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LE NEWSLETTER

January 13, 2011

I'm not sure why this week seems to carry so many tough news stories - tragedy in Toronto streets with the loss of
Sergeant Ryan Russell, shootings in Tucson, Arizona and the one-year anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, to name a few.  However, I found it poignant to hear President Obama speak at the Tucson memorial last night.  A slow smile still comes across my face when I see the President and the First Lady represent America - compassionate and caring. Political gain? Perhaps, but I feel like their President comforted a wounded community. 
 
 
I also think it was a message that we all needed to be reminded of ... not just Americans but humans.  My favourite line was "At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do, it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that, that heals, not in a way that wounds."
 
 
Then there's the upcoming Martin Luther King Day which is on Monday, January 17, 2011.  More on that next week.

 
Let's take a moment to remember how fortunate we are forour quality of life in this country.  Regardless of your political
 affiliation or personal challenges, I still do think that we live in an amazing country full of good and decent people.  To quote the President's speech again, "I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us."

::TOP STORIES::

‘A Very Tragic Day’: Toronto Police Officer Killed By Stolen Snowplow

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Jill Mahoney

(January 12, 2011) A Toronto police sergeant has died after being hit by a stolen snowplow that led officers on an erratic early-morning pursuit through downtown streets.

Sergeant Ryan Russell, a married 35-year-old father of a two-year-old boy, had been a police officer for 11 years.

“Today we will grieve the loss of one of our officers, a hero of the Toronto Police Service who went out this morning to do his job and in doing his job, gave his life,” Police Chief Bill Blair said. “That is a tragedy for all of us and something that I think we will all mourn.”

Chief Blair characterized Sgt. Russell’s death as a “murder.”

Sgt. Russell was trying to stop a man driving a stolen snowplow that allegedly hit several vehicles, at least one building and narrowly avoided striking pedestrians during a two-hour-long rampage early Wednesday.

The plow clipped the mirror of a Beck cab around 6 a.m. at Avenue Road and Davenport Road, then came back
for more, circling the block and ramming headlong into the same taxi. The cabbie jumped for his life from the car and called police.

The responding officer was Sgt. Russell. The cabbie told him that someone better stop the plow because the driver was “dangerous and he’s looking to kill somebody,” said Gail Souter, Beck general manager.

Sgt. Russell would be hit minutes later just across the street.

The chase began around 5 a.m. when the privately-owned snowplow was commandeered near Regent Park by a barefoot man who jumped into the parked vehicle and sped away.

“As quickly as they noticed him, he just jumped in their vehicle and drove off. They tried to grab the door to open it and he was already gone. He basically sped off erratically and he looked like he was driving very crazy,” said Richard Eros, general manager of Tolias Landscaping and Plowing.

Mr. Eros used the truck’s GPS to update police on the snowplow’s location as it drove around Toronto’s downtown, moving roughly east to west, then north.

“This guy was driving around like a maniac,” Mr. Eros said.

Pierpaolo Miele was driving to work when the snowplow clipped his car and then hit a garbage truck on Keele Street near Annette Street around 7 a.m.

Police officers then opened fired on the snowplow, he said.

“I heard the gun shots. I kinda saw cops on the hood of the car looking in,” said Mr. Miele, a plumber.

The snowplow driver was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital with serious injuries. He underwent surgery and was recovering in intensive care, according to the Special Investigations Unit, which is probing the case. He had not been charged by mid-afternoon.

Another police officer received non-life-threatening leg injuries in the Keele Street takedown and was taken to North York General Hospital.

Chief Blair, who fought back emotion as he spoke with reporters Wednesday morning at the hospital, described Sgt. Russell as “a fine police officer.” He became a sergeant six months ago and previously worked with the guns-and-gangs task force.

“This is the worst of days for the Toronto Police Service,” he said.

In an afternoon news conference, Chief Blair described having the “very difficult responsibility” of informing Sgt. Russell’s “courageous young wife” that he had died in the line of duty.

Sgt. Russell’s father is a former Toronto police officer, said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.

“We’ve lost a great officer, a great friend, a husband and a father. And I can’t imagine the grief that the family’s going through right now,” he said. “Coming from a policing family, it’s the worst nightmare.”

Nancy Parker, a neighbour of Sgt. Russell, said she often saw him and his wife with their toddler-aged son. She is organizing a collection from neighbours to buy flowers for his wife.

“From what I could gather, he was a real family man. They were always out with their wagon or their sled with their little boy and seemed like an all-round good guy,” she said.

Mayor Rob Ford extended his condolences to Sgt. Russell’s family and colleagues, calling the 35-year-old a “a shining example of the men and women of the police service who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.” The city is lowering flags at City Hall and civic centres to half mast.

“This is a very, very sad day for all of us,” Mr. Ford said, eyes misted over.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty also expressed sympathies to Sgt. Russell’s family, saying his death is a “grim reminder that we should never take the dangers of policing for granted.”

The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police called Sgt. Russell a “genuine Canadian hero.”

“His death in the line of duty touches all police officers and represents the greatest sacrifice that an officer can make for his or her fellow citizens,” Chief Robert Herman said in a statement.

The last Toronto Police officer to be killed in the line of duty was Constable Laura Ellis, whose police car was hit by another vehicle as she and her partner responded to a break-and-enter call in 2002.

With reports from Arti Patel, Patrick White, Trevor Melanson, Karen Howlett and Anna Mehler Paperny

Wyclef on Anniversary of Haitian Quake: Hope Rests with Youth

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 12, 2011) *Today marks the one year anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people in Haiti. Roughly a million remain homeless amid the debris and stuttering reconstruction efforts in Port-au-Prince, according to the AP.

A year later, nearly a million Haitians remain in tents or other temporary shelter. The death of so many has left gaping holes in Haitian society, and the psychological wounds are still fresh.

Then and Now ...


Haitian native
Wyclef Jean, who’s been active in the worldwide appeal for international aid following the deadly quake, says efforts to rebuild the country will ultimately rest with the nation’s youth.

“The first thing is, you have to understand, over 52 percent of the population is a youth population. And the youth population is basically tired of the old regime, the old style,” he told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour this week in Pasadena.

“Even though you see 1.2 million people living in a tent, what I want you to understand is most of these kids that are living in Haiti are very tech-savvy when it comes to the Internet. So they are clear exactly on what’s going on,” added Wyclef, who attended the TCA gathering with Dr. Henry Louis Gates to promote the upcoming PBS series “Black in Latin America.”

 “What they would like to see in the future to happen is the new government that comes in has to understand the level of job creation which is needed, the level of education which is needed, and the level of aid, but not aid that cripples an economy, aid that’s actually going to give these kids a chance to work, so that when these aid workers leave, these kids have a job,” he continued.

“So this is why I engage myself and decided that I would have took the shot and ran for the presidency of Haiti. Currently, right now, with this situation that we are in, we are in a situation where, a few days ago, if you follow the report, you can see the U.S. is going to decide to see if they are accepting this election or not. But, at this point, they are not accepting the election.

“So if this election goes to a fraud and it’s not accepted, that means that an interim government would have to come in, and we would have to do a new election in the course of one year from now.”

Peter Donaldson: Tribute To A Master Bluffer

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 11, 2011) I’m glad I never played poker with Peter Donaldson, because he was the best bluffer I ever saw.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean Donaldson was dishonest. If anything, he was one of the straightest-shooters I’ve ever encountered in the frequently duplicitous world of theatre. When he told you the time, you didn’t have to check your watch.

That was Pete in real life: father, husband, boon companion and admired colleague.

But onstage, it was quite another story.

It was in the realm of make believe that he allowed his talent for what lyricist Sheldon Harnick once called “double-dealing, double-dyed duplicity” to have full reign.

Any director who hired Donaldson did so in the knowledge that he could handle almost every kind of part in every style of play going. I don’t know too many men who could have played Horace Vandergelder and Timon of Athens with equal aplomb, but Donaldson nailed both of them with ease.

And in the final year of his life, while undergoing chemotherapy, he delivered a hat-trick that many actors in full health and half his age could only dream of doing: leading roles in George F. Walker’s And So It Goes, Yasmina Reza’s Art and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

But it’s not his versatility I come here to praise, nor his durability, nor his courage — although those were three virtues he surely possessed.

What I cherish the most — and miss with an almost palpable ache when I recall them — are those performances he gave where what he showed us and what he felt inside were at opposite ends of the spectrum.

It takes a rare actor to deliver that kind of turn without the odd wink or grin to let us know what’s really going on, but Donaldson was that rare creature: the master bluffer.

The finest example of it occurred as Jamie in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which he so memorably appeared in for two Stratford seasons in the 1990s and then later committed to screen in an unforgettable film.

Jamie is the loser son, the wastrel, the debaucher, the Broadway Joe who lives for cheap booze and cheaper women. He’s rotting away inside and it’s a pitiful sight to see.

Many good actors can capture that and I’ve seen everyone from Jason Robards to Phillip Seymour Hoffman paint a fine portrait of a shambling ruin.

But the point is that Jamie wasn’t always like that. He once had class, style, promise. And even though his nights in Manhattan these days are likely to wind up in the back room of a two-bit dive, he starts each one out as if he was gliding in triumph to the Astor Hotel.

His brother Edmund wants to believe the lie and is temporarily destroyed (but ultimately saved) when he finds out what the truth really is.

Of all the fine actors I’ve ever seen in the part, only Donaldson gave us the charm as well as the pathos, the hope as well as the despair. He bluffed us, the way that Jamie Tyrone would have, into believing he wasn’t as foul as he really was. The “whited sepulchres” that Christ derides attain their full horror from their pristine exteriors.

That’s what Donaldson had the courage, cleverness and resourcefulness to offer us.

And so it went down the line: a Timon whose fiscal bravura hid his spiritual emptiness, a Ruffio whose military gruffness concealed his filial love for Caesar, a George whose flashing wit obscured the fact that Martha had slashed his internal organs to ribbons years ago.

Donaldson kept the game going right through the last performance I ever saw him give, in Art at Canadian Stage. As the misanthropic basset-hound called Marc, he sneered at the monochromatic painting his buddy had bought for 200,000 francs as “a piece of white s---,” while all along you knew he was tugging at the bonds of friendship and hoping they would prove strong.

In fact, he kept bluffing right until the end, letting us think he would go on working, while he knew he was surely dying.

Family, Friends Say Goodbye to Teena Marie

Source: www.eurweb.com


(January 11, 2011) Dressed in white hundreds of close friends and family gathered at Forest Lawn today to say
goodbye to R&B superstar, Teena Marie, at an afternoon memorial service. The singer, producer, died December 26, in her Pasadena home, but no signs of trauma were found according to investigators. She was 54.

In attendance were music legends, Stevie Wonder, Smokie Robinson, Berry Gordy, and R&B greats Johnny Gill, George Duke, Deniece Williams, Shanice Wilson, and Norwood Young. Near the start of the service, an emotional Wilson shared a special moment when Marie became her unofficial “auntie”. After the story she delivered a beautiful performance of “Ave Maria.”

Later, a medley of Marie’s hits were performed by a group, as baby pictures and photos with friends and family, including Rick James, were displayed on a large screen.

The performance was a musical reminder to celebrate Teena Marie’s life and talents, not just mourn the loss of it. When songs “Square Biz” and “I Need Your Lovin” were sung many attendees bobbed their heads to the beat, while soulful ballads “Dear Lover” and “Portuguese Love” moved some to sway to the music.

Read MORE of this article HERE.

:MUSIC NEWS::

Shania Twain To Be Inducted Into Canadian Music Hall Of Fame

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Canadian Press

(January 10, 2011) TORONTO —Newlywed Shania Twain has another reason to smile – the Timmins, Ont., native has been announced as the 2011 inductee to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The 12-time Juno Award winner will be honoured during this year's award telecast in Toronto on March 27, marking her first return to the Junos since hosting the 2003 bash in Ottawa.

Twain married Swiss businessman Frederic Thiebaud on New Year's Day in Rincon, Puerto Rico in front of 40 family members and friends.

The 45-year-old Twain is preparing to launch a TV show on Oprah Winfrey's cable channel, OWN, called Why Not? With Shania Twain, and has plans to publish a memoir.

With over 80 million albums sold worldwide, the five-time Grammy-winning Twain stands among the best-selling artists of all time.

The 40th Juno Awards ceremony will be hosted by 24-year-old Toronto rapper Drake. Nominations will be announced on Feb. 1.

“Shania Twain revolutionized the look and sound of country music, and truly is one of the most accomplished and celebrated music artists of her era,” said Melanie Berry, president and CEO of Junos organizer the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, in a statement.

“Her authenticity as a songwriter and performer has made her a global powerhouse, and we're so proud to honour her at home in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.”

Music Of 1980s Back For Its Encore

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(January 07, 2011) If all the 1980s means to you is big hair, Spandex pants, padded shoulders and mechanized dance beats, you were born too early or too late to appreciate what Mark Holmes calls “the last decade of truly original music.”

After then, pop music devolved into ever more stylized revisions of what had come before, says Manchester-born DJ/record producer/remixer Holmes, frontman for the Toronto band Platinum Blonde, which epitomized to a tee what its detractors still think 1980s pop music was all about — glamour, thumping rhythms, synthesizers and posturing.

“The moment the '80s ended, music ceased to be original,” adds Holmes, whose varied career in the past 20 years has included a stint as a program host on The Edge (102.1 FM), performing as a DJ and producing, arranging and remixing music for a small platoon of contemporary hitmakers.

“There were so many different kinds of music in those years — everyone was trying something different.

“But it all stopped in the '90s. There was no specific look or style, just imitations of what had gone on in the 1960s and '70s,” he continues.

“Whatever happened to music parents are supposed to think is the devil's work? The music on pop radio now is for wimps and infants.”

Right or wrong, the 50-year-old rocker is preparing to flaunt his 1980s sensibilities with a reformed Platinum Blonde — minus bassist/keyboardist Kenny MacLean, who died in 2008, from heart failure — at Saturday night's
1980s Canadian pop revue at the Horseshoe Tavern.

The show, hosted by Christopher Ward, the groundbreaking MuchMusic VJ, mega-hit songwriter and, for the past three years, host of YTV's teen-targeted The Next Star talent quest, is part of a series of live Canadian pop retrospectives leading up to the 40th annual Juno Awards weekend in March.

Also on the Horseshoe bill are The Spoons, Blue Peter, Chalk Circle, Triumph's Rik Emmett, Andy Curran, Modern Superstitions,
Maestro Fresh Wes, Coney Hatch and Steven Page, among others.

It's not just a one-off for Platinum Blonde, once hailed as Canada's answer to Duran Duran. After a reunion at Toronto's Mod Club last year, and a spot on Andy Kim's Christmas show, Holmes, and original drummer Chris Steffler and guitarist Sergio Galli — now a respected architect — decided to put the show back on the road. In the spring and summer they'll be following the comeback trail beaten in recent years by so many other Canadian rock acts — Loverboy, The Spoons, Honeymoon Suite, The Kings, Bryan Adams, Trooper — whose stars shone brightest in the 1980s.

“Kenny was constantly trying to get us back together, even 10 years after we'd called it quits,” Holmes says. “When we lost him, we decided to keep our promise, even if it was just for one last time.”

The reunion was almost too easy, he explains.

“Easy-peasy . . . just one rehearsal and it felt exactly the way it was before we shut it down. Nothing had changed, except my voice, which is better now than it was back then. And we have some new songs, which keeps it lively.”

The band might get a bit more name recognition among the world's young music fans than it did a year ago, thanks to popular electronic duo Crystal Castles' well-received cover of Platinum Blonde's “Not in Love.” (Robert Smith of The Cure, another band best known for its 1980s work, does the vocals on one remix.) But Holmes and company aren't looking to capitalize.

“We have no cunning schemes to take over the world . . . no promises, no desperation. We're not in dire straits. We're all doing very well in our after-lives, so there's no pressure to make it or break it, though we've had many serious offers from management companies who seem interested in getting us back together.”

Singer-songwriter Ward, who made his first fortune as co-writer and producer of Alannah Myles' massive 1990 hit, “Black Velvet,” and spent the next 18 years in Los Angeles and Paris, writing and co-writing for the likes of Diana Ross, Wynonna Judd, Roch Voisine, Hilary Duff and the Backstreet Boys, found his niche in the 1980s. He doesn't mind going back tonight.

“It's hard to generalize an entire decade, but it was a good time for Canadian music. There was so much going on, a great deal of variety in music, and so many great breakout acts — Dalbello, Parachute Club, k.d. lang, Alannah.

“It wasn't all Spandex and hair.”

As one of the most prominent purveyors of music videos in those years, Ward will forever be associated with the still-controversial changes video brought to music, fashion and marketing — then and since.

“Videos put such a premium on look, image and style,” he says. “That revolution elevated the fortunes of some who perhaps didn't deserve it, and suppressed the fortunes of others who did.

“Big waves sweep things away. Video changed the landscape just like the British Invasion did in the 1960s. And the rewards come to those who take the time to figure out what's happening.”

DJ Jazzy Jeff to Work with Willow Smith on Debut CD

Source: www.eurweb.com


(January 10, 2011) *Young
Willow Smith is really carrying on her daddy’s legacy and has summoned an old friend of his, DJ Jazzy Jeff, to work on her debut album.

Jazzy Jeff, as well as rapper Skillz, will be working together to develop some unique material for the 10-year-old singer.

“Me and Jazzy Jeff are collaborating on an album this year,” Skillz tells BET. “We’re working on some stuff for Willow Smith’s album.”

Skillz, a veteran lyricist recognized for his annual ‘Rap Up’ song on which he details some of the year’s most memorable moments, developed a relationship with Will Smith after working alongside him on several past projects. The step Skillz and Jeff took to collaborate on the young Roc Nation signee’s album was a logical one.

“It was just a natural progression like they’re doing music so, you know, that door’s always open. I’d be crazy not to try to walk through it, so we’re working on some stuff.”

Skillz of course is an adult, but that won’t stop him from being able to tune in to the teeny-bopper set.

“I mean, I can write for anybody,” he states. “It’s just stepping outside of yourself, looking at the market and realize on what’s missing and try to fill that void. We all throw darts, sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. But, you know, you keep going.”

Josh Groban Loosens Up In Intimate Shows

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(January 10, 2011) Josh Groban insists it doesn’t have anything to do with a looming 30th birthday, coming next month. But the singer has made a lot of changes in his life in the past few months.

Last fall, Groban released a new album,
Illuminations, that took him from the larger-than-life world of popera to a more heartfelt sort of pop, sung in live concerts in intimate venues.

The musical changes are courtesy of veteran producer Rick Rubin. “He wanted to get rid of some of the production stuff that gets in the way of a simple melody,” Groban reveals.

As soon as the album was ready, the tousle-haired baritone moved from his native Los Angeles to New York City, where he found himself an apartment near Central Park.

And the surprises keep coming. Up next is Groban the movie star, in a Hollywood romantic comedy due for release late in the spring.

“I don’t know if I like giving myself a lot of challenges, or if I’m a masochist,” he laughs.

Groban is in town for a sold-out concert on Thursday night at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Not that he has abandoned big arenas, such as the Air Canada Centre. A big international stadium tour for Illuminations is in the works, Groban says.

In preparation, his manager suggested the singer play some smaller venues without a set list, sing with piano and guitar in front of 1,000 people, “and whatever happens, happens for 90 minutes.”

This is Groban’s sixth small gig. He says the first five, which happened before Christmas, came off well.

“Each one was better than the last,” Groban claims. “The spontaneity of it and the excitement the audience had for it made me more relaxed than ever, because I could do no wrong.”

That’s completely unlike a typical stadium show, which is tightly scripted and choreographed, and all the sound and lighting cues have to match up.

Groban’s recent viral video hit of songs made up from Kanye West’s tweets from a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel is another example of his new-found spontaneity. “They fed me the texts and I just came up with a melody. It was all improvised,” the singer insists — just like a free-association exercise.

Comedy is not something that’s usually part of Groban’s musical life — but it is a major part of his upcoming role on the big screen in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The movie has a fantastic cast that includes Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone.

Groban plays the fiancé of Emma Stone’s character, “a kind of d-bag lawyer type who thinks he’s the life of the party and is always making inappropriate toasts,” he smiles. “A lot of it was improvised.”

Although Groban has sold about 20 million albums up to now, that doesn’t translate into movie offers.

“Directors don’t want people distracting their audience from getting into the film,” he says. “So it was great to have the opportunity to audition and take the singing out of the equation completely. I’m either going to make you laugh in this audition, or I’m not, fair and square.”

Since a day in a recording studio now feels like a day in the office for Groban, the opportunity to roam about on a movie set was fascinating. He would happily do it again.

“For me, the most comedic stuff is the most fun to do. I really find that it’s a natural world for me,” Groban concludes.

The singer is equally happy with his new life in Manhattan. He loves how he can walk around New York City with total freedom, in contrast with stargazing in Los Angeles.

“It’s like whale watching,” says Groban. “It’s becoming such a part of the culture in my hometown. I love Los Angeles but the celebrity obsession there is starting to counteract the potential of a real culture obsession. New York has a tried-and-true culture obsession.

“There isn’t a single time when the city hasn’t provided me with some sort of inspiration, even on a bad day.”

That can only be good for Josh Groban’s future projects — and prospects.

Music Biz Frets As Online Sales Stagnate

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 07, 2011) LOS ANGELES—Digital music sales, which over the years have provided optimism for the music industry in the face of crumbling CD sales, are starting to flatline as consumers turn to a growing number of free and legal ways of listening to hit songs whenever they want.

Sales of individual digital songs grew just 1 percent in 2010, down from 8 percent in 2009 and 27 percent in 2008, according a report released this week by market research firm Nielsen SoundScan.

The slowing digital numbers are a sign that the market for digital music is maturing, said Eric Garland, chief executive of Big Champagne, a digital music consulting firm. Garland believes the numbers point to another change in the market—the emergence of free and legal alternative sources to music online such as YouTube, Vevo and Pandora.

“What’s changed is that people are listening to vastly more free music without breaking the rules,” Garland said. “That can have a cannibalization effect.”

The decline in the growth rate of digital song sales occurred as record labels pushed for iTunes to raise the price of top-selling songs 30 percent, to $1.29 from 99 cents, on the company’s iTunes store, which accounts for the majority of digital music sales. That’s preventing a corresponding slowdown in revenue growth.

“The vast majority of the top 200 digital tracks are now $1.29” in the U.S., said David Bakula, a Nielsen music analyst. “So while sales of singles are flat, their revenue is absolutely going up.” Nielsen does not report dollar sales.

The increase in the price of singles has made the cost of $9.99 albums (all figures U.S.) look more attractive, boosting digital album sales 13 percent last year compared with 16 percent in 2009 and 32 percent in 2008.

Apple continues to account for most music sales online, commanding a more than 60 percent market share, according to industry research firm NPD Group. Amazon.com Inc., which generated numerous headlines in 2010 for deep-discounting albums by the likes of Taylor Swift, Kanye West and the Arcade Fire to $3.99, is a distant second. Fire-sale pricing aside, albums are still about one-third of overall digital music sales.

Meanwhile, overall album sales — which mostly encompass traditional CDs — continued to sink, as the industry suffered another double-digit drop. Total album sales were down 12.7 percent in 2010, matching the decline posted last year. Album sales in 2008 and 2007 were down 14 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

“This felt like a really tough year,” said Jeff Castelaz, who runs successful Los Angeles-based independent Dangerbird Records. “This was the year everyone had to get used to the new normal. There’s no doubt it’s harder to sell a record. There’s so much noise and fragmentation. It’s harder to say, ‘If we get a band on a radio, we’ll sell 50,000 singles.’ ”

There were still, of course, a number of mega-selling albums. Eminem’s Recovery was the top-selling album of 2010, moving 3.4 million copies.

The rapper was followed by two representatives from the country world, as no rock artist had one of 2010’s top-selling albums. Behind Eminem, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now (Capitol Nashville) sold 3.1 million and Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Big Machine) sold 2.9 million, with Canada’s Justin Bieber and Drake also in the top 10.

Swift was the year’s top-selling artist, which combines numbers sold from her 2010 effort as well as prior albums. All told, Swift racked up 4.5 million in album sales. Eminem placed second with 4.3 million, but again, nary a modern rock act was among the year’s best-selling artists. The Beatles finished at No. 10 with 1.7 million units sold.

“From a unit standpoint, we’re not going to see double-digit growth in digital sales,” Bakula said. “It’s partly a penetration issue. Everyone who has a digital music player pretty much has one now.”

Heading into 2010, many in the industry hailed Sweden’s music-sharing platform Spotify as a potential saviour, and the company’s founder, Daniel Ek, was even given a keynote speaking slot at noted industry conference South by Southwest.

Yet Spotify’s U.S. delay has long been tangled in copyright negotiations with major labels, as the service is based on a so-called freemium model, allowing listeners to stream music free and pay for a more comprehensive service.

Services offering legal ways of streaming music online may not be helping matters, however.

“I’m just concerned that we’re growing young people who not buying music,” said Dangerbird Record’s Castelaz. They’re not even renting it. They’re borrowing it on YouTube.”

3-Way Single Battle: Britney vs. Avril vs. Kanye and Jay-Z

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(January 11, 2011) The Internet was unusually awash in superstar pop content on Tuesday, as Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne and the lofty hip-hop duo of Kanye West and Jay-Z simultaneously dropped new singles online.

A perfect opportunity to manufacture conflict, then. Here’s the verdict on each after three quick listens apiece.

Britney Spears,

“Hold It Against Me”

The skinny: Hitmakers-for-hire Max Martin and Dr. Luke gun for the big-room dance floor while Spears’ breathily recycles the Bellamy Brothers’ lame musical come-on “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?”

First impression: Points for the big, gnarly bassline, the relentless 4/4 techno-thud and the sawing dubstep (!) break in the middle, but the chorus renders this total Euro-dance cheese.

Second impression: Yeah, that chorus is really irritating. “You feel like paradise and I need a vacation tonight.” What the hell is that?

Third impression: Meh. Kylie’s still the queen of this stuff.

Avril Lavigne,

“What the Hell”

The skinny: Napanee native Lavigne and Max Martin (again) mollify her label’s reputed concerns that forthcoming album Goodbye Lullaby isn’t commercial enough with a slab of giddy, girly bubblegum.

First impression: Damnably catchy. Avril’s a lot more enjoyable when she’s spunky and silly, a laSk8r Boi” or “Girlfriend,” than when she’s being serious.

Second impression: My god, I can’t get it out of my head.

Third impression: Undeniable. This is gonna get a lot of 14-year-old girls seriously wound up.

Kanye West and Jay-Z,

H.A.M.”

The skinny: Two of the biggest names in rap provide an immodestly scaled preview of their forthcoming collaborative album, Watch the Throne.

First impression: The Wagnerian strings, operatic vocal accompaniment and an out-of-nowhere classical-piano interlude toward the end suggest Watch the Throne will not be a stripped-down affair. Both MCs sound impressively pissed off amidst all the plush sonic trimmings, though.

Second impression: How can two men this rich, famous and respected harbour such seething persecution complexes? West is crossing over from angry to scary.

Third impression: Not bad. The album will no doubt be a smug affair, but if all the production is as unconventional as what Lex Luger has done with Kanye and Jay-Z here it won’t be playing it safe.

And “H.A.M.” is indeed “hard as a muthaf---a.”

Michael Jackson's Doctor To Stand Trial For Manslaughter

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Linda Deutsch,
The Associated Press

(January 11, 2011) Los Angeles—A judge has ordered the personal physician of Michael Jackson to stand trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of the pop superstar.

The ruling against
Dr. Conrad Murray came Tuesday after a six-day preliminary hearing in Los Angeles.

Authorities contend the 57-year-old Dr. Murray gave Mr. Jackson a lethal dose of the powerful anesthetic propofol mixed with other sedatives then failed to provide proper care.

Prosecutors concluded the hearing with testimony from two doctors who said Dr. Murray acted outside the standard of medical care.

The doctor has pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys have said he did not give Mr. Jackson anything that should have killed him.

Dr. Murray could face up to four years in prison if convicted.

Christopher Rogers, chief of forensic medicine for the Los Angeles County coroner, was questioned by a lawyer for Dr. Murray.

Attorney J. Michael Flanagan suggested Mr. Jackson could have swallowed the drug, which is meant to be administered intravenously. While Mr. Rogers said that seemed unlikely, he said it would not have made a difference in his finding of homicide because of inadequate care by Dr. Murray.

Mr. Flanagan's inquiry was the first disclosure of how the defence plans to counter the involuntary manslaughter charge against Dr. Murray. The lawyer has suggested Mr. Jackson could have injected himself intravenously while Dr. Murray was out of the room.

The testimony came during an ongoing preliminary hearing after which Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor decided there is enough evidence for Dr. Murray to stand trial.

In court, Mr. Flanagan displayed a chart showing the drug levels in Mr. Jackson's blood at the time of the autopsy.

Mr. Flanagan asked Mr. Rogers, “If the ingestion [of propofol] is by the decedent [and] led to these blood levels, it would not be a homicide?”

“I believe it would still be a homicide,” Mr. Rogers replied.

Asked why, the witness said, “Based on the quality of the medical care, I would still call this a homicide even if the doctor didn't administer the propofol to Mr. Jackson,” the witness said.

Mr. Rogers said propofol should not have been present in the bedroom because it is meant only for hospital settings and, “If there was propofol there, the doctor should have been prepared for the effects.”

Mr. Rogers said Mr. Jackson had a strong heart and was mostly healthy.

“The care was substandard,” Mr. Rogers said. “There were several actions that should have been taken.”

Mr. Rogers also testified that Dr. Murray was improperly using the powerful anesthetic propofol to treat the musician for insomnia, and that Dr. Murray was wrong to leave Mr. Jackson's side while he was under anesthesia before he died.

On Tuesday, a detective testified that Dr. Murray spent nearly three hours telling police about his final hours with the superstar, who was so desperate for sleep that he was getting the anesthetic injections in his bedroom six nights a week.

Dr. Murray's interview two days after Mr. Jackson's death on June 25, 2009, led police back to the singer's mansion, where they found 12 vials of propofol — a fraction of the 255 vials a Las Vegas pharmacist said he shipped to Dr. Murray in the three months before Mr. Jackson died.

Detective Orlando Martinez said Dr. Murray told police he did everything he could on the morning of June 25 to get the pop superstar to sleep.

He gave the singer sedatives then turned down the music in his bedroom and told Mr. Jackson to meditate. He even rubbed the singer's feet and put lotion on his back. But Mr. Jackson was still awake.

Dr. Murray told police the singer was growing frustrated and repeatedly warned he might have to cancel the planned 50 comeback concerts in London because he couldn't sleep. He wanted his “milk,” which the detective was the word Mr. Jackson used for propofol.

At 10:40 a.m., Dr. Murray told Mr. Martinez, he gave Mr. Jackson a 25 milligram dose of propofol — half the usual amount.

Dr. Murray said he watched the singer for a few minutes then made a long walk to a bathroom. When he returned, Mr. Jackson wasn't breathing, Dr. Murray told the detective.

The stunned doctor immediately tried to save Mr. Jackson, but told Mr. Martinez he didn't call 911. “He said he was caring for his patient and he did not want to neglect him,” Mr. Martinez testified.

A call to 911 was finally made at 12:21 p.m. Prosecutors have said Mr. Jackson was dead before help was summoned.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Rihanna Up there With Elvis Presley

Source: www.eurweb.com


(January 11, 2011) *
Rihanna is hitting them hard with her No. 1 hit single this week, “What’s My Name.” In fact, her achievement is so tremendous that she is the first female solo artist to hit five number one singles in consecutive years. The only other person who has reached this height is Elvis Presley. The singer actually knocked 22-year-old singer Matt Cardle’s “When We Collide” from No.1 to No. 2 after sitting nice in that spot for three weeks straight.

:FILM NEWS::

Toronto-Filmed Series Covert Affairs Airs Here At Last

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(January 08, 2011) Forget bed bugs — Toronto is crawling with spies. They’ve been deep undercover since early last spring and we never even knew it — until now.

That’s because it’s taken several months for a spy show shot on the streets of Toronto to be seen in Canada.
Covert Affairs stars Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly) as Annie Walker, a young CIA spy in training who gets a chance to strut her stuff — especially her exceptional linguistic skills — when she is unexpectedly (and suspiciously) bumped up to a field operative.

Peter Gallagher (The O.C.) plays her CIA director; Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty) plays a blind CIA colleague who shows her the ropes. Anne Dudek (Mad Men) as Annie’s big sister and Kari Matchett (Invasion) as another CIA superior (married to Gallagher’s character) round out the cast.

They all work the streets of Toronto, which doubles for Washington, D.C. The series is already a hit on the USA Network, renewed for a second season. It makes its Canadian premiere on Showcase tonight at 10 p.m.

Not a minute too soon for the cast and crew, who up until now have only been able to see their show off grey-market satellite dishes or from screeners send up from America. Not that they have time to watch TV, says director and executive producer Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity). “Nobody involved actually has any time to watch TV,” he says.

Liman was speaking on the phone from London, where he was working on a science fiction feature titled All You Need is Kill. Besides directing The Bourne Identity and producing the sequels he also covered the spy racket in 2005’s Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

He says cranking out episodes of Covert Affairs is “by far more gruelling than anything I’ve ever faced in a movie. As soon as Piper is done on the set she’s got to go into training. I don’t think I’ve ever worked an actress that hard in my life.”

Yet Perabo, a 34-year-old native of Dallas, Texas, takes it all in stride. “I think Piper is incredible,” says Liman, who also had praise for Naomi Watts, the lead actress in his recent real life spy tale about the Valerie Plame affair, Fair Game. “Both play strong female spies and are just two of the kindest, most down-to-earth actors — not even actors, two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. That’s a qualification, ‘nicest actor.’ Just straight human beings, good hearts.”

Parebo is just as big a fan of Liman. At last summer’s TV critics press tour, when Covert Affairs was introduced into the U.S. market, she said she jumped at the chance to work with the director. She’s a big fan of his “guerrilla” style of filmmaking, his ability to make films and TV shows on the fly with whatever resources are at hand.

“It’s like if you gave a film student all the money in the world,” she says, citing instances of Liman using a wheelchair as a camera dolly and lighting night scenes with flashlights and car headlights. “It’s so much fun to shoot with somebody like that.”

Perabo says she gets a kick out of being a TV spy, dashing around in cars and duking it out with the bad guys. “All the physical stuff helps you get there emotionally,” she says, recalling one episode where “I’m fighting a guy while I’m driving a car — and he has a gun on me.”

Liman says the spy games are fun but the real appeal of Covert Affairs, as he sees it, “is the very universal story of seeing a young person in a new city trying to establish a life for themselves. Her job happens to be a covert operative but the issues she’s wrestling with happen to be universal issues.”

Liman says he never saw Undercovers, a spy series which flopped this fall despite being hyped as the next Mr. & Mrs. Smith. “Sometimes people think spy stories in of themselves are cool enough or exciting enough and that’s all the audience needs,” he says. “Even with spy stuff, the audience still wants great characters.”

Liman loves shooting in Toronto as does Perabo, who quickly fell in love with the people and restaurants along Queen St. W. She marvels at the good-natured Canadian crew, even at the end of a 17-hour shift. “People say ‘Good morning,’ and ‘How are you?’ and, even, ‘Let me help you with that,’ ” she says. “That’s not always the case other places.”

Executive producer David Bartis says the tax incentives helped bring the production across the border but there are many reasons for staying. “It’s an incredibly versatile city,” he says.

Besides doubling for Washington, Bartis and his crew have set scenes in Sri Lanka, London and Zurich without ever leaving the GTA. “Believe it or not,” he says, “there are parts of Queen St. W. that look just like Zurich architecture.”

The cast have snuck in and out of neighbourhoods so far with ease, but now that the series is finally airing in Canada, their cover may be blown. A little recognition in Canada might not be a bad thing, reasons Liman.

He tells a story of flying to Banff last winter to do a little skiing. “I was clearing customs in Calgary when I got pulled into the penalty-box area,” he says, already sounding like a local.

Liman, who had already shot the pilot for Covert Affairs in Toronto, was grilled by the customs officials. They were hassling the guy behind The Bourne Identity for not having a work permit — convinced he was sneaking in to direct another movie. “Can you prove you’re just here to ski?” he was asked.

“Wow,” thought Liman, “I know my last film wasn’t that well received, but Jesus — you Canadians are tough!”

Ryan Gosling: The Thinking Woman’s Hunk

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(January 7, 2011) Twelve years in creation, 25 days to shoot, one year to promote: Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple in a disintegrating marriage, is a film aged and distilled over time. Gosling personally worked on it for four years, including a shoot broken into two parts, separated by a one-month interval in which the actors played house to simulate the passage of married life. And now comes the final stage in the long process – talking about it.

Gosling is not what you might expect. For all his reputation for a brooding Method-like intensity, his semi-Bohemian downtown Los Angeles lifestyle and the somewhat swaggering character that comes across in U.S. magazines and TV interviews, he’s neat, thoughtful, polite – very Canadian really – as befits a man who grew up in smaller cities in Ontario such as London, Cornwall and Burlington, and remains close to his sister and mother. The one thing that about him that lives up to his reputation is his conspicuous intelligence. Few actors, for example, have as clear a sense of the purpose of an interview.

“As an actor, I see my job as like a reporter’s. I do the research and try to embody this person as objectively as possible, or perhaps sympathetically-objectively,” he says.

“Then comes the process where you do interviews and are asked questions about it, and you have to change perspective. While my opinion is as valid as anyone else’s, it’s really more interesting what the audience thinks than what I think. So, you walk a fine line. You want to say enough to make people interested in seeing the film but not so much that it will temper their experience of watching the film. I don’t want my voice in their heads.”

Gosling says that he even picks roles “very carefully – partly because I’m thinking about what I can talk about when we reach this stage. For the audience, the movie lasts a couple of hours and maybe longer if you’re lucky. For the actor, it’s with you the rest of your life. Not to be trite, but it’s like taking a lover. You may not marry the person but they’re always going to be part of your life.”

Recently turned 30, Gosling is a long way from his teen fame as a Mickey Mouse Club cast member with Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. It’s been a decade since he made The Believer, about a Jewish kid turned virulent anti-Semite, which started earning him a reputation as one of the best actors of his generation. And apart from a foray into heartthrob territory with The Notebook (and a spot on People Magazine’s 50 Sexiest Bachelors list), he’s held onto his standing as a serious actor with films that include the Oscar-nominated Half Nelson (he was the first Canadian nominated for best actor in 60 years) and Lars and the Real Girl, about a simple-minded man who falls in love with a plastic love doll.

Gosling, known to immerse himself in his roles, slept beside his plastic co-star while he was making that one.

Blue Valentine was another film that blurred the line between acting preparation and sustained social experiment. While Gosling was involved in creating his character with director Derek Cianfrance for four years, his co-star Williams worked on her part for six. And although Cianfrance wrote 66 drafts of the script, he essentially threw it away when shooting began. The actors didn’t rehearse. They began acting as a couple on camera (they were forbidden from talking about their roles together until then). Halfway through the film, the shooting stopped, and they moved in together to simulate the six-year interval between the two sequences.

“Maybe we went overboard,” says Gosling. “I wouldn’t know because I’ve never worked this way before. It was a unique process because we had so much time to prepare. When it came time to start acting together there was a sense of release every time we got to do a take because there had been so much build-up. You can feel that in the texture of the movie, I think.”

Gosling doesn’t have a specific working method: Sometimes a character is built from the inside, sometimes from the outside in. Of Dean, his character in Blue Valentine, he says, “it really wasn’t so much a creation. I’ve met a lot of Deans, though I rarely see them in film. To be honest, with the older Dean, I think I subconsciously began to imitate the director.”

The imitation doesn’t seem to have been all that “unconscious.” Gosling borrowed Cianfrance’s clothing for the part. And after meeting Gosling at the Toronto International Film Festival, I met Cianfrance – who with his eager, self-deprecating manner, checked cotton shirt and jeans, and receding hairline, is a dead ringer for the older Dean.

The two men have been friends for several years, and while Cianfrance is as naturally effusive as Gosling is careful, they share an obsessive streak.

“Ryan’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met,” says Cianfrance. “He’s great at figuring problems out. If, you know, you wanted to know how to be a skateboarder, Ryan would study it all night, learn the moves and by 4 o’clock the next afternoon look like a semi-champion.”

An amateur filmmaker since he was 13, Cianfrance studied avant-garde cinema under Stan Brakhage and Phil Solomon at the University of Colorado, and made an acclaimed first feature, Brother Tied, back in 1998. After that he wrote his first draft of Blue Valentine but the story of a marriage collapsing wasn’t an easy sell. He acknowledges John Cassavetes as “a huge influence,” along with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman, but “over the last 12 years I’ve been working on this, I’d say the biggest influence was real life.”

As a child, Cianfrance had two great fears: “One was that the nuclear bomb would fall. The other was that my parents would get divorced. Then they did break up, and I was devastated. I looked in books, in films, and couldn’t find any representation of what that experience was like. I felt like I had to make this film to move on in my life.”

He describes Blue Valentine “as a series of duets: between a man and a woman, between youth and adulthood, between the past and the present, between the head and the body. So I wanted two time periods and two different shooting styles.”

The first part, when the couple is falling in love, was shot in Super 16mm film, all handheld, with both actors in the frame most of the time. The second part is shot digitally on two RED cameras, with really long lenses: “Essentially we used the kinds of lenses they use to shoot lions on safari, where they can keep so far away the lions can’t eat them. Love has abandoned them and, in a way, so did the cameras.”

Cianfrance admits the biggest experiment of the film – the month-long mock marriage – almost didn’t work. Williams, Gosling, the little girl who plays their daughter and Cianfrance rented a house in Scranton, Pa. He made the couple live on a budget in accord with their characters’ incomes. They shopped and cleaned house together, and had birthday and Christmas celebrations. Gosling suggested they might want to wait six years before shooting Part 2.

“Everyone loved each other too much, and we didn’t want to move to the second part. I was seriously thinking of calling the film Valentine and ending it there, but it wouldn’t be true to the material. At one point, I said, ‘Okay we’ve got to make a sacrifice and destroy this thing.’ ”

The cast went to a local store, bought $200 worth of fireworks and lighter fluid and burned the prop wedding photo, until nothing but a molten heart-shaped frame surrounded the wedding kiss.

“After the fire,” recalled Gosling, “We went into our separate corners and came out fighting.”

The scenes of intimacy in a hotel that almost earned the film a NC-17 rating were among the most difficult, physically as well as emotionally.

“We shot two days for the shower scene,” says Cianfrance. “At first it’s self-conscious and awkward and a little cutesy. By the ninth hour, it’s uncomfortable and exposed and vulnerable, and a whole new set of emotions come into play. This is why I love actors. They’re brave where most of us are cowardly. They’ll show the ugliness that the rest of us spend our lives trying to hide.

“Ryan was sitting with his mother at the premiere watching that – can you imagine? That’s my idea of a brave man.”

Interview: Sofia Coppola

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(January 08, 2011) BEVERLY HILLS—Like the tone of most of the movies she makes, director Sofia Coppola speaks so softly, you need to lean in and listen intently.

So petite she could pass for a teenager, the 39-year-old mother of two young daughters is perched on the edge of a sofa in a swank hotel room, dressed in an untucked blue plaid shirt over faded jeans, her face free of make-up. At her throat is an exquisite heart-shaped diamond on a fine chain. It’s late afternoon and her lunch sits untouched on a room-service cart, her meal taking a backseat to the rigours of a press day to promote her latest film, Somewhere.

An Oscar winner (for Best Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation) and Best Director nominee for the same film, Coppola’s latest directing job takes a slightly autobiographical turn with Somewhere. Set in the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood, hangout and temporary residence for many celebrities, the story follows burned-out action star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) who is forced to re-examine his dissolute life with the arrival of the 11-year-old daughter, Cleo, played by Elle Fanning.

Coppola’s romantic partner and father of their two children, French alt-rocker Thomas Mars and his band Phoenix, provide some of the music for Somewhere, which won the Golden Lion for best movie at the Venice Film Festival in September, 2010.

As the daughter of Godfather trilogy director Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia was often on movie sets or travelling with her famous dad, although she grew up removed from the daily spotlight in Napa, Calif. While she says Somewhere is hardly autobiographical, she did draw on her memories for some aspects of the script.

“Cleo’s life and her childhood are totally different (from mine) in that my parents are still married and I grew up in a small town in northern California,” Coppola explains.

“But when I was writing that character, I got the idea from a friend’s daughter who’s that age and her parents are in Hollywood, but because also I can relate to being in that world as a kid and I put my own memories to make it real,” she adds.

One scene in Somewhere that is lifted from her childhood is a father-daughter hotel room picnic in a lavishly over-the-top Milan suite, where they sample all of the gelato flavours on the room-service menu. Coppola also recalls watching her dad play craps, much like a scene in Somewhere where Marco explains the rules of the game to Cleo.

“That was something I did,” says Coppola. “I just remember going on trips as a kid. My dad was excited to let me be in worlds that kids don't usually go to. My parents always took us out to the Academy Awards starting when I was probably 8 — things that people don’t usually go to.”

Coppola wanted to add “a sweetness of that relationship” of daughters and fathers between her two leads in Somewhere because she remembers how much she valued time travelling with her dad

“It makes such a big impression when you're that age. I think it’s always exciting to get to go with your dad on your own, to go on a trip with him.”

And much like Cleo does in Somewhere, Coppola made a trip with her family to the over-the-top Telegato TV awards in Milan, although she was in her 30s at the time.

“It was so bizarre,” she said with a smile. So, too, is a press junket scene where media (played by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association) ask Dorff’s character all manner of ridiculous questions.

The nature of celebrity, which Coppola examined in 2003’s Lost in Translation and the less-successful Marie Antoinette three years later, is very much a part of Somewhere.

“I think growing up I was always aware of (her father’s celebrity) — I don’t know exactly what age I began to be aware of people interested in (my father) and there’s certain people that are gravitated towards celebrities, people want to be around that so you can tell the kind of people that wanted to be around that aspect,” she says.

“We’d go to a restaurant and they’d play the Godfather theme song. I was just aware people outside of our regular life would be excited to see him. We lived in a small town so people knew us for many years, we had a normal life. But then we'd be around film festivals where there’d be crowds.”

As she did with Lost in Translation, Coppola favours shots held for long, dialogue-free minutes in Somewhere. She also had a desire to get away from the ultra-sharp, high-def look of movies today and give Somewhere a more period look, although it is set in the present. To get it, she unearthed the old lenses her father used to make Rumble Fish in 1983 and used them for her picture.

“I feel like it has a softness, or it doesn’t look like most movies,” she says.

Coppola adds she was inspired by the look of L.A.-based films from the 1970s and ’80s, movies like American Gigolo. “When (Johnny Marco) is driving home, that was kind of my homage to Shampoo. I wanted to make a real L.A. movie.”

Besides using her dad’s lenses, Coppola also makes good use of directing tips she has picked up for her father. Like him, she insists on watching her actors work, not sitting at the monitor to observe what the camera is “seeing.”

“I learned that from my dad. He always says ‘sit next to the camera, don’t be a mile away in front of a monitor because then the actors will act for you and also you can see what’s going on,’ ” says Coppola. “I try to not make it stressful and there’s no assistant directors yelling and screaming. I want to have a calm set because I want everyone to feel comfortable and you’re asking them to be vulnerable. So I try to make it a nice environment for that where people can do their best work.”

She says her father “always emphasized that the script and the acting was the most important part,” and that’s a path Coppola, who wrote the script for Somewhere, also follows.

And perhaps the tradition will continue for Coppola and her older daughter, Romy, now 4, (younger daughter Cosima was born last May while she was editing Somewhere) who visited her mom on the set, just like Coppola did with her dad.

“I think seeing my daughter on set — I have pictures of me sitting on my dad’s lap on the set of The Godfather II at that age — it was funny to see my daughter visiting me there,” says Coppola with a smile.

(Coppola also starred in The Godfather III in 1990 as Michael Corleone’s daughter, Mary, stepping in at the last moment for Winona Ryder, and was savaged by critics for her wooden performance.)

While her father’s Godfather series was a huge box office draw, Somewhere isn’t a movie for all tastes, and while Coppola is adored in Europe, Marie Antoinette was a box office flop here.

“I feel like in Europe that they are enthusiastic about my work, but I don’t feel unappreciated here,” she says.

She’s certainly not unappreciated by her cast. Dorff, a longtime friend of Coppola’s, describes her as “very elegant and soft-spoken” on and off the set.

“She doesn’t really change; she’s who she is. That’s the beauty of it,” says Dorff. “She’s so sweet and so soft-spoken but then there is a tough cookie in there somewhere. She’s making some ballsy-ass movies.”

South Korean Film Director Makes Movie On iPhone

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(January 10, 2011) SEOUL, South Korea —Acclaimed South Korean film director Park Chan-wook is wielding a new cinematic tool: the iPhone.

Park, director of the internationally known Old Boy, Lady Vengeance and Thirst, said Monday that his new fantasy-horror film Paranmanjang was shot entirely on Apple Inc.’s iconic smartphone.

“The new technology creates strange effects because it is new and because it is a medium the audience is used to,” Park told reporters Monday.

Paranmanjang, which means a “life full of ups and downs” in Korean, is about a man transcending his current and former lives. He catches a woman while fishing in a river in the middle of the night. They both end up entangled in the line and he thinks she is dead.

Suddenly, though, she wakes up, strangles him and he passes out. When the woman awakens him, she is wearing his clothing and he hers. She cries and calls him “father.”

The movie, made on a budget of 150 million won ($133,000), was shot using the iPhone 4 and is slated to open in South Korean theatres on Jan. 27. Park made the 30-minute film with his younger brother Park Chan-kyong, also a director.

Park Chan-wook's Old Boy, a blood-soaked thriller about a man out for revenge after years of inexplicable imprisonment, took second place at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. His vampire romance Thirst shared the third-place award at Cannes in 2009.

Park Chan-kyong said that a wide variety of angles and edits were possible because numerous cameras could be used.

“There are some good points of making a movie with the iPhone as there are many people around the world who like to play and have fun with them,” Park Chan-wook said. Compared to other movie cameras, the iPhone was good “because it is light and small and because anyone can use it,” he said.

He said the directors attached lenses to their phones and nothing was particularly different from shooting a regular movie.

Lee Jung-hyun, who plays the woman, said the film has a bit of everything.

Though it is a short film with a running time around 30 minutes it “mixes all elements from horror and fantasy to some humour,” she said.

William H. Macy: Shameless And Shaveless For New Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 08, 2011) LOS ANGELES - He is scraggly and unshaven, loud and belligerent and invariably paralytically falling-down drunk.

But here’s the thing: He is also
William H. Macy. Yes, that William H. Macy, the notoriously nice actor previously known for playing quietly nebbishy and well-groomed characters in prestigious indie films like Fargo.

Not at all the sort of fellow you expect to find face down in the family living room, lying in a pool of his own urine.

Which was of course the whole attraction — not so much the urine, but the contradictory character of Frank Gallagher, the charmingly obnoxious single-parent patriarch of a very unconventional family in the appropriately entitled
Shameless, a delightfully dark new Showtime series debuting Monday night on The Movie Network.

“Amazing, isn’t it?,” the actor allows of his startling transformation. “I tend to play a lot of losers, guys who are in over their heads. And Frank is none of those things.

“It’s a change of pace, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I love to act, and I get to act a lot every week.”

Shameless didn’t exactly leap off the page — not at first. Having not yet seen the British series upon which it is based, it took Macy a little while to wrap his head around what he was reading.

“I thought it was a nitty-gritty kitchen-sink drama. Then I got about halfway through, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is farce. This is a comedic farce. It’s just masquerading as drama.’ ”

After testing the waters on ER and Sports Night, the mostly movie and stage star decided it was time to follow his actress spouse, Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman, into the realm of regular series TV.

Though “regular” hardly describes Shameless — even from a cable network known for its anti-heroes, in Dexter, Weeds and Californication.

“I read the script first, and decided to throw my hat in the ring,” Macy says. “I’d been looking around (for a series) for almost a year, and (ER and West Wing producer) John Wells thought of me for this. John wrote the pilot, and it was so outrageously good . . . I was sold.

“It was a bit daunting,” he admits. “I mean, you can’t believe what I’ve been doing. Sometimes we do a scene, and the actors just stop and we look at each other, and we just go, ‘This really is shameless.’

Frank in particular, despite the fact that he is barely conscious for most of that first episode.


There is, Macy assures us, a lot more to him than that. “He’s strong, he’s funny, he’s smart, (and) he’s completely drunk most of the time. But we have an episode coming up where he gets sober, and it turns out . . . there’s a piano in the house and he sits down and starts playing some Beethoven. I was talking to the writers and we all agree, Frank probably did a couple of years at the University of Chicago.”

He is nonetheless chronically unemployable, currently drinking away his disability cheques from a convenient workplace mishap, apparently involving a headless chicken, his first week on the job.

“The guy is just ‘out there,’ ” Macy laughs. “I have a poetic license to kill. It’s outrageous. I was telling Felicity, it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever held my lines back, so I had more time to make faces.”

You can’t help but wonder how Huffman feels coming home from Wisteria Lane every night to this unkempt lunatic who used to be her husband.

“We don’t bring our characters home,” Macy says, “ but we do share our work, and give each other notes and ask advice and work scenes together. I don’t recommend it for every acting couple, but it works for us.

“On the other hand, as you can imagine, my look has changed, so there’s a bit of ‘When are you going to cut your hair?’ and ‘Please shave.’ ”

It’s something Huffman is probably going to have to get used to. “I hope so,” he says, “ because I’d like to do this for, like, another couple of years. One of the joys of this thing is you do a feature, and you create a character and you get to tell that big, walloping story and then it’s over. I can’t tell you how lovely it is to tell a story and then get to come back next week, same character, and tell another story.

“I know it sounds juvenile, but I’m loving it.”

MEAT THE BELCHERS The Gallaghers are not the only dysfunctional TV family to debut this week — there’s also the Belchers, the cartoon clan of Bob’s Burgers, a kind of fast-food Family Guy with the more deadpan tone and minimalist animation of Jonathan Katz’s Home Movies and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

The new addition to Fox’s weekend animation block debuts there Sunday night at 8:30, an hour earlier here on Global.

The Belchers, who operate a constantly condemned downtown diner, also somehow manage to be both reprehensible and charming — though moreso the former, and in only two dimensions.

Put it this way: I’d probably jump at the opportunity to go out drinking with Frank Gallagher. But there’s no way I’d go anywhere near a burger from Bob’s.

William H. Macy: Shameless And Shaveless For New Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 08, 2011) LOS ANGELES - He is scraggly and unshaven, loud and belligerent and invariably paralytically falling-down drunk.

But here’s the thing: He is also
William H. Macy. Yes, that William H. Macy, the notoriously nice actor previously known for playing quietly nebbishy and well-groomed characters in prestigious indie films like Fargo.

Not at all the sort of fellow you expect to find face down in the family living room, lying in a pool of his own urine.

Which was of course the whole attraction — not so much the urine, but the contradictory character of Frank Gallagher, the charmingly obnoxious single-parent patriarch of a very unconventional family in the appropriately entitled
Shameless, a delightfully dark new Showtime series debuting Monday night on The Movie Network.

“Amazing, isn’t it?,” the actor allows of his startling transformation. “I tend to play a lot of losers, guys who are in over their heads. And Frank is none of those things.

“It’s a change of pace, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I love to act, and I get to act a lot every week.”

Shameless didn’t exactly leap off the page — not at first. Having not yet seen the British series upon which it is based, it took Macy a little while to wrap his head around what he was reading.

“I thought it was a nitty-gritty kitchen-sink drama. Then I got about halfway through, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, this is farce. This is a comedic farce. It’s just masquerading as drama.’ ”

After testing the waters on ER and Sports Night, the mostly movie and stage star decided it was time to follow his actress spouse, Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman, into the realm of regular series TV.

Though “regular” hardly describes Shameless — even from a cable network known for its anti-heroes, in Dexter, Weeds and Californication.

“I read the script first, and decided to throw my hat in the ring,” Macy says. “I’d been looking around (for a series) for almost a year, and (ER and West Wing producer) John Wells thought of me for this. John wrote the pilot, and it was so outrageously good . . . I was sold.

“It was a bit daunting,” he admits. “I mean, you can’t believe what I’ve been doing. Sometimes we do a scene, and the actors just stop and we look at each other, and we just go, ‘This really is shameless.’

Frank in particular, despite the fact that he is barely conscious for most of that first episode.


There is, Macy assures us, a lot more to him than that. “He’s strong, he’s funny, he’s smart, (and) he’s completely drunk most of the time. But we have an episode coming up where he gets sober, and it turns out . . . there’s a piano in the house and he sits down and starts playing some Beethoven. I was talking to the writers and we all agree, Frank probably did a couple of years at the University of Chicago.”

He is nonetheless chronically unemployable, currently drinking away his disability cheques from a convenient workplace mishap, apparently involving a headless chicken, his first week on the job.

“The guy is just ‘out there,’ ” Macy laughs. “I have a poetic license to kill. It’s outrageous. I was telling Felicity, it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever held my lines back, so I had more time to make faces.”

You can’t help but wonder how Huffman feels coming home from Wisteria Lane every night to this unkempt lunatic who used to be her husband.

“We don’t bring our characters home,” Macy says, “ but we do share our work, and give each other notes and ask advice and work scenes together. I don’t recommend it for every acting couple, but it works for us.

“On the other hand, as you can imagine, my look has changed, so there’s a bit of ‘When are you going to cut your hair?’ and ‘Please shave.’ ”

It’s something Huffman is probably going to have to get used to. “I hope so,” he says, “ because I’d like to do this for, like, another couple of years. One of the joys of this thing is you do a feature, and you create a character and you get to tell that big, walloping story and then it’s over. I can’t tell you how lovely it is to tell a story and then get to come back next week, same character, and tell another story.

“I know it sounds juvenile, but I’m loving it.”

MEAT THE BELCHERS The Gallaghers are not the only dysfunctional TV family to debut this week — there’s also the Belchers, the cartoon clan of Bob’s Burgers, a kind of fast-food Family Guy with the more deadpan tone and minimalist animation of Jonathan Katz’s Home Movies and Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

The new addition to Fox’s weekend animation block debuts there Sunday night at 8:30, an hour earlier here on Global.

The Belchers, who operate a constantly condemned downtown diner, also somehow manage to be both reprehensible and charming — though moreso the former, and in only two dimensions.

Put it this way: I’d probably jump at the opportunity to go out drinking with Frank Gallagher. But there’s no way I’d go anywhere near a burger from Bob’s.

::TV NEWS::\

Toronto-Filmed JFK Miniseries To Air In Canada

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jenni Dunning

(January 11, 2011) A filmed-in-Toronto miniseries based on John F. Kennedy’s life and family and starring Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear will be broadcast in Canada despite being nixed from the U.S.-based History Channel.

Shaw Media will show the eight-part miniseries on a yet-undetermined TV channel in March, the company’s senior content vice-president, Barbara Williams, wrote in a release to the Star.

“Shaw Media is committed to the production of
The Kennedys and will broadcast the production in Canada as planned, in spring 2011,” she wrote.

“We are awaiting confirmation from our Canadian producers regarding U.S. distribution plans and further broadcast details.”

Shaw operates Global TV and various specialty channels, such as HGTV, History Television and Food Network Canada.

The Kennedys stars Kinnear as the former U.S. president and Holmes as his wife Jackie. It was filmed at Toronto’s Dufferin Gate Productions, near the Gardiner Expressway and Kipling Ave.

The show was meant to be the U.S.-based History Channel’s first big-budget, scripted program, but the outlet axed the miniseries on the weekend.

“While the film is produced and acted with the highest quality, after viewing the final product in its totality we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not fit for the History brand,” a History representative told The Hollywood Reporter.

JFK's niece, Maria Shriver, and his daughter, Caroline Kennedy, are also reported to have pushed for History to drop the series.

Although The Kennedys is now searching for an American broadcaster, it will air in about 30 other counties, Michael Prupas, president of Montreal-based Muse Entertainment, which produced the film, told The New York Times.

Along with Canada, those countries include Italy, Spain, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Australia and Japan, he said.

It's A Good Morning For Marilyn Denis

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(January 09, 2011) A lot has changed in the 2 1/2 years since Marilyn Denis last hosted a daytime TV talk show.

For one thing, she no longer has to race downtown between her morning radio show (she's in her 25th year co-hosting what is now called the Roger, Darren and Marilyn Show at CHUM-FM), and her new CTV daytime series, The Marilyn Denis Show, which begins live weekdays at 10 a.m. starting tomorrow.

That's because the midtown CHUM radio studios have migrated to within walking distance of her old — and now new — TV studio at 299 Queen St. W.

Denis is relieved at this turn of events for many reasons, not the least of which, as she says on the phone, is the fact that now she will actually have time “to go to the bathroom before I start the show.”

Denis doesn't even have to worry about the weather fouling up her daily two-job commute. She'll be able to get hair and make-up touch ups as she crosses a handy bridge between the two buildings. “I'm going to laugh as the blizzard comes down on that bridge,” she says.

One of Toronto's best-known local media personalities, Denis had to be starting to wonder if she'd ever get her ever-changing face — fans love her candid cosmetic confessions — back in front of a camera. After 19 seasons, the Edmonton-born, Pittsburgh-raised broadcaster hosted her last CityLine show in May 2008. The move came after Denis was caught in a corporate tug of war between CTV and Rogers.

The year before, CTV paid $1.7 billion to acquire the CHUM TV broadcast and specialty stations. The CRTC, however, forced CTV to divest itself of CHUM flagship station CityTV (two stations owned by one owner in the Toronto market being a no-no), so Rogers picked up the little station that could.

If they thought they were getting Denis in the deal they were mistaken. CTV, which kept the CHUM-owned radio stations, claimed her as their property.

That led to a quiet departure from CityLine, with Tracy Moore taking over as host of Canada's longest-running lifestyles magazine show in the fall of 2008.

Rogers — in no mood to draw attention to CTV's next big daytime star — let her walk away on a “Fashion Friday” with very little fanfare. A week or so later, in June 2008, Dennis took a bow on the stage of CTV's lavish annual upfront for advertisers and confirmed the worst- kept secret that a new daytime series was in the works. “I'm so thrilled I can't stop smiling — maybe it's the Botox,” she cracked at the time.

It would take more than two years — a lifetime in television — for that boast to become reality. The worst recession in decades — coupled, some would say, with CTV overspending to acquire the rights to the Vancouver Winter Olympics — gutted the network's resources. Amid talk of “broken business models” Denis' show was shoved on the back burner.

Denis is philosophical about it all now. Her TV show shutdown came at “the perfect time and timing is everything for me,” she says. Denis found herself flying more and more to Calgary to help tend to her sick mother, who passed away last July. She also moved from her Scarborough home to a place in downtown Toronto.

Starting tomorrow, Denis returns to daytime in her old timeslot — 10 a.m. — and in her old studio. One of the other assets CTV refused to part with in their deal with Rogers was the historic CHUM/City building at 299 Queen St. W. “It's the same studio but you won't recognize it,” says Denis. The space has been completely redesigned to look more like a loft; Denis describes it as “warm and welcoming.”

She says she made sure she kept busy weekdays at 10 during her long hiatus. “I worked out with a trainer, took spin classes and other things to keep my energy up,” she says. “It takes a lot of energy to do a one-hour show live.” Boosting her resolve were the many shout outs from fans, especially among her Twitter followers, always asking when she would return to TV.

The Gemini Award winner vows to hit the ground running. An open casting call for experts to share lifestyle advice drew 3,000 applicants across Canada. Denis is excited about introducing several fresh faces from that talent search into the mix. In this era of social media, fans will also be invited to tweet on topics and make guest suggestions on Facebook. Desperate Housewives star James Denton (tomorrow), Josh Groban, Jason Priestley and Eric Braeden all visit Denis this week.

Blown away by the level of promotion for her new show, Denis says her new network bosses always had her back. “CTV throughout the whole thing never wavered,” she says.

As for her loyal fans, they're the ones she's most looking forward to seeing again in the revamped studio. “When I do CHUM-FM,” she says, “I always picture people in the audience when I'm talking to them on the radio.”

Matt LeBlanc’s Just Not Himself

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(January 09, 2011) He isn’t Joey anymore. He isn’t really even Matt LeBlanc.

The former Friend is back on TV this week in a more-or-less familiar role, playing an exaggerated version of himself in the cable comedy
Episodes, debuting Monday night at 9 on The Movie Network.

The short-run sitcom follows the nightmare journey of a couple of married British writers — played by Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan (who also plays Douglas Adams’ eccentric private eye Dirk Gently) — who are brought to Los Angeles to adapt their hit show.

It’s a typically British comedy about a crusty old English schoolmaster . . . so of course the oblivious new American producers have decided to cast LeBlanc. And it goes downhill from there.

Appearances can be deceiving. For one thing, it isn’t actually Los Angeles — Episodes was almost entirely shot in England.

And, as I said, it isn’t actually LeBlanc. Not really.

“There are some similarities,” the actor allows, “but for the most part, it’s a fictitious character. It’s just a character that David (Crane) and Jeffrey (Klarik) wrote that happens to have the same name as me.”

At least it isn’t Joey Tribbiani, the affable dolt that LeBlanc embodied for 10 wildly successful years on Friends, and then, largely thanks to writer/producer Crane, another two disastrous seasons in the solo sequel, Joey.

Even now, Friends fans seem reluctant or unable to tell them apart. LeBlanc still can’t walk down a street — here or in England, where Friends was a similar hit — without someone asking him “How ya doin?,’ ” his familiar Joey catchphrase.

But LeBlanc remains philosophical. “My job is to make you believe what I’m saying, right? That’s the actor’s job. So if people really believe me as that character, then, in my opinion, I’ve done my job.

“So I don’t look at it as a negative thing when people come up and say, ‘Hey, Joey!’ I take it as a compliment. It tends to happen a lot, so it’s easier on me to look at it that way.”

But after a dozen years walking in Joey’s shoes, LeBlanc figured it was time for a change.

“You know, 12 years, every day, was a lot. It was a great time, but I wanted to take some time off and spend time with my daughter and just sort of take some time away from the business.

“There were a few network shows that came and went that crossed my desk and I said no to. It’s nice to be back now in something that I have real faith in, with a cast that’s really talented.

“It was a lot of fun. It was a little different. This is single-camera, versus multi-camera in front of an audience. So when the punch lines come up and you say the punch line and there’s no crowd laughing, it’s a little unnerving.

“But aside from that, we had a really good time, and I think it shows.”

Off The Map A Bungle In The Jungle

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(January 11, 2011) PASADENA, CALIF. - It is not, Shonda Rhimes insists, “Grey’s Anatomy in the jungle.” Which of course it is: Off the Map, debuting Wednesday night on ABC and Global, is a soapy tale of slightly damaged young doctors seeking redemption — and the occasional tempestuous relationship — at a frontier clinic somewhere deep in the South American rainforest.

Nor is it really the South American rainforest. It is in fact Hawaii, shot on many of the same locations, and out of the same production office, once occupied by Lost.

The Grey’s Anatomy comparison is inevitable, regardless of how Rhimes, the producer of both shows, may feel.

“It’s not,” she insists. “ What can I say? It’s not.

“When Jenna (Bans, the series’ creator/producer) came and said, ‘I have this idea for a show,’ I was like, ‘Please, God, don’t let it be a medical show.’ And she was like, ‘It is, but it isn’t.’ What was great about it is, is it’s really Jenna’s voice, Jenna’s characters.

“Jenna’s not writing Grey’s Anatomy in the jungle. Jenna’s writing her own show with her own voice set in a really interesting location, and I’m just lucky enough to get to be a part of it.”

Luck had very little to do with it. Bans came out of the first-season Desperate Housewives writing room to work
for Rhimes as a writer/producer on Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. Off the Map is pretty much a synthesis of all three, along with a bit of M*A*S*H-style meatball surgery, and tropical technical innovation worthy of Gilligan’s Island.

For example, in the debut episode, a tense do-or-die operation on an unfortunate tourist seems doomed when the blood supply runs dry. Who knew that coconut milk could be used as substitute by popping a hole through the husk and hanging it up as an improvised IV drip?

If they’d known about this during the Korean War, casualties could have been cut by half. If Gilligan’s Professor had come up with it, he’d have come home to a Nobel Prize.

But it is, admittedly, not the sort of thing you are likely to see on Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice.

“They don’t have the technology and resources at their disposal that they have on Grey’s or Private or ER or really any other medical show that’s been on TV in the last few years,” says Bans. “(That) really allows us to sort of delve into stories that no one else can really do, and I think that’s what makes the show so exciting.”

Or it would, were the rest of it not so unrepentantly maudlin. Even this unnaturally attractive and appealing cast — including the talented acting legacy, Meryl Streep’s lookalike daughter, Mamie Gummer — have a harder time selling some of the sappier dialogue than they do the tongue-tangling medical jargon.

The character clichés seem lost however on writer/producer Bans. “What strikes me the most about this show,” she says, “is that these actors are embodying characters who really aren’t at the top of their game, professionally or personally, the way you see on Grey’s Anatomy.

“The doctors on Grey’s Anatomy have all these resources at their disposal and technology and have these amazing hospital careers, and these are really characters who need to start over and need to, both professionally and personally, really reinvent themselves.”

Well, she’s right there, if not quite the way she intended.

“In terms of the setting, it really allows us to tell stories, medically, that haven’t been told on TV . . . We’re in the middle of the jungle. I think Rachelle (Lefevre) said in an interview, which I loved, that the jungle is their pharmacy, their medicine cabinet. And it’s really true.”

Lefevre, a last-minute addition to the cast, is its second Montrealer, along with Caroline Dhavernas from Wonderfalls.

And it’s a very long way from Montreal to Hawaii. “Like going from nuclear winter to paradise,” laughs Lefevre.

“It’s really different. It’s one of those things where I feel like . . . L.A. was like the stopover, you know? I came from Canada, where it’s freezing cold for seven months out of the year. I’ve been in L.A. for six years, where it’s like we pretend to have seasons, but we kind of do, almost don’t. And then to Hawaii, where it’s 82 degrees and sunny every single day the year.

“So I don’t know what’s next. I guess I’m going to the sun later. But it’s a real treat for me. I do miss the seasons, though, actually.”

Dhavernes agrees — to a point. “I do, but when I went back for the holidays, after two days, I had had enough. I didn’t want to talk to my friends too much about what I was doing in Hawaii because it felt cruel.”

Oprah’s In A League Of Her OWN

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 07, 2011) PASADENA, CALIF.—It could have gone quite horribly wrong. Six days after the American launch of her new OWN cable network (currently previewing in Canada on W and VIVA, in advance of its March 1 debut), Oprah Winfrey faced down a banquet hall crammed with cynical, sceptical television journalists — or, in her own words, a “pack of wolves” — and, by the end, had us purring like kittens.

Winfrey does not have a happy history with the TV Critics Association. The last time she was tub-thumping a new cable channel — a brief association with the female-focused O — she was an unannounced last-minute no-show. We were expecting Oprah; they gave us balloons. The last time she was here, in 2005, on behalf of her TV-movie, Their Eyes Were Watching God, her appearance was overshadowed by the sudden death of Johnny Carson, only minutes before.

And now there was OWN, perceived by some as the ultimate act of hubris, at best, sheer self-indulgent folly. It did not bode well when the first of several preview panels, for Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star, paraded out a comic chorus-line of annoying and overtly diverse Winfrey wannabes.

Her gal pal, Gayle King, then disingenuously pretended that BFF nepotism was not a factor in landing her OWN TV talk-show.

Things started looking up with arrival of intrepid field reporter Lisa Ling, whose Our America, judging by the screened clips, looks to be a substantive, if overly sentimental and occasionally, uncharacteristically sensationalist, slice-of-life documentary series.

But still, the tension was palpable when, to much fanfare, Winfrey finally took the stage.

The unthinkable now seemed possible — for the first time in her stellar career, Oprah Winfrey might fail. Had she over-reached beyond her saturation point? How much Oprah would at last be too much?

And make no mistake, OWN is all Oprah, even when she isn’t on screen. Warm and fuzzy, touchy-feely, happy, shiny, aggressively uplifting and occasionally downright maudlin . . . essentially, The Oprah Winfrey Show, 24 hours a day in cheery primary colour.

But the numbers, if somewhat premature, don’t lie. The network debuted New Year’s Day to an impressive audience of one million, but dropped the second day to 822,000, and from there nosedived to 394,000, and then 315,000.

Entirely expected growing pains, Winfrey insists.

“I think we’re going to have some, you know, perhaps rocky times with the channel, keeping people there and keeping people motivated to continue watching,” she acknowledged. “It’s going to be our responsibility to let them know what’s coming and when and that there are new and better and even greater things ahead, and keeping them engaged.

“But we can do that. We can do that, specifically because I believe the people want it and I believe that now there is no better time for it. There’s no better time.

“Being in this space right now, I know that going forward it’s really only going to get better and that there are enough people. There’s a critical mass of people — we haven’t found them all — who want something better, who want better programming. “

Oprah herself is one of them.

“I am very much aware of the (negative) energy that the television is transmitting all of the time. That’s why, up until now, I have never allowed it on in my house, unless there was something specific that I wanted to see, because I don’t want all that energy coming into my space.

“I don’t want it on when I’m eating dinner. I don’t want it on when I’m in the bed. I want to control the energy that’s coming into my space.

“And one of the things that is central to me for our team is to understand that the intention of this channel is to bring good energy; no matter what the programming is, to bring good energy, to bring your best self, to bring your best programming, to bring your best shows. And so that’s how we operate.”

Appearances to the contrary, the soon-to-abdicate queen of daytime chat maintains a fairly tight grip on reality. Oprah has never been anybody’s fool. Not even her own.

“Because I’ve been in TV all of my life,” she says, “I know that most television programmers do not start the meeting by ‘How is this going to serve the viewer? How is this going to serve them? If it doesn’t work for them, it doesn’t work for me.’

“Obviously, ratings are important. Numbers are important. They’re not as important to me right now as they might be to you, and I know, you know, that’s what people like to write about: ‘Well, the number’s here and then they dropped off.’

“I’m not even concerned about that. What I’m concerned about is could we get people to the channel? And now that we’re able to do that, we know that if we continue to build the channel with programming that is meaningful to our viewers . . . we’ll listen to them; we’ll respond to what they like and what they don’t like.

“It doesn’t mean all the shows are going to make it. There are a few shows that even if they don’t respond, I’m keeping on anyway because I can, because I like them, and in time, it will grow on them. But keeping the connection to the audience and hearing what they have to say and operating strictly from the point of view of how we’re going to serve them . . . I think we’ll be more than all right.

“It’s like the old adage, ‘If you build it they will come.’ We believe that if you serve them they will come.”

Give the woman credit, she talks a good game. Of course, she’s been talking for over 25 years. And now she clearly relishes being on the other side of the conversation. The extended, 45-minute TCA session was almost all Oprah monologue, punctuated by only the occasional, actual question.

But the message throughout was clear and concise: You may not like what we’ve got, but we’re giving it to you anyway. And then we’ll see . . .

“I am grateful that the first phase of what we wanted to accomplish actually happened,” she affirms. “I’m grateful we weren’t embarrassed. I’m grateful that people came.

“You’re never going to get everybody. But at this point in my life, I’m not trying to get everybody. I’m really not. I’m really not. I’m really only trying to get the people who want to hear it and who want to see it.

“And if you don’t, then I’m not talking to you. And that’s okay, because there’s a lot of people in the world. There’s room for everybody.”

Because, when you come right down to it, it’s still Oprah’s world. We just live in it.

The Game’s BET Debut Breaks Ratings Records

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(January 12, 2011) *”The Game” premiered its fourth season on BET Tuesday night and set a ratings record for the network, which said 7.7 million viewers tuned in, making it the No. 1 original telecast on the network, and No. 2 of all-time, behind the 2009 BET Awards, which had 10.2 million viewers and took place three days after the death of Michael Jackson.

“We’re coming out hitting hard,” said executive producer Salim Akil. “We really hope it opens BET up to more voices, to more people being able to come in and pitch shows and have a variety of different scripted shows on the network.”

“BET has been absolutely top-notch in the way that they’ve been handling this, from allowing us to be creatively free … to the advertising to now having the cast at TCA,” continued Akil, referring to the current Television Critics Association gathering in Pasadena, Calif. “All of the things that we didn’t get over there at CW, we’re getting at BET.”

While BET hasn’t announced a fifth season, “The Game” is helping the network change its image. The show is the first scripted series for BET, which also premiered its own original show, “Let’s Stay Together,” right after “The Game” Tuesday night; 4.4 million viewers tuned in to watch “Together,” which airs at 10:30 p.m./9:30 p.m. Eastern.

Along with the Queen Latifah-produced “Let’s Stay Together” and “The Game,” BET is also putting together a show called “Reed Between the Lines,” starring Tracee Ellis Ross (“Girlfriends”).

Ricky Gervais Promises To Come Out ‘Guns Blazing’ As Golden Globes Host

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(January 12, 2011) LOS ANGELES —Ricky Gervais says he agreed to do a second turn as host of Sunday's Golden Globe Awards because he wants “to do a proper job this time.”

“I don't think I went far enough,” continues the comic actor-director-writer-producer. “Obviously not, because they invited me back. So, I'm going to do it again, do a proper job. And I guarantee they will not invite me back.”

This year's Globe contenders should provide Team Gervais with a bounty of comic fodder, including best-picture nominations for the much-maligned The Tourist and Burlesque.

“I honestly can't wait to do it,” Gervais said. “I'm going to go out there, guns blazing, like it's the end of the world.”

After all, the 49-year-old Gervais has little to lose, with what seems like projects at every network and studio in Hollywood. He reunites with frequent collaborator Stephen Merchant and The Ricky Gervais Show co-producer and co-star Karl Pilkington for the travel series An Idiot Abroad, a UK smash that will debut later this month stateside on Science Channel.

With that, prepare for this year's Globes host to serve as a pitchman, too.

“I'm going to mention An Idiot Abroad on Science,” Gervais said. “I'm going to mention The Ricky Gervais Show returning on HBO. I'm going to mention I'm in the Muppet movie, Wind in the Willows. Steve (collaborator Merchant) has got a fridge-freezer for sale.”

Gervais, a 2004 Golden Globe winner for starring in the original British version of The Office, promises he'll never host the Globes again.

“You know I said that last time,” he replied. “I mean, who knows? I want to do either such a bad job I'm not invited back, or such a good job that I don't want to do it again. That's nice to do such a good job you don't revisit it. It sounds arrogant and smug, but we thought that with The Office and Extras. We thought we put everything into it, and we can leave it there. So, I'd like to say I'm better the second time around. So, I should leave it there, if I do a good job or a bad job. I mean, but who knows? It's once a year and it's so much fun.”

The 68th annual Golden Globe Awards is set for Sunday in Beverly Hills.

Late Maury Chaykin up for ACTRA award

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(January 12, 2011) Maury Chaykin, who starred in the TV comedy series Less Than Kind, is up for an ACTRA award for best outstanding male performance.

The late character actor Maury Chaykin is among the nominees for the ninth annual ACTRA Awards.

Chaykin, who starred in the TV comedy series Less Than Kind, is up for outstanding male performance.

Others in the category include Mark McKinney of Death Comes to Town, Noah Reid from the film Score: A Hockey Musical, Nicholas Rose of New Year, and Chuck Shamata of Break a Leg.

Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright, who both starred in the Bruce McDonald film Trigger, are up for outstanding performance by a female.

Their competition will include Sarah Manninen from the TV movie Keep Your Head Up, Kid: The Don Cherry Story, Zoie Palmer of The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard, and Liisa Repo-Martell, who appeared in Flashpoint, Guest Star, and Unacceptable Risk.

Meanwhile, comedian Sean Cullen is among the nominees for outstanding voice performance for his work on Jimmy Two-Shoes. Also in the running are London Angelis for You Are Here, Cory Doran for Jimmy Two-Shoes, Billy MacLellan for Afghanada and Maurice Dean Wint for Beasts of the Bible.

King of Kensington actress Fiona Reid will receive ACTRA's 2011 award of excellence.

ACTRA Toronto, which is hosting the awards, represents over 15,000 of Canada's 21,000 professional performers working in English-Canada.

The awards will be handed out Feb. 25.

Obituary: David Nelson Starred With Family On The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(January 12, 2011) LOS ANGELES—David Nelson, who starred on his parents’ popular television show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, has died from complications of colon cancer. He was 74.

Nelson was the last remaining member of the Nelsons TV family, which included actor/bandleader Ozzie, his singer wife, Harriet Hilliard and his teen idol brother Rick.

The show originated on radio in 1952 as Here Come the Nelsons, then ran for 320 episodes on TV from 1952 to 1966 as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, with some of the story lines taken from the stars’ own lives.

David Nelson also directed and produced numerous episodes of the show throughout its run.

Singer Gunnar Nelson, a son of Rick Nelson, issued a statement on behalf of the family Wednesday, saying “We will all miss Uncle Dave’s laughter and evolved sense of humour.”

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was shot in the Nelson family home in the Hollywood foothills, which remains a popular attraction for visitors on Hollywood celebrity bus tours.

David Nelson was born in New York and attended Hollywood High School and the University of Southern California.

His film credits included Peyton Place, The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker, The Big Circus, Day of the Outlaw, 30, The Big Show, Love and Kisses and Swing Out, Sweet Land. In 1976, he co-starred with his mother in Smash-Up on Interstate 5.

His television credits included Up In Smoke, The Love Boat, High School USA and A Family For Joe. Directing credits included O.K. Crackerby, Childish Things, Easy To Be Free, Ozzie’s Girls, Death Screams, Last Plane Out, Goodnight Beantown and A Rare Breed.

Nelson also was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He leaves his wife, Yvonne; four sons and a daughter; and seven grandchildren.

TV TIDBITS

Justin Bieber to guest star on ‘CSI’ again

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Associated Press

(January 11, 2011) CBS says Justin Bieber is returning as a guest star to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, where he made his acting debut last fall. CBS announced on Tuesday that the teenage superstar will reprise his role as a troubled teen whose brother was killed by the CSIs at the end of his previous episode. Now shooting, the episode is titled “Targets of Obsession.” It is scheduled for broadcast Feb. 17. CSI airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. Eastern time.

::THEATRE NEWS::

African Genocide Haunts Our Stages

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 12, 2011) When European cartographers would attempt to draw maps of Africa in the 18th and early 19th centuries, they would leave the centre of their handiwork an ebony void, because no one knew what was really at the heart of that unknown land.

That’s where the nickname “the dark continent” came from.

In our time, it’s acquired a new and more horrible meaning, as civil wars and genocide in central Africa have rendered it one of the most bleakly inhuman places on earth.

Playwright Lynn Nottage picked the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the setting for her Pulitzer Prize-winning drama,
Ruined, which is being presented in Toronto from Jan. 16 through Feb. 12 at the Berkeley St. Theatre Downstairs as a co-production of Obsidian Theatre Company in association with Nightwood Theatre.

Nottage’s play is an unsparing study of the systematic rape of women on an enormous scale that has been one of the tools of opportunistic political leaders in the region to achieve their goals of ethnic cleansing and tribal intimidation.

She says she wrote Ruined because, “I was fuelled by my desire to tell the story of war, but through the eyes of women, who as we know rarely start conflicts but inevitably find themselves right smack in the middle of them. I was interested in giving voice and audience to African women living in the shadows of war.”

Nottage set her play in and around a brothel in a small Congolese mining town, where the women “do a fragile dance between hope and disillusionment in an attempt to navigate life on the edge of an unforgiving conflict. My play is not about victims, but survivors.”

And the survivors are lucky to still be alive. According to the International Rescue Committee, more than 5.4 million people have died in the DRC and 45,000 more die every month, due to hunger, disease or violence related to war.

That alone is a horrifying figure, but when you combine it with the outburst of genocidal rage in Rwanda that left 800,000 dead over a period of 100 days in 1994, the dimensions of the tragedy grow ever deeper.

The legal aftermath as well as the violent repercussions of that massacre still continue to this day and when Nottage herself asked one survivor of Rwanda how he managed to still live in his country, he explained his determination by saying, “We must fight to sustain the complexity.”

That is what makes the violence in Africa hard for us to fathom. It is the citizens of one country turning against their own people, reverting to tribal lines, rituals and blood feuds that began hundreds of years before. The perpetrators of one wave of genocide became the victims when the pendulum swung in the other direction.

Ruined is not the first play to be presented in Toronto on this issue. Ross Manson’s Volcano Theatre, in association with Tarragon presented in 2005 Michael Redhill’s Goodness, a play not literally about, but inspired by, the Rwanda genocide. It later toured America and Europe before being revived in Toronto and then taken to Rwanda in October 2009.

Manson movingly wrote in his blog about the experience of presenting the play in Rwanda. The tense silence throughout, the waves of cheering that followed the final curtain, but — most revealingly — the discussion afterwards where, “Big questions are asked and answers are struggled with, because there are no answers to many of them,” he writes.

In 2010, Studio 180 presented The Overwhelming by J.T. Rogers, a play set just before the Rwandan Genocide. Nigel Shawn Williams, one of the lead actors, said just before the opening that, “Nobody had any understanding of what was happening in Rwanda, not even (Canadian Force Commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda) Roméo Dallaire.

“The world as a community failed Rwanda,” Williams added. “Their action was inaction. That genocide shouldn’t have happened. No, my God, any genocide shouldn’t ever happen, but this one in particular took place with the civilized world looking on and doing nothing.”

That’s one of the reasons that the tragedy in Africa should continue to engage us. By our silence, we are participants. Playwrights like Nottage, Redhill and Rogers want us to see that silence is not — and never should be — an option.

Two Different Parents, United By Sorrow

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson

London River
Starring Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyaté and Francis Magee. Directed by Rachid Bouchareb. 87 minutes. At TIFF Bell Lightbox. PG

(January 12, 2011) A modestly scaled but effective drama by Franco-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb,
London River combines the real and the fictional to portray the devastation wrought by the suicide bombing attacks on the U.K. capital on July 7, 2005.

The real comes in the form of news coverage of the events in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, in which coordinated explosions on three subway trains and one bus left hundreds injured and 56 dead (including the four bombers).

Using these horrific circumstances as the basis for London River’s fictional narrative, Bouchareb shows how the tragedy blighted the lives of people living far from London as well.

Brenda Blethyn plays Elisabeth Sommers, a widow with a farm on the island of Guernsey. After seeing reports on television, she leaves the first of many worried voicemail messages for her college-age daughter, who lives not far from where the bus bombing took place. Having received no response for several days, she sets off for London to find her.

Elsewhere in Europe, another parent has become concerned about the whereabouts of his child. But whereas Elisabeth has a close relationship with her daughter, Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté) barely knows his missing son, having left him and his mother in Africa to go work in France many years before.

The rest of London River traces their respective — and ultimately collective — efforts to find out what has happened to their children. Elisabeth must also cope with culture shock as she learns more about the multicultural neighbourhood where her daughter lived. “This place is absolutely crawling with Muslims!” she exclaims with no small amount of fear in her voice to someone back home.

Her prejudices inevitably come into play when she meets Ousmane, himself a Muslim who has been aided in his search by a local Imam (Sami Bouajila). She goes so far as to have Ousmane investigated by the police when he shows up with a picture of their children together at an Arabic-language class. In fact, the youngsters were a couple, unbeknownst to either parent.

An attempt to touch on myriad religious, cultural and political differences affecting cities in the age of terror, Bouchareb’s story can sometimes feel too neatly packaged. Yet it’s consistently elevated by the sensitivity of the performances and the sense of anxiety and anguish that weighs over the whole film.

An Academy Award nominee for her roles in Secrets & Lies and Little Voice, Blethyn is on excellent form here, even when speaking in French with Ousmane. A celebrated stage and film actor from Mali who worked extensively with theatre director Peter Brook, Kouyaté lends a quiet dignity to his performance, which won him an acting prize at the Berlin film festival last year. (It was also his last screen role — he died in Paris last May at the age of 73.)

And whereas Bouchareb prefers a more blustery style in his other features — including the Oscar-nominated Days of Glory, about the travails of four North African men fighting in WWII — he proves to be very astute when working in a subtler register here.

Nor does his film take the same tack as other movies about strangers who find solace in one another during a time of tragedy. London River’s closing moments make the extent of these two characters’ devastation all too clear.

From ‘Full House’ To Life On The Road

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(January 11, 2011) To some, Bob Saget is the United States’ favourite home comedian. Others know him through his raunchier stage act and ribald novelty songs. Despite the divergent personas, his fans feel they have a handle on the former Full House sitcom actor. With coming appearances in Toronto, Halifax and Edmonton, the veteran comedian talks about the man who knows himself best – Bob Saget.

Your act has a music component to it. The concert business had a rough summer, but how’s the comedy circuit doing these days?

It’s been hard out there. Selling a hard ticket has never been a small issue. Some of my favourite comedians – I can watch Jim Gaffigan and Brian Regan all day long – may not be household names, but they can sell [2,000] and 3,000 seats and sell out. But you hear about other people, and the sales are softer.

You recently told an audience in Boulder, Col., that you’d never forget the show for as long as you would live. Was that true, or were you just grandstanding?

No. When I say it to an audience, I know I’m going to have to own that I said that.

Was the show memorable for a good reason, or a bad one? It can go either way.

It can. Every show has its own energy – it’s its own animal. That show in Boulder was kind of a defining show for me. I’d been away from touring. I did about 45 minutes and then a lady stood up and wanted to hold a town hall meeting.

About what?

She accused me of being a misogynist, and asked me if I could do one song that wasn’t misogynistic. I said ‘I’m not misogynistic. I have women in my life. I have a girlfriend, I have daughters, I have a mother.’ And then I proceeded to do a song that was misogynistic.

How did that go over?

She was actually happy after that. She got attention. And that’s not good for me, because it validates something negative.

Your stand-up shows often feature audience interaction. Is that planned?

It’s interesting. Jerry Seinfeld, I think, says stand-up comedy is a discourse that you do – that it’s not a monologue. And yet he’s definitely not someone who waits for the interaction. For me, it really depends on the situation.

Are you okay with the interaction?

They talk to you like they know you. That’s a gift – that’s a nice thing. That’s not something you learn. It’s not something you make happen. People feel like they can talk to you. I’m very appreciative of it.

What’s it like being on stage, in general?

It’s a kind of therapy. And, in a narcissistic sense, being a comedian is really all about asking yourself ‘What’s the purpose – why am I like this?’

And your answer?

When I was 14, my dad was telling me things he shouldn’t have told me. Just stupid jokes, going into restaurants and saying strange things. It was Groucho Marx stuff – all verbal or silly things. He would go to work without his pants. He would have socks and garters on and underpants (not even boxers) and a jacket and a tie and a briefcase. And he’d say: ‘Okay, I’m off to work, you guys. Have a good day.’

Quite a character. He must have been proud of your success.

He was. He was in the meat business, at a supermarket. He was proud of me to the end. I was doing the Conan O’Brien show on the night he passed away. It was very weird. It was what he would have wanted, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

You’ve been at it for quite a long time now. How does it feel?

I have to knock on wood every day. I’m going to enjoy every second, with everything I get to do now. When we hang up, I have to get some writing done for a new show that I’ve pitched. It’s me acting in something and writing it. It’s a different kind of character for me. It’s exciting. And then I get to do stand-up, which for me, is the thread that pulls it all together.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Bob Saget plays Halifax’s Casino Nova Scotia on Thursday; Toronto’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Friday; and Edmonton’s River Cree Resort & Casino on Jan. 22.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Microbot: Fantastic Voyage Inside Body

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

MicroBot
PS3 / 360 (PS3 reviewed)
$10 download
Rated E

(January 7, 2011) A twisting, lightless maze where sunlight never reaches, its inner secrets known only to a
select few elite scholars. A warren of damp tunnels flooded with corrosive fluids and noisome vapours in which strange amorphous creatures driven by pure ravening instinct battle for supremacy. A bewildering death-mechanism of valves, pumps and pipes. The interior of the human body is a terrifying hellscape, and MicroBot traps you there in high style.

The idea of using the body’s inner space as a setting for fantastic video game voyages is an old one. From the Intellivision classic Microsurgeon to Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (technically not a “human” body, but whatever), we’ve been blasting bad guys in bowels and blood vessels for decades. What developer Naked Sky’s MicroBot, downloadable to PlayStation 3 and XBox 360 systems, brings to the body-battle genre is a maddeningly beautiful vision of intracellular space that turns a simple, solid shooter into something special.

Gameplay here is straight-up twin-stick arcade blasting. With one stick for piloting and the other for shooting, you’ll take your experimental MicroBot deep into the stricken patient’s tissues on a quest to eradicate some kind of rogue nanotech that’s colonized the corpus. Or something like that; MicroBot isn’t long on backstory. It’s enough to know that your job is to dodge a hellstorm of dark, spiky things and their sickly bullets and missiles while hosing them down with your own wholesome blue bullets and missiles, and repeat until Game Over. It’s Arcade Fundamentals 101, and it satisfies.

MicroBot’s aesthetics kick this old-time recipe into psychedelic territory, Roboton meets endoscopy footage by way of a 1966 hippie drug-rock light show. Backlit blood vessels pulse in the background as red corpuscles float like asteroids through the battlegrounds. Valves flutter open and close as waves of fluid swirl through strange chambers. Walls of membrane and globules of viscous adipose tissue throb while brittle lattice spires of bone crack and creak, presenting calcified spines like reefs to wreck the unwary. It’s just as fun — and almost as white-knuckling — to watch as it is to play.

All this ebb and flow is more than pretty pictures. Your craft is swirled and sucked and buffeted as you struggle against the hordes of marauding predatory paramecia, sinister spermatozoa and vicious viruses that assault you almost constantly from all sides. Rarely has the adjective “visceral” been more apt in describing the feel of a gameplay experience.

Trippy organic mechanics aside, no modern-day arcade shooter — indeed, no modern-day medical technology — would be complete without a system of unlockable upgrades in place, and MicroBot offers players a fine and flexible example. As you blow away invaders and gather the coin of the realm (“atoms”), you’ll have access to all kinds of neato guns, bombs, missiles, turbines, force fields and other tools essential to the work of today’s physician-cum-robot pilot. Where and how you place these on your MicroBot is up to you.

Four scum-seeking missile launchers and a single swimming flagellum will get you a powerful but poky tank, for example, while three turbines and a couple of molecule-sharp lancets will create a devilishly fast duellist. Experimenting with various configurations is endless fun, as each build radically changes the pace and shape of the game.

A beautiful, challenging, airtight and thoughtful shooter experience that delivers satisfaction in every department, MicroBot is just about as much game as any PS3 or 360 owner can expect to buy for 10 bucks.

::OTHER NEWS::

Toronto Drinks: Making The Rounds In 2011

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(January 08, 2011) The only real constant in this city's bar scene is change, and we don't mean the kind the bartender makes after your order.

The upshot is that there are always new bar scenes around town. Pioneer drinkers have already moved on from the once desolate, now hopping Ossington Ave. For thirsty readers who may be growing tired of their usual watering holes, we took a tour of the talked-about areas that seem to be on the rise in 2011, and where we think they are right now.

Nothing ever happens in isolation, though, and while we're going to focus on where to imbibe, we note that the three hoods we judge future-tipple-worthy have a lot in common — most notably newer residents, businesses and restaurants and galleries that are all working together to up the cool quotient.

Sadly, one thing that hasn't changed is that you still have to go west. Each of the three areas — Dundas West, Bloor West and the Junction — certainly have their own charms, although we'd hesitate to call them “scenes” quite yet. That's because the bars are far too spread out, which makes it harder for a tipsy trend-spotting journalist (or others) to lump them together.

Dundas West

Considering its proximity to Ossington, the natural spread along Dundas West seemed inevitable. The addition of the now-lifted moratorium on that strip likely spurred some development along the perpendicular stretch, and right at that intersection and stretching west there is a cluster of newish bars: the no-frills but functional Camp Four, the salon-esque Red Light and, just down a bit, the newest watering hole on the block, the slick-looking Churchill — which is run by former Beaconsfield-ers, and looks very much like that Queen West mainstay. The location does make this cluster feel like an additional holding pen for the busy Ossington weekend crowd.

On the other hand, the Garrison, the only real live venue in the area (other than the Dakota Tavern, which at four years old is a veteran in comparison to the other nightspots), feels like it is carving its own path, with interesting bookings and a focus on up-and-coming bands.

If you're in the mood for games, not music, farther west down the street there's Unlovable, the arcade-cabinet-holding basement dive that Blogto recently honoured as the best new bar of 2010. And if you go farther west, past Dufferin St., you can find spots that are creating more of their own identity and serving more diverse crowds, including Naco — which feels like the main floor of an eclectic house party — the cozy Henhouse and the rockabilly-themed Black Dice.

“We're pretty far from that strip, so your typical Ossington-er has got to be pretty glassy-eyed by the time he gets to us,” says Patrick Guilbault, café manager at the quirky Naco, notable for its Mexican esthetic influence (and menu). “I think generally when people see us, they don't perceive it as an Ossington stretch. They see family businesses and they see businesses like ourselves, like the Lula Lounge and the Henhouse, that thrive within it, while being for a totally different clientele.”

“I think we're in that happy medium where people like to intermingle and party and have a good time, and a lot of people seeing this as a growing neighbourhood.”

Of course, the whole Dundas West thing started with the bar that has seemingly written the constitution of cool, the Communist's Daughter, right at the corner of Ossington, and it still has the vibe that can now be felt more strongly in another part of town.

Bloor West

“I started working at Communist's Daughter right when it opened, and this area feels exactly like that back then,” says Jud Ruhl, owner of 3 Speed on Bloor, west of Dufferin. “I love the brand newness of it, watching this build. There's lots of variety and the food is amazing. I also like the complete lack of hipster-ville — but it's already starting.”

3 Speed is often packed, and features a lot of the things plenty of the new bars have in common — exposed brick or reclaimed wood, vintage or junky furniture, a good indie rock soundtrack, with a better-than-average beer selection. It also is trying to do more than your standard pub fare.

Ruhl says they opened up a year and a half ago because they noticed their friends moving into the area and the lack of places to go. It seems people are careful not to use the word “gentrification,” rather pointing out that they are serving the newer residents and young families that are moving into the area. As well, in the case of both Bloor and Dundas West, right now plenty of the older businesses still remain.

Again, the businesses are too far apart to make the area feel like a unified bar zone, but on each block, there's a watering hole of interest. Disgraceland has a grittier pub feel, while Holy Oak feels a little more country and has live music. The Piston (the former Concord Café) also has a performance space in the back, but is currently renovating for another week. The Comedy Bar, an early arrival to the area, has also definitely carved out its niche among the city's comedy clubs.

Actually, the biggest question seems to be what to call the neighbourhood, which some of the cool kids are referring to as “Blansdowne,” though most the arriving bars aren't as far west as Lansdowne Ave.

Bloordale or Bloorcourt. There are a lot of different versions. That's a little in dispute. We just call it Bloor West,” says Matthew Michrowski who, along with partner Damian Gaughan, opened up the newest bar on the block, Drift — which has a bit more of a bright and airy vibe than some of its neighbours — last August.

“It's sort of an area that doesn't have an identity yet, and I think that appeals to a lot of people,” he says. “There are already a lot of great people here, I mean particularly compared to what was happening around here a couple of years ago, with drugged-out people running amok and whatever. But now there's a real community feel.”

He says he's been surprised at how much interest in the area he's seen. They expected the bar to just be a local, but they have noticed a lot of people from outside of the area checking in, and say it has been busy from the moment they opened.

THE JUNCTION

From a pub-crawler's perspective, The Junction's moment might still be further off, but considering that just a little over a decade ago, it was a dry area, it's come a long way, although the bar scene appears to have stalled after some of the openings a few years ago. The giant Shoxs sports bar and billiard lounge remains the busiest place, particularly during the recent junior hockey tournament, while funkier, smaller spots like Margret and long, thin bar Hole in the Wall are there for those seeking a cozier vibe.

Bar owners are heartened by the arrival of condos in the area, saying that it's brought a new crowd into their establishments, but some of the residents admit that there's still not a very compelling a reason to drink close to home.

“Don't get me wrong, I love some of the places here,” says Kristen Burton, 33, who has lived in the area for five years. “But some have weird hours and it's hard to get people to come up here, so I usually just go down to Bloor or Queen, where there are more choices . . . in terms of bars, I think it's a little behind some of the other stuff here; like there are a bunch of interesting stores and cafés, which is really more what this area is still about.”

In some ways, it's a little like Leslieville, one of last year's hotly tipped hoods. There are some interesting bars and restaurants there, but with very little street traffic, they're mostly serving the locals, and doing well enough.

So things are on the move, though at very different speeds around the city. As for what this means for the established bar areas, the addition of the Ballroom — a new sports bar with a full, albeit cramped, bowling alley and pub-chic food — shows that the Entertainment District is still where the spend-big or go home mentality exists.

For the club kids, the real entertainment districts have moved west — King West and Ossington — and both have much more bars in concentrated areas than the burgeoning areas, but right now all three hoods have the beginnings of a pretty good bar crawl, which a few short years ago would not have been possible. We'll drink to that.

Start your west end pub crawl here

Churchill, 1212 Dundas St. W.


Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W.

Communist's Daughter, 1149 Dundas St. W.

Disgraceland, 965 Bloor St. W.

Drift, 1063 Bloor St. W.

The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St. W.

Hole in the Wall, 2867 Dundas St. W.

Holy Oak, 1241 Bloor St. W.

Henhouse, 1532 Dundas St. W.

Margret, 2952 Dundas St. W.

Naco, 1665 Dundas St. W.

Piston, 937 Bloor St. W.

3 Speed, 1163 Bloor St. W.

::TRAVEL::

Be Happy - Brand Jamaica

Source:
www.jaxfaxmagazine.com - Melanie Reffes

Just in time for Valentines Day, Jamaica is wooing the romance market with picturesque venues, the most popular Facebook page under the tropical sun - www.facebook.com/visitjamaica - with 100,000 fans and counting, a slew of World Travel Awards including the prize as ‘the world’s leading cruise destination’ and three additional American Airlines nonstop flights per week from Chicago to Montego Bay. “Destination weddings are the fastest growing segment of the travel and tourism business,” said Wayne Cummings, president , Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), “Jamaica is proud of its history in that market  ensuring that brides and grooms are totally satisfied with their choice of where to begin the formal part of the lives together. “  

From traditional to downright whimsical with dolphins acting as aquatic ring bearers, Jamaica is the go-to island for dreamy nuptials “It’s a piece of cake to tie the knot in Jamaica, “said John Lynch, director of tourism. Referring to the opening this month of the Montego Bay Convention Center and the Falmouth Cruise Port, John Lynch added visitor arrivals are looking rosy. “. “As we begin 2011, we will be poised to attract a growing number of visitors and we will continue our work with travel agents, as our partnership is essential to Jamaica’s continued success.”

 Say I Do

Sandals and Beaches have paired with Martha Stewart for a myriad of wedding options including a ‘Vision in White ‘package for couples who prefer a classic wedding to the “Flutter of Romance “option that invites butterflies for a splash of fantasy. Recently recognized as AAA Four Diamond resort, Sandals Negril Beach Resort is amongst just the top four percent of member properties to earn the prestigious distinction. “We have spent countless hours ensuring that this resort is a leader in eco-friendly tourism, without compromising its stance as a top-tier luxury resort.” said Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, chairman .Visit www.sandals.com.

Formerly Sandals Dunn’s River Villagio, 250-room all-inclusive Jewel Dunn's River Beach Resort in Ocho Rios is open for business with pool concierges that serve skewers of fresh fruit and eucalyptus-infused water. Visit www.jeweldunnsriverresort.com

At Couples Tower Isle, Couples Sans Souci, Couples Swept Away and Couples Negril, marriage proposals carved in ice are a cool way to pop the question.  With a nod to clever marketing, ‘LoveAway’ is a deferred no-interest payment plan - $100.00 deposit guarantees the rate and room category – aimed at twosomes experiencing a financial squeeze and a low libido. “A vacation provides pairs with the much-needed opportunity to not only combat their intimacy problems, but also strengthen and repair their bond, “said Randy Russell, chief romance officer. Visit http://www.couples.com.

Celebrating ‘second time around’ and ‘third time lucky’, Franklyn D. Resort and FDR Pebbles Resort encourage couples with kids in tow. While wedding planners look after the minister to the music, newly-blended families have plenty of quality time to bond on the beach. Visit drholidays.com

Honeymoons in paradise are de rigueur at Tensing Pen on the western tip of Negril. A quixotic collection of thatch and stone cottages, hammocks scattered along the cliffs and a cove bridge perfect for photographs are the stuff of storybook honeymoons. “We do at least one wedding each week with couples often staying for their honeymoon and then returning on their anniversary,” said Joseph Smith, manager. (Note to newlyweds and agents: The Lodge has been refreshed with shiny new floors crafted from Jamaican Blue Mahoe, the national tree of the island). Visit http://tensingpen.com.

The Big Day

Dolphin Cove, the largest dolphin attraction on the island, is open in Negril with eight Cuban-born dolphins that are trained to act as wedding witnesses. The trainer places the wedding ring in a flotation device in the water, a dolphin fetches it and then re-surfaces with the device (and the ring) balanced on its nose. "The word is getting out about our dolphin weddings," said Stephen Bethel, general manager, “they have become an unexpected niche market for us.” A 15% agent commission is offered for bookings of a wedding, Dolphin Swim experience and the Touch Encounter that allows visitors the memorable opportunity to stroke the dolphins while standing in shallow water. Additions will include a crocodile habitat, interactive stingray program and a 500 – 700 room hotel. Visit www.dolphincovejamaica.com.

 Fronting the Hip Strip in Montego Bay, weddings are a breeze on Cornwall Beach in seaside gazebos strung with colourful bouquets. A minister not only performs the ceremony but also offers pre-wedding counselling to warm up cold feet. “We cater for two to two-hundred people, “says Lorraine Chung, wedding organizer.”  We can also do the rehearsal dinner if the couple is already booked to have a wedding in a church or resort.” Visit www.cornwallbeachja.com.

 Soon Come

January 16-18:
Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), in conjunction with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the Jamaica Hotel & Tourism Association (JHTA) host Caribbean Marketplace at the Montego Bay Convention Center.

January 23 – 29
- Grammy award-winning pop-rock band Maroon 5 will headline the 15th anniversary of the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium, east of Montego Bay.

The first Royal Caribbean cruise ships at the Falmouth Pier include the Navigator of the Seas on January 7 (3,270 pax) and the Freedom of the Seas on January 12 (3,816 pax). The Allure of the Seas, the newer of the Genesis class ships, arrives on March 16, (5,670 pax) and the Oasis of the Seas arrives on March 22 (5,670 pax).

Aiming to cash in on the foot traffic at the pier, Chukka Caribbean Adventures will debut “Chukka at Good Hope”: a soft adventure excursion to the Good Hope Estate for scenic views of the Marta Brae River and tours of the historic plantation.  Visit www.chukkacaribbean.com.

Click or Call

For more details on planning a wedding or a vacation in Jamaica, click www.visitjamaica.com, or call the Jamaica Tourist Board at 1-800-JAMAICA (1-800-526-2422).

SIDEBAR   Tying the Knot in Jamaica

Twenty-fours after arriving in Jamaica, couples can be legally married providing prior application has been made for a marriage license.  Although many resorts offer assistance in obtaining the license, couples wanting to do it themselves can contact the Ministry of Justice at 876 906-4923.

In order for the ceremony to be legally recognized at home, proof of citizenship is required including certified copies of birth certificates and the original divorce decree if this is a second (or third) marriage for one of the spouses.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canadians Are An Intimidating Force In World Cup Ski Cross

Source:  www.thestar.com

(January 12, 2011) The atmosphere on the World Cup ski cross tour might be more "chill" – as Olympic champion Ashleigh McIvor describes it – but that doesn't mean the Canadians are averse to using a little intimidation.

The Canadians definitely flexed their muscles Wednesday in Alpe D'Huez, France, as Kelsey Serwa pulled off a victory and McIvor was third in the women's race. Chris Del Bosco, coming back from knee surgery last spring, was fifth for the top men's result.

"I knew I had the potential to do it," said Serwa. "I just had to get my mind in the right mindset. ... I knew the girls would be right behind me right on my tail holding the pressure. So I just kind of went like a bat out of hell."

The Canadians were all on the same side of the draw and, in the semi-finals, French star Ophelie David found herself up against the B.C. trio of Serwa, McIvor and Marielle Thompson.

"I think Ophelie was a little intimidated going into this heat with three Canadian girls," said McIvor.

That's exactly how the Canadians like it.

"Why not work together when we can because we all benefit from it," said Serwa. "I think it's an intimidation
factor to the other teams. When there's an Austrian and they get into a heat with two Canadians, they go 'Oh crap.' They know we work together and work well together."

It is generally everyone for themselves in the final, but they don't cut each other off. Despite the aggressive tactics, McIvor says the atmosphere on the circuit has changed a lot in a post-Olympic year.

"It's a bit of a vibe I'm catching from everyone around me," said McIvor, back from a little hiatus in Whistler. "I think it's actually bringing the best out in all the competitors. It seems like last year some of the stronger skiers all choked. I think the pressure really affected a lot of people last year."

One athlete who learned to deal with pressure in an Olympic year is Serwa.

"I think I had a turning point at the Olympics," said the 21-year-old from Kelowna, B.C. "I'd be in the start and I'd be stressing out. I'd take a few breaths and go 'Well, if I nail the start, then it makes my job a lot easier down the rest of the course.'

"So I've been carrying that over into these races. You can either totally stress out, muck up and struggle the entire way down or stay focused on the goal and what you want to do and achieve it. The stress is a lot less and it's a lot easier on you body, too."

It took her to the top of the podium Wednesday.

Tiger-Cats To Stay At Ivor Wynne

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Hamilton Spectator

(January 11, 2011) Ticats owner Bob Young and Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina have unveiled a plan to demolish and rebuild Ivor Wynne Stadium as a 25,000-seat home for the football team for the next 20 years.

The pair announced at a news conference Tuesday that the team is willing to stay in its longtime home if improvements are made. Those include demolishing and rebuilding the south stands and improving the north side.

“This is not the best solution for us,” Young said. But he added it’s one the team is willing to work with.

The Ticats owner said that team partners Molson-Coors, Primus and Tim Hortons have agreed to provide money for the project, though he didn’t give any specific dollar amounts. The newly revamped stadium will also have enough seats to host Grey Cup games in the future.

Ticats officials came up with the plan and approached Bratina with the proposal late Monday. Bratina said he didn’t expect Ivor Wynne to come back on the table.

“I knew something was coming, because I knew we couldn’t just flounder our way out of the stadium issue,” he said Tuesday. “I didn’t think it was likely.”

Bratina alerted council of the plan in an email sent at 5:45 Tuesday morning. In it, he says he met with Ticats officials Monday and reached a deal on a 20-year lease arrangement in exchange for a rebuilt stadium.

Young went from the news conference to city hall, where he spoke with councillors about the plan prior to Wednesday’s council meeting.

Though they are is widely expected to support the plan, there is already some pushback about announcing the plan before council approved it. In an email sent to council this morning, Brad Clark railed against how the new plan has unfolded.

“Although this may be a solution, I must object to the process. Holding a news conference to announce an agreement that has not been received or presented to the elected councillors is disappointing and premature,” he wrote.

However, Bratina says “only a mischief maker” would object to the process.

The proposal would go to council for discussion Wednesday. A city council source said this morning that the plan – distributed just a few hours ago – took everyone by surprise, but has traction among elected officials.

There is no indication if Hostco is aware of or backs the plan.

Here is the text of Bratina’s email:

Dear Colleagues

I believe we may finally have satisfactory resolution to the stadium issue. The Tiger Cats are prepared to sign a lengthy lease with the City to continue to play in a rebuilt stadium on the Ivor Wynne site. The old stadium was originally rejected because of the requirement for about twenty acres to include an adjacent warm-up track as required by Hostco. This configuration was not possible on the available land. When the difficulties over site selection continued to the point where the deadline was looming the Tiger Cat management put all options on the table. In our discussion yesterday afternoon I urged them to give serious consideration to rehabilitation of the old stadium, and a long-term agreement with the City as a show of faith to residents and fans. There was no hesitation by both Bob Young and Scott Mitchell in agreeing to a 20 year lease arrangement, pending details of course.

We are prepared now to present this to the public and media, and bring it forward for Council consideration at the Jan 12 meeting.

I would have preferred to speak to each of you personally but thought it best to get this information to you as quickly as possible.

Respectfully

Bob Bratina