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LE NEWSLETTER

January 7, 2010

I welcome you to the first newsletter of
2010 - and the beginning of a new decade!  Pretty exciting stuff especially considering all the events and news in the last decade - we truly are living in interesting and amazing times.   Still, it's been difficult at times too considering some of the talented artists we've lostIn the end, we can only live our lives with intent and purpose and hopefully with some spiritual guidance - and to celebrate all the moments ... large and small.

Let's get right to your first entertainment newsletter of 2010!
This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS

::TOP STORIES::

Heartbreaking End To Canada's Gold Medal Streak

Source:  www.thestar.com - Damien Cox

(January 06, 2010) SASKATOON, SASK. — So close to a miracle gold. One shot away.

But when you walk that tightrope too often, tempt fate too many times, at some point luck and fortune and talent veers the other way.

This, of course, wasn't the way the Great White North wanted the script to read on Tuesday night.

Canada wanted a sixth straight gold medal at a
world junior tournament that matters more in this country than any other.

But the U.S. brought its own screenwriter with a Hollywood ending in mind.

The Yanks initially came to sub-zero Saskatchewan thinking they were going to use the 2010 world juniors as a warm-up to next year's competition in Buffalo, when they'd have an older, more experienced squad.

You know, not embarrass themselves.

But about halfway through this event, maybe sometime between pounding Finland in the quarter-finals and rolling over favoured Sweden in the semis, it dawned on the Americans that just maybe they didn't have to wait at all.

So they didn't.

With Maple Leaf prospect Jerry D'Amigo setting a torrid pace with five goals in the final three games, and with Washington draft pick John Carlson playing overtime hero, the Americans almost blew the game, but ultimately escaped this frigid city with a 6-5 triumph and a set of well-deserved gold medals.

Not the result, it's fair to say, that will settle Canadian hockey nerves heading towards the Olympics in Vancouver next month.

"We played Canadian hockey," said U.S. head coach Dean Blais. "Hey, you learn from the best. It's not an accident (Canada) won five straight gold medals.

"I wanted gritty players who would block shots and work at both ends of the ice. I didn't want Fancy Dans who were cocky. I wanted guys with character. I think we had the right guys here."

Let's face it, folks. Having a different country win this event just adds to the intrigue. The result sets the stage for yet more world junior drama next year in western New York. Not only will the Amerks have many returnees from this team, they also won the world under-18 title on Monday night.

For the losers, there was no Houdini escape act as there had been on New Year's Eve, but certainly no reason for embarrassment. When you fight back from a two-goal deficit in the final three minutes, just six days after doing the very same thing against the very same team, you can lament the bumpy road travelled but not the willingness to fight back.

"You always want to win gold," said Alex Pietrangelo, named the tournament's best defenceman. "But what we did tonight, and what we did on New Year's Eve, it was remarkable. It showed incredible character."

What the Canadians lacked was goaltending anywhere good enough for a champion, although both teams pulled their starter Tuesday night, and probably enough speed to match their American opponent. On Carlson's winner, the Canadians watched in horror as the Americans broke up a rush and raced down ice on an odd-man break, with Carlson snapping a wrist shot from his off-wing past Canadian backup Martin Jones on the short side to end the night.

The U.S., after building and then blowing a 5-3 lead, deserved enormous credit for absorbing the Canadian haymaker in the final minutes of regulation before delivering a knockout blow of their own just 4:31 into OT.

"We just had to settle down," said D'Amigo, who potted the fourth American goal. "We regrouped."

D'Amigo smiled when asked if he felt any remorse for beating Canada when his professional future lies in Toronto.

"Not at all," he said. "I have my roots. (The Leafs) are a whole different story. That's the NHL."

Even another brilliant stab at heroism by Jordan Eberle wasn't enough for Canada. Eberle, an Edmonton draftee who stole victory from defeat in the semi-finals last year against Russia, scored those two goals late in the third just 74 seconds apart.

"That kid is special. We knew all about him," said gracious U.S. captain Derek Stepan. "He's going to play in the NHL for a very long time."

Usually, of course, Canada wins these 6-5 scores. It happened in the eighth game of the '72 Summit Series, the deciding match of the '87 Canada Cup and even last year over the Russians at the world juniors in Ottawa.

But not last night. The other guys had their own miracle in mind.

Music: Auto Updates, Drake, K'naan

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(January 02, 2010) TREND: The perpetual album During this past decade, the Internet consolidated its stature as the conduit through which many of us access and discover music (MySpace, YouTube, take a bow). Aside from the recent resurgence in vinyl, the physical format's days seem numbered as bricks-and-mortar retailers that sell compact discs are becoming an endangered species.

But when Neil Young finally released his Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972) earlier this year on Blu-ray, he offered a new possibility: The Perpetual Album. Included with the 10-disc multimedia set is a "virtual file cabinet" for PlayStation 3 video game consoles. It stores any future updates that Young supplies via download of what he says is a work in progress.

"In a project of this scope," Young told the Los Angeles Times, "things are always being discovered."

Since video game soundtracks have furthered many musical careers in the past decade – such as Yellowcard's on Madden NFL 2004 – a single multimedia storage area for digital tracks, EPs and videos that's separate from a computer is both practical and appealing for music fans and artists, especially those who want more control over delivering their creations.

EVENT

Canadian copyright reform legislation Although Canada signed its intention to join the World Intellectual Property Organization Treaty back in 1997, ratification of the universal copyright agreement is still going on.

There's a good bet that in the near future – and at the outset, during the next 12 months – legislation will be introduced to finally fling our country headfirst into the 21st century in terms of protecting our intellectual property in this rapidly evolving digital age.

The fact that this finally gives authorities the legal power seriously to tackle the piracy problem is almost moot. The hope is that it will finally galvanize and persuade numerous music-industry interests to sit down collectively and hammer out an agreement that will at last result in creators – recording artists and songwriters – being properly and fairly compensated and protected for their work.

The process of establishing rates has been agonizingly slow: for example, the Copyright Board of Canada decided to set licence fees for ringtones in 2006, okayed a minimum royalty ringtone rate of 6 cents for 2004-2005, and performance rights society SOCAN finally distributed a first-time retroactive paycheque to its members this past November covering the years 2003-2008.

WIPO ratification may speed up such processes, but whatever happens, the evolution of copyright laws will change life in Canada, for better and for worse, in ways we haven't begun to fathom.

PERSON

K'Naan Technology aside, it all comes down to the music. The challenge for global Next-Big-Thing contenders is to capture lightning in a bottle to the point where you're the water cooler topic of the moment.

And that depends on any number of factors, from good fortune and timing to marketing muscle and synchronicity to – oh yes, talent. Canada has a cavalcade of contestants primed for world domination, but who's going to make the biggest international splash between now and 2020?

That would be K'Naan Warsame, the Mogadishu-born, Rexdale-raised rapper who proved he was no one-trick pony with last year's release of Troubadour, his follow-up to 2005's The Dusty Foot Philosopher.

This gifted rapper is steadily building the right kind of momentum with his witty wordplay, substantial vision and indefatigable spirit, best summed up in his anthem "Wavin' Flag," a song with official World Cup approval. With Youssou N'Dour and Lenny Kravitz taking him on the road, the universality of his message may take a couple of albums to make superstar impact, but K'Naan is undeniably on his way.

Nick Krewen

PERSON

Drake Never mind the Thank Me Later title he's been bandying – Drake should call his forthcoming debut album Thank Me Much Later given how much it's been pushed back.

First promised last fall, the disc is now expected March-ish. Blame it on leg surgery, the scheduling of A-List collaborators – said to include Justin Timberlake and Andre 3000 – or savvy positioning by a crack management team that also represents Kanye West and Lil Wayne.

Not that the delay has diminished his profile, which includes Grammy nominations for Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song (for "Best I Ever Had" from his So Far Gone mixtape), and appearances on current albums by Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige.

Let's just hope the record isn't being tweaked to abstraction since the 23-year-old Toronto native is pretty much set to be Canada's first international hip-hop star. A triple-threat rapper, singer and actor, the Degrassi: The Next Generation alum born Aubrey Graham Drake could easily ride his good looks and smarts into Will Smith territory.

Acclaimed Singer-Songwriter Lhasa De Sela Dies In Montreal At 37

Source: By Jessica Murphy (CP)

(January 4, 2010) MONTREAL — Globally acclaimed singer-songwriter
Lhasa de Sela, who grew up as a semi-nomad in a travelling school bus and ultimately made Montreal her home, has died after a battle with breast cancer at age 37.

The Mexican-American musician was known for her trilingual lyrics and folk songs infused with fantasy, magic and fairy tales.

She died in Montreal on New Year's Day.

"Old stories, adventure tales - although they can be very violent and scary - they don't traumatize me the way modern stories do," de Sela told American National Public Radio in 2005, explaining how she grew up with fairy tales, and developed a lifelong love affair with their styles and imagery.

De Sela was born in 1972 in Big Indian, a small town in the Catskill mountains in New York State, to an American mother and a Mexican father.

Her early life was spent criss-crossing the U.S. and Mexico in a converted school bus. The experience instilled in the singer a wanderlust that led her around the globe.

At 13, she began singing Billie Holiday classics and Mexican tunes a cappella in San Francisco cafes, where she developed her voice and singing style.

She moved to Montreal in the early 1990s, playing in bars for about five years and developing songs for her debut album, the Spanish-language 'La Llorona'.

In a 2004 magazine interview, she recalled her early years in Montreal's watering holes.

"I had to work hard to be heard," she said. "I learned in those years how to reach people, even people who were there for beer and conversation."

Those lessons ended up garnering de Sela critical acclaim in 1998 for her debut album, which won a Juno for best global album that year.

But burned out from two years of touring - including time with the Lilith Fair festival - she fled to France where she joined her sisters' travelling circus, performing as a musician and helping assemble and dismantle the big top.

It was in Marseilles, where she later settled for a period, that the groundwork was set for her second album, 'The Living Road,' recently named by the Times of London as one of the 10 best world albums of the decade.

In her brief career, the singer was named best artist of the Americas by the BBC's World Music Awards in 2005, and she received a slew of Quebec and Canadian awards.

A multilingual artist who sang in English, French and Spanish, she collaborated with Montreal musician Patrick Watson, U.K. indie band the Tindersticks, and French performer Arthur H.

Her final album - simply titled 'Lhasa' - was released last year.

De Sela postponed her European tour and a string of concerts this past summer as she battled breast cancer.

Global Music Singer-Songwriter Lhasa Dies At 37

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 4, 2010) MONTREAL – Award-winning singer-songwriter
Lhasa de Sela has died of breast cancer in Montreal. She was 37. The artist, who lived in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, won international critical acclaim in 1998 for her debut album, "La Llorona." She usually performed and recorded under the single name Lhasa. She won a Juno for best global album in 1998 and was named best artist of the Americas by the BBC's World Music Awards in 2005. The Times of London recently named her second album, "The Living Road," one of the ten best world albums of the decade. The Mexican-American singer was born in upstate New York, and lived in Montreal since the early 1990s. Her recent struggle with breast cancer forced her to cancel her 2009 European tour.

Nominees For 41st NAACP Image Awards Announced

Source:  NAACP

[Note from Dawn: Actress
Tonya Lee Williams nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category "Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series" for her role as Dr. Olivia Winters on The Young And The Restless. The 41st NAACP IMAGE AWARDS Airs Live Friday, February 26th on FOX]  BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., (January 6, 2010) -- The 41st NAACP Image Awards nominees were announced today during a press conference at The SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills.  Taye Diggs (“Private Practice” - ABC), Michael Strahan (“Brothers” - FOX) and “FOX NFL Sunday”), Wanda Sykes (“The Wanda Sykes Show” - FOX), Kyle Massey (“That's So Raven,” “Cory in the House” - Disney Channel), Chris Massey (“Zoey 101” - Nickelodeon) and Tatyana Ali (Young and the Restless – CBS) joined NAACP Image Awards Committee Chair, Clayola Brown, and Vicangelo Bulluck, Executive Producer of the telecast, to announce the categories and nominees.  The 41st NAACP Image Awards will air live on Friday, February 26 (8:00 – 10:00 PM ET/PT Tape-Delayed) on FOX.

This year, over 1,200 entries were received. From those entries, a special committee of 300 industry professionals and NAACP leaders from across the country selected five nominees in each of the 53 categories. Any artist, manager, publicist, production company, record label, studio, network or publishing house could submit an entry to the NAACP Image Awards. The final selections are voted on by NAACP members, and winners will be announced during the live airing of the 41st NAACP Image Awards.

The ABC network leads with a total of 22 nominations, followed by NBC with 13, CBS with 12, and FOX, Lifetime and TNT with 9 each.  “Grey’s Anatomy” received 6 nominations, followed by “Everybody Hates Chris” and "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" both receiving 4 nominations, followed by "Ugly Betty" with 3.  

In the Recording Category, Columbia Records leads with 7 nominations, followed by Atlantic Records and Def Jam both with 5 nominations.  J Records/MBK Entertainment received 4, and Interscope Records with 3.  Jay-Z and Maxwell both received 5 nominations, followed by Alicia Keys with 3 and Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston, and Rihanna with 2 each.

In the Motion Picture category, Lionsgate received 13 nominations.  Warner Bros. Pictures follows with 7 nominations, Columbia Pictures with 4, and Overture Films with 3.

Returning event sponsors for the 41st NAACP Image Awards include Ford Motor Company, UAW/Chrysler, Sprint, and FedEx.

Founded on February 12, 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, and monitor equal opportunity in the public and private sectors. For more information on the NAACP IMAGE AWARDS, please visit naacpimageawards.net.

From YouTube To The World – A Teen Idol Is Born

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Andrew Ryan

(January 2, 2010) The more the music changes, the more the song remains the same.

For all the hip new sounds and digital advances, the music business will still abide a cute boy singer capable of making the young girls scream. In
Justin Bieber's case, they're screaming all over the world.

If the name doesn't sound familiar, ask the nearest teenaged girl about Justin Bieber, then wait for the dreamy look. The husky-voiced heartthrob from Stratford, Ont., is profiled on this weekend's W5 (Saturday, CTV, 7 p.m.) by news veteran Sandie Rinaldo, who found herself harking back to her own days of pop-idol worship.

“At risk of aging myself, I remember seeing the Beatleshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifat Maple Leaf Gardens, with all these screaming girls in the audience,” Rinaldo says. “And my daughters went through the same stage with the Backstreet Boys. It's interesting to watch the pop-star phenomenon all over again.”

In career terms, Bieber is in fifth gear and shifting upward. His debut CD, My World (Part 1), soared to the top position on Canadian charts upon release last year; in the United States, it was the biggest release of the year from a new artist. Last night, Bieber was part of the talent line-up on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest – and in fairly lofty company alongside Jennifer Lopez and the Black Eyed Peashttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif.

Though still three months shy of his 16th birthday, Bieber is on every young female's must-watch list. An appearance at a Long Island, N.Y., mall in November turned into a near-riot, with four people taken to hospital. As a live performer, he's toured with Usher and Taylor Swift. Rinaldo sat down with Bieber during a brief visit home last fall and came away impressed.

“He's pretty grounded for a 15-year-old kid,” she says. “He's got the right attitude and he wants to have it all and do it all. Half of it is the confidence that comes with being young.”

One notable difference: Whereas Paul Anka and René Simard once enjoyed brief teen-idol success outside Canada, Bieber has already gone global.

Quaintly titled “Leave it to Bieber,” the W5 report tracks the teen sensation's meteoric rise, which began when hip-hip producer Scooter Braun stumbled on a YouTube video of Bieber busking in Stratford. “I wanted to find a kid who could do songs like Michael Jackson when he was a kid,” Braun says in the program.

In short order, Braun flew Bieber and his mother Pattie to Atlanta – neither had ever been on a plane before – and one week later he was auditioning for Usher. At one point, Usher and Justin Timberlake were in a bidding war to sign him to their respective labels. Usher won out and appears in the video for Bieber's breakout single One Time , which has received more than 100 million views on YouTube.

“His success certainly speaks to the power of the Internet,” Rinaldo says. “The entire approach to marketing and promoting artists has shifted. Like Susan Boyle, the power of his message reached beyond his background.”

At the same time, Bieber seems very mature. Rinaldo accompanies the teen to his old busking location outside the Stratford Shakespeare Festival's Avon Theatre and to his former high school (he now travels with a tutor), where Bieber proudly introduces her to his two favourite teachers. “He has no fear,” one of them observes.

An appearance at a Kitchener radio station draws a throng of female fans. When one brings the ravenous Bieber a Big Mac, the fast food is promptly confiscated by mom. “It's great he's so blessed, but I try to keep it balanced,” she says.

The kid is hot now, but can it last? Canadian Idol judge and artist manager Jake Gold offers his succinct assessment of Bieber: “When you're a young artist, when you're surrounded by the idol makers, it's hard to see the talent through the marketing ... I think the jury is still out.”

The coda to the Bieber profile reaffirms the long-known reality that fame can be fleeting in the music business. For every Michael Jackson, there are dozens of Leif Garretts and David Cassidys. Rinaldo believes Bieber's career longevity hinges on his ability to evolve along with his audience.

“It's a tough business that eats its young,” she says. “Your appearance changes, your voice changes, tastes change. It's entirely up to him to determine if he has staying power. His fans will decide whether they want to come along for the ride.”

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Grand Bahama Keeps Its Secrets Well-Buried

Source: www.thestar.com - Carol Perehudoff

(November 28, 2009) Grand Bahama–The mangrove branches are closing in, forming a low leafy tunnel. Below me, Gold Rock Creek is a translucent aquamarine – it's so clear that if there were any pirate treasure down there, I'd spot it.

Up ahead, the winding waterway curves abruptly. The couple in the kayak ahead steers into the trees. As I pass, they point out a crab on a branch. I keep in mind what Chad, our perpetually-smiling guide had advised back at the entrance to Lucayan National Park.

"If a crab falls on your head it's better than being in the water with all his friends. It's no reason to jump out of the kayak."

I'm still debating this when the creek opens up and we're at the mouth of the Atlantic. It looks more like the Caribbean to me: turquoise water ruffled by a warm salty wind, and so atmospheric that scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 were shot here.

I'm much happier envisioning Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp running shirtless on the sand than picturing some genuine rotted-teeth-and-eye-patch buccaneers, but between 1690 and 1720 the Bahamas were pirate central. The island of New Providence was their capital, but Grand Bahama, 88 kilometres from Florida and the fourth-largest Bahamian island out of some 700 in the archipelago, had a small share of pirating, too.

"They specialized in shipwrecking here," Chad says. "Over at West End."

The fine art of shipwrecking, I learn, entails shining lights to lure unsuspecting ships onto the shoals. I hadn't realized that there were sub-genres in the pirating world, but it's always nice to get an island education. My education continues when we visit two of the park's caves, part of one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world.

"Our island is like a big piece of cheese with holes in it," Chad says.

In contrast to Ben's Cave, which feels light and airy with vines trailing down from the rim, Burial Mound Cave is as dark and dour as a tomb. Chad points to a barely discernible passageway that disappears into the watery depths. When underwater explorers followed it they discovered a chamber where six skeletons of Lucayan Indians, the island's earliest settlers, were found buried under rocks.

"These are the only remains of Lucayans ever found on the island."

Chad shakes his head.

"I find that fact real shocking. That's why people think there must be other unexplored caves with other burials."

These aren't the island's only mysterious finds. The next day, tracking down whispers of pirate booty, I travel west through the low-lying green terrain of the island to Paradise Cove, a small resort overlooking the coral islands of Deadman's Reef.

I find the Cove's athletic-looking owner, Barry Smith, on the beach and bombard him with questions. "Is it true you found old coins here? Gold? Spanish doubloons?"

He seems to find my enthusiasm amusing. "Not gold, silver. Handmade Scandinavian coins."

They could date back as far as the 1400s, and Smith attributes their sudden appearance to the destruction of Hurricane Wilma which hit the island in 2005.

"You have to understand that my beach went out 60 more feet before the hurricane." He points to a spot in the sand.

"I found them here and out in the rocks in the water."

I'm not sure if it's polite to suddenly start digging into someone's property, but greed overcomes me so I plop down and start burrowing. Barry laughs.

"If you find something in that little hole it'll be like finding a needle in a haystack."

Hey, it's worth a try. I'm elbow-length deep, pulling out seaweed when Barry reaches in.

"Here's something."

Success! I reach up to grab my bounty, then disgusted, leap back. That's not Viking silver, it's a worm. My treasure hunting days are over.

I cheer up when Barry brings out two coins from his collection. They're dark and battered, with the faint raised image of a castle.

"This is like holding history," I say, cupping a coin in my palm.

How did it get here, I wonder? Shipwreck? Buried pirate treasure?

We'll likely never know, just as we may never find the remains of other Lucayans.

When it comes to the past, Grand Bahama likes to keep its secrets close to its chest.

Carol Perehudoff is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her trip was subsidized by Bahamas tourism ministry.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Toronto's Transit Of Venues (Or, Weep Not For The Bop)

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(January 03, 2010) On Queen St. W., the concert scene is changing, and it's leaving some fretful. Hard-rock hangout the Big Bop – home to early shows by Alexisonfire and Billy Talent, among others – is closing at the end of the month, and a few blocks to the east, the Cameron House – site of early gigs by Blue Rodeo, Ron Sexsmith and more – is up for sale, with its future uncertain.

But it was always this way; with a few exceptions, good concert venues typically have a golden age, make a few memories – and then lose their backers, their audience or possibly their liquor licence. The city sees bits of its musical history disappear every year in this way. The Rural Alberta Advantage, 2009's rising stars, cut their teeth at the now-closed Winchester; the Constantines played their first local show at now-gone Ted's Wrecking Yard; Ultrasound, a Queen St. W. venue that was a sentimental favourite of the Barenaked Ladies and the Rheostatics, is now a spa; and much more.

On this page, veteran rock writer Nick Krewen takes a tour through defunct Toronto concert venue history – from the '60s in Yorkville, to the subsequent decades when the action was mostly around Yonge St., to the rise and apparent decline of Queen St. W. There are also newer concert spots at the Garrison (on Dundas St. W.) and Studio BLR (on Lower Sherbourne St.) that are drawing attention; check them out but know that you'll probably be saying goodbye to them, too, someday.

THE RIVERBOAT
Location: 134 Yorkville Ave.
Heyday: 1964-1973
Known for: A breeding ground for folk and blues music's most influential talents, this sizeable coffeehouse earned a global rep during its hot streak. Oh yeah, and people would actually be polite enough to stay quiet and listen to the music.
Notable headliners: Gordon Lightfoot, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, John Lee Hooker.
Closed: 1978

2010's People To Watch: Jon Brooks, Musician

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(January 03, 2010) Great songwriters, like the best artists in any discipline, defy convention and confound those who seek comparisons.

Toronto's
Jon Brooks stands among an exalted few in the enduring Canadian song tradition – Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Fred Eaglesmith, Bruce Cockburn – as a lyricist, composer and performer with a fierce commitment to his craft and his vision.

He says he's proud to call himself a folksinger at a time when that particular f-word has ceased to have much meaning to armies of wannabe artists seeking little more than ordinary fame and glory.

For Brooks, 41, who wandered into Bosnia-Herzegovina in the late 1990s and was virtually struck dumb by the misery and senseless inhumanity he witnessed there, the stakes are much higher.

For several years the King City native put away his guitar and turned his back on music. He wrote poetry and essays until music found him again in 2006. That year he released No Mean City, a searing evocation of spiritual atrophy.

The follow-up, Ours and the Shepherds, examined the Canadian experience of war from 1914 to the present through the eyes of imaginary characters or ones drawn from published accounts. Neither cries of protest nor patriotic hoopla, these songs are postmodern dispatches, a series of dispassionate and unconnected snapshots of the warrior psyche under pressure.

Ours and the Shepherds earned Brooks a best-songwriter nomination at the 2007 Canadian Folk Music Awards, an achievement repeated this year with his third album, Moth Nor Rust, a call to arms, in the best Pete Seeger spirit, to those weighed down in an uncaring and troubled world.

Brooks performs alone, with his Taylor jumbo guitar and a couple of minimal effects pedals, content to let his words and tunes convey his meaning. When he does talk on stage – in the past two years he has appeared at a dozen major North American festivals and tours Canada's folk circuit relentlessly – it's in the voice of a humble troubadour.

"The most important things in a song are learned through experience, and those experiences take listeners on a trip to places they might never have known" says Brooks, who's married to CBC employee Sandra Alves.

Toronto-based Scottish expat folksinger Enoch Kent, a festival favourite on both sides of the Atlantic and a noble survivor of the 1960s British folk revival, believes Brooks is the real deal. "Jon Brooks," he says, "is the kind of writer who makes me think."

This year, Brooks plans to release his fourth CD, Delicate Cages, with songs about different kinds of imprisonment in the modern world. He'll be touring the Maritimes in the spring, Western Canada in the fall, and doing the summer festival circuit, all the while collecting stories for more artful songs.

Classical Music: Heirs, Clubs, Luminato

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(January 02, 2010) EVENT: Luminato grows Torontonians already know that this is Culture City. But how to cement these cultural riches in the world's imagination? How to foster the kind of energy that nurtures outside-the-box creativity? We already have World Stage, the Fringe, Summerworks, TIFF and Toronto Summer Music festivals to grace the calendar. We don't need more festivals. We need to make those we already have bigger and more far-reaching in their ambitions.

Luckily, the city already has the makings of something special in Luminato.

It's safe to hope that, as it matures, Luminato will better integrate the classical and popular sides of its performance program. The early-June festival hits the city at the end of the traditional music season, a time when singers, instrumentalists and artistic directors have spent much of their yearly capital of energy and creativity. But a bit more coordination between concert and opera presenters, and the festival's little-bit-of-this-little-bit-of-that programming could gain critical mass.

TREND

Lounge-bound "serious" music Londoner Gabriel Prokofiev and his Nonclassical record label have been promoting a convergence of the avant-pop and serious new music for several years by hosting unusual concerts in clubs and other non-traditional venues. New Yorkers regularly flock to the swish Poisson Rouge lounge to hear unusual concerts. Berliners wait for the next surprise email invite to the peripatetic Yellow Lounge concert series that places serious classical musicians in hip, clublike venues.

Toronto can resist this tempting trend for only so long. Look for more genre-bending, boundary-crossing concerts and opera presentations in Toronto over the coming decade, shredding and shedding the rigid stuffing of the traditional concert hall, and connecting a new generation to the joys of "serious" music.

There are many challenges related to presenting classical music in a club. But we must remind ourselves that the reverent silence of the concert hall is a Victorian creation. Perhaps it's time everyone realized that cutting loose, done with care, can add to the experience, not take away from it.

PERSON

Peter Oundjian's (stirring) successor I'm sticking my neck out in declaring that the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is going to do something pretty exciting when it replaces current music director Peter Oundjian. Oundjian, who just completed his first five years with the orchestra, has a contract to 2012. Although he's done an amazing job of restoring musicians' morale, connecting with audiences and putting the TSO on its most solid musical footing since the 1980s, it will be time for a change.

Now that the organization is also financially stable, it will be able to consider more concerts in the community, connecting classical music with people who would only otherwise hear it in a TV commercial or Bugs Bunny cartoon. It will also need to reach out more through its programming to the cultural diversity of its home metropolis.

The TSO has a tradition of alternating steady-and-sure leadership with a dash of youthful spice, so let's assume that our next symphony leader will be a zesty, charismatic, bold, 28-year-old with an eye to musical fireworks and impressing a city that includes every cultural background on Earth.

Thriller Video Declared U.S. Treasure

Source: www.thestar.com

(December 31, 2009) Michael Jackson's Thriller video, with that unforgettable graveyard dance, will rest among the treasures in the world's largest archive of film, TV and sound recordings.

The 1983 music video directed by John Landis, though still the subject of lawsuits over profits, was one of 25 films to be inducted Wednesday for preservation in the 2009 National Film Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress. It's the first music video named to the registry.

"Because of the way the recording industry is evolving and changing, we thought it would be good to go back to the development of an earlier seismic shift, which was the development of the music video," said Steve Leggett, co-ordinator of the National Film Preservation Board.

The library works with film archives and movie studios to ensure original copies are kept safe. It also acquires a copy for preservation in its own vaults among millions of other recordings at the Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Virginia.

Congress established the registry in 1989, which now totals 525 films. They are selected not as the "best" American films but for their importance to U.S. culture.

The library selects films that are "culturally, historically or esthetically" significant after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and consulting with the National Film Preservation Board.

Colin James Can't Be Pigeon-Holed

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(January 4, 2010)
The new album from the singer-guitarist Colin James is Rooftops and Satellites, which might be the two places from which you'll hear its songs, unless you purchase it. The disc, co-written with former Junkhouse man Tom Wilson, features the Vancouver-based Juno winner's catchiest material in years. But, more and more, terrestrial radio resists new rock (unless from Nickelback), preferring "classic" instead.

Actually, even satellite radio, with its myriad of stations and specialized formats, might have trouble finding a slot for an album that isn't old or alternative, and more "bluesy" than straight-up blues. So, James, the 45-year-old former prodigy from the Prairies, takes to shouting from rooftops, as it were - hitting the road for a national tour that kicks off Friday in Cranbrook, B.C.

You've worked in a variety of styles over the years, from brash blues rock to soul to stripped-down rural acoustic to the jump-and-jive Little Big Band records. How does the musical dexterity work within your live shows?

Every album is different. Fuse, from 2000, for example, gave me some rock songs for my show that otherwise I wouldn't have. I'm finding the same thing with this new record.

How has coming up with a nightly set list changed over the years?

I remember the early days. We had five songs and the rest was filler.

And we were doing huge shows, opening up for Keith Richards. I remember thinking, "I need some songs." I have them now. I mean, the Little Big Band book alone now is at 75 or 80 songs.

You describe Man's Gotta be a Stone, off the new album, as a "Buddhist boogie." What do you mean by that?

With boogies, you have typical lyrics, about black magic women or whatever - macho stuff. We tried to approach it like Spirit in the Sky, with lyrics that are a little more ambiguous, and about life.

What about John Lee Hooker moaning "boom boom boom boom" or ZZ Top yelling "haw haw haw haw." Not philosophical enough for you?

That's just it, right? Ha! Actually, there was a little talk that I ripped off ZZ Top on that song. But you can't help but play a boogie that touches on ZZ and, mostly, John Lee Hooker. There's really no way around it.

Elsewhere you sing "There's something on your radio, comin' in like last call." But with today's radio, it's not the same as when you first started in the eighties. Is the romance with the dial over?

It's hard. Vancouver's Classic Rock 101 went down - no more new material on that station. Q107 in Toronto will not play new material either. For me it's harsh, because they're the one place I could look forward to getting some play on.

What about a new song like Lost Again? To my ears, it's made for country radio.

When I first wrote it, I thought it was a hit. But I could never be country enough to make that fly.

Oh, I don't know. Bon Jovi made the crossover.

Yeah, I guess they did. And I could see Lost Again in that way. But when I recorded it, I tried to do everything I could to take the country out of it. But it's just kind of inherent in the delivery of the lines.

How about selling it to Blue Rodeo, then?

Well, for the sake of the paycheque, I think Rascal Flatts.

Colin James's Canadian tour hits 23 cities, including stops in Vancouver (Jan. 13), Toronto (Jan. 26) and Halifax (Feb. 5 and 6).

Meet New Girl Group Shiikane (Video)

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(December 31, 2009) *I first saw ShiiKane at the Vocal Zones Talk of The Town Showcase at The Grove in South London in August 2009.

My favourite act of the night was a girl group made up of twins ShayShay and Princess Annamay and their younger sister Baby K. Fresh from recording a video in the States, they stood out with a TLC/Run DMC B girl image.

Their style is inspired by their late mother Anthonia ‘Mama A’ who was a glamorous and beautiful woman, and they try to personify this visually.

They also draw inspiration from Marilyn Monroe, David Bowie, Gwen Stefani, Jimmy Hendrix, Kelis, the 20s, 50s, 80s, technology, music, and the streets of East London from where they hail.

Fusing all of these influences they sweetly sang infectious gems including Bamboo Dey Chop (Say Goodbye). Versatile, they are influenced by R&B, soul, rock, indie and gospel music; it’s telling that they won’t be pigeon holed.

They stirred emotions when they sang Mama’s Song dedicated to their Nigerian mother who died suddenly in 2008. Members of the group were clearly upset after the performance, yet their faith in God and talent shone through.

Their personal story will only further endear them to fans. Currently Shiikane are back in Atlanta where they moved to in 2007, performing at Club Crucila (owned by T.I.) and the Royal Peacock.

Though they didn’t get past the 2007 X Factor Bootcamp, they are clearly real stars. Watch out for them in 2010, they’re going to shine brightly!

Bamboo Dey Chop (Say Goodbye) is out now. Watch the video, which was shot in LA by Director Taj Mahal here:

For more on Shiikane visit:

www.myspace.com/shiikane or www.youtube.com/shiikane or www.twitter.com/shiikane

The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is compiled by Fiona McKinson. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her at info@thetalentshow.co.uk.

Emily Osment: Not Your Average Girl

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(January 06, 2010) Vancouver — WHO: As Lilly Truscott/Lola Luftnagle on Disney's Hannah Montana, Emily Osment plays sidekick to BFF Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus). As Gerti Giggles in the second and third Spy Kids movies, she battles mad scientists and evil video game characters (respectively) to help save the day. As little sister to Haley Joel, she no doubt grew up with ubiquitous I see dead people references. Osment, 17, sings too. She's about to hit the road for a four-city Canadian tour to promote her debut EP, All The Right Wrongs.

BREAKOUT

Osment was 13 and already a Spy Kid when she auditioned for the role of Lilly, but Disney made her jump through hoops to ensure she was right for the part. Four callbacks later, she got the job that has made her a tween sensation. How has it changed her life? "It's made me a lot busier, that's for sure," she said during a telephone interview - while doing laundry - at her L.A. home.

TUNELIGHTING

When Osment decided that on top of acting, she wanted to record an album and write (or at least co-write) her own material, she hauled out a giant binder of songs she'd jotted down over the years. They included things she wrote when she was very young "about really lame things like trees." But her subject matter progressed to the stuff of teen angst with titles like Average Girl (as if) and I Hate the Homecoming Queen.

TRUE FRIEND

Despite spending long days on set with pop sensation Miley Cyrus (and dad Billy Ray), Osment says she didn't ask them for any advice before embarking on her own musical career. In fact, she didn't even tell them what she was up to. "I never talked to [Miley] about it, I never talked to anybody on Hannah Montana. I kept it to myself," she says. "I want this to be purely me ... I want to make this road my own."

To prepare for going out on the road, she went to concerts - including shows by John Mayer and Jewel - and studied the musicians' interaction with the audience.

IF YOU GO

And you're older than, say, 16, take a deep breath and consider earplugs. This high energy brand of pop/rock and even punk (imagine a Disneyfied Avril Lavigne) is clearly meant for Osment's fan base - teenage ears. Reluctant moms (and other chaperones) can expect to be surrounded by young, screaming girls who are just, like, oh my God, so excited about seeing Lilly Truscott in the flesh. (However Osment is also promising to test out some new material which she says has a more mature sound.)

BIG PLANS

Osment is going to college next year - majoring in English or Psychology, she thinks. But she's not giving up her day job(s). She says she will stick with Hannah Montana to the end and will also continue to make music. "I plan on making a second, third, fifth, 100th record. ... I love music and I love acting and I want to do it forever."

Emily Osment (with Jesse Labelle) plays the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey, B.C., Thursday night, the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga on Jan. 9, the Empire Theatre in Belleville, Ont., on Jan. 10 and Centrepointe Theatre in Ottawa on Jan. 11.  

MUSIC TIDBITS

‘An Evening With Ben Vereen’ In Jersey

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(December 31, 2009) *After performing his one-man show throughout the United States and Europe, Tony Award-winning actor, singer and dancer Ben Vereen will bring the production to the East Coast in 2010. An Evening with Ben Vereen will take place at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, on Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. The show combines “a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra, and a very special tribute to Sammy Davis Jr,” according to Playbill News. The evening includes such popular songs such as “Defying Gravity,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “Something’s Coming” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” Tickets at $50 and $65 are available by visiting www.mccarter.org; or in person at 91 University Place, Princeton.

Net Minder Bono

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 4, 2010) I
rish rock star Bono called Sunday for tougher controls over the spread of intellectual property on the Internet, arguing that file stealing and sharing hurt creators of cultural products.  Music producer Demetrius Lee Stewart, known as Shawty Redd, who has worked with Young Jeezy, Snoop Dogg and other major artists, is being held in a suburban Atlanta jail on a charge of murdering a 35-year-old man in a shooting. The Academy Award-winning songwriter of "You Light Up My Life" has ended his six-figure fight with a former fiancée he accused of conning him out of cash and pricey gifts by hiding the fact that she was already married. Settlement terms weren't specified. Joseph Brooks, 71, is awaiting trial on charges of sexual assaulting 11 women in his New York home. Conservative U.S. radio host Rush Limbaugh, 58, said on Friday doctors had found nothing wrong with him after he was hospitalized last week in Hawaii with sharp chest pains.

Foxx's 'Blame It' Tops BET's Best Videos of 2009

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 4, 2010)
*After 12-consecutive hours of music, it's official.  "Notarized," BET's annual video countdown special of the year, reveals that Jamie Foxx's video for his hit single "Blame It," featuring T-Pain, is its top video of 2009.  It was followed at No. 2 by "Turnin Me On" by Keri Hilson featuring Lil Wayne, "Birthday Sex," from Jeremih at No. 3, "Knock You Down" by Hilson featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo in fourth place, and "Turn My Swagg On" from Soulja Boy Tellem at No. 5. View the entire list of 100 here: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/BET-Unveils-the-Best-100-prnews-3632654732.html?x=0&.v=1  

Soul Dance House Diva Angie Brown Returns With New Single

Source: Energise Records

(January 05, 2010) New York, NY -- Soul Dance house Diva Angie Brown returned on Monday, the  4th January, with a brand new single called "I'm Not Listening Anymore" written by Tony Power.  It's available from Energise Records on CD, and to download from all download sites. Power, who has written tracks for some of the well know singers in different fields of music, more recently saw great Sonia's 20th Anniversary single Fool for love. Tony has also written a brand new album which will be released in the spring of 2010 which will includes an amazing group of artists from different eras of music such as Eurovision winner Anne Marie David, Hannah Jones, Evelyn Thomas, Nicki French, Sonia, Angie Brown, Jacquii Cann, Angie Gold and Kelly Wilde to name a few.

:FILM NEWS::

Michael Cera : The Inside Scoop On The Outsider Dude

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(January 4, 2010)
When he first began acting at age nine, Michael Cera figures he auditioned for at least 100 commercials - only to land two. One was a 30-second spot for Tim Horton's. The other involved a poke for the Pillsbury Doughboy.

But that was a lifetime ago.

Now 21, the Brampton, Ont.-bred native is a cause célèbre of quirky comedies, with films such as Superbad, Juno, and Miguel Arteta's upcoming Youth in Revolt (based on the best-selling novels by C.D. Payne) under his belt.

A devotee of Payne's writing, Cera signed on to play the dual-role of Nick Twisp and his alter-ego Francois Dillinger in early 2008. He'd read the books as a kid, and became fixated with novels that didn't condescend to a teen audience. As soon as he learned Arteta (The Good Girl, Chuck & Buck) was on board, Cera once again began preparing for the role of a quintessential outsider.

In the flesh, Cera is every bit the awkward, nerdy intellect he projects on the big screen. Pale-skinned, with long, delicate hands, he speaks haltingly, rarely responding to questions with more than a single sentence. Sometimes, merely a word. It makes for a hard interview, but in spite of his gawkiness (or perhaps because of it), one can't help but root for this guy who clearly is bemused - and a bit embarrassed - by his own stardom.

In Youth in Revolt, Cera is once again the "un-stud," the dude who doesn't fit in, and is desperate to get the girl (played by newcomer Portia Doubleday), but he insists he doesn't feel typecast as the geek next door. "I've made all my decisions, and I've chosen every role I've played," says Cera, who first garnered major critical acclaim for his portrayal of George-Michael Bluth in the Emmy-winning Fox series Arrested Development, currently in the works as a feature film.

"So I don't feel pigeonholed. The truth is I've chosen most of the subjects I've done based on the directors who are attached. If I trust and admire them, then I'm typically interested in the part.

"Miguel is amazing at the getting the best out of people because he listens to everyone and is respectful," Cera, continues, on a rare verbal roll. "You really put your heart into it when you feel what you're doing is appreciated. And that what you're doing is actually making a difference. Miguel set the tone on this set and created a very nurturing, creative environment where everyone felt comfortable. I loved working with him because he trusts his instincts. And will take risks."

Case in point: Arteta's decision to cast Doubleday as Cera's love interest. A student in her freshman year of college with limited acting experience, Arteta picked the 21-year-old California native to be the beautiful, free spirit Sheeni Saunders, who dares Nick to break the rules and abandon his dull, predictable life.

For her part, Doubleday says in an interview: "I was really intimidated by this project, and I e-mailed Miguel relentlessly before we started, asking him how he wanted me to approach Sheeni, who has so many layers in her personality. I just remember him saying, 'Portia, just trust your instincts.' And after a couple of days, I realized he couldn't have said anything more wonderful than that.

"Between Miguel and Michael, I just learned so much. Both of them are like walking film encyclopedias," adds Doubleday, who after the interview was hopping a plane back to the sunshine state, to write her college psychology test. "I'm the same age as Michael, but he's like a 40-year-old guy in a 21-year-old body .... I'm a very animated person and [on set,] Miguel was constantly screaming, 'Eyebrows! Eyebrows! Tone down the eyebrows!" she laughs. "With Michael, there is a simplicity to his work. He taught me less is more. And I think that is part of the reason he has been so successful because, for him, it's internal. You kind of see what's going on behind the eyes. In order to make Nick and Sheeni compatible I had to learn how to pull back."

Arteta transformed rural Michigan into northern California to tell the story of Nick, a sex-obsessed teen who falls hopelessly in love with Sheeni while on a family vacation in a trailer park. Inspired by Sheeni's rebellious streak, Nick develops an alter-ego, Francois, an ascot-wearing, French man in short, white pants who will stop at nothing to get the girl. Besides Cera and Doubleday, the cast also includes Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Mary Kay Place, M. Emmet Walsh, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, Ari Graynor, and Jonathan B. Wright.

Cera says he relished the opportunity to portray a troublemaker. "I didn't want to play him with an obviously French accent. We studied French new wave movies to figure out his hair," says Cera of the character who smokes and delights in vandalizing public property. "But I loved the idea of fleshing out his naughtiness."

When he's back in Toronto (he recently spent several months in the city filming Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, an upcoming film based on the Oni Press graphic novel), Cera says he visits family who now live in Caledon and old school friends. "We don't talk about [my acting career] that much," he says. "My friends will ask me a lot of questions about other actors. Not that much about me. I think they find my life kind of bizarre. I know if I had a friend doing this stuff, I would think it was weird."

Portia Doubleday: Michael Cera's Transformer

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 06, 2010) There's a new girl in town and she's something special.

Her name is
Portia Doubleday and after her first feature film, Youth In Revolt, opens this Friday, a lot of people will likely leave the movie theatre asking, "Who is she?"

The offbeat teen comedy stars Michael Cera as Nick Twisp, an introverted, intellectual, slyly humorous young man whose life is changed when he meets Sheeni Saunders, the role Doubleday plays.

Sheeni is definitely a piece of work. A madly imaginative girl who lives for all things French and wishes she were in a Godard movie being made love to by Jean-Paul Belmondo, she actually has the dreariest life with a stoner brother and parents who are religious fanatics.

So when she sets eyes on young Twisp, she sees someone she can manipulate and transform to provide her with a way out of her life.

"Man, she's cool! I loved her!" Doubleday enthused in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival in September. "She has so many colours. She's very refined, yet completely blunt. She'll say anything that's on her mind, especially with Nick, but I also loved her hidden vulnerability."

There's a burbling mountain spring quality about Doubleday, with almost everything she says seeming to have popped straight from her mind into her mouth without any censorship. It might be because she's only 21, but more likely it's because, as she shyly confesses, "This is one of the very first interviews I've ever done."

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Portia Doubleday is her real name. Her parents are Christina Hart and Frank Doubleday.

"They were both crazy, crazy actors, although Dad is out of the business now and Mom just does theatre. My dad was the crazy guy in Escape From New York, and my mom was in things like Happy Days and Helter Skelter."

Before you can even comment on the difference in the projects bookending her mother's career, Doubleday is off again. “Because I grew up in a film family (her older sister Kaitlin is a vet of projects like Catch Me If You Can and Cavemen), I never asked any questions about the business. It was what my parents and my sister did for a living, and kids are never curious about those things."

Except for a few commercials and a small part in The Mummy, Doubleday was really quite unprepared for what she stumbled into.

"In my heart and soul, I always knew that I wanted to be in show business," she admits, "but I never thought it would just smack me in the face one afternoon. I wasn't technically prepared. I wanted to go study in London and New York first."

But she didn't get the chance. Fate came knocking twice, although the first call was a bit of a false start.

She was cast in the pilot of the hotter than hot Diablo Cody-created TV series The United States of Tara as Brie, the 15-year-old daughter of Toni Collette's character.

But after the pilot was finished, the creative team decided to replace Doubleday.

"I was in love with the character I played," she said, a bit wistfully, "but they were looking for a darker take on it and they kinda ..." For once, a sentence dribbles away rather than ending with a snap.

"They were really nice and met with me and told me why I was being replaced. They said I was good, but not what they needed." A pause. "I don't know why, but I guess some things don't work out."

So she wasn't all that optimistic when she auditioned for Youth in Revolt, opposite another hot property, Michael Cera.

"I tried not to want this one too much, although I really felt I was right for the part and thought Michael and I clicked in our audition. But after you get hurt once, you don't let yourself hope too much."

This time, everything worked out and she loved acting with Cera. "I laughed at him the first time he appeared as his sexy other self, Francois, but by the end of the film I kinda had a crush on him."

Ever the realist, Doubleday wasn't waiting for stardom but went right back to school. "I've got an exam in two days and I've got to go study for it after this interview."

But as she headed out the door, she shook her head, still not sure how real the whole experience is.

"Wow, it's been a wild ride!"

Actor Vince Vaughn Marries Calgary Real Estate Agent Kyla Weber

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(January 06, 2010) Kyla Weber, an attractive brunette from a small town in Calgary's foothills, quietly wed Hollywood superstar Vince Vaughn last weekend in a low-key ceremony near the actor's Chicago home.

The couple - who have dated almost two years but studiously avoided media attention - invited a small number of friends and family to watch them exchange their vows. News reports said about 65 people attended a hush-hush ceremony at Lake Forest Academy just outside the Windy City.

Weber, who is still a residential real-estate agent with Royal LePage in Calgary, is, by all reports, a down-to-earth, extremely private 31-year-old, who met the star of Swingers, Wedding Crashers and Couple's Retreat while both attended the Los Angeles wedding of a mutual friend. Weber, reached on her phone in Los Angeles, characteristically declined to comment, saying "I'd rather not take the call. But thanks for calling. Bye-bye."

A receptionist at Calgary's Royal LePage office on Elbow Drive also stayed mum, adding that while Weber is still an agent with the company, they are in the dark about her future plans. "I really haven't seen her. We haven't heard anything. So we really don't have a clue what's going on."

A phone call to the Weber family farm in Okotoks was also not returned yesterday.

While promoting his latest comedy, Couple's Retreat, Vaughn said he initially wooed Weber (who has two younger brothers) through phone calls and e-mail. He proposed last Valentine's Day, a date he told Ellen DeGeneres he picked because he figured "this is not a ship to be missed because I will not forget this date."

The 39-year-old actor previously dated Jennifer Aniston, his co-star in The Break-Up. That couple split in 2006.

A few months ago, the former swinging bachelor said in interviews that he was finally ready to settle down. "It's the first time that I really want to have kids. She is not an actress. She's a civilian, which is good."  

Avatar Rules Global Box Office

Source: www.globeandmail.com - David Germain, The Associated Press

(January 03, 2010) Los Angeles —James Cameron's science-fiction epic Avatar had another stellar weekend with $68.3-million in the North America, shooting past $1 billion worldwide, only the fifth movie ever to hit that mark.

No. 1 for the third-consecutive weekend, 20th Century Fox'sAvatar raised its North American total to $352.1-million after just 17 days. The film added $133-million overseas to lift its international haul to $670-million, for a worldwide gross of $1.02-billion.

Avatar opened two weekends earlier with $77-million, a strong start but far below dozens of other blockbusters that debuted as high as $158-million. But business for other blockbusters usually tumbles in following weekends, while Avatar revenues barely dropped over the busy Christmas and New Year's weekends.

“It's like a runaway freight train. It just keeps doing business,” said Fox distribution executive Bert Livingston. “Here's what's happening: I think everybody has to see Avatar once. Even people who don't normally go to the movies, they've heard about it and are saying, ‘I have to see it.' Then there's those people seeing it multiple times.”

Avatar was Cameron's first film since 1997's Titanic , the biggest modern blockbuster with $1.8-billion worldwide.

Cameron now is the only filmmaker to direct two movies that have topped $1-billion. Along with Titanic , the others are The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King at $1.13-billion, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest at $1.06-billion and The Dark Knight at a fraction over $1-billion, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.

With Avatar closing in on No. 2 film The Return of the King , Cameron is in striking distance of having the two top-grossing movies globally.

Avatar has had a price advantage over those other billion-dollar movies. About 75 per cent of its domestic business has come from theatres showing it in digital 3-D presentation, those tickets typically costing a few dollars more than admissions for the 2-D version.

Finishing at No. 2 for the weekend was Robert Downey Jr.'scrime caper Sherlock Holmes with $38.4-million. The Warner Bros. film lifted its domestic total to $140.7-million after 10 days in theatres.

In third place was 20th Century Fox's family tale Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel with $36.6-million. It raised its 10-day total to $157.3-million.

The top-three movies, along with solid holdovers that included Universal's It's Complicated at No. 4 with $18.7-million, steered Hollywood to a big start to 2010 after a year of record revenue.

Hollywood finished 2009 with $10.6-billion domestically, easily surpassing the previous record of $9.7-billion in 2007, according to Hollywood.com.

Factoring in today's higher admission prices, the year was strong but not a modern record-breaker for number of tickets sold. According to Hollywood.com, domestic admissions came in at 1.42-billion in 2009, the most in the last five years, though well below the modern record of 1.6 billion in 2002.

In Hollywood's glory years of the 1930s and '40s, before television eroded the movie audience, estimated movie attendance ran as high as 4 billion some years.

Studios began 2010 with a head start over last year. Overall revenues came in at $230 million, up 50 per cent from New Year's weekend in 2009, when Marley & Me was No. 1 with $24.3-million.

Like Titanic 12 years ago, Avatar has fairly clear sailing now that the holidays are over. Hollywood is entering a slow season, when fewer big movies arrive and competition is lighter.

Titanic lingered as the No. 1 film for months leading up to the Academy Awards, where it won 11 Oscars, including best picture and director.

Avatar also proved a critical favourite with strong Oscar potential. Cameron broke new ground in combining live-action, digitally-enhanced performances, visual effects and 3-D presentation to immerse viewers in his futuristic tale of humans and aliens on a distant moon.

“Leave it to James Cameron to do this. To not only set the technical world on fire, the visual world on fire, but also the box-office world on fire 12 years after Titanic ,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theatres, according to Hollywood.com. Final figures will be released Monday.  

Hey Hollywood, Let's Be Adult

Source: www.thestar.com -
Linda Barnard

(January 01, 2010) A touch-up to the grey roots could be the right formula to help Hollywood cater to more adult moviegoers in the coming decade.

We're not talking porn on the big screen – in this case "adult" means an audience older than movie makers' prime target, the lucrative under-25s, especially the real cash cow: the 17-year-old.

Casts that straddle these demographics can mean wider appeal. Mamma Mia!, starring Meryl Streep and three handsome leading men all over age 45, plus 20-something talent Amanda Seyfried, made $144 million (all figures U.S.).

"These so-called four-quadrant movies are for over- and under-25s and men and women," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the Box Office division for Hollywood.com. "It seems like we are seeing more of that. They plug in a younger star to appeal to under-25s."

He points to 2009's Julie & Julia as a good example, with Meryl Streep's Julia Child drawing boomers and Amy Adams as Julie Powell appealing to younger women.

It's Complicated, a movie about post-menopause love – and sex – as a divorced couple (Streep and Alec Baldwin) consider hooking up again, has had a solid box office since opening Christmas Day.

Currently sitting at No. 4, it took in $22.1 million opening weekend.

So maybe the key to success lies in casting Streep?

"It's incredible – I'm 60 and I'm playing the romantic lead in romantic comedies!" Streep tells Vanity Fair in a cover story this month.

York University film professor Seth Feldman says the lure of boomer stars makes sense for today's moviegoers.

"We want to see ourselves, or what we like to see as ourselves – handsomer, more beautiful, wittier, stronger onscreen," says Feldman.

"These are films that appeal to the experience a lot of people in a particular demographic have had, or have had fantasies about," he adds, pointing to It's Complicated.

"Almost everybody has an ex out there and the thought of getting back together crosses many minds."

The Bucket List is credited with starting the move to get more mature moviegoers to line up at the box office.

The 2007 comedy, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as two terminally ill seniors who break out of a cancer ward to fulfill a lifetime of missed opportunities, raked in $93.4 million worldwide.

In 2006, I took my 70-something parents, who rarely go to the movies these days, to a downtown theatre to see The Queen, starring Helen Mirren in an Oscar-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II. The queue was filled with seniors and I overheard several say it was their first time in a movie theatre in years.

Dergarabedian says it's a true chicken-and-egg scenario. Hollywood is reluctant to make adult-targeted projects because that group doesn't go to the movies as often as teens.

But do the boomers and up stay away because they feel flicks aren't made for them?

"It's difficult to complain about a group not being serviced if they don't go to the movies, or are they not going because of the movies themselves?" Dergarabedian wonders.

"It's a tough call for Hollywood if the boomers don't go. Hollywood won't make movies for them and that's true of any audience."

York prof Feldman says the huge interest in film festivals and the lucrative DVD rental market shows people want to watch smart movies, many of which appeal to older audiences.

"They are of a generation taught to take film seriously," he points out.

But Feldman adds that the movie exhibitors also have to shoulder some of the blame for lack of more mature ticket buyers.

"The one thing that stands in the way are the movie theatres themselves," he says. "It's not a nice experience any more. You pay all that money and have to sit through ads; you pay to eat, there's the hassles of parking."

Dergarabedian says smart theatre operators know that older moviegoers pay attention to reviews and display them prominently in lobbies to help people decide. The Varsity in the Manulife Centre has done just that, with large copies of glowing reviews from Toronto newspapers for Up in the Air on easels by the ticket desks.

That movie, which has already picked up a slew of awards and nominations amid serious Oscar buzz, has four-quadrant appeal, Dergarabedian points out.

It stars 48-year-old George Clooney and Vera Farmiga, 36, alongside Anna Kendrick, 24, who plays a teen in the Twilight films, a draw for younger moviegoers.

In 2010, look for several movies with four-quadrant appeal, or targeted to older audiences.

Chief among the latter is The Last Station, opening Feb. 5. Christopher Plummer, 80, stars as Russian author Leo Tolstoy and Helen Mirren, 64, as his histrionics-prone wife, Sofya. Both are nominated for Golden Globes.

The two share an enthusiastic bedroom scene where Tolstoy literally crows his ardour as he makes love to his wife.

As Streep told Vanity Fair, about her joy that It's Complicated was doing just fine drawing movie lovers to theatres: "It's so gratifying because it's the audience nobody really gives a sh-- about."

One Man's Quest For Root Of The Female Psyche

Source: www.thestar.com -
Linda Barnard

(January 01, 2010) It may sound like a new form of male torture, but a small-town Oklahoma man is vowing to watch 30 chick flicks in 30 days.

Nick Waters, 28, says he hopes he'll gain a better understanding of the female psyche and grow even closer to his wife of seven years by watching rom-coms and three-Kleenex weepers, then blogging about his impressions at www.30ChickFlicks.com.

He hopes people following his posts, Tweets and YouTube reviews will suggest a viewing list and watch along with him during the project.

"I'm genuinely seeking other people's input," he says.

Waters admits the definition of a chick flick is in the eye of the beholder. "Honestly, I don't even know," he says. "To me, any time you have a movie that focuses on a relationship, it could be considered a chick flick. I thought Avatar was an action movie, but I heard on Twitter it was considered a chick flick because of the relationship between the man and woman."

Waters, who runs a home-based public relations business in a town of 6,000, came up with the idea in July after watching a chick flick, the title of which escapes him, with his wife, Nicci. "Somehow the conversation came up and I said, `Wouldn't it be cool if I watched 30 chick flicks in a row to get a better understanding of women?' And my wife said it was a great idea."

Starting Jan. 15, Waters will watch a different movie each evening for a month. Some he'll watch alone, others with his wife, mom and mother-in-law. They'll discuss the movie, and Waters will write a review and post it by the next day.

As for which movies he'll see, Waters will pick five titles, the women in his life get 10 choices and the rest of the world gets to suggest the final 15. The only rule is the movie can't be made before 2007. Submissions can be made at the website.

"We've had people from Toronto and Indonesia suggest titles," said Waters. "That's the power of technology. It all started with a conversation between my wife and me."

And although he may gravitate toward action flicks over romances, Waters has indeed seen two of the gold standards of the genre: The Bridges of Madison County and The Notebook.

"The Notebook just tore at my heart," he says.

"It really made me feel closer to my wife."

Film's Best Moments Of 2009

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Johanna Schneller

(January 2, 2010) So last weekend's box office was the highest ever, about $270-million for Avatar, Sherlock Holmes , et al . What does this tell us? Simply, if movies are good, people will go. Now, if movies are great – ah, that's a different story. A great movie will be remembered, no matter what it grosses. Here are scenes, in almost alphabetical order, from my 12 favourite films of '09, which I'm tremendously glad live on in my mind.

The Brothers Bloom Interior, day. Con man Bloom (Adrien Brody) sits at the foot of a bed next to his mark, heiress Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz). But he's not here for her millions, not any more. He's fallen in love. They're talking, and then suddenly they're just looking at each other. He's going to kiss her. She wants him to. But as he leans in, he pauses, and the look he gives her in that pause is sexier than anything else in a movie all year. Fantastically stylized, globe-trotting giddiness, The Brothers Bloom is the second genius film – the first was 2005's Brick – by the genre-popping writer/director Rian Johnson, who's like, 12 (okay, he's 36, but he looks 12). Sadly, it didn't find its audience in theatres. Aren't we lucky there are DVDs?

(500) Days of Summer Exterior, day. Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) walks to work, having just spent his first night with Summer (Zooey Deschanel). He looks pretty happy about it. So happy that he's hearing music, the cheesy, infectious strains of (You Make My) Dreams Come True . Everyone he passes cheers him on. Then, yep, he's singing, and the moment does exactly what it's supposed to do: It lifts this bittersweet rom-com into something iconic.

An Education Interior, evening. Precocious high-school student Jenny (Carey Mulligan), out for a glamorous evening with her much-older paramour David (Peter Sarsgaard) and his friends Danny and Helen (Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike), tosses out a phrase in French. Helen stares at her, bemused. Jenny translates. “But why say it in French?” Helen asks. And in that one subtle exchange, we know that Jenny is in the wrong world. A brilliant script by Nick Hornby, brilliantly acted.

Fantastic Mr. Fox Exterior, day. Mr. Fox (George Clooney) zooms via motorcycle to his next daring robbery, when out of nowhere his son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) appears in the sidecar. The moment is deadpan, eccentric, charming – and typical of writer/director Wes Anderson, who with this film elevates stop-motion animation to a timeless, all-ages appeal.

Hunger Interior, day. The hallway of Maze prison, Northern Ireland, during the 1981 hunger strike of Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and his fellow IRA prisoners. Slowly, silently, liquid begins spilling out from under each cell door – urine. Wearily, a prison worker mops it up. And we in the audience feel viscerally the hopelessness of this ancient, bitter, conflict. A movie that's painful to watch and would be almost too painful to recommend, were it not so carefully rendered by writer/director Steven McQueen.

The Hurt Locker Exterior, day. Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner), in full bomb-defusing gear, walks alone down a street in war-torn Baghdad toward an explosive embedded in the road. The way the camera isolates him on the dusty street with the sun beating down is deliberately evocative of a classic western. Until he starts to follow the fuse, and the camera pulls back and back on a terrifyingly dense tangle of bombs. Though it didn't draw big audiences, this nail-biter from director Kathryn Bigelow is a master class in suspense.

The Last Station Exterior, day. Leo Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) and his amanuensis Valentin (James McAvoy) walk down a birch-lined avenue. Tolstoy, who advocates celibacy, is reminiscing about an old lover. “Don't torture yourself,” says Valentin, a virgin. Tolstoy admonishes him – life is and should be full – then pauses. “Torture!” he finally chortles, then erupts in a filthy laugh. This drama about the battle over Tolstoy's works – and his soul – in his final days (Helen Mirren plays his demanding wife) is completely delightful, and a terrific showcase for its actors.

The Road Exterior, day. A nuclear event has left the world a charred wasteland. Two filthy figures, a father (Viggo Mortenson) and son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), poke among the ruins of a pop machine, and then – miracle – pull out a single, dented can of Coke. The man cracks the tab. The son sips. And for a second, they hold the Holy Grail. This movie ranks right up there with my other post-apocalyptic favourite, 2006's Children of Men , because the mix of desperation and depression feels exactly right. The world may have ended with a bang, but the whimpers go on.

A Serious Man Exterior, day. Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) has endured everything a Midwestern, mid-1960s Job can: unfulfilling job, unfaithful wife, ungrateful children. He tries to do the right thing, always, yet is always thwarted. Now on top of everything else, a storm is coming, vast black clouds headed straight down his street. Then wham, the movie slams to a stop. This pitch-black comedy from the Coen brothers is not only their most personal film, it also has the best ending of the year.

Up in the Air Interior, day. Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is used to flying solo. Now the two new women in his life – his keener protégée Natalie (Anna Kendrick) and his lover Alex (Vera Farmiga) – are talking about the qualities they want in a mate. Natalie's list is hilariously specific, Alex's wryly not. It's just one drop-dead clever moment in a film filled with them, from writer/director Jason Reitman. It's so good it feels effortless. Don't be fooled.

The White Ribbon Interior, night. The pastor's children huddle at their bedroom window, gazing out at a fire burning in the night. From across the room, we hear the adolescent son, whom their strict father has admonished for “abusing himself,” cry out, “Untie me!” Then we see him, flat on his back in bed, his hands tied down at either side, and this perfect image of a father's casual cruelty makes us gasp. I think writer/director Michael Haneke is kind of a sadist, and his movies ( The Piano Teacher, Caché, Funny Games ) are infuriating and hard to stomach. But you can't say he isn't a brilliant filmmaker. To me, this black and white exploration of the roots of Nazism in a tiny German village just before the First World War is his best yet.

Summer Hours Interior, day. A housekeeper puts a handful of wildflowers into an oddly beautiful vase. That's all, that's the whole scene. But because this French film about three adult children disposing of their late mother's art-filled estate is a beautifully rendered, utterly moving exploration of how life is made up of unbearably poignant details, it is enough. I pulled this title out of alphabetical order because it's my favourite film of 2009, and gives me exquisite reassurance that a great movie can be about anything. What matters is what lasts.

Movies Coming In 2010: Sorting The Picks From The Pans

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

(January 01, 2010) The new year always begins with the dream of cinematic gold waiting to be found like nuggets in a Klondike prospector's river.

Then we wake up, and the panning really begins.

Still, there are always bright discoveries to look forward to.

Here are a dozen of the films I most hope will delight me in 2010. Release dates are subject to change:

Alice in Wonderland (March 5): The trailer for Tim Burton's 3-D reimagining of the Lewis Carroll classic suggests the focus will be more on Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter than on newcomer Mia Wasikowska's Alice. Will it be a bold new vision, or a couple of sandwiches short of a tea party? Whenever Burton and Depp work together, the result is always worth a look.

The Rum Diary (March 11): The unbeatable (on paper) combo of a movie based on a Hunter S. Thompson book, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Bruce Robinson, who helmed cult fave Withnail and I. Depp plays an itinerant newspaper scribe based in Puerto Rico. Much rum shall be consumed. Note: that weird March 11 release date, a Thursday, is listed only for the Netherlands. A release date for Canada and the U.S. is still to be confirmed.

Green Zone (March 12): The bones are strong: Paul Greengrass directs his Bourne Supremacy star Matt Damon in a film scripted by Mystic River scribe Brian Helgeland.

Box-office bad omen: It's about the Iraq War, based on journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran's 2006 account Imperial Life in the Emerald City. The topline talent suggests another Hurt Locker, though, and there's promise in the supporting cast of Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear and Brendan Gleeson.

Death at a Funeral (April 16): Neil LaBute helms an American remake of this 2007 Britcom chuckler of crypts and quips, which could be a sign of trouble since such Pond-crossings rarely work. But the casting hints of inspired lunacy: Avatar's Zoë Saldana, Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson and Peter Dinklage (also in the original).

Wall Street 2 (April 23): The hackneyed title and the long delay since the 1987 cash-grabber has me fearing another Oliver Stone paycheque gig. Yet hope springs eternal in the return of Michael Douglas as corporate raider Gordon Gekko. The supporting cast of Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon and Frank Langella also beckons. Is lunch still for wimps during an economic meltdown?

Iron Man 2 (May 7): First words in the trailer: "Could we pick up now where we left off?" They're quickly followed by Robert Downey Jr.'s smug boast, "It's good to be back." All signs point to more of the same ironic comedy and ferrous fighting of the original, with Jon Favreau again helming. I'm not sure I'm buying either Mickey Rourke as a villain or Scarlett Johansson as a Russian agent, but this is a comic book movie, after all.

Robin Hood (May 14): Ridley Scott is great when he's on his game (Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down) and a disaster when he's not (A Good Year, Body of Lies). Methinks there's trouble in this Hood, which seems as if it's been in production forever, but I'm interested in seeing whether Russell Crowe can resurrect his moribund career with his sure-to-be snarly take on rich-slapping Robin. And won't Cate Blanchett make a great Marion?

Chloe (spring): Atom Egoyan's cineaste savvy, Ivan Reitman's mainstream hustle and the acting smarts of Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried combine for a smoking psycho-thriller. Bonus points for making Toronto looking sexier than it has any right to be. Given the right promotion, this has the potential to go to the Academy Awards in 2011.

The A-Team (June 11): This was one of my guilty pleasures of TV watching in the 1980s, and I'm thinking (hoping) that it couldn't be a total disaster with Joe Carnahan (Narc) directing and Liam Neeson as team leader Col. John (Hannibal) Smith. You never know with TV adaptations, though. Will it be as good as The Untouchables or as bad as The Mod Squad?

Inception (July 16): Christopher Nolan's post-Dark Knight film is shrouded in secrecy, but the trailer makes it look like something out of a Matrix headgame. So does the tag line: "Your mind is the scene of the crime." Leonardo DiCaprio stars, with Mensa-level support from Ellen Page, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy and Ken Watanabe.

Salt (July 23): Angelina Jolie has long earned her salt as an action hero, from Tomb Raider to Wanted, so there's no reason to fear she won't kick satisfactory butt in this Phillip Noyce actioner, in which she plays a CIA officer accused of spying for the Russians. She gives great chase and looks good in black underwear, too.

The Green Hornet (Dec. 22): One of the few comic-book tombs not completely plundered, and let's hope that funny guy Seth Rogen and astral traveller Michel Gondry can surprise everybody as the respective title hero and director the same way Michael Keaton and Tim Burton did with Batman. Love Christoph Waltz as the villain and Cameron Diaz as a reporter, but I'm even more cheered by the Hornet's secret identity as a newspaper publisher. Print lives in 2010!

Move Over, Meryl Streep, 2010 Is Helen Mirren's Year

Source: www.thestar.com -
Linda Barnard

(January 01, 2010) There's a sizeable crop of movies set to open this year that have both four-quardant and boomer-plus appeal.

Among them is Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams as a hotshot young TV producer who faces the challenge of turning around sagging ratings on a struggling morning show, while trying to make peace between its high-profile and high-maintenance anchors, played by Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford.

"I think this one has a different flavour to it," McAdams said in an interview with the Toronto Star. "It's got a bit for everybody in it. I think it's fun."

Morning Glory opens in July.

Here are some other movies due in 2010:

The Debt: February 2010: Set in 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Stars Sam Worthington, Ciarán Hinds, Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson.

Nowhere Boy: Spring 2010: Boomers will be interested in this John Lennon biopic which focuses on his early years. Kristin Scott Thomas stars along with Aaron Johnson as Lennon, Thomas Sangster as Paul McCartney and Sam Bell as George Harrison.

We Want Sex: Fall 2010: A retelling of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination. Directed by Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls), it stars Bob Hoskins,
Helen Mirren and Sally Hawkins.

The Tempest: 2010: In Julie Taymore's version of the Shakespeare play, Prospero is now Prospera and played by Helen Mirren.

Chewing the Fat with Golden Globe-Nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor

Source: Kam Williams

Chiwetel Ejiofor was born in London on July 10, 1977 to Nigerian  immigrants, Arinze, a doctor, and Obiajulu Ejiofor, a pharmacist. By the age of 13, he was already appearing in numerous school and National Youth Theatre productions, and he subsequently attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, as well as Dulwich College.

In 1996, the versatile stage thespian caught the attention of Stephen Spielberg who cast him in Amistad. Chiwetel returned to the stage before making another big splash onscreen in the critically-acclaimed thriller Dirty Pretty Things. He went on to co-star in Love Actually, Slow Burn, She Hate Me and Melinda and Melinda. His more recent film credits include 2012, American Gangster, Talk to Me, Kinky Boots, Four Brothers Inside Man, Redbelt and Children of Men.

Here, he talks about his life, his career, and his powerful performance in Endgame, for which he just  landed a Golden Globe nomination. 

Kam Williams: Hi Chewitel, thanks for the time. What brings you to New York?

Chiwetel Ejiofor: I’m just finishing up shooting Salt.

KW: Let me start by congratulating you on the Golden Globe nomination for Endgame.

CE: Thank you very much.

KW:  What interested you in the film?

CE: There were a number of things that excited me, starting with the historical context of what was happening in South Africa at the time. I remember being very affected by what was going on there towards the end of Apartheid. And the subject is still very pertinent, politically, to what’s happening around the world today, in terms of negotiating peace talks. I had always been interested in this period of change in South Africa, generally, for a variety of reasons. And I specifically became fascinated by Endgame’s taking you behind the curtain, and telling the story of the behind the scenes machinations between Thabo Mbeki and the Afrikaner government. That was incredibly eye-opening, and a story that I hadn’t heard before. And Mbeki himself is such an interesting character. He played an instrumental role in changing the direction of the country, in putting the ANC [African National Congress] in a position to effectively govern.

KW: How did you like working with Pete Travis as a director? I loved his super-realistic docudrama Omagh about a terrorist bombing in a town in Northern Ireland.

CE: Great! He’s a very engaging guy to work with. He has an amazing b.s. detector. His style is very different from anything I’ve ever done before. He really pushes for authenticity. He’s very keen to get to the essence and the truth of the matter. 

KW:  Three of your films have made my Top 10 Lists: Dirty Pretty Things (2002), Love Actually (2003) and Kinky Boots (2005). What is it about your acting style that enables you to help elevate a project to be among the best?  

CE: I don’t know. When I read a script, I try to get right down to what I feel is the heart of it. In a sense, it doesn’t matter what the subject is, and it doesn’t have to be universal, as long as the story has something meaningful to say. Conversely, I’ve often had the fortune to work on projects with a small theme I find very interesting enough to pursue and to be passionate about in the context of the story, then it may turn out there’s a universality about my character which still resonates with many people as well.

KW: Aspiring actor, Tommy Russell asks: Did your success as an actor build on itself, or has it been one thing here, one thing there and then boom you were suddenly getting good, consistent work?

CE: That’s a good question. I started working as an actor, semi-professionally, when I was 16, and got my first professional gig at 19. I guess I’ve kind of worked pretty consistently since then. I started off doing plays as a theatre actor. But I never thought of it in terms of it leading anywhere. I was just trying to be the best actor that I could be in the context of what I was doing.

KW: Laz Lyles asks, if you have one genre that you have a special affinity for?

CE: Well, I do like sci-fi. When I was a kid, I was always sort of locked into sci-fi stories. So, sci-fi has always had a special place in my heart.

KW: Is that what drew you to do 2012?

CE: I suppose so. I found a role in the movie, and was excited about the spectacle of the visual style envisioned for it by director Roland Emmerich.

KW: Speaking of directors, documentary filmmaker Hisani DuBose asks: How did you become an insider who constantly works?

CE: I’ve always enjoyed doing a huge variety of roles, which I think helps, instead of settling for the things I might be most comfortable with.

KW:  The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

CE: The very last book was a John Coltrane biography by Lewis Porter.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/047208643X?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=047208643X

KW:  The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod? 

CE: My music tastes are often 20 years behind.

KW: Me to, I was listening to Annie Lennox’s Diva this morning.

CE: That’s a great album! I’m constantly discovering things. Like Bobby Bland. Right now I suppose I’m into the Eighties, which turned out to be a great musical period.

KW:  The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

CE: [Laughs] I don’t know. By just continuing to enjoy the movies. I feel that audiences are very sophisticated, and part of my challenge is to keep them engaged because they are so complex.

KW:  When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

CE: I’m slightly obsessed with making sure everything matches at the moment, because I’m working on this movie, and there’s been a bit of a gap in the shooting. So, I’m constantly looking to see whether I look the same as I did earlier, whether I’ve put on or lost any weight. So, right now the mirror is movie-related.

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

CE: Interesting, I was just thinking about that today, because reporters tend to launch on what seems to be the clearest, most stark aspects of someone’s life in terms of an interview. And in my case, a lot of people ask me about my father’s passing when I was young, which I’m never comfortable with. I invariably move around that subject.

KW: Would you like to share a little about your father’s life in celebration instead?

CE: My father, Arinze Ejiofor , was a musician and a doctor. Nobody’s ever asked me about that combination and what growing up in that environment was like.

KW: So, what was it like?

CE: [Laughs] It was great! It was great! We had a very solid, practical scientific upbringing. Yet because he was a fairly famous guitarist in Nigeria, we also had a palpable sense of a creative and cultural synthesis. Working in this industry, I do feel that science and creativity turned out to be a very useful combination for me.  

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

CE: Yeah, I think fear is a very healthy motivator. 

KW:  The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

CE: Yes! Everyone has their days, but overall I’m very happy.

KW:  The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

CE: Yesterday I had a couple of good chuckles. There’s always something ridiculous happening on the set, especially when people get so tired because of the long days. We were doing a shot in a very cramped space, feeling very cooped up. If you’re there for 10 hours, a kind of gallows humour develops. A certain hysterical humour as well. I don’t know if it was a good laugh in the sense of reckless abandon and joy, but it certainly brought tears to our eyes.

KW: Who were you shooting the scene with?

CE: I was with Angelina Jolie and a camera crew in a very cramped space.

KW:  The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest memory?

CE: It’s from Christmas, of 1982, I think. Maybe because I was smaller, or maybe because it used to snow more back then, but all I remember is watching from the window of the first house I ever lived in as the snow seemed to completely swallow our car, a Honda Accord. It was parked outside the house in front of a very large tree.

KW: The Mike Pittman question: Who was your best friend as a child?

CE: We moved when I was 8, but I’ve been very fortunate to have made a number of close friends I’ve known ever since. They’re still my closest friends.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

CE: My favourite thing to cook is anything that comes out okay. I’m very fond of certain pastas and sauces that I can just about cook from scratch. So those are what I like to cook, as well as roasted potatoes and chicken. Anything that tastes alright.

KW: Which is your favourite of all your movies?

CE: I like all of them, and for different reasons. I know that sounds trite, but I do.  But I have to say that when I was shooting one of the films that you liked, Dirty Pretty Things, I did have an amazing time. That was my first time playing a film lead, and my first exposure to a director [Stephen Frears] who paid attention in such incredible detail, and my first experience doing a project of that scale.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

CE: That global poverty would end. That people would be able to eat. It’s the worst shame in the world that people go hungry.

KW: Uduak Oduok asks, how do you see Africa as affecting American culture?

CE: I think Africa will have a crisper impact on Europe, as it has traditionally, and then that will filter into the American cultural psyche, in the way that India has. Look at how Slumdog Millionaire had to come out of England, even though it was ultimately well-received in America. 

KW: Uduak also asks, who is your favourite clothes designer?

CE:  Good question. I’m not really a clothes horse, but I’ve really enjoyed wearing a lot of Dunhill lately. Their suits are quite chic and elegant without being button-down conservative.  

KW: Tommy Russell has a couple of political questions. Do you think America should adopt the Copenhagen Accords on global warming?

CE: I can’t answer that. I don’t know enough about it. I’m aware that it’s a green issue and that Obama was over there trying to broker a deal. My instinct is that it should pass, but I haven’t paid close enough attention to all the specific details to comment. I’m in favour of anything that promotes greener solutions.

KW: Let’s see if you can answer Tommy’s other one: Do you think the healthcare bill will pass and prove to be one of the best pieces of legislation in a generation?  Or will this cornerstone of Obama's domestic agenda prove to be his Achilles heel, on par with the Vietnam War for LBJ?
 

CE: As much as everyone wants sweeping changes, the truth is that the healthcare bill and the concessions that have been made simply reflect how government and politics work. It seems that there’s only so much you can change with the system as it is, if you don’t have the requisite number of senators’ and congressmen’ votes.

KW:  What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

CE: I think the crucial thing about being an actor is to be doing it. I believe people instinctively know that about writing, yet people get confused about that when it comes to acting. The only way to be an actor is to find ways to work as an actor, even if that means doing a one-man show by a river.

KW:  How do you want to be remembered?

CE: I don’t know. I’m not going to think about that. I’ll have to get back to you in a few decades.

KW:  Thanks again, Chiwetel, best of luck at the Golden Globes, and I look forward to speaking with you again down the line.

CE: Great, thank you.

To order a copy of Endgame on DVD, visit HERE

To see a trailer for Endgame, visit HERE.

FILM TIDBITS

Film Critics Pick The Hurt Locker

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 4, 2010) The
U.S. National Society of Film Critics has selected The Hurt Locker as the best picture of 2009 at a meeting in New York City. The movie about an elite army bomb squad unit in Iraq also drew top honours for director Kathryn Bigelow and actor Jeremy Renner during Sunday's voting. The movie previously won Best Picture awards from critics in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, and at the Gotham Awards. The society picked Yolande Moreau as Best Actress for her performance in Seraphine, a French film about the painter Seraphine de Senlis. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) and Paul Schneider (Bright Star) shared the Best Supporting Actor award, while Mo’Nique won Best Supporting Actress for Precious.

Stallone Broke Neck Filming Latest Movie

Source:  www.thestar.com

(January 06, 2010) Tough guy actor Sylvester Stallone, no stranger to a punch, played so rough on the set of his new film The Expendables, his neck was broken. Stallone, 63, reveals in an interview with this month's FHM magazine that a fight scene with Stone Cold Steve Austin, the wrestler, turned "so vicious that I ended up getting a hairline fracture in my neck. "I'm not joking. I haven't told anyone this, but I had to have a very serious operation afterwards. I now have a metal plate in my neck." The fight scene involved some of Hollywood's biggest brawlers, including Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham. "Man, it was seven guys, kicking each other's ass, one guy tougher than the next," said Stallone, whose career includes a string of Rocky and Rambo movies. "No joke, our stunt guys were begging for mercy." The film, which was written and directed by Stallone, is about a group of mercenaries who try to overthrow a dictator. Brittany Murphy, the actress who died last month at age 32 after collapsing at home, also stars in the movie. It's due in theatres in August. A fight scene in Rocky IV with Lundgren also left Stallone injured. "At one point, he hit me so hard on the top of the head, I felt my spine compress," he told the magazine. "That night, my chest and heart started to swell and I had to be helicopter-ambulanced from my hotel to a nearby emergency room."

Cronenberg Kickstarts Freud Film

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(January 06, 2010) Toronto — David Cronenberg's film version of the 2002 play The Talking Cure, about Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and the birth of psychoanalysis, appears to be back on the front burner. According to recent reports from Screen Daily and the film's Australian distributor, Keira Knightley and Christoph Waltz have been cast in the production. Waltz, who starred in Inglourious Basterds, will reportedly play Freud, , while Knightley will play one of his patients. Staff

::TV NEWS::

Doing Right By The Rock

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(January 02, 2010) These days, Allan Hawco is caught between a rock and a hard place, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

The Rock, of course, is his native Newfoundland, where he's just wrapped production on the new CBC-TV series
Republic of Doyle, which begins airing on Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The hard place is the fact that Hawco not only created the series, he also wrote, produced and stars in it as well.

"This is the most intense ride I've ever been on," begins Hawco on the phone from the St. John's location of Republic of Doyle, speaking with that tough-guy growl that has made him one of this country's most employable young actors.

Hawco put aside a thriving Toronto career and pushed the pause button on the activities of The Company Theatre, one of the most acclaimed new groups to spring up in the last decade, so he could pursue something he really believed in.

And that was providing "an opportunity for a lot of really high-skilled craftspeople to be back home again, only doing what they want to be doing in their lives," Hawco says.

He explains how "the television industry here in Newfoundland is heavily challenged, just as it is in many regional parts of the country. And the longer I'd work, the more I'd keep running into wonderful people from home who had to leave because there wasn't any work for them there."

It's the kind of attitude and ambition you expect from someone much older than the 32-year-old Hawco, but he's always been the kind of straight-talking, straight-shooting, can-do sort of guy who makes things happen.

Getting the CBC to greenlight a series shot in Newfoundland is one thing, but having them give their blessing to a Maritime comedy-drama about a father-son team of private investigators is something else again.

"I always thought it would be fun to have an action show in Canada that had a sense of humour," laughs Hawco, while admitting that he's not specifically trying to shatter anyone's perception of Newfoundland's residents.

"Canada is so big that people have stereotypes about every part of the country.

``Everyone thinks Toronto is full of heartless bastards, which it isn't, or that Vancouver is crawling with stoned-out hippies, which also couldn't be further from the truth.

"And us Newfoundlanders? Well, everyone thinks we drink and laugh a lot, which is true, but that doesn't mean we still can't solve crimes, chase bad guys and drive a GTO."

Hawco says that the whole idea occurred to him years ago when he was still a kid, growing up in the Goulds neighbourhood of St. John's. He was always a fan of the private investigator genre on TV (see sidebar), but he had one special favourite.

"My dad and I used to watch The Rockford Files, and I'd wonder why we couldn't do a series like that here in Canada. I mean, I think if you're doing a series about a PI agency in Newfoundland, you have to have a sense of humour about it, otherwise you'd look pretty silly."

Hawco seems to have such a clear sense of who he is and what he wants to do that it's a bit surprising to discover he didn't settle on an interest in the arts until fairly far along.

"I really got turned on to theatre in high school, but I never thought you could actually be an actor for a living, so I started studying business at Memorial University. But I left so early that it isn't even worth saying I went there. I got so bored that I said `Shag this,' and ran away to join the circus."

Well, not quite the circus, but the three-ring creative carnival known as the National Theatre School. It might have seemed a big leap for Hawco to go from St. John's to Montreal, but he says it was quite the opposite: "There's a certain match-up of sensibility between the two places. They work to live, not live to work. Everybody works hard, but then they play even harder."

As for the often-controversial course of study at the school, Hawco dips deep into the duality of it all: "I hated every minute and loved every minute. I'm grateful I went there, but even if you had a gun at my head, I'd never go back."

Before he even graduated in 2000, he had a Toronto agent and was ready for the big move. "That's how I approach everything," he explains, "just jump in!"

He admits now that although he got hired rapidly, "I did a bunch of plays and I was terrible in them all. I went quickly from wondering, `Am I an actor?' to saying, `Holy sh--, I am an actor!' There's nothing else you're going to do, nothing else you can do, nothing else you want to do."

While working for Irish director Ben Barnes in Montreal with actor Philip Riccio, he discovered a play called A Whistle in the Dark, "and I just lost my mind it was so good. At that time, Phil and I were just sitting in bars, complaining about the business and I thought that if we keep this up we're not only going to be alcoholics, but pretty bitter ones at that!"

So they decided to form their own theatre group and put on this script that intrigued them so much. "Let's put our money where our mouth is, and we'll either have done something or we'll stop complaining."

Barnes told them to hire his Irish colleague Jason Byrne, which they did, and the end result was not only one of the great shows of the last decade, but the successful start to The Company Theatre.

Byrne didn't just give Hawco a hit, he presented him with an approach to acting that saved his artistic life.

"Jason says, `If you're not feeling it, then why are you pretending you're feeling it?' That's all, but it changes everything.

"So you just have to keep yourself completely alive and open and see what happens."

Good advice for an actor. Or a private investigator. Or someone who's trying to be both.

Decoding The Decade - The Comebacks

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(December 28, 2009) LEONARD COHEN - The spectre of financial ruin can be a beautiful thing, if you're a Cohen fan. It forced the troubadour/prophet out of his lengthy seclusion and back to the concert circuit, where he felt the full force of our pent-up adulation. Along the way, he was admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, produced a new volume of poems and drawings, Book of Longing , and turned 75.

MICKEY ROURKE

Such movies as Diner and Body Heat made him a contender in the early 1980s, but two decades later, he was down and out, the butt of some bad joke about weird habits, wasted potential and too many tattoos. Then came The Wrestler . Suddenly, at 56, Mickey Rourke, a bum playing a bum, was a somebody again, winning awards, mumbling his way back onto the talk shows, chihuahua in tow, and scoring his first Oscar nod.

MICHAEL JACKSON

Death became him, sadly. Sure, there was excitement aplenty when, at 50, he agreed to do 50 shows at London's 20,000-seat O2 Arena. But the fact the shows sold out smacked as much of perversity and voyeurism as a desire to see the King of Pop back in action. Before his death, Jackson was the Big Weird. Afterward, we felt the pathos, admired the talent and heard anew the magic in the music.

TERI HATCHER

TV can make stars – and then devour them, which seemed to be Hatcher's fate. A big deal in the nineties with ABC's Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, followed by a star turn opposite Pierce Brosnan's James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies , she was back doing cameos and made-for-TV movies with Tom Selleck as the decade dawned. Cut to 2004: on the eve of her 40th birthday, she wins the part of Susan Mayer in Desperate Housewives . “And that,” as Robert Frost once observed, “has made all the difference.”

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS

Everybody loves a child star – until the child grows up. At 16, Harris was the mainstay of TV's Doogie Howser, M.D., but by 1993 “Doogie” was done – and so, it seemed, was he. Then came Broadway: Starting in 2001, he took well-received bows in Sweeney Todd , Proof , Cabaret and Assassins, and soon had a future again, as well as a hit TV series in How I Met Your Mother . Clinching the comeback this year were acclaimed turns as host of both the Tony and Emmy awards.

Brent Butt : Working Hard To Be Funny

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(January 06, 2010) Burnaby, B.C. — Brent Butt knows his new sitcom, Hiccups , is going to be compared to Corner Gas , but he's not losing any sleep over it. He can't afford to: while in production, he's wearing so many hats (creator, executive producer, writer, director, star) that his days are jammed. He generally arrives on set by 7 a.m., shoots all day, attends production meetings during breaks, and then heads to the editing suite at night. This while also touring his stand-up comedy act. Oh, and training a puppy.

Of course, he'd be delighted if Hiccups matches the success of his previous series, with its millions of viewers and multiple Gemini Awards. “I'm conscious of that,” Butt says during an interview over a quick lunch on the Burnaby, B.C., set of Hiccups , which is scheduled to debut later this year on CTV, “but there's so much that goes into doing it that you just put your head down and plow through. There's so much to get done, there isn't a lot of time for reflection or thinking: ‘Oh, I wonder how it's going to do.' There's nine million things to do or 40 questions to answer in any one minute. So you don't really get a chance to reflect and worry about it. You just worry about the jokes. You worry about making it good.”

Hiccups is built around the idea of a children's author who has anger issues. Butt liked the overt dichotomy of that, the same way, he says, that the notion of a short basketball player instinctively makes him laugh. Initially, in Butt's mind, the author was a man – but he switched gears when the character of a life coach, which he thought should be male, entered the picture. The now-female author character grew into someone with not only anger issues, but outburst issues; a vibrant, energetic but emotionally off-kilter woman who acts without thinking. As the character transformed, Butt began to envision the perfect actress for the role: Nancy Robertson, his Corner Gas co-star – and real-life wife.

“I was relieved, because I love playing characters like Wanda, but I was ready for a change,” says Robertson, whose Corner Gas character was a caustic, tightly wound know-it-all. “I would leave the set with my shoulders very tight and my neck very tight, because I played her that way … I was looking forward to playing somebody who was just a little more free.”

Robertson's new character, Millie, is wildly successful, selling millions of books around the world. But she needs help dealing with her embarrassing social outbursts. Enter Stan, the life coach (played by Butt), an understated yet funny guy with no actual life-coaching experience, training or education. That doesn't keep him from what he thinks is his calling: It's always been his dream to help people.

Stan will no doubt remind viewers of Brent Leroy, Dog River's gas-station proprietor from Corner Gas . Butt is the first to admit that his characters are “always me” (in the Bob Hope oeuvre, he says). “I kind of have the one thing that I do, so I'm kind of doing that again.” In addition to Robertson, Butt has surrounded himself with some of the core creative team that helped make Corner Gas such a smash success: the director of photography, the co-executive producer and two writers, including Andrew Carr, who on Hiccups doubles as supervising producer.

Carr didn't initially jump at the opportunity –he had concerns about taking on the post- Corner Gas challenge. “The bar is huge and raised high here,” he said, adding: “I spoke with my wife and threw it back and forth, going, ‘I'm not sure if I want to do this.' And then I kind of went, ‘Screw it, to hell with it, I'm going for it.'”

One person without any Corner Gas baggage is Paula Rivera, who plays Stan's wife Anna. She's not just new to the team – she didn't even watch the old show. “I think that helps because if I had an awareness of how huge Corner Gas was, I think I might be even more nervous than I've been,” Rivera said during a break in shooting.

Even though most of her scenes are with Butt and Robertson, Rivera – who was trained as a dancer in her native Mexico, and has appeared as an actress in Flashpoint and The Collector – says she in no way feels like she's crashing a party that started long before she arrived. “I feel for them this is a clear slate, a new page in their lives as artists and storytellers,” she says. The comedy on Hiccups may seem familiar, but the new show is built around an urban setting and storylines. And each episode ends with an animated segment, a sort of moral-of-the-story conclusion arising from Millie's adventures.

Late one night, while on the road doing stand-up, Butt decided to watch one of the first completed episodes of Hiccups . Despite having little time for sleep, he watched another and another and another. “It moves nice, it looks great, Nancy's hilarious,” he says. “I think I'm doing a good job, and I'm pretty critical usually of myself.”

Objectively, he says, it is his new favourite show, and that's enough for him. He is far less focused on how others will receive it. “I kind of treat Hiccups the way I treated Corner Gas in the beginning, which was I didn't think anybody was going to watch anyway,” he says. “So I said ‘Let's just make a show that we really feel proud of and then people watch it or they don't, it doesn't matter. Make a show that we really like and we think is funny; a show that we enjoy.' And then you can walk away, and cross your fingers.”

TV: Dawn Of `The Viewser'

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(January 02, 2010) TREND: The Viewser It is more than appropriate that this new decade will encompass the 21st century's teen years – 2013, 2014, 2015... – or demographically speaking, 2018-34.

Not since the Baby Boom has youth so dominated prevailing popular culture – in all respects except actual numbers. Indeed, never before have so few so young done so little to affect so many. Over the next decade, the various youth-skewed digital social trends and technologies – email, blogging, texting, tweeting, up- and downloadable media – will converge and synthesize with "reality" television to create a new type of short-form portable programming. And a new type of consumer to go with it.

Welcome to the era of "The Viewser."

Which has little to do with a bunch of women on TV, sitting around discussing the issues of the day. I refer instead to the increasingly participatory nature of the new media, which I predict will soon encompass and eclipse traditional television viewing habits.

EVENT

New by-the-minute season of 24 With the rise of The Viewser, the average attention span will continue to shrink from a music-video-sized five or six minutes to a quickly downloadable one or two. I see an immediate future of 30- and 60-second programming, consumed not so much as an independent activity, but as a coincident part of one's "multi-tasking" day. Imagine the new season of 24 in one-minute increments.

Thus we can expect to see even more people on the street and on public transit, obliviously plugged in to the latest browser/phone/media player.

Of course, to "see" them, you'd actually have to be "looking" at them, which by definition you won't. Thus will the operation of such devices continue to be discouraged while driving a car and operating heavy farm machinery.

PERSON

Ashton Kutcher In a Twitter-driven culture, with everyone so entirely obsessed with the daily minutiae of other, more "interesting" people's lives, we are soon going to run out of them. Eventually, whoever you happen to be most avidly monitoring will themselves become interested in someone they perceive to be more interesting than they, until everyone on the face of the planet is plugged into the mind of Twitter titan Ashton Kutcher.

That's right, I said Ashton Kutcher. That `70s Show. Punk'd. Dude, Where's My Car? Actor turned producer and the first tweeter ever to surpass one million hits. Not to mention the most successful boy-toy in Hollywood history. Ashton Kutcher, a.k.a. the immediate future of mainstream pop culture.

Yeah, I know – that Beautiful Life models drama, the last series he produced, was cancelled before the second commercial. That doesn't mean he's not a creative genius. I mean, it took the French to truly appreciate Jerry Lewis.

Besides, he's got to be good at something, and it certainly isn't acting.

Trend (part deux)

Video gigantism I see another worrying trend: Call it "video gigantism."

As viewing technology quickly shrinks to microscopic dimensions – can the hi-def pupil insert be more than a few years away? – there is a simultaneous competing movement toward "supersize," with home flat-screens of ever-increasing dimension and billboard television on major traffic routes to further enhance driver distraction.

I'm waiting for CTV to repurpose the east wall of their annexed Queen West headquarters (goodbye, rusty old news truck), into a giant, building-sized state-of-the-art video screen featuring non-stop 24-hour CTV programming ... for which the broadcaster will attempt to charge cable companies a "carrier fee" in the stated interest of local programming.

Rogers will counter by attempting to charge passersby to watch their pixelboards at Yonge-Dundas Square.

TV Show Sparks Arrest In Family's Massacre

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jennifer Kay

(January 4, 2010)
MIAMI–A secretive motel guest in the Florida Keys checked in under a fake name, paid in cash, stockpiled canned food and insisted on cleaning his own room. He even covered his car – all an attempt, authorities said, to elude police after he was accused of shooting four relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner in November.

But
Paul Merhige's cover was blown when the motel owners recognized him in a preview for the television show America's Most Wanted on Saturday night.

Melinda Pfaff said Sunday that she and her husband, Paul, rarely saw Merhige, 35, during his four-week stay at their Edgewater Lodge on Long Key. He had checked in Dec. 2 using the name "John Baca" and a false address.

His request for privacy didn't seem odd in the Keys, an island chain known for its eccentric residents, Pfaff said.

"He said he would wash all his own sheets and towels. He said I didn't need to go in there," she said. "That's happened before.''

Merhige was booked Sunday at the Palm Beach County jail without bond on four charges of murder. He was accused of gunning down his 33-year-old twin sisters, a 79-year-old aunt and a 6-year-old cousin at a home where 16 relatives had gathered for the holiday in Jupiter, an affluent community about 150 kilometres north of Miami.

"I'm elated that the monster is in the cage," Jim Sitton, the father of the 6-year-old victim Makayla Sitton, told The Palm Beach Post. "... It doesn't bring my daughter back, but at least this chapter is over.''

Merhige appeared to be planning a long stay at the motel. He had stocked his room with snacks, paid in advance in cash and extended his stay well into the new year.

But Pfaff's husband became worried when he realized Friday that he hadn't seen the guest for days.

"He opened the door and my husband said, `Are you OK? I haven't seen you,'" Melinda Pfaff said. "The room looked neat, not disarrayed or anything. He said he was fine and he was enjoying his rest.''

Paul Pfaff was watching television Saturday when he saw the America's Most Wanted preview and realized Merhige was his guest. The couple called the show's tip line.

Authorities say Merhige carefully planned the killings. He sat through three hours of dinner and sing-a-longs around the piano before the shootings. There were no arguments or red flags, said Sitton.

Sitton has said Merhige was heard after the shootings saying he had waited 20 years to kill the relatives.

Merhige's father told police that his son had a history of mental illness and had recently stopped taking his medication.

Darius McCrary (Pt. 2): Actor Takes On Roles As Soap Star, Dad, And Musician

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

(January 4, 2010)
*Darius McCrary is most recognized from his role as Eddie Winslow on the long-running sitcom “Family Matters,” but the actor has picked up a few new roles since the popular 90s television show; as the new Malcolm Winters on “The Young and the Restless,” as a music artists, and as a dad.

McCrary is resurrecting the soap opera role Shemar Moore made famous. He was introduced as the new Malcolm Winters just last week.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” he said. “It’s a great group to work with; it’s a quality show; and it’s something new for me.”

The actor told EUR’s Lee Bailey that he always wanted to do daytime television so scoring this coveted role on one of the most popular soaps ever, was a dream come true.

“I hope that as an actor I’ve got something in me that I will be able to bring to it that will be a 'realness.' This is an incredible group of actors. Kristoff [St. John] and Peter Burgmen, these guys are phenomenal at what they do,” McCrary said of his new cast mates. “I’ve been blessed to work with some great actors – Robert DeNiro, Willem Defoe, Gene Hackmam – some heavyweights – by the grace of God. So what I intend to do with this role is bring my experience from past situations and be a solid actor and possibly treat this as I would a feature film, not a soap. I am trying not to have any soap moments, and in watching this show, there are very few of those anyway.”

Speaking of feature film, McCrary explained that under today’s terms, he feels that being on a daytime drama is just as significant as being in a blockbuster film.

“This industry has changed,” he said. “It’s changed so much that there are no more blockbusters. The world of sitcoms is pretty much a wrap. Back in the day, families would sit down together and watch a block of television. Today, Suzy’s got an iPod, Billy’s got a Wii, Dad’s got a desktop, Mom’s got a Mac, and everybody’s is Tivo-ing something.”

McCrary went on to say that with the Internet, cable, young networks and a plethora of other outlets, there are just too many options for audiences.

“For me, signing on to this is just as big as signing on for a movie with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. This is huge for me so I’m extremely happy.”

And just as McCrary’s 9-seasons role on “Family Matters” happened, this just happened, too, but he said that he really wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s how you know it’s right, in my opinion,” he said. “I just happened in this industry. I wasn’t a kid whose mom was toting him around to auditions. It just happened. It fell in my lap. I think that when that happens you’re a bit more appreciative of it. After you’ve been working hard at something and you finally get it, it’s a bit more difficult to know what to do with it.”

McCrary believes that sometimes when you are particularly focused for something and you’re constantly working for that goal, moving beyond it might be elusive.

“You kind of feel like, ‘I’ve been working for so long, it’s easy to get discouraged.’ When it just fall in your lap, it’s kind of like just walking. Then the next thing you know you’re running and then you’re flying.”

McCrary is decidedly flying. With a new role on a hit daytime show, with a schedule that will give him time to work on his other talent, music.

“The scheduling is wonderful; it does leave me time. I have a music career and it allows me time to do my music and it leaves me times to be the dad that I need to be to my son. This is definitely where I want to be.”

McCrary is father of a precocious two-year-old whose mom is not the infamous Karrine “Superhead” Steffans of with whom McCrary (among many others) has been linked. According to a number of reports the actor married the “Confessions of a Video Vixen” author and other stories followed suit about the couple’s stormy relationship, allegations, domestic abuse disputes, and restraining orders.

McCrary was particularly tight-lipped about the relationship and did not care to speak on Steffans, his estranged girlfriend (?)… wife(?), only offering up the cryptic non-answer to whether or not they are together of “We’ll always be together.”

So in addition to daddy duty and on-again, off-again exploits with the vid-gal, McCrary is the lead for the group D-List, named by the fact that each of the five members’ names begin with the letter ‘D’. The new album is titled “D-Listed” and is currently getting the finishing touches.

“It’s been a pleasure working on this album,” McCrary said. “It’s truly a labour of love. This is one of those things that I’ve had to work for and it’s been a long time coming. I had to find the right sound, had to find the right production team, I had to find the right songs.”

And not to mention, you’ve got to overcome your sitcom stigma.

“They don’t give actors the same fair shake if you’re an actor coming up as a singer,” McCrary said of his struggle to become known for his singing talent. He referred to other actors who have also had to hurdle the actor moniker in pursuing music including jazz artist Malcolm Jamal Warner from “Cosby Show” fame, and comedic actor Orlando Jones.

 “You get locked into these characters and people have a problem seeing you in another light. I’m hoping that people will accept the growth –- ‘Young and the Restless’ and my music,” he said. Hopefully, me being able to do what I do as an artist, I can bridge some of those gaps and make it easier for those coming behind me.”

For more on Darius McCrary’s music, visit www.dariusmccraryonline.com. For more on “The Young and the Restless,” visit www.theyoungandtherestless.com.

Martin Lawrence Brings Sitcom To TV One

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 06, 2010) *Martin Lawrence, former star of Fox sitcom "Martin," returns to series television this month as an executive producer of a new comedy series picked up by TV One.   

"Love That Girl!" stars Tatyana Ali as a young divorcee who returns home to Southern California and takes a job in her father's real estate business while living with her unemployed brother. 

Without so much as a pilot order, writer-director Bentley Kyle Evans ("Martin," "The Jamie Foxx Show") shot four episodes of "Love That Girl!" on a shoestring budget of $1.2 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Evans called in favours from friends and colleagues to shoot the episodes over five days in a converted warehouse.

"It's great to be back in the television game and working with a network like TV One," Evans said. "If executed properly, this will represent a whole new model for producing and delivering quality scripted series to the television market at a reasonable cost."

TV One will show "Girl!" over a three-night period starting January 19. This will mark the first original scripted program to air on TV One, which is available in roughly 50 million homes and typically features specials and syndicated programming, including repeats of "Martin," one of the network's top-rated shows.

If the episodes hit a certain rating, the network will pick up 13-26 additional half-hours.

TV TIDBITS

Morgan Freeman The New Voice Of 'CBS Evening News'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 05, 2010) *Morgan Freeman on Monday became the latest actor to introduce a network news program.  Following in the footsteps of Michael Douglas, who introduces Brian Williams of "NBC Nightly News," Freeman's voiceover will open the broadcast for "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric. Freeman replaces the late, legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, who recorded the introduction when Couric started at the network in 2006. Cronkite's voice was kept on the air even after his death July 17. "As comforting as it is to look back on the great career that Walter had, we're looking forward now and we just felt it was the right time to make the move that at some point had to be made," said CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus. "This seemed like the appropriate time since Walter's passing to make the move." Having Freeman on board gives CBS the flexibility to record different intros when Couric has special reports and is on location, he said. CBS has replaced Cronkite with a generic voice over the past few months when it wanted to highlight something special.

::THEATRE NEWS::

2010's People To Watch: Jennifer Tarver, Theatre Director

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 03, 2010) Chicago, Broadway, Stratford.

That's
Jennifer Tarver's impressive flight-path for 2010.

And if her recent career trajectory is any indication, she's probably going to go even further.

She's going to be reviving her smash 2008 Stratford production of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape, starring Brian Dennehy, at Chicago's famed Goodman Theatre in January.

The show moves to Broadway in April, and right after that, Tarver heads to Stratford to direct the world premiere of George F. Walker's King of Thieves, starting previews in July.

How does she feel about this theatrical whirlwind?

"If I stop to think about it for too long, I get nervous," says the level-headed Tarver, 42. "But as long as I take it one day at a time, one play at a time, I'm fine."

That would make sense considering she's also juggling parenthood for the first time. Tarver and her long-time partner, Liz Upchurch (head of the Ensemble Studio and coach at the Canadian Opera Company) had their first child, Jack Benjamin, on Dec. 7.

"He's named after both our fathers and I hope he grows up to enjoy monster truck rallies as much as I do," laughs Tarver.

Born in Edmonton and raised in New York, where she studied clarinet at the Manhattan School of Music, Tarver started out as a director with opera.

She then switched to theatre, moved to Toronto and formed a company called Theatre Extasis. It mounted some of this city's most interesting work in the past decade and won Tarver numerous awards.

But she had hit the glass ceiling that experimental theatre practitioners often crash up against by 2008, when Stratford called to check her availability.

"I thought that everything in the season had been spoken for," recalls Tarver. "But I remember thinking that I wished they'd offer me Krapp's Last Tape."

Indeed, that's what they had in mind. The original director of the Beckett play had withdrawn after some internal political disagreements and they wanted Tarver to direct.

She was thrilled, but worried when she heard the lead was going to be Brian Dennehy.

"My initial reaction was kind of, `Holy shit!' But I soon got used to the idea, and the two of us really clicked."

Dennehy is now president of the Jennifer Tarver fan club and insisted on her bringing the show to Chicago and Broadway. "We became very, very close friends and collaborators and I remain open to all her ideas and suggestions," he told the Star last year.

With friends like that, and talent that everyone agrees on, Jennifer Tarver should find 2010 a year to remember.

2010's People To Watch: Ravi Jain, Actor And Director

Source: www.thestar.com - Nicholas Keung

(January 03, 2010) The name of Ravi Jain's two-year-old company, Why Not Theatre, says a lot about him.

Broadly speaking, he's an actor and director. But within those categories, the 30-year-old native Torontonian is all over the place.

He has done classical plays such as Antigone, Hamlet and Othello, in New York, Athens and Paris, respectively, as well as contemporary physical theatres – performances that rely less on words than dance, movement, visuals and multimedia, like his company's co-production SPENT, an absurdist account of two execs who fall off the corporate ladder in a recession.

"The thing about me is people find me interesting and annoying because they can't define what I am like," says Jain, sporting a British gentleman's cap, jeans and an argyle sweater.

"You don't want to be boxed in," continues Jain, who studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and the movement-oriented Jacques Lecoq school in Paris. "Don't put me into something that you think I should be. Give me something that you don't think I can do."

In fact, that's what Jain did at his alma mater, Upper Canada College.

When he was in Grade 11, he turned down the comical role of the gravedigger in Hamlet and fought to be Horatio.

"Ravi called one of the directors at home and made a prolonged pitch," recalls Dale Churchward, director of UCC Theatre. "He pushed pretty hard, and the long and short of it is that he got the role. The deal was that he would have to bring it on – particularly given the lengths to which he went to achieve his objective. And he did so."

Churchward is impressed by the breadth and depth of Jain's work in a relatively brief span of time.

"Ravi always invests," Churchward says. "He's demanding of those with whom he takes on theatre work, but he's also generous, and brings at least as much thought and sweat to the task as does anyone else involved. In short, he's a dynamic guy who gets stuff done."

And not just stuff in theatre. Jain is also a community activist who works with organizations including Schools Without Borders, ArtsVote and BeautifulCity.

This year will be action-packed. A new Why Not show, I'm So Close It's Not Even Funny, about time and loneliness, opens in March, and later this year Jain will mount Brimful of Asha, a play he's been developing with his mother about his parents' failed attempt to arrange a marriage for him in India.

Why Not also plans to explore domestic immigration policies through the story of the Komagata Maru, a ship carrying 376 would-be Indian immigrants that was held in Vancouver harbour for two months in 1914 before being sent back.

Theatre, says Jain, is "more than something that we pay $25 to see and feel good about ourselves. It brings people together and creates connections."

Shaky Times At Storied Cirque

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

(January 2, 2010) Will 2010 shape up to be the world's most famous circus's annus horribilis ?

Last year,
Cirque du Soleil's founder, Guy Laliberté, was flying high – literally – making headlines around the world for his trip into space. But as the calendar flips over, the stilt-walking entertainment executive is coming back down to earth, and hard.

His Montreal-based company has two big new shows in preview performances right now – and both have been marked by production setbacks and bad buzz.

Banana Shpeel , an ambitious New York-bound attempt to reinvent vaudeville for the 21st century, was massacred in the reviews of its out-of-town tryout in Chicago last month. This week, its upcoming reopening at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan was pushed back three weeks, to Feb. 24.

Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Viva Elvis , a new musical “abstract biography” of the king of rock 'n' roll, began preview performances just before Christmas. But its official opening, originally planned for what would have been Elvis's 75th birthday on Jan. 8, was recently delayed (for a second time) to Feb. 19. Advance word on Viva Elvis is not particularly positive – even from those directly involved with it. “The show is not complete, and it's not what we wish,” creative executive Gilles Ste-Croix told the Las Vegashttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifReview-Journal last month as Cirque began to sell tickets.

The Globe and Mail began requesting interviews with Cirque du Soleil creatives and executives on the subject of Banana Shpeel and Viva Elvis in October, but has yet to be granted one.

The executive team had sounded cheery last summer as the company celebrated its 25th anniversary and Laliberté trained in Russia for his trip to the International Space Station. In August, president and CEO Daniel Lamarre said he was particularly excited about Cirque's then-unnamed vaudeville experiment, which he hoped might be the beginning of a whole new stream of live entertainment – one that Cirque could easily tour to traditional proscenium theatres, thus bypassing the need to lug along its own big top.

“Vaudeville doesn't exist any more, but, as you know, it was huge,” Lamarre said of the eclectic variety shows that were once the most popular form of entertainment in North American – before film, the Great Depression and television killed them off. “This format has giant potential if a creative team can bring it to today's world.”

The creatives eventually lined up to do just that for Banana Shpeel – a co-production with Madison Square Gardenhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifEntertainment. Celebrated American clown David Shiner was hired as director and writer. Best known for Fool Moon , a much-loved, wordless two-hander that had three Broadway runs, he seemed like the right man to lead Cirque to set up a permanent shop around the Great White Way. Rialto actors Annaleigh Ashford and Michael Longoria were enlisted to star, while composer Laurence O'Keefe ( Legally Blonde , Bat Boy ) was brought on board to write the songs.

A couple of weeks before Banana Shpeel saw its first audience in Chicago, however, it become clear that Cirque's attempt to compete with Broadway-style entertainment was not going according to plan.

First, Ashford and Longoria were fired, and their parts eliminated. That happened even though the two triple threats had already been featured front and centre in a “sneak peek” of the show that aired on the season finale of America's Got Talent .

O'Keefe was soon gone, too, and his score excised from the show, which was said to be headed back to vaudeville basics. When Chicago critics were finally invited to Banana Shpeel in December, they seemed to be competing in their condemnations of the clown-filled show. The script was “limp, lame and tired” wrote the Chicago Sun-Times, while the Chicago Tribune called the whole thing “cold, chaotic, clipped and cacophonous.” Echoing a character in the show, Variety asked of Cirque: “What happened to the magic?”

Banana Shpeel 's remaining creative team is now scrambling to rework the show for its Feb. 24 New York premiere.

On Jan. 3, Viva Elvis is also shutting down for a couple of weeks of intensive rehearsals and retooling by director Vince Paterson (a choreographer known for his work with Michael Jackson and Madonna). That show, too, has been a departure for Cirque, with narration and “acting moments,” rather than just feats of acrobatics, to tell the story of Presley's life.

There's a little more than usual riding on the Viva Elvis show for Cirque, because, after a string of critical and financial successes, the company has begun to lose momentum in Las Vegas. The recession has been hard on Sin City. The new $8.5-billion (U.S.) CityCenter complex – home to Viva Elvis – teetered on the brink of bankruptcy during construction, while at least two other casino projects have been abandoned mid-construction. Tourism levels are down, and the remaining visitors to the city are spending less cash on gambling and entertainment.

Over the past year, Cirque's six shows on the Strip have seen attendance shrink from about 90 per cent capacity to 80 per cent. Box-office profits are not public information, but discount ticket offers have proliferated.

It doesn't help that the company's last extravaganza there was its first major critical flop. A magic show starring Criss Angel, Believe , which opened in October, 2008, is still undergoing revisions, and fills only about 75 per cent of its seats (with cut-rate tickets readily available). Like Banana Shpeel and Viva Elvis , Believe was an attempt by Cirque to step away from straight circus.

So, given the shaky economic times, why has Cirque decided to try something new, instead of sticking with the tried and true?

In the absence of immediate answers from Cirque, I turned to Mike Weatherford, a long-time Las Vegas observer who has followed the company's fortunes for the Review-Journal.

He suggests that Cirque needs to conquer new areas of entertainment if it wants to continue to grow without cannibalizing it own audience. As well, he adds, the company's new projects need to move away from Cirque's colourful, gibberish-filled comfort zone. “ Viva Elvis , much more than the Beatles's Love , will have to show that they can Americanize their production and aesthetic,” says Weatherford. “An Elvis show can't look French-Canadian.”

Will Cirque du Soleil be able to turn around Banana Shpeel and Viva Elvis in the next two months, before their official openings finally take place? Laliberté's team does have a long and storied history of saving the day, so don't call either show a flop just yet.

Then again, Cirque du Soleil has never had to fight such a two-front war before. And in an era when bloggers and social-networking sites such as Twitter don't wait for official opening nights to pass judgment, the early negative perceptions could have long-lasting effects. The cliché has never been truer: You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

Heartthrob Does More Than Just Get Bye

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(January 01, 2010) NEW YORK–He's got a lot of living to do.

Nolan Gerard Funk, the 23-year-old Vancouverite who's playing the title role in the Broadway revival of Bye, Bye Birdie may be briefly unemployed when the show ends on Jan. 24, but I wouldn't worry.

Since he started acting at 14, he's already amassed credentials that would do credit to someone twice his age.

He's probably best known as Nikko Alexander in the Nickelodeon TV movie Spectacular!, which yielded a No. 1 soundtrack, but he's also clocked substantial guest roles on series like The L Word, Smallville, Supernatural and Lie to Me.

His movies include Deadgirl (seen at TIFF in 2008), Class Savage, 18 and Triple Dog, and his first concert appearance was opposite American Idol runner-up David Archuleta at the Hard Rock Café in New York.

Not bad for a guy who owes his career to a dentist.

Funk enjoys telling the story as he unwinds over dinner after a matinee performance of Birdie.

"I was 13-and-a-half and I got this really bad toothache one weekend," he relates. "I couldn't find anybody open except this one guy, Dr. Steven Hill. I talked him into seeing me and when I was there I met his wife, Barbara.

"She told me that her three kids were all in show business and I ought to be too, so she gave me the name of a school and some agents. Six months later, I had my first job."

Mrs. Hill was probably impressed with the same thing that still grabs people's attention today. Funk is a striking-looking young man, six feet tall, with the kind of dark, brooding appeal that reaches everyone from kiddies to cougars.

She couldn't have known she was speaking directly to a fantasy Funk had nursed since childhood.

"I always wanted to be in show business, ever since I was tiny. I had very difficult circumstances growing up and I always felt like a fish out of water."

The usually forthcoming Funk prefers to keep the details private, but he will allow that "there was a lot of loss in my life, people very close to me kept dying."

He grew up in North Delta, rode horses a lot as a kid and watched his performing dreams get shattered when "in Grades 6, 7 and 8, I auditioned for the school play and they wouldn't cast me."

Not one to take rejection easily, Funk channelled his energy into sports, and "I competed nationally as a gymnast and a diver."

He finds a link between sports and theatre in that "it's highly public and highly private at the same time. You have to focus on the task at hand with thousands of people screaming and cheering."

But then came his serendipitous toothache and Funk switched his energies back to his initial love, performing. "My first job was a Hot Wheels commercial," he laughs, "but soon I was doing really dramatic stuff like a role on Taken," referring to the 2002 Steven Spielberg-presented series.

He also made a strong impression "as a guy in and out of group homes" on the youth series Renegadepress.com, for which he got a 2007 Leo Award nomination.

But it was 2009's Spectacular!, the Nickelodeon attempt to duplicate High School Musical's success, that really shot him to prominence and brought him to the attention of the people casting Bye, Bye Birdie.

"I have to admit I had never seen the show or the movie, never even heard of it," says Funk, shaking his head. "But once I heard it was about a teen idol, I was interested, but they made me audition my ass off."

Conrad Birdie, the huge pop star about to be drafted into the U.S. army in the musical, was based on Elvis Presley and is usually played by "pot-bellied lechers chasing after girls half his age," as Funk puts it.

But director Robert Longbottom wanted something different and urged Funk to develop a new, younger, fresher characterization: still a Southern rockabilly guy, but no longer just an Elvis parody.

"It wasn't just my Broadway debut," notes Funk, "it was the first play I was ever in and there were a lot of snooty people I had to win over. I came in at the beginning as the guy that nobody took seriously and I was like, `You don't know who you're dealing with.'"

And they didn't. Funk missed a substantial chunk of previews thanks to tonsillitis, but when the show opened Oct. 15 the reviews were really brutal ... except for his.

"Mr. Funk seems more at ease onstage than anyone else," wrote Ben Brantley in The New York Times.

Michael Kuchwara for the Associated Press noted that Funk "sings well and swivels his hips with just the right amount of lewdness."

"In the end," concludes Funk, "it was probably the funnest experience of my life."

Now he's ready to face the future, whatever it brings, although the crowds of admirers of all ages waiting at the stage door hold no appeal.

"I don't have time for a personal life. My work comes first. I'm the only person who will never leave me. I learned that early."

Versatile Actor Revels In Variety

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(January 4, 2010)
For Tom Rooney, variety isn't just the spice of life, it's the whole enchilada.

The versatile 45-year-old actor is appearing in Michael Healey's latest play, Courageous, which opens Wednesday at the Tarragon Theatre.

And although he loves working on new theatre scripts ("one of the most exciting things I can think of!") his recent career has included such diverse experiences as appearing in an epic disaster movie (The Day Before Tomorrow) and, onstage, starring in a musical (Toronto's production of Hairspray), playing 36 characters in one night (I Am My Own Wife) and tackling a generous amount of Shakespeare, including Hamlet at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

"I know it sounds like the obvious thing to say," laughs Rooney when asked which he prefers, "but I love the fact that I can do all of them!"

His other rule is "one role at a time," so all of his attention right now is focused on Healey's script, which Rooney describes as "a comedy about what it takes to live in a society where the individual's rights are supposedly protected, but every now and then they bump into somebody else’s rights and you've got trouble."

One of the characters Rooney plays is a gay man who wants to marry his partner. But the Catholic justice of the peace they approach to perform the ceremony refuses to do it on the grounds that it is against his beliefs.

Another strand of the plot involves a young, white, struggling working-class couple who believe that someone from Somalia is getting preferential treatment over them because of their race.

The work is a companion piece to Healey's 2006 play Generous. There are multiple plot lines that finally connect, performed in a variety of styles, with the socially conscious, witty dialogue that the author is fond of surrounding the action with.

"Quite frankly, I keep thinking about Shaw when I'm working on this play," says Rooney. "There's nothing like an intellectual argument and Healey really knows how to set them up with great humour."

But when the author is also an actor, with his own distinctive style, can that be a blessing or a curse?

"I can't help but find there's a bit of the Michael Healey voice in many of the lines," Rooney admits. "I hear his rhythms. But frankly, I think it's a great guideline. It's wonderful to be able to have a kind of a verbal outline you can follow."

(Healey and Rooney have worked together on TV, in the defunct CBC show This is Wonderland.)

Healey seems to place a considerable amount of trust in his director, Richard Rose, because, as Rooney relates, "Michael was there for the first couple of days, then we rehearsed for 2 1/2 weeks without him. Then he saw a run-through and now we get notes every now and then."

Still, when things get sticky in rehearsal, Rooney has to fight the urge to reach out to Healey through cyberspace.

"It's very tempting when things are tough to shoot him an email and say, `Michael, give me a line reading, tell me how you would say this.'

"But I try not to do it. That's the easy way out and it might be cheating Michael of some new insight that I could be able to offer. That's the amazing thing about theatre: that we can create something wonderful out of this collaborative hodgepodge."

And no matter whether he's doing Healey or Hamlet or Hairspray, Rooney has one guideline: "You have to figure out how a person thinks and what they want."

To Rooney, that's a simple decision. "With all characters, I think it comes down to the need to be loved. Every character that's ever been written is just looking for more love in their life.

"I know that Tom Rooney is looking for love in his everyday life as well. I'm just a man in the world looking for approval and for love."

All of which seems to explain the easy-going humanity that flows from Rooney's onstage portrayals. And if he seems especially cheerful right now, he's got an answer for that, too.

"The great thing about doing a new play is ... that it's a new play!"

Courageous is in previews at the Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. It opens Wednesday and runs through Feb. 7.

Go to www.tarragontheatre.com or call 416-531-1827 for info and tickets.

You Fancy Yourself: A Selfish Girl's Torment

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

You Fancy Yourself
(out of 4)
By Maja Ardal. Directed by Mary Francis Moore. Until Jan. 23 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave. 416-504-7529

(January 06, 2010) Saint Paul once wrote that there comes a time when we should "put aside childish things," but then he never met
Maja Ardal.

The irrepressible actor/author of You Fancy Yourself, which opened Tuesday night at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, proves that there is great entertainment value and dramatic validity in holding onto and exploring those often tormented years of our youth.

Ardal takes us back to Edinburgh more than 50 years ago, when she was a young girl newly arrived in Scotland with her family from Iceland.

She relives what it was like to be a stranger in a strange land, desperate to make any kind of friends, while trying her best to learn the ins and outs of her own personality.

She's a bold and appealing performer, not hesitating to dive into the deep end of the acting pool, giving us characters who totter on the edge of caricature but still somehow maintain a sense of inner reality.

Her self-portrait, Elsa, is mercifully free of any cloying self-love or misplaced sympathy. She knows she was a brash, egotistical, often selfish young woman and she's not afraid to show those qualities to us.

It takes a brave actor and author to show one's self in the act of cowardly betraying her best friend at the hands of a batch of schoolyard bullies, but Ardal takes us there, lets us feel the pain and eventually brings us to a different kind of redemption.

She plays 11 characters in the evening, with a wide variety of well-observed Scots accents and the body postures to match. You'll cherish her teacher's pet, the cloying June Macready, as well as the tight-lipped teacher, Miss Campbell, and the wistful Adelle (her pathologically shy best friend).

Ardal also has a deft touch at playing the surly young men in her class, including the poor, potato-eared David MacDonald, whose post-nasal drip masks an aching heart.

Mary Francis Moore has directed with a deft and deliberately invisible hand, avoiding any overt theatricality and letting Ardal's talent do all the heavy lifting. It's a wise choice.

It's easy to recommend You Fancy Yourself as a play with equal portions of heart and humour, both provided in generous amounts by the talented Ardal.

This is an edited version of the review that appeared in the Star on Jan. 28, 2009. 

THEATRE TIDBITS

Mirvish Allowing Alcohol At Some Shows

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 4, 2010) Canada's largest theatrical producer is trying to take the edge off by allowing alcohol inside the auditorium for certain shows.
Mirvish Productions doesn't do it for intense dramas, mostly just musicals, including The Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof, which close Jan. 10. It's also allowing it for My Mother's Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding, which returns Feb. 26, and the upcoming Rock of Ages, opening April 20. The company first allowed audiences to sip in their seats a couple of years back for the Queen-inspired We Will Rock You. "We don't do it as a profit centre, we do it more as a convenience for the patrons," Mirvish spokesman John Karastamatis said in a recent phone interview. The trend is catching on elsewhere, including London's West End, some Broadway shows and at Toronto's Bluma Appel Theatre, which says it allows drinking during certain shows. Karastamatis said there haven't been any major spills, adding that cleaning staff is always on hand in case anything does happen. There haven't been any instances of people drinking too much either, he added.

Circus School In Town Looking For Future Performers

Source:  www.thestar.com

(January 06, 2010) Thinking about running away with the circus? Here’s your chance to learn how.  Graduates of the National Circus School were at Zero Gravity Circus Space in Toronto on Tuesday demonstrating some of the moves they’ve learned to help recruit candidates to audition next month for a spot at the Montreal school.  It’s the only school in North America that offers a full high school and college program while students train in the circus arts.  The auditions are entrance exams and attract young people from the worlds of gymnastics, dance, acrosport, diving, figure skating and martial arts. Grads find work in circuses around the world.  More information at nationalcircusschool.ca or 1-800-267-0859.

::COMEDY NEWS::

Comedian Ron James Plans His Second Act

Source: www.thestar.com
- Bill Brioux

(December 31, 2009) Ron James is tickled to be hosting a CBC New Year's Eve special for the fifth year in a row.

The stand-up comedian, who just wrapped up the first year of his CBC Friday night comedy series, hosts an hour-long comedy special Thursday at 9 p.m. called The Ron James Show: New Year's Eve Edition. It follows the return of the Air Farce for its 17th annual New Year's Eve special.

The 51-year-old comedian, never shy to mix personal philosophy with wit, was in a reflective mood on the phone earlier this week.

James sees the next decade as the doorway to his own second act. After a busy year where he launched a series, hosted the Geminis and maintained his usual cross-country road schedule, he hopes to take things a little slower.

"It took me a long time to get where I am," says James, who comes originally from Glace Bay, N.S. "I want to try to enjoy it."

Earlier this month, he really enjoyed being part of the Second City reunion in Chicago, where dozens of comedy stars from across Canada and the U.S. gathered to salute 50 years of the Chicago/Toronto sketch comedy institution.

"I saw the best comedic acting I've ever seen in my life," says James, who singled out a side-splitting bit where Second City grad Steve Carell "didn't say a word or even blink for five straight minutes onstage."

James says the reunion was bittersweet for some alumni and that the gathering was as much about healing as it was about laughter.

His stint at the Toronto Second City came in the early to mid-1980s, right after the explosive success of the John Candy/Dave Thomas/ Eugene Levy/Catherine O'Hara/Andrea Martin years. They were a hard act to follow and James, who had worked his way up to the main stage to join Don Lake, Debra McGrath, Kathy Laskey, John Hemphill and Bruce Pirrie, among others, says he was eventually fired from the troupe.

"So was Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and so was Bill Murray," says James, able to laugh about it years later. He takes comfort in the Second City cast-off alumni slogan: "Be fired, be famous."

James likes to drop phrases such as "we're all warriors of the muse," but what he had that others did not was a warrior's will to fight through to his dream. Time and again he has picked himself up and tried again, surviving a financially withering three-year stint in L.A., returning to Canada to reinvent himself as a road-tested, stand-up comedian.

Doing the fifth New Year's Eve special on CBC is "an incredible honour I don't take for granted," he says. "All I ever wanted was to be a working comedian, buddy. I just wanted to get laughs."

All of the skills he picked up along the way have come in handy this year on The Ron James Show, as well as Thursday's special.

James gets to perform a stand-up monologue off the top and engage in sketches with comedy pals like Linda Kash, Patrick McKenna and Peter Keleghan. A favourite is a historical romp shot at Toronto's Fort York in full 17th-century costumes, a twisted take on the ill-fated Franklin expedition of 1846.

He plans to spend this New Year's Eve in Halifax, "sitting in my brother-in-law's newly renovated basement with a cold pizza in my hand, watching the special," he says.

It's all part of his plan to slow things down a bit.

"I think what 2010 means to me is to try and find the time to enjoy where you are rather than run like a chicken with your head cut off all the time."

And while he feels like he's from a whole lot of places now, including Toronto, Halifax might be the best place to take stock and savour the moment.

"It's like a line I wrote for one of the specials a few years ago," he says. "When you can't see where you're going, it's good to know where you're from."

A Clean Killing For Bill Engvall's Posse

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(January 03, 2010) Bill Engvall is moving up in the world.

While conducting this New Year's Eve interview with the Star, the well-regarded comedian and ex-sitcom star sat on a ski lift, heading toward the peak of Utah's Park City Mountain as he contemplated the continuing good fortune of his 20-year career run.

"I've really got no complaints, my friend," says the cheerful Galveston native, who co-headlines the Air Canada Centre Saturday with fellow stand-up Blue Collar Comedy pals Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.

"(This) week, I get to travel with two of my buds to Canada doing what I love to do – which is stand-up – and here I am sitting on top of a beautiful mountain full of Utah snow. I've really got no complaints."

Metaphorically speaking, you could say that the 52-year-old Engvall, along with his two partners, is on top of Comedy Mountain: a summit where they've all enjoyed multimedia success separately and together.

Engvall's Texan-everyman stage persona may not, in these parts, have achieved the level of utter familiarity that Foxworthy and the Cable Guy (alias Dan Whitney) have. But for millions of fans, the phrase "here's your sign" belongs to him only.

A decade ago he built a routine out of a desire to physically label idiots – "That way you wouldn't rely on them, and you wouldn't ask them for nothing" – and got more than a decade's worth of material out of it. ("You catch all them fish?" "Nope, talked 'em into givin' up. Here's your sign.") Suddenly, a low-key performer had a catchphrase and a following to rival his tourmates'.

With their popularity largely fostered by country music audiences, Foxworthy is the best known of the bunch, initially turning his 1993 routine involving the cultural catchphrase "You Might Be A Redneck" into something of an international phenomenon that included a series of multi-platinum albums, books and other licensing opportunities (calendars, T-shirts, board game).

Throw in two seasons of The Jeff Foxworthy Show (co-starring Engvall), Blue Collar TV and current hosting duties of the quiz show Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? – as well as the just-wrapped syndicated The Foxworthy Countdown, the Sirius satellite radio show Blue Collar Comedy, and 22 books with titles like Redneck Extreme Mobile Home Makeover and How To Really Stink At Work – and the TV, radio and print mediums are covered.

Larry the Cable Guy's "Git-R-Done" has fostered three U.S. gold albums and several direct-to-DVD movies and comedy specials for the former radio personality (who also sponsors his own Pro Rodeo team), while Engvall – who broke through in 1997 with his Here's Your Sign shtick (and a Top 30 hit featuring Travis Tritt) – has nine albums and three seasons of the just-concluded TBS sitcom The Bill Engvall Show.

Then there's the Blue Collar Comedy Tour phenomenon – launched in 2000 with comedian Ron White also on board – that grossed $15 million, but spawned highly rated Comedy Central specials, a hit DVD and a number of sequels that have sold more than 7 million copies.

The trio has booked 15 arena concerts together for 2010 in tandem with their solo outings and Engvall, 52, has a theory as to why the Blue Collar package is popular enough to fill venues like the ACC.

"We do a clean show, which I think people really appreciate," he reasons. "Nothing against the dirty acts – they all have their niche – but I think the fact that we promote family values is largely overlooked.

"I think in this day and age and economy, you're getting three headliners for normally what you would pay for just one. Probably the big success for Blue Collar, is that we give people more bang for their buck and it's a great show."

Although his latest album, Aged And Confused, deals with the empty nest syndrome that he and Gail, his wife of 28 years, are currently "having the time of our lives with," Engvall promises that he'll also throw in a few "Here's Your Sign" bits and that he, Foxworthy and Larry will get interactive near the end of the show.

"We'll do a Q&A," Engvall forecasts. "We learned from Blue Collar that it's one of the things people love: because they get to see more of the human side than just the performer side."

The Foxworthy/Engvall/Cable Guy package isn't the only laughfest coming to Toronto in the next three months: impressionist Andre-Philippe Gagnon finishes up a Casino Rama stint tonight (January 3); ventriloquist puppeteer Jeff Dunham invades the ACC on Jan. 16; deadpan genius Steven Wright appears for two Convocation Hall nights Jan. 30-31; homegrown peevish complaining funny guy Jeremy Hotz plays Massey Hall on Feb. 26. Down the road, former Fear Factor host Joe Rogan headlining the Queen Elizabeth Centre on March 6, the Trailer Park Boys take up at Massey Hall four days later and Deal Or No Deal's Howie Mandel hits Casino Rama on March 25.

Engvall's trio have a different level of success than most of the aforementioned, however. As for his own sign that comedy was going to be his professional forté, he cites 1992, when he won an American Comedy Award for best male stand-up comedian.

"It was so unexpected," he recalls. "When they called my name, I got the same look that trailer park people get when they see a UFO.

"I knew I could hang with the big boys after I won that one."

::OTHER NEWS::

Nothing Exceeds Like Bob Mackie

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(January 02, 2010) LAS VEGAS–Tell the truth. You may have thought you looked terrific in your New Year's Eve outfit, but wouldn't you really have made a much bigger impression if it had been put together by Bob Mackie?

The 69-year-old California designer has been making some of the biggest stars in show business look outrageously wonderful for the past 45 years, and there's no end to his wardrobe wackiness in sight.

Dubbed "the sultan of sequins and the rajah of rhinestones" for his love of glitter in all its forms, Mackie has used his mantra of "nothing exceeds like excess" on a dazzling variety of women, from the likes of Joan Collins and Lucille Ball to more recent entries like Eva Longoria, Katy Perry and Pink.

But if you had to associate him with one star above all others, it would be Cher. Ever since they first met in 1967, he's been responsible for the fabulous looks she has unleashed on an unceasingly amazed public. That's what puts him here, backstage at Caesars Palace, where the raven-tressed diva is well into the second-year of Cher at the Colosseum's three-year run. (After her show finished No. 1 on the Billboard charts as the top-grossing North American concert for December, Cher started a three-month vacation and will resume at Caesars Palace on April 10.)

Mackie gets billing over everyone else on the show – except for Cher herself of course – but that's just as it should be. The spectacular concoctions he designs for her – part haute couture, part Starship Enterprise – are as much a part of her act as singing "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves."

"No matter what you put on Cher, you never lose her and there aren't many people like that," grins the still-boyish Mackie. "She always stands out, even when the dress looks like a parade float."

When they first met, she was still partnered with Sonny Bono, and they were the novelty music act one week on The Carol Burnett Show, which Mackie costumed for 11 years.

"It started out with accepting the fact that she was different from everyone else," says Mackie, "but then we wound up emphasizing it and finally exulting in it. She loves to get dressed up and the fans all like it, too."

And, of course, the drag queens copy her immediately, he says. "Outfits it took us months to put together have copies appearing online within days."

If there was one defining moment in their relationship, Mackie thinks it undoubtedly was designing her outfit at the 1986 Oscars. "She hadn't been nominated that year (for Mask), even though most people thought she should have been. It was a great performance, but the Academy went. `Oh, you know, it's just Cher.'

"She was kinda pissed off, so when they asked her to be a presenter, she wanted to stick it to them a bit. I'm much more conservative than she is, but she always pushes me to go further."

And so Mackie sent her out on stage in a sky-high Mohawk headdress, black chain-mail, stretch pants, a loincloth and knee high boots. The laughter and applause that greeted her entry was only topped by Cher's deadpan delivery of her next line: "As you can see, I did receive my Academy booklet on how to dress like a serious actress."

But Mackie and Cher did have one serious disagreement in their relationship. "Oh yes," sighs Mackie. "When she insisted on appearing in Vogue for `Turn Back Time' with her whatsit all hanging out. I denied I had anything to do with that for years."

But here's the $64,000 question: what kind of person grows up destined to drape Cher in acres of feathers? "I was a weird child anyway," Mackie giggles. "I went to see a lot of movie musicals when I was little, then I'd come home and draw what I'd just seen.

"I grew up in southern California, and for a long time I lived in a neighbourhood with no kids, so I'd stay inside and make my costume sketches and design my little stage sets, then I'd tape them to coke bottles so they'd stand up and use flashlights to illuminate them all."

Mackie's parents divorced when he was 6 and his mother developed health issues, so he was sent to live with his grandparents for eight years "and they didn't care what I was doing as long as I was quiet.

"I remember being at school when I was about 12 and everyone was concerned about me because I had no parents, and they'd ask me things like, `What do you want to be when you grow up, son?' And I'd say, `I want to be a costume designer on Broadway,' and they'd think I was crazy."

But he stuck with his dreams, went on to study art, and then started pounding the pavements in Hollywood.

"I got hired real quick!" he recalls with amazement. "I was assistant to biggies like Edith Head and Jean-Louis and I got known as the new boy who would do all the jazzy girls."

But film production of glossy musicals was slowing down, so Mackie wisely segued into the world of variety television, where he really hit his stride designing for Carol Burnett.

"I had to make Carol look good as Carol every week, but I also got to do these wonderful comedy sketches which were such fun."

Probably the most memorable was "Went With The Wind," Burnett's parody of Gone With the Wind, where she and Mackie got the inspired idea of having Scarlett's drapes-into-dress scheme go awry when she forgot to take the rod out of the curtains.

"I don't think I've ever heard an audience howl like that in my life," Burnett recalled in an interview with the Star last year.

At first, Mackie tries to give all the credit for his success to the women he's decked out, saying that "I've been lucky to work with some pretty charismatic ladies," but he finally admits his talent might have had something to do with it.

"I let everybody be themselves, no matter how crazy or exaggerated things get. You don't try to change people or transform them. You just make them look as good as you can."

And for those of you out there who might be dreaming of your next chance to "dress up," but don't have Mackie to design for you, here's his advice: "You shouldn't overdress. You have to work your way into it and find what's right for you."

Which is not necessarily what's right for Cher.

Casey Johnson, 30: J&J Heiress Idolized Monroe

Source:  www.thestar.com - Robert Jablon

(January 06, 2010) LOS ANGELES–Casey Johnson, heiress to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and daughter of the owner of the New York Jets, lived a Hollywood lifestyle.

She partied with Paris Hilton and got engaged to bisexual reality TV star Tila Tequila. And, like her idol Marilyn Monroe, Johnson died young.

The coroner's office deferred a cause of death Tuesday after an autopsy on the 30-year-old Johnson was inconclusive. Toxicology tests have been ordered.

Johnson was found dead Monday in her home behind big wooden gates bearing the name "Grumblenot" in a quiet Los Angeles neighbourhood.

There were no signs of foul play, police spokesman Gregory Baek said.

Johnson was diagnosed with diabetes as a child, but it was unclear whether that may have played a role in her death.

Johnson was the daughter of Jets owner Robert Wood (Woody) Johnson IV. Casey Johnson had no role in the health-care products company that her great-great-grandfather founded in 1886, even though she and her two younger sisters were heirs to the fortune.

Like her friend and former high school classmate Paris Hilton, Johnson's exploits were detailed in tabloid reports of partying and sexual escapades. Johnson became a staple of the New York Post's Page Six, the gossip column where she was mockingly dubbed the "baby-oil heiress."

Johnson, Hilton and Hilton's sister, Nicky, were among the socialites featured in the 2002 documentary The It Girls.

In a Twitter post Tuesday, Hilton said she was devastated by Johnson's death. "In bed crying, looking at baby pictures of Casey, Nicky and I. I feel so upset. I feel like I've lost a sister. My heart is broken."

Johnson and Tila Tequila canoodled and announced they were engaged in a web video last month. Tequila referred to Johnson as "my Wifey" in a Twitter posting after Johnson's death.

Johnson was recently arrested for investigation of stealing $22,000 (U.S.) in lingerie, mail, jewellery and other items from the Hollywood home of model friend Jasmine Lennard.

She pleaded not guilty last month to burglary and receiving stolen property and had a preliminary hearing scheduled on Feb. 2, district attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said.

Johnson also was reportedly in a custody fight over her adopted daughter with her mother, Sale Johnson.

Casey Johnson adopted the child as a baby from Kazakhstan in 2007 and named her Ava-Monroe after her idol, Marilyn Monroe.

"I see a lot of similarities between us," Casey said of Monroe in a 2006 Vanity Fair interview. "Her life makes me sad. I don't think she was very happy. They thought she was some dumb blond, and she wasn't. She was a smart, smart broad. And I think that sometimes people look at me and think, `Oh, Casey Johnson, she's stupid, she's blond, she's an heiress, blah, blah, blah.'"

::DANCE NEWS::

Alonzo King: Mastering the Art of Dance

Source: www.eurweb.com -
By Deardra Shuler

(
December 31, 2009) *It will be the first time that African American choreographer, Alonzo King, founder and Artistic Director of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, has performed in the Bronx when he appears at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, January 10 at 6:00 p.m.  Born in Santa Barbara, California, Alonzo King's LINES Dance Center claims San Francisco as its home.  However, King has traveled throughout the world and has works in repertories of companies that include the Frankfurt Ballet, the Hong Kong Ballet and the Swedish Ballet.  Closer to home, Mr. King has worked with the Joffrey Ballet, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre wherein he has performed pieces such as “Following.”  He has worked with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the North Carolina Dance Theatre and Washington Ballet and has been dance master for the National Ballet of Canada, Ballet West, and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo to name a few.  Coined by Kennedy Center as the Master of African American Choreography, the great dance master is delighted that Lehman Center will be offering $10 tickets to seniors and children 12 and under.

The son of a civil rights leader in the south, King's father was a lover of the arts and passed that love on to his son who became enthralled with the art of dance.  “One of the wonderful things about art is you have the ability to stop thinking about yourself.  When you dance and step into a realm where thought of self is gone, you are relieved, “said King about how the artistry of dance affects him.  

Demanding perfection and mastery from himself and in his troupes' performances, King claims to only work with those at the level of mastership, and as a result has been the recipient of several awards and accolades.  He was given the Jacob's Pillow Creativity Award in recognition of his contribution to moving ballet.  He has been recognized as one of the 50 outstanding artists in America by the United States Artists Organization.  He received the Bessie Smith Award for Choreographer/Creator.  He is a recipient of the Irvine Fellowship in Dance and has received 5 Isadora Duncan Awards.   Mr. King has served on the National Endowment of the Arts and California Arts Council panels. 

The dance master expressed his views concerning working with various dance companies.  “I have to say, that when you work in the world of dance, its not so much where you go as it is the artists that you work with.  You are looking for some kind of sympathy, some kind of artistic understanding, so no matter where you go in the world, what you are really concerned with is how your heart is feeling.   I believe the essential beginning of coming together as a people, is to come together with yourself.  People talk about the disharmony in the world, the selfishness of the world, the lack of peace.  That peace has to begin with us as individuals.  We can’t try to fix every one, we are here to change ourselves.  Those people who change themselves are an inspiration to all of us.  It’s essential to break the myths.  The deepest ignorance that most people believe is that as humans we are weak, whinny mortals.  Not true. Inside of us are those indestructible internal forces.  In fact, the whole point of obstacles is to bring those forces out,” pontificated King.

Alonzo disagrees with the classifications under which ballet is termed such as classical, neoclassical and contemporary ballet.  “Those are names like saying light skin, dark skin, and red head, it means absolutely nothing.  Contemporary is an interesting term, since if something has relevance its contemporary.  Shakespeare and Bach are relevant and certainly contemporary because they affect our lives as we live today.  Most people think of contemporary as current living.  To me, truths are current and living and always will be, so they are always constant contemporaries,” explained King.  
“Classical Ballet is usually thought of as a style rather than a science of movement which is what it is.  Its origin has been claimed by Europe but its origin goes much further back.  We forget about the vast magnificence of education that Islam brought to the West, which was not known prior to their arrival via Islamic architecture, science, and mathematics. In fact, Greek literature was hidden in Arabic script. For example, the arabesque used in ballet -- where do you think that term comes from?  Ballet's linage is older than people want to acknowledge.  As you know, it’s who writes history who tells the story.  One of the chief destroyers in education is this assumption and position held up as white superiority.  This has slaughtered minds across the globe but this is a situation that will inevitably vanish because it’s laughable, it is so narrow-minded.  This Eurocentric idea of ballet has cut ballet off from its amazing history.  It’s simply dance.  All dance began as a form of worship,” said King who is known for his vast knowledge on the history of ballet.  

“Ballet is an Italian word for dance.  So for me, all dancing is uncategorized.  It’s either good dancing or its not.  From the Western perspective the way we look at the body and what I call western classical dance comes from what already exists in nature.  It is pirouettes which already exist via whirlpools, spirals and eddies.  Dance isn't something someone thought up. It comes from nature.  Dance books suggest ballet started with Catherine DeMenici.  That's ridiculous!  Dance can be found as far back as ancient rituals,” stated King emphatically.

Alonzo served briefly as the Commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco.   He has collaborated with jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and actor Danny Glover and is also a writer and lecturer in his own right.  The Alonzo Kings LINES Ballet attracts huge audiences wherever they perform.  Thus, interested parties in the Bronx can call the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 or go on line at www.LehmanCenter.org. Parking is free.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Bosh Breaks Raptors Scoring Record

Source: www.thestar.com - Neil Davidson

(January 03, 2010) Chris Bosh became the Toronto Raptors' highest career regular-season scorer on Sunday when he drained a 16-foot jumper with 1:39 to go in the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday at the Air Canada Centre.

Bosh went into the game against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday needing 14 points to tie Vince Carter's mark of 9,420 points.

His 16th point of the game gave the Raptors a 65-51 lead.

Bosh is already the team's all-time leader in offensive and defensive rebounds, as well as free throws made, free throws attempted, blocks and minutes.

"He's done it with class," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game.

"From the day he was drafted, the day he came in, he's continually worked," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said before the game. "He did what he had to do, and worked on his shot. I like the fact that he's added something to his game. He's gotten bigger and stronger this year. He's been pretty even-keeled about the whole thing, too."

Bosh is in his seventh season with the Raptors after they drafted him from Georgia Tech with the fourth pick overall in the 2003 NBA draft.

"He's worked hard in his career," Triano said. "Not many guys come back at night and lift and come back at night and shoot and he's done that to continually get better."

UFC Champion St-Pierre Ponders Olympic Bid

Source: www.thestar.com - Neil Davidson

(January 03, 2010) LAS VEGAS–UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre says he is still mulling over his dream to wrestle at the Olympic Games, even if it means giving up his mixed martial arts title and temporarily walking away from the sport.

But the 28-year-old from Montreal says he has to make the decision soon if he wants to take a run at qualifying for the 2012 Games in London.

"I'm a good wrestler but if I wanted to do it, I would have to focus on wrestling and dedicate myself 100 per cent for a period of time," he told reporters Saturday. "I would not retire now but if I decided to do it I would have to dedicate myself 100 per cent I would say maybe for a year and a half or so.

"I have a decision to take but I don't know if I'm ready to do it. I just need to think about it right now."

St-Pierre stressed the decision is not "not done yet." And he said he would only do it if he believed he was good enough to succeed.

"I'm going to tell you the truth, right now I don't have the level that I need to do it," he said. "If I go right now to do it, I'm going to lose. I'm not good enough right now to do it. And I don't know if I'm going to be able to be good enough to do it. . . . I'm going to do it if I know I have a good chance to make it.

"I'm the kind of guy that when I do something, it's to be on top. I don't do something to try to do it. if I do it, it's because I'm going to win, I'm going to go 100 per cent."

But if he tried and failed, "at least I will sleep well at night," he said.

St-Pierre, who says he thinks every day about his Olympic wrestling dream, said it's a 50-50 call right now.

"It's hard to say. I have to talk with a lot of people . . . all my trainers, all my sponsors," he said. "All the people that helped me to get where I'm at. Because it's not going to be forever. It's just going to be a period of time, then after I'll be back if I decide to do it."

He has yet to speak to officials at the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association because he did not want to make a bid deal of it.

"I didn't realize how much impact it had when I said it in England," he said, referring to UFC 105 in Manchester, England, in November when he revealed he was thinking about the Olympics.

"The next day, everybody called me."

UFC president Dana White said if St-Pierre wanted to follow the Olympic dream, the two would sit down and "figure out how we'll do it."

St-Pierre trains with Olympic-level Canadian wrestlers and says they have encouraged him to try qualifying for the Games. Other friends have told him he's crazy.

St-Pierre (19-2) is considered one of the finest wrestlers in mixed martial arts, but acknowledges that MMA and amateur wrestling involve different techniques.

Pursuing his wrestling dream would also mean losing his title and a hefty chunk of his income, he acknowledged.

But on the other hand, he said he didn't want to be thinking when he was 60, "I had the opportunity to do it, maybe I could have done it, I don't know, I didn't try.

"This would make me sad, because I don't know if I could do it. It's a challenge, it's always behind my head. My life is always about experience, I like new experiences, I like challenges. But it's something I need to sit down and think a little bit more before I make my decision."

He also said qualifying for the Olympics would be a marathon, given he would have to defeat other Canadians in his weight class (84 kilograms) and then earn a spot at the Games. Plus he would probably have to take his qualifying campaign to Europe, to escape media attention.

St-Pierre, a former Quebec wrestling champion, competed as an amateur "a long time ago."

He likes the idea of doing something to raise the profile of the sport in Canada.

"The sport of wrestling in Canada is pretty unknown. And it's very disappointing to me that wrestling is unknown. It's probably the sport that helped me the most in my mixed martial arts career."

And having an Olympian competing in MMA "would be great for the sport."

The Canadian is due to defend his UFC title next against England's Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy on March 27 in Newark, N.J.

St-Pierre says he spent the holidays away from home "because I knew if I would have stayed in Montreal, I would have been tempted to party a little bit with my friends."

So he spent two weeks training in Abu Dhabi, France and Monaco.

Jays Bring In Cuban Fireballer For Audition

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Griffin

(January 02, 2010) The Blue Jays are reportedly interested in signing free-agent Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, according to ESPN The Magazine.

Sources have told ESPN that the Jays staged a private workout for the hard-throwing 22-year-old left-hander on Thursday morning in Dunedin, Fla., with his agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, in attendance.

This course of action for the Jays goes somewhat contrary to comments prior to the World Series in which rookie GM Alex Anthopoulos downplayed reports his team might be among those interested in the untested lefty.

Chapman's demands were different and less realistic at that time. Despite posting mediocre numbers in the Cuban leagues, even blessed with his stunning stuff, he had been demanding major-league money and to spend little, if any, time in the minor leagues.

Anthopoulos, who is getting married Saturday and will then jet off for a honeymoon in Hawaii, was unavailable for comment on Friday. However, with regard to Chapman, he told bluejays.com in October: "We don't have enough background and scouting looks to make a proper offer ..."

Certainly, the Jays have had time now, but looking ahead to next June, the Jays have nine draft picks – three of their own, three from unsigned picks in June '08 and three more as compensation for free agents Rod Barajas and Marco Scutaro – in the first three rounds of the draft.

The Jays are reported to have a significant war-chest of cash set aside for those draft-choice signings and may be kicking tires internally to see if the money could be better spent on Chapman. The Jays have not been significant players on major international free agents since then-GM Gord Ash pursued Cuban refugee Livan Hernandez back in the winter of '95. He signed with the Florida Marlins.

The Boston Red Sox are reported to be the team with the most interest in Chapman, while others in the process include the Marlins and the New York Mets and Yankees. In recent days, the L.A. Angels were also reported to be jumping into the Chapman mix with the Jays.

The Red Sox's offer that was rejected by Chapman back in November was reportedly $15.5 million (all figures U.S.) over four years, slightly higher than No. 1 overall pick, left-hander Steven Strasberg received from the Nationals this summer. The Marlins were said to be offering $13 million.

Chapman, who touched 100 m.p.h. on the radar gun as a reliever for Cuba at the World Baseball Classic, had originally been reported as seeking $15 million per season over four years.

Five-Time Cy Young Winner Randy Johnson Retires After 22 Seasons

Source:  www.thestar.com - Janie Mccauley

(January 06, 2010)  SAN FRANCISCO – While at home with his family this fall and winter, Randy Johnson thought long and hard about whether he could accomplish any more on the baseball diamond.

Yes, he believes he could. Whether still at the highest level, he doesn't know.

The Big Unit retired on Tuesday after 22 major league seasons, a decorated career by the overpowering pitcher who will go down in history as one of the best ever.

"I will miss having an outlet to be that competitive," Johnson said during a conference call. "Every fifth day it was a process. I enjoyed and relished that process. There's nothing I will do the rest of my life that will match that.''

There aren't many who will match Johnson and his long list of accolades. Most recently, the 6-foot-10 Johnson became the latest pitcher to reach 300 wins.

A five-time Cy Young Award winner, the 46-year-old Johnson accomplished just about everything in his remarkable career. He owns a World Series ring and co-MVP honours, was a 10-time All-Star, threw two no-hitters and ranks second on the career strikeout list.

Johnson finishes with a record of 303-166 and 4,875 strikeouts in 4,135 1-3 innings for Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona, the New York Yankees and San Francisco. His strikeouts are the most by a left-hander and second to Nolan Ryan's 5,714.

"It's all been a bit of a whirlwind. I never really got caught up in what I did," Johnson said. "I never really dwelled on my achievements. They're nice. Maybe now I'll be able to reflect on them.''

Johnson overcame several injuries to keep pitching effectively into his mid-40s. He said before last season ended that he looked forward to going home to Arizona and spending time with his family before making a decision about his future.

"It's taken this long into January because I definitely wanted to just kind of relax from the season being over and make sure I had a clear head when I made this decision, and that I would be making it wholeheartedly and would be sticking to it," he said.

Johnson went 8-6 with a 4.88 ERA in 17 starts and five relief appearances for San Francisco last season despite missing more than two months with a strained left shoulder that also had a tear in the rotator cuff. He returned in late September as a reliever, a role he couldn't see himself embracing in order to keep pitching.

His final strikeout came on the season's final day at San Diego, against Adrian Gonzalez to end the seventh inning. Johnson said he developed a better appreciation for relievers last year.

"My 40s have really been learning years," he said. "The last five years of my career, there's been a lot there to sift through, a lot of ups and downs, some great moments in my career and some moments that got my head scratching.''

Johnson came out of a game July 5 against Houston with an injury, the first serious shoulder problem of his career. He felt something in his arm on a swing during that start but initially tried to pitch through it. He left the game after committing a throwing error.

He was on the disabled list from July 6 to Sept. 16, marking the 10th DL stint of Johnson's career. He had four knee operations and three back surgeries, but worked his way back each time.

"This isn't a tall man's sport – basketball is," Johnson said.

But by the time he was done, he had a Hall of Fame resume.

Johnson signed with his hometown Giants before last season to try to help them reach the playoffs. They stayed in the NL wild-card chase well into September but missed the postseason for a sixth straight year.

Pitching in San Francisco, Johnson was only about 40 miles west of where he grew up.

"The entire San Francisco Giants organization would like to salute Randy Johnson on a brilliant Hall of Fame career and congratulate him on his retirement," the team said in a statement. ``He has been a tremendous champion of this great game, escalating to heights that few have reached. He will go down as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game.''

Johnson largely stayed to himself in his final season, insisting the 300-win milestone wasn't his priority. Then on June 4 at Washington, he became the 24th pitcher in big league history to accomplish the feat.

Johnson pitched his first no-hitter in 1990, won 19 games with 308 strikeouts in 1993 and led the Mariners to their first playoff berth with an 18-2 record in 1995. He transformed himself from a strong-armed, shaggy-haired pitcher who lacked control into a dominant force feared by opposing hitters across the league. He finished his 10-year stint in Seattle with a 130-74 record before being traded to Houston in 1998.

He signed as a free agent with the Diamondbacks before the following season. Johnson won the Cy Young in each of his first four seasons with Arizona, capturing the coveted pitcher's triple crown in 2002 with a 24-5 record, 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts.

His most memorable moments – and some he's most proud of – were in 2001, when he came out of the bullpen to beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. He went 3-0 in the Series for Arizona, sharing the MVP award with Curt Schilling.

At age 40, Johnson pitched a perfect game against Atlanta.

He didn't have as much success after leaving Arizona for the first time following the 2004 season. He won 34 games in two seasons with the Yankees, although the tenure was marred by a run-in with a camera man and postseason struggles.

He returned to Arizona and won 15 games in two years while struggling with back problems.

"I never thought I was going to play this long. I'm blessed that I did," he said, adding that he plans to coach someday.

Johnson has a one-year service agreement to work in some capacity for the Diamondbacks.

"I really wanted to go out on my terms," he said. "I just feel like there's not a lot more for me to do in this game. I just think it's a natural progression when you play this long. Eventually you have to say it's time."

Junior Loss Means Pressure's On Team Canada At Olympics

Source:  www.thestar.com - Paul Hunter

(January 06, 2010) PHILADELPHIA–Chris Pronger figures the pressure just got ratcheted up on Canada's Olympic team.

In the wake of Canada's 6-5 loss to the Americans at the world junior hockey championship, the Flyers' defenceman and repeat Olympian believes hockey fans north of the border will be clamouring even more for Team Canada to reclaim the nation's spot atop the shinny world at Vancouver.

"(Canadians) take any loss hard. Whether it's world junior, Olympics, world championship, intersquad game, exhibition game. We're all competitors and we all love to win," he said Wednesday morning in advance of a game against the visiting Maple Leafs.

"Certainly with the build-up to Vancouver 2010, this was kind of a stepping stone. Will it put a little more pressure (on us)? I'm sure it will."

Mike Richards, the other Philadelphia player on Team Canada, said he understands that the only thing Canadians will accept is a gold medal but he doesn't see a connection between what the juniors achieved and the upcoming Olympics.

"We don't need any extra pressure," he said.

While the Olympics dominate much of the talk around the league, February is a long way off and the Flyers' focus is on the Leafs tonight. Philadelphia, like Toronto, is trying to claw its way into a playoff spot and has been playing better of late. The Flyers, with new coach Peter Laviolette, are coming off a solid 4-1-1 road trip, though the final game on that swing was a 7-4 defeat at Ottawa.

Richards, Philly's captain, said the loss to Senators is the "exact opposite" of how the team had been performing during its recent turnaround.

"We had a long road trip. We had the Christmas break in there where a lot of people flew home to their family. Then we had the Winter Classic Game. You can make excuses but ... in the (previous) five games we'd been playing extremely well."

The Leafs are coming off a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Florida Tuesday. They will go with the same line-up tonight. They don't have any choice since they didn't bring any extra players with them to Philadelphia.

Toronto's only question will be its starting goaltender. Jonas Gustavsson was strong in the win over the Panthers but the Leafs are playing four games in five nights so Vesa Toskala will play at some point. Michael Leighton, who has a 4-0-1 record and 2.03 goals against average since arriving from Carolina, will start for the Flyers.

Almost all of the Toronto players stayed away from an optional skate at Wachovia Center on Wednesday morning. Winger Viktor Stalberg was the only Leaf to skate. During the win over the Panthers, he was promoted to the top line with Matt Stajan and Phil Kessel and, though the line didn't score, he did not look out of place.

"Playing on that line, my role has to be to get in there, get pucks lose in the corners and make sure I get the puck in their hands," said Stalberg.

"I thought we had plenty of chances last night. Unfortunately, we weren't able to bury any but if we keep playing like that, the goals will come for sure. I don't know what the lines will be tonight but hopefully I'll get the chance to play with them for some time again."

SPORTS TIDBITS

Yannick Noah Voted 'Favourite Celeb' by French

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 4, 2010)
*For the fifth time in a row, former tennis champ Yannick Noah was voted "Favourite Celebrity" in his native France, beating stiff competition ranging from filmmakers to politicians, reports AFP.   A poll published Saturday showed the ex-French Open winner topping a string of opponents, including former footballer Zinedine Zidane, who was third, and comedian and film director Dany Boon in second. President Nicolas Sarkozy fell seven places since August to come in at 49.