this year's band will feature the sensuous beauty and vitality of nature through the theme "In Full Bloom". The big question is whether or not it will blossom into a win.
Callaloo (Marlon Singh)
2009 Theme: The Ganges Meets The Nile callaloo.net
Callaloo for 2009 fuses African and Indian rhythms with the use of India's Ganges River to represent those of East Indian descent and the River Nile to represent those of African descent. This year, Callaloo celebrates one world, filled with lovely people under one groove!
Tribal Knights (Dexter Seusahai)
2009 Theme: Birds Of Paradise
In the short time Dexter has been creating costumes, he has managed to capture six first place titles for King, Queen, Male Individual and Junior Queen. As he refines his style as a creative artist, Dexter Seusahai hopes to inspire a new generation to find careers in the cultural arts and aspires to create Canada's first Caribbean Cultural Arts School.
Luxury In One Of Ontario's Best Settings
Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers, Travel Editor
(July 25, 2009) MINETT, Ont. - Folks who work at The Rosseau, a J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa on Lake Rosseau, say the actor who has a nearby cottage swore he'd never set foot in the place.
But there he was a couple weeks ago, checking out the dining room at Muskoka's newest resort. And there he was again on Canada Day, enjoying the fireworks display they set up to entertain the locals.
The Rosseau is quite imposing on its hillside site, and cottagers in the area are understandably wary. But it appears to be winning over some of its local critics, and folks from Toronto who mosey up for a weekend will find plenty of amenities and top-notch service in one of Ontario's most beautiful settings.
"Some of my friends asked me why I took a job here," said resident naturalist Robin Tapley, who leads nighttime telescopic tours of the dark Muskoka skies and daytrips into the 700-acre nature reserve out back of the main lodge. "I figured it was going to go ahead regardless of whether I was on board, so I thought I could come and make a difference.
"If I can introduce people to nature and they take something away from that, it's a good thing."
The Rosseau, part of the Red Leaves development that includes Clevelands House and The Rock golf course next door, offers everything from hiking and biking in the nature reserve to short walks along the waterfront that links the hotel complex with the marina to the west. You can take a pontoon boat tour and check out the magnificent cottages on Lake Rosseau, or take in a game of tennis or just rent a kayak or canoe and explore on your own. In the winter there's an ice rink, snowmobiling trails, cross-country skiing and bonfires by the lake.
"You can drive up from the city and we have everything you need," says Jane Mark, The Rosseau's sales manager.
They also have an artist in residence; you can cruise by their little cabin and see what's on display.
The architecture is not everyone's taste, rising rather large on a high point of land and establishing a rather commanding presence. But the trees they've planted should soften the face of the place over time, and it's not like Marriott is the first group to come to Muskoka and build a large resort.
There's a high level of luxury, as reflected in the Kerstin Florian spa products, the Susan Posnick makeup and the Robin Barker of Yorkville salon at Spa Rosseau, a 13,000 square foot facility with 11 treatment rooms and glassed-in hot tubs that look out over the lake. Eucalyptus steam rooms and aromatherapy products featuring verbena, lemongrass and other natural scents make for easy relaxation.
The Italian food at Teca is marvellous (try the mixed bruschetta appetizer) and there's a fine selection of sandwiches at lunchtime by the pool. The breakfast buffet has about everything you could ask for, and you can sit by the window and admire the view of Lake Rosseau.
The rooms (they have 221 of them, a mixture of studios, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units) are painted in calming shades of crème and mossy green with all the latest amenities and granite countertops that were polished on site. But there's also some local touches that provide a sense of place, such as an old, wooden fishing basket at the base of a hallway lamp.
There's a large lobby with comfortable chairs, a fireplace and a games room where you can play Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly or pull out a book by a Canadian author.
"There are ottomans in the lobby for a reason," says Mark. "It's a place where you can move pillows around or tuck your feet under you. It's where you live."
You can lie by the pool and look up at the hotel and feel you're just about anywhere. But if you pull up one of the dozens of white Muskoka chairs that line the many outdoor terraces you can gaze to the south and see a small island with Canadian shield rocks poking out of the water and a red-and-white Canadian flag fluttering in the dark green pines, and you know exactly where you are.
Rooms are $349 and up but Marriott was recently offering a deal where you can get a third night for $20.09 if you book two nights at that rate.
Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(July 25, 2009) Leroy Sibbles is no stranger to Toronto reggae fans. He spent more than a decade among us in the 1970s and '80s trying to establish a beachhead for a career liftoff in North America and Europe, and managed, along with the likes of Stranger Cole and other expats living and working out of the Jamaican enclave here, to extend reggae's appeal in new and interesting ways.
Long since repatriated in Kingston, the Jamaican music legend and 1987 Juno Award winner is hoping the new Swiss-Canadian music documentary, Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, will work the same magic for him and the other surviving stars of the short-lived rocksteady movement that Wim Wenders' film, The Buena Vista Social Club, did for Cuba's all-but-forgotten champions of traditional, pre-revolution Afro-Cuban music.
"That's the whole idea: to boost interest in the music that bridged ska and reggae in the mid-1960s, and maybe to prolong our careers, in the same way as similar movies have for other musicians," Sibbles said earlier this week over the phone from London, where he has been recording interviews and live music performances for the BBC.
"I loved doing the movie so much, and the (climactic) reunion concert was such a great thing, one of the best things in my life. I hadn't seen many of these musicians in a very long time. They live all over the world now. When we came back together for the film and the recording, time went backwards for me.
"I respect the past. The past moulds the present."
Rocksteady examines the short and phenomenal rise of the genre that slowed down ska's frenetic rhythms and punchy, staccato syncopation with more assured, soulful grooves and Motown-influenced melodies and harmonies, and laid the groundwork for the rich and empowering folk tunes, spiritual lyrics and dance feels that would become reggae. With its release here this week, it makes sense that Sibbles would return to his old stomping grounds in Toronto. He's performing at 9:30 next Saturday night – with the original members of his local band – at Harbourfront's Sirius Stage as part of the three-day Island Soul Festival.
The leader of rocksteady pioneers The Heptones in the '60s, Sibbles, now 60, was at the very centre of the burgeoning movement that evolved in the dance halls and open-air theatres of Trenchtown in Kingston in the early 1960s, working as a session bassist and arranger at Clement "Coxsone" Dodd's prolific Jamaica Recording and Publishing Studio and the Studio One label.
The Heptones, The Pioneers, The Gaylads, The Paragons, The Uniques, The Techniques, and even the fledgling Wailers, with emerging reggae superstar Bob Marley in the lead, fuelled rocksteady's forward momentum during its brief days of glory in Jamaica's post-independence years, from 1965 through 1968. The effects of Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie's 1966 visit became manifest in growing Africentric social and political aspirations among Jamaicans and in the rise of Rastafarian spirituality, the foundations of the reggae revolution.
"But rocksteady never really went away," Sibbles said. "It became part of reggae, and you can still hear its influence."
Not so ska, which has all but disappeared, except for a novelty revival in Britain in the 1980s. And that's fine by Sibbles.
"I never wrote a ska song," he said. "It might have had a great effect on the rise of reggae, but it was never my favourite kind of music. My big influences were (rocksteady innovator) Delroy Wilson, Toots (ska cult survivor turned reggae gospel star Freddie Hibbert), the early Wailers, and Motown."
In the movie, directed by Swiss documentary maker and former rocksteady fiend Stascha Bader Lewis, Sibbles takes part in an all-star recording session and concert featuring Judy Mowatt, Stranger Cole, Marcia Griffiths, Dawn Penn, Lynn Taitt, Ken Boothe, Derrick Morgan, U-Roy and the Tamlins, performing rocksteady classics "People Rocksteady," "Silent River Runs Deep," "Stop That Train," "Rivers of Babylon," "Shanty Town," "Equal Rights" and "The Tide Is High" among others.
Many of those artists were brought together earlier this month for a special concert at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, where the movie premiered. The soundtrack recording, produced in Kingston by Montreal's Mos "Mossman" Raxlen, is available on the German Moll Selekta label.
"The Montreal concert was one of the most beautiful times I ever had," said Sibbles, who has just finished a tour that took in Slovenia, Britain, Spain and Italy. He visits Toronto regularly to see his kids, only one of whom has taken a musical career path.
"The production was so rich, such high quality and so well prepared. And we got to play for 100,000 people. It was a dream come to life in one show."
Having once declared that his move to Toronto was one of the worst decisions he ever made, Sibbles has mellowed somewhat in the intervening years.
"I lost connection with what was happening in Jamaica, with my musical roots, and that was not a good thing," he said. "On the other hand, living in Canada allowed me to open doors and to pioneer my music abroad. I developed a name outside Jamaica and I made lots of friends in Toronto.
"I'm looking forward to seeing them again."
Just the facts
WHO: Leroy Sibbles
WHEN: Aug. 1, 9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Harbourfront Centre's Sirius Stage as part of the Island Soul Festival
TICKETS: Show is free; for info, visit harbourfrontcentre.com
Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae hits theatres at a time when reggae music seems to be the sound du jour in Toronto. Here are a half-dozen coming shows and events:
Caribana: The massive annual Carnival blowout continues until Aug. 3, and always includes its fair share of reggae, along with calypso, soca, hip-hop, chutney and steel pan. Info: caribanafestival.com.
Island Soul Festival: Harbourfront Centre's three-day showcase of Caribbean culture runs July 31 to Aug. 3 and features live reggae from Leroy Sibbles (see story above), Toronto's SuperheavyReggae and nightly DJs. Info: harbourfrontcentre.com
The Harder They Come: Perry Henzell's musical based on his 1972 film tells the story of a country boy who makes his way to Kingston, Jamaica, with dreams of becoming a reggae star. At the Canon Theatre to Aug. 23. Info: mirvish.com
Irie Music Festival: The 8th annual reggae and global music event hits Nathan Phillips Square and Queen's Park North July 30 to Aug. 3. Performers include Byron Lee's Dragonaires and Gramps Morgan of Morgan Heritage, making his debut as a solo artist. Info: www.iriemusic festival.com
Reggae giants: The Sound Academy hosts the official wrap party for The Harder They Come (the musical) on Aug. 23. John Holt, Ken Booth and Marcia Griffiths (above) fill the triple bill. Info: reggaegiants.com
Jamaica to Toronto: On July 31, Yonge-Dundas Square's free "Stimulus Package" concert series features the nostalgic reggae sounds of Jay Douglas and Everton "Pablo" Paul. Info: ydsquare.ca.
Row Records Opens The Vault
Source: Sasha Stoltz, email@example.com, 416.579.4804
(July 23, 2009) *TORONTO -- This September, WIDEawake Death Row Entertainment will finally open its vault and launch a Special Collectors Edition of music, video, interview and promotional material entitled The Chronic Re Lit & From The Vault.
WIDEawake Death Row Records is giving the fans - unreleased songs from the Death Row vault to celebrate the phenomena of West Coast Rap and honour one of the most influential producers of our time - Dr. Dre.
Dr. Dre revolutionized West Coast Rap music with the original Death Row crew of artists and producers, creating The Chronic.
This package includes the sixteen original Chronic songs digitally re-mastered, profound liner notes from one of Dr. Dre's long time colleagues and friends, award winning producer and documentary film maker Quincy Jones III, plus a second DVD collection entitled From The Vault.
This DVD is packed with Chronic videos, promotional pieces, and a special never before released 30 minute in studio interview with Dr. Dre discussing the future of hip hop.
But that's not all - the From The Vault DVD includes Seven unreleased and rare release songs from Snoop Doggy Dogg, soulstress Jewell, CPO, and Kurupt.
This digipak collectors edition will be in all North American retail stores and a special bundle of songs will also be released digitally through ITunes and other DSPs. An exclusive release is planned for US Wal-Mart stores which will have their own clean versions of the Chronic songs plus two never before released songs from the Death Row vault, all suitable for Wal-mart's younger consumers.
Explains WIDEawake Death Row CEO Lara Lavi:
"The Chronic Re-Lit & From The Vault is a celebration of the ground breaking iconic legendary producer Dr. Dre, one of West Coast Rap's foremost artists Snoop Doggy Dogg and the sound, lyrics, social commentary and life stories of the original "Boyz From the Hood".
Adds Lavi, "Our mission is to honour Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and all the Death Row artists who deserve better treatment, by showing our respect and desire to start new dialog and breathing life back into Death Row Records."
WIDEawake Death Row has a number of special promotions for it's fans with this album's release. More details will be coming over the summer. To celebrate this amazing collection of untapped music, Death Row fans can go to www.deathrowmusic.com <http://www.deathrowmusic.com> to enter to win a trip for two, to Los Angeles. Once in, fans can download seven additional, never before released songs from the Vault... Free. The 7th song, is a mystery. To win you must name the artist who is performing the mystery song. The Winner will be chosen December 1, 2009. Must be 21 and over to win.
Death Row is planning other promotions throughout the summer leading up to the September 1, 2009 release of the Chronic Re-Lit & From the Vault. Stay tuned and stay connected.
WIDEawake Death Row (www.deathrowmusic.com) is just getting started ...
Johnny Reid Leads Field With 6 Country Award Nods
Source: www.thestar.com - Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
(July 29, 2009) Scottish-born, Toronto-bred singer Johnny Reid leads the field going into this year's Canadian Country Music Association awards with six nominations.
Reid received nods for top single, album, songwriter, video, male artist and for the fans' choice prize.
This year's show, to be held Sept. 13 at GM Place in Vancouver, will be hosted by actor Jason Priestley.
Reid's latest album "Dance With Me" was released in March and was certified gold in less than 48 hours.
The singer moved to Canada when he was 16, and went on to attend Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Que., where he met his wife. He now lives in Nashville with his wife and three sons.
Following close behind Reid are George Canyon and Victoria Banks, with five nominations apiece. Last year's winner of the top new male talent award, Gord Bamford, nabbed four nominations this year.
Newcomer Dean Brody is also up for four awards including the Rising Star award and top single, video and songwriter.
Along with Reid and Canyon, Doc Walker, Jessie Farrell and Aaron Pritchett are up for the fans' choice award.
Voting can be done online at www.cmt.ca until the end of the day on Sept. 6.
Country superstar Reba McEntire is scheduled to perform at this year's show, along with Reid, Doc Walker, American chart topper Martina McBride and Montreal's Terri Clark.
Priestley shot to fame playing Brandon Walsh in the 1990s teen soap "Beverly Hills, 90210," but later turned to directing.
Recently, he directed CMT Canada's "The Road Hammers," which followed the country band of the same name.
The 2009 CCMA awards will be broadcast on CBC-TV with encore broadcasts on CMT in Canada.
Tickets for the event, which is part of Country Music Week, are available through Ticketmaster.
Anita Baker Hits Studio With Snoop Dogg, Plots 2010
Source: www.billboard.com - Gary Graff, Detroit
(July 26, 2009) Anita Baker is considering a live video and/or album for her next release, possibly in 2010. And she's not ruling out the possibility of some new music next year, either.
The Grammy Award-winning songstress filmed shows during the past year at the DTE Energy Music Theatre near her hometown of Detroit, Mich., in the Cayman Islands, and at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minn. But Baker tells Billboard.com that, if the project moves forward, the bulk of the footage will likely come from two shows at New York's Radio City Music Hall over Valentine's Day weekend this past February.
"What you'll probably end up seeing is something that's packaged live from Radio City, with elements of the Caymans and Detroit added into that," says Baker, whose last studio album, "My Everything," came out in 2004. She's also been looking over footage from this year's Essence Music Festival, which will be used for a future TV broadcast. "Luckily I wear black all the time," Baker says with a laugh, "so there's no problem with having to go back and re-cut anything, usually."
Baker released "A Night of Rapture -- Live" in 2004. ¨As for brand new music -- either instead of or alongside the live project -- Baker says there are "a couple of songs that I had in mind for a couple of artists that I think I'm going to use for myself." She adds that the new music is "not a departure. It will be an Anita Baker record, but it will have a lot of surprising elements in it. We'll take a lot of our contemporaries and bring them into my project where they may fit."
One of those could be rapper Snoop Dogg, who Baker is working with on an adaptation of Curtis Mayfield's "Give Me Your Love (Love Song)" from the "Superfly" soundtrack. "We do it in a very contemporary way, a very grown-up way," Baker says. "It's lovely -- who knew that Snoop is madly in love with his wife, you know? We've got a chance to see that in the way his music has grown, so when he comes in to do dialogue over that love theme, it becomes very grown-up and contemporary at the same time."
As for when we might hear, or see, something new, however, Baker is circumspect. "The record company (Blue Note) wants next spring, and I would love for that to happen," she says. "That would be lovely, but we all are mindful of the fact that we want it to be right. So when they say spring, they really are planning for the fall. It's like...I'm a mom. If we want to be at brunch at 1, I have to tell my kids 12 o'clock -- you know what I mean?"
Debuts Album In New York City
(July 23, 2009) *Columnist Roger Friedman wrote extensively about Tuesday night's debut of Whitney Houston new CD "I Look to You," which took place before a celeb-heavy crowd at New York's Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Music mogul Clive Davis, who oversaw the project, played nine tracks from the album, due Sept. 1. Afterward, Houston walked out on stage to a standing ovation and cheers.
Friedman wrote in his column:
She deserved it, too. The nine songs — there will be 11 altogether — are solid tracks, with several tipped as potential hit singles.
I also found out that Houston has signed with ABC for a special that will air the last week of August, right before her album is released.
In the very buzzy crowd: Alicia Keys, who wrote and produced “Million Dollar Bill,” a surefire hit that got a huge response; Diane Sawyer, who’s having Whitney on “Good Morning America”; plus actress Vivica Fox, Gayle King, Martha Stewart, Nikki Haskell, and lots of family. Whitney brought along mom Cissy Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick, and daughter Bobbi Kristina, who’s blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
Also there were many heavyweights from the music biz including L.A. Reid, Charles Koppelman, and Andre Harrell, whom RCA Records chief Barry Weiss called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for reasons of his own.
But it was Whitney’s night. She looked stunning and a little stunned as the audience warmly embraced her and welcomed the new songs. Besides the Alicia Keys hit, the standouts include an absolute knock-out cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” which could do for Whitney what “Let’s Stay Together” did for Tina Turner’s 1984 comeback. There’s also a sleeper mid-tempo number called “Nothin’ but Love,” two excellent tracks from R. Kelly including the beautiful title song, and Diane Warren’s David Foster-produced “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.”
During the Keys track, by the way, Alicia — dressed in black and looking hot — got up and boogeyed around from her seat, and took some video on a Flip camera.
For her part, Whitney got big laughs when she told the invited audience, “I had a plan to go to an island and start a fruit stand.” She said neither her mother nor Davis would allow her to do that. “My mother said, ‘I’m tired of hearing your voice on the radio. I want to hear new songs.’”
Black: Still Sexy After All These Years
Source: www.thestar.com - Eric Veillette, Special To The Star
(July 25, 2009) Karen Black's voice still sounds as vibrant as it did when she sang to Jack Nicholson in 1970's Five Easy Pieces; her soft tremolo as fresh as when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 1976. Reclining on a leather sofa in the art gallery at the Gladstone Hotel, she sings a few breathy lines from an old standard and, without hesitation, turns the song into a country-western tune full of twangs and growls.
Black is in Toronto for her new one-woman cabaret show, My Life For a Song, which premieres tonight and continues tomorrow at the Gladstone. Her stories of working with some of the greatest names in Hollywood – she has appeared alongside Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bette Davis and Oliver Reed, and has been directed by Dennis Hopper, Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Altman – will be interspersed with appearances by characters she created for past stage shows, along with musical interludes featuring long-time musical director Tracy Stark on the keyboard.
"It's an eclectic mixture of music," Black says. "I might do `Ten Cents a Dance,' then a delta blues or a country song."
After both shows, local filmmaker Bruce LaBruce will join her onstage to discuss her career and take questions from the crowd. "She brings a tremendous intensity to her roles," says LaBruce. Her performance in 1975's The Day of the Locust is "tragically underrated," he adds.
After her heartbreaking portrayal of Rayette Dipesto in Five Easy Pieces, which won her a Golden Globe Award as well as an Oscar nomination, Black became one of the most sought-after performers of the '70s. She appeared in The Great Gatsby – which earned her a second Golden Globe – Cisco Pike, Family Plot and Burnt Offerings.
But anyone familiar with Black's work knows she loves to sing. She grew up in a musical family – her grandfather was classical musician Arthur Ziegler – and she briefly studied opera before her acting career took off. "Our living room was always filled with music," she says.
While Jascha Haifetz records would play, she says she would hum along to Julie London and Doris Day. She has been known to sing a tune or two in many roles and recorded the title track to the 1973 Canadian horror film The Pyx, as well as two of her own compositions in Altman's Nashville.
As an actor, she's still incredibly busy. She received critical acclaim for her dual roles in Steve Balderston's Firecracker and appeared as Mother Firefly in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. Among other things, she just completed a pilot for a comedy co-starring Bud Cort.
"I have very few regrets," she says when discussing her career. Among those few is a script Woody Allen once sent her that she ultimately turned down.
"It was the part of a woman who loved to have sex in public but couldn't do it privately. That's great," she says with a laugh. "What was wrong with me?
"But I did meet him. He told me I looked like Warren Beatty."
She speaks highly of her son Hunter Carson, her co-star in Tobe Hooper's 1986 remake of Invaders From Mars. "He had a great acting career as a child," she says. "Wim Wenders came to our house because he wanted to cast him in Paris, Texas. Hunter tried to sell him a lemon from the tree in our backyard." Carson got the part.
As we speak, people come in to introduce themselves, followed by adulation and offers of dinners and tours while she's in town. But tonight's show is on her mind – there's limited rehearsal time, as well as technical aspects that need to be ironed out.
As one of the visitors departs, Black – well known for her impressions – jokingly musters her best Greta Garbo: "I just vant to be alone."
Just the facts
WHO: Karen Black
WHEN: July 25 and 26. Doors 8 p.m.
WHERE: Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W.
TICKETS: $20 at the Gladstone or at Suspect Video, 604 Markham St.
Latifah Back To Rapping On
(July 27, 2009) *Billboard.com caught up with Queen Latifah to discuss her new album "Persona," her first set of new material since 1997 and a return to hip hop – the music genre that launched her career in 1989.
Due August 22 on Flavor Unit Entertainment, the project follows 2007's "Trav'lin Light," which consisted entirely of jazz and soul standards and sold 263,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Latifah's last hip hop album was 1998's "Order in the Court," which came nine years after her debut album "All Hail the Queen."
In the months preceding "Persona," Latifah has been warming up her rap muscles with an appearance on a Lady Gaga remix and a Rhymefest mixtape. She spoke to Billboard about once again embracing the artform.
Billboard: How does it feel to be rapping again?
Queen Latifah: It feels good. It's like riding a bike -- once you know it, you know it. This album is definitely rooted in hip-hop, but there's a lot of singing, too. I've been singing a lot over the past few years, so I wanted to bring it all under one roof. But really, I've always sung on my records. I was always a person who mixed a lot of melody with rhymes. It's fun getting my feet wet again.
Billboard: This is your first time working with producers Cool & Dre. What made you decide to record "Persona" with them?
Latifah: I met them during this pilot that we did with Eve called "Bridging the Gap" about an artist getting to meet their hero. At the end of the episode, Eve and I went into the studio to make a record that Cool & Dre produced. It was just such a good vibe. They're very creative and easy to work with, and they just took ideas that I had for my album and really made them hot. They were like, "If the music sounds good to us, it should sound good to other people." So we went down to Miami and recorded the whole album. It's the best place to record, with the sun and the water. You could literally jump off a jet ski and go right in the booth. There aren't too many places you can do that.
Billboard: You also collaborated on this album with 25-year-old Ingrid Woode, who won a songwriting contest you conducted in collaboration with the People's Choice Awards. Why did you select an unknown to write one of your songs?
Latifah: Part of my whole intention with this album, and with edging back into the urban world, is to give all the females an opportunity to make records. This girl from Ohio wrote a great song and we just went and recorded it. She actually produced it all by herself in her bedroom, but Cool & Dre helped hook up the beat for us. It's a really nice song about friends who let you down.
Billboard: Is it harder for women to succeed in the music industry today than it was 10 or 20 years ago?
Latifah: Never since my start in this business at 17 years old have I seen it so male-dominated. It's deplorable, to be honest. You cannot just have male voices. Not in the world, not in society, not in music. When there are no female records being played on the radio, there's a voice that's missing, a story that's not being told. Labels don't sign females to their rosters. Radio stations play only 15 or 20 records over and over again. A lot of us are in the studio now -- me, Missy (Elliott), Eve, Shawnna -- so I guess when we're ready to go you'll hear more from the females. But we really have to step up and support one another. It has to come from video channels and radio, and women have to make sure they're supporting their sisters.
Billboard: Why do you release your albums independently?
Latifah: The last few albums I've done have been joint ventures, so at this point I don't know how to be signed to a label. We end up working these albums and promoting them ourselves. It's normal for us.
Billboard: Do you have any sales expectations for "Persona"?
Latifah: Not at this point. I realize that I haven't been in the game for a while, so I'm going to have to do everything I can to work it up to a reasonable number. I just want it to be heard. I want people to feel it and take it on the road.
The-Dream Announces Final Solo Album
(July 28, 2009) *Singer/songwriter The-Dream has announced via Twitter that his next studio album, Love King," will be his last.
"I am engaged and 'Love King' IS going to be my LAST album!" he tweeted on July 23.
In a subsequent post, The-Dream explained, "It is going to be [his] last bcuz, everybody is trying to 'KILL THE DREAM!' [The Dream is] the ONLY one that can end [his] career," although he did clarify he "will still be producing, writing, and featuring on other artist albums though."
The-Dream is reportedly in the studio with Mariah Carey, working on her upcoming album, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel," among others, reports Billboard. The first single, "Obsessed," co-written and produced by Carey, The-Dream and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart is currently No. 28 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
During a video interview with Vlad.tv, The-Dream said he has finished recording three additional records for the deluxe edition of his sophomore album, "Love Vs. Money," although no release date has been announced yet. The singer talked about his desire to add songs that would make the album "more upbeat 'cause it was a real dark album," stating that one of the new tracks is titled "Hit In On The Road," a "real fun" record.
"Love King," meanwhile, is due later this year.
Mariah, Diddy, Wayne Albums Delayed
(July 28, 2009) *Some of the most highly-anticipated albums of the summer have been delayed, including Mariah Carey's "Memoirs of An imperfect Angel," Sean "Diddy" Combs' "Last Train To Paris" and Lil Wayne's prompter rock and roll album "Rebirth," reports Billboard.
"Memoirs," was originally due on Aug 25, but will now be released via Island Def Jam on Sept. 15, according to the Universal Music Group business-to-business Web site. Carey's new single, "Obsessed," is at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.
Diddy said via a video interview with MTV News last week that his project's been delayed partially because it's "Jay-Z time and Drake time -- enjoy those guys. But the 'Train' is coming, baby," he warns. "Get your ticket, you don't want to be left out."
Lil Wayne's label rep confirmed to Billboard.com that his release date has also been moved, although a new date hasn't been scheduled yet. "Rebirth" was last slated for a June 23rd street date.
In addition, Amerie's long-awaited return, "In Love & War," which was originally slated for an Aug. 11 release, will now be available on Sept. 8th. Lead single, "Why R U," reaches No. 62 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week.
Set To Release 'Lady Love' CD
Source: Capitol Records
(July 28, 2009) *LOS ANGELES -- LeToya. A single name ringing a whole lot of bells. Though one month remains before her album hits stores, LeToya Luckett has already piled up a year's worth of accomplishments.
The video for the Top 10 national Urban radio hit 'Not Anymore' continues its steady climb up BET's 106 & Park countdown, perched at No 3 as of recent weeks. She co-hosted this popular video show yesterday.
At a moment of emotional gravity for music fans everywhere, LeToya took her place twice, first, as a performer; then, as a presenter, at the recent 2009 BET Awards, which by coincidence was the first celebrity gathering following the passing of Michael Jackson and unexpectedly became a public memorial.
LeToya appeared on the awards' pre-show, singing the sweeping 'Not Anymore,' the first single off forthcoming album 'Lady Love', due out August 25, 2009. She presented an award during the primetime portion, which was viewed on 10% of all televisions nationally that night.
Meanwhile, driven by the single and video, LeToya's MySpace numbers astound: her page has been visited over four million times, and 'Not Anymore' has registered a whopping 7.6 million plays.
The smash success 'Not Anymore,' written and co-produced by Ne-Yo, paves the way perfectly for second single 'She Ain't Got...' The thrashing, throbbing anthem, written by Chris Brown, is a hit in more ways than one.
LeToya is teaming up with Major League Baseball in rolling out 'She Ain't Got...'; check MLB.com for a LeToya interview and music video tie-in. Or keep your ears open the next time you attend a baseball game, as song snippets will be resonating throughout stadiums across the country. Better still, watch for the song's music video, featuring current Los Angeles Dodger stars Matt Kemp and Orlando Hudson, as well as Hall of Fame player Dave Winfield.
The prominent TV show ABC News Now ran footage of the new videos with an exclusive interview with LeToya last week Friday. Additionally, CNN filmed a mini-biopic piece on LeToya during the shoot. The prominent TV show Access Hollywood is set to run footage of the video shoot, as will AOL and EssenceMagazine.com. It continues to play on VH1 Soul, MTV Jams, Music Choice and BETJ. Additionally, CNN filmed a mini-biopic piece on LeToya during the shoot. And lastly, expect a dance remix of 'She Ain't Got...' hereafter. LeToya Luckett is definitely in the swing of things.
LeToya's visibility doesn't end there. Find her in a slew of print and online publications, which started with a feature in the June issue of Rap Up magazine, their first-ever photo issue. She's also on the cover of Sister2Sister magazine, and has a spread in the August fashion issue of VIBE magazine's final issue.
Other features past, present and future include: Billboard magazine, Complex online, Jet Magazine, Rides magazine, and Lipstickalley.com. Major newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle and Atlanta Journal-Constitution continue to document her progress and promise further coverage the week of Lady Love's release.
LeToya. What else need be said? Absolute success has always been her destiny.
Check out LeToya's new music here: http://www.letoya.net/
Mos Def Heading
Out On Tour
(July 29, 2009) *Mos Def will hit the road next month in support of his latest album, "The Ecstatic," which was released in June as his first studio effort since 2006's "True Magic." The rapper-actor will kick things off Aug. 1 in Minneapolis, the first of 18 cities the trek will hit through early September, reports Live Daily. Erykah Badu will offer opening support during the outing's final three West Coast performances, beginning with a Sept. 3 appearance in San Francisco. Details are below. "The Ecstatic," Mos Def's fourth solo album, features a wide-ranging roster of production talent, including Madlib, J Dilla, The Neptunes and Oh No, as well as collaborations with Slick Rick, Talib Kweli and jazz/funk singer Georgia Anne Muldrow. The album debuted at No. 9 on The Billboard 200 chart before falling to No. 29 the following week. Below are Mos Def's tour dates:
1 - Minneapolis, MN - First Avenue
2 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues
5 - Burlington, VT - Higher Ground
9 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
12 - Charlotte, NC - Amos' Southend
13 - Charleston, SC - Music Farm 14 - Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle
15 - Miami, FL - Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
17 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues 18 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
19 - Houston, TX - House of Blues
24 - Edmonton, Alberta - Edmonton Events Centre
25 - Calgary, Alberta - Flames Central
27 - Vancouver, British Columbia Vogue Theatre
29 - Portland, OR - Roseland Theatre
3 - San Francisco, CA - Davies Symphony Hall (w/ Erykah Badu)
4 - Oakland, CA - Paramount Theatre (w/ Erykah Badu)
5 - Los Angeles, CA - Hollywood Palladium (w/ Erykah Badu)
Downloading Songs ‘What Kids
Do,' Lawyer Says
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
(July 29, 2009) Boston — A Boston University graduate student was “a kid who did what kids do” when he swapped songs through file-sharing networks like Kazaa, his lawyer said Tuesday as his copyright-infringement trial began.
In only the second music-downloading case against an individual to go to trial, the major recording labels accuse Joel Tenenbaum, 25, of downloading and distributing songs from such bands as Green Day and Aerosmith.
The case centres on 30 shared songs, though the recording companies say he distributed many more than that.
Last month, a federal jury ruled that a Minnesota woman must pay $1.92-million (U.S.) for copyright infringement.
The industry has typically offered to settle cases for about $5,000, though it has said that it stopped filing such lawsuits last August and is instead working with Internet service providers to fight the worst offenders.
Cases already filed, however, are proceeding to trial.
Charles Nesson, the Harvard Law School professor representing Tenenbaum, said his client – a graduate student in physics – started downloading music as a teenager, taking advantage of file-sharing networks that make it possible for computer users to share digital files with a network of strangers.
“He was a kid who did what kids do and loved technology and loved music,” Nesson said in opening statements.
Nesson said the recording companies enjoyed decades of success but were to slow to adapt to the Internet.
But Tim Reynolds, one of the lawyers representing the recording industry, said song-swappers like Tenenbaum take a significant toll on the recording industry's revenues and on backup singers, sound engineers and other people who make a living in music.
Reynolds said Tenenbaum was flagged in August, 2004, by MediaSentry, a private investigation company used by the recording industry to identify illegal song distribution.
Reynolds said that Tenenbaum continued distributing songs even after he had been confronted about it and that the defendant blamed his sister, friends and a foster child who had lived at the house.
“This defendant knew what he was doing was wrong at each step of the way,” Reynolds said.
Under federal law, the recording companies are entitled to $750 to $30,000 per infringement, but the law allows the jury to raise that to as much as $150,000 per track if it finds the infringements were willful.
In the Minnesota case, the jury ruled that Jammie Thomas-Rasset, 32, wilfully violated the copyrights on 24 songs and awarded damages of $80,000 per song.
Avril Lavigne's Fourth Album Stripped Down
Source: www.thestar.com - Billboard.com
(July 29, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Get ready to hear a softer side of Avril Lavigne. The Napanee-born singer says she's taking a more serious, stripped-down approach to her fourth album, tentatively slated for a November release. "A lot of the songs are mainly the acoustic and my vocal," Lavigne told Billboard.com. "It's a lot different from anything I've done before." Lavigne's husband (and Sum 41 front man) Deryck Whibley produced eight of the album's projected 12 tracks, half of which she says she wrote alone. On the other half, she's been working with former bandmate Evan Taubenfield and songwriter/producer Butch Walker, who co-penned her 2004 single My Happy Ending. "I'm kind of just keeping it in the family," said Lavigne, whose last album was 2007's The Best Damn Thing. "I started this record off really slow, just writing songs at home on my piano. I didn't work with a ton of people this time."
Jennifer Lynch Follows Father To The Dark Side
Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Alexander, Special To The Star
(July 26, 2009) Examining the work of controversial filmmaker Jennifer Lynch, it quickly becomes clear that the abstract apple really doesn't fall too far from the creepy tree.
Lynch is the daughter of David Lynch, the revered icon of all things arch and odd, director of quasi-surrealist fare such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr.
Her current offering is the blood-spattered, Western-flavoured serial killer shocker Surveillance, now playing in Toronto. It's a twisted (and narratively twisty) black comic thriller that sees Lynch favouring the same reality-gone-wrong canvas of her famous father with spectacularly bizarre and generally outrageous results.
The film stars Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond (veterans of David Lynch's Lost Highway and Inland Empire, respectively) as a pair of sardonic FBI agents investigating a series of brutal murders. But nothing in Surveillance is what it appears to be and, by the time the movie reaches its frenzied and sexually volatile climax, all characters reveal a host of psychological traumas.
"I don't think anyone in Surveillance can be truly called bad," says Lynch of her neo-noir film, which she also co-wrote. "Everyone onscreen – innocent and guilty alike – walks similar lines and has been hurt. It's just that some of them took a different path in life.
"I, myself, am not someone who has escaped the pain of abuse in my own life but, with me, I chose to become an observer and not to become, you know, a serial killer....It's all about choices."
Surveillance, shot in Saskatchewan, has been touring film festivals steadily for a year, winning awards (it took top honours at Sitges and Lynch won best director at The New York Horror Film Festival) and garnering plenty of positive critical responses.
Still, cynics have dismissed the film as Lynch's attempt to duplicate the eerie, disorienting trademark style of her father, who was executive producer of Surveillance.
"When people say it looks like my father's work, part of me is flattered and part of me gets defensive," Jennifer Lynch says. "I mean, we're in the same family. I grew up in the same world. I did see all the same 1950s FBI films he saw and I saw the same Hitchcock films he saw – we saw them together, in fact. And I did see the same road he saw when we drove across country together, too.
"We're cut from the same cloth, so there's, of course, bound to be similar outlooks and obsessions. I'm proud of it, not shamed by it, and I try to turn all those comparisons into compliments."
Surveillance marks Lynch's return to the director's chair after a lengthy hiatus. Her first film was 1993's woefully received Boxing Helena, a genuinely demented melodrama that garnered controversy even before it hit the screen. Madonna rejected the role of Helena; later, Kim Basinger was set to play the titular role of Helena, a pampered, vain woman who finds herself stalked and stolen by an obsessive ex- lover, only to have her limbs removed and her torso placed in a decorative box.
When Basinger backed out of the project at the 11th hour, the producers sued her, leading the troubled actress to declare bankruptcy (the role eventually went to Sherilyn Fenn of Twin Peaks fame).
Upon release, the film bombed, and Lynch was subsequently voted "Worst Director" at The Golden Raspberry Awards. The personal problems that followed included a lengthy battle with alcoholism and a near crippling car accident.
But the years have been kind. Boxing Helena now commands a small but loyal cult following.
"What's funny is that people who come to its defence are a hell of a lot quieter than the naysayers are," Lynch says. "Boxing Helena was just a crazy little fairy tale and critics called it a misogynistic piece of s---, which it wasn't. I would love to say it was ahead of its time and that nobody understood it and `poor me,' but I think that the masses were so ready for what the trial lawyers promoted it to be that it just never really stood a chance.
"I still feel really bad for the film because so many people worked so hard on it. It was a really unfortunate situation."
But Lynch may have a taste for those, at least dramatically. Her next film, Hisss, is an erotic epic shot in India about a snake woman who swallows her victims whole.
Tracy Morgan: The 'G-Force'
Interview With Kam Williams
(July 24, 2009) *Native New Yorker Tracy Morgan was born in Brooklyn on November 10, 1968 and raised in the Bronx where he attended De Witt Clinton High School.
He started doing standup as a teenager and was discovered in 1984 at the Apollo Theater on Amateur Night which kickstarted his showbiz career on the comedy circuit.
He eventually landed a recurring role on the Fox sitcom “Martin,” which by 1996 he had parlayed into a gig as a member of Saturday Night Live’s ensemble cast.
Over the course of his seven season tenure on SNL, the irrepressible funnyman introduced a variety of colourful characters, including Brian Fellows, Astronaut Jones and Woodrow.
He also became known for his impersonations of pop culture icons like Al Sharpton, Mr. T, Star Jones, Aretha and Mike Tyson. In 2003, he left SNL in order to star on his own sitcom, The Tracy Morgan Show. Meanwhile, he began appearing on the big screen in such films as Head of State, The Longest Yard, Little Man and First Sunday.
Currently, Tracy is co-starring opposite Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on the hit NBC series “30 Rock.” And back in January, he delivered the most memorable speech of the awards season at the Golden Globes (http://www.nbc.com/golden-globes/video/clips/30-rock-wins/926745/) when he accepted the Best Comedy Award on behalf of the entire cast, explaining that “Tina Fey and I had an agreement that if Barack Obama won, I would speak for the show from now on. Welcome to post-racial America! I am the face of post-racial America. Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!”
Here, Tracy talks about his new movie, G-Force, where he does the voice of Blaster the guinea pig, an animated character. The film revolves around a crack squad of FBI-trained animals called upon by the U.S. Government to put a stop a diabolical billionaire bent on world domination.
Kam Williams: Hi Tracy, thanks for the time.
Tracy Morgan: Wassup?
KW: What interested you in doing G-Force?
TM: [Chuckles] Let’s see ... Walt Disney… Jerry Bruckheimer ... Nicolas Cage and everybody else involved. I thought it would be cool.
KW: Was it hard on you playing an animated character and being restricted to doing a voiceover?
TM: No, actually it wasn’t. People recognize my voice, and that’s what you want. And I’m not the first person to ever do this. I mean, Eddie Murphy’s done it ... Martin Lawrence has done it ... Seinfeld’s done it ... Chris Rock has done it ... so I wanted to make the most of my opportunity to do it. And I had fun!
KW: Laz Lyles was wondering who you based Blaster on.
TM: I wanted Blaster to be a part of Tracy Morgan. So, I just kept it simple.
KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman points out that a PG-rated kiddie adventure marks a bit of a departure for you, since most of your comedy shtick has been adult-oriented. How did you enjoy the change of pace?
TM: I loved it because I have nieces and nephews, and little cousins, and it’s not often that you get a chance to be the cool uncle. So, I made this for my nieces and nephews and other young people I know.
KW: Did you spend any time on the set during the shooting of the film’s live-action sequences?
TM: Actually, no I didn’t. They would just fly me in and I’d go into the studio to lay down my vocal tracks and mix it up with Hoyt [Director Hoyt Yeatman]. He would direct me and share his vision of the film with me. But I never visited the set of G-Force. We kept it simple like that.
KW: How did you like the final cut when you saw how Hoyt had blended your voice and all the animation in with the live-action?
TM: I just went to see the movie yesterday, and I thought it was beautiful. And in 3-D, the special effects were awesome.
KW: What is G-Force’s message?
TM: That at the end of the day, family is everything.
KW: What type of audience do you expect it to attract?
TM: Kids! Families! Young adults! Older adults! It’s universal.
KW: Are you planning to do a Brian Fellows movie, or to make a spin-off of any of your other SNL characters?
TM: No, absolutely not. I’ve been off Saturday Night Live for seven years. Why would I do that now? I have a very busy career. Whatever I did on Saturday Night Live is going to stay and remain on Saturday Night Live
KW: I understand. I see that you’ll soon be starring in a remake of Death at a Funeral with Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence.
TM: I think it’s going to be awesome. Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence are a couple of my heroes in terms of show business and comedy. I’m grateful just to get to work with them again because they’re both brilliant guys. I really appreciate their allowing me to be funny in the movie.
KW: Yeah, it’s like a reunion for you, because you worked with both of them earlier in your career.
TM: Yep, it’s cool.
KW: Bobby Shenker wants to know which character you’ll be playing in Death at a Funeral?
TM: My character’s one of the close friends of the family.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
TM: [Thinks about it] No, reporters ask you pretty much everything. They’ve pretty much covered the bases with me.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
TM: I’m happy, but then sometimes I’m not. I’m a human being. I feel all emotions. I’m not just happy all the time. Sometimes, I’m sad and feel the blues. Sometimes I even want to feel the blues. Sometimes, you want to feel down. I’m human, and human beings change more than the weather. So, sometimes I’m happy, sometimes I’m sad. I’m just honest about my feelings.
KW: I loved your Golden Globes acceptance speech. How did you come up with the idea for what you said?
TM: It wasn’t pre-planned or anything like that. It was just a speech that came from the heart, and I just wanted to share how I felt at that moment.
KW: Bobby Shenker also had a couple of questions about 30 Rock. He asks how working on it is different from SNL and what it’s like working with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin?
TM: First of all, it’s prime time and single camera. We tape it everyday, while SNL was live. As for working with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, I had already worked with both of them on SNL.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
TM: Yeah, I’m afraid sometimes. I’m a human being. I feel all the emotions. I think it’s good that I get scared, because if you never get scared, you don’t have any need for guts.
KW: Teri Emerson would like to know, when was the last time you had a good laugh?
TM: The last time I had a good laugh? Hmm… [Pauses to reflect] I’d have to say the last time I read something about me that wasn’t true in the [New York] Post.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
TM: Right now, I’m listening to Bob Marley.
For full interview with Kam Williams, go HERE.
Canada's Batman of the
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Julia Belluz
(July 25, 2009) London — Rob Stewart is virtually anonymous in Canada. The 48-year-old actor is unemployed and lives with his parents in Brampton, Ont. “My life here is so banal,” he says, “very blue collar.” Most days, he rises at 7 a.m. to get his son off to school or hockey practice. There are auditions, but jobs are scarce, he says, and only sometimes lead to guest roles on television shows, including two episodes of ReGenesis and a forthcoming gig on Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Across the Atlantic, in Serbia, however, Stewart is a cult icon turned national superhero. Fans swamp him in the streets; bars erupt when he enters; quiet meals in a restaurant are impossible. “I can't even explain it without sounding like I lack modesty,” he says.
The reason? An early-nineties Canadian TV series called Tropical Heat (a.k.a. Sweating Bullets), in which Stewart starred as Nick Slaughter, a pony-tailed, hairy-chested private investigator who worked on an island, amid beautiful women in bikinis. He was embarrassed by his acting on the “cheesy show” – which he describes as “a B-version of Magnum, P.I.” and which lasted for only three seasons – until he logged onto Facebook last December and found a fan group called “Tropical Heat/Nick Slaughter” with some 17,000 (mostly Serbian) followers.
Stewart with a poster for his documentary about the cult status of his hairy-chested, high-flying alter ego: During the ugliest years of the Milosevic regime, says one prominent Serbian political activist, ‘We all wanted to be Nick Slaughters. … He is the Serbian Batman, an ideal Serbian superhero.’
“ I used to think [Tropical Heat] was terrible; I was embarrassed about it. But if it gave those people that comfort and emotion, it was a wonderful thing.”
“It blew my thoughts off that [the show] had any relevance to anybody,” he recalls. The discovery inspired him to revisit Slaughter in the country that had stood by him all these years. With his neighbour, artist and neophyte filmmaker Marc Vespi, and Vespi's sister, Liza, Stewart went to Serbia last month to film a documentary called Slaughter Nick for President that explores his superstar alter ego.
In Belgrade, they were met with public hysteria. A series of media scrums awaited their arrival, along with groups of fans in tropical shirts (Slaughter's wardrobe staple). Photographers snapped away and then jumped in front of the cameras themselves to get a picture with their national hero.
The anticipation in Serbia had been building since March, when it was leaked to the press that Stewart would perform with a Serbian punk band at its 20th-anniversary concert. “It broke out all over the papers that Nick Slaughter was coming to Serbia,” says Stewart. “It was overwhelming.”
Stewart's Serbian host, prominent political activist Srdja Popovic – whom Stewart had contacted through Facebook – says that after a national newspaper published a photo of him with Stewart, “within 15 minutes, I got 300 calls – everybody asking, ‘Will you introduce me to Nick Slaughter?' and ‘I want a photo with Nick Slaughter.' I couldn't live my normal life.”
Popovic says “everybody in Serbia” watched the show in the 1990s: It was broadcast on four of five TV stations, competing only with nationalistic propaganda and telenovelas from South America. “No wonder Nick Slaughter appeared on the graffiti of Zarkovo [a Belgrade suburb] and later in the student protests,” he says.
In November, 1996, when young people took to the streets of Serbia's cities for three months after the Milosevic regime announced dubious local-election results, Slaughter became a symbol of their oppositional politics. First, there was the graffiti in Zarkovo, which read: “Nick Slaughter, Zarkovo hails to you,” a rhyme in Serbian. Then there was Nick Slaughter, Serbia Hails to You, the title of a popular (and ironic) song by the Serbian punk band Atheist Rap. From there, the slogans spread and mutated: “Every mother should be proud to have a son like Nick Slaughter,” and even “Nick Slaughter for President.”
These rhymes were pinned to students' shirts on political buttons, hung in the streets on protest banners, and chanted loudly in demonstrations by those who wanted change.
According to Popovic, one of the principal organizers of the mid-nineties student protests, who later co-founded the Center for Applied Non-violent Actions and Strategies, “Nick Slaughter for president means ‘Anybody but Milosevic' – Milosevic was so bad that anybody would be better.”
Stewart and Mark Vespi have several of their own theories about Tropical Heat's Serbian success. Among them: the fact that the show was one of few to be broadcast so widely in Serbia, due to economic sanctions; and the program's luscious tropical settings, which offered a form of escapism from the country's political and economic turmoil. As Vespi says, Tropical Heat “wasn't political, it wasn't violent. It was the lightness of the show that they needed at the time.”
What baffled the filmmakers were the emotional outpourings they found during their visit – what the Serbian newspapers dubbed Slaughtermania. “These huge guys with tears in their eyes saying, ‘You're my hero,'” says Stewart. “It was the emotional context for these people: what they went through in the 1990s while this became their favourite show.”
Slaughter's clumsiness and Homer Simpson-like fallibility had also always appealed to the Serbian sense of humour, which is self-deprecating – a trait Stewart believes Serbs share with Canadians. Stewart and Vespi heard time and again that Serbians loved the TV character because he would always come back after being beaten down in a fight. “The most powerful alliance in the world was bombing them, and they had a dictator, but they just kept getting up every morning and trying to get through it,” explains Stewart. “They responded to the goofiness of the character rather than anything heroic.”
According to Popovic, “The whole hysteria and the sentiment about [Slaughter] has to do with one generation who lost the best 10 years of [their] life. During all those ugly years, we all wanted to be Nick Slaughters.” The private investigator, was, after all, usually either on a beach or in a bar, always surrounded by beautiful women. “It's the ultimate Serbian dream,” he adds dryly. “He is the Serbian Batman, an ideal Serbian superhero.”
Stops on the documentary tour included Stewart performing with Atheist Rap, and a meeting with Canada's ambassador to Serbia, John Morrison, who saw Stewart's visit as “a unique way to build new bridges between Canada and Serbia.” Together, Morrison and Stewart planted maple trees in Zarkovo, the site of the original Nick Slaughter graffiti. The trees were, predicts Popovic, “a good sign that [Stewart] will come again.”
They were also a symbol of renewal for Stewart, who describes the trip as his professional redemption. “If you look at my 25 years of acting, you can't cobble together a retrospective. There's not a lot that I've done that I've been proud of,” he says.
After Tropical Heat , he quit acting, but went back to it when he needed money, appearing in shows such as Peter Benchley's Amazon and Painkiller Jane. “I used to think [Tropical Heat] was terrible; I was embarrassed about it. But if it gave those people that comfort and emotion, it was a wonderful thing.”
The doc's promo video, which premiered on July 8 at the Roma Fiction Fest in Italy, shows a warm and fuzzy image of the country. It may be redemption for Serbia, too. Says Popovic, “We're all amazed with Rob's commitment to show Canadians and others who will watch the documentary the bright face of Serbia – very unlike what people usually see about my country.”
Special to The Globe and Mail
Rocksteady: Doc Recognizes Reggae's Roots
Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae
(out of 4)
Featuring Hopeton Lewis, Judy Mowatt, Stranger Cole, Marcia Griffiths, Dawn Penn, Lynn Taitt, Ken Boothe, Derrick Morgan, Leroy Sibbles, U-Roy, the Tamlins, Rita Marley. Directed by Stascha Bader. 98 minutes. At Carlton Cinema. G.
(July 24, 2009) Taking its cues from The Buena Vista Social Club, Swiss director Stascha Bader's Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae targets an equally fuzzy period in Jamaican culture post-independence, pre-Rasta – when the small island nation rocked gently to the sounds of unique homegrown rhythms and simple song forms that, under the influence of growing self-awareness and a forceful strain of mystic spiritualism, would soon burst upon the world as reggae.
The music genre of rocksteady lasted only three or four years, from about 1965 through 1968. According to the venerable witnesses and musical participants Bader managed to gather together for one final reunion concert and recording session a couple of years ago at Kingston's legendary Tuff Gong Studios under the assured gaze of Montreal-based producer and reggae expert Mos "Mossman" Raxlen, the musical mini-movement was less a conscious step towards a more potent form of expression than a reaction to what had preceded it in the dance halls and open-air theatres of Trenchtown – ska, with its frenetic rhythms, cheeky horn-and-keyboard punctuation, kitschy lyrics and folksy melodies, and the R&B crunch of electric guitars.
Whether it was the blazing heatwave in Jamaica in the summer of 1966 or singer Hopeton Lewis' sudden admonition to his bandmates too slow down the beat on "Take It Easy" because the ska groove was too hard to follow – both versions have been cited as rocksteady's point of origin – a new generation of young musicians and songwriters felt inspired en masse to leave the past behind and to explore deeper grooves, more ornate melodies, more personal lyrics, and more languid arrangements. Little did they know they were building the bridge to reggae, and that in the flood that followed, rocksteady would become a relic.
In recreating the peculiar magic of rocksteady, Bader overlays his narrative – a loose construct of reunions in Kingston between the genre's surviving, far-flung mainstays, personal and group reminiscences, face-to-camera interviews, live and in-studio music – with a compelling timeline, illustrated by newsreel and archive footage. That timeline places the growth of Jamaica's musical expression in the context of its development as a nation, from colonial times in the 1950s through independence in 1962, to the country-to-city migration that forced mass exits in the late 1960s, when reggae's influence began to engulf popular music all over the world.
Unfair as it may be to compare Buena Vista, Wim Wenders' ground-breaking tribute to the all-but-forgotten romance ballads and dance-band musicians of pre-Castro Cuba, with Rocksteady, it should be said that the latter benefits from the inclusion of the social study lessons that Wenders avoided, but suffers a little in terms of musical substance – I was left wanting more.
It also lacks the kinds of deeply felt personal exchanges between principals Lewis, Judy Mowatt, Stranger Cole, Marcia Griffiths, Dawn Penn, Lynn Taitt, Ken Boothe, Derrick Morgan, Leroy Sibbles, U-Roy, the Tamlins, and the sidemen Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Jackie Jackson, Gladstone Anderson, Hux Brown, Bongo Herman and Scully Simms, that took place between the musicians in Wenders' film.
But that's a minor gripe. Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, a Canada-Switzerland co-production, is a rich and rewarding music documentary endowed with a wonderful sense of the significance of its subject, with revealing tales – many told by the film's narrator, Stranger Cole, who advanced the cause of Jamaican music in Toronto's Kensington Market for years while toiling as a metal worker in a toy factory to support his family – and colourful images of contemporary Jamaica.
And with so many rousing, if occasionally foreshortened restatements of rocksteady classics – "People Rocksteady," "Stop That Train," "Freedom Street," "Tougher Than Tough," "You Don't Love Me (No No No)," "Rivers Of Babylon," "(007) Shanty Town," "The Tide Is High" and "Equal Rights" among them – by their originators, now in their 60s, it's a bit greedy to expect more.
Soul Power: Spectacular Thanks To 35-Year-Old Footage
Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(out of 4)
Featuring James Brown, Bill Withers, The Spinners, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-stars, The Crusaders and Sister Sledge. Directed by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte. 93 minutes. Cineplex Odeon Canada Square. 14A
(July 24, 2009) In the final scene in the superb concert documentary Soul Power – a dazzling chronicle of the African American music expo that was meant to accompany the 1974 Rumble in the Jungle heavyweight title bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire (now Congo) – the real star of the movie, James Brown, sits in his dressing room after an exhausting and supercharged performance, and politely begs some privacy from the camera crew.
As the crew slowly backs away, Brown, sweating, grinning and in magnificent shape, raises his arm in a long and regal salute, the way a champ does after a winning the fight of his life. In that instant he seems indestructible, immortal, both the Godfather of Soul and King of the World.
It was certainly a big moment in the South Carolina-born soul star's career. As part of an all-star revue intended by its organizers – white, New York concert promoter and music producer Stewart Levine and his partners, Rumble promoter Don King and expatriate South African jazz trumpeter/composer Hugh Masekela – to repatriate American blues, gospel, R&B and soul to its place of origin, among African musicians of local repute, Brown came to the project wide-eyed and open-hearted.
Like others on the bill – B.B. King, in his post-"The Thrill Is Gone" prime, songwriter Bill Withers, The Spinners, Cuban salsa sensation Celia Cruz and the Fania All-stars, The Crusaders and Sister Sledge, he had never been to Africa.
Masekela and African folk singer Miriam Makeba — she was also part of the revue – had spent much of their early lives in segregated communities of colonized Africa, but these American-born and American-made stars were clearly awed by an overwhelming sense of familiarity with what they encountered in Kinshasa. They embraced the experience by immersing themselves in the local street culture, entertaining the locals with impromptu jams, and putting on one hell of a show.
That these spectacular images and performances, culled by director Jeffrey Levy-Hinte – an editor on Leon Gast's 1996 Oscar-winning account of the Ali-Foreman fight, When We Were Kings – from hundreds of hours of footage that were lost in legal limbo for 35 years, is remarkable enough.
The concert, financed by Liberian backers when Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who acted as financial guarantor for the fight, backed off on paying for the music, might have remained a lost relic of the 1970s. The company that owned both the fight and the concert film apparently went broke, and it took more than a couple of decades to acquire the footage and performance rights.
But that these images – some of them shot by famed American music documentary maker Albert Maysles – are so vivid, so exciting, so beautifully framed, and the sound track so clear and powerful, is something of a miracle. Brown, allowed the most time on screen, delivers muscular and tight performances of signature pieces "Cold Sweat", "The Payback", "I Got You (I Feel Good)", "I'm Black And I'm Proud" and the movie's title song – perhaps the best ever captured.
Withers' impossibly lonesome blues ballad "Hope She'll Be Happier" is a revelation, as are King's taut and bitter "The Thrill Is Gone" and Cruz' wild and evocative Latino jazz routines.
Those clips, in addition to several revealing observations from the performers in dressing rooms and hotel suites, are worth the price of admission, but Soul Power deserves bonus points for the inclusion of contextual material relating to the mammoth logistical difficulties of staging a major, three-day musical event in a Third World country, and to the festival's raison d'être – the championship fight and its loquacious, occasionally prophetic, always poetic centerpiece, Ali.
His enlivened spirit and sense of amazement are as much a part of the tone of this exceptional film as James Brown's searing grin, vocal hijinks and acrobatic dance moves.
Title Pairs Disney's New Hamster Movie With Old-School 3D
Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko, Special To The Star
(July 25, 2009) The quality of movie-based video games has generally increased since 1982's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – millions of unsold copies of which ended up in a New Mexico landfill – and technology has advanced to allow more fidelity to the cinematic source material than E.T.'s 16 kilobytes of ROM could manage. But the new enthusiasm for 3D movies risks leaving the associated games a step behind.
Enter Disney's G-Force for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the first stereoscopic game based on a stereoscopic movie.
"The popularity of 3D in the cinemas is definitely going to carry over to video games," says Bob Watson, an associate producer at Disney Interactive Studios U.K., who produced the game. "It's only recently that the technology has been there on the home consoles to actually do this. You're effectively rendering every scene twice. It requires a lot of horsepower."
That's not to say that video-game stereoscopy hasn't been tried. From the submarine coin-op pleasures of SubRoc-3D in 1983, through Rad Racer and 3-D World Runner on the Nintendo Entertainment System, the SegaScope goggles system and the ill-fated Virtual Boy, manufacturers have offered gamers plenty of 3D effects, yet it's never really caught on.
Even today, computer-graphics powerhouse Nvidia's new "3D Vision" system offers PC players deeper visual immersion – provided they're ready to shell out for the goggles, a high-frequency monitor, and a top-end graphics card.
To allow G-Force and its secret-agent gerbils to surmount the hardware barrier, Disney Interactive went with some serious old-school technology: a red-cyan anaglyph system, the kind of 3D requiring the iconic coloured shades long associated with '50s creature features.
"It's not a new way of doing 3D," says Watson, "but we wanted this to be out-of-the-box accessible. We wanted anybody who buys this title to be able to play in 3D."
Cold War-era tech it may be, but it works. Even on my sadly outdated standard-def television, and even with the pronounced right-eye dominance that's generally kept me from fully appreciating 3D effects, the stereoscopics of G-Force come through. Colours are rather muddled and weird – an unavoidable consequence of using tinted lenses – but Disney has thoughtfully provided the option to switch to and from 3D mode on the fly, so you can still experience the full warm tones of gerbil fur at any time. Still, in 3D mode, killer waffle irons snap their jaws inches from my face and there's a real sensation of depth when the camera zooms or the point-of-view changes.
"We haven't specifically gone out of our way to go `Okay, here's the level where something swings right out at you!' like I think a lot of the old 3D movies did," says Watson. "After a while, you're going `Oh, wow. Something else flying straight at me.' So what we've done with G-Force is just make sure the 3D effect is there and noticeable. Moments where stuff comes right at your head do happen, but they happen in the natural course of gameplay.
"When we'd see people in our focus groups playing the game and ducking, we knew that we had our effect pronounced enough."
The question that hovers around 3D video games – and make no mistake, there are more coming – is the same as that which hovers around today's wave of 3D movies: Are they (still) just a gimmick? Or is 3D the new rumble-feedback, a feature once thought frivolous that has since become a universal standard?
"I think there's definitely potential there," Watson says. "But it's not an easy thing to apply. It's an extra expense in development. It's time as well, the time spent tweaking and balancing it to get it just right, so that the 3D effect is playable and pronounced and it's something people are going to enjoy.
"But once the early adopters with deep pockets get in there and people are exposed to it, people are going to start wanting it and the cost is going to come down."
TIFF Lands High-Profile Premieres
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell
(July 29, 2009) Toronto elbows are sharper in this year's shimmy for world-premiere festival films, as TIFF programmers move to meet the challenge of rival cities.
The new Coen Bros. comedy A Serious Man and Drew Barrymore's directorial debut Whip It will both have their world bows at the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 10-19), acquisitions Variety headlined yesterday as major "nabs."
TIFF also announced four other world premieres, plus the North American preems of four more films, including Michael Moore's hotly anticipated Capitalism: A Love Story, the guerrilla director's scathing documentary on the global economic meltdown.
The industry praise pleased TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey, who felt heat last year when film fests in Venice, Telluride, New York and London received more kudos than T.O. for landing big premieres.
"We sure think we are doing pretty well, and if you see that word `nab' a few more times, we'll be happy," a clearly delighted Bailey said in an interview.
The Coens coup was particularly sweet, since the brothers chose to debut last year's comedy Burn After Reading in Venice. Toronto has historically been where the brothers brought their films after launching them elsewhere.
TIFF made a strong case to the Coens and their distributors that Toronto offers a "super enthusiastic" audience for their work.
"That's something we have that Venice doesn't; it's just a different context there," Bailey added. "Also, the movie has this great kind of Jewish comic sensibility to it, and I think that's definitely going to play well in Toronto."
He's also delighted that the multi-talented Barrymore, already known as an actor and producer, is coming here to unveil her directorial debut Whip It, a roller-derby comedy starring Canada's Oscar queen, Ellen Page.
"Drew Barrymore has been cool since she was a toddler," Bailey said. "She's really emerged as an all-purpose artist."
The other world premieres announced yesterday for TIFF are:
Dorian Gray, a retelling of the Oscar Wilde classic thriller directed by Oliver Parker and starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth that will unspool as a gala presentation. Harry Brown, an urban western with a payback theme directed by Daniel Barber and starring Michael Caine.
Perrier's Bounty, an Irish gangster comedy directed by Ian Fitzgibbon, starring Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson and Cillian Murphy.
Triage, a war drama directed by Danis Tanovic, starring Colin Farrell.
Among the North American premieres announced yesterday is another gala presentation: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, a drama written and directed by Rebecca Miller, starring Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin and Winona Ryder.
The other North American premieres, all of them screening in the special presentations program, are:
Capitalism: A Love Story, in which Moore aims his satiric lance at the money men who drove the world economy to the brink of disaster. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans by Werner Herzog and starring Nicolas Cage as a homicide cop on the edge. Not a remake of the Abel Ferrara original, but rather a radical reinvention that Bailey likened to the 007 reboot.
Women Without Men by Shirin Neshat, a film based on the magic-realism novel by Iran's Shahrnush Parsipur that deals with the lives of four Iranian women during the momentous summer of 1953.
For more information, call TIFF at 416-968-FILM or click tiff.net/thefestival.
Aniston Producing Film About Racial Tensions
(July 24, 2009) *Jennifer Aniston is set to produce "Holler" (aka. "Mutt"), a tale of lingering racial tensions in the Deep South, for Screen Gems, according to the trades. Based on true events, the script follows a biracial high school student who returns with his white mother to her hometown in Mississippi, where he falls for a white girl. When prom season arrives at the high school, he is shocked to discover that she cannot be his date at the segregated prom. He soon finds himself the catalyst for change for not only the prom but for the school and entire town. The film was inspired by the real story told in HBO's recent documentary "Prom Night in Mississippi," which followed Morgan Freeman's efforts to end his hometown high school's segregated proms.
Diahann Carroll Takes A 'Risk'
(July 23, 2009) *Diahann Carroll joins Andie MacDowell, Daniel Sunjata, Annabeth Gish and Ashley Williams in Lifetime's adaptations of the Patricia Cornwell novels "At Risk" and "The Front." The films mark the first time ever that Cornwell's books have been adapted for the screen. Each movie follows Massachusetts state investigator Win Garano (Sunjata) and his ambitious supervisor, district attorney Monique Lamont (MacDowell), as they investigate cases. Carroll stars as Garano's grandmother, Nana; Gish plays Garano's co-worker, Sykes; and Williams is Stump, a detective who becomes Garano's love interest. An award-winning actress, a successful entrepreneur and a devoted humanitarian, Carroll has a recurring role on ABCs "Grey's Anatomy." Her other television credits include "Soul Food" and Lifetime's "Strong Medicine." The screen legend's film credits are numerous and include "Claudine," "Carmen Jones," "Paris Blues," "Porgy & Bess," "Hurry Sundown," "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Eve's Bayou."
Van Der Beek Is Washing Away The Last Traces Of Dawson's Creek
Source: www.globeandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan
(July 24, 2009) If you were a 12-year-old girl in 1998, and owned a television set, you were faced with a difficult and possibly life-predicting choice: Dawson or Pacey? Wise-cracking, boy's boy Joshua Jackson (Pacey), or lean, introspective James Van Der Beek (Dawson)? For fans of the long running teen soap Dawson's Creek , the Dawson versus Pacey heartthrob duel was a taste-definer, an epoch-marker – one that makes the current Robert Pattinson/Daniel Radcliffe smackdown look like an afternoon game of bingo played by dozing Shriners.
Since wading away from the Creek, James Van Der Beek has indulged in a bit of real-life Dawson-ish behaviour. Although he's never stopped working – he has guest-starred in a diverse collection of television shows, from Criminal Minds and Medium to Ugly Betty and How I Met Your Mother – his career has taken on a decidedly calmer tone, as if the man was in hiding.
But with his latest project, the brisk NBC miniseries The Storm , Van Der Beek, 32, appears ready to step back into leading roles. And what a leading role. In this sci-fi epic about weather control machines and secret government plots, Van Der Beek has to do much more than flash his limpid orbs and toss his golden brown mane – he has to save the world If you're going to get back in the leading man game, you might as well go big.
Weather machines are a perennial science-fiction device. What makes this one fresher?
I'm not quite familiar with all the other perennial weather device films. Ha But it was just the power struggle, really. Whether it's a weather machine or it's a nuclear weapon, or whether, it's, you know, cloning – any kind of technology that could concentrate a mass amount of power in the hands of one person. That to me is what the movie is about. And, you know, the responsibility of creating such a device and ultimately it kinda comes down to one man against another. One man kind of fighting for a greater good and one man simply for his own good. So, to me, that was the struggle that attracted me to the story.
You're the hero of The Storm, but you spend a lot of time in front of a keyboard. Isn't that the sidekick's job? Are you a new kind of geek hero?
Ummm, possibly. You start relying on people who are good in front of the keyboard more and more these days. … I've played guys who are, you know, athletic and strong and the typical action hero. But what I liked about this guy was that he's not a typical action hero, he's not particularly suited to be on the run, to being shot at, to being chased. But through his own internal fortitude, he somehow scrambles his way through it. And that to me is kinda the more exciting journey. As opposed to watching Rambo plug somebody, this is somebody who is decidedly not Rambo.
The disaster of Hurricane Katrina must have been in the back of everyone's mind during the making of this film.
That was the idea behind my character's motivation, behind him creating the technology. Wouldn't it be amazing if, you know, we could have diverted that and not had to have gone through that catastrophe.
Would it be fair to say you've avoided leading roles since Dawson's Creek ended? And, if so, is this the beginning of your re-emergence?
I was pretty burned out after six years on a series, and I don't know that I was really ready to jump back in. One thing that's happened, I will say, in the past year, year and a half, is I've really started to rediscover my passion for acting, and for being a part of a story in a leading-role capacity. I'm really having a good time right now.
The Storm, a two-part miniseries, airs on NBC, Sunday at 9 p.m., concluding Aug. 2 at 9 p.m.
More To Love Finds The Sweet Spot
Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press
(July 28, 2009) The new reality TV series More to Love sounds like another big, fat joke from Fox. But the dating show for plus-sized contestants is surprisingly sweet and light, providing more to chew on than first anticipated.
The show debuts tonight at 9 on Citytv and Fox, with 20 women arriving at a candlelit mansion to compete for the affections of a jumbo suitor. Think The Beefy Bachelor or Survivor of the Fattest.
The big man in the middle is Luke Conley, a 26-year-old, six-foot-three subcontractor/real estate developer from Santa Monica, Calif. The former college football lineman tips the scales at more than 300 pounds.
"I enjoy being a man of large stature," Conley tells audiences in the premiere episode – while barbecuing beefy steaks.
"Life is too short to be worrying about counting calories."
Emme, the plus-sized supermodel who hosts the series, predicts audiences will fall in love with Luke.
"He's kind, he is sweet, he is real, he's genuine and he's cute. (The winner is) going to be a lucky woman, let me tell you."
Conley says he responded to an ad seeking big, brawny men who like voluptuous, curvy women.
"I was like, `they're talking about me'," he says.
He gets plenty of curves thrown at him on More to Love. The 20 women, many from California, range in age from 21 to 37 and include a teacher, a lawyer, a fitness trainer and even a rocket scientist. All are plus-sized women, a few in the 18 to 20 dress-size range.
"We have girls here who have literally never been out on a date," says executive producer Sally Ann Salsano, no shrinking violet herself.
"One girl was asked on a date once and it was a joke, so at 30 years old, she's never been out on another date because she was always afraid it was a joke."
Some of the women on the series are very emotional, tearing up on camera over being teased or hurt in the past because of their large size.
While Fox isn't above pushing emotional buttons, More to Love seems to be a judgment-free zone, with the women all accepted for who they are and inner beauty being stressed as the true measure of an individual.
"We're just treating them as if they're normal size," says Salsano, promising the usual hot tub scenes you'd find on the more famous show created by Mike Fleiss, The Bachelor.
Many of the women on the show seem content with their weight and their body image.
"I got junk in my trunk," says Kristian, 26, a decidedly upbeat and bouncy 235-pound teacher from New Jersey.
"I'm sick of seeing a size-8 get all the guys."
When she heard about the series, she thought, "wow, big girls, we're going to find love, that's excellent."
Danielle, 25, a 193-pound receptionist from Baltimore, says it is nice to see women on TV "with something extra on their head and something extra on their waist."
Adds Tali, a 27-year-old, 210-pound motivational speaker from New York City: "I think everybody wants to fall in love, no matter what size you are."
More to Love does not weigh in on issues of health and obesity. Casting, say, Kirstie Alley as host instead of an empowering and positive plus-sized role model would have placed a whole other spin on this series.
But while the emphasis is all on acceptance, women are eliminated and rejected, and feelings are hurt.
Salsano feels viewers will find more to love than hate with this summer series.
"There will be a ton of people who think this show is all about exploitation," she says. Her advice: "Watch and find out."
Simpsons Aim To Strike Olympic Gold With Curling Episode
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jill Colvin
(July 29, 2009) Homer Simpson has tried nearly every pursuit under the sun, from astronaut to mayor to monorail conductor - not to mention his full-time gig as nuclear safety inspector.
But just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Homer will try his hand at curling, one of Canada's most popular, if misunderstood, sports.
Producers for the Fox hit The Simpsons knew they wanted to create an Olympic-themed episode. When a writer suggested curling, producers believed they'd struck comedic gold.
"I thought it was perfect," said Al Jean, the show's head executive producer.
In the episode that will air in February, 2010, Homer and Marge join a mixed curling team. In classic Simpsons fashion, the team ends up representing the United States at the Vancouver Olympic Games.
Homer, as usual, is a deadweight on the team. But Marge is a sweeping star.
"It turns out Marge is very good because she does so much sweeping during her daily life," Mr. Jean said with a laugh.
The episode ends in a momentous victory, as team Simpson out-brooms the Swedes, earning a demonstration sport gold medal.
"This is the most exciting thing that's ever happened in curling" a cartoon version of sports broadcaster Bob Costas declares after their triumph.
Veteran Canadian curling champion Randy Ferbey said he is glad to see curling in the prime-time limelight, especially in the United States, where it is just gaining ground.
"I think it's wonderful," he said. "I'm sure they're going to have fun with it."
The U.S. has only 16,000 registered curlers, compared to one million in Canada, said Terry Kolesar, director of communications at USA Curling.
But the sport's popularity south of the border has been steadily growing since its designation as an official Olympic sport in 1998.
"I think that people are starting to understand the uniqueness and beauty of the game," said Jason Smith, a member of the U.S. 2010 Olympic curling team.
Ms. Kolesar said part of the sport's appeal is that it's easy enough for the average, middle-aged Joe. Make that Homer or Marge.
But are they concerned that the writers may have taken some cheap shots at curling's expense?
"I think any publicity we can get for the sport is nothing but a good thing," Mr. Smith said.
This is not the Simpsons' first time in Canada. The family visited Toronto in 2002, and, in 2005, Homer crossed the border into Manitoba in search of cheap prescription drugs.
Peace for Joy
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(July 29, 2009) Oh tidings of discomfort and Joy ...
If there has been one reliable constant on the ever-changing The View, it is Joy Behar, the candid and quick-witted comic who is never at a loss for words, usually in the form of a devastating one-liner.
Behar strikes out on her own this fall with a daily hour of one-on-one talk on CNN sister station HLN, as the rebranded Headline News would now prefer to be known.
Though she will continue to butt heads with her colleagues, she says she looks forward to the opportunity for normal, uninterrupted conversation for more than three minutes at a time.
"I've been there 12 years," she told critics yesterday. "It's like being my own guest at a kind of revolving cocktail party, where people just keep coming and going and changing and having mental breakdowns and I'm kind of there in the middle of it."
The constant contentiousness, she says, can be tiring. "I really don't like that. I just can't take it. Even on The View, when it gets like that, I get a headache. I just want to keep it real, not screaming at each other all the time."
And who would she like to get real with? "I'd love to have Sarah Palin on the show," she says, "so she could seriously and calmly answer the questions that America wants an answer to."
And what would be in it for the increasingly press-shy Palin? "I'm not out to get her," insists Behar. "I'm not trying to trap her. She might get a real conversation from another woman ... someone who is genuinely interested in getting some answers out of her."
And failing that? "If we can't get her, we'll take her travel agent. Her maid. Her babysitter. I'm not picky."
Back To Normal, TV Style
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(July 29, 2009) PASADENA, Calif. - It's back to business as usual – "business" and "usual" in this case being somewhat relative.
The semi-annual TV critics' fall preview tour kicked off yesterday afternoon here in scenic Pasadena, again a return to relative normalcy. We're back in the host hotel – the Langham, formerly the Ritz-Carlton – we called home for most of the past decade.
The networks, too, have settled down somewhat, this being the first full season not directly affected by the 2007-08 writers strike ... and just in time for the global recession.
In both instances, a perfect excuse for the corporate bean-counters to cry poor.
Where on the one hand this has facilitated a long-overdue trimming back of endemic industry fat, it has also resulted in excessively desperate cost-cutting, most notably at the famously frugal NBC, where miserly network honcho Jeff "Scrooge" Zucker has devoted five weekly prime-time hours to the new pre-Tonight Show Jay Leno show.
Whatever else they plan to squeeze into the few remaining hours of their prime-time schedule, they are not yet prepared to reveal. NBC is the only network that has not announced its fall line-up.
NBC hasn't even provided a tentative schedule of what the network will preview here Aug. 5 for critics.
Except Jay Leno. Lots and lots of Jay Leno.
Otherwise, though, I already have a pretty good idea of what you can expect to see this coming fall. I've limited the list to what's new and promising, though it should also be noted that this season will also feature the self-imposed final resolution of the ongoing mysteries of Lost, the long-awaited seventh-season return of Curb Your Enthusiasm (featuring a reunion of the entire Seinfeld cast – including the disgraced Michael Richards), and an all-new supplementary fall season of the increasingly popular So You Think You Can Dance.
A net-by-net breakdown:
HBO: I've seen the first three deadpan hilarious episodes of the new cable comedy Bored to Death, and it is by far my favourite of the new shows I've screened thus far. Indie poster boy Jason Schwartzman is a blocked novelist with pulp detective delusions, with the hottest of the hot comedy stars from The Hangover, Zach Galafianakis, as his slacker pal and Ted Danson, out Alec Baldwin-ing 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin as his eccentric millionaire boss.
AMC: The class act of cable drama (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) goes out on a limb with a miniseries remake of the surreal '60s classic The Prisoner, with James Caviezel as Number Six and Ian McKellen as Number Two. I've seen about 10 minutes of it, and they seem to have struck just the right balance between homage and reinterpretation.
Comedy: Both the American Comedy Central and the Canadian Comedy Network will run a new weekly series featuring cutting-edge ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, whose Achmed puppet terrorist is scathingly funny and he has become hugely controversial.
ABC: The alphabet net has a vast and varied new line-up, even if it does all sound more than a tad familiar. The stars of the undeservedly short-lived Back to You, Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, each have their own new shows, Hank and The Middle respectively. TV newbie Christian Slater bounces back from the disastrous My Own Worst Enemy with The Forgotten. Former Friends and Dirt star Courteney Cox moves to Cougar Town. Canadian Paul Gross joins the modern witches of the movie spinoff Eastwick. And for some ungodly reason they are regurgitating that horrendous '80s miniseries, V.
CBS: Two terrific vehicles here, one comedy, one drama, for a couple of familiar females. Accidentally on Purpose stars Jenna Elfman as an inadvertently pregnant movie critic who apparently never saw Knocked Up. And The Good Wife has Julianna Margulies as the estranged wife of a jailed politician (Chris "Big" Noth), who reluctantly resumes her legal career. I've seen both pilots, and liked them both – particularly the latter, with its vastly more original, ripped-from-the-headlines premise.
Fox: Also very prolific this season, with the already-previewed and deservedly much buzzed-about high-school musical (not) dramedy, Glee. Family Guy spins off The Cleveland Show, a kind of counter-Cosby cartoon, and Brothers is a witty sitcom teaming Carl Weathers and CCH Pounder as the parents of two bickering bros. Wanda Sykes' new talk-show takes the old MADtv slot. And the comics-based Human Target co-stars masked Watchman Jackie Earl Haley.
The CW: This will surprise you as much as it did me, but the remade Melrose Place is actually pretty good. Certainly as "good" as the original, which is more than you can say about the new 90210, which couldn't even do cheesy well. The semi-net also jumps on the hot young vampire bandwagon (see Twilight, True Blood), with the thus-far unpreviewed Vampire Diaries.
PBS: The increasingly populist public-television network gets all hippy-dippy on us this coming season, with an American Masters profile of folkie queen Joan Baez, and a Norman Lear-produced special, Playing For Change: Peace through Music. Patti Smith of all people also gets her own special, and there is yet another new documentary from PBS perennial Ken Burns, National Parks: America's Best Idea.
Stay tuned for the next few weeks for more particulars on these shows and more.
Legally Blonde Pushes Priscilla Out Of Mirvish Toronto Line-up
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian
(July 29, 2009) Mirvish Productions announced yesterday it will be replacing its highly anticipated all-Canadian production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert with a two year-old American tour of Legally Blonde the Musical.
Mirvish director of communications John Karastamatis insists the change is due to logistics, but it's a piece of news likely to disappoint a lot of people, most notably all those local actors, technicians, musicians and theatre artists who had looked forward to a long stretch of employment with Priscilla. They are now going to see almost all of those jobs go to a company from the U.S.
But it's also disappointing to those of us who were looking forward to the excitement of Priscilla coming to our city.
Its Australian and London reviews indicated that this was a show with a lot of flash and glitter, true, but a generous portion of heart and a strong message about the dangers of sexual stereotyping.
Based on the cult favourite 1994 movie, it tells the story of a group of strange loners in the Australian outback who discover their real selves in the process of forming a drag act that lip-synchs to disco favourites.
Backed up by a reportedly knockout production, it could have packed a real punch here.
But that punch is being pulled and in its place, we're getting the theatrical air-kiss known as Legally Blonde the Musical.
Again based on a movie (this time the 2001 Reese Witherspoon vehicle about bubble-headed Elle Woods and how she conquers Harvard Law School), the musical version opened on Broadway in 2007.
I saw it during its San Francisco tryout and found it pallid, plastic and predictable.
When it opened in Gotham, the reviews praised its enthusiasm, but little else. "Flossing between songs is recommended for anyone who attends Legally Blonde, the nonstop sugar rush of a show," said Ben Brantley in The New York Times, going on to say seeing it approximated "the experience of eating a jumbo box of Gummee Bears in one session."
It was nominated for seven Tony Awards (but not Best Musical), although it didn't win any of them. And although its run of 585 performances was respectable, the show wasn't generally regarded as a hit.
The show has been on tour since September 2008 and to try to pass off its appearance here nearly two years later as some kind of coup is – in all fairness – stretching things just a little.
There's also something just a bit murky about how Priscilla is being handled. It was announced with great fanfare last December, auditions were held and parts were cast.
But no contracts were forthcoming, causing actors and agents to grumble. They were finally assured all would be settled by July 1, but no one had heard anything until yesterday. As recently as last week, Karastamatis assured the Toronto Star that Priscilla would be part of next year's season.
So what happened?
There are several possibilities.
The show is very expensive and to mount a new all-Canadian version of it at this time might have proved to be too much for the Mirvish balance sheet.
The show is selling very well in London, but is not the barn-burning hit everyone hoped it would be and that – coupled with many reviews that stressed how raunchy the material was – might have given the Mirvish organization pause.
David Mirvish is also one of the producers of the smash London revival of La Cage aux Folles, which has announced it's coming to Broadway in 2010. Might it be starting its out-of-town tryout in Toronto? And wouldn't two drag queen musicals be too much in one season?
When asked about these three possibilities, Karastamatis insisted instead that, "The reason is logistic – venue, dates and availability of creative team (a member of which just died of a sudden heart attack)."
But even allowing for the recent tragedy, wouldn't all those other issues have to have been taken into consideration before the show was even announced?
I think the actors, musicians, technicians and other local theatre artists who all thought they had a job with Priscilla are entitled to an explanation.
And those of us who prefer seeing exciting original productions featuring local talent instead of tired American tours might like to hear that explanation as well.
Alan Grier Joins Mamet's 'Race'
(July 29, 2009) *David Mamet has yet to release information regarding the storyline of his new Broadway play "Race," but we do know that David Alan Grier has just joined Kerry Washington in the cast, reports Broadway.com. The play has been described as a satire on the state of race relations – and that's about all that has been revealed as far as plot. James Spader and Richard Thomas are also in the play, which begins previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Nov. 16 and is set to open Dec. 6, directed by the playwright. A Tony nominee for playing Jackie Robinson in The First, Grier has appeared on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Dreamgirls and off-Broadway in A Soldier's Play and the Public Theater's productions of Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor. He was also featured in Des McAnuff's production of The Wiz at La Jolla Playhouse.
Ubisoft Tests Facebook Friendships
Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star
(July 25, 2009) A couple of weeks ago in this space we wrote about Ubisoft, one of the world's most successful video-game makers, opening up a Toronto-based development studio by year-end.
And now, they're also setting up shop in the virtual world.
Ubisoft has just unveiled UbiFriends, a new portal on Facebook that will offer social games and software for the 200 million or so Facebook users on the planet. First out the gate is TickTock, a trivia game designed to test Facebook users' knowledge of their friends.
TickTock (apps.facebook.com/ticktockgame) pulls user-generated content from your Facebook friends via their status updates to generate questions. In the game, you and your friends exchange cherry bombs, time bombs and nukes, and must arm and disarm them by answering multiple choice questions about each other.
Ubisoft says this game is the first of many to be launched at the UbiFriends portal on Facebook.
Rock Band Beatles adds tunes
You say you want a revolution? Or perhaps just a few more details about the upcoming The Beatles: Rock Band, due out on Sept. 9.
MTV Games and Harmonix have unveiled a few more songs to be featured in its much-hyped music game that will let armchair musicians strum, drum or sing (even in three-part harmonies) to the legendary band's storied catalogue.
Fifteen more playable songs have been announced, ranging from the Fab Four's early ditties (Twist And Shout, Do You Want To Know A Secret, Can't Buy Me Love and I Wanna Be Your Man) to their mid '60s hits (Eight Days A Week, Paperback Writer, And Your Bird Can Sing, Yellow Submarine, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help from My Friends and Within You Without You) to their later works (Tomorrow Never Knows, Revolution, Birthday, Dig A Pony and I've Got A Feeling).
A gameplay trailer featuring eight of the 15 newly announced songs, and a glimpse at the venues they'll be playing in, can be viewed at thebeatlesrockband.com.
As previously announced, the entire Abbey Road album will be available for download following the launch of the game, along with an Xbox 360 exclusive, All You Need Is Love, with all proceeds benefitting Doctors Without Borders.
The Beatles: Rock Band will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. The game will sell by itself for roughly $60 (so you can use your existing Rock Band or Guitar Hero peripherals), bundled with a wireless Gretsch Duo-Jet or Rickenbacker 325 guitar controller (for about $100) or the entire "band in the box" including the game, drums, guitar and microphone for approximately $280.
Come Fly With Newest Wii
Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter
(July 27, 2009) Wii Sports Resort reaffirms that nobody else develops games for Nintendo's Wii quite like Nintendo.
Released yesterday, this sequel to mini-game collections Wii Sports and Wii Play features 12 new activities that once again showcase new technology and unique forms of game play that make the best use of the console's motion controller scheme.
The original in the series, Wii Sports, has become the bestselling game of all time, although it's a bit of a cheat as it comes bundled with every Wii sold. Released in 2006, it revolutionized how people play video games with its simple, somewhat accurate motions for games like tennis, bowling and boxing.
Even the White House now has a Wii, with President Barack Obama admitting to enjoying bowling a few virtual strikes himself.
The initial idea was that other developers would pick up on Wii Sports' promise and come up with new, ever more innovative controls. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened, with plenty of game control schemes descending into the dreaded "waggle," the furious and frustrating waving of the Wii remote.
Wii Sports Resorts comes with MotionPlus, an attachment that helps give the Wii's controllers much more accurate handling. For the most part, the results are impressive. Here's a quick rundown of the games included and how they stack up:
Swordplay: Available in duel or fun single-person modes, this is one of the games people have been waiting for. The controls have you holding the Wiimote like the handle of the sword. Almost as fast and furious as boxing in the original, this is really competitive and fun, particularly in duel mode.
Archery: It probably has the most unique control scheme and accurately mimics holding a bow and arrow. Targeting is difficult, but it's challenging fun.
Canoeing: The Wiimote is the handle of a paddle and you try your best J-stroke. It's not that intricate, but in race mode this can be something of a workout.
Power Cruising: Driving a Jet Ski, you hold the controls as if they were handlebars of the watercraft. Somewhat amusing, but it's disappointing that you can't do tricks.
Cycling: Pedalling is done with circular motions with your hands, so it's nothing like cycling at all.
Airsports: This one has a few activities, including skydiving and airplane flying. You control the plane by holding the Wii remote as if it was a paper airplane. There's a sightseeing mode that is a bit boring, but the dogfight mode is fun.
Basketball: The three-point game impressed me, as you do need a real flick of the wrist to give the ball the right arc. Purists will find it too simple, but I think I might become unhealthily obsessed with it.
Frisbee: The first game has a cute dog running and catching your Frisbee, which is another natural motion for the controller. There's also a Frisbee golf game.
Table Tennis: The smaller table size makes this a faster game than tennis from the original.
Wakeboarding: You hold the Wiimote as if it was the handlebars attached to the boat, and then try to catch the wake and get some air. This might really help this sport grow. For many, it might be the first time they're seeing it, even if it is a virtual approximation.
Golf and Bowling: Some slight tweaks from the originals in Wii Sports, but unfortunately nothing remarkably different.
Like its predecessor, Wii Sports Resort truly comes alive when you play it with people, and it's another great party game for this most social of consoles. It also builds on Nintendo's rep for games that anybody can pick up and play and enjoy.
If there is one major criticism, it's that Wii Sports Resort only comes with one MotionPlus attachment, and some of the best games here require two players, so you will eventually have to pick up at least one more at $24.99 (or buy another game it comes packaged with).
While the MotionPlus does work well, the game constantly says it needs to be calibrated, which requires putting it down and waiting till it sorts itself out.
The question still remains if developers will build on the movements that Wii Sports Resort displays. Beyond the swordplay, the Jet Ski controls and even the basketball game could be souped up in and used in more complex games. Here's hoping.
At this year's E3, the gaming industry's largest conference, both of Nintendo's competitors, Microsoft and Sony, unveiled their new motion control schemes and they should definitely be paying heed to this game.
Groups Want B.C. Minister To Feel Their Pain
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow
(July 27, 2009) Vancouver — British Columbia's arts community is in a state of shock following comments made by the Minister for Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Kevin Krueger, that the community is not concerned about the provincial government's projected 50-per-cent cuts to funding.
“I am not hearing complaints at all from the arts and cultural community,” Kreuger said on Victoria-based radio station C-FAX's Eye on the Arts show earlier this month. “I don't think anyone is lighting their hair on fire at what is coming down the pipe.”
In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, the minister stood behind those comments – adding that he tends to “answer questions very frankly,” and suggesting that the arts community should know enough to “trust that we're not about to change our principles.”
Listen to radio host Scott Walter's interview with B.C. Arts Minister Kevin Krueger
The minister's initial comments “went viral immediately,” says Howard Jang, general manager of Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company. Following the radio interview, the board chairs and executive directors of the seven major arts organizations in the province – the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Opera, Vancouver Art Gallery, Playhouse Theatre, Arts Club, Ballet B.C., and Bard on the Beach – sent a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell outlining exactly their fears for the future of the arts in British Columbia.
The same day, a grassroots letter-writing campaign was launched via a Facebook group that numbered 200 members by sundown – and had reached more than 530 by yesterday. Krueger said in recent interview that his office was responding to all of the letters that had been generated since the radio spot, remarking that he found it “comical” that mail was arriving from as far away as Texas.
In the Feb. 17 budget, general arts-and-culture funding was reduced from $19.5-million to $11.9-million. And, as part of the Liberal government's three-year budget projection, funding would be further reduced to $9.6-million in 2010-11 before rebounding slightly to $9.8-million in 2011-12. To ease the pain this year, a one-off supplementary fund was announced that is expected to maintain previous levels of funding for the 2009-10 fiscal period, but with no guarantee that extra money will be there going forward.
Jang says Krueger's statement was bewildering: “His predecessor, Bill Bennett, had asked the community to write and tell him what these cuts would mean to their organizations, and there was a considerable amount of communication sent in. Where has that all gone?”
If the Arts Club were to lose half of its funding, it would have to look at cutting back its core programming, Jang adds. “A cut of that size is really significant. We would have to take a very hard look at our provincial touring program, for example.”
At the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, president and CEO Jeff Alexander points out that funding of the arts has been proven to create a stimulus effect through employment and through purchases from for-profit companies. Alexander says that any cuts would prove to be “anti-stimulus.”
According to the ministry's own research, for every $1 invested in the arts, the province gets back $1.38.
Nevertheless, Alexander says, he wasn't surprised that the minister hadn't picked up on the community's concerns. “We typically spend our time expressing gratitude for the funds we receive,” he says, rather than angling to get the government to notice criticism. “The arts community very much appreciates the support the government provides, and we are always conscious of thanking them for what they've done in the past.”
But Scott Walker, host of Eye on the Arts , the radio show on which Krueger made his initial comments, says he was stunned by the minister's response. “I see palpable fear in the province's arts community,” he said by phone from his office in Victoria at the advocacy group ProArt Alliance, where he is on staff. “I don't know who he is getting his information from, but I know that my [ProArt Alliance] colleagues have made it quite clear in discussions with the minister that they are really worried about the next two years.”
During the radio interview, Krueger suggested that the economics of the time require everyone to “bite the bullet” and “square our shoulders,” before quoting from the Bible, Matthew 6:34, to drive his point home: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
“I had to look that up after the show,” acknowledges Walker. “I think he's telling us not to worry about tomorrow – there's enough to worry about today.”
Asked what he meant by the biblical reference, the minister told The Globe and Mail: “They should give the government some credit for what we've been able to do up to this year – and this year too, considering the difficulties – and trust that we're not about to change our principles or our way of doing things.”
The Vancouver-based Alliance for Arts and Culture, which represents 350 member organizations from across the artistic disciplines, has spearheaded the mounting opposition to the cuts. Its requests to meet with the minister have not been granted. “We have yet to receive a response,” a spokesperson told The Globe.
“We have had no request for a meeting with them,” insists Krueger. “If they ask for a meeting, they will get one.” He adds that he is eager to have constructive dialogue with the community. “If they have an idea of how things were done better in the past, I'd really like to hear that, instead of pro-forma letters that are just critical and demonstrate outrage that isn't based on knowledge.”
Ticketing Behemoth's Merger Questioned
Source: www.thestar.com - Reuters News Agency
(July 28, 2009) WASHINGTON–The proposed merger of ticketing giant Ticketmaster and Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, should be closely scrutinized by the U.S. justice department, according to the chair of a Senate antitrust subcommittee and 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Senator Herb Kohl, chair of the judiciary committee's antitrust subcommittee, said the merger would combine dominant ticket seller Ticketmaster with Live Nation, which has a ticketing business.
"It is clear that this merger raises serious competitive concerns warranting thorough scrutiny," he wrote to Christine Varney, head of justice's antitrust division.
The deal has been criticized by rock star Bruce Springsteen, Senator Charles Schumer and legions of music fans commenting in Internet chatrooms.
Fifty members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed a letter written by Representative Bill Pascrell that also expressed concern about the deal. "We see little to commend this transaction," said the letter, citing "competitive harm in the ticketing and other industry markets" because of the deal.
In mid-June, Britain's Office of Fair Trading raised antitrust concerns over the planned merger and said it was referring the deal to the competition regulator. The regulator is due to report by Nov. 24.
Kohl wrote that the deal would create "an enormous, vertically integrated entertainment giant, which will control everything from artist management, concert promotion, concert venues, and merchandise sales to primary and secondary market ticket sales.
"The combined entities would be a company of unparalleled size and scope without equal in the market," he wrote.
"I ... urge the justice department to carefully scrutinize each of these issues under the antitrust laws, and only approve the merger should it determine that the transaction is unlikely to lead to higher prices for consumers," Kohl wrote.
Champ Vernon Forest Killed
(July 27, 2009) *Boxing champ Vernon "The Viper" Forest is dead after confronting a man in Atlanta who then shot him multiple times in the back Saturday night.
Police say that after being robbed at gunpoint at a southwest Atlanta gas station, Forrest grabbed his own gun and ran after the perpetrator.
"Vernon walked up to the guy" he was chasing, said Atlanta Police Detective Lt. Keith Meadows, citing a witness account. "Then, at some point, [Forrest] turned and walked away."
That's when the man shot the champion boxer seven or eight times in the back, Meadows told AJC.com.
It's unclear whether Forrest thought he was encountering the wrong man when he turned around, police said.
The incident began at 11 p.m. at the Chevron on Whitehall Street in Southwest Atlanta when Forrest, 38, was about to put air in the tires of his Jaguar, said Meadows.
A male suspect approached Forrest and robbed him of a few items at gunpoint, he said. Forrest, who was also armed, chased the suspect to an area near McDaniel and Fulton Streets.
Police are looking for that man and a second suspect who left in a red Monte Carlo, police said.
Police also said there is evidence Forrest used his weapon but did not know if the suspect was shot.
The AJC also is reporting that an 11-year-old boy who was with Forrest was in the Chevron at the time of the robbery. The boy, who is the son of Forrest's girlfriend, according to Meadows, was able to provide police with a description of the suspect. However, the boy did not see the shooting.
For more on Forest, see his entry in Wikipedia, here.
Steve Nash Signs 2-Year Extension With Suns
Source: www.thestar.com - Andrew Bagnato, Associated Press
(July 27, 2009) PHOENIX–Steve Nash thought about leaving the Phoenix Suns after this season.
But after mulling other options, Nash realized there were no guarantees of winning an NBA championship elsewhere.
So he agreed to a two-year, $22 million (U.S.) contract extension that will keep the two-time MVP point guard under contract with the Suns through the 2011-2012 season.
"I definitely was weighing all my options," Nash said Monday on a conference call with reporters, his first public comments since signing the new deal. "I definitely looked out there to see what possibilities there were – becoming a free agent next year, asking to be traded. But the truth is, I love the city, the organization. I really like my teammates and coach.''
Nash said those considerations "greatly outweigh the opportunity to search for a title anywhere else. There's never any guarantees of that sort of thing anyway.''
The 35-year-old Nash, entering his 13th NBA season, had one year left on a contract that will pay him $13 million next season.
Under the new agreement, $6 million of the final two years of the contract will be deferred, with $3 million being paid in each of the two years following the expiration of the contract, said Bill Duffy, Nash's agent.
"There's definitely a good chance that this is the last three years for me," Nash said. "It would obviously be a pleasure and a bonus to finish my career as a Sun.''
When Phoenix retooled after failing to make the playoffs last spring, there was speculation that Nash would leave for a team with a better chance to win an NBA title. As tempting as that might have been, Nash said he decided to stick with what he knew.
"I didn't want to just chase something fleeting," Nash said. ``I wanted to do the best I could for this franchise and these guys.''
Nash, born in South Africa and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, was the Suns' first-round draft pick in 1996 and was traded to Dallas in 1998.
The Suns lured Nash back to Phoenix in 2004 in a celebrated effort that included a flight to Dallas by then-owner Jerry Colangelo and a host of representatives of the team. When Mavericks owner Mark Cuban balked at re-signing Nash, at age 30, at the amount he wanted, the point guard signed a five-year, $65 million contract with Phoenix.
In the last five years with Phoenix, Nash has averaged 17.1 points and 10.8 assists per game – higher than his career averages of 14.4 points and eight assists.
The New York Knicks had been mentioned as a possible destination for Nash because of his connection with coach Mike D'Antoni.
Nash had the best years of his career leading D'Antoni's high-octane offense in Phoenix. Nash was named the league's MVP in 2005 and 2006 and was a first-team all-NBA selection in 2005, 2006 and 2007. D'Antoni left for New York after the 2007-08 season.
Nash, who has an offseason residence in New York, said he thought about teaming up with D'Antoni again.
"I get stopped about 50 times a day on the street in New York: 'Are you coming to the Knicks? ' " Nash said.
Nash decided to stay put after watching general manager Steve Kerr's offseason moves.
Nash said the re-signing of forward Grant Hill was "extremely influential in my decision" to return. Nash also said he enjoys playing for coach Alvin Gentry, who replaced Terry Porter midway through last season and was retained.
"I don't have to know how good we're going to be," Nash said. ``I think we can be good.''
Suns management agrees, which is why the club decided to keep the aging guard instead of trading him or letting him walk away as a free agent.
"Steve is still one of the best point guards in the NBA, and his dedication to conditioning will keep him among the league's elite for several more seasons," Kerr said. "In many ways he embodies what our franchise is all about, and we're thrilled that he will be the leader of our team for the next three years.''
The team faces an uncertain future after failing to make the playoffs for the first time since Nash rejoined the Suns.
Phoenix seemed to be in rebuilding mode when it traded center Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland in a financially motivated deal. There have also been numerous rumours that the team is looking to trade All-Star Amare Stoudemire, who has one year left on his contract and wants the maximum in any new deal, something the budget-conscious Suns may not be willing to do.
Green Wins Canadian Open In Playoff
Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter
(July 27, 2009) After all that rain and all those delays, why not play a couple of extra holes on the best day, weatherwise, of the RBC Canadian Open?
Nathan Green made a routine par on the second playoff hole to beat Retief Goosen and win the rain-plagued $5.1 million championship at the Glen Abbey Golf Club.
In picking up his first PGA Tour victory, the resident of Toronto, Australia survived two scary trips down the par-5 18th hole and won with a basic par-4 on the 17th, the second playoff hole. He hit his drive down the middle, hit his second shot to within 12 feet and calmly two-putted; Goosen drove right, missed the green with his approach and an 8-footer to make par and salvage a tie never had a chance to go in.
It was the first playoff at a Canadian Open since Vijay Singh out-duelled Mike Weir in three holes to win the 2004 tournament.
Anthony Kim and Jason Dufner finished tied for third at 14-under 274 with thee others tied for fifth at 13-under.
Goosen missed a glorious opportunity to win on the first playoff hole when he badly pushed a five-foot putt for birdie.
Green managed to stay even despite hitting his second shot at the par-5 18th hole up a hill near the scoring tent and having to take line-of-sight relief among the spectators. He pitched through the green, ran his next shot within a couple of feet and stayed alive by making par when Goosen blew his putt.
Green's 18th in regulation was hardly a work of art and only marginally better than his first crack at the par-5 in the playoff.
After driving it in the middle of the fairway 219 yards from the hole, he pulled his approach shot over bunkers that protect the left side of the green, over the cart path next to them and onto the hill that holds spectators.
He chipped over the path and the bunker and through the green, the ball coming to rest just inside the hazard line surrounding a pond on the right side of the hole. He managed to get it up and down, sliding in a two-footer for par to set up the playoff.
Goosen got to 18-under with a dramatic eagle on the par-5 18th hole, hitting an approach shot from about 180 yards to within 15 feet of the cup.
Needing to make the putt to have practically any chance at the title or even a playoff, he calmly rolled it in to finish a final round 69.
Green scrambled around a few holes on the back nine to salvage his day.
He made a key 17-foot putt to save par at the treacherous 14th hole and then got up and down from the side of the green to save par at No. 17.
Stephen Ames of Calgary and Chris Baryla of Vernon, B.C., were the low Canadians at 12-under, two shots better than Mike Weir of Bright's Grove, Ont.
Ames was so impressed with the work of the grounds grew at Glen Abbey he volunteered to supply each of the more than 70 workers with autographed hats at the completion of the day.
"They did a helluva job just getting the golf course the way it is right now," said Ames. "It was a long and hard process but we finally got it done."
Weir made back-to-back birdies at the turn to get within five shots of the lead at that point but there was no way to make up that much ground.
"It really didn't play like a Canadian Open championship," Weir said of the waterlogged Abbey course. "It was like a dart contest out there and it's too bad because they did have the golf course in really good condition earlier in the week and Mother Nature didn't cooperate.
"It played quite a bit easier than probably the way it should have."
The story of the week will always be the weather, which put a crimp in the proceedings from the first day. Players endured delays each of the four days of the event and the Monday finish was the first at a Canadian Open since 1988.
"I can't believe how many people are unemployed in Canada," joked Ames as he surveyed the crowd around the 18th. Monday? All these people are here watching golf? I thought the economy was a lot better than the States."
Canadian Wins Bronze At Swimming Worlds
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(July 29, 2009) ROME–Victoria's Ryan Cochrane raced to the podium at the world swimming championships today while the Canadian women's water polo team has a chance to take home a gold medal.
Cochrane captured a bronze in the men's 800-metre freestyle while the Canadian women advanced to the championship game with a semi-final win over Russia.
Cochrane, a bronze medallist in the 1,500 metres at 2008 Olympics, finished third in a Canadian-record time of seven minutes 41.92 seconds, breaking the mark he set earlier in the week of 7:43.61.
"I'm really happy with the result, 800 was an event I wasn't sure I was going to swim so, I'm obviously I'm happy I swam it now," he said. "My main focus this competition was definitely the 1,500 so I'm hoping to carry this into the next couple of days and hopefully be on the podium again."
China's Zhang Lin won gold in a world-record time of 7:32.12 while Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia was second in 7:35.27.
The bronze medal is Canada's first in the pool at the world championships. The Canadian diving team pocketed three medals last week while the synchro team captured a pair.
In water polo, Canada is going for gold after edging Russia 8-7 in semi-final.
Captain Krystina Alogbo of Riviere Des Prairie, Que., scored the winning goal with 2:49 remaining and Canada staved off a late Russian comeback for the win. Alogbo's second goal of the game gave the Canadian women an 8-6 lead before Russia closed the gap to one via a penalty shot by Natalia Ryshova-Alenicheva with 39 seconds remaining.
Canada took a timeout to regroup with 29 seconds left. The Russians did the same with seven seconds remaining and almost evened the score when Ekaterina Pantyulina hit the post with five seconds remaining.
"It's huge for the team," said head coach Patrick Oaten. "When we're in Europe, every one tries to tell us that water polo is a European game and we come into the competition and everyone is talking about the Europeans, the Europeans, the Europeans, and then of course the U.S.
"So no one talks about us, no one expects us to perform. But this team has it, it's performing right now."
The Canadian women will face the United States, an 8-7 winner over Greece in the other semi, in Friday's final.
"They're a very big team, very strong team, they have a lot of experience from the past Olympics," said Oaten. "Us and the Russians have been the only two teams that have beaten them all year."
Calgary's Emily Csikos scored three goals while Dominique Perreault of Montreal, Christine Robinson of Lachine, Que., and Marina Radu of Pointe-Claire, Que., added singles for Canada (5-0-1).
The Canadians led 4-1 early in the second quarter. Russia outscored the Canadians 3-1 in the third to tie the score at 5-5 going into the fourth.
The Canadian run at the tournament is especially sweet after failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, losing 5-2 to 2004 Olympic runner-up Greece 5-2 in their final attempt to get to the Games.
Canada finished fifth in the inaugural Olympic women's water polo competition in 2000 and placed seventh in 2004.
The Canadian women have won gold at FINA World Cup events in the past.
They were second at the 1991 world championships, third in 2001 and third in 2005 when the world championship was in Montreal.
Back in the pool, Montreal's Audrey Lacroix set her second Canadian record of the week, finishing seventh in the women's 200-metre butterfly heat with a time of 2:06.67. That bettered her previous mark of 2:06.83 set at the 2007 World University Games. Lacroix earlier reclaimed the 100 butterfly Canadian mark. Mary Descenza won the preliminaries with a world-record time of 2:04.14
Later in the day, Lacroix went on to qualify for the final by finishing eighth in the semi-finals in 2:06.85.
In the men's 100-metre freestyle, co-defending champion Brent Hayden of Vancouver secured a spot in the final by finishing fifth in the semis in 47.88. Alain Bernard of France qualified first in 47.27.