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December 8, 2011

Tis the season ... you can smell the snow in the air, can't you?  Personally I just hope it holds off a little bit longer.

Do you like that there is more Canadian content?  Feel free to give me any feedback.

A favourite artist of mine -
Robin Thicke has a hot new release Love After War.  Sexy and sultry as ever!  Do you also want to win a copy of the CD?  If you can tell me one name of an artist Robin worked with to push them to gold and platinum status, then you could be a winner!  Look for the answer under SCOOP and enter the contest HERE.  Leave your full name and mailing address.

 And I recommend that you pick up the soulful Mary J. Blige's new release, My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1). Want to hear a track? Check out a track under SCOOP!

One of my favourite events of the year is coming on Boxing Day - the
Revival VIP Jam! The list of artists (vocalists, musicians and more) is just too long to mention ... I can guarantee that you'll know them.  And some are just going to be surprise guests ... never know who's going to show!  Check out all the details under HOT EVENTS!  If you like live music, this will be the place to get your festive party on! Check out photos from last year's jam HERE. Recognize any of your favourite performers?

This week's news features the scoop on the
Russell Peter's new Christmas special; Mark Hominick of the UFC's story of overcoming tragedy; some hilarious tips of whether you're addicted to Facebook; the sad passing of India's Dev Anand; and so much more!  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly.
OR you can simply click HERE for all the articles.  


Revival VIP Jam – Monday, December 26

Come out and join the funkiest holiday celebration at Revival Bar on Boxing
Day - the REVIVAL VIP JAM!  You never know who's going to show! (hint hint)  It will be a reunion of veteran vocalists, musicians and DJs who are coming together to wish each other festive greetings, get their funk on and raise funds for the Dave 'Soulfingaz' Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund.

Check out photos from last year's jam HERE. Recognize any of your favourite performers?

The Jam will be hosted by the Andrew Craig, Shamakah Ali, DJ's KC, Sean Sax, and other jam DJs.

A few years ago, a monumental movement known as the VIP JAM went from being an open mic Monday night gig in Toronto to a cornerstone in Toronto's live music scene.  It brought unity to all - long time performers, first timers on stage, and music lovers.  DJ's dedicated to playing real music also brought the funk ... and the JAM is remembered fondly and is still the talk of the town.

Dominique, Joe and the Revival staff keep that love burning so the reunion returns as

The stage will feature seasoned talent of the Toronto music scene who reunite for an evening of real music, celebration with friends and festive cheer.  Many surprise guests will be in the house - you don't want to miss it!  You never know who will be there!

Revival Bar
783 College St. (at Shaw)
9:00 pm

$10 Cover goes to donation to the Soulfingaz Memorial Scholarship Trust Fund


VIDEO: Robin Thicke’s Love After War

Source:  Universal Music Canada

Born in Los Angeles,
Robin Thicke taught himself to play piano at the age of 12 and by 16 was writing and producing songs for artists like Brandy, Color Me Badd, and Brian McKnight. By the age of 21, he had written and produced songs on over 20 gold and platinum albums including Michael Jackson, Marc Anthony, Pink, Christina Aguilera and others.
Robin began writing soul- searching, gut-wrenching songs about faith, hope and love. These songs became his breakthrough second release, 2006’s The Evolution Of Robin Thicke.  In December of 2009 Robin released Sex Therapy, an album that created a fantasy world of eroticism, while still dealing with the honest struggle a man has with seduction, loneliness and betrayal. The title song, “Sex Therapy,” was hailed by critics as “the sexiest song of the year” and went on to be #1 on the R&B/ Hip Hop charts and also won an ASCAP Rhythm and Soul Award.
Robin’s fifth studio album, 
Love After War is set to release in December. This is Thicke at his most raw and honest condition yet. This was an album born out of a desire to be the uncompromising, idealistic artist he was as a boy, married with the weight of being a man with responsibilities and the scars of the past.  Love After War and songs you'll discover within it, like "An Angel on Each Arm",  "I'm An Animal", "Never Give Up", "Cloud 9",  "Pretty Lil' Heart" and "Tears On My Tuxedo" need no explanation: they speak for themselves. Robin believes a song can be whatever the listener wants it to be. The reasons and decisions that lead him to write his songs are not important; what matters most is how they make the listener feel.

Robin is as faithful to his fans as they are to him. His ultimate desire is to entertain the listener… to move them… to inspire them… to make them love more.

Audio: Blige on Lessons Learned Between ‘My Life’ 1 and 2

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 28, 2011) *New material from
Mary J. Blige is finally in stores.

Her 10th studio album, “My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1),” is a sequel to her second album “My Life,” which spawned six hit singles since its Nov. 28, 1994 debut ["Mary Jane (All Night Long),” “You Bring Me Joy,” “My Life,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” “I Love You” and “Be Happy”] and served as an unflinching, soul-bearing portrait of Blige’s tortured state of mind at the time.

When the singer recorded “My Life” in the fall of 93, she was dealing with clinical depression, battling both drugs and alcohol, and was deep into an abusive relationship with singer K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci.

The pain in her voice and her lyrics – backed by beats executive-produced by Diddy – resonated with an entire generation of fans and went on to stay atop Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart for eight consecutive weeks. It eventually became the most successful R&B album on the Billboard Year-End chart for 1995.

Mary says her current sequel,
released on Nov. 21, is crafted to sound more like her first two albums than any of her recent material. “It’s more like a ‘What’s the 411?’ of 2012,” she said of “My Life II,” which features production from a variety of talents, including Danja, The Underdogs, Jim Jonsin and Darkchild.

Blige is no longer in the muddled, substance-fueled confusion that defined her first “My Life” album, but as the title declares, “the journey continues.”


Russell Peters’ Best And Worst Presents List

Source: www.thestar.com - By Russell Peters

(Nov 30, 2011)
Russell Peters hosts a Christmas special on Thursday, and he has promised an irreverent but not “unholy” take on the season. In honour of that, we asked the comedian to recall his five worst and five best Christmas presents ever:


1. Sock and tie set. I was 8. I wasn’t working at a call centre.

2. Microscope. I wanted a telescope.

3. A 3,000-piece Lego set. I was 4.

4. Hand-me-down clothes from my brother. He was a “husky” boy.

5. Christmas cake from my uncle. It weighed, like, 10 pounds. Who eats this stuff?


1. My daughter. This is her first Christmas at home.

2. My Super GT Snow Racer sled. I was 10.

3. A bicycle. Great gift. Wrong time of year.

4. Time off from being on the road all year.

5. My Christmas special: A Russell Peters Christmas (despite all the protests from people who haven’t even seen it yet and who also assume that I’m not Christian because of how I look and where my family comes from . . . )

A Russell Peters Christmas, with guests Michael Bublé, Jon Lovitz, Scott Thompson, Pamela Anderson and more, airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on CTV.

Hominick Battles On Toward UFC 140

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Darren Yourk

(Dec 06, 2011) Mark Hominick's featherweight championship bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 129 in Toronto last April triggered a period of emotional highs and lows the fighter nicknamed "The Machine" isn't accustomed to talking about.

After appearing in front of a record crowd of 55,000 at the Rogers Centre and inspiring worldwide praise, he become a father for the first time in May, but lost his best friend and mentor in August, when trainer
Shawn Tompkins died of a heart attack at 37.

His year comes full circle Saturday, when Hominick steps into the octagon to face Jung Chan-Sung at UFC 140 in Toronto's Air Canada Centre.

"I never really believed I could be a world champion until I started working with Shawn and he told me I could do it," the 29-year-old said in a recent interview. "I believed him then, and I still believe it now."

Along with London-based MMA fighters Sam Stout and Chris Horodecki - members of "Team Tompkins" - Hominick lived all those clichéd stories about the fighter's long, hard road to the top. He trained with Tompkins for more than a decade in relative obscurity, mostly in Southwestern Ontario.

"We packed 12 guys in a van for a 10-hour drive to go compete somewhere," Hominick said. "We slept on floors or mats to save money. Whatever it took."

Tompkins preached a simple philosophy: be committed to hard work. The mixed martial artists became like family, inside and outside the ring. When one fought, the other three were in the corner. When Tompkins married Stout's sister, his three fighters were in the wedding party.

Tompkins stood as best man at Hominick's wedding.

Then came UFC 129, as Hominick fought for a world title at the largest MMA event in North American history. Though Hominick lost by decision, he became an instant celebrity with an exciting rally in the final round, fighting on despite grotesque swelling on his forehead and a deep gash under his eye.

"Right before I went out to the cage, Shawn said to me 'Enjoy this moment. This is what it has been all about all these years,' " Hominick said. "Looking back, it's like we reached a dream together that night."

The phone started ringing shortly after he got home and didn't stop. As fans lauded the action, sponsorship opportunities came in from a number of companies and he became the face of UFC in Southern Ontario.

His wife, Ashley, gave birth to their daughter, Raeya, in mid-May. Life, both professionally and personally, had never been so good.

And then, the unthinkable: Tompkins died in his sleep of a heart attack brought on by an undiagnosed enlarged heart and blocked arteries.

"It was such a crushing blow to all of us to lose him," Stout said. "We've been training together for 10 years, since we were kids, and thought of ourselves as a family. Shawn was the father figure."

Hominick said the only way to deal with the shock and sadness was to lean on the other members of Team Tompkins for support.

"It has been tough, but sometimes a tragedy brings people closer together," he said. "It's our responsibility to carry on what Shawn started. We lean on the strength he instilled in all of us to step up in the moments you don't feel so confident."

On Saturday, Hominick gets a chance to show that while his mentor is gone, Team Tompkins is alive and well.

It will be the first time Hominick has stepped into the octagon without Tompkins in his corner. In his place will be his brother, Frank - Hominick's way of making sure a little piece of Shawn is in the building.

"I want to write the end of the story from my last fight," Hominick said. "Even though I've been fighting professionally for 11 years, I feel like that night really started my career.

"I want to carry that momentum forward. ... The way I cement his legacy is to go out there and perform, so that's what I'm going to do."

15 Signs It's Time To Quit Facebook

Source:  By Verity Burns, editor, U.K. MSN Tech & Gadgets

(Dec. 1, 2011) Are you a certified
Facebook addict? Read our warning signs to see if it's time to step away from your computer.

We all know one: the Facebook friend who can't go for more than a few minutes without telling the world (or, at least, their long-suffering circle of friends) exactly what's happening in their life. Whether they're detailing the minutiae of their day, showing off about how "down with it" they are by going on about some random band you've never heard of, or spamming the world with mundane pictures of their latest night out, they're the people with the least to say who spend the most time saying it.

It's an affliction like any other, this kind of Facebook addiction, and if you're concerned that you (or someone you know) may be falling prey to it, then read on.

Here, we've listed 15 of the most common signs of Facebook addiction. If you tick the boxes on one or two of these, you're probably just as addicted to Facebook as the next person. If you find you're nodding along to most of the list, perhaps it's time to take a step away from the monitor ...

You update your status many times a day

Unless something huge or so-hilariously-funny-it-must-be-shared happens in your life, your Facebook friends will probably be okay to get status updates from you once or maybe twice a day, max. If you've started sharing what's going on in your life on the hour, every hour, people might just get a bit sick of hearing from you. That's what Twitter's for.

You get unnecessarily angry when Facebook makes changes

If you're one of those people who angrily updates their status when Facebook makes a few tweaks to its format, it might be a sign that you care just a bit too much. But if you find yourself discussing why on earth Facebook would mess around with the comment button when you're at a bar with your friends, then it's definitely time to give it a break.

You've ever written 'First!'

We're not sure where the idea came from that you get special kudos for commenting on something first, but just for the record — you don't. In fact, doing it repeatedly is more likely to get you booted off your friends' lists quicker than you can say, well, "first."

You've created a separate account for your baby/cat/favourite plant

Let's break this down — if you create an account for someone, or something, that can't actually use it, you're going to be the one updating it.

It'll start innocently enough. A couple of status updates here and there "in character." Maybe a few wall posts. But then before you know it, you'll be having full blown conversations with yourself between your real and fake profiles. That's the first sign of madness these days, don't you know?

You check in ... everywhere

Here's the deal — Facebook Places is great when you're "checking in" places of interest, places your friends might be interested to know you've been. It's also great for taking advantage of Facebook Deals. What it's not great for is letting people know you're at the local supermarket doing your weekly shopping, or at home watching TV. Frankly, no one cares. Sorry.

You haven't seen your other half recently

See that person you've listed as being in a relationship with on Facebook? Well they also exist away from the computer too, remember?

Facebook was recently found to be a factor in one in five divorces, and we're sure the figures are even higher for relationship breakups. If you've not seen your other half in a while, you might want to make sure they aren't filing the divorce papers and packing their bags while you're busy updating your status.

You take pictures of yourself

Are you guilty of posing in front of your webcam? Or have ever taken a photo of yourself in the mirror just to use as your profile picture? This is a sign of S.V.B. — seriously vain behaviour, a condition contracted from extended use of Facebook.

We'd say the best course of treatment is to go out with your friends, take your camera and enjoy flicking through the photos afterwards. We'd wager there'll be plenty of great pics to use as your profile picture, and no doubt great memories captured at the same time.

You check Facebook from your phone on vacation

The sun is shining, you're on an exotic beach somewhere and you've forked out all your hard-earned cash to get away from it all. Why then, pray tell, would you be checking Facebook from your phone?

This is addiction at its most devastating — not only will you miss out on chunks of your holiday with your face in your phone, but when the roaming charges land on your next bill, you'll need to take out a loan to pay them off.

You speak to your best friend more often on Facebook than in real life

Previously you'd pick up your phone if you wanted to tell your friends something, or maybe drop them a text message to meet for a chat. If you've found you're now talking to them more on Facebook than in real life, do your friendship a favour, close down the chat box and grab a coffee together.

You'd forget your friends' birthdays if it wasn't for Facebook reminders

Remember before the days of Facebook, when you wrote birthdays, important dates and events in a calendar? If Facebook now runs your social life, telling you when to say "happy birthday" and when you're going where, you could be in trouble when you can't access it for some reason.

We're not sure how popular you'll be when you forget your mom's birthday because Facebook goes down for maintenance.

You've started 'friend farming'

Let's get one thing straight — the number of Facebook friends you have is not directly proportionate to your popularity in the real world. In fact, there's plenty of evidence to suggest it may well be the opposite.

If you're finding yourself getting upset that you haven't had a friend request in a few hours, or that your next door neighbour has more Facebook friends than you, it's probably time to move away from the keyboard and get some face-to-face time with your real-life friends.

You've taken out a loan to cover your Farmville/Fish World/Mafia habit

If you've been hooked in to playing one of these Facebook games, not only will you have no doubt flooded your friends' feeds with news that you just bought a new sheep, but you've probably spent a fair bit of dough on it in the process.

If your bank balance is starting to see the effects of your addiction, you might want to think about reining it in a bit, and spending your cash on something away from your computer, in the real world.

You've ever updated your status on the toilet

There are some things that can wait, and one of those is status updating. If you've ever found yourself coming up with something you just have to share with the world while sitting on the toilet, put the phone down and wait until you're back at your computer.

Of course, if you've taken your computer with you, well then that's a whole different level of addiction you need to address ...

You've started oversharing

Hey, depressed one! Facebook isn't your personal advice columnist, ok? You shouldn't be broadcasting how horrible your breakup was or how much you still love your ex on your profile. Nobody really wants to read it. And we'd bet that includes your ex, too.

Of course there is the other end of the scale — are you one of those couples who feel the need to express their love for each other at every possible opportunity? It might have been cute the first five times you did it, now it's just annoying.

When you're out, you're wondering what's happening on Facebook

It should go without saying — when you're with your friends, your mind
should not be on Facebook. So if you're finding yourself getting a nervous tic when you've been away from Facebook for more than a few hours, it's definitely time for a break.

You can rest in the knowledge that all the news, comments and photos will be there when you get home, and you'll have plenty of material from the time you spent with your friends to update your status with.

Bollywood Mourns Death Of Actor Dev Anand, 88

Source: www.thestar.com - By Katy Daigle

(Dec 05, 2011) NEW DELHI—Bollywood star Dev Anand, a charismatic and flamboyant Indian film fixture for more than a half-century, has died of a heart attack in London, his family said Sunday. He was 88.

“With his death, an era has come to an end. For a career spanning more than five decades, Dev Anand gave us films which will stay entrenched in our minds for years on,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said in a statement carried by Press Trust of India. “He was truly a multifaceted performer as an actor, director and producer.”

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan said in a posting on Twitter that Anand’s death “leaves a void never perhaps to be filled again.”

Prize-winning British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie lamented in a post: “I grew up watching your films. Sorry to say goodbye.”

Anand’s family plans to cremate his body in London on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Famed for his roles in dozens of movies, including Jewel Thief and Guide, the veteran actor, director and producer was working up to the last minute, with a new script in the works.

Anand lived and died on “his own terms,” his nephew and renowned film director Shekhar Kapur said in a posting on Twitter. “He was working one minute. Sat down and smiled. And was gone the next. So much to learn.”

Anand died of a heart attack Saturday night in a hotel in London, where he had gone recently for a medical checkup, the family said.

India’s prime minister joined Indian film stars and officials in lauding Anand’s achievements and expressing sorrow for his death.

Dev Anand was a great artist who entertained generations of cinema lovers over five decades,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement. “He was an embodiment of long passion for acting and filmmaking. I join millions of his fans in mourning his death.”

Born on Sept. 26, 1923, as the son of a Punjab lawyer, Anand studied English literature and law, eventually moving in his early 20s to India’s film capital of Mumbai, then called Bombay, where he pursued a love of acting.

Known for his good looks, melodious voice and success in romantic leads, Anand was considered a superstar within just a few years of his 1946 screen debut in the Hindi-language film Hum Ek Hain.

Others in his family followed, with his brothers Chetan and Vijay also winning praise as film producers, screenwriters and directors.

Dev Anand also began producing in 1949, and made his directorial debut in 1971 with the popular hippie cult film Hare Rama Hare Krishna.

Never giving up the career, Anand released his latest film, Chargesheet, just a few months ago and was reportedly working on another script when he died.

On his birthday in September, the upbeat actor told the Press Trust of India that he still had more to offer.

“My life is the same, and I am at a beautiful stage at 88,” he reportedly said in the interview. “I am as excited as I was in my 20s. I have so many things to do,” including a sequel to his 1971 film that he had titled Hare Rama Hare Krishna Aaj.

Anand was given several prizes during his career, including lifetime achievement awards by Filmfare in 1993 and Screen Videocon in 1996. His 2007 memoirs, titled “Romancing With Life,” underlined his belief in making films that were socially relevant.

Also known for social work, Anand dabbled in politics in the 1970s, launching a short-lived political party and leading other film stars in opposing then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s “Emergency” regime, which gave her the power to rule by decree.


Hip-Hop 2011: That Canadian Sound Features Year In Review Dec 2011

By Del F. Cowie, exclaim.ca

The amount of talent in
Canada's hip-hop production scene is ridiculously deep with talent and hip-hop heads around the world are beginning to notice. Here are just a few of the many Canadian producers who made a lot of noise in 2011.

Producing "I'm On One," the inescapable summer hip-hop anthem featuring Drake, Lil' Wayne and Rick Ross put the 22-year-old Ajax, ON protégé of producer Boi-1da, born Tyler Williams, on everybody's radar. This year T-Minus's melodic production was also heard on Nicki Minaj's "Moment 4 Life," Lil' Wayne's "She Will" and five songs on Drake's Take Care.

RICH KIDD (pictured)
When you are the first name uttered by Jay-Z's recording engineer Young Guru as a new producer he rates highly, you're doing something right. Prolific 23-year-old Toronto producer/MC Rich Kidd was again the model of heatrock consistency in 2011, producing countless tracks for Canadian artists like the Get By's "Faster" and Tona's "We Do" as well as making in-demand featured appearances on tracks like SonReal's "Already There." Rich Kidd also delivered the fifth consistently strong mixtape in his free download series We On Some Rich Kidd Shit, featuring Maestro Fresh Wes, k-os and Saukrates among many others.

Dalmeny, SK's Muneshine produced virtually all of D-Sisive's Polaris Prize long-listed Jonestown 2: Jimmy Go Bye Bye and contributed to his newest project Run With the Creeps. While his Larger Than Life collaboration with Dutch production team Vinyl Frontiers was an MCing project for Muneshine, fans of his dusty '90s-influenced production shouldn't fret. Upcoming material includes the Twin Peaks project with MC Ghettosocks and his solo album There is Only Today.

The 25-year-old from Ajax, Ontario who, along with Drake's engineer Noah "40" Shebib, has been instrumental in directing recent widespread attention to Canada's beatmakers, added a second Grammy to his shelf in 2011 for his production on Eminem's Recovery. Much like Chin Injeti, Boi-1da is in wait and see mode to see if anything he contributed to Dr. Dre's Detox will surface. In the meantime, he laid down tracks for albums by Game, DJ Khaled and Big Sean and produced "Headlines," Drake's Take Care leadoff single with Shebib.

In 2011, this Toronto producer and 50 Cent collaborator contributed two songs to Danny Brown's XXX and cast Shad in a different sonic feel on "Flawless" from the Real Frequency's The New North compilation. He also arranged Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band's Nirvana cover "Stay Away" and has apparently been logging studio time with buzz-heavy jazz upstarts BadBadNotGood.

This former member of '90s soul/R&B group Bass is Base snagged a Grammy in early 2011 for his work on Eminem's Recovery after scoring work for Clipse and Jay-Z among others in recent years. Though the Surrey, BC native's work contributed to Dr. Dre's Detox with production partner DJ Khalil has yet to surface, he's remained busy releasing a solo EP and joining Universal Music Canada as an A&R rep.

Introducing ... The Dusky-Throated Molly Sweeney

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Dec 06, 2011) "There's nothing more mortifying," Molly Sweeney confides, "than cracking on a note when your voice isn't properly in shape."

And she should know. The dusky-throated Montreal singer blew out her voice a few years ago while singing at the loud summer pastime known as the Tam Tam Jam on Mount Royal.

"There's that ubiquitous beat," she says with a laugh, "and I was trying to sing above it."

If her sublime debut album Gold Rings and Fur Pelts [http://mollysweeney.com/music] is any indication, the voice (and her songwriting and co-production chops) is back in attractive form. This week the sixties-styled folk-siren performs in Toronto and Ottawa, where her pipes are the draw. But there's more to this elegant upstart than her vocals.

Where she's coming from

Sweeney, 29, grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. (where her father taught at Lake Superior State University) but spent much of her time across the border in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

"There wasn't much to do on the American side," says the singer, who took her power-skating lessons in maple-leaf land.

At age 17, she moved from Massachusetts to Montreal. She attended McGill University, but went to school on Joni Mitchell.

"I got a copy of Blue and I guess it totally blew my mind," recalls Sweeney, now a dual citizen. "She was a huge influence, as far as choosing an acoustic instrument and discovering alternate guitar tunings."

What she's saying

Her lyrics are often metaphorical, you might say enigmatic.

"That's a compliment," she says. "It just means it's something to figure out. It requires a little more attention."

On the pop-cabaret title track, the gold rings and fur pelts represent prosperity and happiness, and the sacrifices made to find them. The words are sharply and scathingly literal on the darkly lit Not Faithfull (titled as to play on faithful/Marianne Faithfull, and textured with tipple, Wurlitzer, violin and upright bass).

How raw can Sweeney go, you ask? Try "think you should go, because I don't need you; and it costs too much to feed you." The song refers to a "psychological and emotional" rift with a friend. "I tend to confront people," Sweeney says. "How long friendships endure depend on our ability to take criticism."

Once in a full moon

The centrepiece of the album is Full Moon, a delicate ballad set to guitar notes that could have been picked by James Taylor. The song lifts lunar-high toward the end - Sweeney's voice rising unimaginably. "I'm screaming this song and I hope you will hear / well I must owe you something, since I hold you so dear."

The burst of vocal range stuns out of the blue. "Dynamic range is important, in terms of emotional expression," she says. "It's like leaving the stage after a half an hour. You want to leave them wanting more - to leave on a high note, so to speak."

Molly Sweeney's Gold Rings and Fur Pelts is streaming here [http://mollysweeney.com/music]. She plays Toronto's Dakota Tavern, Dec. 7; Ottawa's Raw Sugar Café, Dec. 8.

Nothing Easy Or Pop From Feist

www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Dec 02, 2011) Leslie Feist was originally a punk-rock girl and Leslie
Feist remains, in many respects, a punk-rock girl.

Granted, nothing in the Calgary-raised, (sometimes) Toronto-based singer/songwriter’s 100-minute Massey Hall set on Thursday night could be considered particularly “punk” from a musical standpoint, although she and her six-piece backing band did conjure a few eruptions of righteously ear-bending skronk at odd moments through the night. No, the punk-rock girl in Leslie Feist came out mainly in the uncompromising attitude of the performance. You came for “1 2 3 4”? Well, you’re not gonna get it on this tour. And, in fact, you’re not going to get a whole lot of “easy” or “pop” at all from Feist at the moment. That’s not where she’s at right now.

If she was ever there in the first place, that is. Those who view Feist’s acclaimed new album, Metals, as an abrupt left turn or a sudden plunge into darkness and uncertainty have perhaps never paid close enough attention to the weird bits between the hits on Let it Die or 2008’s international smash The Reminder. Mood, space and shadow have always played a crucial role in the Feist songbook, and her songwriting, when given room to roam beyond the self-imposed pop discipline of a “My Moon, My Man” or an “I Feel it All,” has always unwound across peculiar musical geographies understood only by Feist and her core collaborators.

There’s definitely more mood, more space and more shadow to the Metals material, though, and Metals dominated on Thursday. Opener “The Undiscovered First” began with soft foot-tapping and Feist’s scratchy guitar playing before going for the throat in a raucous final lap. “How Come You Never Go There,” one of the new record’s lighter moments, gained a shoo-bee-doo-ing girl-group quality thanks to Feist’s ace trio of female back-up vocalists, a Vermont trio by the name of Mountain Man, but it was likely still too probing and deliberate and alien for the Starbucks set. “Mushaboom” was barely recognizable, retaining a hint of its original lightheartedness in the vocal arrangement but otherwise taking on a newly jagged and unpredictable form. “A Commotion” was just that, inspiring one tie-dyed, middle-aged chap to start “freedom dancing” at his seat in defiance of the chin-scratching, sit-down mood of the sold-out crowd.

That gentleman would later rise to the stage to lead an impromptu dance party by 25 or 30 audience members onstage during a crowd-pleasing “My Moon, My Man” and “I Feel it All.” Feist — who’s never lost the common touch despite the Junos and Grammy nominations and Muppeting — invited them all to sit down and “hang out” for the rest of the show, but it was back to Metals and its slowly unspooling mysteries — “Caught a Long Wind,” “Bittersweet Melodies,” a rancorous “The Bad in Each Other” — for the duration, at least until “Sea Lion Woman” lit things up again during the encore.

Metals gives itself up over time, but the subdued response of the crowd through much of the night made you wonder how many in the room had done their homework. Maybe the next time through they’ll get it because Metals definitely deserves to be “got.” And Feist still deserves our acclaim.

Bruce Cockburn, Dave Gunning Take Two At Canadian Folk Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

(Dec 05, 2011) Veteran troubadour Bruce Cockburn and Nova Scotia’s country-folk favourite Dave Gunning were the big winners at Sunday night’s 7th annual presentation of the Canadian Folk Music Awards, each getting the nod for 2 of the 4 categories in which they’d been nominated.

Sixty-six-year-old Cockburn, who was not at the ceremony due to the birth two weeks ago in San Francisco of his daughter, Iona, won the Contemporary Album of the Year and Solo Artist of the Year awards for his 2010 album, Small Source of Comfort.

Gunning was named Traditional Singer of the Year and New/Emerging Artist of the Year, for his album A Tribute to John Allan Cameron.

Quebec’s traditional/world music power trio Genticorum also took two 2010 CFMAs: Traditional Album of the Year and Ensemble of the Year for their album Nagez Rameurs.

In other top categories, Toronto’s Suzie Vinnick took home the Contemporary Singer award for the album Me 'n' Mabel; Toronto newgrass band The Creaking Tree String Quartet was named Instrumental Group of the Year for Sundogs; and folk-pop trio The Good Lovelies were named Vocal Group of the Year for the album Let the Rain Fall.

Ottawa’s Lynn Miles took the English Songwriter of the Year prize for her work on Fall For Beauty, while Juno-winning singer Kiran Ahluwalia was named World Solo Artist of the Year for her on aam zameen : common ground.

Turkish-influenced electronica/psychedelic folk-rock band Minor Empire won World Group Artist of the Year for Second Nature.

The CFMAs were staged for the first time in Toronto, at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Full details are at www.folkawards.ca.

Adele’s ‘21’ Now ‘Biggest-Selling Album of the Century’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 05, 2011) *After releasing her second LP “21” just ten months
ago, Adele’s chart-topper has just become the biggest-selling album of the century – dethroning the late Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black,” which landed the record a little over three months ago.

The new record of 3.4 million sales was confirmed today by the Official Charts Company, reports the AP.

Winehouse’s album took five years to get to its present 3.3 million sales level, and its success was partly due to the further sales boost following her death in July.

Adele’s “21” has not left the top 10 since its release and has been on the chart for 45 weeks. The album was given a further push in the wake of six Grammy nominations last week, including album of the year.

In a message posted on her blog over the weekend, the singer – who had an operation on her voice last month – said she was ”lost for words” at the Grammy recognition.

”A couple days after finally being able to talk again I’m pretty speechless,” she said. ”This has been the best year as it is but to end 2011 with this incredible achievement and honor is beyond anything I can express.”

Thanking fans, she added: ”This record has taken on a life of its own thanks to you. I made the record and you’ve made it what’s it’s become.”

December At The Dakota Returns. Who Will Play This Year?

www.thestar.com - By David Graham

(Dec 02, 2011) Tuesday nights at the Dakota is back.

For the past five years each December in the basement of the
Dakota Tavern, a series of intimate Tuesday night performances combine the artistry of local poets, storytellers and musicians — all of note. But their identities are kept under wraps until they hit the stage.

Based on the event’s reputation, 75 or so people buy tickets in advance and wait to be surprised. The deal is you pay $25 well before the performance and wait to be surprised. Each of the performances is usually sold out, based almost completely on the track record of the event. Tickets are available at Rotate This, Soundscapes and at

It’s this formula that keeps the spontaneity alive, says local poet Damian Rogers. It also keeps each performance memorable, she says. Rogers published her first book of poetry, Paper Radio, in 2009.

“Poetry often feels insular. Poetry readings are often attended by other poets,” she says. “It’s exciting to see musicians with an interest in what poets are doing. It was revelatory for me to see how much respect song writers have for poetry.” She’s encouraged that “a really sensational lyrical line may have been inspired by poetry they’ve been exposed to.”

As the popular event celebrates its fifth anniversary, musician Jason Collett, who curates the Basement Revue at the Dakota series, is working to make the series even more memorable.

“It’s amazing to see these professional, talented people pushed out of their comfort zone,” says Rogers, admitting such experimentation has its risks, specifically “the allowance for the possibility of a disaster.”

In the past Collett has recruited Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, K-os, James Shaw of Metric and Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics. Poets have included Rogers, Ken Babstock and Kevin Connolly.

So who will appear this year? Arts & Crafts, the musicians’ label, says to expect a few familiar names and faces.

Based off touring schedules, Feist is most definitely a no-show for this Tuesday as she will be playing in Ottawa that night. Dan Mangan is also away and Timber Timbre and Zeus will just be coming off a pair of weekend shows. It appears the rest of the Arts & Crafts roster is free so it’s anyone’s guess.

This Is The Year The Grammys Got Cool

www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

(Dec 2, 2011) This could be the year that
Grammy got cool. The
nominations for the 2012 awards, revealed during an hour-long televised event last night, veer right away from the veterans’ marches that have brought wizened boomer-age musicians to the podium in recent years. For once, the rock song nominees all started recording after 1990. People whose careers were created on the Internet or who have yet to make a full-fledged album will strut the red carpet with at least as much reason to be there as the divas of old. The photo you’ll see most often in the day-after coverage of the ceremony on Feb. 12 may be of deadmau5 (Canadian electronic musician Joel Zimmerman, who claimed 3 mentions) bobbing along the rug in one of his giant round mouse-heads, or his tour-mate Skrillex (Sonny Moore) holding up as many as five trophies.

Number fixation is always a Grammy staple, and the biggest numbers this season belong to Kanye West (seven nominations); Adele, Bruno Mars and Foo Fighters (six each) and Lil’ Wayne and Skrillex (five apiece). Canadian hip-hop star Drake joined a slightly larger crowd with four mentions, though none of his are in the most prominent categories. Aside from him and deadmau5, the home team showing is relatively thin this year, without a single mention, for instance, in the classical categories that usually bristle with Canadians. Here’s a quick look at some other notable features of this year’s list:

Rolling on

Bookies are already lining up behind Adele’s chances to take the marquee categories of album and record of the year, with Bruno Mars’s terminally plaintive Grenade a slight favourite in the song contest (incredibly, YouTube voters put Mars in the lead by 50-million views). The British-soul diva’s much better single Rolling in the Deep would seem to be a slam dunk for record of the year, if only because it has been pounded into everyone’s head for so long, on the radio, in coffee bars, in my local grocery, probably even on the moon. Adele’s current vocal problems, which have curtailed her touring, may be over by February, but if not, it will be odd to see her claim an armload of trophies without singing a note on the show.

Kanye see it?

Kanye West’s field-leading seven nominations don’t include any of the first-tier categories – in relative terms, he’s this year’s most name-checked bottom-feeder. That means that he has seven chances to lose his cool if he doesn’t win, and all the more reason to arrive at the ceremony with a chip on his shoulder. Given his history of award-show meltdowns, it was amusing to see, on Grammy.com, the news of his nomination total right above a stream for a song by the Sore Losers, a Dallas hip-hop crew. The jackpot, in viewing terms, would be a reprise of his notorious “one of the best music videos of all time!!” rant when someone else takes the long-form video Grammy, for which Kanye’s lavish 35-minute Runaway video failed to get a mention.

Rise up

Okay, who saw this coming? Multiple nominations for Bon Iver, Skrillex, deadmau5, Mumford & Sons, and not just for awards that never make it to the television screen. Skrillex is up for the new artist award, making him the first electronic music type to crack that shell. His competition includes Nicki Minaj, a favourite if flamboyance and crazy dress-up count for anything (and they do). Indie-folk guy Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) and Mumford & Sons both landed a berth in the prominent record and song categories.

Fall down

The hardware-hoarding divas of yore did not prosper under the new dispensation, in which gender-specific performance categories no longer exist. Taylor Swift’s gonzo-selling Speak Now album doesn’t figure outside the country categories, and Beyonce and Lady Gaga were both held to a single nomination apiece.

Apples and armadillos

Grammy wouldn’t be the same without a few contests of the worlds-colliding, imagine-them-doing-a-medley-together kind. This year, deadmau5 and Skrillex go head-to-head (in the dance recording category), reverb rockers Fleet Foxes face off against dustbowl diva Gillian Welch (folk album), comedian banjoist Steve Martin wrestles bluegrass patriarch Ralph Stanley (bluegrass album), comedian Tina Fey dukes it out with Shakespeare (spoken word), and Family Guy tries to beat down Winnie the Pooh (song written for visual media).

Danforth Music Hall Is Back In Business

www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Dec 01, 2011) The Danforth Music Hall is officially back in business after being shut down for more than a year.

There are bookings for two performances of The Music Box this weekend as sort of a soft launch, say the venue’s new owners.

“It was a kind of a sad, dark spot on Toronto’s entertainment music scene that this venue was just kind of sitting here. A lot of people wanted to get in here, and we were kind of fortunate to secure it,” says Michael Sherman, general manager and lead partner of Impresario Inc., the group that bought the hall.

“The long-term plans are to hold between 100 and 150 shows a year. What’s been really great is how the community around us has just been so supportive of us, and the local councillors. I mean everybody’s been, ‘Thank god, you’re bringing it back’.”

One of the Toronto’s oldest music venues, the Danforth Music Hall originally opened as a movie theatre in 1919 and remained a first-run movie house until the 1960s. In the 1970s, it started to feature live acts and has hosted its share of famous bands, including The Clash and The Police and was also a second-run movie theatre for at time. It closed down in 2004 for a year and a half before it was renovated and reopened. It was shutdown in August 2010 due to nonpayment of rent by the previous tenants.

Sherman, 33, the voice for his group of silent partners in the company, says those involved in the purchase have a combined 45 years of experience in the hospitality and entertainment industry. His previous experience includes running The Kee to Bala, a concert venue in Bala, Muskoka, which has been in operation since 1942.

The new owners held a few events in October and have been renovating for the past five weeks, remaking the lobby, adding two new bars in the place of the former street level café. They have also licensed the entire venue, which will allow patrons to bring drinks to their seats. There are plans for more interior renovations next year.

The 1,100-capacity venue has already served as the set for commercial shoot, and a performance documentary for Bravo! is being filmed there next week. There’s a comedy show also being filmed there next week and the hunt is on for more events in 2012.

For people who want to get a look at the reopened venue, there is an open house from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday as part of the Holiday Cheer on the Danforth.

Kanye, Adele Lead Grammy Nods

www.thestar.com - By Jill Serjeant

(Dec 01, 2011) Rapper Kanye West led the field of Grammy
contenders Wednesday with seven nominations, including for his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and his joint venture with Jay-Z Watch The Throne.

But British singer Adele — whose album 21 is the biggest-selling of 2011 — and R&B artist Bruno Mars were close behind with six apiece, including nods for the three big awards of album, song and record of the year.

Other leading contenders for the major music industry awards show include U.S. alternative rock band Foo Fighters, also with six nominations, while rapper Lil Wayne and newcomer Skrillex had five nominations apiece.

The nominations for the top awards were announced during a televised concert in Los Angeles featuring performances by Lady Gaga, Usher and up-and-coming country singers The Band Perry.

Winners in all 78 categories will be announced at the Grammy Awards ceremony and show on Feb. 12.

Traditional rock bands were largely missing from the leading categories, with hip-hop artists and female singers including Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Katy Perry grabbing the spotlight.

The best new artist category produced a particularly eclectic mix of female rapper Nicki Minaj, hip-hop artist J. Cole, country sensations The Band Perry, house and electropop performer Skrillex and American folk band Bon Iver.

The seven Grammy nods for West crowned a critical and commercial comeback for the controversial 34 year-old rapper who took a self-imposed hiatus from performing in 2009.

West recorded his best rap album contender My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in Hawaii after removing himself from the mainstream U.S. music scene following harsh criticism over his 2009 outburst involving country starlet Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards.

West, already a 14-time Grammy winner, was also nominated for song of the year for “All of the Lights” and best rap performance with Jay-Z for “Otis.”

Mars, 26, won three of his nominations on the back of his hit song
“Grenade” off his debut album Doo-Waps & Hooligans.

“It feels incredible right now,” Mars told reporters.

“I’m so glad the album is being recognized in this way.

“This awards stuff, I’m still trying to get used to it. It’s hard for me as Adele and Kanye West are incredible, so the fact that the album was nominated in same category is amazing,” Mars said.

Adele’s six nominations mark the culminations of a momentous year for the 23-year-old singer, who won a Grammy for best new artist in 2009.

The sultry soul singer was recognized both for her album 21, which has sold more than 12 million copies worldwide, as well as her two smash singles
“Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You.”

But the London-born singer is currently recovering from surgery on her vocal cords in November after suffering repeated voice problems and cancellations during her U.S. tour this year. It is not known whether she will have recovered in time to sing at the Grammy Awards in February.

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen

(Dec 02, 2011) The timing couldn’t really have been any better for the latest Five Finger Death Punch album, American Capitalist.

With the Occupy Wall Street protests against social and economic inequality still lingering in our craniums, the five-piece Los Angeles-bred groove metal band garnered a little extra attention surrounding the release of its third effort in late September, about a dozen days after the first demonstration, when media interest in the movement was just starting to percolate.

But Toronto-born guitarist Jason Hook says any perceived synchronicity between the two events was just blind luck.

“It’s a whacky coincidence,” says Hook, 41, who will be lead the dual fret attack with fellow axe man Zoltan Bathory when Five Finger Death Punch lands at the Sound Academy Tuesday for its “Share The Welt” show (headlining a mini-metal fest that includes All That Remains, Hatebreed and Rev Theory).

“We had the concept for American Capitalist almost a year before any of this Occupy Wall Street was going on.”

Even if it had been planned, Occupy protesters expecting a supportive stance from a band hailing from a genre often known for criticizing “The Man” and the materialism he stands for would be sorely disappointed.

Despite forging a sound that relies on the subterranean sing-and-scream brutality of Ivan Moody and the lightning execution of a melodic mélange of thrash, metalcore and hints of Tool, Hook says the theme of American Capitalist is one of endorsement.

“Large corporations for me are a good thing,” says Hook from a Niagara Falls, N.Y. tour stop.

“Five Finger Death Punch is a corporation, and it is big business and we do make people happy, and it gives us all comfort and freedom and security to continue doing what we are all passionate about. For me, the corporate side is fine, I’m all for it.”

For Hook, who had stints in the Vince Neil and Alice Cooper guitar chairs since he left Oakville for L.A. back in the ’90s, membership in Five Finger Death Punch is a reward for a lifetime of hard slogging.

“I can’t relate to the guy sitting on the concrete with the cardboard sign saying ‘I’m getting screwed,’” he explains. “I can’t relate to that at all, because I’ve fought and worked hard and taught myself skills and figured out how to get what I wanted.”

Hook has certainly hitched his wagon to a fast rising star. Five Finger’s first CD, 2007’s The Way of the Fist, scored a radio hit with “The Bleeding,” an opening slot on Korn’s Family Values Tour and sold over 500,000 copies.

Hook joined in time to co-write all of 2009’s also gold War is the Answer, produced by fellow Canadian Kevin Churko — known for his Grammy-nominated work with Ozzy Osbourne — and enjoy more radio success through the original “Hard To See” and the band’s breakthrough cover of Bad Company’s “Bad Company.”

Now that American Capitalist, also produced by Churko, has entered the Billboard 200 album sales chart at No .3, Hook says the band is working its relentless schedule of “touring until we’re done touring, and then we’ll start touring.”

They’ve pencilled in a cross-Canada tour for March. With an American Capitalist song called “Back For More” gracing the bestselling Madden NFL 2012 video game soundtrack, Hook and his Five Finger pals seem content to cash in on their good fortune with their extreme work ethic.

Hook says it’s the underlying message of the new album.

“Be a driver in your life instead of a passenger.”

Marvin Gaye Drama Exposed in Sister Zeola’s ‘My Brother Marvin’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by DeBorah B. Pryor

(Dec 05, 2011) *”I visited him in jail … he had a brain tumour, which the doctors told me …had a whole lot to do with what happened and why he felt what he felt about Marvin and my mother… He was sorry, but my father was also a very, very proud man and he did not tolerate, at any point, disrespect…that’s like a ‘black sin’ …  you don’t disrespect your parents.”  — Zeola Gaye on why her father shot his son and her brother, Marvin Gaye.

It is hard to believe that
Marvin Gaye has been dead for 27 years. So many of us recall that dreadful April 1, 1984, when the news flashed across television screens, and usurped radio airwaves revealing news that the singer had been fatally shot by his father – one day before his 45th birthday.

It seemed that for at least a moment, the earth stood still.

One of the greatest artists to ever grace the music landscape, Marvin Gaye was ever-present in the realities of ordinary folk; and used his artistic gifts as a means to articulate and reveal what many of us could not. His being gone was, and is, totally inconceivable, and hard to wrap ones brain around.

As the second eldest of four siblings, Marvin had two sisters and a brother. Recently EURweb publisher Lee Bailey traveled to Las Vegas to visit
ZeolaSweetsie” Gaye, Marvin’s youngest sister, to talk about the book she said she just had to write, “My Brother Marvin: A Memoir” by Zeola Gaye. The years of drug use that kept her mind foggy and unable to articulate is now a thing of the past, and she wants people to hear the truth about her brother; the facts surrounding his death at the hands of their father, and, contrary to popular belief, what she says is the truth about the tumultuous, love-hate relationship her brother had with his ex-wife, Janis Gaye, who she says hadn’t been in the singers life at all for two years prior to his death. In this EURweb exclusive, Zeola Gaye says, “It is time to set the record straight!”

 “They need to know  … what he was using … They need to know about my father …. They need to know about the illness that was in my family,” Zeola tells Lee Bailey. “My father was an alcoholic. Marvin was on drugs. I was on drugs….I needed to put it together. I don’t want people to think that Marvin hated my father or my father hated him; there was love there… I just thank God that I was able to get it out.”

She clarifies that nobody witnessed the shooting. The only people in the house, she confirms, was Marvin, her mother and her father [and] most of her information comes from her mother, who kept a journal; and her father, because she was his caregiver following the shooting.

“He’s remorseful”, Zeola offers in an attempt to explain her father’s demeanour following the shooting; and how she has come to terms with everything. “But you know what? I had to look at it like, that’s between he and God now. He’s still my father. I wouldn’t be here without him; Marvin wouldn’t have been here without him. And he’ll have to pay for that…” She elaborates further when asked about the charges brought upon him.

“He was charged at first with murder. But once they found out what really happened, they reduced the charges to manslaughter, and he was given 5 year’s probation. Then he came home and went into a rest home and my niece, Angie, watched him from that point on. As I wrote in my book… he was pretty angry with me. (Giggles here). You know, for spending his money, because I had power of attorney to pay for the lawyers…I kind of spent some of the money for myself because I was still on drugs…so he wasn’t very happy about that when he got out of jail…I kind of stayed away from him. I wasn’t going to press my luck. (Giggles)”

 “I’ve been working on this [book] for a long time,” says Gaye, who in later years would become her brother’s best friend and closest confidant, when asked why she chose to write the book at this time. “I’d start it, but then I’d stop because the pain would be so severe. I guess timing-wise it had to happen when it happened. I worked with several people trying to get it out; nobody was working out. I couldn’t get my thoughts together. I wasn’t well then. I was on drugs at the time I started, and I knew I had to get myself clean before I could do anything – I couldn’t even think! I knew what I wanted to say because I was so hurt and mad at all the other things that had been put out on Marvin. The documentaries and things I read in the paper. All the inaccuracies about my family that these people that did not …grow up with us…I don’t remember anybody eating at my mother’s table; having breakfast and dinner with us. I don’t remember her waking them up to go to school; so I’m like ‘where are these people getting this information?’ And about 4 years ago, when I moved here (LV) I said, ‘You know what, do this. Just do it’ and I sat in my room, I prayed and I …asked God, ‘Just give me the words to say. I just started talking… I tried to remember everything I possibly could about my life; growing up with my family…and I finally got it down… I had like 30 tapes.”

Though “Zee”, the nickname her big brother Marvin gave her, was 6 years younger than Marvin, the two didn’t become close until after he moved out and started working on, “What’s Going On”. The book, “My Brother, Marvin: A Memoir” by Zeola Gaye is her first; and though her writing style distinctly lacks the eloquence and structure of a more experienced writer; and the forthright and raw content often reads “choppy” – it offers explosive claims and interesting insights into the family history; particularly, the dynamics of the sometimes disturbing relationship between a confrontational Marvin Gaye Jr., and his dad, Marvin Gay, Sr.

Bailey can’t help but notice and make mention of the loving display of memorabilia and family photographs throughout Zeola’s home.

“I tend to want pictures of Marvin and the family around. It keeps him alive in my heart” says the now 65-year-old, Zeola Gaye. “When I wake up in the morning, I look over at the pictures [and say] ‘Hey, what’s up’…I always feel that he’s with me. It makes me feel close, still, with his spirit. Just having the pictures around I sometimes tell myself, he’s on tour.”

Marvin Gaye was such an enigmatic figure, and the public is still hungry for information about his life and the events surrounding his death. Bailey asks,

“This may sound like a crazy question, but…what’s it like being the sister of Marvin Gaye? Was it a big deal before he died…during his fame, his heyday? I ask this because family members are like ‘He’s my brother. It’s no big deal’. But was it different with him…was he just your brother?”

“He was my brother … he was always Marvin around us. He would be Marvin the superstar when I would go out with him or see a show or be at a concert and watch peoples’ reactions when they would see him. They wanted to be close to him. They wanted an autograph. Then I saw him in a different light. Then he was my brother ‘the superstar’, which I enjoyed. I loved interacting with him. He loved calling me his baby sister. He was the first one who called me ‘Zee’. He was just Marvin…so down to earth. I loved the way he made people comfortable to approach him…I feel very honoured to have been in a family that had a superstar.”

At one point during the interview, Bailey is shown excerpts from a documentary about Marvin Gaye; a film that the family has been holding on to. As he would later learn in the interview, from Zeola’s business manager, Barbara Cole of Keep it Movin’ Promotions, the doc was created several years ago following interest from London-based producers who had seen a stage play on Marvin, loved it, and suggested (to Zee) that a documentary be made from which a full-length film would later be developed. Long story short, though the doc was finished 3 years ago, and the family says they are pushing their “partners” to get it out in cinemas; it still sits in limbo. Why?

Wait for it…

EMI won’t release the rights to Marvin Gaye’s music; Janis Gaye halts “Everything Marvin” if it is not under her sole control; and no one in the family is speaking to the other. Makes it kind of hard to get a project off the ground.

Following the excerpt, which Bailey calls “shocking”, Zeola is asked about the difficulties she has in watching it and being faced, again, with what happened.

“You know that day, which I’ll never forget as long as I live…when I think about it – even though it’s been 27 years, it’s just like yesterday…To watch it, it still hurts, but I think over the years (Chokes up here) …I’m able to watch it without breaking down in tears. But that little thing in your heart, it does not go away. It’s still very, very sad; very shocking. I don’t think the pain ever goes away… You know what I was enjoying? …watching him speak…because I know him, I know his sense of humour. I’ll smile at that; but when I talk about the day it happened, and what his last words were, I just kind of suck it up …”

When Bailey’s inquiries turn to Marvin Sr., she responds…

In an explosive Part Two tomorrow, Tuesday (12-06-11) Zeola Gaye holds nothing back as she opens up about how she lives today with what her father did. She attempts to explain the  “dynamics” behind the complicated father-son relationship between Marvin Sr., and his son – a confrontational Marvin, who had problems with authority. Also, Zeola talks about the awful accusation Marvin Sr. constantly put in the face of his wife and their famous son; How drugs awaited Marvin Gaye and his entourage at every hotel and venue they played. Names are revealed about the scandalous extramarital relations Marvin’s ex-wife Jan Gaye had with his music peers; and “The List” Zeola holds onto, where Marvin names people who claimed to be his friend, but he knew better. Be sure to come back in for part two for the answers we have been waiting for, from someone who was actually there!

Marvin Gaye Drama Exposed in Sister Zeola’s ‘My Brother Marvin’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by DeBorah B. Pryor

(Dec 06, 2011) *Today we continue with the interview between EURweb publisher Lee Bailey and Zeola Gaye, the youngest sibling of iconic R&B crooner, Marvin Gaye; and author of the new book, “My Brother, Marvin: A Memoir” By Zeola Gaye.

In Part 1, Bailey had just been shown excerpts of a Marvin Gaye documentary that the family has unsuccessfully been trying to bring to light for the past 3 years. Zee, so named by her big brother Marvin, explains to Bailey how difficult it is to watch the piece, and elaborates on the memories it evokes, including how she has come to terms with what her father did on April 1, 1984.

“I suck that up too. I just suck it up. It’s like, there’s nothing I can do about it now,” Zeola responds sorrowfully, when Lee Bailey asks how she copes with the memory that her father, Marvin Gay, Sr., shot and killed his son, her brother, Marvin Gaye, Jr. in cold blood at their Hancock Park family home. “That’s something that happened and I can’t bring them back. I can’t bring him back and it’s not easy. It’s not easy.”

Zeola Gaye describes her brother Marvin as someone who always had a problem with authority; and her father, a strict disciplinarian, had the ability to be very funny when telling jokes. Throughout the book the two men can be seen as strong, clashing personalities painted on a canvass the color of disaster. It is a very complicated relationship; with all the psychological drama and abusive behaviours that many families know all too well.

Though Zeola says there is still so much that was left out of the book, in the event she decides to do lectures and Q & A’s in the future, the memoir still packs a mean punch. There are accusations from Marvin Sr., to his wife Alberta of “inappropriate” behaviour with her son Marvin, Jr. (this would later be blamed on a brain tumour); and tales detailing the escapades surrounding Zeola and Marvin’s rampant drug use while on tour. As a constant member of Marvin’s entourage, and backup performer of some of his music, Zee recalls how drugs awaited them at every venue and hotel stop in one chapter of the book referenced below.

“In one small, southern town when we arrived at the hotel we had a message to go down to the laundry room, and ask for a certain person. Rob and I went down to this dimly lit, creepy laundry room and asked for the person. Sure enough, the guy in the laundry room asked if we were there to pick up a package. We said ‘Yes’ and he handed us a brown paper sack, inside of which was a plastic bag filled with cocaine.”

“You were pretty honest about your addiction in the book,” asserts Lee Bailey. “How difficult was it to name names?” Zeola laughs,

“I know. That was pretty gutsy wasn’t it? When I was talking into my tapes…there was no other way to do this than being totally honest and calling names. I didn’t tell a lie on anybody or I wouldn’t have put it in the book. Everything actually happened. I know it for a fact.”

Knowing that this book, which has a foreword written by Cindy and Carlos Santana, will not make a lot of people happy, Zeola says she is not about to apologize … because this was her life. She goes on to say that, one thing she did not put in the book is a “list of names” that Marvin had made of people who he knew did not have his best interests at heart.

“A lot of people who think they knew Marvin, and felt that Marvin loved them, and they loved him, would be totally surprised [that] their name is on this list.”

Angie Gaye, Zeola’s niece and the editor of the book, is said to be the one that encouraged her aunt not to include the actual list. Here, she explains her decision.

“I …thought that maybe it would be a little too inflammatory. I also thought it was …unnecessary because, he had his reasons; we don’t know what those reasons were, and he is not here to explain them.”

Angie goes on to say that if these people, who are very high profile, knew their names were on the list “They would die.”  Zeola interjects, reiterating that the list is in Marvin’s own handwriting before the three of them (including Bailey) share a laugh about the list being a valuable collector’s item.

In all it’s jumping around, readers will find that the book is juicy in its revelations. Zeola and her editor say it has gone through revisions; and credits the feedback received from EURweb publisher, Lee Bailey, who got the book in August. Readers will be flies-on-the-wall for the scandalous behind-the-scenes activities of Marvin Gaye during the creation of some of his most prolific music; and will hear stories of him watching his first wife, Anna Gordy, have sex with other men when he was high on marijuana. Vivid details are also provided about claims of extramarital relationships between second wife, Jan Gaye, with singers Teddy Pendergrass and Rick James. In detailing the relationship Marvin had with Jan Gaye, the mother of his children, we learn the lengths Jan (and her mother) went through to keep Marvin away from his kids: including a savage beating by police and Zeola’s suspicions that Jan was the culprit behind Marvin’s alleged poisoning incident.

These examples only scratch the surface.

A nice touch to this 261-page book is the great Index at the back; which provides easy-to-track methods that allow readers to easily locate desired sections of the book.

In the book’s final edition, the preface explains … that the book started as her memoir, [but] as the author continued she felt people needed to know about Marvin because he was the star … This is why a large portion of the book is Zeola Gaye, but an even larger portion … is about her and Marvin Gaye.

“Since she is the one telling this story,” Angie Gaye adds, “I thought it was important that people know who she was as a person as well; what background brought her to a point where…once she got involved in her teenage and adult life with Marvin, what drove her, what was her motivation, what was she feeling? … To be able to let people know this … they have that foundation as well.”

“I want to make people a part of my family, you know, people looking from the outside in…I want you to be there,” says Zeola Gaye. “I want you to feel what we’ve been through; the chaos…the real chaos, what really happened, and why. So I hope that I did that. I feel good about the book. I feel cleansed …  It was a form of therapy for me.”

She ended the hour-and-a-half long interview with Lee Bailey with an expressed desire to see her family together again. And said she has no hard feelings towards anyone.

“Well, like I said in the book, I hope this book will change the hardened heart and soften it up a little bit. Those whose heart is hard against me… I hope that we can make amends and become a family, a real family. I would love for that to happen. I don’t know if it ever will. I know I am willing on my part…I’m hoping that we can all start loving one another, like Marvin would want us to do. There’s nothing more significant to me than to have my family together.”

Now that would be something; a tell-all book naming names and making no apologies for it; bringing a torn family back together after 30 years. Hey, stranger things have happened, yes?

Don’t miss the Zeola Gaye Book signing in Los Angeles at Eso Won Books next Tuesday, December 13, at 7pm. Visit the official Eso Won site at www.esowonbookstore.com for more information.

Montrealer Poised To Become King Of Queen

Source: By Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press

(Dec 4, 2011) MONTREAL - At first glance, clean-cut Christian rocker
Marc Martel might not seem the obvious choice to reincarnate Freddie Mercury, Queen's flamboyant lead singer.

But when the boyish-looking Montreal-area native opens his mouth and belts out some of the British band's songs, it's as though Mercury is in the room.

"We definitely have a very similar instrument as far as our vocal cords go," Martel said in a telephone interview as he prepared for the final round of auditions in Los Angeles on Monday for The Queen Extravaganza Tour.

Martel, who is based in Nashville, Tenn., is one of the finalists to interpret Mercury in a Queen cover band being set up by Roger Taylor, the former drummer of the legendary group.

Martel hasn't yet met Taylor, who will produce the tour, and says the thought of doing so is "kind of surreal now."

Martel, 35, has already performed Queen's "Somebody To Love" on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and won the MTV O Award for Best Fan Cover. His audition video on YouTube has recorded more than five million hits.

The other six Canadians who will audition for Taylor and a panel of judges for spots in the band are vocalist David Martel (yes, they're brothers); Edmonton vocalist Tyler Martin; Toronto guitarists Roy Ziv and Tristan Avakian; Vancouver guitarist Jason Du Preez; and bassist Francois-Olivier Doyon from Quebec City.

There are 26 hopefuls in all.

A decision on who makes the cut is expected soon after.

Taylor said in a statement he's looking forward to the auditions.

"It's going to be a long and difficult day but the end of the first stage of the long and exciting road to the opening of The Queen Extravaganza."

Marc Martel didn't just step out of nowhere. He's already won three Juno Awards with his band Downhere, which he formed while in college in Saskatchewan 10 years ago.

He chuckles when he says people seeing his YouTube video often wonder where he came from and say he should really sign a record deal.

"I've been doing this professionally for 10 years now and we've got three Juno Awards," he said of the band, which has 10 albums. "I feel like I've had 10 years to prepare for this."

Music was always present in Martel's house when he was growing up. His father is a pastor in a town near Montreal and his mother still handles the church's music.

He remembers his mother playing Beethoven on the piano as he went to sleep as a child, although his musical tastes growing up ran to Top 40 and later to grunge rock. He likes bands like Pearl Jam, U2 and Coldplay.

"Most of the music I grew up listening to was not Christian music although I definitely had a lot of that at home too," he said.

Martel says he actually learned to sing by imitating some of his favourites and "trying to see how they used their throat, trying to copy that." He loved the "passion" of rock.

"Rock' n' roll is the music where you can get away with pretty much saying everything and it's OK," he said. "You can say truths in really interesting and good ways and really express yourself through it."

While he'd heard such Queen staples as "We Are The Champions" at Montreal Expos games growing up, he didn't really take too much notice of the band until he heard "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the 1992 comedy film "Wayne's World."

He said the drummer in Downhere really got him interested in the band and "I think I've been a real Queen fan probably for the last 10 years."

If he's successful Monday, Martel says the year-long Queen tour will fit in with the break Downhere is planning so members can spend more time with their growing families.

Martel said touring is easier for him because he and his wife don't have any kids.

"After 10 years of doing the same thing, I'm looking forward to branching out a little bit," he said. "My band is really supportive."

But while he's ready to rock as Mercury, the clean-shaven Martel has yet to grow a lush moustache like the music icon.

"I'm early Queen," he said.

Disc Of The Week: A Song Of Experience

www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

(Dec 2, 2011) Aside from the performers and their alter egos, fictional characters are few in popular music. Eleanor Rigby and the Who's Tommy are part of a small crowd, in a field in which me and you are by far the most favoured pronouns.

For their album Undun, the Philadelphia hip hop crew
The Roots came
up with a hero whose 25 years of life ended with the last century. Redford Stevens stalks these pensive tracks like the more comic spirit that animates the back-from-the-dead film Heaven Can Wait. But here, it's the protagonist who's waiting, pondering, trying to make sense of the fast blind rush he made through life.

"If there's a heaven, I can't find the stairway," MC Black Thought raps in Make My, mulling in first-person Stevens’ regrets about the means that spoiled the ends and the ends that weren't worth the means. The easy-rolling chordal groove runs against the song's retrospective anxiety. The long instrumental extro could support several jazz solos, or maybe it's meant to serve as a musical ground for our own solo reflection on Stevens and his fate.

In The Other Side, Stevens recalls "running round town spending time like it's counterfeit," reliving again and again the deathbed regret, Philip Larkin's complaint about "time torn off unused." Bilal Oliver's bluesy vocal in the chorus delivers the moral lesson for the living: "Don't worry 'bout what you ain't got," because what you've got is what there is.

Most rappers think about the past, if only to contrast the hard times of then with the bling and booty of now. Undun is unusual in that it's written entirely as a song of experience. The present here is just a residue of the past, a footnote written on the back of a death certificate; the future is an uncashed cheque. Stevens’ youth is no doubt a big reason for the sense of waste that dogs this album, and on this point, the Roots are gesturing beyond one man's fate, to other young lives cut short. Undun is partly a lament for untold numbers of African-American men who don't make it out of their 20s.

The disc has its defiant moments: in Tip the Scale, we hear about the importance of going your own way, defying the script, and not merely settling for "living well." The Sinatran phrase "my way" is used repeatedly, and it's impossible to hear without a suspicion of irony, as the heavy bass line sinks with a fatalistic tread.

The disc opens with death, represented as the sine tone issued from a piece of medical machinery that should be registering the messy rhythms of life. Soft tone clusters form into a five-note melody, and Stevens rises from the table, for a courtly number named Sleep in which he muses, "there I go, from a man to a memory."

The album closes with a suite of three variations on Redford (for Yia-Yia and Pappou), an instrumental track from Sufjan Steven's album Michigan. Steven's sad and noble piano chords prompt a sweet revision with strings and piano in Possibility (second movement), a fierce freak-out jam for D.D. Jackson's piano in Will to Power (third movement) and an elegiac string closer in Finality (fourth movement). The whole orbit of a life, in one theme and three variations.

Undun is a remarkable achievement, sparse and tough and beautifully realized. The Roots are carving a new road for hip hop - the question is whether anyone else cares to desert the genre's gaudy carnival and join them.

The Roots

More new releases

The Duke Spirit
Shangri-La Music
Three stars

It's almost awesome, an inch away from something big. With its third bold album (available digitally only until Jan. 17), England's the Duke Spirit continues the conundrum - a very capable band (led toughly and alluringly by the singer Liela Moss) that is a touch too glossy for indie audiences, not dangerous to the Kills crowd and not progressive enough for those who prefer Smashing Pumpkins. There's a lot to like here though: dynamism, muscle and swagger bleeds and pummels on Don't Wait, Sweet Bitter Sweet and Procession. The power ballad Villain isn't quite Bond-worthy - perhaps an Angelina Jolie thriller instead. Which isn't so bad at all. Brad Wheeler

Some Girls (Reissue)
Rolling Stones
Four stars

"I know that we can never live those times again," Keith Richards croons on the pedal-steel ballad We Had It All, as if he were born among Georgia pines, "so I let my dreams take me back to where we've been." The Waylon Jennings cover is one of 12 bonus tracks on the reissue of the Rolling Stones' Some Girls, the band's sinewy return to form in 1978. Not counting Keith Richards's 1988 solo album Talk is Cheap, the Stones haven't released anything near as good since, which makes you wonder why some of the previously unreleased tracks - most of them newly reupholstered with fresh vocals and other overdubs - stayed in the vaults so long. Perhaps the snarling rockabilly cover Tallahassee Lassie sounded a bit too close in parts to John Fogerty's Travellin' Band. (Fogerty adds handclaps on the track - coincidence?) The piano-boogie Claudine, about the case of Claudine Longet, apparently was held back for legal reasons at the time. And why isn't the early reggae version of Start Me Up involved here? Well, that's easy - one wouldn't want to poach on the inevitable Tattoo You reissue still to come. Brad Wheeler


Maki Ishii Live: Saidoki, Concertante and South-Fire-Summer
Ryan Scott, percussion
Esprit Orchestra, conducted by Alex Pauk
Four stars

A one-sentence bio of Japanese composer Maki Ishii would tell us that his music fuses Western and Japanese traditions, sounds, and compositional techniques and leave it at that, but this hardly prepares us for the unique and qualified nature of that fusion. These three percussion concertos tend not to dramatize the most obvious oppositions-between soloist and orchestra, say, or between Western idioms and Eastern ones, although they certainly are acknowledged: An aura of tension surrounds even the most delicate passages, and occasionally that tension explodes, much like a chemical reaction. Subtler still is the contrast between rhythmic measure and freedom, and they way this music seems to choreograph space rather than move forward in time. Solo percussionist Ryan Scott's musicality is as impressive as his technique. Elissa Poole

My Life II ... The Journey Continues (Act 1)

Mary J. Blige
Three and a half stars

Bad love has been good to Blige, if only because few in R&B can convey broken-hearted despair as convincingly or cathartically. With My Life II, Blige steps beyond the template of 1994's done-me-wrong classic, My Life, and looks at both the good and bad in her relationships. There's still anguish, but also self-awareness, which makes Mr. Wrong as enlightening as it is insinuating. More significant are songs like Next Level and 25/8, which marry Blige's powerhouse voice to melodic uplift with spectacular results. Add in a driving, addictive remake of Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody, and My Life II becomes a journey every fan of soul singing will want to take. J.D. Considine

Soul Singer Howard Tate Dies at 72

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 06, 2011) *Howard Tate – a gifted 1960s soul singer who left the music business after his now-beloved records were ignored, only to re-emerge decades later to a cult following – died earlier this month of multiple myeloma and leukemia, reports Billboard. He was 72.

Few details have been released, but Rolling Stone is reporting that Tate died on Dec. 2.

Born in Georgia and raised in Philadelphia, Tate began singing gospel music as a child but gravitated to R&B by the time he released his classic debut album, “Get It While You Can,” on Verve Records in 1967. Standout tracks that endeared Tate to critics included “Ain’t Nobody Home,” Look at Granny Run Run” and his debut’s title track, which was soon covered by Janis Joplin.

Though a few of his early tracks charted on the Billboard R&B chart at
this time, his follow-up albums did not catch on with fans. They included 1969′s “Reaction” and “Howard Tate,” released on Atlantic Records in 1972. That album reunited Tate with his musical partner Jerry Ragovoy and included covers by The Band and Bob Dylan.

Tate’s agile voice was able to flow from smooth tenor to a ringing falsetto effortlessly and has often been compared to Al Green’s.

Following a series of misfortunes, including a divorce and the death of his daughter in a house fire in 1976, Tate dropped out of music and turned to drugs and alcohol.

“I turned to cocaine, and it was the worst thing I could have ever done,” he told the Philadelphia Enquirer in a 2004 interview. “It destroyed my willpower. I became homeless, roaming around those drug neighborhoods in Camden. I actually thought I was going to be found dead in an alley. It was like I was waiting to die.”

By the mid-1990s Tate had cleaned up in rehab and began preaching in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. A Jersey City disc jockey found the ex-singer in 2001, by which time Tate had become a bit of a mysterious legend by music fans. Voice intact, he recorded a few more albums, including “Rediscovered” (2003) and “A Portrait of Howard” (2006), which included covers of songs by Lou Reed and Randy Newman.

Here’s To The Britney We Love, Finally Back On Top

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Lynn Crosbie

(Dec 06, 2011) “Having an incredible birthday – thanks to my fans for all the amazing wishes & videos! Still trying to watch all of them. I love all of u!!!”

Who was that, celebrating a landmark birthday last Friday?

It was
Britney. The Queen of Pop, or Godney (as one entranced fan called her) was on her Twitter site, where she was being courted all day.

Spears turned 30, and the event was feted in the media; by her famous buddies; and by sad, grasping former friends desperate to curry favour. I am referring to the wretched Paris Hilton. She once dismissed Britney, calling her an “animal” out of hand. Still, she posted a sanctimonious birthday-tribute video online (shot, with due sense of occasion, in her hotel bathroom). Even the imperious Nicole Richie sent a short, gruntish tweet.

You know you’ve truly arrived, or returned, when the cruel girls who once played tricks on you start attaching themselves to you like limpets.

Why all the excitement over this birthday? Because Spears, once seemingly destined to fail and fall harder than Frances Farmer, has not so much reinvented herself as she has simply, and glowing with health, seized back her superstardom.

Spears’s career began, according to biographer Christopher Heard, when at the age of 3 she sang, pitch-perfectly, a Sinead O’Connor song on a trampoline in her Kentwood, La., backyard. She went on to become a teen superstar, a gifted singer, dancer and performer, and the very image of the new American blonde: a femme fatale. Also the name of her new record, Femme Fatale has matched 2000’s smash hit Oops…I Did It Again in popularity, and with even better critical reception.

When Britney said “Oops ... I did it again,” she meant it: A year earlier, a tender 17, and channelling Janis Ian’s polar opposite, Britney had released the provocative (Hit Me) Baby One More Time, viewed at the time as a regressive and dangerous model for young girls. This fury was utterly wrong-minded. To keep it simple for the attack dogs who see themselves as guarding the notion of innocent youth: Art is not a series of instructions, and transgressive art is all too useful for young girls.

Dirty old men (let’s face it: most men) fetishize teen girls in Catholic-school uniforms. In Baby One More Time, Spears challenged the fetish: If the lyrics are fairly intriguing (lovesickness considered as an erotic prelude to violence), the video shows exactly what would happen if a barely legal girl stepped out of a magazine – and out of her shy, withholding posture – and moved aggressively toward her beholder.

Chances are, he or she would run. Schoolgirl fear and trembling lies at the heart of the fantasy. Here, and in so much of her music, Spears, in that odd demotic that is young-girlese, stammer-whispers her aggressive discontent with how watching and being watched usually goes in the erotic realm.

Watch her on YouTube performing The Way You Make Me Feel with Michael Jackson at Madison Square Garden in 2001. Originally choreographed as a highly masculinized seduction dance, its meaning is completely altered by Spears. Not only does she sing half the lyrics; she repudiates all the sexual advances that constitute the legendary Jackson performance, before taking the microphone to end the song. Throughout, she receives and rejects attention; she offers her beauty, and pulls it away.

At the end of their duet, Jackson clasps his hands together and bows. Of all of the artists who ripped him off, she is the only one who used his moves and music in a revisionist, forward-looking way. (Think of T.S. Eliot using Shakespeare.)

But two years later, Spears’s life – until then a huge, pink, gooey cake – would begin to implode.

There were the Federline years. Pregnant and barefoot in a gas-station bathroom. Letting Madonna act like her cruel pimp at the MTV Awards. Drugs, grotesque undergarment crises; bloated and wan appearances, self-injury, breakdowns, harrowing interventions.

Then the slow road back, with her father acting as her guide. The first thing he did? Had the pink party wig, which she always wore when she went out catting, removed from her home. There are photos online, still, of it being solemnly carried away by handlers, as if it were a blunt-cut biohazard.

She lost custody of her two sons in 2007. That was the year before, with some actual care and support, she went back to work, releasing Circus, and touring in full recovery mode. By 2010, she would appear to the kids on Glee as a vision, and feel like one. Her stardom is too big for puny TV, but her stardom is, at long last, back and intact.

Femme Fatale, happily, is not – like Eminem’s good but jammed-on-step-number-eight Recovery – a mea maxima culpa CD. Britney’s new songs are for people who like to dance, and their message is direct. Filtered, it is as follows: Shame on me for hiding while everyone maligned me. That and “DJ, what you waiting for?”

One feels a sense of awe seeing and hearing the adult Spears, and is reminded of poet Ted Hughes’s recollection of first seeing that hot blonde tamale, Sylvia Plath: “So this is America, I marveled/ Beautiful, beautiful America!”


Jay-Z Signs Astro (‘X-Factor’) to Record Deal


(December 4, 2011) *He may have been booted off the ‘
X-Factor’ show
this past week, but the “Astronomical Kid” (Brian ‘Astro’ Bradley) still came up winning. Media outlets are reporting that the brash 15-year-old from Brooklyn just got signed to Jay-Z’s record label, Roc-Nation. “I first heard about this exciting new talent and decided to watch some of his performances,” said Jay-Z.  “Not only was I impressed with his performance, but to see the confidence he sang with, his lyrics and diction were on point.” News is that Jay-Z and his camp are working feverishly to get Astro onto Willow Smith’s new track. With  13-time Grammy winner Jigga backing him up, Astro will be officially rocking the mike in no time.

Will.i.am to Serve as Coach/Judge on ‘The Voice U.K.’


(December 2, 2011) *Black-Eyed Peas frontman
Will.i.am will join
Jessie J and two yet-to-be announced celebrities as coaches on a U.K. version of NBC’s “The Voice,” which will begin airing on BBC1 next spring, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The multi-platinum selling artist, producer and songwriter has sold 31 million albums and 58 million singles worldwide as the founder of the seven- times Grammy Award-winning band. He’s also worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Usher and Cheryl Cole. Will.i.am’s selection will prompt speculation that Cole may also take a judging slot or appear in a guest role on the show, but BBC1 boss Danny Cohen wasn’t giving any hints as he announced the move. Will.i.am said he was thrilled to be selected for the British version of the NBC smash hit. “I’m proud to be doing The Voice U.K. because the U.K. was the first place I saw success. It’s the place I’m the most creative outside of home.”

Childish Gambino Plays Sound Academy, Suddenly

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(Dec 6, 2011) Canadian Music Week 2012 headliners for March are
starting to be announced - Fanfarlo, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, for example - but this is the real head-turner: Childish Gambino is playing the Sound Academy. Donald Glover, the comic actor who's one of the stars of NBC's Community, has gone that far on the basis of a few wordy, well-received mixtapes and one commercial album (Camp) and is now alluva sudden playing a venue with a 5,000-seat capacity.  Get excited, hip-hop hipsters; this is your first "must" show of the new year. He's there Saturday, March 24; tickets ($25) are on sale this Saturday via Ticketmaster, Livenation.com, Rotate This and Soundscapes.

::FILM NEWS::    

Bollywood, May We Have This Dance?

www.globeandmail.com - Anu Chopra

(Dec 2, 2011) Mumbai— Bollywood director Mira Nair once joked that
she would simply never stay at the JW Marriott Mumbai. The reason, explained the woman behind such cinematic hits as Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay!: She couldn’t walk two feet across the hotel’s opulent lobby – a networking hot spot for film-industry bigwigs and wannabes alike, in a city that functions as India’s Hollywood – without someone practically accosting her with a script.

And so the Marriott’s Ganga Room provided an ideal setting on a recent balmy Monday morning for an eclectic gathering of Indian and Canadian filmmakers, there to hear each other’s stories – and, they hoped, cultivate greater co-operation between the Canadian and Indian film industries.

Canadian producer Paul Stephens, whose credits include the Genie-winning Such a Long Journey, based on Indian-born Canadian author Rohinton Mistry’s Mumbai-set novel, pitched a cinematic project on 17th-century Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, the man behind the Taj Mahal. Indo-Canadian producer, director – and his own hunky leading man – Srinivas Krishna (Masala) scouted for a partner for a doc he is planning on the national elections set to unfold in India in 2014. And Indian director Sanjiv Sivan spoke about his own documentary films, including one on people, very much alive, who have been declared legally dead.

If this were a movie, it would be called
Mission to India. And in fact, though it will be appearing on movie screens nowhere, that was the name of a just-completed 10-day series of exploratory workshops and other cinematic gatherings. Organized by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) in partnership with Telefilm Canada, the mission was timed in part to ride the tails of Toronto’s fantastically successful hosting of the International Indian Film Academy Awards this past June.

Throughout their visit, 10 Canadian producers, accompanied by officials from those government agencies, immersed themselves in Bollywood. Along with cultural evenings and film-centric parties, there were down-to-work visits to Film City, a sprawling government-owned studio on the outskirts of Mumbai; and to Prime Focus, a leading Bollywood postproduction company. The visit ended with a visit to Film Bazaar, a buzzing development market held alongside the annual International Film Festival of India, in the southwestern state of Goa.

“We are not hoping at this point to go home with a whole lot of deals in our pocket,” a still-jet-lagged Karen Thorne-Stone, president and CEO of the OMDC, said in an interview. “This is the beginning of what we hope will be a long-term relationship.” (Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine could hardly have said it better.) “There were hundreds of meetings,” added Thorne-Stone, who felt that she and her fellow delegates did “a good job of introducing Canada and the advantages that Canada brings to the Indian industry.”

The first such officially orchestrated outreach of its kind, the just-completed mission was only the latest overture by Canada in what is becoming stepped-up courtship of India and Bollywood. Visiting India in 2009, Canada’s Prime Minister not only met with popular Bollywood star Akshay Kumar (who has since been named the Canadian Tourism Commission’s ambassador for India); Stephen Harper even headed onto the floor of the popular reality show Dance Premier League, where he and his wife Laureen clapped along to a boisterous Bollywood dance number.

Harper turned that soft-shoe into a two-step this past March when he initiated the Year of India in Canada, an ongoing cross-country feast of Indian dance, music and literature. Two months later, Telefilm Canada played host to 150 attendees at the first-ever networking session of Indian and Canadian producers at the Cannes film festival.

Then, in June, came the International Indian Film Academy Awards. A three-day extravaganza of stars, song and dance, the Bollywood awards brought an estimated 40,000 visitors into Toronto. “I imagine that $40-million in tourist revenue was generated as a consequence of IIFA,” says OMDC chair Kevin Shea. “We’ve been trying to do this mission for a year and a half, and it certainly made our job easier when we saw the power of that whole Bollywood story.”

It’s a story evidently not lost on British Columbia Premier Christy Clark. Earlier this month, from Mumbai’s Film City, Clark (on her own government’s trade mission) announced B.C.’s bid to host the 2013 awards in Vancouver.

There’s no denying the major benefits to be gleaned from closer ties with Bollywood: India has the largest movie industry in the world, producing over 1,000 films annually. Of those, something in the neighbourhood of 200 come from Bollywood, one of the world’s truly global brands. Canada’s indigenous film industry, by contrast, struggling in the shadow of Hollywood, produces roughly 50 films annually. “We live next door to a giant, and we have been competing forever,” notes Shea. “The beauty of competition is that sometimes you go and find a partner.”

Certainly there’s room for creating tighter ties: Although Canada has co-production treaties with 53 countries, from Algeria to Ukraine, there is no such treaty with India – although the two governments are currently negotiating one, and Thorne-Stone says she hopes that “something will be in place in 2012.” Meanwhile, OMDC records show that only seven Indian films have been shot in Ontario since 2007.

According to Ajay Virmani, president and CEO of airline Cargojet, and co-producer of this year’s hit film Breakaway (which his son Vinay wrote and co-starred in), those numbers are so low for a simple reason: Canada, he says, has too much “bureaucratic red tape.” Adds Virmani, “To bring in a Bollywood crew, you have to have permission from three to five different unions, who then have to send the applications to immigration, who more often than not reject their visas. Bollywood producers won’t bite because the system in Canada is so unfriendly and unwelcoming.”

And, yet, bursting with potential. Breakaway was the top-grossing English-language film in Canada this year. The story of a Sikh boy who leads an all-turbaned team to ice-hockey stardom, the Indo-Canadian venture, which also featured Rob Lowe, Russell Peters and Drake, has made close to $2-million – far above what most Canadian films take in.

Its success has been no doubt due in part to the fact that more than a million Canadians are of South Asian heritage. “The impact of Indian migration in politics, culture and economics is huge,” says filmmaker Krishna. “In a sense, [Mission to India was] a response to that. It’s the impact of Indians in Canada that has brought Canada to India.”

With success stories like that in mind, Sheila de la Varende, director of national and international business development at Telefilm and a member of the recent mission, advocates a three-pronged approach to getting Bollywood to put Canada in its sights: “industry development; creating conversations; and exploring opportunities between actual practitioners, producers and producing countries.”

Among those advocating such greater co-operation is Cameron Bailey, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival and a long-time Bollywood champion. “Bollywood can teach Canadian filmmakers how to get more from a dollar and how to amp up the emotion and colour of our cinema,” says Bailey. “Canadian filmmakers can teach Bollywood all about more structured and regulated production practices.”

Adds Bailey, “I’m not sure this is actually going to happen. ... In the end, the most I hope for is that the filmmakers continue to talk to each other and see each other’s films.” And, perhaps, nourish a made-for-the-movies masala of two film industries with much to gain from sitting down at the same table a little more often.

With a report from Gayle MacDonald

Special to The Globe and Mail

Abigail Breslin Gets Out Of The Shadow Of Sunshine

www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle Macdonald

(Dec 4, 2011) Film buffs know her best as the headstrong beauty
pageant contestant in the sleeper hit, Little Miss Sunshine. Abigail Breslin was only 10 years old when she nailed that part, which netted her an Oscar nomination.

Now 15, the petite, blonde-haired actress is part of a huge ensemble cast in the big-budget holiday comedy, New Year's Eve, which boasts stars such as Robert De Niro, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry and Zac Efron.

Breslin tells The Globe why she loves working with New Year's Eve director Garry Marshall, whose film feels like a love letter to her native New York.

There are more A-list stars in New Year's Eve than even Marshall's previous feel-good comedy, Valentine's Day. How does he keep everyone - and the myriad storylines - straight?

He filmed it story by story. So I think it was like having 10 different mini movies, which is kind of a cool way of doing it.

Your storyline focuses on the relationship between a loving, but fiercely protective single mom (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her sweet, but increasingly assertive daughter (Breslin). Given there's very little overlap in the individual storylines, did you meet a lot of the other actors in the film?

I basically only filmed with the people in my storyline so Sarah - who is great - and a group of teens, including my best friend in real life, Cassidy Reiff. We were also the last sequence to be shot so there weren't people coming and going any more. But I did get to meet Lea Michele. And I was so pumped because I'm a huge Glee fan.

This is your third collaboration with Marshall (Raising Helen and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement). What keeps drawing you back?

It's a combination of things. I love working with Garry. He's kind of like having another grandpa. And I also like his scripts. This movie is just meant to be fun ... Garry really encouraged us to have fun with it and improvise a bit. He would say, hey, you guys are the teenagers so you need to tell me what teenagers are doing these days.

Could you relate to this 15-year-old Hailey, a young woman who is close to her mom but also wants to gain some independence?

I think any teenager can relate to Hailey's story of wanting to be her own person, and just hang out with her friends on New Year's Eve in Times Square. Her mom (Parker) just doesn't really want to let her go there. She's very protective. Teenagers will relate to Hailey and parents can relate to Sarah's character. Times Square is a pretty busy place normally, but when you add on New Year's Eve, it's crazy. So I can understand why the mom's worried. I can see both sides.

You like to mix up your roles, jumping from quirky independent films like Little Miss Sunshine to family flicks such as Nim's Island. What's your next project?

I never want to play the same character three times in a row, and I've been very lucky not to have to do that. I don't really have a set plan. I kind of go script by script, and if I like the character - and the script - I do it. I just finished a movie in Winnipeg called The Class Project, which is very different from New Year's Eve. It's a very heavy movie, based on a real story that happened in Mississauga. I play one of two sisters who grew up with an alcoholic mom (Mira Sorvino) whose boyfriends abuse the girls. The sisters, with help from a few kids at school, plot to murder her. So this role is a very dark character.

Many other young stars from Britney Spears to Lindsay Lohan have struggled to stay grounded, but you seem to be a straight arrow. How do you maintain perspective in this nutty business?

I have a really great family, and when I'm not filming, I go home and walk the dogs, take out the garbage, clean my room, all that stuff. My family and my friends keep me in line, and make sure I don't get crazy.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Director Alrick Brown on his Film ‘Kenyarwanda

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders

(Dec 05, 2011) *EURweb’s Lee Bailey caught up with filmmaker
Alrick Brown at a screening of his Sundance Award-winning movie “Kenyarwanda.”  The film uses six interwoven tales that together form one grand narrative of “the most complex and real depiction yet presented of human resilience and life during the Rwandan genocide,” notes press material for the film.

Shot on location in Rwanda, the movie – named after one of the country’s four official languages alongside English, French and Swahili – follows a young Tutsi woman and a young Hutu man who fall in love amidst chaos, a soldier struggling to foster a greater good while absent from her family, and a priest grappling with his faith in the face of unspeakable horror.

“We chose that as the title because both the Hutu and the Tutsi share that common language,” Brown told us. “We wanted to unify the people even with the title of the film.”

In the audio below, Brown explains how such an ambitious topic was fostered through an equally-ambitious writing process.

 Alrick Brown on the writing process for Kenyarwanda

 by CherieNic

Born in Kingston Jamaica and raised in Plainfield, NJ, Brown earned his MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and found his passion in narrative films and documentaries that spotlight social issues affecting the world at large.

In the audio below, Brown explains how his two-year experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cote d’Ivoire was the first to inspire the idea for “Kenyarwanda.” [Scroll down to watch the trailer.]

 Alrick Brown on the genesis of his film Kinyarwanda

 by CherieNic

Denis Côté Film Preems At Sundance

www.thestar.com - by: Linda Barnard

(Dec. 1, 2011) Canadian director
Denis Côté (Curling) will bring his
new film, Bestiaire, to the Sundance Film Festival in January to screen in the Park City, as part of the Utah fest’s out-of-competition Spotlight series. The festival announced its slate of competition films and world and U.S. docs and features Wednesday.

According to a Sundance program note, Bestiaire explores “the boundaries we place around animals … in this meditation on the relationship between nature and humanity.” The movie will have its world premiere at Sundance.

Festival organizers also announced the lineup for the popular Park City at Midnight program, which includes horror, genre and generally “unruly films.”

Among the offerings are a documentary about LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, a new film written by Humpday’s Mark Duplass about a girls’ weekend gone wrong starring Katie Aselton, Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth and an Irish village under attack by bloodsucking sea monsters who can’t seem to tolerate the same alcohol level in their bloodstreams as their victims.

Holiday Movie Guide, From Artist To Zoo

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jason Anderson

(Nov 24, 2011) Holiday gifts come in all shapes and sizes. And once you get past the fancy wrapping, they may be nothing like what you had on your wish list.

These are lessons that nearly every kid learns at this time of year. Anyone who ventures into a movie theatre surely knows them, too.

That said,
Hollywood is especially generous in the holiday season. Not only do the studios offer viewers — in exchange for the price of a ticket — bright, shiny new wares designed to fill them with seasonally appropriate amounts of delight and wonder. They’re also eager to showcase the films that they hope will attract presents for themselves in the form of awards and statuettes.

Of course, not everyone is going to get what he or she wants. But it helps to know what you can expect, whether it shows up under the tree or in your nearest multiplex. Here’s a guide to the movies being readied for release by the end of the year and in the first weeks of 2012, when several more potential Oscar contenders — including the latest by David Cronenberg — are set to surface. (Dates may change so keep checking the Star’s movie listings.)

December 9
The Artist

The stars: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman
The story: A once-popular silent-movie actor faces tough times in Tinseltown when talkies usher in a new wave of stars.
The skinny: Shot in black and white and almost entirely free of dialogue, this French import may be a throwback to a long-gone age of cinema, but the unbridled enthusiasm of critics and festival audiences proves it’s connecting with contemporary viewers, too.

New Year’s Eve
The stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Katharine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher
The story: A variety of singles and couples in New York get ready to smooch as the clock counts down to “Auld Lang Syne” time.
The skinny: Having already made a movie called Valentine’s Day, director Gary Marshall mines the rom-com potential of another holiday. But if he scores another hit, does that mean we’ll soon have to cough up a date night for Columbus Day, too?

The Sitter
The stars: Jonah Hill, Max Records
The story: An oafish college student has a night of mishaps after he agrees to babysit the kids next door.
The skinny: Though the so-so reception for Harold and Kumar’s latest adventure suggests that the holidays can be a tough time for raunchy comedies, Hill and Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green are looking to score with their not-so-family-friendly spin on a subgenre rarely revisited since the days of Uncle Buck and Adventures in Babysitting.

December 16
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The stars: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace
The story: London’s most intrepid sleuth and his companion Dr. Watson face off against Professor Moriarty, the most diabolical of their many adversaries.
The skinny: The star of the Swedish screen adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Rapace adds novelty value to the second action-heavy outing for director Guy Ritchie and the enjoyably quarrelsome team of Downey and Law.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
The stars: Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy
The story: In the darkest days of the Cold War, a recently ousted British spy is enlisted to uncover a Soviet mole back in his old department at MI6.
The skinny: Glowing early reviews position this espionage tale as both a sterling adaptation of the novel by John Le Carre and a worthy successor to the 1979 TV miniseries that starred Alec Guinness as George Smiley, played here by a bespectacled Oldman.

Young Adult
The stars: Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt
The story: A self-obsessed young-adult novelist returns to her hometown with the intention of stealing her ex-boyfriend away from his family.
The skinny: The last time screenwriter Diablo Cody teamed up with director Jason Reitman, the result was Juno, a hit with critics and audiences alike. Their new dark comedy includes a plum role for Theron, who’s overdue for a big success after a string of grim indies like The Burning Plain.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked
The stars: Jason Lee, Jesse McCartney
The story: While on holiday with their stressed-out pal Dave, the Chipmunks end up stranded on a desert island with only the Chipettes for company.
The skinny: All those high-pitched voices may have made this the least loved modern movie franchise by headache-prone parents but the two preceding Chipmunks flicks still grossed more than $800 million worldwide.

December 21
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The stars: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara
The story: With the help of a charismatic but troubled young hacker, a crusading journalist discovers a present-day connection to a string of long-unsolved crimes.
The skinny: The millions of fans of Stieg Larsson’s grisly thrillers are eager to find out just how dark director David Fincher will go in the first English-language outing for Mikael and Lisbeth. They needn’t worry about Fincher turning skittish — Craig recently told a British newspaper that the movie is “as adult as you can possibly make it.”

The Adventures of Tintin
The stars: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
The story: A young adventurer and his trusty team of misfits set off in search of a legendary treasure.
The skinny: The first of two holiday offerings by Steven Spielberg (War Horse is out Dec. 25), this adaptation of the Belgian comic series was initially filmed with live actors and then rendered in cartoon form via rotoscoping techniques. But can the wow factor compensate for North American audiences’ relative unfamiliarity with a character who’s far more famous overseas?

Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol
The stars: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton
The story: Ethan Hunt and his new team must clear their spy agency’s name after it’s framed for bombing the Kremlin.
The skinny: Though Cruise has lost much of his star wattage in recent years, his go-to action franchise continues to attract great collaborators. For the fourth entry, Cruise’s dream team includes The Hurt Locker’s Renner and director Brad Bird, who will hopefully give his first live-action feature the same panache he brought to The Incredibles.

December 23
We Bought a Zoo

The stars: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson
The story: The lives of a single dad and his kids are changed when they take over a dilapidated wildlife park.
The skinny: Three years ago, families eagerly lapped up life lessons from Marley & Me, another based-on-true-life tale of folks and their critters. And hey, that movie only had a single lowly dog in its menagerie — just think of the heartwarming potential of a story packed with lions, tigers and bears! (Oh, my.)

The stars: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet
The story: Two pairs of squabbling parents face off after their sons are involved in a playground fight.
The skinny: In Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s caustically funny play God of Carnage, a set of highly esteemed actors (which also includes John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz) behave as badly as they please, which is good news for any viewer looking for an acerbic alternative to seasonal good cheer.

December 25
War Horse
The stars: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson
The story: A young man and his horse experience the horrors of World War I.
The skinny: Steven Spielberg’s screen adaptation of the U.K. stage hit — critically revered for its canny use of music and puppetry — will soon be followed by the first Toronto theatrical production, which begins Feb. 10 at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The stars: Thomas Horn, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock
The story: A 9-year-old New Yorker begins a highly personal quest after his father is killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The skinny: As the director of Billy Elliot, Stephen Daldry has already displayed a forte for stories with boy heroes. Even so, he surprised many when he cast the young Jeopardy champ Thomas Horn to star in his adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel.

The Darkest Hour
The stars: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby
The story: Young visitors to Moscow must fight to survive after the Earth is attacked by invisible interplanetary meanies.
The skinny: Alien invasion flicks have been hardly rare in recent years but at least this time the ETs went somewhere other than Los Angeles to pick a fight.
Also out in December: Surviving Progress, Tomboy, Dragonslayer, Sleeping Beauty, Into the Abyss, Paul Goodman Saved My Life and Pina.

January 13
A Dangerous Method
The stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
The story: Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud don’t see eye to eye over a young woman Jung takes as both patient and lover.
The skinny: Can-film heavyweight David Cronenberg heads deep into the history of psychoanalysis for his latest, which has already won accolades for Knightley’s intense and heavily accented performance.

The stars: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Giovanni Ribisi
The story: A security guard must resort to his old criminal ways when he’s forced into a smuggling scheme to protect his family.
The skinny: This action-thriller was based on Reykjavik-Rotterdam, an Icelandic hit that starred Baltasar Kormakur, who moves behind the camera to direct this English-language remake.

Joyful Noise
The stars: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton
The story: Two big-throated choir members clash over their small-town singing group’s direction in the lead-up to a national competition.
The skinny: Absent from the silver screen for far too long, Parton will undoubtedly give as good as she gets opposite the Queen.

A Separation
The stars: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami
The story: Family strife, social pressures and worries about the future send a married couple to divorce court in Tehran.
The skinny: The top prizewinner at the Berlin festival early in the year, this Iranian drama is shaping up to be a prime contender for the foreign film category at the Oscars.

Beauty and the Beast in 3D
The stars: Voices by Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson
The story: A young princess wonders whether she can truly love someone very hairy.
The skinny: When a 3D revamp of The Lion King became a surprise smash last autumn, Disney discovered that audiences are hardly averse to putting on funny glasses to watch old favourites. Besides Beauty and the Beast, the studio is also prepping 3D versions of Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and The Little Mermaid.

January 20
The stars: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender
The story: A female special-ops soldier goes after the baddies who betrayed her.
The skinny: Continuing in the thriller vein of Contagion, the ever-prolific Steven Soderbergh goes for the throat with this showcase for Carano, a former mixed-martial arts champ who’s being hyped as Hollywood’s new action queen.

Red Tails
The stars: Nate Parker, Terrence Howard, Ne-Yo
The story: A valiant group of African-American pilots takes to the skies during WWII.
The skinny: Already the subject of many films and books, the Tuskegee Airmen get their most lavish big-screen treatment yet thanks to a team that includes co-producer George Lucas.

Underworld: Awakening
The stars: Kate Beckinsale, India Eisley
The story: Leather-clad vampires and their werewolf rivals must unite to fight a common threat: humans.
The skinny: Launched in 2003, this action-horror series looked ready to be staked with the middling reception for 2009’s Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. But the return of original star Beckinsale should rekindle some enthusiasm among the fanboys.
Also out in January: Being Elmo, Fightville, Flamenco, Flamenco, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, Man on a Ledge, The Devil Inside, In Darkness, One for the Money, The Grey.

Telefilm, Canadian Movies To Tap Chinese Market

www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Dec 4, 2011)
Telefilm Canada and the Whistler Film Festival
Society (WFFS) are establishing a coproduction initiative with the state-run China Film Group that would see Canadian and Chinese filmmakers collaborate on projects for at least the next three years. While, to start, the deal would lead to only a handful of films, WFFS officials behind it say this is an important step in improving ties with the lucrative Chinese market at a time when Western filmmakers are looking east for opportunities.

"The whole world wants to do business with China," says Jane Milner, director of WFFS's China Canada Gateway for Film.

Details of the China Canada Script Competition have yet to be fully worked out - and China Film Group has not yet finalized the deal? - but a call for submissions is expected mid-year in 2012. The plan in discussion would see China Film Group send about three production companies or studios to the Whistler Film Festival's industry summit starting next year, to hear pitches from about 12 Canadian screenwriter/producer teams. The Chinese studios would then choose scripts they would like to develop. Development money and other resources would follow. Ultimately, the hope is that the films would be released both in China and internationally.

"This is going to be a generalization, but there isn't a film festival on the planet that doesn't have some programming around China," says Milner, who is also director of development for the WFSS. "They'll have receptions where you can network or they'll have a panel, or they might have a screening or two. Certainly we're doing all of that as well, but the big difference for us is we're not just having a glass of wine. We're creating a platform from which producers can make real deals, can actually end up making a film, a Canada-China coproduction."

The China Canada Gateway project would see the Chinese get exposure to Canadian filmmaking expertise - screenwriting, visual effects and post-production in particular. Canadians, meanwhile, would get their films made (Milner foresees budgets of around $5-million at this point) - and gain access to the huge Chinese market which currently allows only about 20 foreign films into its theatres each year (the World Trade Organization has ruled that the quota be dropped).

"The Chinese market has been growing rapidly, lots of capital is flowing and everyone is looking for good projects," Tiger Hu told The Globe and Mail through an interpreter. A Chinese filmmaker who splits his time between Beijing and Richmond, B.C., Hu was executive producer on the Canada-China co-production Iron Road and works closely with China Film Group. He is helping to design the competition.

China's film industry is booming in terms of film production, box-office revenue (up almost 65 per cent last year to $1.5 billion) and even theatre construction. There are predictions China's box office will surpass that of the U.S. in the next decade. Big Hollywood players such as Legendary Pictures and Relativity Media (and, according to reports, DreamWorks) are establishing partnerships with China.

Canada, exploring opportunities with growing economies in the East, wants in too. Canada already has a coproduction treaty for film in place with China, but there's a feeling that much could come out of increased co-ventures (whether they fall within the bounds of the treaty or not). Canada has traditionally looked south for service industry opportunities and to Europe for co-production initiatives, but the East now beckons. The Ontario Media Development Corporation recently sent a delegation to India to shore up ties between the two industries, and some filmmakers see huge opportunities in China.

"China will become in five to 10 years the largest single source of financing for independent films in the world," predicts Harry Sutherland, a member of WFFS's board and co-founder of Ilustrato Pictures, which is on the verge of closing a number of deals with Chinese partners.

Sutherland, chair of the China Canada Gateway for Film, has been instrumental in negotiating the initiative. The Vancouver-based filmmaker has been travelling to China for six years, cultivating relationships.

"It's a very, very, very difficult world to get into, China," Sutherland said at the WFFS this week.

But also, he believes, very, very important. "As the focus shifts, as the amount of actual business and film business done ... in China grows anywhere between 25 and 40 per cent a year, the opportunity is huge. And I think people are starting to see that it's much more important for us to focus on Asia [than the West] and I think that focus is happening on a business level, it's happening at a government level, and at Whistler next year it'll start happening on a filmmaking level."

Last spring, Sutherland met several times with Telefilm executive director Carolle Brabant about WFFS's China Canada Gateway proposal. "It's a very interesting project," Brabant said in Whistler this week. "We like to see initiative from the private sector."

Telefilm came on board as a founding sponsor and provided $25,000 seed money, enough to send Milner and Sutherland to Beijing in August. Things went well enough that China Film Group agreed to send a representative to Whistler this week. They spent Saturday behind closed doors talking and on Sunday, at the festival's closing awards brunch, the efforts were made public.

Of course, making art with (and for) China is fraught and some filmmakers may see this as making a deal with the devil. But Milner dismissed concerns around censorship.

"They're not looking for political commentary. They're looking for love stories and action flicks. They're looking for genre stuff. And they're looking for box office. They're trying to grow a successful business. They're not looking for deep cultural statements."

They're also looking to improve the quality of their films.

"There is some concern or even anxiety within the Chinese film industry that China is kind of punching below its weight," says Christopher Rea, assistant professor of Chinese Literature in the Department of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia. "[The thinking is:] We have a lot of this human capital - directors, actors, a long acting tradition. Why aren't our films more popular globally? Or even domestically?"

"The Chinese are driven by [their desire for] access to the international market," says Milner. "They want to be the best in the world. They want to be better at Hollywood than Hollywood is."

Transforming Civilization

www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

(Dec. 1, 2011) A number of movie directors, including Canada’s Denys
Arcand, considered A Short History of Progress, Canadian author Ronald Wright’s compendium of five Massey Lectures, impossible to dramatize, despite the importance of Wright’s message.

An alarming examination of how overpopulation, mindless consumption, the ascendance of capital and our slavery to progress have all but ruined our chances of survival, Wright’s book may well have remained the kind of bad news people don’t like hearing or reading about, left on shelves that line scholars’ walls and rarely referenced.

Fortunately, Daniel Louis, head of hit Montreal production company Cinémaginaire, found the broadcast lectures compelling and immediately bought the rights to Wright’s book, which eventually found its way into the hands of Quebec filmmaker
Mathieu Roy.

Roy had previously drawn attention for his documentaries on Montreal filmmaker François Girard and concert pianist Louis Lortie, but he had a couple of aces up his sleeve, influential and innovative mentors in American producer/director Martin Scorsese, with whom he had worked as an assistant on The Aviator, and Canadian director Mark Achbar, whose The Corporation and Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky are considered benchmarks in the “issue doc” genre.

Almost seven years after he first laid eyes on Wright’s book, Roy is contemplating the changes he and his collaborator — New York-based Montrealer Harold Crooks, who also worked with Achbar on The Corporation — have gone through since bringing
Surviving Progress to the world.

The film had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Last week, it drew rave reviews and packed houses at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

“First, working on this film was a privilege,” Roy said in a phone interview from Amsterdam. “For 6 1/2 years I got to think, read, research and interview fascinating people from different fields. . . . I think I became a better human being because of that and I have a better understanding now of the mechanism of civilization.

“It’s one thing to read about these issues, but it’s another to fly over sections of deforestation in the Amazon and to talk to the people there about these insurmountable paradoxes that underlie these issues.

“If I can transform people from being passive consumers into active citizens, I’ll be very happy.”

For his part, Crooks said by phone from New York, “I knew there’d be only one chance in a lifetime to work on a film about the fate of civilization and humanity, and to be given the resources to do it properly. It was an extraordinary opportunity to view civilization the way Ronald Wright sees it, as an experiment and a very recent one at that, just 5,000 or 6,000 years old.

“Experiments either succeed or fail, and that had not been part of my thinking about humanity and civilization before I started work on this film.”

After interviewing 50 of the world’s great thinkers, Crooks said he reached an epiphany when it became clear to him that social justice, and not just the individual’s sense of morality and order, may well be the key to our survival.

“I believe profoundly now that we have to get the moral part right, otherwise the engineering part will never work.”

Neither man could have guessed that the completion of their film would coincide with the worldwide Occupy Movement, with hundreds of thousands of socially, economically and politically dispossessed citizens protesting in the streets of the world’s great cities about the very issues Surviving Progress addresses: sustainability, responsible government and economic structures that aren’t driven by profit and progress for its own sake.

“The social contract is fraying, the debt crisis is front-page news and we seem powerless,” Crooks said. “This could be a transformative moment in world culture. We couldn’t have anticipated this, but we take heart from it. As we’ve learned with slavery and women’s suffrage, moral progress can be identified in the human story.”

As to whether Surviving Progress is likely to be dismissed by establishment media as a hymn to the choir, Crooks is justifiably defensive.

“Before I got into making documentaries I was on stream in the 1970s to become an economics professor,” he said. “But my area of interest was in sustainability and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would never have a serious career if I focused on that sort of thing. . . .

“Things have changed. Just last week students at Yale University, as elite an American institution as there is, boycotted Wall Street recruiting campaigns on campus. No one could have imagined that a few years ago.

“So we’re not preaching to the converted so much as trying to give confidence and encouragement to an upcoming generation. If they focus on the issues, they really are going to make a difference in a way that was unimaginable to me.”

New Yorkers Search for Love in Serendipitous Romantic Comedy

Film Review by Kam Williams

It is unavoidable that this picture would be compared to the similarly-
structured Valentine’s Day and Love Actually, given how both of those romantic comedies also revolve around the relationship issues of a number of couples whose lives serendipitously intersect on a big holiday. The good news is that this film is far superior to the former, although it unfortunately falls short of the latter, which landed on this critic’s Annual Top Ten List for 2003.

Directed by Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman)
New Year’s Eve features an ensemble cast stocked with matinee idols at every turn, most notably, Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Halle Berry, Ashton Kutcher, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ludacris, Karen Heigl, Matthew Broderick, Jessica Biel and Common. The point of departure is Manhattan on a balmy December 31st which is where we find each of the protagonists anticipating the imminent arrival of 2012, though for very different reasons. 

Corporate executive Claire Morgan (Hilary Swank) is too busy with the responsibility of overseeing the annual Times Square extravaganza with the help of TV host Ryan Seacrest, an NYPD officer (Ludacris) and a crack repairman (Hector Elizondo) to attend to a pressing personal matter. Nearby, event planner Laura Carrington (Heigl) is reluctantly putting the finishing touches on a rock concert at which her rock star ex-boyfriend, Jensen (Jon Bon Jovi), will be headlining.

Meanwhile, one of his backup singers (Lea Michele) suddenly finds herself stuck in an elevator with a grouch (Ashton Kutcher) who had vowed not to celebrate the holiday. Then there’s the helicopter mom (Parker) who’s so obsessed with her teenage daughter’s (Abigail Breslin) crush on a classmate (Jake T. Austin) to think about her own needs. 

Hospital-bound Griffin (Seth Meyers) and his 9-months pregnant wife, Tess (Biel), are hoping to win the $25,000 prize for having the first baby born after midnight. Elsewhere in the hospital, a terminal patient on the cancer ward (De Niro) is trying to talk his empathetic nurse (Berry) into taking him up to the roof to watch the ball drop. And this thoroughly-modern mosaic wouldn’t be complete without a tale about a cradle-robbing cougar (Pfeiffer) being serenaded all over town by an ardent admire young enough to be her son. 

Like a classical conductor, veteran director Marshall masterfully executes a cinematic balancing act here, seamlessly intertwining these discrete storylines ever so effortlessly. All roads lead to Times Square as the tension slowly ratchets, with enough surprising twists and touching reveals along the way to tug on your heartstrings.

A New Year’s toast as sentimental as singing Auld Lang Syne!

Very Good (
3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual references.
Running time: 117 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

To see a trailer for New Year’s Eve, visit HERE.

Yoko Ono Gives Peace A Chance, One Home Town At A Time

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Guy Dixon

(Dec 06, 2011) To exchange an e-mail with Yoko Ono is to become one with her philosophy - and her aphoristic way of expressing it.

The new seven-minute animated film
My Hometown is the excuse for the e-mail. The film is co-directed by Toronto lawyer Jerry Levitan, who kept in touch with Ono after he made the 2007 Oscar-nominated short I Met The Walrus. It recalled the time in 1969 when he snuck into John Lennon and Ono's Toronto hotel room to conduct an interview with the couple during their "bed in" days.

Ono liked that earlier film. And she agreed to do My Hometown (co-directed by Toronto-based filmmaker Terry Tompkins), which adapts to film a very Ono-esque tract that she wrote in 2009.

Ono's brief written work imagines that peace is possible simply with the realization that every town in the world is someone else's hometown. And a hometown is just a place on the map on which we place our love and positive thoughts.

My Hometown, which has Ono reading her own writing accompanied by basic animation, has an obvious link to the one-love statelessness in John Lennon's Imagine, the call to Give Peace a Chance and the minimalism seen throughout Ono's own artistic career.

So why, I ask via e-mail, is her very simple call to respect hometowns around the world still such a surprising idea, still so alien to how the world really works?

"Essential things in life are all very simple and affirmative: breathing, singing, loving, dreaming, dancing..." she writes back.

Is My Hometown how Ono views the peripatetic times of her own life - in Japan, England and the United States?

"Everywhere is somebody's hometown. And your love will make it yours," she responds, with the same concision as her weekly Twitter sessions, in which she answers questions from the public. Ono isn't big on extrapolation.

But that matches her art. Her most famous piece, 1966's Ceiling Painting (Yes Painting), required viewers to climb a step ladder and use a magnifying glass to read one tiny printed word - "yes" - on a framed piece of paper affixed to the ceiling. In Beatles iconography, the piece is one of the reasons Lennon fell for Ono.

Does Ono still feel that she is collaborating, in a sense, with Lennon?

"We have always been collaborating ... before we met, when we were together, and now," she writes.

My Hometown was originally written for a 2009 exhibition in Venice and was included in a self-published book on display which she called The Other Rooms. "In that show," Ono explains, "we had six physical rooms and 101 conceptual rooms presented [in pieces of writing] in the book. Therefore, it was the largest exhibition in Venice that year, with 107 rooms," she adds jokingly.

And now, with My Hometown now a short film, what is next for Ono?

"Breathing deeply."

Shame: Seeking Sex, But Losing Human Contact

www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

Starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan. Directed by Steve McQueen. At Varsity Cinemas. 99 minutes.

(Dec 01, 2011)
Shame one-ups The Artist’s justly vaunted silent performances with a wordless pas de deux that could literally take your breath away.

It’s an early scene in this commanding film, set in a New York City subway train. Michael Fassbender’s sexually driven Brandon intensely eyes a pretty woman (Lucy Walters) seated across from him. She smiles in return.

As Hans Zimmer’s borrowed score from The Thin Red Line ramps ups the tension, both faces flash a series of messages: interest, attraction, attempt, revelation . . . and ultimately, deflation.

The seduction is real, completely unspoken, and it’s expertly choreographed by Steve McQueen, the British director who brought Fassbender and himself to global attention with Hunger in 2008.

Yet Shame is anything but romantic, as we shall soon witness in the most explicitly physical terms of empty carnality.

It’s also not simply a movie about sex, despite Brandon’s evident obsession. Perpetually aroused, he seeks constant release through sexual activity of all kinds — one-night stands, hookers, Internet porn or simply masturbation — but he doesn’t get fulfilment.

The thirty-something Brandon gets off, but he never gets out of the prison of his mind, a collapsing space of loneliness and self-recrimination that is far more binding than the Irish jail that held Fassbender’s Bobby Sands in Hunger.

He yearns for genuine human contact — as in that subway scene — but he’s apparently incapable of it.

McQueen’s powerful sophomore work, which he co-wrote with Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady), bears a more subtle message about the fraying of human connections in the modern world. Our electronic gadgets are always on, chirping and buzzing away, but the beat of the human heart has been slowed and drowned out.

Brandon is one of the many lost souls of the 21st century, looking for connections of the body that aren’t found through an Internet browser.

“Where are you?” a plaintive female voice asks on the answering machine of Brandon’s grim apartment, made all the more so by sombre classical music. She’s another conquest who has been cast off.

Brandon is vexed by another woman, who is harder to shake and who is disrupting his furtive routines.

She’s his sister Sissy, played by a transformed Carey Mulligan, no longer a hothouse flower. Sissy is a self-loathing lounge singer whose melancholic rendition of “New York, New York” slows the rush of Shame just long enough for a mind to remember and a tear to roll.

These two have a troubled past together, but it’s probably not the illicit sexual one that fuelled speculation during the film’s fall festival debut. We’re not sure what happened in their early lives together — the artist and sculptor in McQueen prefers to show, not tell — but Sissy drops a hint.

“We’re not bad people,” she tells Brandon. “We just come from a bad place.”

Their current locale isn’t much better. Shame’s Manhattan is a grey expanse of concrete and silicon, where alcohol flows in place of blood. Brandon works for a nameless company that produces no product of discernible worth.

He’s apparently good at his job, even though he spends his days surfing porn or masturbating in the john. His philandering boss Dave (James Badge Dale) congratulates Brandon for “nailing” a presentation, ironically oblivious to the sexual connotations of the statement.

Or the religious connotations, for that matter. Brandon is first glimpsed as he lies in his bed like the crucified Christ, wrapped in sheets that are as blue as his vacant eyes.

Brandon may once have been a man of substance. He’s still charming enough to entice a co-worker out on a dinner date, yet cold enough to make her regret the experience. He cares for Sissy, yet barely tolerates her. He attracts the woman in the subway, yet also frightens her.

He wonders if he’s still human. A sign in the subway train behind him — which McQueen, a skilled photographer, would surely have noticed — reads, “Improving, non-stop.”

If only it were that simple for Brandon. The wisdom of Shame is that it offers no easy exit for this prison of the mind.

Wonderful Life Didn't Start Out Wonderful

www.thestar.com - By Mark Dillon

(Dec. 1, 2011) It didn’t cover its costs at the box office, was snubbed by
the Oscars and is still dismissed by some critics, but It’s a Wonderful Life is one of Hollywood’s most beloved films.

Los Angeles has declared Saturday “It’s a Wonderful Life Day,” honouring the movie’s 65th anniversary. Paramount Pictures is donating a DVD copy to each of the city’s public libraries and has released a Blu-ray collector’s set.

It’s the only 1940s movie that airs regularly on prime-time network TV. It returns to CTV and NBC Saturday at 8 p.m., with an encore presentation on Christmas Eve.

Last year, It’s a Wonderful Life drew a combined audience of 1.3 million to CTV’s two broadcasts. And it’s not only the older nostalgia crowd tuning in: 11.5 million Americans in the 18-49 demographic watched on NBC.

The American Film Institute ranked it 20th best picture of all time, having already named it the No. 1 most inspiring.

And yet, It’s a Wonderful Life initially met a tepid reception. The film’s $3.3 million (U.S.) domestic box office didn’t cover the $3.8 million it cost to produce and distribute, and it was shut out at the Academy Awards despite five nominations.

Directed by Frank Capra, the movie tells the story of reluctant martyr George Bailey (James Stewart), who is driven to suicidal despair on Christmas Eve when his altruistic building-and-loan firm faces bankruptcy. His guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) intervenes and convinces George he’s not a failure by showing him what a cesspool of unhappiness his town of Bedford Falls would be had he never been born. The film contains themes that continue to resonate.

“As the world grows increasingly rampant with consumerism, commercialism, greed and corruption, it’s heartening to spend a couple of hours in a place that respects old-fashioned values: the most important being self-sacrifice,” says Ottawa filmmaker Keith Davidson, whose Capraesque script It’s a Wonderful Death is in pre-production with indie producer Chris Meztista under the title Eternally Yours.

But when it was released in 1946, audiences who had just come through World War II may have found it out of step with its reactionary idealization of small-town America and overly familiar elements recycled from A Christmas Carol and Capra’s own work. Particularly, the idea of a bank lending on faith and being saved from insolvency by its customers was right out of his 1932 drama American Madness.

Some critics remain dismissive.

“I always detect the odor (sic) of rodentia whenever rich filmmakers try to peddle a load of clams about how poor people are better off and happier and more important than they are,” writes Ken Hanke, author and critic for North Carolina’s Mountain Xpress, in an email. “And the bad version of the town is almost ludicrously bad and the good version is just too treacly.”

In the 1930s, Italian immigrant Capra had taken home Best Director Academy Awards for hits It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and You Can’t Take It With You. The relative failure of It’s a Wonderful Life was disappointing.

He would regress creatively and finally hang up the megaphone after 1961’s Pocketful of Miracles. But interest in his films would be revived among left-leaning students attracted to the recurring theme of the common man triumphing over powerful, corrupt forces, as depicted in George’s tussles with Scrooge-like bank owner Henry F. Potter (Lionel Barrymore). It’s a Wonderful Life would find an especially big audience on TV starting in the mid-’70s as local stations took advantage of a 20-year window in which its copyright was in the public domain.

Few of Capra’s new fans were aware he was a Republican who had been shrewd enough to tell audiences what he thought they wanted to hear. “They assumed Capra’s films were all his products and didn’t realize he had generally left-wing writers who may have put more of the content into the films than he did,” says Joseph McBride, author of Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success and the forthcoming Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless.

The liberal banking philosophy in American Madness (lifted for It’s a Wonderful Life) was devised by screenwriter Robert Riskin before Capra joined that project, while the conflicting political messages of It’s a Wonderful Life can be attributed to many screenwriting cooks. McBride discovered that the script — based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story “The Greatest Gift” — had five contributors besides the credited Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Capra and Jo Swerling. While both films espouse keeping money in circulation — FDR’s strategy to get out of the Great Depression — Capra hoarded most of his savings out of distrust of banks.

It’s a Wonderful Life’s monetary philosophy has kept it topical. In the darkest days of the recent recession, Newsweek praised the Bailey Building and Loan’s investment in its community (“in Joe’s house . . . and in the Kennedy house and Mrs. Macklin’s house”) as opposed to, say, gambling on mortgage-backed securities, while Portfolio.com countered by asking “Was George Bailey a reckless subprime lender?”

In this year of the Occupy movement, George’s boardroom counterattack against Potter has a timely ring: “This rabble you’re talking about — they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”

But more than for its politics, the movie’s enduring appeal lies in the touching romance between George and wife Mary (Donna Reed), the sentimentality and humour and, above all, the realism — guardian angels and alternate worlds aside.

“It means a lot to people because it’s true to the ups and downs of an ordinary person,” McBride offers. “Things could be going along great, then some terrible thing will happen to us, then we rebound. It captures that truth about life.”

Robin Williams Talks ‘Doubtfire’ Sequel, And Why It Can’t Work

Source: www.thestar.com - by: Garnet Fraser

(Dec 7, 2011)
Robin Williams says there will be no Mrs. Doubtfire sequel because writers couldn’t make it “work.”

The comic actor admits the possibility of a follow-up to the 1993 film – in which he played a divorced dad who impersonates a female housekeeper to see more of his kids – was discussed, but eventually rejected because the unambiguous ending of the original picture made it virtually impossible.

“They could never write it. They kept trying and it doesn’t work . . . because at the end of the first one they reveal who [Mrs. Doubtfire] is. So it ends up being her for five minutes and then she transitions into some old Russian woman. They so far can’t crack it.”

Williams also admitted the heavily rumoured Good Morning, Chicago – a proposed follow-up to his 1987 movie Good Morning, Vietnam – was in development at one stage but the project never got off the ground.

“That was actually real,” he told MovieHole. “They were trying to write it. It was based around the democratic convention in Chicago. Part of it worked, Part of it didn’t work because it’d be him dealing with the politics of revolt in Chicago at the time . . . but anyway, they did do [the script] but it didn’t all work. It was also a matter of trying to find someone to back it. It was almost there. It was a great idea! Thanks for reminding me! Wow.”

However, one sequel Williams says could happen is The Birdcage 2.

“They’re trying to figure out which [story] to write for that. We will see what happens”.


Can Liam Neeson Do To Arctic Wolves What He Did To Eurotrash Thugs?

www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Dec. 2, 2011) January brings another
Liam Neeson thriller, The Grey,
which seems almost like a wintry version of Taken, his January 2009 hit, about a security expert determined to reclaim his daughter from Eurotrash kidnappers. This time Neeson plays a survival expert and air-crash survivor determined to get back home to his beloved wife -- but first he has to get past a pack of hungry Arctic wolves.  Directed by Joe Carnahan (The A-Team), it looks like your standard frozen-mountain scenario that not everybody is going to survive. But those are the meanest wolves we've seen in a while.


Cronenberg And Polley Films Among TIFF's Top 10

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Guy Dixon

(Dec 06, 2011) The top 10 Canadian films of 2011 were announced Tuesday night by the Toronto International Film Festival, with both big-name directors and emerging filmmakers filling out this year's impressive list. David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz, Guy Maddin's Keyhole and Jean-Marc Vallée's Café de flore were among the high-profile candidates to make the cut, while Nathan Morlando's Edwin Boyd, Guy Édoin's Marecages, Philippe Falardeau's Monseiur Lazhar, Ken Scott's Starbuck, Sebastien Pilote's Le vendeur and Jason Eisener's Hobo With a Shotgun filled out the list. TIFF also unveiled its top 10 short film selections for the year, which included Michelle Latimer's Choke and Philippe Baylaucq's aesthetically rich Ora from the National Film Board.

::TV NEWS::     

CBC Actively Preparing For Budget Cuts, Vice-President Says

www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Dec 1, 2011)
Kirstine Stewart describes herself as an optimistic
person, but even she - CBC's executive vice-president of English Services - is finding the public broadcaster's current challenges "very stressful."

government funding cuts. Persistent in-your-face criticism from Sun Media and its parent company Quebecor. Battles in court and the House of Commons over whether the CBC must turn over what it considers sensitive information requested under the Access to Information Act.

"I have to say it isn't easy," said Stewart Tuesday of Quebecor's CBC campaign. "But ... when we do reach out to Canadians directly and there isn't a filter of someone else's opinion on top, we do know that we're incredibly supported. ... And you need to remind yourself of that when a lot of the noise is happening, because it can be distracting. And I think the one thing we need to make sure: It's our responsibility to keep the engine running."

On less fuel, however. Ottawa has made it known that cuts are coming in the next budget, and the CBC is preparing.

"We have to look at everything," said Stewart. "Because we're not sure at this point what the level of the funding cuts could possibly be, we've had to come up with all different kinds of scenarios to satisfy different kinds of cuts, different levels of cuts."

Stewart made the comments during an interview on the British Columbia set of the new CBC-TV show Arctic Air. The Yellowknife-set dramatic series launches in January and is getting a big publicity push. While back at the office the cost-cutting exercise is under way, on-set it's all smiles for the busload of entertainment journalists who have been shuttled out from the city for interviews with CBC stars, including Arctic Air's Adam Beach.

"I think CBC is the one forum for Canadians to tell each other great Canadian stories," Stewart told reporters. "And that's what we've been doing for the past 75 years and that's what we [plan] to continue to do for many more."

This is a "pretty important" message, she later told The Globe and Mail, at this point in the public broadcaster's history.

The CBC receives $1.1-billion in federal funding and has been getting a $60-million top-up annually since 2001. But like other government departments, agencies and Crown corporations, it has been told to expect funding cuts in the next budget.

The corporation is preparing for three scenarios: a 5 per cent cut, a 10 per cent cut, or a 10 per cent cut plus the elimination of the top-up funding.

"We are looking at our programming, our overhead, all different areas within the business to see what we can do," Stewart said. "So that activity is going on right now."

When asked whether non-revenue-generating properties, such as radio, would be more vulnerable, she said no.

"We have main priorities and still we stand by them as a public broadcaster and those things are to be regional, to be digital - because we know that we need to move forward as a broadcaster ... and to be Canadian first."

Stewart says public support is strong; she cites a survey released this week (conducted by Angus Reid/Vision Critical for Friends of Canadian Broadcasting) that shows 46 per cent of respondents would advise their MP to vote to maintain CBC funding at current levels.

The pro-public-broadcasting advocacy group also released a satirical video in support of the CBC on Tuesday. Called Stop the CBC Smackdown, it imagines a scenario where the corporation is purchased by a former U.S. wrestling champ. "As an American," says the new CBC owner, "I know what Canadians want."

Since its launch earlier this year, the Quebecor-owned Sun News Network has been aggressively targeting the CBC, to which it refers as "the state broadcaster." TV host and conservative columnist Ezra Levant is leading the charge, referring to the CBC's government funding as a "bailout" and calling for its privatization. Quebecor has filed hundreds of access to information requests, looking for information such as CBC salaries and travel expenses.

(Levant would have had a field day at the private promotional dinner the CBC held for journalists - which The Globe and Mail attended - on Monday night at a swanky Vancouver restaurant, with its free-flowing wine and towering seafood platters.)

The CBC had refused to turn over some requested documents, citing a provision in the Access to Information Act that allows it to protect information that relates to journalistic, creative or programming activities. This sparked both an examination by the Access to Information and Ethics Committee, and a court case.

Last week, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the CBC must turn over the documents to the federal information commissioner, who is to decide their fate.

With this as a backdrop, a group of CBC executives headed west this week to offer a good news story to Western Canadian media. Arctic Air is shooting outside of Vancouver (there's also been some production in Yellowknife); there are plans to launch a new national CBC News Network show from Vancouver in the new year; and a national radio show is in development in Calgary.

But promised regional expansion - a key objective of the CBC's strategic plan is to better serve markets such as Kamloops, B.C., and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. - may be affected by the coming cuts. The plan called for new or expanded service in large population centres that were identified as being under-served, potentially affecting about seven million Canadians by 2015.

"Once the word comes down in March what level [of funding] we're at, we'll have to take a realistic look at how much of that we can afford," said Stewart.

If it's a lot to deal with - and it is, she admits - Stewart points out that media is an industry that's always in flux. And she, the optimist, sees an opportunity in that.

"What are we learning from this experience and what can we do better and how can we then become that modern public broadcaster that people are expecting of us? Because in the end, it's the people we answer to."

Making The Case For Harry’s Law

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Dec 06, 2011) The jury is still out on the new Harry’s Law.

After this week’s episode, we will have a couple of months to deliberate, then the almost entirely restructured legal drama comes back from “hiatus” to a still somewhat sceptical audience in a new Sunday night 8 o’clock time slot.

A year and a half ago, the David E. Kelley-created legal vehicle for the estimable Kathy Bates debuted to an enthusiastic reception, and quickly became the season’s No. 1 drama for NBC, a network sorely in need of a hit (it also airs here on Global).

But something happened between seasons. Something drastic.

The show’s original premise had Bates as crusty, pot-smoking, ace attorney Harriet Korn, quitting patent law (getting fired) to open a bare-bones criminal practice in the back of a shoe store in a rundown, violence-plagued Cincinnati neighbourhood. The characters were quirky, the scripts sharp and witty, the legal issues compelling and relevant . . . essentially, a funkier, scaled-down version of Kelley’s previous quirky legal hit, Boston Legal.

But then, over the summer, it pretty much became Boston Legal. Suddenly, everyone had moved upstairs and Harry was presiding over an actual, full-on law firm, not a gangbanger or pair of Louboutins in sight.

After the initial shock, I’ve come around to the realization that the original premise had run its course and the wider playing field allows the expanded firm to tackle more weighty and interesting issues, and introduce even more quirky characters, including the fabulous Jean Smart in a recurring role as smugly psychotic district attorney Rosanna “Hosanna” Remmick.

And, most significantly, it allows more depth and screen time for Christopher McDonald’s returning Tommy Jefferson, as a showboat lawyer whose endearing egomania makes him the natural successor to William Shatner’s Denny Crane.

“He’s a very good lawyer, a very smart guy, but he’s known as this guy who loves the media, a media whore, and that’s how he wins his cases,” explains McDonald, a veteran character actor with more than 80 film roles and countless episodic appearances to his credit.

“I’m having a blast. I love this guy. I love these lines they give me. I’m challenged and I am greeting each new script and new storyline with, like, ‘Okay, we’ll go there. We’ll go there, we’ll do that.’ I mean, come on, it’s classic David Kelley and the good thing about David Kelley is that you can take it to another level.”

The role, he says, was originally intended, like so many of his previous series appearances, as a single story arc. “It was due to be like a two- or three-show max kind of a thing,” he says. “But I’m delightfully surprised and grateful that I’m now a series regular. I did 10 out of the 12 last year, so that was good. And now we’re nearly halfway through our (second) season) . . . ”

A season, again, quite markedly different from the first.

“There’s a lot less shoes and a lot more law this year,” McDonald confirms, “less of the ’hood and the gangs coming in . . . a lot less, actually. Hardly any at all.

“I love the old stuff, but I embrace the new stuff, because that’s what’s on the page and what we have to make fly. I can see both sides at the same time.”

The most radical and, oddly, most welcome change is the move from its current Wednesdays at 9 p.m. to Sundays at 8 when it returns in the spring.

“I don’t know how that’s going to affect our material but then, we’ve always sort of been a 10 o’clock show, writing-wise . . .

“Anything would be better than where we are now,” he allows, “because we are up against that monster on Fox (American Idol) that reports itself as a reality show but is basically a sing-off.

“The landscape is very, very slippery. It’s just a tough time. Each network has an old gun in there, an old horse that people are dedicated to. But we still get very good numbers, thank God.

“As Kathy says, ‘The crankies still love us.’”

VIDEO: Michael Jackson-Themed ‘Glee’ to air in January

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Dec 7, 2011) *On the heels of last night’s “
Glee” featuring a trifecta of Jackson songs – one from the Jackson 5, one from Janet and one from Michael – a full-on Michael Jackson-themed episode is being hustled into production for a scheduled airdate of Jan. 24.

According to TV Guide, producers are planning to feature around 12 of the singer’s songs and are fast tracking the writing of the script, with the first half set to be filmed before Christmas. The second half will be completed when the actors return in early January before airing later that month.

Insiders say Michael’s family has given “their enthusiastic support” for the project and hope that it will return the focus to his music rather than his controversial death in June 2009.

Show creator Ryan Murphy says the show’s cast members are “flooding him with requests to sing their favorite Jackson numbers.”

Video: Gwyneth Paltrow Talks Race and Diversity on ‘The Tanning Effect’


(December 2, 2011) *In Steve Stoute’s  provocative online series “
Tanning Effect,” actress Gwyneth Paltrow lends readers her thoughts about racial diversity in the industry and the Black community.

“I don’t want to bemoan the fact that it should’ve happened 50 years ago, because it’s here now. And it’s like the way I see it is that I have two little kids who are understanding the world in a time when Rihanna is on the cover of Vogue, and we have a black president. So their eyes are being as if they’re experiencing the world for the first time. All of this stuff is just root – it’s normal stuff for them. And that to me is what’s so incredible.”

She further explained that her children are a demonstration of new hope and openness as they are experiencing the world as if looking through kaleidoscope of colors and shapes.

“Their perspective on race and everything is completely open and completely different to how it was when I was a kid.”

Audio: Why Donald Faison Said ‘I Do’ to ‘The Exes’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders

(Dec 7, 2011) *
Donald Faison is back on series television.

The star of NBC’s former sitcom “Scrubs” is now portraying one of three divorced men sharing an apartment across the hall from their female divorce attorney in the new TV Land sitcom “The Exes.” Faison’s character, Phil, is described as a player.

“I know a few people like Phil, actually, and so it’s really easy to draw on the you see, it’s easy to be the ladies’ man on television because you get to kiss hot chicks every week,” the actor told TV critics during interviews for the show in August.

“Doing ‘Scrubs,’ I was always connected to someone. I had a relationship for the whole run. And so [this] was something that I wanted to explore. I’ve never had the opportunity to play a ladies’ man.”

His co-star Kristen Johnson, who plays the divorce attorney, says Faison’s Phil puts “a fresh spin on the Casanova.”

“He is a ladies’ man, but he is actually not a skeev. Like, you get it and he’s charming and he’s funny and he’s warm.”

Wayne Knight from “Seinfeld” and David Alan Basche from “The Starter Wife” also star.

Below, Faison reveals the biggest reason he agreed to star in “The Exes,” which airs Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on TV Land


Jimmy Fallon To Release New Comedy Album

www.thestar.com - By Alicia Quarles

(Dec. 1, 2011) Late Night host
Jimmy Fallon is known for performing
with his famous musical guests, including Justin Timberlake, Bruce Springsteen and Blake Shelton, so it seems only natural the comedian and music enthusiast would release a new album. Fans won’t have to wait long. His second record, not yet titled, is scheduled for release next summer on Warner Music Nashville. It will feature parodies and music that have become instant classics on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. His first album, The Bathroom Wall, was released in 2002. Despite singing live with some of the biggest names in music on his show, Fallon said he still feels the pressure of getting his new album completed. “Mostly, it means I should probably start writing some songs,” he said in a statement Friday.

Ebert Show Going On Hiatus As He Seeks Financial Backers


(Dec. 1, 2011) CHICAGO — Movie critic
Roger Ebert says the public television program Ebert Presents: At The Movies will go on hiatus at the end of December. The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic wrote on his blog Wednesday that the move is necessary to allow the public television stations that carry the show to plan their programs for the beginning of the new year. Ebert wrote that although it is distributed by American Public Television to all 50 top markets, he hasn’t been able to line up additional funding for the show. The show is hosted by Associated Press movie reviewer Christy Lemire and Mubi.com film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. Ebert wrote that he and his producer wife, Chaz, really believe in the show and its mission to “provide an intelligent place for the discussion of movies.”



Memphis In Black And White

www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(Dec 03, 2011) Bryan Fenkart is quickly realizing how important the message behind the musical, Memphis, remains.

When the national touring show recently hit Memphis of all places, Fenkart said at least a few audience members walked out part way through.

“When we were hitting places like places like Tulsa and Oklahoma City and Memphis, there was still that delicate walking-on-eggshells feeling. We even had a few people walk out (in Memphis), older white couples who weren’t quite ready for integration still,” Fenkart said.

Set in the Tennessee port city on the Mississippi in the 1950s and loosely based on a real-life person, a white deejay named Dewey Phillips, who defied convention by championing black rhythm and blues music on radio, Memphis is an interracial love story.

But Fenkart said the Tony Award-winning musical has a much broader message, about the power of music to break down racial barriers and to foster understanding among diverse communities.

“I do think the show has a lot to say about how music can bring everybody together. That’s something my character (Huey Calhoun) in the show believes very strongly in, that it doesn’t matter who’s singing it, black, white Jewish, good music is good music and should be heard,” Fenkart said.

“It’s a sort of civil rights statement, that it doesn’t matter who you are, if what you do is worth seeing or hearing, and great art is great art, and also, you can love who you want to love,” added Fenkart, who understudied the role on Broadway before taking the lead role on a North American tour two months ago.

Prior to the U.S. civil rights of the 1960s, Memphis was still a segregated city with a history of overt racism that goes back generations, said Nathan Cardon, a University of Toronto Ph.D candidate who teaches a course in black music history.

That historical context is something that audiences might want to be bear in mind in watching the musical, he said.

“For white deejays to start playing black music, it changed everything. And radio was the technology that allowed it to happen,” Cardon said.

“But as much as black music was able to cross racial lines in the 1950s ... the real lines that divided America remained. It actually took a grassroots movement by African-Americans in the South that would become the civil rights movement that would finally get rid of these barriers in American life,” Cardon added.

Gene Stevens, host of AM 740’s Vintage Favourites, said white deejays back then played a critical role in crossing the racial divide that separated black musicians from white audiences.

“The real significance of ... Phillips and other pioneering deejays who dared to play black music in the early and mid-1950s, especially to white teenage audiences, was their genuine affection for the music, and their bravery in exposing black music at a time of deep racial segregation and racial intolerance throughout the United States,” Stevens said.

Even after the civil rights movement brought down most racial barriers, Toronto radio veteran Bill Gable — who spent a year back in 1971 working at the same Memphis radio station where Dewey Phillips once spun records — recalled seeing faded signs on buildings with terms like “coloured entrance” to designate a separate doorway for black clientele.

“There were a lot of white disc jockeys ... who inadvertently brought R & B to the masses. They knew the younger generation, these white kids, wanted to hear that stuff (black music),” Gable recalled.

Cardon noted that while black artists like B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf were drawn to Memphis because of the growing R & B scene, the city remained a deeply divided and racist town even as the civil rights movement flourished, the place where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Cardon also noted that record companies, along with radio deejays, also had a vested interested in promoting black artists and R & B music.

“There was money to be made. Black music was what the kids wanted to listen to,” he said.

For his part, Fenkart — who’s releasing his album, Simple & Grey in January — said he’s proud to be part of a show with a message that remains urgent and relevant.

“The message is that music is a sort of glue for everybody. It really does bring everybody together if they allow it to,” he said.

Memphis the Musical runs at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, Dec. 6 to 24. Tickets $51-$181. Go to DancapTickets.com or call 416-644-3665.

Caissie, The Friendly Ghost

www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Dec. 1, 2011) LONDON — You no longer have to wonder if Hamilton’s
Caissie Levy has got a ghost of a chance of originating a role on Broadway.

It’s a done deal.

The cheers you heard ringing from Steel City earlier this week were from Levy’s family and friends when it was finally announced that she’d be playing Molly in Ghost the Musical, when it opens in Manhattan next spring.

That’s the part Demi Moore made so memorable in the 1990 film, complete with pottery wheel and “Unchained Melody,” but believe me, having seen Levy play it in London this past summer, she’s the one you’ll remember from now on.

“It’s thrilling! It feels like coming home,” said Levy. “This is my first time originating a role in a new musical and having the opportunity to create a character is something every actor dreams of doings, so I feel very fortunate.

“I just can’t wait to be back on Broadway.”

The lucky Levy has appeared there quite often in her 30 years, but always in parts that other people made before her: Elphaba in Wicked, Penny in Hairspray and Sheila in Hair.

But she’s been off in England for the past year and so she’s anxious to head back to Hamilton and NY, the two cities that define her.

She was born “right below the mountain” to a family that featured her physician father, Mark, her mother, Lisa, who administered her father’s practice and two older brothers, Robi and Josh, who are both film directors.

“When I was growing up, it seemed like everything was being sung in our house,” laughs Levy. “The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the score of Cats — music was everywhere.”

Her own laugh is musical enough as it tinkles through the air of the Lounge in the Haymarket Hotel, not far from her theatre. It’s just after one of her performances and she sips a glass of champagne while taking the journey back into her past.

The first theatrical experience she recalls is being taken at age 7 to see Les Miserables in its first Toronto run “and being intensely jealous I wasn’t Young Cosette.”

The two people who shaped her career in those early years were David Dayler, her much beloved teacher from Westdale Secondary School and theatre critic Gary Smith, with whom she worked at the Hamilton Players’ Guild.

“They were both wonderful men and tremendous mentors to me. I don’t know where I would have been without them.”

But even though the young Levy had a tremendous appetite for performing, it wasn’t connected to any formal career ambition.

“I wasn’t conscious of New York or Los Angeles or London. I just knew that I wanted to act and sing. Okay, after I saw my first Broadway show when I was 15, that changed a little. I saw Sarah Jessica Parker in Des McAnuff’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and just lost it. She was so kind to me at the stage door. I’ll never forget that!”

In her final year at Westdale, she had dutifully applied to all the major Canadian theatre schools, but one teacher heard her singing in the choir “and told me I really belonged in this school in New York where I could work on everything at once.”

That appealed to Levy, so she auditioned for the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and got in.

“So I went to New York at 19. I didn’t know a soul. I was so young and stupid, it didn’t really freak me, but I’m sure it freaked my parents! I was blown away by NY. I was studying so hard and trying to figure out how to be an adult at the same time.”

While still at school, she got cast as Maureen in a non-equity national company of Rent, “which was totally mind-blowing to me, because it was the show I’d been listening to all through high school.”

After graduating in 2004, it was right up to Toronto, where she understudied the role of Penny in the Mirvish production of Hairspray, later going to play the part in the national tour and on Broadway.

The bony green finger of Elphaba in Wicked beckoned to her next and she created the role in the Los Angeles company, later going on to play it on Broadway.

“I think it’s truly a great show,” she enthuses. “A strong plot, a great love story between two female friends and a chance for a lot of big emotions. I learned that I could never bring too much anger to ‘Defying Gravity.’ The more passionately I sang it, the better it landed.”

But when she was through with Wicked on Broadway in 2008, she moved back to Los Angeles to seek film and television work.

“I think you go where life takes you. Once I started doing musicals, I realized I loved that world, but I still wanted to try some dramatic acting without songs!”

Before she could get settled, they brought her back to Manhattan to play the part of Sheila in the Broadway revival of Hair.

“That was another mind trip for me! I remember that I used to sing ‘Easy To Be Hard’ around the campfire, and now I was doing it on a NY stage. Wow!”

She found the reason that show succeeded to be a combination of smarts from director Diane Paulus (“She had such a brilliant mind and she knew the through-line she wanted.”) and the interpersonal dynamic of the cast. (“You either connect to it right away and feel a buzz with the people involved, or you didn’t. I did.”)

It was while she was appearing in Hair that director Matthew Warchus sought her out to discuss a new musical based on the movie, Ghost, that he was preparing for London.

“We chatted briefly, but I didn’t think anything of it. And then the whole cast of Hair went to London and one night the entire creative team of Ghost came to see me. I auditioned officially the day before we closed and then I went off on a backpacking trip across Europe with my then-boyfriend, now husband!”

(Levy married David Reiser at the end of October, climaxing a relationship that had begun 5 years before.)

“I was in Croatia when I got the call asking me if I wanted to spend a year in London, which meant I got the part!”

But at first she pondered her decision.

“I thought about the responsibility of playing a role everyone felt so strongly about from a movie that meant so much to so many people. Then I said, ‘This is a leap of faith I have to take. I have to believe these talented people will know how to make this work.’”

And they did. Despite a bit of critical carping, Ghost the Musical, has enjoyed a tremendously strong audience following since its opening in London in July.

What still draws people is the story of Molly, whose husband is shot and killed in what seems like a random act of violence, but is still able to connect to her from beyond the grave.

“I think what’s the hardest is letting it roll off me at the end of the night, because it’s such a dark place for me.”

Especially because it hadn’t been long before she started rehearsing Ghost that Lindsay Thomas died. The 31-year-old musical theatre performer “was one of my very best friends. That’s hard. I think about her all the time. Unfortunately I now know what loss is and people write to me about how much the show meant to them and their own personal loss.

“It’s amazing that I get to do what I love and that it touches people so much.”


1. Joni Mitchell: Her voice is so expressive and flexible, and she’s one of the greatest storytellers of all time. I can’t live without the album Blue.

2. Janis Joplin: Her sense of abandon is unmatched. She sang from her gut and her heart, and you can hear that in every phrase.

3. Bette Midler: Her tone is uniquely hers. She’s not concerned with sounding perfect, she’s concerned with conveying emotion or humour. And she’s an amazing performer.

4. Erykah Badu: When her debut album came out, I would sit on the floor of my bedroom and listen to it on repeat for hours. Her voice is just liquidy goodness. Perfect blend of jazz and mainstream pop.

5. Eva Cassidy: Favourite singer ever. Incredible range, knew when to wail and when to be subtle, genius musicianship, total visionary lost too soon.

Tumbling Into A Different Type Of Musical Show

www.thestar.com - By John Terauds

(Dec 01, 2011) David Buchbinder chuckles as he describes his latest project.

“It’s the film composer’s revenge,” he says of his multi-disciplinary show,
Tumbling Into Light, which opens a four-night run at Harbourfront’s Enwave Theatre on Thursday.

“I want music to be at the centre of a new kind of experience,” Buchbinder says.

The longtime jazz trumpeter and lover of klezmer music developed the idea during a two-year stint as artist-in-residence at the Young Centre. He wanted to tell a story in music, mixing in dance and video to heighten the experience.

Buchbinder says his first real experiment in alternative storytelling came with a jazz circus project seven years ago.

“People who saw it had positive things to say,” the musician recalls, “but I hadn’t figured out how to do this blending thing.”

He is equally hard on himself about the first time he and his collaborators presented Tumbling Into Light at the Young Centre a year-and-a-half ago.

It featured Buchbinder with members of his Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, composer Dave Wall, choreographer Andrea Nann and filmmaker Bruce MacDonald.

“It was overwhelming,” is Buchbinder’s verdict.

In Tumbling Into Light’s original incarnation, Buchbinder and his band were a fairly static presence on stage.

“This time, we’ll be moving around the stage, not glued to a music stand,” he says of a more organic relationship between band, dance and video.

Using the cabaret-and-klezmer-tinged music from the Flying Bulgars’ 2009 album Tumbling Into Light, the show follows a riches-to-rags-to-riches arc — using light and darkness as the metaphors for a transformative personal journey.

“Movement and video are part of a musical world,” Buchbinder explains. “Music is the protagonist in the descent and return.”

Working collaboratively with artists from other disciplines, Buchbinder encouraged everyone to closely examine their relationship to music in emotional as well as physical terms.

He then asked each artist to translate this into something that an audience would be able to hear, see and feel.

This show is just a small part of a much larger project that Buchbinder has unleashed on the city.

In the ambitiously named Diasporic Genius, the trumpeter is bringing together all kinds of ways in which the natural love of storytelling every human being possesses can be unlocked.

His aim is to build something new and interesting from the large number of immigrant cultures that populate Toronto.

Besides Tumbling Into Light, Buchbinder and a team of like-minded artists have begun working with youth in Thorncliffe Park. One group is nurturing story circles, while the other is working with people from TIFF on learning how to make a film.

“The relationship comes down to story,” says Buchbinder. “This is something that is common to all of us and something we all can access.”

By bringing together a range of disparate stories, Buchbinder hopes something pleasantly unexpected will come along — much in the same way of the music, dance and video in this week’s show.

WHAT: Tumbling Into Light

WHERE: Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

WHEN: Dec 1 to 4 @ 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $39 @ 416-973-4000 or

A Wickedly Funky Wizard Of Oz

www.globeandmail.com - By J. Kelly Nestruck

(Dec 2, 2011) If you're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful
Wizard of
Oz, just don't expect to hear that song. There's none of the usual over-the-rainbow business in Ross Petty's latest harebrained holiday pantomime.

Here, Dorothy and her straw, tin and leonine buddies groove down the Yellow Brick Road, singing, "Won't you take me to Funkytown?" And the Oz they are journeying through? It's full of lions and tigers and bears - and dingos. Oh my, indeed.

Lorna Wright and Nicholas Hune-Brown, the writing team behind 2010's bumpy Beauty and the Beast, have tightened up their spoofing skills for this year's panto based loosely - looser than a Value Village turtleneck - on L. Frank Baum's 1900 book.

They're especially in their element in early scenes set not in Kansas but downtown Toronto, where a snowboard-loving Dorothy (Elicia MacKenzie of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? fame) and her Aunt Plumbum (Dan Chameroy, making a very welcome return to Petty's crew) end up transported to Baum's fairy-tale land by a blizzard rather than a tornado. This sets off a succession of sight gags that culminate in a very creative crushing of the Wicked Witch of the East.

On her way to Emerald City, Dorothy falls for a fellow named Donny (Yvan Pedneault, her old love interest from Rock of Ages), who eventually transforms into the Tin Man. Kyle Blair and Steve Ross, of Stratford Shakespeare Festival past and future, are a lovable double act as the expected scarecrow and scaredy-cat, who play mainly to the kiddies.

Producer Petty is, of course, the other Wicked Witch. One imagines that, while he no doubt makes an excellent living off these seasonal shows, he would probably pay good money to put on a dress and be booed and hissed. His semi-improvised asides deserved genuine hisses - on opening night, they were far too self-referential and name-dropped too many of his famous friends. Most disappointingly, not one of them offended me this year.

Instead of the classic Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg songs famous from the 1939 movie, what we get here is the usual mix of songs that will alternately please and puzzle the grownups in the audience: Lady Gaga's Born This Way starts the show, while Selena Gomez's Everything is Not What It Seems and Shawn Desman's Night Like This get sung in vaguely congruous situations later on.

Safety Dance from Men Without Hats and Sweet Dreams were two tunes even I recognized without having to Google the lyrics.

Director Tracey Flye keeps the action moving at a swift pace (but for a sluggish stretch in the first act) while Marc Kimelman has a few moments of genius in his athletic choreography - notably when Dorothy and Donny take a ride around Oz on a pair of human bikes.

What doesn't work

Many of Wright and Hune-Brown's jokes are clever rather than funny in the second half, while Pedneault's powerful voice - used so effectively in We Will Rock You - is wasted on weak ballads. And Eddie Glen, a Ross Petty regular, seems to be Skyping it in as the Wizard.

What does work

Chameroy is pure pleasure as Plumbum, entertaining both the children with his perfectly executed pratfalls and the adults-in-name-only with his dumb double entendres. As the good witch Splenda, Jessica Holmes (when her staged speech impediment isn't obscuring her lines) proves funnier here than she was in the average Air Farce episode, particularly in her ad libs.

The money moment

The chase scene where the heroines and heroes end up hiding behind Christmas trees and shouting, "Run, forest! Run!" No holiday season is complete without that gag.

The Wizard of Oz

Written by Lorna Wright and Nicholas Hune-Brown
Directed by Tracey Flye
Starring Elicia MacKenzie, Jessica Holmes and Ross Petty
At the Elgin Theatre in Toronto
The Wizard of Oz runs at the Elgin Theatre until Jan. 6.

How A Historic Theatre Survived Epic Battles

Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman

(Dec 06, 2011) If there is any theatre on this planet that has had a stormier history, changed its name more often, or been at the centre of more Shakespearean power struggles and epic legal battles than the 91-year-old dowager at 244 Victoria Street in Toronto, I’d be astonished.

As of Tuesday, its official name is the
Ed Mirvish Theatre. The change was made by an emotional David Mirvish at a celebrity-studded show attended by an invited audience including hundreds of Mirvish subscribers.

The event was a beautifully executed love-in for Ed, still revered four years after his death, as one of this city’s all-time favourite Torontonians, with tributes from Shirley Douglas, Michael Burgess, Molly Johnson, Louise Pitre, Stephen Harper, Dalton McGuinty and Rob Ford.

But there was a phantom in the wings, a key figure in the history of this building, whose name went carefully unmentioned.

That’s because for a decade Garth Drabinsky — after acquiring the theatre and restoring it to its 1920 opulence even going back to its original name, the Pantages) — was a fierce rival of the Mirvishes. He didn’t merely compete with them; he did his best to emerge as the sole king of Toronto commercial theatre.

Instead it was Ed and David Mirvish who endured and prevailed, while Drabinsky watched his Livent theatrical empire collapse in 1998, and eventually, after 13 years of ducking the consequences, wound up in jail, sentenced to five years for fraud.

Of all the spectacular setbacks Drabinsky has experienced, the most painful must be seeing this theatrical palace — which in his dreams would have been his legacy, eventually bearing his name — become the jewel in the crown of his foes.

In contrast to Drabinsky, Ed Mirvish was not only a shrewd businessman but a witty and unpretentious charmer who won over virtually everyone who worked with him or for him. And in this case, nice guys did not finish last.

In Drabinsky’s first skirmish over this property, his foe was not Mirvish but Famous Players, the powerful exhibition company. Originally built as a showplace for vaudeville and silent movies, the Pantages was wired for sound in 1930 and renamed the Imperial. After it played The Godfather in 1972, Famous Players turned it into a six-screen multiplex, dubbed the Imperial Six, with all the charm of a rabbit warren.

Drabinsky, after taking control of rival Cineplex Odeon, became aware that his rival, which owned the south half was slow to renew its lease on the north half of the building — and made a deal with the owners. While Cineplex and Famous battled in court, Drabinsky remodelled his half of the building.

Drabinsky used guard dogs to block entrances to the part of the building controlled by Famous, forcing them to close. In 1988 with fanfare, he opened the movie Wall Street. Eventually, Famous was forced to give up the fight, and the entire building was bought by Drabinsky.

Before being forced out of Cineplex in a struggle involving his Hollywood partners, MCA Universal, and his Canadian partners, the Bronfmans, Drabinsky set up a live entertainment division within Cineplex.

As part of their exit plan, he and Myron Gotlieb paid Cineplex $88 million for the division, including ownership of the theatre and the Canadian rights to produce The Phantom of the Opera. After Drabinsky spent millions restoring the theatre, Phantom opened at the Pantages in September, 1989.

Thus was born the ill-fated company Livent — which soared for a while on the returns from Phantom, but began to falter five or six years later.

Following the collapse of Livent, its assets were disposed of at bargain prices, and the Pantages was scooped up in 1999 by the U.S. theatrical company SFX.

After trying unsuccessfully to run its own subscription series there, SFX made peace with the Mirvishes and leased the theatre to them. David Mirvish made a deal with Canon, giving the electronics company naming rights for a ten-year term — which has just expired.

SFX was taken over by Clear Channel Entertainment, which later sold its theatrical division (called Live Nation) to Key Brand Entertainment.

Though Drabinsky had lost the Pantages, the Mirvishes had a new rival — Aubrey Dan and his Dancap company. As a shareholder in Key Brand, Dan believed he had first rights to buy the theatre when Key Brand put it up for sale. But as part of their original deal with SFX, the Mirvishes had an option to buy it.

After a court case that dragged on for a couple of years, the Mirvishes emerged triumphant in 2008, as buyers of both the Canon Theatre and the smaller, funkier Panasonic. So it came to pass that they own four theatres, while Aubrey Dan owns none.

The outcome would have put one of those big childlike grins on the face of Ed Mirvish — a trademark that made people adore him.


Send Us Your Best Hippie Hairstyle

Source: www.thestar.com

(Dec 07, 2011) As the famous lyrics go, “Gimme head with hair, long
beautiful hair.”  The musical Hair returns to Toronto Dec. 13, which got us thinking about the hairstyles from the ’60s. We want see your best hippie look from that decade.  Send us your photo, with information on when and where the photo was taken and how the hairstyle came to be, to webmaster@thestar.ca with the subject line “Hair.” Please include your name and number as we may contact you for a story to run in the Toronto Star and thestar.com.


Canada ‘Still A Blackberry Nation’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

(Dec 01, 2011) TORONTO— Google Inc.'s share of the Canadian
smartphone market doubled between June to September while Research in Motion Ltd. RIM-T and Apple Inc. slipped, according to a report by measurement firm comScore.

About eight million Canadians owned a smartphone in September and 35.8 per cent were using a BlackBerry, said comScore on Wednesday.

Apple had 30.1 per cent of the market, Google's Android platform had 25 per cent, Symbian had 4.2 per cent and Microsoft had 3.2 per cent.

RIM dropped about six percentage points since comScore's previous mobile report in June, Apple lost almost 1 per cent and Android experienced a major growth spurt from 12 per cent.

“Canada is still a BlackBerry nation, BlackBerry still has the largest share of smartphones in Canada, but we see Android ... really growing significantly,” said comScore vice-president Bryan Segal.

“That's growing at a really quick rate.”

In all, 20.1 million Canadians aged 13 or older had a cellphone in September, with 40 per cent owning a smartphone. In June, smartphones represented 33 per cent of all mobile phones in Canada, and Mr. Segal noted smartphone adoption is growing fast.

“Seven per cent raw growth is extremely big, you're talking about a very large percentage of people moving to smartphones, which bodes well for mobile media, advertising and talks to a trend that's happening in the marketplace around the world.”

While Android is gaining ground on RIM and Apple quickly, Mr. Segal notes that all three players are still selling more and more phones.

“When you talk about market shares it always gets disguised as 'this company is taking this share,' but across the board there's been so much growth on the smartphone side and all of these three major players are showing significant growth.”

In the U.S., Android had 44.8 per cent of the smartphone market in September, Apple had 27.4 per cent and RIM had 18.9 per cent. Android grew 4.6 per cent since June, Apple was up almost 1 per cent and RIM was down 4.6 per cent.

Say Bye To Wi-Fi, Powerlines Can Juice Your Home Network

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Michael Snider

(Dec 7, 2011) One of the generally undiscovered treats of connecting all
the devices in your home is powerline networking. Most Canadians rely primarily on Wi-Fi to connect devices such as game consoles to their home networks. With a quality router you can happily stream HD-quality movies from the office PC to the Xbox 360 connected to the TV or to another PC on the second floor. Wireless networking has become a relatively simple and efficient way to build a home network and most of us use that method to beam content from room to room.

However, some devices such as the Slingbox Pro HD and HD HomeRun [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/2011-tech-gift-guide/home-entertainment/boxes-that-sling-your-tv-to-wherever-you-are/article2260644] cannot connect to your home network wirelessly. They need to be plugged into a router or a switch, which proved logistically impossible in my case. My living room and office are on opposite ends of the house, and there was no way I was going to string Ethernet cords through the front hallway, around the dining room and into the den. But a powerline Ethernet device - essentially using my home's electrical wiring to convey data to and from my router and living room devices - would do the trick.

Off the shelf, a powerline networking device comes with two adapters. You connect one unit to your router with an Ethernet cord and then plug it into an electrical outlet nearby. The second unit plugs into an outlet near the TV and then to one or more of your networked devices. Some powerline products allow you to connect as many as four devices at once, others just one. And just like the different flavours of Wi-Fi (802.11 a, b, g and n), powerline networking devices are rated by a trade group called the HomePlug Powerline Alliance. Products are rated as HomePlug 1.0, HomePlug AV1 and HomePlug AV2 and transfer speeds of various devices range from 85 megabits per second to 500 Mbps.

Sling Media sent their SlingLink Turbo [http://ca.slingbox.com/go/slt]powerline adapter ($89.99) along with the Slingbox Pro HD and though setup was effortless, neither the Slingbox nor the HD HomeRun could connect to the network. The HomePlug 1.0 device has a top data transfer speed of 85 Mbps - too slow for my setup. Even making sure that both ends of the powerline device were plugged directly into wall sockets - power bars are not recommended - didn't ensure a strong enough connection to sling HD video.

As a test, I plugged the little Asus EeeBox [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/2011-tech-gift-guide/home-entertainment/a-computer-you-might-want-in-your-entertainment-console/article2259814] into the SlingTurbo, disconnected the PC from my wireless network and then navigated to a broadband speed test website. Normally when I check internet speed on my main PC, I hit between 25 Mbps or 30 Mbps, which corresponds to my internet package. Running the test on the Asus showed a transfer speed of 5 Mbps. While that isn't exactly an accurate reflection of network speed, by comparison a Netgear Powerline [http://www.netgear.com/home/products/powerline-and-coax/work-and-play/xavb1004.aspx] device supplied by Best Buy returned speeds of 25 Mbps.

Yet even the Netgear HomePlug AV2 device ($129.99), which has data transfer speeds of up to 200 Mbps, was not fast enough to stream HD video from the TV. While the HD HomeRun could stream standard definition content, HD programming froze up. The Slingbox setup detected the antenna but got stuck in an endless loop in the middle of the configuration process.

There are two likely explanations for this: The Netgear HomePlug is a four-port device, meaning you can connect four separate devices to it. While you can designate which devices should get priority on the network, the more devices I connected seemed to dilute the connection. Also, powerline devices work best if the wall sockets between TV and router are connected with the same wire. The further you separate them, the weaker the connection.

I made another call to Best Buy and this time they sent me a D-Link PowerLine AV 500 4-Port Gigabit Switch Kit [http://www.bestbuy.ca/en-ca/product/d-link-d-link-powerline-av-500-4-port-gigabit-switch-kit-dhp-541-dhp-541/10181670.aspx?path=14c63a8554b9e4cd69df12c0852392e3en02] ($149.99), rated as having speeds of up to 500 Mbps. That did the trick. I set up the Slingbox Pro HD in about five minutes, and got the HD HomeRun streaming HD video smoothly. As well, the four ports allowed me to connect the home theatre PC and my Xbox at the same time, all of which performed flawlessly.

The lesson in all of this, for me at least, is to go for broke from the start. No messing around with anything less than 500 Mbps, especially if you're planning on streaming HD television. However, the Netgear 200 Mbps HomePlug operated just fine when connected to the Asus EeeBox [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/2011-tech-gift-guide/home-entertainment/a-computer-you-might-want-in-your-entertainment-console/article2259814], streaming Netflix on its highest quality settings without lag or stutter.

Tomorrow - Part 4: Whole-home routers for your on-demand entertainment needs

Editor's note: The photo initially attached to this story was misidentified as the D-Link PowerLine AV 500. We regret the error.

Join us Thursday at 11 a.m. ET for a discussion with tech expert Michael Snider on the challenges of wiring up your living room with the latest entertainment technology.

You can leave your questions in the panel below, mobile users can click here [http://scrbliv.me/34475] to participate.

Tech On A Trip Should Be Easy. Especially In The Virgin Islands

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Tim Fraser

(Dec 7, 2011) ST. JOHN, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS — I should be taking
notes. I should be shooting video or photos or fiddling with gadgets and laptops. Yet the evening’s perfect breeze, the rum and the natural euphoria that goes hand in hand with the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands are doing their work on me.

The last place I should be is standing atop a waterside restaurant table, next to the only other Canadian in the group, howling O Canada to the half-moon directly above me. This is supposed to be a trip about technology and how it meshes with travel, not about me responding to someone questioning the authenticity of my Canadian-ness.

Almost three days ago, I arrived at the Concordia Eco-Resort, nestled on the southeast outcropping of St. John, overlooking Salt Pond Bay. Intimate and environmentally friendly, the resort boasts both tasteful luxury suites and rugged tent-like cabins. It’s a natural fit here on an island where nearly 75 per cent of the land mass is a mountainous and forested paradise of national parkland.

Once home to native Americans, following Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus’s discovery in 1493, St. John slowly transitioned over the next 200 years to an island sordidly tied to piracy and slavery. Many traces of the island’s history are still scattered along hiking trails through the ruins of sugar mills and rum distilleries built with coral bricks.

But it’s not history that brought me here, nor my ambition to sing the Canadian national anthem in all of the 50 U.S. states and its territories (three down!). In many ways, I’m here because of the future. A professional photographer and avid video gamer, I’m here along with eight other journalists at the invitation of Microsoft to field test a variety of Windows laptops and other technologies. The inherent conflict? I’m what you’d get if a Mac and a PC mated. I like and use both: Mac is my work, PC is my play, and I’d never really given much thought as to which I’d bring on my travels.

On holiday, I want to relax. I want to use Skype to call family. I want to shoot pictures and video, edit them and upload them to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr. I want to play video games on the plane to and from my destination. And I want it all to be really easy.

On this trip, I’m testing the Asus Zenbook. It’s a lightweight brushed-steel notebook computer about the size of a tablet device when closed, and nearly as thin (measuring nine millimetres at its thickest point). In any light, it looks to be devilishly handsome and a direct competitor to the popular MacBook Air.

Aesthetics aside, it’s a speedy little thing packed with a Core i7 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 120-gigabyte solid-state hard drive. In other words, multitaskers, there’s a bit of heft under the hood.

And multitask we did. Whether hiking on the Reef Bay Trail or snorkelling around Booby Rock, all of us journalist types kept busy capturing photos and videos of our excursions and the nutty stuff that people do on them.

On the second day of the trip, I’m underwater and see a man with nothing but swim trunks and a spear pounce on a group of lionfish, an invasive species in the Caribbean known for their spiny venomous fin rays. I can’t help but think, “This guy is out of his mind.” At the same time, I want to be ready with a waterproof camera to see who will win the war of the poker (the guy with the spear or the fish with the spikes).

At the end of a short war, the lionfish population is decreased by one.

The following day, I’m racing ahead on the thin rocky trail that runs along the edge of Salt Pond Bay. It’s a sunset hike, and to a photographer’s ears, “sunset hike” sounds like Beethoven. This proves to be especially true when 45 minutes of both steep inclines and a few declines end at the top of a small mountain overlooking most of the south side of St. John.

Having taken plenty of photos, I’m excited to get back to the resort to edit my pictures on the Zenbook, which is preloaded with Windows Live Essentials, Microsoft’s free multimedia suite of applications. Using the photo-editing application packaged with the suite was a bit of a revelation to me: While considered consumer-end, Windows Live Photo Gallery has some pretty professional options for fine-tuning colour, tone, shadows and highlights. In fact, there are a variety of adjustment sliders on this free software that work just like ones I use regularly in Adobe Photoshop CS5 (a $700 program).

Lacking a reliable Internet connection at the island resort, I was unable to upload my pictures on Facebook which could integrate, along with other social sites, to Windows Live, or upload photos to SkyDrive, Microsoft’s online Cloud storage.

Friends and family were at least spared the intentional insincerity of me posting “Wish you were here, suckers!”

The video editing portion of the suite is Windows Live Movie Maker. I peek over the shoulder of another travel journalist as he easily pieces his photos within a half-hour into a 60-second video slide show with music and text. Not a bad turnaround time, considering this was his first go at the software.

In the past, I’ve used Apple’s iLife suite; I had never tried Window’s Live Essentials, and was surprised to find it fluid and lacking complication. I couldn’t help but wonder, though, considering how successful Apple has been at pushing the simplicity message, if Microsoft is too late to the game, if it missed the flight.

It’s my final day and I’m sailing on a catamaran to the island of St. Thomas, from where I’ll be flying back to the approaching Canadian winter. It’s hot, slightly overcast and serene. The Caribbean breeze begins to do its work on me again. I should be taking pictures, or shooting video or testing some gadget I haven’t had the chance to test yet. I shouldn’t be putting my camera away.

The last place I should be is relaxed and sprawled out on the edge of the deck enjoying a vacation … technology-free.

Price: $ 2,033.00
Tech Specs: Intel Core i5 2.5 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB solid-state drive, 34-cm display, 1.6 kg, 20 mm thick
Description: What it lacks in style it makes up for in its military ruggedness, lightweight portability and power under the hood. Not only that, but it’s spill-resistant and thin.
Best Travel Fit: Versatile for nearly any travel situation, business or otherwise.
Price: $999.00
Tech Specs: Intel Core i7 processor, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB solid-state drive, 29-cm display, 1.09 kg, 9 mm thick
Description: Super-thin, stylish and powerful. The brushed-steel body not only looks good, but is surprisingly light. The lack of a DVD drive may be a bit of a bother, but it’s a laptop meant for cloud-based computing.
Best Travel Fit: For the stylish traveller who likes to pack light and keep their device discreet.
Price: $899.00
Tech Specs: Intel Core i5 2410m 2.3 GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 500 GB hard disk drive, AMD HD 6630M dedicated graphics, 34-cm display, 2.17 kg, 23 mm thick
Description: Ultra-powerful with a range of colours to suit your style, this laptop can handle nearly anything you throw at it, including gaming. An optional sheet battery extends battery life up to 15 hours and barely adds to the size of the laptop.
Best Travel Fit: A great laptop for the business traveller or to take on the family vacation. Entertain the kids on a long road trip with its gaming capabilities.
Price: $1,099.00
Tech Specs: Intel Core i5 2.3 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, 640 GB hard disk drive, 34-cm display, 1.45 kg, 28 mm thick.
Description: Spill-resistant with a reinforced case. Great home theatre capabilities with a robust LED backlit display.
Best Travel Fit: For those who like to keep themselves entertained on the go.
Price: $4,327.00 (U.S.)
Tech Specs: Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 GHz processor, 4 GB RAM, 320 GB hard disk drive, 34-cm display, 3.72 kg, 67 mm thick
Description: It doesn’t get any more durable than this with a full magnesium alloy case and sealed keyboard and touchpad and ports. Slam it, spill on it, or drop it, this laptop can take the licks.
Best Travel Fit: In only the most extremely rugged travel circumstances is this laptop a must-have
Special to The Globe and Mail


A Flight Plan For Free Upgrades

Source:  By Adam Bisby, MSN Travel

(Dec. 1, 2011) Five tips on how to make your
plane trip a whole lot nicer.

The good news: It's still possible to buy a coach plane ticket and end up in first class without spending a single cent or frequent-flyer mile. The bad news: It's never been more difficult to pull it off.

Airline capacity cuts, web-based ticketing systems that automate upgrades and ubiquitous frequent-flyer programs have combined to pack business- and first-class cabins with passengers who have earned their comfort, leaving free upgrade hopefuls on the outside looking in. Indeed, many airlines have implemented policies of never granting complimentary upgrades to travellers whose frequent-flyer status is deemed unworthy.

But all is not lost. Many of the tactics that worked during the pre-2001 "Golden Age of Free Upgrades" are still useful — always be polite, patient and presentable — while the challenges of the 21st century have given rise to the comprehensive approach detailed below. The odds of getting bumped up may have dipped, but remember: There has never been a foolproof formula for getting an upgrade. It's always been a mixture of luck and strategy — and the following five-step strategy will improve your luck:

Step 1: Embrace the human touch
You can't sweet-talk an online booking system, but a flesh-and-blood travel agent is another matter. Once you've established a suitably chummy relationship, politely ask him or her to add an "other significant information" (OSI) note to your reservation. This will indicate that you're a VIP of some sort — we're all heroes to our pets, right? — which may prompt the airline to try and impress you with an upgrade. (After all, didn't JetBlue Airways CEO David Neeleman always fly coach?)

Another advantage of the human touch is the insight agents can offer on whether a flight is overbooked — when reservations outnumber available seats — and how much space remains in the cabins you covet. To find out why is this important for upgrades, read on ...

Step 2: Pick the right flight
Bump-ups typically happen when flyers get "bumped" out of overbooked cheap seats and into the promised land. Of course, preference is given to passengers with the loftiest frequent-flyer status or with full-fare tickets. If you don't have a legitimate edge, you'll have to use your wits — and hopefully your wits lead you to a Saturday afternoon flight headed to Florida during March Break (for example). Globetrotting executives are few and far between on this type of flight, which levels the upgrade playing field and yields vacant business- and first-class seats. Another option is to use a service like ExpertFlyer.com to check out availability and seat plans.

Step 3: Take one for the "team"
If the flight is indeed overbooked — ask about this at check-in and again at the gate — let the agent know you'd be willing to give up your seat. If they accept and you end up on another flight, you'll probably be compensated with credits that could be used on an upgrade. Even if you stay on your original flight, that act of selflessness (cue violin music) could get you bumped up.

Step 4: Favour the flight attendants
It's not unheard of for overbookings to be discovered on the plane itself. If this happens, let a flight attendant know you're willing to give up your seat. It's a risky proposition — you could be bumped off the plane entirely — but attendants are generally less restricted than airport agents when it comes to moving passengers around.
On that note, there are other factors that could prompt an attendant to move you out of cattle class. Maybe your neighbour's cologne is making you sneeze. If you booked a bulkhead seat — always a savvy move — perhaps a family needs your spot and you volunteer to move.

Step 5: Take a stand
You can't build travel snafus into your plan of attack, but they could get you upgraded just the same. If your seat, seatbelt or tray table is broken, make sure the flight attendant knows about it, as it could get you moved up. Indeed, if you've suffered any sort of inconvenience over the course of your journey — lost luggage, a reservation mix-up — don't be afraid to politely use these slips as leverage. After all, airlines prefer to hand out copious frequent-flyer miles, and hence upgrades, over monetary compensation.


Boogaard, 28, Had Degenerative Brain Disease

Source: www.thestar.com

(Dec 05, 2011) Former NHL enforcer
Derek Boogaard showed signs of a degenerative brain condition believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head, the New York Times reports.

Boogaard’s family donated his brain to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University’s School of Medicine.

The 28-year-old former New York Rangers forward died in May due to an accidental mix of alcohol and the painkiller oxycodone.

The Times says research shows Boogaard had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as C.T.E., a close relative of Alzheimer’s disease.

The newspaper reports that scientists were shocked to see so much damage in someone so young and that, had Boogaard lived, his condition likely would have worsened into middle-age dementia.

Boogaard played parts of five seasons with the Minnesota Wild before signing with the Rangers as a free agent in the summer of 2010.

In 277 career NHL games, the 6-foot-8, 257-pound Saskatoon native recorded three goals, 13 assists and 589 penalty minutes.

Muhammad Ali Home from Hospital after Losing Consciousness


(December 2, 2011) *
Muhammad Ali is back home and recuperating after he was hospitalized last month in Arizona, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports.

The paper spoke with Ali’s close friend and Louisville radio personality John Ramsey, after Ramsey told Star magazine that the boxing icon had been hospitalized “after slipping out of consciousness at his Phoenix-area home.”

Ramsey said he spoke by telephone with Ali’s wife, Lonnie, last night and was told Ali is “home and well, for a person who has had Parkison’s since the 1980s. He may not be going in the direction you or I like, but no one is on alert. That’s the truth.”

Ramsey said the Alis still plan to be in Louisville in mid-January for a celebration of the three-time heavyweight champion’s 70th birthday, Jan. 19.

Ramsey said he didn’t have any details of Ali’s hospital treatment but that he believed, “I don’t think he stayed very long,” Ramsey said.

The Star reported that it had been told by multiple sources that Ali was rushed from the couple’s home in Paradise Valley to the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center on Nov. 19. The Star also said it confirmed a 911 call from the residence, and that Ali was unconscious at the time.

The Star quoted Alan Laitsich, a spokesperson for Paradise Valley Police, saying: “The victim started to pass out in the car and when they got him into the house he fell unconscious.”

The magazine said it didn’t have details of Ali’s treatment or his length of stay at the hospital.

The Nov. 19 rush to the hospital came just five days after Ali attended the funeral of his greatest rival, Joe Frazier. Another boxer who fought Ali for the heavyweight title, Ron Lyle, died Saturday at the age of 70.

Soccer Legend Socrates Thrived As ‘Anti-Athlete’

www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(Dec 04, 2011) That Brazil’s Socrates was one of the greatest talents
to grace the game of football is probably the least of it.

He was also a leftist philosopher, a medical doctor, an alcoholic libertine and a key figure in dislodging his home country’s military junta.

He took more pleasure consorting with radicals than footballing legends, once calling himself an “anti-athlete.”

He captained one of the greatest teams of all time, but saw football as only one extension of his gifts, and not nearly the best of them. He was — in a way that no longer exists in professional sport — an icon.

After a series of illnesses, Socrates died early Sunday morning from septic shock brought on by food poisoning. He was 57.

Many will remember the louche figure he cut at the 1982 and ’86 World Cups — bearded, bedraggled, both regal and ragged at the same time. He was the first and last bohemian football star, with the political credibility to back up the look.

He was famously languorous on the field, lazy even, drifting out of the flow of play for long stretches only to dart back in at the crucial moment. He was two-footed, an adept finisher and tall for a midfield general. Too tall probably, at 6-foot-3. He started out as a striker but drifted back toward a spot that suited his meandering turn of mind.

His signature move was the back-heel pass. Pele once noted that Socrates was better going backward than everyone else going forward.

The flamboyant artists collective he led into the ’82 World Cup is still one of the most obsessed-over teams in history. They were heavily favoured to win, until they ran aground on Italy’s rocky defence in a classic quarter-final. That Brazil team is roundly cited as the best side not to win a world championship.

But now that he’s gone, Socrates may be remembered less for sport than for his wonderfully idiosyncratic personality.

He trained and qualified as a medical doctor while he was playing professional football on the weekends. After his playing career ended, he practised medicine for several years. Later still, he became a crusading newspaper columnist.

He was also a principled hedonist, a man who happily quickened his own passing.

Like several of his Brazil teammates, he was a chain smoker and a heavy drinker. That partially explains the remarkable level of on-field intelligence — Socrates needed to guard his stamina in order to make it through all 90 minutes of a game.

After leaving Brazil for the lure of big money in Italy, Socrates found himself rattled by the expectation that he devote himself to training.

“The way of life is so correct and organized in Europe. It’s not like that in Brazil, where things are more spontaneous,” Socrates said in a 2010 interview. “I was in Florence for a year with Fiorentina and sometimes I didn’t want to train, but to hang out with friends, party or have a smoke. There’s more to life than football.”

Unlike others playing football in a country controlled by a dictatorship, he had a probing mind and a fearless ability to speak truth to power.

His best years, in all senses, came during a long stretch with Sao Paulo’s Corinthians.

Under Socrates’ guidance, the players formed a precursor to the recent Occupy movements, called “Corinthians Democracy.” The team debated and voted on every aspect of their day — when and how to train, when to eat, what tactics to employ.

Corinthians Democracy spiralled out into the wider political realm. Players wore jerseys urging fans to vote and embrace change. Socrates addressed crowds at leftist rallies. It was a radical, even dangerous, stand to take in a society fearful of criticizing the regime in even the blandest terms.

Socrates used his football celebrity to insulate himself. He would later say that winning a league championship with the word Democracy printed across the back of his jersey was his finest achievement.

Socrates was part of a footballing breed that has been done in by commercialism and big money. He was a stupendously talented player who only grew in stature every time he stepped off the pitch.

Young Raptors Have To Hit The Ground Running

www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(Dec 04, 2011) Jose Calderon is the longest-serving Raptor, the oldest player on the team and, as the presumptive starting point guard, he will hold a special place on a young roster that needs leadership as it continues a slow building process.

He could very well have more responsibility in all facets of the team dynamic when the delayed and truncated NBA season begins but everything’s as it ever was for the veteran from Spain.

“Not really,” Calderon said Sunday when asked if he felt any special pressure or increased role as training camp approaches. “I feel like every year, I’m going to give everything on the court for this team, I’m going to try to help my teammates, I’m always there for them. That’s going to be the role.

“I still have a lot of years ahead of me playing basketball and I feel comfortable. I feel like I’m in that time of my career, I feel comfortable on the court, the injuries were back a couple of years ago, we’re on the next stage. I feel great to help everybody.”

Calderon, Ed Davis and James Johnson found themselves in the Raptors’ practice facility Sunday getting in a workout under the auspices of the team’s training staff.

The league still forbids coaches or front-office personnel from having any interaction with players who’ve arrived back in their cities, although restrictions on contact between general managers and free agents will be eased Monday morning.

Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo will be allowed to directly contact free agents as he searches for the three or four players he needs to fill out the roster.

There still cannot be workouts coordinated or supervised by coaches but it’s expected a handful of other Toronto players will make their way back to town Monday or Tuesday to hold some informal sessions before the expected Dec. 9 opening of training camps.

That’s going to be key for a Toronto roster that’s going to work under a new coach, Dwane Casey, and with a new focus on defensive play. The more the young group can get together, the better because they’ll have to hit the ground running whenever the league-imposed shackles come off and the 66-games-in-120-days regular season approaches

“I think it’s going to be a positive for us — we’re young, we can turn it on,” said Davis. “Everyone stayed in shape, we stayed in contact. I think everybody’s going to be ready.

“It’s going to be tough with all those back-to-backs and three games in three days but we’re young. I think we’re going to be fine. We’re going to try to make the playoffs, play hard, follow Casey.”

Davis’s enthusiasm aside, it’s going to be difficult for the Raptors to get out of the gate quickly given all they have to accomplish in a nine-day camp with just two pre-season games to get ready for a four-games-a-week regular season that will include precious little practice time.

A premium will have to be placed on teaching and absorbing those lessons quickly off the court.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit more difficult than other teams,” said Calderon. “When you change your coach, you have to do a lot of things and we have less time to do all those things.

“There has to be more concentration, maybe a little more time, more videos and just talk and get ready as soon as possible.”

Madonna, Cirque Du Soleil Team Up For Super Bowl Halftime Show

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Dec 04, 2011) The Material Girl will be taking the stage on football's
biggest night.

Madonna, who has sold more than 300 million records, will perform at halftime of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The NFL and NBC announced Sunday during the Detroit-New Orleans game that the Grammy Award-winning singer will highlight the show at Lucas Oil Stadium on Feb. 5.

The show is the most-watched musical event of the year, with more than 162 million in the U.S. tuning in to see The Black Eyed Peas' performance with Slash and Usher in Dallas at halftime of Green Bay's Super Bowl win over Pittsburgh last February.

Madonna, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will join such acts as Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Prince, U2, Paul McCartney, The Who and the Rolling Stones to perform during recent Super Bowls. She will collaborate with a team from
Cirque du Soleil, choreographer Jamie King, and artists from Moment Factory.

Madonna, currently in the studio working on a new album, has a new film "W.E." which she directed, wrote and produced and will open nationally two days before the NFL's signature event.

The Super Bowl and halftime show, sponsored by Bridgestone Americas, will be broadcast worldwide on NBC.

Bosh Bulks Up For Heat, Says He Didn’t Work ‘Hard Enough’ Last Season

Source: www.thestar.com - Joseph Goodman

(Dec 06, 2011) MIAMI—Compared to his immense talent, Chris Bosh might be the most disrespected player in professional sports.

Shaquille O’Neal once described him as a drag queen; Kevin Durant called him “a fake tough guy.” If you search Bosh’s name on Google, the results are . . . less than kind. It takes a confident and strong individual to shrug off all that derision, and Bosh is certainly that.

Now it appears Bosh is hell-bent on matching his physical toughness with his mental fortitude.

NBA players were allowed to work out at league practice facilities last week for the first time since the lockout ended. And Bosh’s new physique was on full display. It was obvious he used the prolonged lockout to his advantage.

“I don’t think I worked hard enough last year,” Bosh said. “I was in a position where I didn’t know what to expect and everything . . . “I was kind of caught in the headlights a little bit and couldn’t catch up.

“But now I know what to expect. I’ve played in the championship series. I came up short, and I feel I know what it takes to get over that hump.”

Veins bulged from Bosh’s swollen biceps as he spoke. His chest was pronounced. His shoulders resembled small shot puts. His legs were thick and solid.

Bosh was a man making a statement without having to say a word.

He worked out Thursday and Friday alongside Heat enforcer Udonis Haslem, and Bosh appeared to be the stronger of the two forwards. He wouldn’t say how much muscle he stacked on his 6-11 frame during the offseason, but Bosh looked about 10 to 15 pounds heavier than the player who was overcome with emotion after losing to the Dallas Mavericks in June.

Bosh walked off the court after Game 6 of the NBA Finals and collapsed in a tunnel. He was the least of the Heat’s problems during the series, but he left the arena that night prepared to rededicate himself all the same.

“It was one of those things where, not only did I want to get better on the court, but I wanted to get in there in the weight room and improve my body,” Bosh said, “and just be in the best shape possible coming in this season because it’s physical (in the post), and there shouldn’t be a season where I don’t average 10 rebounds.”

Bosh averaged 8.3 rebounds per game last season. His career average is 9.2. He averaged 7.3 rebounds in the Finals.

Bosh took a month off after the season and then began his new workout routine. He trained twice a day with strength and conditioning experts such as Ed Downs of Miami, who operates TERF Athletic Facility.

“He bulked up,” Haslem said of Bosh. “If you didn’t take something from last year that you needed to help yourself as an individual, then you’re selling yourself short.

“Everybody looked at certain things that they needed to work on. For me, I needed to get my health together. For LeBron (James), he was in Houston working out with Hakeem (Olajuwon) on his post-game. Chris added bulk. So, everyone took something from last season and kind of dug down to why we didn’t get it done.”

This isn’t the first time Bosh has added weight to his frame. While in Toronto, Bosh gained muscle mass but quickly lost it. He said his body wasn’t ready to carry the extra load. This time, Bosh has worked on strengthening his ligaments as well as his muscles. He now said he’s going to stay in the weight room “for the rest of my life.”

The primary reason for Bosh’s physical transformation might be to get more rebounds, but he also is tired of the jokes. For Bosh, Year Two of the Big 3 will be about proving his critics wrong.

“A lot of these jokes going on around me . . . I kind of let people, I kind of let that happen by not being as aggressive as I could be,” Bosh said. “But I feel that it’s in my hands now, and I’ll crack some jokes, too.”

Man United And City Knocked Out Of Champions League

Source: www.thestar.com - Stuart Condie

(Dec 7, 2011) LONDON—Three-time European champion
Manchester United was eliminated from the Champions League on Wednesday when it lost 2-1 at FC Basel, with Manchester City joining its local rival on the sidelines despite beating Bayern Munich.

United needed only to avoid defeat in Switzerland to secure a 15th knockout round appearance in 16 Champions League seasons but drops into the Europa League while Basel advances.

City, the Premier League leader, also heads into the second-tier tournament despite a 2-0 win over already qualified Bayern. Napoli’s 2-0 win at Villarreal took the Italian side through instead.

Lyon won 7-1 at Dinamo Zagreb to complete a remarkable turnaround and qualify ahead of Ajax, which lost 3-0 to Real Madrid. CSKA Moscow won 2-1 at Inter Milan to take the final spot and complete the 16-team lineup for the next round.

After losing three of the last four finals, United was expected to join Chelsea and Arsenal in the next round after the London clubs progressed on Tuesday. But, with United defender Chris Smalling lying dazed from a collision with teammate Nemanja Vidic, Basel captain Marco Streller put his team ahead with a ninth-minute shot past goalkeeper David de Gea.

Things got worse for United in the 43rd when captain Vidic was carried off on a stretcher after twisting his right knee while making a challenge. And despite almost constant pressure from United, Basel doubled its lead through Alex Frei in the 84th.

United’s Phil Jones got a late goal and his team twice hit the bar but to no avail.

Benfica topped Group C with 12 points after a 1-0 win over Otelul Galati. Basel finished with 11 and United was two points further back.

“It’s incredible,” Basel goalkeeper Yann Sommer said. “A Swiss team, a little country, against Manchester United, one of the biggest teams in the world — it’s crazy.

“Manchester are a good team, they had a lot of pressure and sometimes we were a bit lucky not to concede, and this is a crazy night. We are through and Manchester are out — it’s super.”

City needed to beat Bayern to have any chance of prolonging its first season in the Champions League and did so with ease, scoring a goal in each half through David Silva and Yaya Toure.

But Gokhan Inler and Marek Hamsik scored second-half goals to secure Napoli’s place as the Group A runner-up to four-time European champion Bayern.

Napoli laboured to find a way through the Villarreal defence and the home side had a first-half goal ruled out for offside before Inler launched a 25-meter (yard) drive that left goalkeeper Diego Lopez motionless in the 65th. Hamsik added a second goal 11 minutes later with a close-range finish.

Napoli finished with 11 points to Bayern’s 13. City had 10, while Villarreal became the first Spanish club to suffer six straight group stage defeats.

“We’re very sorry for our supporters and I’m sorry for our players,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “I think we need to improve as a team because we got a tough group this year.”

Lyon started its match at Dinamo Zagreb three points behind Ajax and needing a seven-goal swing to overturn the Dutch club’s advantage on goal difference.

Real Madrid, which was already assured of top spot in Group D, helped out by completing this season’s only perfect first-round record but Lyon did much of the hard work itself with a 7-1 rout of 10-man Dinamo.

Things looked bad for Lyon when Dinamo Zagreb overcame the 28th-minute sending off of Jerko Leko for a second yellow card, Mateo Kovacic putting the home side ahead five minutes before halftime.

But Bafetimbi Gomis equalized just before halftime and scored another three goals after the break, with Maxime Gonalons, Lisandro and Jimmy Briand adding the others as the home side fell apart.

Jose Callejon scored twice and Gonzalo Higuain once to give Madrid a 3-0 win at Ajax, which had two goals disallowed, leaving Lyon tied on points with the Dutch side but ahead on goal difference.

A late winner from Vasili Berezutsk earned CSKA Moscow a 2-1 victory at Inter and a place alongside the home team in the last 16, with Trabzonspor and Lille eliminated after a 0-0 draw in Group B.

Chelsea, Marseille and Zenit St. Petersburg clinched their places on Tuesday, joining already qualified Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal, APOEL, AC Milan and defending champion Barcelona.

The draw for the last 16 will be held on Dec. 16, with the matches being played in February and March.


Canadian Men's Team Learns Path To Olympic Soccer Tournament

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Dec 06, 2011) NEW YORK— Canada has been drawn with the host United States, Cuba and El Salvador in the final round of CONCACAF Olympic men's soccer qualifying. The four teams will compete in Group A at LP Field in Nashville in March with games set for March 22, 24 and 26 Group B is made up of Honduras, Mexico, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago and will play March 23, 25 and 27 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The group winners will pay the runners-up in the other pool in the semi-finalists with the two finalists qualifying for the Olympic Games next summer in London. The semifinals and final will be played at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City. A full schedule for the March 22-April 2 tournament is expected by the end of the week. The draw was conducted Tuesday at the headquarters of CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean, by deputy general secretary Ted Howard.