I know it's still summer ... but I think I'm starting to feel that cool breeze of fall. I hope not ... not yet! Tonight (Thursday, August 11th) is the 16th anniversary of Honey Jam, the exciting female showcase at the Mod Club. Don't miss this line-up of Canadian talent! See the details under TOP STORIES.
First the U.K., then the U.S. and now it's T.O.'s turn! Da Kink in my Hair returns to Toronto amid glorious global reviews. I'm not surprised and am proud of the girls of da kink holding down the vision of trey anthony. The first night is tonight and it's run is only until August 21st - 14 performances so say you were THERE! Check it out under HOT EVENTS.
Wes 'Maestro' Williamsheadlines the CultureShock Community Arts Festival. The festival aims to profile the artistic community and to reflect UrbanArts' ongoing commitment of engaging youth and community development through the arts. Such an amazing line-up! Check it out under HOT EVENTS.
This week's news includes coverage opportunities for artists including theCIRAA Groundbreaker Grant (happens EVERY month so don't worry about the deadline stated below) as well as auditions for the upcoming television show, Canada's Got Talent across the country. Don't miss your opportunity Canadian artists! Also featured this week is news on Norman Jewison, Laurieann Gibson, and our beloved Saidah Baba Talibah. Check it all out under TOP STORIES.
On a personal note, I found this week's motivational note by the Dalai Lama especially poignant and inspiring.
OK, so get into your entertainment news. Don't forget that you can just click on the photo or the headline and you'll have your latest entertainment news! OR you can simply click HERE for all the articles.
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!
'da Kink in my Hair On Stage August 11 –
Source: Trey Anthony Studios
BACK by Popular Demand! Five years ago, Da Kink in my Hair took Toronto by storm – it broke box office records, charmed critics and wowed audiences! Now it's finally back.
Held over five times at Toronto's Princess of Wales Theatre, it broke box office records, charmed critics and wowed audiences!
'da KINK is 'da bomb!" --Toronto Sun
Kicking off its international tour for 14 performances only! Set in a Caribbean hair salon in Toronto, this amazing musical gives voice to eight dynamic women who tell their incredible, uncensored, unforgettable stories. Stories that will move, inspire, and delight you!
Featuring a new Canadian and U.S. ensemble! A brand new musical score and a breathtaking, new monologue
This award winning, heartfelt play is guaranteed to have you laughing, crying and yelling, ‘you go girl!’ Get your tickets before they’re gone!
AUGUST 11 – 21, 2011
'DA KINK IN MY HAIR
231 Queens Quay West
Previews: $30; VIP, Red Carpet, Opening Night: $99;(includes reception); Regular: $37-$77
Call 416-973-4000 or visit Harbourfront Centre HERE
Hop Legend Wes ‘Maestro’ Williams Headlines Urbanarts
2011 Annual Cultureshock Festival –
August 12 – August 13, 2011
Source: Lennox Cadore www.urbanartstoronto.org
UrbanArts Community Arts Council is brightening up and uniting the Weston-Mount Dennis neighbourhood and Toronto this summer with a full schedule of youth arts programming. The UrbanArts’ team is leading everything from dance camps and live music performances to mural painting and community beautification projects.
CultureShock Festival – The highlight of the summer takes place on Friday, August 12th from 6-9 pm and Saturday, August 13th from 1-7pm with our CultureShock Community Arts Festival, at Weston Collegiate Institute. The festival, MC’d by TSN’s Cabbie Richards and Hip Hop pioneer Michie Mee, and headlined by Hip Hop Icon Wes ‘Maestro’ Williams, will feature an array of local musical talent, an art exhibit, youth art activities, vendor booths, and of course great food. The festival aims to profile the artistic community and to reflect UrbanArts’ ongoing commitment of engaging youth and community development through the arts.
UrbanArts is a non-profit Community Arts Council focused on enhancing neighbourhoods by engaging youth in community development through the arts. UrbanArts initiates arts activities that bring people together in central-west Toronto and citywide. One of four community arts councils serving Toronto, UrbanArts is an incubator for local arts, with a range of year-round programs for youth led by professional artists in visual arts, theatre, spoken word, dance music and leadership development.
Our mandate is to promote, engage and facilitate cultural and community development opportunities between artists, arts organizations, community members and community organizations.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 12 – SATURDAY, AUGUST 13, 2011
CULTURESHOCK COMMUNITY ARTS FESTIVAL
Friday, August 12 – 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Live performances by UrbanArts Talent
Interactive drumming by the internationally renowned Drum Café
Saturday, August 13 - 1:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Featuring Maestro, Michie Mee, Cabbie, Motion, Baby Boyz Dance Crew
Weston Collegiate Institute
100 Pine St.
(Weston Road North Of Lawrence Ave W.)
Prizes & Giveaways!
Free both days
Groundbreaker Grant Winners & Program Expansion
Source: www.cirra.com – Aisha Wickham Thomas
We are now into our fourth round of the CIRAA Groundbreaker Grant program, and we have been very pleased to see the enthusiastic response from the independent artist community. Our goal is to continue to grow the program so that we can reward even more hard-working indie artists who are hitting the road and building their live performance circuit. On that note, we are proud to welcome Bandzoogle (a user-friendly website development platform and blog for indie artists) on board as our newest sponsor of the CIRAA Groundbreaker Grant program, starting next month. This means more money will be going directly into the hands of artists, which we love!
The CIRAA Groundbreaker Grant application period for gigs played in July is now open until August 10, so be sure to apply if you played any eligible gigs in July. For more information and to review the rules for the CIRAA Groundbreaker Grant program, please visit www.ciraa.ca/grant.php.
If you have not applied before, the application process is quick and easy, and you can apply for as many eligible gigs as you played during the previous month. Winners are selected via a lottery, so everyone has a chance to get a grant. Contact CIRAA's Director of Member Services, Dave Cool, at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments regarding the program.
Sign-Up Now For
Canada's Got Talent Auditions
Do you have an inner talent that needs to be seen? Are you the next Shania Twain, Howie Mandel or do you belong on stage at the next Cirque du Soleil show? Is your child the next Justin Bieber or is your talent something brand new the world has never seen before?
Whatever it is you do then we want to hear from you! Canada's Got Talent and Citytv are searching for Canada's most talented performers. Canada's Got Talent is open to acts of all ages - jugglers, comedians, dancers, magicians, trapeze artists, singers, and more. Think you've got talent? Fulfill the dream of a lifetime and sign-up now!
Download the Participant Agreement & Release Form (Adobe PDF format) (Click here for French).
Print it out, sign it, and bring it with you to the audition!
Audition Cities and Dates
Sep. 9-10, 2011
Venue: Winnipeg Convention Centre
Sep 14-15, 2011
Venue: Mayfield Inn & Suites
Sep. 19-20, 2011
Venue: Westin Bayshore
Sep. 23-24, 2011
Venue: Palais De Congrès
Sep. 27-30, 2011
Oct. 11-12, 2011
Venue: World Trade & Convention Centre
Honey Jam Sweet 16 Edition
– Thursday, August 11 - Toronto - Mod Club
Source: www.swaymag.ca - By Geena Lee
(27 July 2011) Toronto - The Honey Jam artist showcase, celebrates its Sweet 16 anniversary at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College Street) on Thursday, August 11, 2011. Hosted by MuchMusic's Sarah Taylor, the 2011 edition promises to deliver one of the best showcases in the history of the event - a night of exciting live entertainment with a diverse group of artists.
As Honey Jam turns 16 so does it’s breakout star from the 2010 showcase, rapper Reema Major who is causing a lot of buzz in the industry with her I am Legend Mixtape. Ebonnie Rowe, Honey Jam Founder, Producer and President of PhemPhat Entertainment Group, says “We’re so proud of Reema! I’m confident that we’ll be hearing similar success stories from several of the artists performing this year. They are at the right age, the talent is undeniable, many are also songwriters and play instruments as well. But I don’t want to give away all the details of what you can expect – you have to come out to the show!!”
The line-up of 18 artists from Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and London includes 3 artists from the acclaimed Remix Project and child piano prodigy Catherine He, at age 7 the youngest artist ever to take to the Honey Jam stage. Go to www.honeyjam.com and click on “2011 artists” to see more info on who made the cut.
DJs for the night include MelBoogie and Tasha Rozez.
The show is not a competition but there are prizes/opportunities being offered. All of the artists will have one of their tracks featured on a promotional compilation CD courtesy of Universal Music Canada which will be handed out at the showcase, Universal will also give each artist consultation time with their Director of A&R. The girls will receive product from Benefit Cosmetics, Converse is also giving each artist a backpack and certificate for a pair of shoes, and they all received 1 hour of one-on-one vocal/performance coaching time with Elaine Overholt sponsored by Slaight Music. One lucky artist whose name is pulled randomly will receive Honey Jam Hookup Prize Pack which includes sound equipment from Yamaha, a photo shoot with Nathaniel Anderson, legal consultation with Taylor Mitsopolous Klein Oballa, $1,000 cash from EMI Music Canada and a fitness package from Think Fitness.
Advance tickets at $20 are available at Play De Record, 357 Yonge Street, $25 at the door. Proceeds from the showcase will support YWCA Toronto's programs for women and girls - www.ywcatoronto.org
Showcase sponsors include:
Slaight Music, Nelstar Entertainment, TD, Factor,
OMDC, Toronto Arts Council, BD Jolly & Milestone Inc., Taylor Mitsopulos Klein Oballa,
the SOCAN Foundation, Yamaha Canada Music, Flow 935
Universal Music Canada, The Canadian Independent Recording Artists Association,
MuchMusic, Vervegirl Magazine, Canadian Musician, Urbanology Magazine, Exclaim.ca
Facebook Fan Page: Honey Jam Artist Showcase
Jewison Happily Baffled By His Audience
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell/Toronto Star
(Aug 04, 2011) Some 24 features and innumerable adventures into his directing career, Norman Jewison still can’t figure out why anybody wants to see his movies.
“I don’t know what the public wants, really,” says Jewison, 85, sitting still for a moment in his memorabilia-filled Yorktown Productions office, tucked away on a lane near Yonge and Gloucester Sts.
“I’m always kind of surprised.”
The veteran Toronto filmmaker is also puzzled about why TIFF Bell Lightbox is showcasing a retrospective series of his six decades’ worth of films, beginning Aug. 11 with the 1987 comedy Moonstruck, a screening he’ll personally attend. (Click tiff.net for more details.)
TIFF may be taking its cue from a similar Jewison retro at New York’s Lincoln Center in May. Why all the attention, and why now?
“I don’t know! It’s probably because I’m getting old and they’re worried I’m going to fall off the perch, or something! It just came out of the blue; I had nothing to do with it.” He’s pleased nonetheless, as those twinkling eyes attest.
Such humility may be very Canadian, but these aren’t the answers you might expect from Jewison, whose movies — which also include A Soldier’s Story, Fiddler on the Roof and In the Heat of the Night — have won numerous Oscars and other kudos and sold millions of tickets worthwhile.
If he doesn’t know how to attract an audience after all these years, who does? But Jewison thinks it’s a good thing not to know too much about the moviemaking game, because art should never turn into science. A little mystery always helps spur creativity.
“I think that’s true. It just frightened me when I heard Steven Spielberg was photographing the audience with an infrared camera from behind the screen. They were photographing the audience to gauge reaction.
“That scared the s--t out of me! I said, ‘Jesus, that’s just pandering! Why would you do that? Don’t let anybody change your film, for Christ’s sake, just because you think maybe the audience is going to like you better or like your film better!’”
Jewison speaks so loudly that his dog Baxter, a 2-year-old mass of curls known as a golden doodle, suddenly perks up from slumbering at his feet. (Baxter is the successor to Barney, Jewison’s beloved pooch who has his own doggie fountain memorial in Norman Jewison Park, just outside.)
The truth is, even if Jewison were inclined to try to calculate what people want from a movie, he’d probably get it wrong anyway.
He chuckles when he recalls his fears during a test screening in San Francisco for In the Heat of the Night, his 1967 drama starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger, which addressed racial tensions via a Deep South cop saga. The film became so much a part of the cultural ferment of the day, Robert Kennedy congratulated Jewison on his keen sense of timing.
But Jewison wasn’t feeling so smart when he watched how his largely white audience reacted to scenes where Steiger, playing an obstreperous redneck sheriff, tries to provoke the serious visiting detective played by Poitier.
“The audience was laughing and I turned to my editor Hal Ashby and I said, ‘Oh, f--k, man, they’re laughing at the picture!’ I never expected that.
“And he said, ‘No, no — they’re enjoying it!’ There were three or four areas in In the Heat of the Night where the audience laughed and it just broke my heart. So I misread the audience. But they weren’t laughing at the picture; they were laughing at Rod Steiger’s character.”
Jewison learned a valuable lesson that day.
“They were enjoying the film, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can make the most serious film in the world and if you can get people to laugh at something while this is taking place, maybe this is more natural. This is the way life is.
“Hal gave me a talking-to after that because I was so depressed: ‘Norman, you’ve got to understand: the audience — forget about it! Just forget it! You made a film that you saw and heard in your head. Now, it’s out there! Don’t be frightened of it! Let people react to it. Let them. Just because they don’t take it the way you intended, it doesn’t matter.’”
Jewison goes by instinct when he chooses a film subject, and that doesn’t always work for him, either.
He was convinced at the end of the 1970s that people would want to see a movie based on Jimmy Hoffa, the firebrand Teamsters leader that transformed the American labour movement, for better and for worse, but who came to a violent and still-mysterious end in 1975.
“United Artists just shook their heads and said, ‘Nobody wants to see a film about the labour movement in America. Nobody’s interested!’ I said, ‘I think they are. I think we can make them interested. I think there’s a great story in Jimmy Hoffa.’”
United Artists went along, for the film that would be called F.I.S.T., but the suits insisted that Sylvester Stallone play the Hoffa character. Stallone was nothing like Hoffa, but he was coming off the huge success of Rocky.
When the film came out in 1978, audiences stayed home while critics barbecued it. The Village Voice’s Andrew Sarris wrote: “Whereas Rocky celebrated the American Dream, F.I.S.T. memorializes the American Nightmare.”
Jewison winces as he recalls what happened. His timing, so perfect for In the Heat of the Night’s social currency, failed him for F.I.S.T.
“I thought it was a far more interesting film than (the critics) gave it credit for. I think they were after Stallone. I think it was too close to Rocky. Everyone wanted to see Stallone as Rocky. They didn’t want to see him shot down and destroyed.
“But Stallone still thinks it’s the best performance in a film he’s every given. He loves it!”
Jewison made many more films after F.I.S.T., some hits and some misses. And he’s planning to make at least two more before he finally folds his director’s chair. He may be into his 90s if he succeeds.
One is an Americanized version of Bread and Tulips, an Italian film from 2000 that he bought the rights to. His Moonstruck writer John Patrick Shanley is going to help him with the screenplay.
The other is called High Alert, and it’s an update of The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!, Jewison’s Cold War satire from 1966.
Both are comedies, which means Jewison will end his career with a smile. There was time during the 1960s and 1970s when he seemed consumed with serious movies about important issues. He’s since learned the importance of being funny.
“I think humour is a great way to approach serious, important things. Ridicule is the strongest form of satire and I think we’re very good at it. Canadians love satire; they’re very good at it. Our art forms — our comedians, our playwrights, our films — are always from a kind of satirical point of view and I like that.”
Comedy is something Jewison understands, even if he’s not always sure why people laugh. It’s the Canadian in him.
Budding Dance Mogul Humble Amid Big Moves
Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry
(Aug 07, 2011) With an Emmy nomination for Lady Gaga's TV special, a current BET reality competition show, and clients like Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, choreographer Laurieann Gibson has plenty to celebrate, but the Toronto native isn't revelling.
“I don't see that I'm anywhere yet,” said Gibson by phone from her L.A. base.
“I‘m just a grateful girl who is only beginning to really do something. I'm just blessed to do what I'm born to do and as a result of that there's things that I will do and will achieve and things that I must do. I'm on that journey.”
Gibson's official biography starts with her 17-year-old self taking a bus to New York to pursue her dreams, but her story — which has made her the star of Born to Dance: Laurieann Gibson, which debuted last Tuesday on BET — truly begins in Scarborough, as the youngest of three daughters of Jamaican immigrants.
“We were all athletic,” said Gibson.
“My mother said she put my two older sisters in ballet and they hated it, so she didn't want to force me, but she says I asked for it.
“Around 7, I remember my family almost never wanting to watch my recitals, because I had so much energy, they were afraid I was going to hurt myself.
“When it got really clear to me is when I saw Alvin Ailey (American Dance Theater) at the O'Keefe Centre,” she said.
“That's when it clicked that this was going to be my destiny.”
She drilled down on drama and dance at Earl Haig Secondary School and studied with noted choreographer Len Gibson, but it wasn't enough.
“I was kind of in the dance scene in Toronto and it was very predominately white, forgive me for being so frank,” said Gibson, who's ferociously so on camera.
“So when I saw Alvin Ailey I not only saw another level of execution, but I saw a visual representation of what they were telling me I couldn't do at more conservative places.
“I was so clear about going to New York. My mother was traumatized, but she didn't try to stop me.”
In the Big Apple, Gibson supported herself as a waitress while studying at the Ailey school. She segued from traditional theatre dance to hip hop as a backup dancer with singer Mary J. Blige and spent a season as a Fly Girl on TV's In Living Colour. Then, she made the leap to being director of choreography for Motown and Bad Boy Records where she worked with the likes of the Notorious B.I.G., Diddy and Faith Evans.
Gibson was the on-air choreographer for Diddy's MTV reality series Making the Band (where she debuted her since-trademarked “boom kack” signature count), appeared in the 2003 Jessica Alba film Honey, which was based on her own life, and worked on ad campaigns for Hoover Vacuums and K-Mart.
But it's the collaboration with Gaga for which she is most recognized. Gibson is the eye-catching pop star's creative director and has choreographed all of her videos including the controversial “Judas” and “Bad Romance” for which she won a 2010 VMA for Best Choreography. Now she's in Emmy territory with a nod for directing HBO's Lady Gaga Presents Monster Ball Tour: At Madison Square Garden.
“Someone that I worked with called me about an unsigned artist and it was her,” said Gibson of their meeting. “What I was told I couldn't do is what she allowed me to do, which was everything.”
And Gibson, who has directed and choreographed tours for pop acts such as the Jonas Brothers and Jordin Sparks, said there was no great transition from hip hop.
“I'm a dancer, so whether it's hip hop or pop or contemporary, or riverdance, I do it all. In Lady Gaga's situation, it's about what she's capable of doing. That's how my gift works and how it works as a choreographer: I don't put a Britney Spears eight-count on another person.
“I try to understand the artist, their music, their vision, before I even get in the studio. I build based on the artist's music and their ability. If you ask me what is the style of Lady Gaga's choreography, I say that it's my style, that it's a fusion of everything, because I'm capable of doing everything.”
Having made one previous reality show (E!'s The Dance Scene), directed her first music video (singer Keri Hilson's “The Way You Love Me”), and served as a choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance, Gibson — recently named creative director of Interscope Records — is giving up-and-comers a leg up with Born to Dance: Laurieann Gibson on BET, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
The program features her evaluating 20 aspiring dancers vying for a $50,000 prize. “I was brave enough to get on the Greyhound bus and go through all these trials and tribulations, but I wanted to help someone with the same dream and same calling,” she explained.
“It is not scripted reality. It's a look at what it takes and beyond that, the relationship you need to have with your gift or with your passion.”
With her deceased father's image tattooed prominently on one arm and her mom by her side in California, the 42-year-old artist is still fond of Toronto, even though she found the city's dance industry unwelcoming.
“I didn't think that was a negative,” she said, adding “what I did get from Toronto and the training there was a legitimate sense of a professionalism that I was able to go to New York with at such a young age and not get swallowed up.
“I think some of the stuff that makes me different is a result of me being Canadian. Those are the things that I cherish the most: my education, my upbringing, my manners, my instincts.”
VIDEO - Saidah Baba Talibah Talks the Long Road to '(S)Cream'
Source: xclaim.ca -
Riot May Doom U.K. Music Labels
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser
(August 09, 2011) It was nice to see a British pop star trying to act to undo some of the damage of the London riots, but the latest news is that the mobs have dealt a very serious blow to the British indie music industry.
A fire set at the Sony distribution warehouse in North London consumed the entire inventory of PIAS UK, the main distributor for more than 150 independent labels, including familiar names like XL/Beggars, Rough Trade, Domino and 4AD. Several labels lost their entire stock of CDs and vinyl, and it's thought that many are in danger of shuttering after the loss.
“It’s really depressing and really shocking,” Spencer Hickman of the retailer Rough Trade East told Britain's NME. “I’m convinced that some labels will go under ... They might be insured, but will insurance policies pay out on civil disobedience? I don’t know.”
There is already talk of a benefit concert to help the affected labels; in the meantime, fans were urged by a label association to support the indies by buying a digital copy of one of their albums, and patronizing a local record store while supplies last.
Below, eyewitness Tommy Thomson tells a journalist about the looting of the Sony building, and the assault he suffered before the fire.
Mary J. Blige: ‘The Help’ Interview with
Source: www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams
(August 6, 2011) *Mary J. Blige wrote and recorded an original song for the soundtrack of “The Help” a film, which takes places in Mississippi in the early Sixties. Based on the best-seller of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, the movie chronicles the emotional journey of three very different women who embark on a secret writing project breaking societal rules and thereby putting themselves at risk.
Here, Blige, a six-time Grammy Award-winner, talks about what inspired her to compose the “The Living Proof.”
Kam Williams: Hi Mary, thanks for the time.
Mary J. Blige: Thank you.
KW: You’re not old enough to remember the era in which The Help takes place. Did the events in the movie resonate with you anyway?
MJB: Well. it resonated with me because I do know what was happening. She [Viola Davis’ character, Aibileen] is a survivor. She ended up surviving to be able to tell her story through her book. The only way she was gonna survive was through walking in love and forgiveness and that’s the only way I survived is through walking in love and forgiving people. And that’s what inspired the whole song. My Aunt Larruper was a maid when I was a child, and both my parents are from Savannah, Georgia. And they would ship us down South every summer, so we got a chance to see a little bit of the help. My aunt was one of those women and she worked for a wealthy white family that loved her to death, like really loved her and she raised their children just like Aibileen would say, too, to the little girl, “You’re smart, you’re kind, you’re important.” I believe my aunt was saying some of the same things to those children, so that’s how I related to the film.
KW: I wonder whether young people today will fully understand that segregation was the norm back then and not just being made up for a movie.
MJB: I think everyone should understand the history the same way we had to go to school and read about George Washington. I believe this generation should know their history and they should know that the struggle’s not over yet. For instance, you can’t get the cover of a magazine if your skin is too dark.
KW: I would suspect that there are still two sides of the track in Mississippi today. What would you say to young people about where we are right now?
MJB: I guess I would point out how in the movie Aibileen forgave them for treating her badly. Instead of getting angry and emotional, she walked off and she forgave them. So, I would say see the film based on learning how to live, how to walk in love and forgiveness I hope. You know, that’s basically what I would say to the kids.
KW: Is there also a sense of understanding whose shoulders they’re standing on?
MJB: Yeah, definitely. It’s important for them to see how far we’ve come and it’s also important for you to see the courage we had to have. Someone had to have the courage to say, “I’m gonna talk to save us all,” and, of course, I would suggest they see it for that reason, too. Someone had to stand up and break the curse and the cycle so we could all have equal access to what we’re supposed to enjoy in life.
KW: What made you decide to write a song for the film?
For the full interview with Kam Williams, go HERE.
Is Hi-Fi Sound A Thing Of The Past?
For Young Listeners, It May Be
Source: www.globeandmail.com – By Robert Everett-Green
(Aug 04, 2011) Walking into a serious audio store these days is like entering a time machine. All the talk is about room-filling high-fidelity sound. The gear is new, but the conversations are much like those your father and grandfather had when they went shopping for hi-fi.
Outside the store, meanwhile, most people under 25 are getting their music from cheap ear buds, tiny laptop speakers and compact sound files that have had much of the music's sonic juices squeezed out of them. Convenience has brought about a low-fi revolution in the way we hear music.
So what's a record producer to do? Keep on recording music to sound great on conventional stereo systems, or tweak things to get as much as possible from a speaker as big as your fingernail?
It's not an entirely new question. When AM radio play was essential to selling records, some musicians and producers trimmed their mixes in line with the limited capacity of pocket transistor or car radios.
"AM radio was all we had," says Buck Owens, a country star from the fifties and sixties, explaining to a British documentary film team how he made the most of that limitation while recording. "When a guy hits the bass, and it takes up 40 per cent on the VU meter, it means you've got 60 per cent left for everything else. So I said, 'Get that bass out of there, I don't want that.'" The Beatles and others followed suit, draining the bass from their mixes so that everything else would leap out of the radio.
Even well into the age of FM and stereo, record companies were concerned about making music fit the smallest outlet. Daniel Lanois, who has produced career-changing albums for Bob Dylan, U2 and Neil Young, recalls a pivotal discussion he had with record executives in Toronto in the seventies.
"They said to me, 'The little speakers do not reproduce bass. Therefore, don't put bass in your work,'" Lanois says. "And when I heard that piece of advice, I decided to leave the country. Because I do not buy into the idea that you should make your work small to accommodate a small playback system. It's an absurdity, it's dishonest, it's infantile, it's stupid."
These days, the small playback system has two elements: little speakers, and compressed sound files like MP3s or ACCs (the latter is the standard on iPods), from which elements of the music deemed to be inaudible to most people have been stripped out. The MP3 files circulating on the Internet come in many degrees of compression, but the most common is about 11 times smaller than a CD-quality recording.
The problem with high-level compression is that removing supposedly inessential things can affect the overall sound, and add in things that weren't present in the original recording. You can get weird pre-echoes on sudden sharp sounds, and a bright "sizzle" on everything in the upper range. Run a very compressed file through a tinny laptop speaker, and you're far away from the sound and maybe the feeling of the original studio mix. But that's no reason for producers to stop aiming for great sound, says Lanois.
"I've always been of the opinion that once you get it right, musically, if you have your centre and lyrics and riffs and bottom end in order, you can bring that to any kind of playback system, whether it's a bud in your ear or a massive PA at a festival," he says. "If you get great bass on your work, the level of harmonics that exist relative to the fundamental frequency is such that they will resonate through even a bud or AM radio. If you listen to a Bob Marley record on the tiniest earbuds, it will still make you dance, still make you cry, still make you to want to change something about your life."
Okay, but when a producer's actually in the studio or mixing suite, isn't it at least tempting to see what's going to happen when the music hits the bud?
"I listen to my mixes on my computer," says Bob Rock, who has made dozens of albums with the likes of Metallica, Michael Bublé and Ron Sexsmith. "It's a great perspective to have. It's a small system, and it's kind of quiet. If I can't hear the bass and the kick drum on my Mac, I know there's definitely not enough."
Jon Siddall, a CBC Vancouver music producer who recorded many Canadian performers (including Buck 65, the Weakerthans and Tegan and Sara) for the late-night TV show ZeD, says he and his colleagues constantly checked their studio results on a small TV speaker. "But really and truly, when I'm doing a mix or recording, I go for gold. I want what sounds good on a proper monitor."
Michael Philip Wojewoda, a Toronto-based producer who has made numerous albums with performers such as Barenaked Ladies, Anvil and Kevin Hearn, says: "Generally, the only adjustments I make for playback are with low frequencies. Sometimes I'll make sure that the bass sounds contain some upper partials, so at least their melodies can be heard on smaller speakers. I still feel that one should maintain the highest quality of signal path before the regrettable conversion to AAC or MP3."
Time may be on the side of those who don't let the little speaker change their methods too much. When the Beatles' early recordings were remastered a few years ago, great effort went into trying to boost the tracks' anemic AM-radio bass. What seemed a smart move in the early sixties didn't sound so good a half-century later.
Better earbuds are coming on the market, and iPod storage capacities are much greater now than when the most reductive MP3 format was standardized 20 years ago. People may start to realize that they can get better sound with less compression and no loss of convenience. They may insist on better-quality sound files, even if those take up more room on the hard drive. That's assuming they haven't become so used to the "sizzle" of skimpy MP3s that they expect and want to hear it, the way some people expect all pop voices to be smoothed out with pitch-correction software.
"It's so hard to know how listening habits will change," says Siddall. "I'm waiting for a full hard swing of the pendulum in the other direction. I'm waiting for somebody to start a 24-bit craze" - a reference to the high-resolution audio standard used by most producers and bands while in studio. Hi-res versions of some albums are already for sale, at a premium, though if demand were to grow sharply, the price would drop. "And when that craze happens," Siddall says, "you're going to be really glad that your sound recording and mix were made to the best possibility."
Amy Winehouse, Tony Bennett Duet To Be
Released As Charity Single
Source: www.globeandmail.com – The Associated Press
(Aug 04, 2011) Amy Winehouse's final recording, a duet with Tony Bennett, will be released as a charity single for a foundation set up in her name, her family said Thursday.
Body and Soul will go on sale in September, with proceeds going to the newly established Amy Winehouse Foundation.
The two singers recorded the pop standard in March at London's Abbey Road Studios for Bennett's forthcoming Duets II album.
Winehouse, who had struggled for years with drug and alcohol addiction, was found dead at her London home on July 23, aged 27.
Her father, Mitch Winehouse, said releasing the song for charity was "the most fitting tribute of all" to his daughter. Her voice sounds "as amazing and beautiful as ever" on the recording, he said.
After Winehouse's death Bennett called her "an artist of immense proportions" and said she "gave a soulful and extraordinary performance" when they worked together.
Mitch Winehouse said the foundation would fund a range of charities for young people.
"We intend to raise funds and distribute them to individual projects who apply for help," he said.
"I couldn't be happier that everyone involved with Amy and this recording felt they wanted to contribute."
The family also hopes to establish a drug rehab centre for addicted youths.
Body and Soul will be released by Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music.
And Jay-Z: Ill-Timed Lyrics Amid Sonic Genius
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff
(August 09, 2011) Prehistoric MCs travelled in packs, but modern rappers only trade rhymes with featured guests, never amongst equals. That’s what makes the album-length collaboration Watch the Throne so monumental – Jay-Z and Kanye West, two of hip-hop’s biggest heroes, sharing an unprecedented bill. Their partnership dates back a decade to West’s soul-drenched beats on Jay-Z’s classic The Blueprint, but having each other’s back isn’t the same as sharing a throne.
The pair’s legendary competitive spirit all-but-guaranteed this would be an epic, and Odd Future’s Frank Ocean (crooning very much like Toronto’s own k-os) opens the proceedings accordingly on No Church in the Wild: “What’s a mob to a king?/What’s a king to a god?/What’s a god to a non-believer?”
But wait, what exactly is a mob to a king? Across the pond, jobless youth are burning down London Town. In Syria , hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators are being slaughtered. And, on the very day Watch the Throne dropped, the markets did, too, with the sixth biggest crash in history. And here sit hip-hop’s royals, on their very first song, boasting about “rolling in a Rolls-Royce Corniche” and 5 a.m. threesomes.
Watch the Throne does offer more than the spoils of wealth. The duo’s facility with flow and way with words is how they won their crowns, with Jay’s ice-cool yet oft-breathless rhymes as beautiful as a Michael Jordan dunk, especially against West’s one-two of hyper-emotionalism and snap-back punchlines.
Though nearly every track is a sonic achievement, New Day, crafted by Wu-Tang’s RZA, is the standout, turning Nina Simone’s voice on Feeling Good into that of a sad robot angel as blips and bleeps float like lightning bugs on a hazy summer night, held aloft by gentle guitar reverb and muffled brass breezes. Fittingly, the pair use this gauzy track to rap to their unborn sons, alternating heartfelt moments and hilarious lines (West cracks, “I might even make him be Republican/So everybody know he love white people” referencing his infamous Hurricane Katrina attack on President Bush).
Who Gon Stop Me’s chorus – “This is something like the Holocaust/Millions of our people lost” – belies a brag-rap track they’ve both done a billion times while the lush Made In America namechecks Martin, Malcolm and Jesus before Kanye boasts of getting a million blog hits as they, once again, chronicle their own ascensions.
Only Murder to Excellence reveals the album that could’ve been, as they finally cast their gaze beyond their own thrones to address black-on-black violence – “It’s time for us to stop and re-define black power/41 souls murdered in 50 hours.” But even then they don’t consider how it’s root cause could be the same capitalism they’ve been expounding all album. As they inevitably turn to their own statuses as “the new black elite” they do briefly decry that they “only spot a few blacks the higher I go” before getting back to Gucci shopping.
It’s an ornate gem of an album, and had it come out at a less-intense time these lyrical oversights may have been disguised by the gorgeous music and skilfully woven words. They’ve spent their careers rapping about their careers. This was their chance, because they weren’t all alone on the mic, to rap about more than themselves, to display a kingly concern for their subjects.
Jay-Z & Kanye West
Watch the Throne
Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears Head Social Campaign for Africa
Source: www.billboard.com - by Shirley Halperin, THR
(August 9, 2011) More than 150 stars of music, fashion, pop culture and sports, including Lady Gaga, Eminem, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Shakira, Sting and Kanye West, are combining their social media might to raise awareness of the growing food crisis in East Africa. On August 9, they'll each take to their Twitter feeds and Facebook pages with the goal of reaching a global audience of 700 million. The ground-breaking movement supports Save The Children in raising funds for food, water and medicine desperately needed.
At the heart of the campaign: Bob Marley's 1973 song "High Tide or Low Tide" and an accompanying short film created by award-winning director Kevin MacDonald, which can be downloaded via iTunes, on www.imgonnabeyourfriend.org or viewed on the Bob Marley Facebook page.
The song was specially chosen by the Marley family for its message. Says Rita Marley, Bob Marley's widow and mother to Stephen Marley: "Not one child should be denied food nor water. Not one child should suffer. Along with Save the Children, we must stand up together as friends to put a stop to this, to feed our children and to save their lives."
The food crisis in Somalia and across East Africa is the worst in decades affecting 10 million people. One million children in Somalia alone face starvation if help is not delivered now. Save the Children and other aid agencies have launched a huge emergency response across the region and are on the ground delivering life-saving aid.
Lil Wayne Reveals the Making of Song, 'She Will' With Drake
Source: www.theboombox.com - Theo Bark
(August 9, 2011) Lil Wayne has released footage of his recording session for his new song 'She Will,' featuring Drake, which is rumoured to be leaking on Tuesday (August 9).
The footage, which was shot by Young Money's videographer, DJ Scoob Doo, for his forthcoming Streets Talk DVD, depicts the rappers' tele-recording session, as Wayne lays down vocals in the booth, then plays the verses back for Drake via Skype.
"Some people hang you out to dry like a towel rack/ I'm all about I, give the rest of the vowels back," Wayne spits, over the ominous-sounding beat. "I like my girl thick, not just kinda fine/ Eat her 'til she cry, call that wine and dine."
"You f---in' with it?" Wayne earnestly inquires of his Canadian counterpart.
"That s---'s crazy!" Drake affirms. "The verses were chippin' in and out on the stream, I couldn't really hear, but I heard some crazy lines, though."
Check back for the official release of Lil Wayne and Drake's 'She Will.' Lil Wayne's long-awaited album, 'Tha Carter IV,' is in stores on August 29.
Chris Brown's In Town Sept. 12
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser
(August 10, 2011) It's been an awkward sort of career recovery for young R&B star Chris Brown after his attack on Rihanna in 2008. But make no mistake, it's well under way. His album F.A.M.E. is now five singles deep and he's taking that momentum into a Monday, Sept. 12 show at the Molson Amphitheatre, with T-Pain and also-rising star Kelly Rowland. Tickets ($26-$86) go on sale Aug. 15 via Livenation.com and Ticketmaster.
Other concert news:
•The Smokers Club tour, featuring Method Man, Curren$y, and Smoke DZA, hits the Kool Haus on Oct. 21; tickets ($30) via Tickemasterm, unionevents.com, Rotate This, Soundscapes and Play de Record.
•Kid Cudi's postponed Molson Amph. show from last month has found a new date: Sept. 15 at the same location. If you're a ticketholder and that doesn't work for you, refunds are to be had at the point of purchase until Sept. 2. More ducats ($30-$55) on sale now from Livenation.com, Tickemaster, Rotate This and Soundscapes.
•Remember Evanescence? Kinda vaguely, right? It's been five years since the last album from Amy Lee and whoever else is in the lineup these days; they'll have a new self-titled album to tout at the Sound Academy on Oct. 25; tickets ($40) as of Friday as per Kid Cudi above.
•And not to be overlooked: Vancouver's bluesy twosome Pack a.d. play the Opera House on Oct. 15, opening for Hollerado. Tickets ($15) from Soundscapes, Rotate This and Ticketmaster.
Alexisonfire Fans Mourn On Facebook
Source: www.thestar.com - Kaz Ehara/The Toronto Star
(Aug 07, 2011) Comments filled nostalgia, fond wishes and recrimination stacked atop each other over the weekend on the Facebook page of famed Canadian post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, after its lead singer revealed that the band has broken up. “Please tell me the ‘breaking up’ message on your website is a bad joke,” said one. “You’ve made a big friggin mistake . . . your differences (sic) should be put aside,” said another. “Sad times, AOF was the first concert I went to. capital centre in north bay, people were falling into the orchestra pit, GOOD TIMES!” said a third. George Pettit posted a note Friday on the band’s official website that guitarist/songwriter Dallas Green had told bandmates a year ago that he would be leaving to attend his career as the frontman of City and Colour; the band considered replacing him, but then lead guitarist Wade MacNeil said he, too, was out. “So we all took a good hard swallow and decided to end it so it would never get old and ugly.” The St. Catharines band, also including bassist Chris Steele and drummer Jordan Hastings, ends its run with four albums and two Juno nominations under its belt and — to gauge by the comments on Facebook — fans left heartbroken everywhere from Australia to the Netherlands.
‘The Yolanda Adams Fashion Collection’ is now Ready
(August 8, 2011) *Gospel and sometimes R&B singer Yolanda Adams is not standing still on the business side. In addition to also being a host of her a national morning radio show, Adams has expanded her business ventures with the launch of new clothing line, “The Yolanda Adams Collection.” “This line can go anywhere,” she said. “It can go to church, it can go to brunch, it can go to the boardroom, so there are many places you can take this line.” And being a statuesque woman it was important for Adams’ collection to offer a range of sizes, colors and alteration. “No matter what happens, if you go up or if you go down, we are able to make those alterations for you absolutely free when you purchase the line,” said Adams. If you’re wondering where you can find it, the collection will be available to consumers through personal shopping experiences at private trunk shows and online at http://yolandaadamscollection.com/.
Video: Jaleel White Breaks Hearts in
New Cee-Lo Clip ‘Cry Baby’
(August 10, 2011) *Perhaps too busy to star in his own videos these days, Cee Lo Green taps Jaleel White to handle the lip-synching and jitterbugging in the clip for his new single “Cry Baby.” “Family Matters’” Steve Urkel takes over in this upbeat 1950s-inspired clip, which features lots of crooning and crying on the front stoop, dancing in the streets and pastel colors. Watch below.
Craig David Signs On for ‘Michael Forever Tribute Concert’
(August 9, 2011) *Craig David is to perform at the upcoming “Michael Forever Tribute Concert” at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, in the fall. The singer has confirmed he will be among musicians who will commemorate the King of Pop’s life at the “Michael Forever Tribute Concert” on Oct. 8, held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Writing on his Facebook page, he said: “I am honoured to announce I will be performing alongside some of the world’s greatest artists at the Michael Jackson tribute concert.” The full line-up is set to be announced over the coming weeks, and all proceeds from the show will be donated to charities in the UK and US.
Canuck Heroes And Villains At TIFF 2011
Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell
(August 09, 2011) Stories of Canadian heroes and villains dominate this year’s Canuck slate at the Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 8-18).
The diverse lineup, announced Tuesday, includes dramas and comedies featuring brave warriors and crusading war reporters, but also hockey goons, bank robbers and haunting hard rockers.
The films cross a variety of TIFF programs, and they include one new Gala: Starbuck (Ken Scott), a comedy about a man (Patrick Huard) who discovers he’s the biological father of 533 children.
“This year's Canadian slate boasts veteran directors working at their peak and numerous homegrown stars returning to work in Canada, not only in front of the screen but behind it as well,” says Steve Gravestock, TIFF’s Canadian programming associate director.
“Especially encouraging is the emergence of new voices from across the country.”
Included are fresh works by such well-known directors as Guy Maddin (Keyhole), Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo II), Léa Pool (Pink Ribbons, Inc), Mary Harron (The Moth Diaries) and Mike Dowse (Goon), joining previously announced works by David Cronenberg (A Dangerous Method) and Sarah Polley (Take This Waltz).
Good guys look to be fewer in number than bad boys amongst the Canuck characters headed to TIFF’s screens. The former includes the title hero of Billy Bishop Goes to War (Barbara Willis-Sweete), an adaption of the long-running stage play starring Eric Peterson and writer/composer John Gray. Peterson plays World War I flying ace William Avery “Billy” Bishop, Canada’s top fighter pilot in “the war to end all wars.”
Afghan Luke (Mike Clattenburg) looks at the perils and politics of a more recent conflict, the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Nick Stahl plays a crusading reporter out to get the real story on reports of Canadian snipers allegedly mutilating Afghan corpses.
Stahl also stars, with Mia Kirshner, in 388 Arletta Avenue (Randall Cole), which sounds like a modern Rear Window in its depiction of a couple stalked by hand-held and surveillance cameras.
Two hockey comedies show the hard shots, but also the hilarity, of the players of Canada’s most obsessive sport. Breakaway (Robert Lieberman), starring Vinay Virmani and Russell Peters, is billed as “a cross-cultural hockey drama set in the Indo-Canadian community in suburban Toronto.”
Goon (FUBAR’s Mike Dowse) stars American Pie’s Seann William Scott as a scrapper who learns to use both his blades and his fists. Scott is joined by Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill (Midnight in Paris) and Scott’s fellow American Pie alumnus Eugene Levy.
A real-life roustabout is chronicled in Edwin Boyd (Nathan Morlando), the story of a WWII vet and family who became an infamous Toronto bank robber. Scott Speedman stars as Edwin Alonzo Boyd, leader of the Boyd Gang.
Fictional suicidal rocker Joe Dick, who was played by real-life rocker Hugh Dillon in Bruce McDonald’s 1996 rock’n’ road saga Hard Core Logo, is rumoured to haunt the TIFF-bound sequel. Hard Core Logo II stars McDonald, Care Failure and Julian Richings in a bizarre quest for answers, and maybe also a fourth chord. A spruced-up print of the original Hard Core Logo gets the spotlight Open Vault treatment.
There are ghostly and ghastly goings-on in Guy Maddin’s Keyhole, which stars Jason Patric and Isabella Rossellini in the Winnipeg auteur’s latest dream trip, and also in Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries, a vampire tale set in an all-girls school.
Two challenging Canadian docs join TIFF’s Real to Reel program.
Léa Pool’s Pink Ribbons, Inc takes the highly controversial approach of asking where the millions of dollars go that are raised by breast cancer research fund-raisers. It’s based on Dr. Samantha King's book Pink Ribbons Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy.
Slightly less controversial, but no less thoughtful, is Surviving Progress by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks. It looks at Ronald Wright’s bestseller A Short History Of Progress, which warns of the dangers of civilization-destroying “progress traps.”
Tuesday’s announcement also included the slate for the Canada First! features by new directors and the Short Cuts Canada program of short films. Full details are online at tiff.net.
Women Behaving Badly — And We Like It
Source: www.thestar.com - By Rebecca Keegan
(Aug 04, 2011) LOS ANGELES—This has been the summer of women behaving badly: Kristen Wiig as an underachieving maid of honour who trashes her friend’s bridal shower in Bridesmaids; Cameron Diaz as a pot-smoking middle school teacher handing her bra to a student in Bad Teacher; Jennifer Aniston as a sexually predatory dentist harassing her male assistant in Horrible Bosses. Still to come: Anna Faris as a hard-partying slacker with a long list of exes in September’s What’s Your Number?
The women characters in all these films swear, drink and leap into the sack with gusto, as well as engage in potty humour and — perhaps most radically for Hollywood — deliver the funniest lines, few of them printable here. Their success at the box office — Bridesmaids has grossed more than $200 million worldwide — has ignited debate within the industry and in cultural circles about the raunchy new high — or low — women are hitting in screen comedy right now.
For many viewers and the actresses themselves, these anti-heroines, by emulating the crudeness that long has spelled box-office gold for men in R-rated comedies like The Hangover and Knocked Up, represent a refreshing break from the sexy potential one-night stands, perky potential girlfriends or shrill potential ex-wives women frequently play in mainstream comedies.
But after the box-office receipts are tallied, the question lingers: Is the right to crack a fart joke a progressive sign of loosening gender strictures or of the devolution of the broader culture?
For women under 40 in particular, who grew up with not only the option but the responsibility of breadwinning — as well as images of actresses saving the world in short-shorts — there’s a relief in seeing female sloth and imperfection on screen.
“I’m very intrigued by playing women who are much more like men: messy and sloppy,” said Faris, 34.
“Young men that I know that I went to college with . . . they kind of were losers. . . . I think the reaction to that was a lot of type-A women: the perfect shoes, the perfect job, the baby, the husband, just driven, driven, driven. Not allowed to screw up. I just want to see the women that screw up,” Faris added.
Wiig, cowriter as well as star of Bridesmaids, noted, “On some levels, women and men may find different things funny that relate to their own sex. One thing we wanted . . . was . . . to get some sort of a female language in there. The biggest compliment I can get is people relating to some aspect of the character.”
Not everyone, though, sees actresses following the crudeness or indolence of male comics as a sign that women are enjoying new cultural freedom.
“Women cross-dressing our kind of humour as male humour is the worst possible idea,” said Gina Barreca, 54, author of They Used to Call Me Snow White . . . but I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humour and professor of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut.
“Is this a great new feminist assertion of the self that says, ‘Yes, women fart, women belch, women get drunk? That Cameron Diaz being a disgrace, isn’t that fabulous?’ The feminist ideal was not that there was going to be equity of stupidity. Finding the lowest common denominator is not what everybody was marching for.”
From swooning drunken toasts to vigorous, awkward sex, one thing all of these roles share is a reliance on physical comedy. Camille Paglia, professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, who has written extensively (and sometimes with contempt) about feminism, says that physicality is not mere coincidence but expresses the chafing some women feel about societal expectations of responsibility and virtue.
“What slapstick expresses is a kind of freedom of the body,” Paglia said. “You don’t care about decorum, you don’t care how you’re looked at. If slapstick is coming back now for women, is it not a function of a sense of relief, letting it all hang out in this crazy physical way? Young, white, middle-class women feel very constrained right now.”
For decades, Barreca noted, women have been struggling — in the real world, and on screen — to get ahead, and there’s some sense of exhaustion with the effort.
“Can a woman be an underachiever?” she asked. “Are we allowed to do that now?”
The Many Faces Of Dominic Cooper
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell/Toronto Star
(Aug 04, 2011) As he zips from playing a British schoolboy to a seaside love crooner to a corporate scientist to a murderous Iraqi offspring, you’d think actor Dominic Cooper would hear “chameleon” directed his way.
Especially since the Iraqi gig for the fact-based The Devil’s Double, opening Friday, has him playing two disparate look-alikes: Saddam Hussein’s evil elder son Uday and Latif, the principled man forced to impersonate him as a security decoy.
Yet Cooper insists the “c” word never comes up.
“I haven’t heard ‘chameleon’ actually, but that’s nice!” he says, during a recent Toronto visit, smiling at the compliment. Cooper, 33, seemed born to play variations of British schoolboys and toffs early in his career, as he gained notices for his work in The History Boys (both stage and film) and Starter for 10.
Breakout performances as a freedom-seeking convict in The Escapist and a lovestruck crooner in Mamma Mia! helped expand Cooper’s horizons, which now seem limitless.
He’s currently on screen in Captain America: The First Avenger, playing cocky industrialist/scientist Howard Stark, whose son Tony (played by Robert Downey Jr.) grows to become Iron Man.
Watch for Cooper also in My Week with Marilyn, due out this fall, and next year’s blockbuster mash-up Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
But first, there are those reluctant twins of The Devil’s Double to talk about:
So how did you go from playing British schoolboys to a psychopathic Iraqi warlord?
Ha, ha! Yeah! I don’t know what ever made me think I was right for that part (The Devil’s Double). What on earth made me go, “That’s something I should do. I should play the son of an Iraqi dictator!”
It had been around a long time, but I was completely new to the idea of it and the story of it. By which time (director) Lee Tamahori was definitely attached to it. I just thought, why have you sent me this script?
But I knew that I had spent some time in Jordan when I was younger, so I had a sensibility towards (Arab) physical language, as a people. And then I looked at the image of Uday actually. He did look a bit like me, which gives you a confidence actually, more than anything. I looked like him enough to know that this wasn’t totally far-fetched.
Did you follow the politics of the situation: the Iraq war, Uday’s death?
No, but there were so many aspects to that script, the story, his story that I found so compelling. I felt so guilty not knowing nearly enough about that region. The war was always so present in my life. It was always in the corner in the room on TV and it was frightening. Yet we were so removed from it. We had no voice in it, and we were so unaffected by it.
Did getting inside two heads, Uday and Latif, give you better understanding of these two men?
I never had any sympathy for Uday. The more I researched, the more I found, the more I despised. Which was my biggest fear and the hardest thing to get over. There is an essence of you that you have to bring to a character. You’re looking through that person’s eyes, you’re getting under their skin, you’re in their head. You need to at least know where it stems from in them. What’s happened to them. To their inner workings. What’s happened in his head as a child, growing up, that has made him as psychotic as that.
You never thought of him as a poor boy who got led astray?
I had to think something to understand where the bile and rage and that fury comes from. You just look at the basic principles of growing up and life and what you’re affected by. It did raise the question of nature versus nurture, whether he was just a madman from birth, but you look at his father, Saddam Hussein, this all-powerful figure in his life and the world.
Saddam didn’t take him seriously at all, and certainly didn’t want to hand him the reins of power. Which immediately you can understand in that culture is a complete dishonour. As an elder son that’s the role. To step into the father’s shoes. He had a deep love of his mother, he hated his father’s treatment towards his mother. He was exposed to horrific scenes of torture from the age of about 4. But this doesn’t excuse any of it. He was vile. I hated every aspect of him.
Was it easier playing Latif, his opposite?
No, it wasn’t easier, actually. And to be honest, once I had established Uday and who he was in my head, it was such fun playing him. It was incredible jumping between him and Latif all the time.
Which character did you establish first?
Different things came at different times. I suddenly found Uday’s laugh one day. That hideous high-pitched cackle. . .
I needed to take two characters and interpret them in a way that they would be significantly different so that an audience would always know, hopefully, who they were watching.
It was really simple, I suppose. You have Uday, who is in control of a room. He’s elaborate with his gestures. He’s big, he’s huge, he takes up all the room. No one — he doesn’t care what people think, and no one can say anything against him.
Then you have the totally opposite ends of that with Latif, a man who fought in the military, and he’s very still. Considered. Watches. Listens before he does anything. You immediately start to find things that are completely at the opposite ends of the spectrum.
You don’t plan to make a habit out of playing two people, I take it?
No, though things have cropped up. It’s so funny how it works. Again, there’s this ridiculous pigeonholing. This person does this, this person does that. I immediately got offered someone who plays a split personality.
Did you say yes or no?
No! Ha, ha!
The Help’s Southern Belle From Hell
Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara
(August 08, 2011) When Bryce Dallas Howard’s mother, Cheryl, learned she was auditioning for the role of Hilly Holbrook, the alpha female villainess of The Help, her reaction was a backhanded compliment.
“Without missing a beat she said, ‘Oh, you’ll be perfect,’” Howard recalls. “It was so disturbing that she thought that I would be good at playing Hilly, who’s the worst character ever. But then again, she saw me through all of my teenage years so she’s seen the worst of me, she really has.”
Set in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, at the tumultuous outset of America’s civil-rights movement, the film — based on the best-selling book — tells the story of black domestic workers who anonymously reveal the inside scoop on cooking, cleaning and raising white children under the watchful eyes of elegant (but deeply racist) hausfraus.
“In the book, (Hilly)’s the character that you love to hate. She’s such an amazing character. But when I started rehearsals, what I realized is that it was really important for me to play her as a real person, you know, to not just do the farcical villainess thing,” Howard said last week on a Toronto visit to promote the film, which opens Wednesday.
“In order to actually embody a person of that time — which Hilly really represents — I needed to understand how she could have that kind of psychology, which I had a lot of resistance to. I judged her tremendously and I didn’t want to understand her,” she said.
“Eventually what I came to is that, of course, she’s a deeply ignorant person and I was able to come up with a bit of a backstory for her ignorance that allowed me to arrive at some insight as to why she was the way that she was.”
As part of her research, Howard watched a number of documentaries about the civil-rights movement.
“I was able to see people interviewed who were like Hilly Holbrook and who I just had absolutely no respect for and loathed,” Howard said, with a quiet intensity.
“But at least I could see that these were people who were members of a society that felt very free to come out and say . . . things and behave in the ways they’re behaving. It made me realize even more that they think what they’re doing is right. It made me want to play that side of Hilly — that she’s self-righteous and she thinks she’s doing the right thing.”
Howard said it also helped that the film was shot in Greenwood, Miss., which became a “hotbed” for the civil rights movement.
“It happens to be a very well-preserved town and when you’re there, you really feel like you’re in the 1960s. It just made such a massive difference for us,” said Howard, whose previous credits include The Village and Terminator Salvation.
With another kind of civil-rights movement underway in America — the struggle of millions of illegal immigrants to attain citizenship and the battle for same-sex marriage — Howard said she hopes the film serves as a wake-up call.
“With a movie like this, if it empowers one person to speak up when they would have remained silent because they were afraid of what would happen to them, wouldn’t that be an extraordinary thing?” Howard said.
As the daughter of child star-turned-director Ron Howard, Howard said she did indeed seek out her father’s counsel when she decided to become an actor.
“The first piece of advice that he (dad) gave me when it was clear that I was serious about being an actor was, ‘If there’s anything else that you can do, you should probably do that,’” Howard said, with a laugh.
Glee 3D: A High-School Talent Show Well Worth Glorifying
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Liam Lacey
(August 10, 2011) There is something a bit makeshift about Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, a film designed for a two-week run that was put together in just six weeks after being shot in East Rutherford, N.J., last June. The awkwardness is part of the movie's charm.
One critic complained that the concert tour felt like "a glorified high-school talent show." It's a good description of the film, which is really about a chance to watch familiar friends - the very talented and the ordinary - get up onstage and perform.
Here, the cast members of the television show pretend to be their fictional characters even in backstage interviews that are conducted, off-camera, by the show's producer and major creative force, Ryan Murphy.
For all its artifice, the concert's theme is also painfully sincere.
On the contrary, without the sarcastic undercutting of Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), Glee is almost evangelical in its message of social inclusiveness. Throughout the film, we cut away to outside the arena where various young fans express their love for their favourite Glee characters and share how the show has changed their lives.
The film focuses on three fans' stories: a cheerleader, who is a little person and is crowned her school's prom queen; a young gay man recalling his humiliating outing and a young woman diagnosed with Asperger's. They all explain why the show is important to them.
At the centre of it, of course, is the healing unguent of music - chart-toppers, pop classics and show tunes - that span generations of musical change and a spectrum of genres, put through the Glee musical processor into catchy, easy-on-the-ears arrangements.
As much processing and auto-tuning as the TV show employs, the best singers prove on stage that they're the real deal. Chris Colfer, who plays gay teen Kurt Hummel, is the most sociologically interesting character on the show.
Though his comedic chops don't get much chance to shine in the concert, he sings like a high-spirited bird. His one solo number is The Beatles's I Wanna Hold Your Hand (he copies the slow, T.V .Carpio version from Across the Universe) and he shares some effortless octave jumping with Lea Michele on Get Happy/Happy Days Are Here Again, a duet made famous by Barbar Streisand and Judy Garland.
Michele, on her own, also knocks out a Broadway-sized version of Don't Rain on My Parade on My Parade, Streisand's hit from Funny Girl, and turns Katy Perry's pop hit, Firework, into a power ballad.
The other big voice on Glee belongs to Amber Riley (Mercedes on the show), whose rendition of Aretha Franklin's 1968 hit Ain't No Way does justice to the Queen of Soul. She also does a foot-stomping duet with Naya Rivera on Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep, Mountain High and, generally, is the core voice on the big ensemble numbers.
For fans who wanted to exercise their own lungs, the opportunity came during the three songs by Darren Criss, who was introduced in the show's second season as Blaine, Kurt's love interest and the soloist with the rival show choir, The Warblers.
Criss and his choreographed and harmonizing Warblers (all clad in private-school uniforms), began with his breakthrough song, a stripped-down version Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, followed by Paul McCartney's Silly Love Songs and Pink's Raise Your Glass. Criss's intensity and strutting physicality feels both wholesome and sexual, which is the key to Glee's success as much as its social tolerance message.
Some other song choices (Jessie's Girl, Safety Dance) fall in the "why bother?" category, though when tunes sound stale it's always refreshing to look to dancer Heather Morris (aka Glee's Brittany), her long limbs popping out and back as though they were on springs. (Regrettably, the 3-D is used to little effect here, beyond permitting a ticket markup.)
The big ensemble finale on Queen's secular hymn, Somebody To Love, with Michele and Riley providing the vocal pillars, is big, corny and generous. A high-school talent show, no doubt, but, at its best, one well worth glorifying.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen
Starring: Darren Criss, Chris Colfer, Lea Michele, Amber Riley, Cory Monteith, Heather Morris and Naya Rivera
Editor's note: The original version of this story contained errors. This version has been corrected.
First look: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Linda Barnard
(Aug 05, 2011) Blogger Quint at Ain't It Cool News grabbed the first look at the new Catwoman (aka Selina Kyle), played by Anne Hathaway in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. Sure she looks cool on that souped-up Bat-bike (make that Cat-bike) in her leathers, but I still prefer Michelle Pfeiffer's demented take on the character in 1992's Batman Returns, all dolled up in her Frankenstein-like stitched PVC psycho suit. Which one do you favour - or are you a Halle Berry fan? We'll see how Hathaway stacks up in this catfight for the best when The Dark Knight Rises hits theatres in July 2012.
Forest Whitaker in New ‘Voodoo’ Horror Flick with Sanaa Lathan
(August 6, 2011) *Forest Whitaker is showing off his flexibility again in a new film with Anthony Mackie, Mike Epps, and Sanaa Lathan. Called “Vipaka,” the psychological “voodoo” horror flick will be directed by Philippe Caland. The story follows a severely disturbed contractor (Whitaker) who is seeking help from a life coach (Mackie). While he’s seeking therapy, things begin to get a little twisted when the sessions turn into mind games. The contractor abducts the life coach and uses his spiritual messages to terrorize him and his family. The film started production in New Orleans earlier this week. The story was written by Shin Shimosawa, co-producer of “The Grudge” movies. No word yet on an expected release date.
‘The Last Fall’ is Matthew Cherry’s Feature Film Directorial
Source: www.eurweb.com - By: Ricardo A. Hazell
(August 5, 2011) *Director Matthew A. Cherry is a man on a mission and is making moves like Barry Sanders in his prime. Around this time a year ago he was directing some of your favourite neo-soul videos and doing PA work for this year’s blockbuster “Transformers 3″ and now he’s on some next level type stuff. He just wrapped up a 15 day shoot on his first feature film “The Last Fall,” starring Lance Gross and Nicole Beharie. The film also features veteran actors Vanessa Calloway and Keith David. “Fall” is described as a coming of age sports drama that centers around players who are facing the early retirement from their dream job, professional football. The film is being produced by Transparent films and NFL player Elllis Hobbs of the Philadelphia Eagles in conjunction with production company, Outer Stratosphere and Nikki Love. Cherry will also serve as executive producer. They say creative people should pull from personal experiences, and premature retirement from the NFL is something Cherry can certainly relate too after brief stints with the Bengals, Panthers and Ravens. We’ll keep you updated on when you can expect to see it at a theatre near you.
A Perfect Cronenberg Film
Source: www.thestar.com - Simon Hayter
(August 08, 2011) David Cronenberg's next movie is a black hole romance-thriller. Tell me this doesn't sound like the perfect David Cronenberg funny-strange plot: Boy professor meets smart-scientist girl, boy loses girl because she's too enamoured of the black hole she's created in the lab. Boy will do anything to win girl back, including making a trip into said black hole. It's based on the Jonathan Lethem novel As She Climbed Across the Table and according to Nikki Finke's Deadline: Hollywood there's a production package in the works that has Cronenberg directing, Bruce Wagner (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3) writing and Film Rites' Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, 2012 version) producing. It’s a busy time for Canadian director Cronenberg, whose A Dangerous Method premieres at the Venice film fest Aug. 31 and has a Gala slot at TIFF in Toronto soon after. Cronenberg was shooting on the streets of Toronto with Robert Pattinson this spring in Cosmopolis.
I'm Voting Matt Damon
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Linda Barnard
(August 10, 2011) Would that I could. But documentary filmmaker Michael Moore's suggestion on the weekend at blog FireDogLake that actor Matt Damon would make a darn fine U.S. president got me thinking. What Canadian actors would make a great prime minister? Here's my list to get you started. Got any suggestions to add?
1. Jay Baruchel: coz he's just a little crazy and we need some of that. He'd also mandate days off during the hockey season.
2.Hugh Dillon: Try saying no to him, world leaders!
3. Colm Feore: He played Trudeau on TV. It's a good beginning.
4. Jayne Eastwood: The sound bites alone would be worth the price of admission. She'd launch Canada onto the world stage.
5. Shannon Tweed: She can keep Gene Simmons in line. Nobody will cross her.
6. Seth Rogen: Just because
Behind The Wheel, Ryan Gosling Is A New Action Hero
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Peter Howell
(August 10, 2011) "I don't carry a gun ... I drive." So says Ryan Gosling's mysterious wheelman in the first official trailer for Drive, a sensation at this year's Cannes fest. The film brought Nicolas Winding Refn the prize for best director, while also opening eyes to the Gosling's action-hero abilities. Hollywood stunt man by day, criminal getaway man by night, Gosling's taciturn Driver is a combination of Steve McQueen in Bullit and Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. He's well matched with comedian Albert Brooks, who plays a sardonic gangster, and Carey Mulligan as the girl who sees the man behind the wheel. Drive plays TIFF next month, in advance of its September 16 opening.
Lloyd Robertson To Receive
Special Gemini Award
Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press
(August 10, 2011) CTV newsman Lloyd Robertson is among the broadcast veterans in line for a special award from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television.
The chief anchor of CTV National News with Lloyd Robertson will be presented with the Gordon Sinclair award for broadcast journalism on Aug. 30, two days before his final newscast.
Robertson is set to retire after more than 50 years in the broadcasting industry.
He's one of 10 recipients being honoured for exceptional contributions to the Canadian television and digital media industries.
Other recipients include Road to Avonlea actor Cedric Smith; the National Film Board of Canada for its interactive productions and 3D experiments; and Christina Jennings of the production house Shaftesbury, which produces shows including Murdoch Mysteries and The Listener.
The awards will be handed out during two industry galas for the Gemini Awards on Aug. 30 and 31. A televised bash Sept. 7 will salute the best in Canadian TV with awards including best drama and best comedy.
Other special award recipients include:
- The Actors' Fund of Canada, which provides emergency financial aid to workers in film and television;
- Writer/producer Bob Carney for a lengthy career that included a key role in creating and producing the newsroom drama E.N.G., co-executive producing 26 episodes of Due South, and co-executive producing the second season of Flashpoint.
- Paul Bronfman, the chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios and the film and TV equipment facility William F. White International;
- Inventor David F.E. Corley, who created a colour pattern test for TV broadcasters
- The documentary The Storytelling Class, about Winnipeg's culturally diverse Gorden Bell High School;
- Producer Mark Terry, who will receive a humanitarian award for a body of work that includes the 2009 documentary The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning and 2011's The Polar Explorer.
The 'Tortured Male Network' Is
Coming To Canada
Source: www.globeandmail.com – By John Doyle
(Aug 06, 2011) A new digital channel, FX Canada, will be launched by Rogers Media this November. The channel, a joint venture between Rogers and FX productions, will guarantee that Canadian TV viewers have access to a long list of acclaimed FX programs including Sons of Anarchy, Justified and upcoming FX shows. Previously, FX shows were seen on a variety of Canadian channels and some never aired in Canada at all.
The announcement was made here today at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour by Rogers Media President of Broadcasting, Scott Moore, and Eric Schrier, Executive Vice President of FX Productions. FX Canada will launch on November 1 as a digital service and will eventually include original Canadian programming and Canadian sports events. Scott Moore said that the channel will be available to the 1.7 million Canadians who subscribe to Rogers VIP Digital service, will be offered free to digital subscribers for an introductory period and Rogers will be discussing the new channel's carriage on other cable and satellite services such as Shaw and Bell Expressvu.
"Canadian viewers and television journalists have been inquiring for years about the lack of full availability of FX's great original series in Canada," Eric Schrier said.
The arrival of FX Canada makes it certain that Canadian viewers will see one of this fall's most talked-about and provocative new shows, the erotic-horror drama American Horror Story, a series created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the producers of Nip/Tuck and Glee, and starring Dylan McDermott and Jessica Lang.
FX is a unit of the FOX Group and was launched in 1994 as a basic cable channel in the U.S. It reaches 99 million homes in the U.S. and has consistently produced Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series. It also airs movies and college sports. Sometimes it is called "the tortured male network" by American TV critics because it has been the home to The Shield, Justified and Rescue Me, series that have flawed male characters at their core. According to John Landgraf, President and General Manager of FX, the channel's viewership is 52% male and 48% female. The demographics for most broadcast networks are 60% female and 40% male.
Scott Moore, who spent several years at CBC as Executive Director of Sports, sees FX Canada as an excellent fit for Rogers, which also owns the City TV channels and the cable outlets Sportsnet and Outdoor Life Network. "We were pleasantly surprised at how well-known the FX brand is in Canada, even though access to some of their programs has been spotty," he said. "What FX makes is not niche programming, it's hit programming. And we can use FX to guide the kind of Canadian programming we want to do. In six to twelve months you'll hear about the kind of Canadian programming we're working on."
Eric Schrier said the new channel both increases the FX presence internationally and offers an opportunity to develop content, "We're looking to expand our footprint in Canada. We will co-develop with Canadian producers, but there is nothing in the works yet."
Big Brother Back On Top Of
Canada's Weekly TV Ratings
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Bill Brioux
(Aug 03, 2011) While TV critics check out the new fall entries at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles, back home it's another one-two-three finish for Combat Hospital, Flashpoint and Rookie Blue as Canada’s top-rated TV dramas.
One show we don’t know the numbers for: The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour, the incomprehensible new comedy from those zany Trailer Park boys. Shaw buried the premiere Friday at 9 p.m. on its specialty network Action, where presumably dozens of viewers found it. Episodes 3 and 4 of six air this Friday.
Here’s how most everything else played out across Canada in prime time among adults 2+ the week of July 25 to 31, according to overnight estimates:
A two-hour So You Think You Can Dance Canada was up week-to-week with 1,160,000 CTV viewers. A repeat of Law & Order got a similar bump (867,000).
Where did our love go for The Bachelorette on City (652,000)? Extreme Makeover Tubby Edition tipped the scales at 408,000. Nothing like an assassination to spike ratings on The Kennedys (531,000). Global also did well with In Plain Sight (821,000) and hung 10 with Hawaii FIVE-0 (759,000). WWE Raw put a hammer lock on 471,000 on Score. Week 2 of the second season of Haven jumped to 274,000. Degrassi on MuchMusic slipped slightly to 227,000. Midsomer Murders (198,000) continues to put TVO on the map. Week 3 of Alphas on Space did 153,000.
Again, CBC coasted with Little Mosque (181,000), 18 to Life (128,000) and Being Erica (135,000). Could they not just put up a test pattern in summer?
Combat Hospital was up again week-to-week on Global, this time notching 1,540,000 viewers. And again there were robust repeats of both NCIS (1,293,000) and NCIS: Los Angeles (1,091,000).
America’s Got Talent did an even 1,300,000 on City, where Hell’s Kitchen cooked up 967,000 overnight, estimated viewers.
So You Think You Can Dance Canada results show slipped to 878,000 viewers followed by Mike & Molly (487,000) and the finale of 101 Ways to Leave a Game Show (831,000).
MasterChef scored 545,000 on /A\. A Jays game drew 454,000 on Sportsnet. Tosh.0 built to 358,000 on Comedy. Another new Degrassi pulled 254,000 on Much.
CBC went Mercer (363,000), InSecurity (264,000), Pillars of the Earth (180,000).
Tosh.0 built to 358,000 on Comedy.
Big Brother jumped right back up into top spot in Canada with 1,719,000 viewers. Nothing else on Global, including Love Bites (347,000) and a burn-off of the CBS flop Chaos (343,000), came close.
Without Stephen Harper to fix the vote, Murdoch Mysteries slid from 700,000 to 428,000 viewers on City. Lead-in America’s Got Talent (1,398,000) had another big week.
A two-hour So You Think You Can Dance waltzed off with 1,095,000 viewers followed by Love in the Wild (746,000). CBC got relatively strong repeat lifts from Dragons’ Den (759,000) and Republic of Doyle (404,000). The finale of Fanboy Confessional drew 113,000 on Space.
Rookie Blue dipped slightly to 1,311,000 overnight estimated viewers. Global lead-in Big Brother (1,529,000) was the most watched show of the night. CTV’s So You Think You Can Dance did 1,049,000, bested by The Mentalist (1,109,000). Expedition Impossible bounced back up to 954,000. A Jays game drew 563,000 on Sportsnet. Nature of Things (249,000) and Doc Zone (292,000) were both down. Almost Heroes (53,000) and Single White Spenny (22,000) repeated at the same levels on Showcase.
Flashpoint had another big week in Canada, drawing 1,430,000 viewers on CTV. Too bad that doesn’t count south of the border. CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler all but shut the door to the series returning on her network beyond the summer.
CSI: New York (1,238,000) and Blue Bloods (1,147,000) continue to repeat well on CTV. Toronto/Edmonton was a big CFL draw on TSN (855); an earlier Montreal/Hamilton tilt drew 552,000. Jays and Rangers on Sportsnet batted (582,000). Global went Glee (268,000), House (471,000) and 90210 (226,000). CBC dipped week-to-week with Ron James (241,000), Men with Brooms (142,000) and the Winnipeg Comedy Fest (289,000).
Saturday Night Live drew 310,000 on Global. Torchwood was up to 420,000 on Space. Jays and Rangers batted 716,000 on Sportsnet. Saskatchewan vs. Calgary scored 779,000 CFL fans on TSN.
Sunday’s Big Brother outing on Global led the night with 1,358,000 viewers. This week, it was Hiccups (439,000) over Dan for Mayor (310,000) on CTV. Hot in Cleveland in the middle did 532,000. CBC also airs shows Sunday nights.
We Still Love Lucy
Source: www.thestar.com - By Lynn Elber
(Aug 06, 2011) LOS ANGELES—We loved Lucy and we still do.
On the 100th anniversary of her birth Saturday and 60 years since I Love Lucy first aired, Lucille Ball's legacy remains remarkable — and her talent remarkably fresh and watchable.
Consider other popular sitcoms that aired alongside Ball and Desi Arnaz's show during its 1951-57 life span on CBS. The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and Father Knows Best, among others, are period Americana that evoke sweet nostalgia far more than laughs.
But I Love Lucy, in all its black-and-white glory, remains a draw worldwide for viewers who certainly weren't around for its debut. Over the past five decades, the sitcom has won new audiences — and introduced Lucy to younger generations — over and over through TV syndication and video sales.
Lucie Arnaz, Ball's daughter, was asked by a Chinese interviewer to explain why her mother and the show are so popular in China. It's a “phenomenon,” Arnaz offers.
“I think of her as mom most of the time. Then I switch . . . and try to see her as the rest of the world does. It's almost too big,” Arnaz said Friday.
Who could have predicted that the most timeless and international of all TV talents would be a fortysomething woman who, taking the structured role of a homemaker in mid-century New York City, stretched into it the stuff of classic comedy?
Picture this: Lucy swigging down awful Vitameatavegamin, with a grimace and a wannabe-pitchman's smile fighting for custody of her face before the boozy patent medicine begins to take control of her. Can you recall the scene, let alone watch it, and not get at least a small jolt of pleasure, even if it's the umpteenth time?
Or consider Lucy vs. the industrial revolution, as a conveyer belt outpaces her candy-processing skills and desperation and poor judgment join ranks.
“All right, girls, now this is your last chance. If one piece of candy gets past you and into the packing room unwrapped, you're fired,” the plant supervisor barks at Lucy and partner-in-crime Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance).
That's the setup. The delivery, in the most rewarding Ball fashion, is mostly wordless.
As the belt speeds up and chocolates slip by en masse, Lucy and Ethel try stuffing the evidence in their mouths. Down their dresses. In their handbags.
Lucy, eyes wide and lips puckered, looks as guilty as a kid cheating big-time in class.
Dialogue? Forget about it. No need, given Lucy's adroit physicality and gleeful mugging, all dignity and beauty be damned. (She credited masterful Buster Keaton for teaching her timing, and how to move and fall.)
Her big-eyed, full-lipped look didn't start as comic fodder. She was a model, a movie starlet in the early 1930s and then an actress with minor roles in a handful of good films (Stage Door) and bigger roles in many more forgettable ones (Dance, Girl, Dance).
Then came television, which made Lucille Ball. In return, she and Arnaz, her husband, partner and co-star, made TV comedy what it is to this day.
First, they pushed the narrow-minded TV industry beyond its comfort zone, proving audiences would accept a blue-eyed redhead married to a Cuban-born bandleader with a heavy accent. (“Lucy, you got some 'splainin' to do!”)
Ball and Arnaz pioneered the three-camera sitcom with I Love Lucy, which was filmed like a stage play. Using multiple cameras eliminated the need to interrupt scenes to shoot from different angles and allowed actors to play to a studio audience.
Although The Office, 30 Rock and other comedies have popularized the single-camera format, multiple-camera Two and a Half Men has reigned as the top-rated sitcom in recent years and more new comedies are embracing the convention.
Creating a quality film record of the episodes — at a time most shows aired live and unpreserved — paid a huge dividend, making I Love Lucy episodes resalable as reruns and their production house, Desilu, the first studio to profit from program syndication.
Desilu became a powerful force in early television. After Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960, he sold her his share in the company for $3 million. With a shrewd business sense, she built it into a major TV production company and in 1967 sold it to Gulf & Western Industries Inc. for $17 million.
Fanboys and girls, note: At Ball's insistence, the studio produced the original Star Trek series and landed it on NBC.
Ball was known as a modest luminary, invariably sharing credit and especially when I Love Lucy drew praise. “Well, all of the credit should go to (writers) Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr.” Or, “Desi was a genius: He was responsible for the show's success.” Or she cited co-stars Arnaz, Vance and Bill Frawley.
But people knew better. Gale Gordon, who played her sidekick from radio through three of her TV shows (The Lucy Show from 1962-68, Here's Lucy, 1968-74, and short-lived Life With Lucy, 1986), called her a bit of a genius — “the only one I've ever really known.”
Ball was 77 when she died in 1989 of a ruptured abdominal artery after heart surgery. Arnaz is gone, and so are Vance, Frawley, Gordon and screenwriter Carroll. In April, fellow head writer Madelyn Pugh Davis died at age 90.
But their creation, with Ball at its centre, is eternally vital and joyful. George Burns called it when she died, and his tribute remains true.
“I and 100 million others will miss her,” Burns said. “But we haven't lost Lucille Ball because she's still with us on television and we can see her on and on.”
Marg Helgenberger Says Farewell To ‘CSI’
Source: www.thestar.com - Fred Prouser/Reuters
(Aug 04, 2011) LOS ANGELES (REUTERS)—Long-running TV series CSI:Crime Scene Investigation will take on a less serious tone this season as former Cheers actor Ted Danson joins the cast of forensic detectives, producers said Wednesday.
But in a surprise announcement, lead actress Marg Helgenberger told reporters that she plans to leave at the end of the upcoming 12th season of what CBS says is the most watched TV series in the world.
Helgenberger, who plays former CSI supervisor Catherine Willows, said she had considered leaving at the end of last season, but decided she was “having a hard time letting go and that I was not yet done playing this character. That’s why I decided to extend (my contract) a little bit.”
Danson, 63, takes over from the departing Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Raymond Langston), playing a new character D.B. Russell—a family man with four children, an unconventional hippie upbringing, and a good sex life.
Executive producer Carol Mendelsohn said Russell has his own unique process for solving crimes, adding that “the season will be a little lighter. There is more humour than there was last season.
“Season 12 -- that’s a lot of years, and we wanted to excite the audience and excite ourselves as writers,” Mendelsohn added of the change of tone.
CSI is one of the most valuable franchises at CBS and is licensed in 200 countries. But U.S. audiences have fallen by about four million viewers in the past two years since original headliner William Petersen left the show in 2009 and Fishburne took over, bringing a far more serious edge to the series.
CBS entertainment chief Nina Tassler acknowledged that Peterson’s departure had been “impactful”. But she said that Danson brings a huge fan base and could attract new audiences for the series.
“It is a successful show, long running, and I think it is a great opportunity for us,” Tassler said.
Emmy-award winning actor Danson—best known as the skirt-chasing bar owner Sam Malone on the 1980s comedy Cheers —said he was surprised but pleased at the chance of returning to a leading role on a top-rated network TV series.
“I was thrilled, happy... My jaw is still hanging down a little bit from the newness of all this.
“I love going to work. I am so happy to hang with this cast...to be able to step into that atmosphere is a joy,” he said.
Danson also revealed another, little known qualification for his new role. “I grew up around skulls. My father was an archeologist in Arizona and I would go on digs with my dad as a kid.”
Danson makes his debut in the new season premiere on September 21.
Predicts X Factor Will Thrash Rivals
Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian / Reuters
(Aug 06, 2011) LOS ANGELES—Big, brash and confident as ever, Simon Cowell said Friday that his upcoming The X Factor would thrash the competition on U.S. television and topple American Idol as the nation’s most-watched show.
Cowell, both executive producer and acid-tongued judge on the U.S. version of The X Factor, called the singing contest a “game changer” and said it was “completely different” in style and content from his old vehicle American Idol.
Asked whether he thought X Factor, with its unprecedented $5 million cash prize for the winner, would beat Idol in the TV ratings when it debuts on Fox in September, Cowell told television journalists:
“If I didn’t think we could — and its not just Idol, it’s any show — we don’t enter something for the silver medal. You do it because you want to be No. 1, and for the next few months we are going to throw everything at this to try and make it the best show on TV,” the British producer said.
“I wouldn’t have made the show unless I thought it would be different . . . we see this as a game changer,” he added.
Fox, which broadcasts both talent shows, said it believed X Factor would reverse the network’s historically “patchy” ratings in the fall TV season.
“If X Factor can do half of what we hope it will do in the fall, Fox is going to be really difficult for the other guys to reckon with,” Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly said.
X Factor marks the return of the abrasive but popular Cowell to U.S. television after quitting American Idol in 2010 following 10 years in the judges’ seat, and reunites him with his old Idol sparring partner Paula Abdul.
The new show debuts in a now-crowded market for TV talent contests that includes the surprise success of NBC newcomer The Voice earlier this year, and established favourites like America’s Got Talent and a capella contest The Sing-Off, as well as a revamped and resurgent Idol that airs from January-May.
X Factor welcomes contestants 13 years old and up, as well as singing groups. It turns the judges into competing mentors and has contestants auditioning before vast stadium audiences.
“We will show the good bits, the bad bits, the ugly bits — and there are a lot of ugly bits,” Cowell said, saying there was room for more than two or three hit TV singing shows.
While the revamped American Idol, with new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, increased audiences last season with a softer and kinder attitude towards its aspiring young stars, Cowell has clearly abandoned none of the sarcasm and biting wit that helped make him a star on U.S. TV.
Asked how it felt to be working again with Cowell, Abdul told reporters, “It’s nice to be back in a demented relationship. It’s like home.”
“I think it’s more like The Exorcist 2,” retorted Cowell.
But he confessed that he had met his match in some of the younger contestants auditioning for a spot on the show.
“We have had to say to some of the 14-year-olds, ‘Please be kind to me’ . . . I was quite traumatized after some of the auditions.”
Cowell said that one young rapper had “absolutely chewed me apart. But I quite like that.”
Audio: Chad L. Coleman (Cutty from ‘The Wire’) Joins Fox Sitcom ‘Teenage Daughter’
Source: www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders
(August 8, 2011) *You know him from HBO’s “The Wire” as the ex-con turned boxing instructor Cutty. Soon, a wider audience will get to enjoy actor Chad L. Coleman when he premieres in Fox’s new fall sitcom “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.”
The series follows two mothers who were never part of the popular crowd when they were in high school, yet their teen daughters have somehow become the mean girls that their moms always despised.
Coleman plays Gary, a golf pro and the divorced father of one of the teens.
“I’m the bread winner right now,” he said of his character at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “I feel there’s a certain voice of reason to Gary as well; a certain since of order, especially with the routine of a golf pro. So I need to do things a certain way, and I get a strong feeling my daughter’s going to obliterate all of that.”
Not once in the pilot was a big deal made of Gary’s character being in an interracial relationship. His ex-wife Nikki, played by Kate Finneran, is Caucasian, and his daughter (Aisha Dee) is bi-racial. But executive producer Sherry Bilsing Graham said the issue will come up in future episodes.
“We will be seeing stories play off of that. It was deliberate [not to make mention of it early on] because it’s real and, you know, in your life,” said Graham. “We wanted to keep the characters and relationships real. And the relationship between Nikki and her husband, Gary, was a great one and a loving one. They keep falling back to each other even though they couldn’t stand to live with each other, which is true for a lot of people.”
Australian actress Dee, who also stars in the first several episodes of Fox’s upcoming “Terra Nova,” says her character’s bi-racial background was a selling point for the role.
“That was one of the things that actually attracted me to the show, because I’m half African American and half white so, you know, there’s not a lot of characters on TV who you can really look to,” she said.
In the bonus audio below, Coleman talks about the importance of him showing range as an actor after playing such a popular role on “The Wire,” and why he felt it was time to jump into a comedy.
Audio: Henry Simmons Gets His
Manly ‘Man’ On in New ABC Sitcom
Source: www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders
(August 8, 2011) *It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Henry Simmons on TV.
Best known for his 2000-2005 role as Det. Baldwin Jones on ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” the actor returns to the network this fall in the comedy “Man Up!” about three husbands and fathers who still play video games on the sneak tip and aren’t quite sure if they can ever fill the traditional male roles perfected by their fathers and grandfathers.
Simmons is not one of the three trying to man up. Rather, he is Grant, the attractive, muscled, athletic boyfriend of one of the guy’s ex-wives. In other words, he’s a living, breathing example of everything the three men are not; yet has no idea that the guys see him that way.
“I don’t think he’s conscious of it at all,” Simmons told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Sunday. “He’s the kind of guy that walks into a room and everyone loves him, and he’s used to it. He talks at people like he doesn’t really listen. He’s just grand.”
And luckily, for his fans, Grant’s manly activities are mostly done without a shirt.
In the bonus audio below, Simmons, who turned 41 in July, is asked if he has a special workout regimen he follows to fulfill the physical demands of the role.
A Big Hit Season For Simpsons
Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner
(August 07, 2011) Oh, you know your Simpsons, do you?
Who are Steve Bennett and Lois Sanborn, then? Can you name all five Sideshows who've appeared alongside Krusty the Clown over the years, maybe even the sixth found within the outtakes reel on the Season 7 DVD set? What are the three ingredients in the breakfast Homer “improvises” for himself while Marge is parked at the Burns Casino in the throes of a gambling addiction? And while we're on the subject, what's the name Homer gives to Marge's affliction?
Or try this one, a recent baffler from the devious minds behind Toronto's ragingly popular WooHoo! Classic Simpsons Trivia night: A sign outside the Steppin' Out Fashion Mart encourages you to “come browse through” this. What is it?
Nothing. I've got nothing. And that clearly pleases Amanda Factor.
“ ‘Come browse through our bra barrel!' ” she laughs. “I love that. I had to write a question about it.”
“Even I was stumped by this one,” concedes Andrew Ennals, the other half of the WooHoo! team. Ennals and Factor have done a pretty fair job through 630 questions to date of regularly stumping a roomful of Simpsons diehards when each monthly instalments of their pub quiz rolls around.
Yes, a trip to the Gladstone for an evening of communal Simpsons geekdom can be as frustrating as it is oddly life-affirming. I went into WooHoo!'s first go-'round at the Ossington a year ago with a team of obsessives that, we thought, couldn't lose and left feeling deeply shamed by our middling collective performance. Factor and Ennals don't mess around.
“It might have thrown a few people off guard,” says Factor of that first night. “Maybe they weren't expecting it to be as in depth and as difficult as it was, but now I think they really appreciate the challenge. They really want to test their mettle.”
“Asking who the Simpsons' neighbour is isn't funny,” adds Ennals. “Our goal with how we write the questions is always to make sure that, even if you don't know the answer, you'll still enjoy it. Either the question will be funny itself, or more often the answer will make you laugh if you didn't know what it was.
“We're doing this as entertainment, in the same way that the show entertains us.”
WooHoo! is, at heart, not so much a competition as it is, as Factor puts it, “a celebration of our love of the show.” True, at the end of the night, victorious teams walk away with bragging rights and their very own carton of Lard Lad doughnuts, but the night's success mostly has to do with the crowd's shared delight in — to borrow another phrase from the show's lexicon — remembering TV.
The Simpsons is quite unique, after all, in its ability to generate endless amusement in absentia through the mere invocation of a few choice phrases and plot points. Once you've seen an episode enough — and, since WooHoo! only deals with the first 11 of the animated series' 22 seasons, regular attendees are well versed in the material at hand — it only takes a single trigger to relive the entire show in your head. And that's enough.
To sweeten the deal, the three rounds of questions are broken up each month by screenings of three classic Simpsons episodes. During the first night, both standing-room-only rooms at the Ossington spontaneously broke into boisterous song when the sixth-season episode “Homer the Great” came around to the Stonecutters' anthem. Factor actually teared up.
By the third, Treehouse of Horror-themed round last Halloween, people were coming in costume. My team, the Thompsons, came decked out in “Witness Relocation Program” T-shirts and hats. Another woman came dressed as “Floreda,” the awful state costume Homer made for Lisa. But the best look of the night belonged to a chap sporting suspenders and a false moustache and sideburns in emulation of Zutroy, a Springfield Nuclear Power Plant employee of Chechen origin who first appeared in “The Last Temptation of Homer” in 1993.
“We have the best audience in the world, in a lot of ways,” says Ennals. “We've never had a real problem in 12 months, knock on wood . . . . or been a total dick. People will dispute questions vehemently, but pleasantly in the sense that they won't call you an idiot.”
Old friends Factor, 30, and Ennals, 33, launched WooHoo! confident that their idea, hatched after a round of online Simpsons quote swapping, was “such a no-brainer.” So they weren't that surprised when, after just two outings, they had to upsize from the Ossington to the Gladstone to handle the turnout.
They have been surprised, however, by the depth of dedication that the evening's fans have shown; some attendees now show up three or four hours early to nab a seat in the Melody Bar. Writers by trade, the two are often still at their day jobs when triumphant Tweets start rolling in saying: “Yes! I got a seat!”
For this coming Tuesday's one-year anniversary bash, they've secured the entire ground floor of the Gladstone — the Melody Bar, the Art Bar and the ballroom — and dangled a prize to end all prizes to whichever WooHoo! devotee can come up with the best question of his or her own that stumps the hosts. Longtime writer/producer Al Jean himself has donated an animation cell from the 300th episode as a reward, thus lending the Simpsons empire's tacit approval to the whole endeavour. There are, Ennals says excitedly, only about 150 of these in circulation and “most of them belong to people who work on the show.”
WooHoo!'s creators are as astonished as anyone that no one else has done a regular Simpsons quiz night before. Simpsons creator Matt Groening's other comedy coup, Futurama, will become the subject of its own trivia contest next month. Ennals, meanwhile, departed to New York this past Thursday to host his second WooHoo! spinoff event in hipster Mecca Williamsburg's Berry Park pub.
“I went down and did it in July, almost as an experiment to see how this would translate,” he says. “We had a good turnout, about 40 people for the first one. They weren't nearly as knowledgeable, but it went really well. People really loved it. And at the end of the night, they were, like: ‘We want to do this again. Let's make this a regular thing.'
“The audience is out there. I think you could pretty much do this in any city.”
Simpsons trivia is kinda like golf in that, when all's said and done, you're really only competing with yourself. The desire to access all of the sight gags, sayings and general, inspired stupidity trapped within one's brain after 22 years of relentless syndication has, thus, inspired much strategy and talk of “training” within the ranks of WooHoo! regulars.
All for naught, says Ennals.
“We hear teams saying things like: ‘You need to study Season 6,' ” he chuckles. “I honestly don't think you can study. The only way you can study is just to watch them until they become part of your DNA.”
Factor, for her part, wonders if the past 12 months of Simpsons-related socialization might not have catalyzed a budding geek romance or two.
“I'm always curious whether or not any couples have gotten together,” she says. “You know, you spot a girl across the room. Somebody must have gotten together. At the very least, a casual hookup thing.”
By the way: Lois Sanborn and Steve Bennett are the aliases Bart and Lisa plan to adopt when they eventually give up their given names; the five Sideshows are Sideshow Bob, Sideshow Mel, Sideshow Luke Perry, Sideshow Raheem and Sideshow Marge, while Sideshow Agent Tom Novak of the IRS is the character who only makes an appearance in the DVD extras; Homer's “improvised” breakfast consists of a frozen pie crust, cloves and Tom Collins mix; and the name Homer gives to Marge's gambling addiction is Gamblor — as in “I call him Gamblor, and it's time to snatch your mother from his neon claws.” You're welcome.
Game Of Thrones Top New Show
Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem
(August 07, 2011) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.—The Television Critics Association handed out its 27th annual awards Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, with top honours going to the cancelled Friday Night Lights as Program of the Year, and HBO’s Game of Thrones as Outstanding New Program.
The invitation-only event, exclusive to the recipients and the 200-plus voting members of the TCA and their guests, was hosted by cult comedy hero Nick Offerman with all the deadpan panache of his Parks & Recreation alter ego, Ron Swanson. He closed with a self-penned musical lament about being trash-talked on the Internet.
Offerman was back onstage shortly thereafter to accept one of two awards for Individual Achievement in Comedy, a tie with Ty Burrell of Modern Family. Modern Family was itself honoured its second year running for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy.
Similarly, Mad Men won its third consecutive TCA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Drama, with star Jon Hamm taking the corresponding award for Individual Achievement.
Television veteran Carl Reiner accepted the organization’s prestigious Heritage Award on behalf of The Dick Van Dyke Show, with co-stars Rose Marie and Larry Matthews in attendance. Reiner was the winner in 2003 of the annual Career Achievement Award, which this year went to Oprah Winfrey, who accepted via pre-recorded videotape.
Amazing Race was the first recipient of the newly minted Reality category, with National Geographic’s Restrepo topping News & Information, Sesame Street winning Youth Programming and Masterpiece: Sherlock voted best Movie/Miniseries/Special.
The Television Critics Association is a non-profit organization of television journalists and critics representing major print media and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Wendell Pierce Hooks Up New Film Role in ‘Parker’
(August 7, 2011) *Actor Wendell Pierce, probably most known for his detective character on “The Wire,” just got hooked up with a new role and the New Orleans native won’t even have to travel to join the cast. Pierce is now of a Taylor Hackford’s thriller whose cast already includes Jason Statham, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Chiklis, and Patti LuPone. The film, called “Parker,” is based on a Donald Westlake novel called “Flashfire.” And what’s it about you ask? Well, according to shadow and act, the story centers on a “thief who, though at times is forced to be a killer, still lives by a code of honour that includes never stealing money from people who need it.” Shooting just began in New Orleans with an October 12, 2012 release date.
Brandy to Guest Star in Several ‘90210’ Episodes
(August 5, 2011) *Brandy is headed to ‘90210’ for a major recurring role in Season 4, reports TVLine.com. The 32-year-old Grammy winner has signed on to play a charismatic young politician running for Congress against the conservative uncle of Teddy (Trevor Donovan). Her character, Marissa Jackson-Lewis, is described as a cross between Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, according to TVLine. Marissa hires Silver (Jessica Stroup) to make a campaign video to boost the youth vote. The singer-actress is best known to TV fans as Moesha from the long-running UPN sitcom of the same name. She also guest-starred in four episodes of Drop Dead Diva earlier this year and competed on the 11th season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. Season 4 of 90210 premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 9/8c.
Tracee Ellis Ross on the Cover of September Essence
(August 5, 2011) *The lovely Tracee Ellis Ross sat down with Essence magazine to talk about her new role on a BET comedy called “Reed Between the Lines.” And it’s definitely been a long while since we’ve seen the actress apart from her role as Joan Clayton. “On Girlfriends I had become a woman, but it wasn’t until three or four years later that I really began to embody who I had become,” she told the magazine. The actress will be on the cover of Essence September fashion issue, which is prefect because she’s a woman with a sense of style and class. She graces the cover in a chic dress and warms the inside pages with a beautiful smile and her story about her transformation. The issue goes on sale, August 12.
Lopez, Tyler And Jackson All Returning To 'American Idol'
Source: www.thestar.com - By Bang Showbiz
(August 10, 2011) Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson are all returning to American Idol. The three judges, who appeared for the first time together on the show this year, have signed up to return for another season, according to the show's executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Speaking on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, he said: "I am delighted to say that all three judges, along with the brilliant host of American Idol are back for the next season." Seacrest, who presents the singing talent show, confirmed auditions will be starting in the near future, but the three would not be seen on television until January. In a series of tweets, he said: "Auditions with all three start in a couple wks.(sic)" Asked when the show would be back, he said: "January. this show is a year long process!(sic)"# It is believed both Lopez, who recently split with husband Marc Anthony, and Aerosmith singer Tyler have received substantial pay increases to stay on the show. Last month, Lopez said she did not know if she would return and was "on the fence" about it. She said: "I don't know. I haven't been forced to make a decision and I'm glad about that because, honestly, I'm very on the fence about it."
It’s Over for ‘Lopez Tonight’; TBS Swings the Axe
(August 10, 2011) *George Lopez’s late-night show on TBS has been cancelled, according to Deadline.com. There was talk that the network was trying to dump it last year, but Conan O’Brien insisted that TBS keep Lopez so he wouldn’t be perceived as the guy who pushed him out. “Lopez Tonight” survived that round, but now the show, originally developed by Telepictures as a syndicated talk show, will end its two-season run tomorrow night. “Lopez Tonight” has been struggling in the ratings, especially after moving to midnight last fall to accommodate Conan, recently averaging 400,000 viewers and a 0.2 18-49 rating for original episodes. According to Deadline, there have been rumours that TBS attempted at one point to make the show broader and less ethnic. For one reason or another, both late-night shows with minority hosts, “Lopez Tonight” and BET’s “The Mo’Nique Show,” received pink slips within the past two weeks. TBS said in a statement: “TBS has reached the difficult decision not to order a third season of Lopez Tonight. Thursday will be the final episode of the show. We are proud to have partnered with George Lopez, who is an immensely talented comedian and entertainer. TBS has valued its partnership with George and appreciates all of his work on behalf of the network, both on and off the air.”
Lionsgate to Launch Tyler Perry’s TV Network
(August 10, 2011) *Lionsgate is looking to follow Oprah Winfrey and launch a new cable TV network anchored by Tyler Perry. Since one of Tyler Perry’s best buds is Oprah Winfrey, why not follow her successful blueprint. With that in mind, it looks like Lionsgate is set to bankroll a new cable TV network with Perry at the helm, reports thr.com. “Tyler is one of those rare resources that one could launch a channel with. We have a lot of options if we choose to go down that path,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer told financial analysts Wednesday. But Feltheimer wouldn’t go into details following a report Tuesday in the New York Times about a planned cable TV channel called Tyler TV. (more…)
The Fall And Rise Of Jeff Hall
Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb
(Aug 05, 2011) It’s amazing where a deft hand at Frisbee can get you. Tall athletic Montrealer Jeff Hall was Canadian Freestyle Frisbee Champion in 1989 and 1990. He turned to dance to boost his sporting prowess, took it up as a full-time career and now choreographs for one of the biggest entertainment success stories in Canadian history, Cirque du Soleil.
Local dance fans may remember Hall’s riveting performances at Harbourfront Centre from his days in the 1990s as co-artistic director of PPS Danse: the acronym standing for company founder Pierre-Paul Savoie. Hall’s more recent choreographic expertise will be on view next week when Totem, the latest Cirque show to visit Toronto, takes up residence under the company’s signature blue and yellow striped “Grand Chapiteau” in the Port Lands.
Hall’s is a story of remarkable achievement, but it’s made all the more impressive — miraculous would not be an exaggeration — by the fact that nine years ago he was told he’d never walk again.
Hall was suspended high above the ground, rehearsing for renowned Quebec director Robert Lepage’s “techno-cabaret,” Zulu Time, when a safety harness malfunctioned. Instinctively, as he plummeted head first, Hall curled inward to deflect the impact from his skull. His shoulders hit first. Even so, 90 per cent of Hall’s spine was crushed and his first lumbar vertebra disintegrated.
Although he’s understandably reticent to revisit the horrific event that almost put him in a wheelchair for life, what Hall is willing to share amounts to an extraordinary story of mind over matter. He may walk with a slightly awkward gait, his acrobatic days behind him but, at age 53, Hall is a man reborn in body and spirit, with an even greater determination to live life to the fullest.
“Now’s bonus time,” says Hall. “It’s my second life.”
Hall remembers cracking up the nurses at the hospital, tottering with his walker and, performer that he is, playing the old man routine to the hilt; until he realized that in fact he was just like a baby learning to walk for the first time.
Even now, his back muscles remain paralyzed and he has no feeling below the waist. “You could pinch my butt and I wouldn’t know,” jokes Hall. It was a eureka moment when he found a way to balance his body, fully upright, without a cane.
Philip Szporer, the Montreal filmmaker, dance writer and teacher, has followed Hall’s career for 25 years. He recalls vividly the shock that ran through the local dance community when Hall was injured. He recalls the “unbelievable fortitude, determination and courage” that drove his recovery.
“Jeff is like a superman,” says Szporer, who with co-director Marlene Millar featured Hall and his story in a 2009 short called Falling. Szporer admires the way Hall never courts sympathy, determined never to be seen as a victim.
“There’s a hyper-modesty about Jeff, but his story is truly inspirational whether he wants to see it that way or not. He has a generosity of spirit that transcends everything.”
Hall was not only beginning to walk within six months of the accident. He was desperate to work and, by January 2003 was assisting Gilles Maheu, his former director at physical theatre troupe Carbone 14. “Moving on is the key,” says Hall.
It was Frisbee that got him into dance and the same skill that in 2005 earned Hall his first Cirque job, staging a flying LP number for one of its permanent Las Vegas shows, The Beatles LOVE. He then worked on Zaia, another resident Cirque show in Macau, China, before the call came from Totem director Lepage.
Most recently, Hall was in Southeast Asia developing material for a production company there.
Medical experts would likely say that Hall should resign himself to permanent loss of feeling. Having proved them wrong once, he’s hoping to do it again.
“The moment you say ‘I never will,’ you never will. So I’m always saying ‘Yes, I’ll get it all back.’ By age 90, I’ll be jumping again.”
One: A Childhood In Ottawa That Thrills And Chills
Source: www.globeandmail.com – Martin Morrow
Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Directed by Natasha Mytnowych
Starring Michelle Monteith and Joe Cobden
A Theatre Crisis production Presented by SummerWorks At Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto
(Aug 07, 2011) Hannah Moscovitch’s new play at SummerWorks is about dark doings in Ottawa. And no, before you even go there, it’s not about the federal government’s questionable decision to cut funding to the established Toronto indie festival this year.
Little One, Moscovitch’s splendidly creepy one-act work, isn’t political but psychological. It’s a psycho thriller, in fact, but a witty, smart and insidious one that owes more to Roman Polanski than to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
The play is about two adopted children growing up in the quiet Ottawa suburbs. Aaron (played by Joe Cobden) is an orphan and the definition of normal – he plays hockey, loves pets and collects Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures. Claire (Michelle Monteith), his little sister, is his terrifying opposite. Abandoned as a sexually abused four-year-old, she molests other kids, does unspeakable things with those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and is about as reliable around small animals as an anaconda.
An adult Aaron, now a medical student, recalls their chilling childhood with a mix of quips and shudders. Moscovitch is deft at writing wry monologues and the early part of the play is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny. But as we know from her previous work, she also likes to go to dark places and much of Little One is dark indeed.
Claire’s traumatized behaviour is scarily unpredictable and, beneath the jokes, deeply disturbing. The efforts of Aaron and their adoptive parents to help her are both well meant and clearly inadequate – something young Aaron is keenly aware of. Moscovitch captures the singular dread of a child whose only sibling is dangerously mentally ill.
Aaron’s tale is entwined with Claire’s own narrative, spookily told, about a long-time couple in their neighbourhood: a white computer technician whose Vietnamese wife appears to have been a mail-order bride. The mysterious bonds (perhaps literal ones) that keep the pair together are an obsession for Claire, and their significance is not revealed until the play’s surprising – if not entirely satisfactory – climax.
The 50-minute show, produced by Theatre Crisis, reunites Moscovitch with Monteith and director Natasha Mytnowych, her collaborators on her breakthrough 2006 SummerWorks hit The Russian Play. The three M’s work the same magic here. Mytnowych’s staging puts the solidly sane Aaron as a solid presence at centre stage, while Monteith’s unsettling Claire prowls the aisles and balconies of Theatre Passe Muraille’s Mainspace when not popping in and out of the wings.
Monteith, who was stunning this past season as a young abuse victim in Buddies in Bad Times’ Blasted, is no less so as the complex Claire. One minute she could be anyone’s bratty kid sister, the next she suggests an evil-twin malevolence or, even more alarming, the amorality of a corrupted innocent with no idea of right or wrong.
She’s complemented perfectly by Cobden. Although the actor was the weak link in Factory Theatre’s recent revival of Zadie’s Shoes, he’s excellent here. Aaron is a likable nebbish who recalls Rudi, the Nazi’s son in Moscovitch’s best-known play, East of Berlin. Aaron gets all the killer lines and Cobden delivers them with crack timing. (One example: “I have fond childhood memories of the whole family together,” he says warmly, “in the ER.”) But he also feelingly conveys young Aaron’s anger, bewilderment and sadness – the last most touchingly as he mourns his lost kitten, the “Little One” of the title, whose fate at the hands of Claire we’d rather not know.
Mytnowych’s production is elegantly eerie. Kimberly Purtell’s lighting design drapes Michael Gianfrancesco’s naked set in shadows, while Monteith’s Claire pierces them with a flashlight – when not turning it on herself to play bogeyman. At stage left, 13-year-old Kaylie Lau kneels and plunks the keys of a toy piano, tinnily punctuating scenes as Eric Meadows’s sound design provides a subliminally ominous underscore.
Although its ending leaves too many loose threads, Little One is otherwise brilliantly crafted. Watching it, I had pleasantly spine-tingling memories of Daniel MacIvor’s Monster and Brad Fraser’s Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love. Moscovitch seems poised to join the ranks of those edgy Canadian playwrights as an artist who knows how to work our goose pimples and our grey matter simultaneously.
Little One runs until Aug. 14.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Rumble in the Congo
Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara
Starring Patsha Bay and Manie Malone. Written and directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga. 94 minutes. Playing Aug. 5 to 11 at the Royal. 18A
(Aug 04, 2011) Life is cheap in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s gasoline that’s expensive, when you can get it, and the price is going up.
Enter Riva (Patsha Bay), back home after 10 years away in neighbouring Angola, with a whole truckload of fuel stolen from his boss, Cesar, who is in hot pursuit with a couple of heavies in tow.
Cesar blackmails a lesbian army commander — using her sister’s well-being as his bargaining tool — to track down Riva. She enlists the aid of Rosie, a bisexual prostitute, to do some sleuthing.
If that’s not enough danger for one man, Riva’s heart is set aflame when he lays eyes on the sultry Nora and nothing can dissuade the cocky charmer from pursuing her, even the knowledge that she’s the property of local hood Azor, who also has some big bad muscle to do his bidding.
Viva Riva! marks the feature film debut of Congolese filmmaker Djo Tunda Wa Munga who wrote and directed.
Munga, who studied filmmaking in Belgium, has clearly been influenced by the likes of American auteur Quentin Tarantino — think Jackie Brown — and British director Guy Ritchie — think Snatch, not (shudder) RocknRolla. A plethora of idiosyncratic, venal characters — including a shady priest — all looking to score or to settle scores in a chaotic, hardscrabble town and the chase is on.
But Munga is not merely an imitator. In additional to creating memorable characters, he’s got a knack for great dialogue (spoken in French and the local Lingala language) and knows how to keep the action moving fast.
He’s also a fearless realist, unafraid to show a woman urinating behind an outbuilding or to have his characters use outrageous racist and sexist language and to portray brutality in ways that other filmmakers (though not Tarantino) might shy away from. Not to mention portraying a strong, sympathetic lesbian character in a country that is generations behind the West in its acceptance of alternative forms of sexual expression.
That’s part of the wonder of Viva Riva! It feels so raw and urgent and real.
But Munga also invests his film with a moral core. Amidst the action — the lies, double-crosses and violence — he also portrays scenes of people in the city, crumbling and beset with regular power outages, who anonymously toil away in hopes of a better life.
You can also bet that most of the players are going to get their bloody comeuppance and that only a very few are going to come through unscathed.
The film has little polish in terms of production values. But the performers all acquit themselves well, especially Manie Malone as the siren, Nora, whose diamond-hard heart conceals unexpected vulnerability.
African filmmakers of future generations will one day recognize the debt they owe to both the film and its creator. Viva Munga!
Features Two Top Performances
Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian
By Suzan-Lori Parkes. Directed by Phillip Akin. Until Aug. 27 at Studio Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-SHAW.
(Aug 07, 2011) There is no doubt in my mind that you are probably not going to see two more powerful performances this summer than those being given by Nigel Shawn Williams and Kevin Hanchard in Topdog/Underdog, which opened Saturday night at the Shaw Festival.
Suzan-Lori Parkes won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for this searing study of two black brothers, caught in a web of past hurts and present hates, trying to work their way towards a future that’s going nowhere.
Their alcoholic father jokingly named them Lincoln and Booth, before he walked out on them, but now, with both men heading towards middle age, the older one, Lincoln, finds himself fulfilling his name with bitter irony.
He works in a shooting arcade, dressed as Abraham Lincoln, complete with beard, stovepipe hat, frockcoat and whiteface. Every day people pay to come in and shoot him with cap pistols.
Younger brother Booth lives over a pile of porno magazines, boosting everything from clothes to china and crystal, while he dreams of marrying his girlfriend Grace and picking up the crown as the “Three Card Monte” champion that his older brother once held.
The street gambling game, where a fast-talking hustler manipulates cards, trying to make the unsuspecting sucker pick the wrong one and lose all his money, acts as the central symbolic device of the play, as well as the motor that drives its plot.
As the action continues, we see the fortunes of the brothers ebb and flow, with each one taking turns as both Topdog and Underdog, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing.
And through it all. We piece together the bitter story of their childhood and how they were both abused and abandoned by their parents, left with legacies that haunt them years later.
Although you know the play is building to a tragic ending, you won’t be able to guess what’s going to happen until it’s staring you in the face and there’s other psychological twists and turns to hold you until then.
Parks has a perfect ear for the rhythm of American black speech, with its unique mixture of poetry and profanity and she has the ideal actors to deliver it here in Williams and Hanchard.
Hanchard grabs our attention first as the flashier Booth, glib, confident, able to lie and steal his way into almost anything he wants. His grin is like a death mask, his laughter the sound of the damned on their way to hell and his eruptions of rage are truly terrifying.
Williams has the more difficult hand to play, making a memorable first entrance as a defeated soul, wearing his Lincoln drag. But we learn to see past the ruins of the man to what he might have been and as fate gives him a second chance, our heart leaps up with his, even though we both know it’s not going to last for long.
Director Philip Akin has staged the work impressively on a three-sided thrust, but even better is his amazingly balanced work with the cast, allowing each man a chance to shine, while the other still illuminates his partner.
This is a dark play, reminiscent of the Eugene O’Neill of The Iceman Cometh and it won’t be for every taste. But it’s certainly one of the most powerful dramas the Shaw Festival has dared to stage and they deserve full credit for doing so.
Divorce, Lesbians And Porn All Have Their Charms
Source: www.thestar.com - By Robert Crew
(Aug 07, 2011) Memo to the federal government: there’s an abundance of quality work at this year’s SummerWorks festival, it is drawing good crowds and it’s proving (yet again) that it’s well worth tossing some dollars its way.
A case in point: The Intruder, now at the Factory Studio Theatre.
Written by Mexican playwright Amaranta Leyva, who now calls Toronto home, it is a subtle and skilful examination of a young girl’s confusion over the recent divorce of her parents and a move to a new home with mom’s new boyfriend.
Catalina voices her anger through her dolls, who represent her mom Luisa, boyfriend Delfor, her absent father, and herself. She is suspicious of Delfor, whom she calls the intruder, and understandably so. He has strange late-nigh phone conversions, two passports with different names and a mysterious past.
After a somewhat unbalanced start, the play proves to be a moving examination of loneliness, love and trust. Marilo Nunez directs a strong cast – Michelle Arvizu, Juan Carlos Velis and Paloma Nunez, who is outstanding as the bewildered little girl. And it draws to a moving conclusion.
Highly recommended. Next performance: Monday, 8 p.m. at Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St.
Freda & Jem’s Best of the Week is also about a family in the midst of a traumatic breakup. Freda (Diane Flacks) and Jem (Kathryn Haggis) are a lesbian couple who have two children, Sam (Sadie Rose Epstein-Fine) and TeeJay (Nick Eddie). And there’s angst and heartache galore when they decide to separate.
Lois Fine is an experienced writer but her play is a mishmash, filled with false starts, loose ends and a needlessly repeated scene. The sudden cutaways to Jem recounting what it was like to grow up as a butch dyke feel like another play. There are quite a number of issues here that director/dramaturge Judith Thompson hasn’t managed to resolve.
But it does feature the luminous Flacks, a fierce performance by Epstein-Fine and music by Lorraine Segato.
Recommended (but only if it fits your schedule). Next performance: Monday, 10:30 p.m. at Factory Studio Theatre.
More family problems in Stitch, by Cliff Cardinal.
Kylie Grandview is a single mom with a nine-year-old daughter. She’s also a porn star with a nagging (literally) yeast infection and a drug habit, and her sanctimonious mother decides to turn her in, supposedly for her granddaughter’s sake.
It’s yet another family battle with a child caught in the middle.
While Kylie is off pursuing a role in a “real” movie and allowing herself to be raped to further her career, the mother arranges to get custody of the child. Written by Cliff Cardinal, this raw, no-holds-barred look at the seamy-sad world of porn is filled with graphic language and features a blazing performance by Cara Gee.
Director Jovanni Sy allows things to wander a little and it needs more work but Gee is mesmerizing. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of this one.
Highly recommended. Next performance: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m. at Factory Studio Theatre.
Shaw’s Maria Severa Soars When It Sings
Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian
By Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli. Directed by Jackie Maxwell. Until Sept. 23 at the Court House Theatre, Niagara-on-the-Lake. 1-800-511-SHAW.
(Aug 06, 2011) NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — When Maria Severa sings, it is glorious.
The new musical by Jay Turvey and Paul Sportelli that opened at the Shaw Festival on Friday night is a clear indication that these men are continually advancing in the art of writing music and lyrics for the theatre.
Their story of the poor Portuguese prostitute who invented the art song form known as fado demands a score of passionate depth and they provide it.
Haunting melodies, unexpected harmonies and ever-changing rhythms are just a few of the things they do to make their music soar. And the lyrics fit smoothly and often powerfully to fill in the feelings underneath.
With all that going for it, one almost hates to report that the book of the show is not up to the standard of the music and lyrics but, alas, that is the case.
The structure of the piece, solid in Act I, falls apart in the second half and throughout the dialogue seems to be making thematic points rather than sounding like human conversation.
In truth, very little is known about the actual facts of Maria’s life in the 19th century, but Turvey and Sportelli have managed to construct from myth, history and literature a narrative about her love affair with an aristocratic bullfighter and its tragic end.
The problem with the show is that it, paradoxically, has too few and too many people in the cast. With nine people to tell the story, Turvey and Sportelli feel obliged to give each one of them a role to play and a backstory to justify their history.
This means that frequently, especially in Act II, relatively minor performers take the stage for long chunks of time while our leading figures vanish from the scene.
Had their been a bigger cast, one wouldn’t have expected so much detail and had been content to see Maria and her lover Armando play out their destiny.
Julie Martell is excellent as Maria Severa, probably the best performance I have seen her give. She combines a brazen sluttishness with an inner artistic fire that builds and builds until it erupts superbly in the show’s final moments.
Mark Uhre as Armando, her bullfighter consort, may not seem the essence of Iberian macho sexiness, but he captures the struggle of a conflicted aristocrat beautifully and — like Martell — gives full value to his songs.
The supporting roles are all sung well, but the acting values vary. Jeff Irving is splendidly touching as Carlos, the simple young man who helps Maria create her music and finds his destiny with her in the play’s moving last scene.
Neil Barclay does a nicely subtle job as the well-meaning Father Manuel, letting us see and understand his conflict between God and Caesar, while Saccha Dennis impresses as the tempestuous Brazilian friend, Jasmine.
Sharry Flett is impressive as always as Armando’s villainous mother, but the fact that she gets no chance to reveal herself in song is a pity. Jenny Wright plays Maria’s mother with a bit too much of the crowd-pleasing vaudevillian, however, while Jacqueline Thair and Jonathan Gould don’t have a lot to offer except for the skeletal outlines of “dowdy girl” and “drunken brother.”
Director Jackie Maxwell and choreographer Eda Holmes have moved the cast interestingly on Judith Bowden’s fascinating ramped set that looks like a broken guitar, aided nicely by Sue LePage’s textured costumes and Kevin Lamotte’s tasteful lighting, including a heartbreaking final fade-out on Maria’s face.
But Maxwell has allowed the “poor” characters to play too broadly, making what should ultimately be tragic, frequently seem comic.
Still, the score of Maria Severa lingers in the mind long after the final curtain and the ultimate power of the work can’t be denied. One would hope that Turvey and Sportelli keep working on it, perhaps by adding a third collaborator to shoulder the admittedly difficult burden of the book.
ONE The Biggest Winner At
Calgary Theatre Awards
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By J. Kelly Nestruck
(August 09, 2011) ONE, currently playing in Toronto at the SummerWorks Festival, was the biggest winner at Monday night's Betty Mitchell Awards honouring the 2010-2011 theatre season in Calgary.
Created by Jason Carnew and directed by Eric Rose, ONE was named outstanding production of a play and also picked up awards for its lighting design and sound design.
Outstanding production of a musical went to the much-lauded Nevermore from Edmonton's Catalyst Theatre, which was presented in Calgary by One Yellow Rabbit and Vertigo Theatre. Bretta Gerecke won outstanding costume design for her work on that play about Edgar Allan Poe.
The best-new-play Betty went to Mieko Ouchi's noir Nisei Blue, which premiered at Alberta Theatre Projects' 2011 playRites Festival, while Mark Bellamy was named best director for his work on Vertigo Theatre's production of The 39 Steps.
Jamie Konchak, who was nominated for three performances this season, was named outstanding actress in a supporting role for her work in The Penelopiad at ATP. For the full list of winners, visit www.bettymitchellawards.com [http://www.www.bettymitchellawards.com].
Growing Festival Aims To Fill
Source: www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb
(August 10, 2011) The welcome page for Toronto dancer/choreographer Yvonne Ng’s Princess Productions website quotes an old Chinese proverb: “Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” It’s a message Ng has clearly taken to heart.
She’s nurtured her presentation series, “Dance: Made in Canada,” from small beginnings a decade ago in a small studio at Ossington and Dupont into the fully fledged festival that opens Thursday at the 260-seat Betty Oliphant Theatre.
The event, playing until Sunday, offers three mainstage, one-hour programs running in repertory and featuring dance artists from British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. The work of seasoned choreographers such as Toronto’s Marie-Josée Chartier and Montreal’s Lina Cruz shares the limelight with young rising stars like Vancouver’s Josh Beamish. “It’s all about artistic quality,” says Ng.
In contrast, late-night shows on Friday and Saturday come with no quality guarantee. Appropriately titled “What You See Is What You Get,” these include five shorter works by choreographers of varying experience and renown who won their spot on the 11 p.m. program via a lottery.
In order to create what Ng calls “a holistic experience” for patrons, festival performances are complemented by film screenings, visual art displays and meet-the-artist chat sessions. For those who don’t mind building up a sweat, there are even workshops taught by some of the festival’s featured artists.
Patrons can experience the festival over several days or opt for a total immersion on Saturday when everything plays on the same day between 4 p.m. and midnight. Ng wants the event to be as accessible as possible, offering discounts of as much as 25 per cent for bundled ticket purchases.
And it probably wouldn’t have happened without some gentle nudging from friend and colleague David Morrison, the respected lighting designer and National Ballet School technical supervisor who died of cancer at age 46 in January 2007.
“I have an idea,” Ng recalls Morrison saying as they worked on the 2006 event, then still a modest affair presented at the Winchester Street Theatre and involving just two choreographers. “This could be a new festival.”
Until then, “Dance: Made in Canada” did not have a fixed place on the calendar and sometimes popped up twice in one year. The decision to grow, by moving to the National Ballet School’s Betty Oliphant Theatre in 2009, had already been made. Morrison saw it as an opportunity to build on Ng’s achievements as a presenter.
“Dance: Made in Canada” had always been a curated event with Ng choosing choreographers she felt offered a unique, often cross-disciplinary creative approach, but Morrison suggested inviting guest curators to help Ng select participants in a larger festival.
It’s an idea Ng has now implemented, sharing the task of programming the mainstage shows with two of Canada’s most honoured dance artists, Peggy Baker and James Kudelka.
If Ng’s plans hold, her new festival will become a late-summer fixture, filling a gap, albeit biennially, in what had become a fallow period for Toronto dance lovers. “I see it as a nice lead-up to the regular season,” says Ng.
“Dance: Made in Canada” runs Aug. 11-14 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, 400 Jarvis St. See www.princessproductions.ca or call 416-504-7529 for info and tickets.
Rebooting The PC Industry:
Tablets Force A Shift
Source: www.theglobeandmail.com - Jordan Robertson, The Associated Press
(July 22, 2011) SANTA CLARA, Calif.— The personal computer industry needs a jump start – and it’s counting on a rescue from emerging markets and a late-to-the-party push into tablet computers.
The U.S. and European PC markets have entered a dangerous new phase: Fewer people are buying new PCs because of economic anxiety, market saturation and the rise of seductive new gadgets such as Apple’s iPad. More signs of strain are expected as PC makers and their component suppliers begin to disclose quarterly earnings this week.
Make no mistake: The PC is still the backbone of the digital world, powering e-commerce, social networking and more. It is a fixture in homes and businesses in industrialized countries. More than 1 million PCs are sold every day, and the industry is bigger than ever.
But worldwide sales have slowed in recent years. The U.S. and European markets have fared the worst, suffering lately from declines compared with the previous year. Market research firms IDC and Gartner Inc. said last week that PC shipments worldwide grew at just over 2 per cent in the second quarter, short of both firms’ expectations.
One of the most urgent concerns is that the PC has become ubiquitous in many markets. That has presented the industry with a classic business problem: how to find new ways to sell an established product.
Although it’s true that computers need to be upgraded regularly, businesses are only starting to spend money again as the economy slowly recovers. Consumers are updating their machines less often, spending their money instead on the latest handheld gadgets.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has promoted the changes as a sign we’ve entered the “post-PC era.” Technologists have thrown around that term for a decade in what turned out to be premature predictions, but the characterization may be coming true now.
“This is a time of intense change,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst who has studied the evolution of consumer technology. “New competition for PC manufacturers makes it just really, really hard to make a profit.”
As a result, PC makers are looking to emerging markets to boost sales.
The new strategy was evident at Intel’s recent investors’ conference, where the company’s CEO, Paul Otellini, unveiled a map that identified where PC growth is expected to be strongest in coming years.
The U.S. and Europe were conspicuously not highlighted. Otellini gestured instead toward places such as Brazil, Russia, India, China – the so-called “BRIC” countries – as well as Mexico, Venezuela, the Czech Republic, South Africa and Turkey. All are expected to experience double-digit percentage growth.
The message: The world’s leading computer chip-maker and its industry allies have no choice but to launch a marketing attack on foreign shores.
PC sales are decelerating in the U.S. because the same technological advances that fuelled the PC industry’s rise – faster processors and lower costs every couple of years – are now benefiting the devices that are usurping it. Consumers can now use smaller gadgets to do many of the same things they once did with PCs, such as surfing the Internet, storing photos and sending email. Apple even boasts that users can edit home movies on an iPad.
Indeed, consumers’ increasing demand for tablets is a looming threat. Some 50 million tablets are expected to be sold this year, and that could double to as many as 100 million next year, according to various estimates. Although that’s still small compared with sales of 362 million PCs this year, as estimated by IDC, the PC industry has reason to worry because of how quickly the tablet has been able to claimed such a large corner of the market.
Goldman Sachs calls tablets “one of the most disruptive forces in computing in nearly three decades.” It predicts that as many as 21 million people will buy tablets instead of laptops this year, jumping to 26.5 million next year.
In recent quarters, corporations have buoyed much of the spending on PCs. That likely continued in the April-June period, but the drag from consumers is expected to be substantial. Intel Corp., which makes 80 per cent of the world’s microprocessor chips, issues financial results on Wednesday. Advanced Micro Devices Inc., its smaller rival, and Microsoft Corp., whose Windows software runs on most of the world’s PCs, report on Thursday.
Intel and its PC manufacturing customers are hustling to adapt.
Intel, for example, is working on chips that are less power-hungry so that they’re more useful in battery-dependent mobile devices. The company says it has signed deals for some 35 different tablet and tablet-PC hybrids to use its chips. Intel is pursuing the smartphone market, which until now has been controlled by a competing chip design developed by U.K.-based ARM Holdings PLC.
Intel, a linchpin in the creation of the PC market, has experimented with putting its chips into non-PC devices before, only to retreat under pressure to focus on its core business. Now investors’ interest has flipped, and Intel finds itself under pressure to move faster into smartphone and tablets.
The message isn’t lost on the company: The bulk of Otellini’s recent sales pitch to investors centred on Intel’s efforts to expand into the new technologies.
The consequences for not failing to act have already been severe. AMD’s board forced out CEO Dirk Meyer in January, largely because the chipmaker lacked a defined mobile strategy. The company is still without a permanent CEO.
The corporate hand-wringing, analysts say, shows the magnitude of the industry’s transformation.
“These changes are a fundamental shift in computing behaviour,” said Forrester’s Epps, noting that computing is now an always-on activity. “The main shift for PC companies that will survive is they need to shift their focus from computers (as) the device to computing (as) the behaviour.”
Many PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd. have responded by designing tablets of their own.
None of the new tablets have become a sensation like the iPad, which has sold 20 million units since it went on sale in April 2010. Apple Inc. now sells nearly twice as many iPhones as it does Mac computers. The company is on track to make more money from iPads than from Macs by the end of the year.
“If you have a tablet, you don’t turn on the PC as much,” said Brian White, a Ticonderoga Securities analyst who covers the PC industry. “If you have a tablet, you may not bring your notebook on a trip. It’s only going to get stronger, and tablets are going to get better and better. This is a legitimate threat to a PC maker. They have to have both, and unfortunately most are behind in the game.”
Even if current market projections become a reality, there still would be a wide gulf between the $35-billion tablet market and the $250-billion PC market. The PC won’t become obsolete any time soon because it’s still the device of choice for creating the content that consumers increasingly access with their smartphones and tablets. At least for now, PCs are also needed to store data and to load information onto smaller devices.
How much of the computer market it will be able to command in the future, however, is an open question.
GPS Sales Drop As Smartphones, New Vehicles Offer Navigation
Source: www.theglobeandmail.com - Sayantani Ghosh And Roberta Cowan
(Aug. 08, 2011) BANGALORE/AMSTERDAM - Demand for personal navigation devices (PNDs), the must-have gadget of recent years, is declining as traffic and mapping functions become almost standard in cars and mobiles, forcing Garmin Ltd and Dutch rival TomTom NV to find new revenue drivers to get profits back on course.
Garmin expects the North American PND market to shrink by 25 per cent this year and Europe by up to 10 per cent. TomTom anticipates a 15-20 per cent fall globally, with the steepest falls in North America.
A total of about 41.5 million PND units were shipped in 2010 and that will dip to 39.2 million units this year, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli. Berg Insight sees shipments dropping by a fifth, to 34 million units, by 2015.
PNDs are fast being cannibalized as Google and smartphone makers such as Nokia offer free turn-by-turn navigation.
IHS expects more than 135 million navigation-enabled smartphones to be sold this year, while such phones already in use will almost double to 269 million by 2013.
TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn has said PNDs need to recreate the “cool factor” they’ve lost to tablets and smartphones.
Both Garmin and TomTom posted uninspiring second-quarter results, and were far from upbeat about the outlook.
Both are betting on selling more live traffic and mapping services and navigation devices that auto makers integrate into dashboards.
Garmin has bought Germany-based Navigon to gain more exposure to this in-dash market and boost its core automotive/mobile business, which includes PNDs and accounts for more than half its total revenue.
TomTom’s automotive business accounts for a fifth of group revenue and is its fastest growing unit, but growth is slowing.
Beyond current deals with Renault, Fiat and Mazda, TomTom investors want to see a new major car deal to propel the unit, said Nomura analyst Stuart Jeffrey.
But the in-dash market itself is no panacea.
Selling to auto makers means having to put up with sales cycles, lower margins and a reliance on fickle, belt-tightening consumers who are spending much less on buying new cars.
SET FOR A MARATHON
Eyeing other opportunities, Garmin is looking to the fitness market, tapping into demand by athletes and joggers for watches with GPS sensors.
Its marine unit offers products to plot charts, find fish and hook up on marine networks, while its aviation unit offers automatic flight control and air-traffic advisory systems.
“I think by 2012-13, we’ll reach an inflection point where the auto/mobile unit is less material and other units have a bigger contribution,” said Wedbush analyst Scott Sutherland. “I think revenue is going to stabilize from that point in time.”
Apart from a brief flirtation with Nike about a sports watch, TomTom hasn’t diversified far from automotive navigation, and still relies heavily on its mapping database, which it bought in 2008 with the 2.9 billion euro acquisition of map supplier Tele Atlas.
TomTom’s only competition in the commercial digital map market is from Google and Nokia Oyj’s Navteq.
The Dutch firm has an app for Apple’s iPhone, is working on a Google Android app, and has expanded its content and service offerings to include live traffic, smart or predictive routing information, weather forecasts and location-based points of interest which is layered on the mapping data.
But for all its efforts to transform into a content and service franchise, earnings remain dependent on PNDs.
TomTom issued a profit warning in June due in part to more customers opting for entry-level kit and not subscribing to live content and services. It also warned of increasing inventories – a sign that Christmas sales may be less than robust.
Garmin is also bundling its PNDs with high-margin live traffic and mapping services, but the nature of the business doesn’t allow up-front revenue recognition, and the strategy may only start paying off in the latter half of 2012.
IS PLAN B WORKING?
Wedbush’s Sutherland said that if half of Garmin’s automotive/mobile revenue is lost over the next few years, revenue can remain stable if other units grow 10-15 per cent.
Also, with only 25-30 per cent of Garmin’s operating profit coming from the core segment, the company is in no danger of a damaging cash crunch.
Its fitness segment, which grew by 25 per cent in April-June, is a bright spot and pulls in very high margins.
“The number of marathons and races is growing at a very healthy pace, and people are starting to adopt technology to help training,” Sutherland said.
TomTom looks less well positioned for post-PND growth.
More than 70 per cent of its customers have opted not to take a paid subscription after a first year of free live services, though TomTom stresses that take-up rate is improving.
Rabobank analyst Hans Slob said that should TomTom remain independent, it risks a “sunset” scenario, with sales falling until at least 2014.
“Garmin has been more successful in convincing customers to opt for models with lifetime map updates and lifetime traffic, which is proving difficult for TomTom given its premium pricing strategy,” said SNS Securities analyst Martijn den Drijver.
Garmin’s Navigon acquisition has rekindled the competition as it bites right into TomTom’s European in-dash market share.
With U.S. real-time traffic information provider Inrix expanding into Europe and Google adding live traffic data in 13 European countries, TomTom’s home turf is at risk.
Apple has also said it is building traffic data, similar to that collected by TomTom through its PNDs, and intends to move into providing iPhone customers with better traffic information.
Companies like TeleNav Inc and Telecommunication Systems Inc are also pitching in with mobile phone apps that enable wireless navigation and tracking services.
With about half of Garmin’s revenue coming from non-PND businesses, its Plan B looks on track, even if it has to wait a while for the cash to roll in.
TomTom looks to be farther off course, with its reliance on PND and its struggle to get customers to pay for live services, prompting investors to wonder if it has a Plan C.
Microsoft Unveils Star
Source: www.theglobeandmail.com - Derrik J. Lang, The Associated Press
(July 21, 2011) The Force will be with the Xbox 360.
Microsoft Corp. unveiled a limited edition Xbox 360 console at a Comic-Con panel on Thursday that will be modelled after the character R2-D2, with a wireless gold-coloured controller resembling his droid pal C-3PO.
The console will make the character's signature beeping sounds when the white-and-blue console is turned on and the disc tray is open. It will also feature a 320-gigabyte hard drive, the largest available for Microsoft's gaming system.
The “Star Wars”-themed console, available later this year, will cost $449 and come with “Kinect Star Wars,” an action-adventure game utilizing the camera-based controller system.
“Kinect Star Wars” developers also confirmed that a pod-racing mode based on “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” would be featured in the game.
Latest Japanese Export Could
Win Over More Adventurous Gamers
Source: www.theglobeandmail.com - Chad Sapieha
(July 29, 2011) Westerners rarely get to lay hands on Japanese romance games, and with good reason. They tend to be weird, creepy, occasionally offensive, and filled with cultural references that we simply wouldn’t understand.
Catherine (Atlus) – a rare instance of one of these games making its way overseas (you can thank its gutsy publisher, Atlus) – is all of these things. And yet it still possesses an undeniable allure.
Players take on the role of Vincent, an unmotivated 32-year-old layabout in a steady relationship with a career woman named Katherine. He balks at her attempts to get him to marry her, and is terrified when she reveals she may be pregnant.
Things start getting hinky when he finds himself in an unexpected tryst with a mysterious vixen named ... Catherine. He’s shocked to find her lying naked in his bed several mornings in a row, but chalks it up to his evening ritual of imbibing copious quantities of sake with his buddies at a local pub.
The lengthy narrative sequences – presented in an agreeable mixture of traditional and computer-generated anime – allow players leeway to choose who they want to chat with and how to respond to the text messages Vincent receives, but we’re basically just along for the ride.
When he goes to sleep, however, things take a grave, interactive twist as his romantic troubles manifest themselves in deadly nightmare form.
His dreams are always the same. Naked, save for his pink polka-dot underwear, a pair of curling ram horns attached to his head, and a pillow clutched to his chest, Vincent must climb towers of blocks. He pushes and pulls cubes to create staircases as quickly as possible to avoid falling to his death and escape strange creatures creeping up from below. If he perishes in his dreams, he’ll die in real life – as evidenced by news reports about a spate of young men found dead in their beds, corpses frozen in terror.
Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PlayStation 3
The good: Clever block puzzles are satisfyingly challenging. Mature story explores adult relationship issues in an original way. High quality anime narrative sequences breathe life into character interactions.
The bad: Navigational controls in the puzzle sequences are confusing. Strong Japanese themes—including gender preconceptions that may not ring true for Western audiences—may turn off some players.
The verdict: It starts off squarely in the court of bizarre Japanese pop culture, but Atlus’ romance/puzzler may win over Westerners by dint of its grown-up story and some devilishly addictive conundrums.
These block puzzles are clever, challenging, and have surprising depth, but their link to the greater story seems tenuous. At least at first. Several metaphors emerge as the game progresses.
Vincent’s fear of being controlled is represented by his partial depiction as a sheep (remember those ram horns), and his desire for freedom can be found in his struggle to reach the gleaming exit at the top of each tower. However, these deadly puzzles are also clearly punishment for his indecision regarding Katherine. The monsters – including a five-storey baby with bulging veins that can crush Vincent to a bloody pulp – symbolize more immediate concerns, including his fear of fatherhood.
It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but in the world of video games this strange investigation into the romantic dynamic qualifies as deep philosophy.
Sadly, the experience is marred slightly by less than optimal controls. Plus, some Westerners will surely crinkle their brows at the game’s discussion of certain social taboos, including infantilism fetishes (adults acting like babies in the sack).
Still, it’s far more accessible than one might imagine. Japanese relationship sims may not become the next Pokemon craze, but games like this one may just start an unlikely romance or two between this niche genre and more adventurous players.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Hurricane Season Makes Trip
Source: www.thestar.com – Pauline Frommer
(August 08, 2011) We’re already up to “E.” And though the first four named storms of the hurricane season fizzled out, meteorologists are predicting an unusually virulent 2011 hurricane season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in the U.S., some 12 to 18 tropical storms will crop up this year, six to 10 of which could become hurricanes. Accuweather.com is posting even more dire predictions, setting the number at 15 for named storms, eight to turn into hurricanes. In an average year, only 10 storms are bad enough to be considered tropical storms, and six of those morph into full-blown hurricanes.
It’s a familiar scenario, thanks to 2010’s ugly season, which saw 19 named storms, of which 12 became hurricanes (making it the third-worst hurricane season on record).
Which leads to a quandary: There’s no better season, pricewise, than autumn for vacations in the Caribbean, Florida, the Bahamas and other storm-prone regions. But is one deranged for even considering such a trip? The answer isn’t clear-cut.
First issue: timing. Though hurricane season is on the calendar from June through November, the vast majority of damaging storms historically occur during just two of those months: September and October. Travel in November is not much of a gamble as it is a steal: generally the discounts that beachy spots put forward to lure visitors in September and October last well into mid-December, sputtering out a week and a half before Christmas and disappearing during the week that encompasses Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. (it begins on Nov. 20 this year).
Where one goes also is key. It’s a pity, but you should perhaps avoid the Bahamas, as this island group has been hit with deadly storms far more often than any part of the Caribbean.
Conversely, the so-called ABC Islands — Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao — plus the island of Margarita, lie outside the hurricane belt and haven’t suffered storm damage in decades. Head to one of these areas (all renowned for their scuba diving, by the way) and you should be safe. You won’t pay more, either, for that peace of mind. As in the rest of the Caribbean, prices in the ABC Islands and Margarita plunge in the fall.
Then there are methods of travel. Unlike islands, modern cruise ships can easily move out of the way of storms. But will it be a pleasant ride? Well, no major cruise line has lost passengers due to a storm in decades, though some have been wildly rocked by rough waves in the wake of inclement weather. If you’re prone to seasickness, fall may not be the best time to cruise. There also can be issues with cruise lines having to change itineraries to avoid storms. Don’t sail at this time of year if you have your heart set on visiting a particular island during the course of your travels.
Of course, one can look at the odds and then simply throw caution to the wind. Statistically, one’s chances of being hit by a hurricane when on a fall vacation are quite, quite low.
But, gamble with a backup. See if the resort you’re considering offers any form of insurance (some do) or what your coverage would be like with one of the standard companies (head to aggregator sites such as InsureMyTrip.com or SquareMouth.com for a broad range of options). Insurance is a good idea for most trips, but particularly to this region in the autumn.
For The Female Traveler: Tips
For Going Solo
Source: www.thestar.com – Evelyn Hannon
(August 05, 2011) Today’s females are travelling solo like never before. Whether business or leisure travellers, these women must choose their accommodation wisely and arm themselves with ‘know how’ that will improve their safety during hotel stays.
1. Don’t be gender specific when you reserve your room. Always use your first initial and your last name.
2. Avoid solitary situations. If your hotel has underground parking ask that a hotel employee park your car for you.
2. Request that your room number and location be kept private. A good desk clerk will write your room number down rather than say it out loud. Others within hearing distance could use this information to gain access to your room.
3. Don’t accept ground-floor rooms that have easy access from outside such as a balcony or fire escape.
4. Make sure all the doors and windows of your room can be locked from the inside and can’t be opened from the outside with a key.
5. Carry a rubber doorstopper that can be easily installed on an inward-opening door.
6. Never give your room number to anybody. If someone is coming to meet you arrange for a meeting in the lobby.
7. Instead of filling out a room service card and leaving it on the outside of your door, call room service directly. There is no need to alert potential wrongdoers that you are the sole person in the room.
8. Ask that your room service order be delivered by a woman.
9. Just because someone knocks on your door and identifies themselves as a hotel employee is no reason to open the door. If you are the least bit suspicious ask for their name and why they are there. Call the front desk to verify.
10. Finally, There is no harm in relaxing in the hotel bar but never leave your drink unattended. Social deviants find this a perfect time to drop date rape drugs into your beverage and leave you vulnerable to their intentions. The good news is that now there is a product to test your own drink and foil these wrong-doers. See: http://www.drinksafetech.com
These Olympians Great Role
Models As Sports Parents
Source: www.thestar.com – Randy Starkman
(Aug 04, 2011) There's a couple of things that have become evident now that I've reached the stage where I'm writing about the kids of Olympians that I once covered.
One, I'm getting old.
Two, these athletes certainly seem great role models as sports parents.
I'm thinking specifically at the moment of sprinting great Bruny Surin, whose tennis playing daughter Kimberley-Ann was featured on the front of today's sport section in the Star and also of Olympic rower Doug Hamilton and basketball standout Lynn Polson, whose hockey playing sons Dougie and Freddie Hamilton are currently trying to make Canada's world junior team and dream of playing in the NHL.
For one thing, these kids were allowed to choose their own sporting path. Their parents haven't tried to mould them in their own image. Kimberley-Ann Surin states flat out she hates running. The Hamilton boys went in a rowing scull once with their Dad. That was enough. They played a bit of basketball, but it wasn't their thing.
These parents stand out when they go to watch their kids in action because they're not shouting instructions at them or hurling invective at the officials.
“I think it sends a bad message to the kids," said Surin. "If I would see my parents going crazy and basically saying not to respect my opponent, that's not right. Of course, I want to win. Everybody wants to win. But it's not the reason not to respect your opponent and be going crazy. Is shouting and swearing at the referee and telling him the ball was in going to make your kids better? No. It's ridiculous.”
The Hamilton boys have benefitted from a balanced approach. They played other sports. They didn't play a lot of spring and summer hockey unless their winter teams had something planned. It was never about creating NHL players and education has always been emphasized – in fact, Freddie was a 99 per cent student in high school and Dougie scored 94.
"It's about opening doors and creating opportunities," said Doug. "It's got to be their drive. At the end of the day, you've got to drive yourself, you can't be driven by anybody else. It's not going to happen.
"We keep telling them, there's a lot of time, be patient, there's a process to follow here, and it's a long process. Another thing we keep telling them, too, is sport's something you do along the way. It's not a final destination by itself. It's an activity you're doing while you're moving through your life; it's not an end point."
There's another thing, too, that stands out about these Olympians as sports parents. Their humility. Kimberley-Ann's veteran coach Roberto Brogin is an interesting guy with a unique take on what made her father great as an athlete.
“He has one of the best qualities an athlete can have and that's to be humble," said Brogin. "He's still humble. I say to all my kids you can be the best player in the world, but if you don't have this quality you won't make it.”
Not sure I believe that based on the number of braggart athletes out there, but it's a nice sentiment.
Another humble Olympian who I have no doubt will be a model sports parent is 2006 Olympic skeleton champion Duff Gibson. You should check out his blog sportatitsbest.com for a lot more stories about what it should all be about.
Hits His First Major-League Home Run In Jays Win
Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Smith
(Aug 07, 2011) BALTIMORE—This was a confluence of circumstances that made it almost impossible for Ricky Romero to lose.
Coming off his best performance of the season and facing a team he whips with regularity, all the odds were stacked in favour of the Jays lefty on Sunday afternoon.
He didn’t disappoint.
Romero, who had a thrown a one-hitter over eight innings in his last outing, scattered four hits over eight against the Orioles as Toronto beat Baltimore 7-2 at Camden Yards.
In his last eight starts against Baltimore, Romero is now 6-1 with an ERA of right around two, and he’s allowed only one run in his last 18 innings against them.
“I enjoy pitching, period, no matter who the opponent is,” he said. “That’s what you work for every five days, to get ready for that opponent.
“Lately it’s just been consistency of throwing strikes and being in the zone and getting deep in games. Any time I do that, I know what I’m capable of and that’s going deep into games.
“Today was a lot of ground balls, keep the defence on their toes and it’s always good when you can do that.”
The only serious mistakes he made Sunday were home-run pitches to Mark Reynolds in the fifth and seventh innings, both shots clubbed deep into the left-field stands.
“Those were some bombs, man,” he joked.
Romero was working in difficult conditions, with searing heat and oppressive humidity that made it feel like it was in the mid-40s C. Still, he had enough in the tank to throw 94 pitches — 69 strikes — before giving way to Casey Janssen.
“I think it’s all mental,” he said. “You take that out of it and you go pitch. Was it hot? Yeah, it was hot, it was really hot. I’ve pitched in hotter weather before and you get used to it. You go out there and you keep pounding the (strike) zone and you don’t try to do too much.
“You try to stay hydrated. In between innings I was in the tunnel where the A/C was on. You do little things like that to keep cool.”
While Romero was dominating, the Jays returned to the hard-hitting offence they showed in Friday’s series opener.
Brett Lawrie, capping an excellent first major-league series, hit his first home run as a Jay, a solo blast to centre field in the sixth that marked the last of 10 hits Orioles starter Alfredo Simon gave up.
“I know it’s just a three-game look at Brett, but this is extremely exciting,” said manager John Farrell.
The Jays broke the game open in the fourth with a rapid-fire succession of hits.
Edwin Encarnacion led off with a single and Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arencibia and John McDonald followed with back-to-back-to-back doubles that stretched a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 margin and gave Romero more than enough of a cushion.
Toronto opened the scoring in the third when Jose Bautista pool-cue’d a double down the first-base line to score Lawrie and Rajai Davis.
McDonald and Davis got the starts as Farrell tried to inject some energy into a lineup that’s been bad in day games all season.
Davis replaced Eric Thames in left and batted leadoff — Yunel Escobar was dropped to second in the order — and McDonald played second base.
Thames had been scuffling along in a season-worst 1-for-30 slump and Farrell sees some bad habits developing.
“The one thing that Eric is doing is when he presses, he expands the strike zone early and often,” said Farrell. “Pitchers have attacked him up in the zone where he’s chased some fastballs up and then he’ll expand some breaking balls below the zone.
“When he’s been at his best is when he’s walked in the box with some confidence and even when he took a strike, he didn’t give you the feeling like the at-bat is getting away from him. When he’s been overaggressive is when he pressed.”
The Unsolved, Cold-Blooded
Murder Of NBA Star Lorenzen Wright
Source: www.thestar.com - Eddie Lee
(July 28, 2011) A sense of dread hung in the Memphis air a year ago.
One of the city’s favourite sons, NBA star Lorenzen Wright, was missing and his disappearance had stretched to 10 days.
There had been false sightings, the requisite rumours, even ribald accusations as a tight-knit community braced itself for the worst.
“There was a cloud over the city,” said Ken Bennett, the founder and executive director of the Streets Ministries in Memphis.
“It’s a cloud that’s still lingering.”
The eventual discovery was gruesome: an emaciated, bullet-ridden corpse in a desolate area.
Even more troubling however, is how this notorious death, involving a local icon, can remain such a stone-cold case 365 days later.
“I don’t know. I don’t have the slightest idea,” said Wright’s mother, Deborah Marion, trying to explain the apparent dead end of the investigation.
A city on the banks of the Mississippi, Memphis launched the careers of Elvis Presley and B.B. King and has been the subject of books by William Faulkner and John Grisham but it owes much of its racial harmony to basketball.
Following the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King in 1968, and the racial battles that ensued, it was the success of the ’73 University of Memphis Tigers, a team that reached the NCAA title game, that helped unite the city.
People of all walks of life got behind the Tigers, giving birth to a basketball legacy that remains very much hallowed.
In the football-mad south, Memphis is that rare outpost where James Naismith’s game continues to rule, thanks to the success of players that followed the path of local 70’s icons Larry Finch and Bobby (Bingo) Smith; NBA-bound players like Michael Cage, Penny Hardaway, Thaddeus Young, and Wright.
Not large enough to produce scores of top-ranked football players to be a force in the NCAA, Memphis found its calling with hoop dreams.
That’s not to say the city’s a rose garden. Memphis ranked second in the U.S. in 2008 for violent crimes per capita and was 13th in murders.
“Inner-city tough,” said Bennett in describing the typical Memphis player. “A little rough around the edges. Not afraid of anybody.”
The 6-11 Wright grew up in Mississippi but played locally at Booker T. Washington High School and at the University of Memphis. He was an NBA lottery pick for the Los Angeles Clippers before ending up as a member of his hometown Grizzlies for five of his 13 pro seasons. He retired after the 2008-09 season.
“He was what you wanted a Memphis basketball player to represent,” said Bennett, who started his ministry by hanging around inner-city courts with a basketball and serves as chaplain for the Tigers. “He was a great guy, a great ambassador.”
Outgoing and gregarious, Wright was, by most accounts, generous with his time and his wealth.
He offered free basketball camps and paid all the expenses for local youth teams, even furnishing them with new vehicles.
He paid for the sneakers worn by Booker T.’s varsity as well as those worn by the Memphis State and Memphis teams. For 13 years.
When Wright’s daughter, Sierra Simone, died in 2003 due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, he started a scholarship fund at his high school in her honour.
“The neighbourhood loved him. The community loved him,” said Bennett.
Even his rise to the top was endearing, coached to the highest level by his father, Herb, a former professional basketball player confined to a wheelchair. Herb Wright, a star in Finland at the time, was shot and lost the use of his legs after trying to break up a fight at a Memphis recreation centre in 1983.
The shooting did not set back Herb Wright, who had pointed Lorenzen to his future early on. At a month old, Wright got a basketball hoop from dad for Christmas. He couldn’t yet reach the net but the bar was set.
Lorenzen Wright, at the age of 34, was last seen on the night of July 18, 2010.
His ex-wife, Sherra Wright, would later be quoted in court documents saying that Wright left her home with a large amount of money and a box of drugs. And that she overheard him saying on a phone that he was “going to flip something for $110,000.”
Wright had two daughters and four boys with Sherra. They had divorced in 2010 and had apparently run into some fiscal difficulty. She is not a suspect.
In 778 career NBA games with five teams, Wright averaged 8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and earned more than $50 million.
Yet within the last six months of his life banks had repossessed two homes, one in Eads, Tenn., and another in Atlanta, due to defaulted loans. Other court documents uncovered by The Associated Press also show that in 2008, while he was still in the NBA, Wright sold two luxury vehicles to a man affiliated with a drug ring that was suspected in six deaths.
This information was unknown at the time Wright went missing, as was a 911 call that Wright placed in the final moments of his life.
Wright’s body was discovered on July 28 by cadaver dogs in a wooded, marshy area 25 kilometres southeast of Memphis, badly decomposed. After nine days in the southern heat, and left to the ravages of nature, only 57 pounds remained of his 255-pound body.
The coroner’s report said he died of multiple gun shot wounds. Bullet fragments left in Wright's skull, chest and right forearm, indicate five shots. Shell casings of different calibres found with Wright's body, suggest multiple shooters. But Wright, according to his ex-wife, also owned a gun and a shotgun, which have not been recovered.
The rumours began to swirl soon after Wright was reported missing by his mother, which was four days after he was last seen.
In whispers. Was he an innocent bystander? A robbery? Suicide? Murder? There was a report that he had been seen at a Memphis barbershop the on the morning of July 19. He also had a flight booked and was known to fly back and forth to Atlanta, where he played two stints with the NBA Hawks.
At the time, Collierville police found few clues to suspect foul play.
“There’s just no information to make us draw that conclusion,” police said. “There is nothing on his phone records, no bank transactions, his vehicles are still at his house … It’s like he literally dropped off the face of the earth.”
Wright’s emergency call was handled by a Germantown police department dispatcher early on the morning of July 19, according to court documents.
The dispatcher heard a male voice utter a garbled expletive followed by the sound of 10 to 12 gun shots.
“Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?” the dispatcher asked.
When the phone line went dead, the dispatcher called back. No one answered.
Another call to the cell phone half an hour later also went unanswered.
Germantown is a suburb east of Memphis, Collierville, another suburb, lies further east.
Last week, Wright’s mother and his ex-wife filed separate lawsuits against both suburbs, as well as a number of individuals for allegedly mishandling the 911 call. The defendants have not commented publicly on either lawsuit.
According to Sherra Wright’s lawsuit, which also includes the Germantown and Collierville police departments, Germantown dispatchers were able, using police software, to determine the longitude and latitude of the location of the call. But because they were not allowed Internet access, due to staff misuse at the time, could not put the nexus of the unknown call together.
The lawsuit further states that a Germantown supervisor used an iPhone to determine that the “unknown call” came from outside their jurisdiction and decided not to proceed. They also did not notify any other police departments or the County. This disconnect may have cost the investigation the precious first 48 hours needed to help solve the crime.
And when the missing persons report was filed in Collierville by Marion, that police department failed to request Wright’s phone records or ask neighbouring police if they had any information regarding the basketball player, the lawsuit states, further delaying the investigation.
The body was found using the co-ordinates of the call.
Wright is seeking for herself, and their six children – two daughters and four sons — $3.8 million, while Marion is seeking $2 million.
“The dropped the ball,” said Marion, noting that if one of her grandchildren dialled 911 by accident, four police cruisers would show up at her home in minutes. No questions asked.
On the anniversary of Wright’s murder, Memphis police appealed for help on the case.
“It’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t somebody out there who knows something,” said police director Toney Armstrong.
“Still, with his popularity, the amount of media coverage and the hard work displayed by our homicide investigators, we are still a long way from solving this crime.”
Thus far, only 28 tips have come into Crime Stoppers.
Marion believes the $6,000 reward for information leading to an arrest is not enough. There’s currently an $8,000 reward for a missing dog.
“We’ve got to raise some more money to get people to talk,” said Marion. “It’s ridiculous. He gave the city more money on shoes.”
There’s a vigil planned for Thursday night outside the FedEx arena where the Grizzlies play and where Wright’s memorial was held.
Marion hopes the momentum from the vigil will carry over, but she’s resolved to continue her painful journey.
“I keep praying to keep my strength because if I give up, nobody’s going to fight for him. Nobody.”
With files from Associated Press
Real Madrid Signs 7-Year-Old
Boy To Its Youth Academy
Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Girard
(August 08, 2011) Sports teams like to get their talent young.
It makes sense. After all, by signing a player at an early age, a club can not only monitor development but capitalize when — and if — he becomes a star.
A successful recipe in much of the soccer world, it’s come to Canada with Toronto FC among the professional clubs who run youth academies. They typically recruit boys in their early teenage years.
But European soccer titan Real Madrid has taken the idea to another level.
The Spanish club — which in recent years has shelled out stunningly large sums for established talent such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka — has signed a 7-year-old Argentinean boy to join its renowned youth academy.
Leonel Angel Coira, who goes by the nickname of Leo just like his idol and compatriot Lionel Messi, will begin training on Sept. 6, Madrid spokesperson Juan Tapiador told the Associated Press on Monday.
The club reportedly moved to sign the youngster because crosstown rival Atletico Madrid was also interested in getting him onside.
Messi, the FIFA World Player of the Year the last two seasons, has, at the age of 24, already been with Madrid’s rival FC Barcelona since age 13. The attacking midfielder made his debut with the big club when he was 16.
“Lionel Messi is my idol but my dream is to play in the Real Madrid first team,” Leo told the Argentine sports daily Ole.
Leo, who said he prefers to pass the ball rather than score, already has a Facebook page featuring photos of his visit to Real Madrid.
Tapiador denied that Leo was the youngest player ever signed by Madrid, but refused to give details of other kids the club had recruited.
Earlier this year, Dutch club VVV-Venlo signed an 18-month-old toddler to what was described as a symbolic 10-year contract after watching a YouTube video of him kicking three balls into a toy box. The club was also reportedly impressed that his grandfather once played for the team.
With files from the Associated Press
Shotgun Blast Helped Unite
Former Bears Receiver With Biological Father
Source: www.thestar.com - David Haugh
(August 09, 2011) CHICAGO—All former Bears wide receiver Mark Bradley remembers was staring up at the ceiling lights of the hospital as they wheeled him in a gurney down the hallway of the emergency room.
“It was dim and blurry with a lot of people in panic around me assisting and all I thought was, ‘I’m going to die any moment,’ “ Bradley said in an interview with the Tribune.
He was 4, and on that day over the Fourth of July weekend in 1986 in Pine Bluff, Ark., the curious toddler discovered his grandpa’s gun in a bedroom between the box spring and mattress. Mustering up all the strength he could to pull the trigger, the little boy shot a bullet that tore into his left hand near his index finger. As chronicled in Bradley’s new book “1nsepara6le: Faith, Family, Fatherhood,” he lost so much blood that doctors encouraged his family to inform the hospital who might be a match if a donor was needed.
The request made his mother, Denise Davis, panic even more. That meant she would have to inform Reginald Mayberry, the man raising Mark under false pretences, that he wasn’t the boy’s biological father. Danny Bradley, a local football legend entering his second season as a wide receiver with the Los Angeles Rams, was.
It was a genetic reality Danny doubted when Davis first alleged he was Mark’s dad two weeks before the 1985 Orange Bowl. He was Oklahoma’s star quarterback and figured Davis was a woman with whom he had a fling trying to capitalize on his rising celebrity. But nearly two years later, a call in Los Angeles from Danny’s mother telling him the boy who might be his son shot himself playing with a gun left a feeling Danny couldn’t shake: What if he really did have a son—and the child was in danger?
Danny boarded a plane home to Arkansas the next morning, demanded a paternity test that proved he was the father and began a long, emotionally painful mission of trying to be the attentive, loving dad his own never was. Over the next decade, that commitment to inject himself in Mark’s life cost him a marriage and shortened his NFL career when he turned down a two-year contract offer from the Lions after crossing the picket line during the 1987 NFL players strike.
The sacrifice all started with the gunshot heard in Hollywood.
“Not that you ever want kids playing with guns, because it could have killed Mark, but thank God that happened for this reason only: I believe had that incident not happened, I’m not real sure how it would have turned out but I don’t think it would have penetrated my heart the way it did,” Danny Bradley said. “Understand, legally I had no rights to this kid. He was named after another father. They petitioned in court naming this guy the father. I had no real reason to believe this woman. But at that point, I was committed to find out if it was really true.”
The truth about the depths of family dysfunction Mark endured growing up in Arkansas, revealed in the book the Bradleys have pitched to movie producers, might surprise even those close enough to know he plans an NFL comeback. Many never knew about the gun accident or how years of shuttling from his stepdad to his biological dad in Dallas to his presumed dad in Alabama affected Mark’s state of mind and maturity. Or that Mark’s mother spoke so negatively about Danny that, for several years, his son despised the man. Or that he was Mark Mayberry until legally changing his name at 17.
A cleansing exercise for Mark’s psyche, the book takes an unvarnished look at his upbringing without shirking responsibility for immature mistakes. He candidly describes the day Danny kicked him out of the car after learning he had dabbled with marijuana at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. The account of the way the Bradleys successfully fought a plagiarism charge at Oklahoma illustrates the lengths Danny would go to keep his son on the right path. And when Mark states, “I really would rather die than go back into that confrontational pigsty” in Arkansas during a crisis of confidence with the Sooners, it provides a sense of how suffocating his childhood environment was.
Over time Bradley forgave his mother for years of building an insurmountable wall between him and his biological father and making her son believe Danny was good for nothing but sending money. On one side was a father trying to get to know and help his son while on the other stood a young man hating his father based on bogus information. Denise Davis, who wished not to be interviewed, consented in writing before the book was released and Mark credits the common ground he eventually found with his mother to the man she spent decades disparaging.
“Every time I got to the point I didn’t want my mom to be able to benefit from things I was experiencing, Dad would cut me off and say, ‘I don’t care how you feel, that’s still your mother,’ “ Bradley said.
Added Danny: “I wanted him to know one thing—that the greatest gift you can ever give to your kids is to love their mother.”
By design Mark shared as little as possible about his past with teammates during his Bears tenure to preserve thoughts of a book or screenplay. The Bradleys felt the personal narrative was compelling enough that Danny, with a wealth of connections, pitched the movie idea to actor John Travolta during an impromptu meeting at the Four Seasons hotel in Dallas.
“Mark’s a good friend and I knew he was very close to his father but nothing else,” said safety Chris Harris, a member of the Bears’ 2005 draft class with Bradley. “It is hard to believe that he was able to cover stuff up and just function like everything was normal.”
Bradley did confide in Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. When Mark’s grandmother on his mom’s side passed away while visiting Chicago for a Bears preseason game in 2006, for example, Drake consoled the player after his grandfather blamed the death on him.
“Can you imagine that? He was tore up and still had to play,” Drake recalled. “I just said, ‘It’s not your fault.’ “
Drake blamed a spate of injuries on Bradley’s disappointing stint with the Bears from 2005 to 2008, but inconsistent hands and focus contributed too. The 39th player taken in the ‘05 draft bounced around on the Chiefs, Bucs and Saints rosters before sitting out last year to get healthy physically—and mentally. Now clearheaded for the first time and motivated by failure, Bradley seeks a comeback and claims he recently ran a 4.34 40-yard dash.
It sounds like a long shot, but Drake cautions against scepticism.
“I always thought Mark was good enough to play and probably could still play if given the opportunity,” Drake said. “He’s older, he’s wiser. He came up real tough and a lot of people don’t realize what he’s been through.”
Now that people do, will evolving personally help him develop professionally?
“I’d love to get back to Chicago,” said Bradley, 29. “But whoever is willing to sign me will see a different guy that brings a lot from the table and has learned from my mistakes. I’ve learned how to be a better player on the field and in the locker room.”
Guess who he credits for teaching him.
Rodman Gets Recognition For
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press
(August 10, 2011) The outrageous outfits and tabloid tales guaranteed Dennis Rodman fame long after he finished running with the Bulls.
He was in Mexico about five years ago on a midnight run for tacos — the fun often started for Rodman around midnight — when a group of girls approached and started screaming his name.
An amused Rodman turned to his agent and marvelled, “Dude, these girls never saw me play basketball.”
And what a player they missed.
Rodman will get recognition for his often overlooked accomplishments on the court Friday when he is enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Chris Mullin is the other headline name, becoming the 11th member of the famed 1992 Dream Team to earn enshrinement as an individual. Big men Artis Gilmore and Arvydas Sabonis; eight-time NBA champion Tom “Satch” Sanders of the Celtics; five-time Olympic gold medallist Teresa Edwards; coaching greats Tex Winter, Tara VanDerveer and Herb Magee; and the late Reece “Goose” Tatum of the Harlem Globetrotters also will be honoured at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass.
All greats of the sport, but none as colourful or controversial as Rodman.
He's probably better known for wearing a wedding dress than a Detroit or Chicago uniform, and he's aware that his antics turned off plenty. But beneath the piercings and tattoos was someone serious about his basketball, and only a few have won more often than he did since entering the NBA a quarter-century ago as a second-round pick of the Pistons.
“None of my teammates had no problem with me,” Rodman said in a phone interview. “And I always say to myself, if anyone has a problem with Dennis Rodman, all you've got to do is look at the record. Every team I went to, I won, and I was a big, major part of that team.”
Indeed, he went 636-275, a .698 winning percentage that since his career started is bettered only by San Antonio's trio of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, according to STATS, LLC. Rodman led the league in rebounding an NBA-record seven straight seasons, won consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards, and won back-to-back titles with the Pistons before teaming with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for three in a row with the Bulls.
And he had plenty of fun doing it.
A brief marriage to Carmen Electra and a relationship with Madonna took him from the sports pages to the gossip ones, and he's lived there well past his NBA career ended in 2000.
“The last maybe 13 years, people always ask, ‘What are you doing?' I say I don't do anything. I don't even have a job, but you always see me on TV, I'm always somewhere around the press or somewhere like on a red carpet,” Rodman said. “At least once a week or twice a week, you probably hear my name on TV or see me in all the tabloids or something like that, and I don't even have a job. I must be doing something right.”
Mullin has stayed in the game, building the Golden State Warriors, his long-time team, into a playoff club as general manager and currently working as an analyst for ESPN. A seemingly automatic left-handed jumper led him to a decorated college career at St. John's, Olympic gold medals in 1984 and ‘92 and five all-star selections, none of which he saw coming when he started playing basketball growing up in Brooklyn.
“Even back in grade school if I looked at my skill set, I probably should have played baseball, I probably should have stuck to swimming. But I always really loved basketball,” Mullin said. “The way I was taught to play it didn't emphasize athleticism, thank God. The game, it was passing.
“When I started playing in Harlem and in the city, I always tried to figure out how I could fit in rather than try to emulate. I knew there were some things I was never going to be able to do, but also some things I did that they didn't do. Even at St. John's as a freshman I felt very overwhelmed physically. I was slow and just little by little as the game evolved to a team game it made more sense to me, I could figure out where to fit in. It became more of a natural fit.”
Success also came later to Rodman, who didn't even play as a high schooler in Dallas before spending his final three collegiate seasons at Southeastern Oklahoma State, an NAIA school. Though it's natural to recall his Bulls teams, Rodman has special fondness for the “Bad Boy” Pistons where he got his start.
He was in the audience last year for Pippen's induction and had no problem envisioning himself being honoured, even with a career scoring average of only 7.3 points.
“Not to sound too straightforward, but I could have been in the last two or three years, but you know how politics works,” Rodman said. “But I'm in man, it's all good.”
And fear not: He insists there will be no dress, but definitely “real cool stuff to wear onstage.”
He's busy “living life on the edge” and “taking the bull by the horns,” doing the things that fascinated fans during his playing career. He was involved in pro wrestling and is still working with former tag team partner Hulk Hogan on a weight loss challenge program.
Even now, only a hair appointment could slow him down long enough to get on the phone before heading off to basketball's birthplace. And he should feel right at home — Friday's coverage on NBA TV includes a red carpet show.
“I don't have a TV job, I don't have a radio show, I don't have a TV show, I don't have the internet,” Rodman said. “But I can go anywhere in the world, literally, on a red carpet, anything, and walk right in like I'm like one of those movie stars. It's insane dude.”
Spurs Draft Pick Cory Joseph Joins Canadian Hoops Squad
Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press
(August 10, 2011) The Canadian men’s national basketball team got an infusion of talent Wednesday. Cory Joseph, a first-round pick at this year’s NBA draft, has announced he will join the squad ahead of the FIBA Americas men’s championship in Argentina. “It’s an honour to play for your country and I’m excited to get on the floor and represent Canada as best as I can,” said Joseph, who was taken 29th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in June. “I know we have a young, great group, with Joel (Anthony), (Carl) English and (Andy) Rautins coming in. “Hopefully we come back with the gold, but if not, qualify for the Olympics.” Joseph will join the team for the second phase of its summer program, which gets underway Friday at Ryerson University in Toronto. The Pickering, Ont., native averaged 10.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and three assists per game last season as a freshman with the Texas Longhorns of the NCAA when he was named to the Big 12 All-Rookie Team. Along with fellow Canadian and Texas teammate Tristan Thompson, Joseph elected to forgo his final three season of college eligibility and enter the NBA draft. Canada hosts two exhibition games with Belgium this weekend.