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LE NEWSLETTER

November 24, 2011

 
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all our friends in the USA!  Enjoy your family and friends (and the sales on Black Friday!).

As I previously told you, I had the opportunity to meet
Drake last week andDescription: Drake-Nov%2014-11_small now, thanks to my friends at Universal Music Canada, you have the opportunity to WIN his latest release, Take Care. I have very limited supplies, but if you can tell me just ONE other artist that is featured, you could be a winner.  Look for the answer under TOP STORIES. Enter the contest HERE.  Leave your full name and mailing address or you can't qualify! 

Also don't forget to check out some exclusive photos of Drake and friends in my PHOTO GALLERY as I was hanging out with
G98.7's Morning Show popular duo of Mark Strong & Jemeni!

 Do you live outside the GTA? Well, check the schedule for the best in Christian pop rock music 
Peter Furler and Special Guests Canadian Christmas Tour in support of World Vision Canada.  Get the details under HOT EVENTS!

 This week's news features the scoop on
Russell Peters; Kardinal Offishall's trip to Africa; the winners of the SOCAN Awards; and a biopic emerges on the life of Jack Layton.  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

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

::TOP STORIES::

Drake Debuts At #1 With Critically Lauded Sophomore Album ‘Take Care’

Source: Universal Music Canada

(Nov 22, 2011) Toronto, ON - TAKE CARE, the long awaited, critically Description: Dawn%20Drake2-Nov%2014-11_smalllauded sophomore full length album from Juno and MMVA winning Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Music Canada recording artist and actor, Drake debuted at #1 on the Nielsen SoundScan Album Chart with a powerful opening sales week of 48,196.  With guest appearances from luminaries such as Stevie Wonder and Andre 3000 of OutKast, as well as label president and mentor Lil Wayne and rapidly rising newcomer Kendrick Lamar, Take Care was one of the most highly anticipated and buzzed about albums of 2011, captivating both fans and critics alike.
 
Produced by Drake’s longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib with
Description: DRAKE%20TAKE%20CARE_small additional production by Jamie xx, Boi-1da and T-Minus, Take Care marked a maturing for the young rapper, with an introspective feel and startlingly frank lyrics. Take Care contains seventeen songs, including the first single “Headlines”.  Take Care also contains Drake’s phenomenally popular single “Make Me Proud” which features label-mate Nicki Minaj and was debuted via a live performance by the dynamic duo on NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  Other standout tracks include title track ‘Take Care’ featuring Rihanna and club sensation ‘The Motto’ featuring Lil Wayne.
 
For up to date, confirmed album announcements and live concert appearances, please visit Drake’s facebook page at www.facebook.com/drake. Drake can also be found at this official blog, October’s Very Own, at http://www.octobersveryown.blogspot.com.

Russell Peters Defends Pam Anderson As Virgin Mary

Source: CTVNews.ca Staff

(Nov 21, 2011) Canadian funnyman Russell Peters is defending hisDescription: Russell%20Peters%20and%20Pamela%20Anderson_small choice of Pamela Anderson to play the Virgin Mary in his upcoming Christmas special, saying "come on, give the chick a break already."

Peters said Anderson was a perfect choice for a role in "A Russell Peters Christmas Special," which he described as an irreverent 1970s-style variety show.

"We had written the sketch and we didn't know who we were putting in it and we thought hey Pam Anderson is Canadian, we can use more Canadian people in this show," Peters told CTV News Channel.

"I didn't even think of the other side of Pam Anderson which is so long ago, it's like come on, give the chick a break already."

Anderson first rose to fame with her role as the buxom lifeguard C.J. Parker on Baywatch. She later achieved infamy with her on-again, off-again marriage to Tommy Lee, two leaked sex tapes and a stint as a Playboy Playmate.

Anderson will play Mary opposite Peters as Joseph. The show will also include a performance by Michael Buble, who will sing while surrounded by dancing lingerie models, and sketches by Jon Lovitz and Love Boat star Ted Lange.

News of Anderson's casting inspired cheeky headlines around the world such as "Pammy's a born again virgin" in Australia's Herald Sun.

But not surprisingly some Christian publications bristled at the announcement.

Tom Nalesnik, a pastor and contributor to the Boston Liberal Christian Examiner, wondered about the tone Peters would take in the sketch.

"The question is, will Russell Peters be doing his comedic send-up of Christmas in a positive way, or is he simply going for cheap laughs, in order to deride and mock the Christmas story? If his intent is to put down the faith, then that is certainly unfair and uncalled for, and worthy of outrage," Nalesnik wrote.

Peter said the show will be somewhat "irreverent" but said "there's nothing unholy about it" and suggested viewers should tune in ready for a lighthearted but fun evening.

"It's like watching a show from the 1970s where it was a little more irreverent and it was more about having a good time and seeing a bunch of funny friends hanging out and being goofballs."

A Russell Peters Christmas Special will air on CTV on Dec. 1 and on the Comedy Network on Dec. 10.

Kardinal Offishall Documents Life-Changing Trip To Africa

Source: www.contactmusic.com

(Nov 16, 2011) Canadian rapper Kardinal Offishall has become the
Description: kardinal-offishall_5728292_small latest celebrity to call on politicians to offer aid to Eastern Africa following a life-altering trip to the famine-hit region last month (Oct11).

The dancehall star travelled to the Horn of Africa with officials from the World Vision charity organisation as part of a humanitarian mission, which was documented on film and is airing on TV in Canada throughout this week (begs14Nov11).

Offishall, real name Jason D. Harrow, admits he was so moved by the crisis sweeping through countries like Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania that he has pledged to do all he can to raise awareness.

He tells AllHipHop.com, "This trip changed my life. I saw kids along the
Description: Kardinal%20Solitar3-Sept%2010-11_small Kenya/Somalia border, five years and under, with nothing to eat, no water and not even a place to live."

And World Vision president Dave Toycen is impressed by the star's dedication to the cause.

He says, "I got to know a much different man beyond the rap star. Kardinal cares about kids and wants to help us save the lives of children."

Offishall isn't the only celebrity to draw attention to the cause - rocker Bono and actresses Jessica Alba and Uma Thurman have all called for aid for the troubled region.

K'Naan, Stampeders, Bob Ezrin Honoured at SOCAN Awards

Source: www.billboard.biz - By Karen Bliss, Toronto

(Nov 22, 2011) Hip hop artist K'Naan, legendary country-rockers The
Description: Dawn%20Knaan-Oct%201-10_small Stampeders, Pink Floyd/Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin and country band Prairie Oyster all received achievement awards of varying kinds at last night's private SOCAN Awards at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall.

The Canadian performing rights organization also honoured the artists and/or songwriters behind 2010 radio and sales hits by Michael Buble, Hedley, Kardinal Offishall, and more.

Songs from television, film and children's music were also recognized during the gala presentation that was co-hosted separately, in three seamless sections, by country singer Michelle Wright, former Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page and rapper Abdominal.

David Bendeth, Dave Genn and Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard were all
Description: Hosts_PageWrightAbs_CS_small on-hand to receive Pop/Rock Music Award for Hedley's "Perfect," the song that achieved the greatest number of performances on domestic radio in 2010.  Notching the same achievement in a different genre, Kardinal Offishall accepted the Urban Music Award for "Body Bounce," co-written with Tim Hazell, and featuring Akon; and the Country Music Award went to "Up All Night" by Deric Ruttan and co-writer Jimmy Rankin.

2011 SOCAN Classic Award winners, given to Canadian songs that have achieved the 100,000 airplay mark on domestic radio, went to Lighthouse's "Sunny Days" and "Pretty Lady;" Beau Marks' "Clap Your Hands;" and Crowbar's "Oh What A Feeling."

The National Achievement Award was given to Prairie Oyster, a band whose career spans more than 30 years.

Bob Ezrin, whose resume includes Pink Floyd's "The Wall;" Alice Cooper's "School's Out," "Billion Dollar Babies," and "Welcome To My Nightmare;" and KISS' "Destroyer," received the Special Achievement Award for "people who have greatly contributed to Canada's music industry and/or musical heritage over the course of their career."

The Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on The Stampeders, whose "Sweet City Woman" alone reached No. 1 in Canada and No. 8 on the U.S. Billboard chart , selling one million copies in 1971 and eventual sales of 3 million worldwide.

The International Achievement Award (not presented during the show) went to K'Naan for all he accomplished worldwide in 2010, including FIFA World Cup of Soccer selecting "Wavin' Flag" as its anthem, traveling to 86 countries to sing it, and the new charity version, produced by Ezrin, with a huge cast of artists such as Drake, Nelly Furtado and Justin Bieber, that benefitted the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Other awards that were acknowledged in the program but not onstage included those to Sarah Harmer, Buble, Dragonette, Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo.

For a complete list of award-winners, visit SOCAN's website.

CBC Exploring Jack Layton Biopic, Has Family's Support

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle MacDonald

(November 16, 2011) Just months after
Jack Layton's state funeral,Description: jack_and_olivia_1342172cl-8_small an ambitious biopic is already in the works to honour the former NDP leader.

Veteran filmmaker and producer Laszlo Barna of Pier 21 Films was one of thousands of viewers glued to funeral coverage last August for the 61-year-old politician, and said it was the nationwide outpouring of grief that prompted him to call Layton's widow, MP Olivia Chow, to see if she'd give her blessing to a TV movie now in early development.

Chow said she's been besieged with offers from filmmakers wanting to make a documentary about her husband's political journey. She politely put them off - until Barna rang.

She says she agreed (along with Layton's son Mike and daughter Sarah) to participate in this project because of Barna's record.

"I've seen some of his films, which have a depth, because he treats his subjects with great respect," says Chow, who particularly liked Barna's Force of Nature, about David Suzuki.

"Hopefully, the movie will encourage people who haven't been involved in politics to be less cynical and more willing to participate," she adds. "If we can inspire some young people to do so, that would be perfect."

CBC has an early stage development deal with Barna, contingent on his script. To helm that, he's hired veteran Shelley Eriksen (Traders, Shania: A Life in Eight Albums) to pen the movie.

"It's early stages," he says. "But we have the ready co-operation of Jack's extended family. And I think the reason they want to do it, is the same reason Olivia and the children stood by, greeting and hugging total strangers, at the viewings of the body. They believe in reciprocating the affection people had for Jack."

Chow says her husband of 22 years, who died Aug. 22 of an undisclosed cancer, was a tireless crusader who proved one person can make a difference.

"And he always went about it in Jack's own way, which in some ways is a fascinating story. Not that I'm biased, of course."

::MUSIC NEWS::

Childish Gambino Is Top 10 In Toronto!?

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

(Nov 23, 2011) Normally the weekly local music charts we get have fewDescription: Donald%20Glover_small great shocks to them - whaddya know, the new Drake album's No. 1! - but this did get our attention. Childish Gambino, the rap alias of budding comedy star Donald Glover, crashes the chart at No. 9 with his first commercial album Camp

Now, we knew the guy was blowing up modestly, but this is just remarkable. His previous three albums paved the way for this, and don't credit his role on NBC's sitcom Community - it's one of the lowest-rated shows on TV (no matter how very much I love it). In fact, it's just been put on hiatus; its future uncertain. From Glover's perspective, that may be just as well; his music career can be as busy as he wants it to be. His blog last week noted that Power 106 - a huge hip-hop station in L.A. - was adding his "Heartbeat" to its playlist. He's even in the new Muppets movie. Next time he schedules a Toronto date, run-don't-walk to your computer to get tickets.

Lights’ Musical Siberian Journey Worthwhile

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Nov 23, 2011) In the long run, the worst-case scenario would probablyDescription: Lights%202011_small have worked out in Lights’ favour, too.

A charming DIY-pop ingénue from small-town Canada scores an unlikely indie hit with her debut recording, signs to a major American label and is coerced into releasing a lowest-common-denominator Top-40 dance record in the Ke$ha/Katy Perry vein that completely alienates her original, grassroots fan base and sinks like a stone while rumours circulate of an entire, much “edgier” sophomore album that wound up buried by her unseeing big-business handlers. Online leakage of the original product inevitably ensues, far-flung blogs take up the cause and a hipster-endorsed pirate smash is belatedly born. A few years down the road, when Lights has finally, contractually liberated herself from her ill-fated dalliance with the machine and achieved a Robyn-like second lease on life, someone maybe even ponies up the cash to liberate Siberia from the Sire/Warner vaults and give it an official release.

Pure speculation, of course, all of the above. But probably not far off how things would have eventually shaken down had the young, Timmins-born, Toronto-based synth-pop singer/songwriter born Valerie Poxleitner and her management team not diligently (and no doubt expensively) fought the long, good fight on behalf of her latest release after it was turned in to blank, refusing stares south of the border earlier this year.

“I think it’s just that labels, right now, are having a hard time making money,” says Lights, 24, politely dancing around legally sensitive questions about the struggle it took to get Siberia finally released — via Universal Music in Canada and Toronto’s Last Gang Records in the States — this fall.

“It’s obvious. People just want to do what they know works, and so doing anything different is a little freaky for people. Some of the big decision makers there weren’t comfortable with doing something a little different, I think . . . When people are trying to make things be successful, it’s hard to branch out a little bit and take a risk.

“It was intense. I think it was so intense because I loved the record so much. And to think that it maybe wouldn’t have a chance to see the light of day, that was offensive to me.”

Lights has reason to be proud of Siberia, which is undoubtedly a far more original and memorable album than the one that might have been forced upon her. Pieces of her 2009 debut, The Listening — which won her that year’s Juno Award for Best New Artist — betrayed her as more of an electro-oddball than a winsome single like “Drive My Soul” let on.

Siberia runs with her quirks full-tilt, fully embracing her love of au courant dance acts such as Crystal Castles and Boyz Noize and the sub-bass-lovin’ club genre known as dubstep. It’s still a pop record, at heart, but the beats — largely cooked up in collaboration with Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh of Toronto electronic improvisationalists Holy F--- — are definitely a lot harder and weirder this time around. Hence the panic in label land.

Lights, for her part, just wanted to make “the music that I’m listening to,” and she was thrilled that Holy F--- helped draw it out of her.

“The cool thing about working with these guys is they’re not thinking about radio. They’re not thinking ‘This is going to be a hit song’ like every other person that the label tried to put me with,” she says. “That’s not crossing their minds even once. So it was perfect for me to get into that environment with them because I naturally gravitate towards pop. I love pop music . . . Mixing that with someone who doesn’t think like that at all was exactly what needed to happen. I need someone to stain it.”

Ironically, after all it took to get Siberia out there, Lights — who gives the record a proper local send-off at Sound Academy on Friday night — has emerged with a record that has both artistic credibility and popular appeal. The two needn’t be mutually exclusive, after all. In the end, her experiences of the past year only point up the short-sighted, sexist attitudes that persist whenever the music industry gets its hands on a cute, young female artist.

“A girl with a pretty face has the potential to be a massive pop star, so let’s try to get her on that trajectory. But what if that’s not the music that she makes?” says Lights. “It’s hard to be a credible musician as a girl with a decent face. Which sucks. I’m always gonna push to make a record that represents what I like.

“Look at Björk. She makes the record she wants to make and you can tell. It just so happens to be off track and maybe that’s why it lends itself a bit more immediately towards people believing that it’s her. As soon as you make something a little bit more on the pop track, people don’t believe as much that it’s coming from you. But she’s like a little ball of her own, a little globe, and that’s always been so inspiring to me.”

Rituals: Drake’s “Toronto Movement”

Source: www.thegridto.com - BY: Kate Carraway

(Nov 21, 2011) Drake isn't just the most commercially successful rapper to come from Toronto—he's redefining the city in his own image and, by extension, inspiring us to shake our collective insecurity and embrace the brash.

“What Aubrey Graham, 25, and his OVO crew are trying to build here is­—excuse the cliché —a Toronto movement.” Last Monday, one day before Forest Hill-bred rapper Drake’s new album Take Care was scheduled to be released (and eight days after it leaked online), Complex magazine posted their December 2011/January 2012 cover story, titled “The Long Way Home.” The story of Drake, in Complex and in the rapper’s own creation myth, is largely concerned with his somewhat inexplicable hometown pride, demonstrated by his use of young, Toronto-based creative collaborators (which included his insistence on selecting a new photographer to shoot the Complex cover), in his videos (“Headlines” opens with a shot of a map, “Toronto” marked by a red dot; it was filmed at the CN Tower, at the Rogers Centre and in Scarborough) and in his music, flooded as it is with references, mostly oblique and sometimes specific, to the city where he’s from.

Take Care happens to be a good album, but it’s not as if Drake isn’t already established as Toronto’s favourite son of rap. All week, Drake’s emotional, psychological and sexual life has been parsed in record reviews in every medium; so too has his position in the music business, and in rap. His many dualities emerge over and over: he’s half-white and half-black; half-Jewish and half-whatever (do we still say “gentile”?); half-rapper and half, maybe, just a singer; half-ex-professional-child-actor and half-sort-of-thug. That Drake is from both Toronto and the southern U.S. is the least of it, probably because he has made a point of his Toronto-ness, and therefore Canadian-ness—which a less self-confident rapper would never do.

Hometown pride in Toronto is a precarious quality, one that seems to rise and fall with the occasion. When we talk about ourselves, it’s too often in relation to what someone else—someone Ameeeeerican—has to say: ex-MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann calling Rob Ford the “worst person in the world” simply served to confirm something that we already knew about our mayor; when Saturday Night Live mentions the Pizza Gigi drug bust, or the more recent ban on balls on schoolyards, as they did last Saturday during Weekend Update, it feels more like validation than a dig. (The Blue Jays unveiling their new-slash-old logo last week was cool, though.) All of that just is, and—considering the city’s age and economics and demographics—will continue to be, until all of this city’s emergent fashion, food, music and art finally overtakes Toronto the Good (read: nice, polite, low-stakes, easy).

So, it’s kind of bewilderingly complicated for us that Drake is both a source of hometown pride—he’s just so famous, and so broadly talented, and was a concern in the U.S. without having to make it here first (unless you count Degrassi, which you don’t)—and a primary standard-bearer of it. Very few of our artistic exports have much to say about Toronto once they’re working at the very top of their game, in the states and around the world, appearing like holograms once a year at TIFF or something. They don’t keep up with their friends, their scene, their city; they don’t incorporate a town without much history or creation myth of its own into their promotional materials and oeuvre.

How thoroughly complicated for the rest of us that a figure so divergent from Toronto itself—in his bratty, sexy selfishness—is in this position? Maybe that’s just Drake’s move: to use the city’s duality—of inherent insecurity and young, creative, watchful readiness—to his advantage, and make it over in his own image. If we can’t be as self-assured as our 25-year-old successes, we could at least have a simulacrum of civic confidence that might someday make for the real thing.

In Vancouver, Feist Plays With Passion And Ease

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Nov 19, 2011) A recent story in New York Magazine posed some pretty
Description: web_feist_jpg_1343337cl-8_small provocative questions about so-called indie music, including the work of Canadian indie-turned-(let's face it) mainstream darling Feist.

The piece, by noted music writer Nitsuh Abebe, asked: "Are Wilco and Feist our adult contemporary music?"

Ouch.

It's a legitimate question, though, and you do start to wonder as you read the piece: if it's music your mom loves, how alternative can it be?

The middle-aged moms did come out to see Feist in Vancouver on Friday night - packing the sold-out show along with the hipsters - but the experience was no less alt for it.

It was, in fact, as far from formula, as far from shallow, as interesting, textured and authentic a show as any I've seen.

Big, but intimate.

Mellow, mostly; but exciting, always.

Feist came out dressed in a short brown dress and orange tights, strapped on an acoustic guitar and launched into Undiscovered First, all jerky grace and smooth voice.

That voice. In the night's many quiet moments - and the loud ones too - it soared; its breathy huskiness is as gorgeous live as it is on her recordings.

Feist ran through the entirety of her new album Metals, a choice that can be an irritant for concert-goers who want more of the old stuff. But it was a treat to hear the often dark, reflective tracks performed live, and so well.

A Commotion was frenetic and infectious. Graveyard was a soulful lament, the stage bathed in red light and then white flashes of percussive heartbeats. Bittersweet Melodies - with the audience singing back-up - was a cool, collective experience. Cicadas and Gulls was sung as a quartet with backing trio Mountain Man: gorgeous, even though Feist hit a wrong note, cleared her throat, and continued on.

In terms of older material, Feist performed - with audience accompaniment and delight - a smartly reworked Mushaboom. Noticeably and probably meaningfully absent was the song that put Feist on iPods everywhere, 1234.

I Feel It All got everyone on their feet - finally. Feist expressed concern a couple of times that the crowd wasn't exactly over-enthusiastic. "You sound comfortable. Am I right? Are you comfortable?" she asked before suggesting "musical bamboo shoots under your ears" to incite the stuck-in-their-comfy-seats crowd.

All she had to do, apparently, was ask.

The show really got the life Feist was hoping for during the encore, when she instructed audience members to join her onstage. "I actually mean it," she sang. Dozens of fans answered her call, and Feist launched into Sealion, surrounded.

"Well, Vancouver," she said afterward, "I feel like we collectively lifted the stuffy curse."

One of the more intriguing aspects of the concert - for anyone who could take their eyes off Feist for a moment - was some sort of weird dynamic that seemed to be going on with Mountain Man, a three-woman, harmonizing a cappella group. Two of the three singers appeared to be having a much better time than the third, especially when the two slow-danced to Let It Die. The third sometimes looked awkward, at one point singing rigidly with her hands jammed into her pockets. So much for harmony. Just musing here, though, with a perhaps overactive imagination.

One definitely-not-imagined highlight was opener (and Feist collaborator/best pal) Chilly Gonzalez. His too-short audience-engaging turn at the piano showcased his serious talent and was a whole lot of fun, as he lectured on the differences between major and minor chords. "Major chords celebrate the status quo," he explained, calling them "the right wing way of making music." Then he demonstrated, with dark, minor key renderings of Happy Birthday and Frère Jacques. He earned a standing ovation - pretty rare for an opener.

Two hours later, Gonzalez returned to the stage for Feist's second encore - although she dispensed with the theatrics of leaving the stage the second time because, as she explained, it was Gonzo's last night on the tour, and she wanted to give him a proper good-bye, and what if there wasn't enough applause to warrant a second encore? (As if.)

Feist, standing on the piano (and almost, at one point, losing her balance), serenaded Gonzalez with Limit to Your Love. And then the chronological and emotional cap on the night: Feist sat down, still on top of the piano, and sang to her friend a cover of Peggy Lee's Where Can I Go Without You? This was gorgeous and sad, and the first time I can remember feeling that kind of emotion welling up at a pop concert.

The audience might not have been on its feet all night, but this show was a thinky stunner. Executed with passion and ease. But hardly easy listening.

Feist performs at Edmonton's Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium on Nov. 20, at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary Nov. 21, Toronto's Massey Hall Dec. 1, Métropolis in Montreal on Dec. 3, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Dec. 5 and the Grand Théâtre de Québec in Quebec City on Dec. 6.

Winehouse Wrote Her Entire Third Album, Was Planning Supergroup

Source: www.thestar.com - By Mesfin Fekadu

(Nov 17, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. —
Amy Winehouse had written allDescription: Amy%20Winehouse%20posthumous%20compilation%20album_small the songs that were to appear on her third album. She even picked out song titles.

But music producer Salaam Remi said the soul singer, who died over the summer, was not rushing to release that new material, instead planning to drop a jazz album first with a “supergroup” including Questlove of the Roots.

“She had written down everything she wanted to do,” Remi said Tuesday.

Only two of the tracks Winehouse wrote were recorded and appear on her compilation album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, out Dec. 5 in the United Kingdom, and a day later in America.

Winehouse died from accidental alcohol poisoning at age 27. Her body was found at her London home July 23.

Remi, who worked on the singer’s two albums, Frank and Back to Black, produced most of the upcoming CD, saying Winehouse was a perfectionist when it came to composing music.

“She was taking her time with it, and at the end of the day all of her songs are somewhat autobiographical, so she had to live through something, then get out of it and then look back at it to be able to write about it,” he said.

“Who knows what will happen in the future with that,” he said of the songs she penned.

Remi held a press listening for Lioness on Tuesday. The 12-track set features covers and stripped-sounding versions of released Winehouse songs, with some completed in one take.

Before her third album would come out, Remi said, Winehouse wanted to record with Roots drummer Questlove and saxophone player Soweta Kinch.

“There were a bunch of other names bouncing around,” Remi said.

Questlove did make the new album, though. He appears on the track Half Time. There’s also a song by an 18-year-old Winehouse, another about her ex-husband’s infidelity and Best Friend, which opens with the line: “I can’t wait to get away from you.”

Remi has produced for the Fugees, Nas, Jazmine Sullivan and Nelly Furtado. He produced the song Block Party from TLC member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Winehouse sought him out after hearing the track. Remi says that Winehouse usually wrote songs while playing the guitar and that the new album sounds just as good as her critically acclaimed predecessors.

He also said he wanted to release new material from the late singer before others did so.

“Before somebody comes up with some weird song ... this is what it really is,” he said. “This is the quality.”

Laurieann Gibson Explains Split with Lady Gaga

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 17, 2011) *As previously reported, choreographer and
Description: Laurieann-Gibson_small creative director Laurieann Gibson has parted ways with her most famous client, Lady Gaga.

The exact cause of the split has yet to be revealed, though rumors blamed it on tension between the two longtime collaborators — some claiming it stemmed from statements Gibson made in the press, others pointing to disparate visions for Gaga’s ever-evolving image, notes The Hollywood Reporter.

In an exclusive statement to the publication, Gibson acknowledges that, “Recently, Lady Gaga was motivated to take the helm of the creative direction of her career.” But despite reports that she had been fired, Gibson says she “decided to step away.”

Gibson, also an in-house creative director at Interscope Records, tasked with guiding the visual roll-outs of developing artists, said the following in a statement regarding Gaga:

“I am fulfilled with the work I have done with choreographing all of the iconic moves, creative directing the artist, appearances, shows, directing the tour, music videos, and the HBO Monster Ball, which was a culmination of my work as its creator and director. Recently, Lady Gaga was motivated to take the helm of the creative direction of her career and as such I decided to step away. I am extremely proud of her, and in stepping away I wish her all the best. I look forward to continuing my work with notable artists, as well as new artists that are part of my Interscope Records deal, and the upcoming seasons of my TV shows.”

Jay-Z Kanye West = What?

Source: www.thestar.com - By Christian Pearce

(Nov 19, 2011) When Kanye West and Jay-Z bring their “Watch the Throne” tour to Toronto next week, it’ll be pretty much exactly what every city has gotten during the tour. And from the sounds of it, that’ll be a gosh darn great thing. The Ye and Jay show — predictably — has been carefully conceived and nightly carried out down to the last nouveau riche detail.

In other words, reviews have been rave. When you bring two of hip hop’s best performers onto the same stage at the same time — and charge a pocketful to watch it — no less is expected.

In anticipation of the arrival of 2011’s biggest hip-hop tour, the Star takes a closer look at Jigga and Yeezy’s live show m.o.’s, and how the lucky thousands who hold tickets should expect those styles to converge Wednesday and Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Jay-Z

Aesthetic: Stripped-down, throwback approach to big hip-hop shows; most glamour and glitz comes when Beyoncé joins him on stage.

Instrumentation: Jay has done MTV’s Unplugged with the Roots and rocked out with Linkin Park, so he’s comfortable with a live band behind him and usually has one of his own.

Attire: Rugged; from basic tees and jeans to camouflage suits — with bling befitting his class, of course — Jay-Z’s workmanlike approach to the game comes through in his gear.

Duration: With the high price tag on his concerts, Jay-Z rightly endeavours to present more than a few pages of his catalogue. Usually around 90 minutes.

Distinguished for: Precision. Jigga aims for crisp delivery and execution; he’s the opposite of those rappers who can’t recreate their studio voice and flow in a live show.

Kanye West

Aesthetic: Grandiose; strives to bring something like Las Vegas’ O Show to a hip-hop performance—lights, pyrotechnics, the whole shebang.

Instrumentation: Moving more towards classical than rock, Ye chases a sophisticated edge; he’s performed with a full orchestra, and has regularly invited violinists to perform with him.

Attire: High fashion meets hip-hop, e.g. leather jackets that cost more than your car and tight off-colour jeans (Kanye once ripped the bottom out of his pants running around on stage).

Duration: Maybe the only hip-hop artist with more massive tunes than Jay-Z, Kanye consistently tries to make sure that concertgoers remember them all. Usually nears two hours.

Distinguished for: Energy. While Ye stays focused lyrically, he simultaneously bounces around in front of the crowd like a kid with ADHD; those with seats near the stage will feel his sweat.

Watch the Throne

Aesthetic: Kanye convinced his mentor to come over to the awe-inspiring side of the concert business; perhaps the most visually stunning hip-hop show ever produced, with rising platforms, flashes of fire, laser beams, and giant screens playing footage of hungry animals.

Instrumentation: A full band tucked into the shadows. The show is all Ye and Jay. No opening acts, and no guests.

Attire: Jay-Z: Black Yankees Cap, black T-shirt, black cargo pants; Kanye: black T-shirt, black leather skirt over leather pants, Nike Air Yeezys.

Duration: Closes in on two-and-a-half hours, including around 35 songs. One part tracks off the album that inspired the tour, one part Jay-Z’s biggest cuts, and one part hits from Kanye’s catalogue. Hypemen have never been better.

Distinguished for: Breaking ground. The recent formula for hip-hop shows has included billing big artists together but having them perform separately, and bringing out surprise guest artists for a song or two; but this is the first time two artists of this stature have collaborated on a concert (and album) to this extent; while others will no doubt attempt to experiment with Ye and Jay’s new recipe, it’s hard to imagine how you could find two bigger stars to match up.

Classical Music Without The Tuxes And Pricey Tickets? It's A Revolution!

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Colin Eatock

(Nov 21, 2011) It’s late on a chilly Tuesday night in October, andDescription: Edwin_Huizinga__1344081cl-8_small Toronto’s St. Clair Avenue looks dark and deserted. But there’s live music at Dave’s, a local bar, and the place is packed.

There’s nothing strange about this picture – until you step in the door and hear what kind of music has drawn a crowd on an off night. In the centre of the room, a young clarinetist and an ad hoc string quartet are working their way through Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.

Welcome to the revolution – the
Classical Revolution, that is. Across North America, classical players are returning chamber music to its origins: informal performances among friends in intimate settings. It’s a loose network that now has a presence in many U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago and Washington, and also in a few places in Europe.

In Canada, there are branches in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. And the movement is currently celebrating its fifth year. (There will be an anniversary jam session Tuesday night at Dave’s.)

Credit for the founding of Classical Revolution (CR) usually goes to violist Charith Premawardhana, who organized the first CR jam session, at the Revolution Café, in San Francisco’s Mission District. But also sitting in that night was Canadian violinist Edwin Huizinga. Now that he’s back living in Canada, he’s organized a CR group in Toronto.

“I started Classical Revolution Toronto in 2010, at the Cameron House,” says Huizinga, who cultivates a scruffy biker-with-a-violin look. “For the last three months, we’ve been at Dave’s. When I moved to Toronto in 2009, I knew I had to get something going, because it’s such a beautiful thing to get musicians together to make music.”

Huizinga is a professional musician – he often performs with Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Montreal’s Theatre of Early Music. But he’s attracted to the informality of CR’s sessions, and the range of musicians who come out to play.

“The nice thing is the way it mixes people up, with professional and semi-professional players. The classical-music world can be quite closed, in general. So this opens up situations where people at different levels can be comfortable playing together.”

That said, strong sight-reading skills are a must. And while there’s an impromptu quality to performances, the level of playing is well beyond the average amateur.

In Vancouver, the local organizer is cellist Christina Rzepa. She’s a semi-pro with a day job as a mental-health worker. Inspired by the San Francisco model, she organized a CR group in June.

We’re still getting started,” she says. “For the last little while, we’ve been playing at different venues. But our home now is the Prophouse Café.” (CR Vancouver’s next session will take place there on Dec. 6.)

“Mostly, the audience has been friends of the musicians,” she notes, “and also ‘built-in’ audiences that come with the venue. Or sometimes people will walk by and drift in. We’ve had people come in who are astounded to hear an opera singer, accompanied by a string quartet.”

There have been some Classical Revolution events in Montreal, too – at the Dépanneur Café, and a few other places. But the driving force behind the Montreal group was a flute player who recently moved to Australia, and not a lot has happened since then.

Back at Dave’s in Toronto, there’s a hockey game on the TV – but nobody is paying much attention to it. And high on a shelf, a plaster bust of Elvis looks on as a group of players sits down to play a Beethoven quartet.

Yet if the King of Rock ’n’ Roll perhaps wouldn’t know what to make of it, Liz Guerrier, the café’s proprietor, is pleased with the business Classical Revolution is bringing in the door.

“Some people said we’d be serving lots of tea when they heard we’d be having chamber music here,” she says. “But they’re drinkers – and the tips are pretty good, too.”

Tuesday’s Toronto session begins at 8 p.m. at Dave’s, 730 St. Clair Ave. W., Toronto (davesonstclair.com). There is no cover charge.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Paul Motian, Jazz Drummer, Is Dead at 80

Source: New York Times - By Ben Ratliff

(Nov 22, 2011) Paul Motian, a drummer, bandleader, composer and
one of the most influential jazz musicians of the last 50 years, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 80 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was complications of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood and bone-marrow disorder, said his niece, Cindy McGuirl.

Mr. Motian was a link to groups of the past that informed what jazz sounds like today. He had been in the pianist Bill Evans’s great trio of the late 1950s and early 1960s and in Keith Jarrett’s so-called American quartet during the 1970s. But it was in the second half of his life that Mr. Motian found himself as a composer and bandleader, with work that could be counterintuitive or straightforward, runic or crowd-pleasing.

Stylish and alert — he wore sunglasses in the dark and laughed often and loudly — he worked steadily for decades, and for the last six years or so almost entirely in Manhattan. He had the support of the record producers Stefan Winter and Manfred Eicher, who released his music on the labels Winter & Winter and ECM, and of Lorraine Gordon, the proprietor and presiding spirit of the Village Vanguard, who booked him many times a year, either in his own groups or those of others. (In his 70s he grew tired of traveling, and anyway, he said, he preferred the sound of his drum kit at the Vanguard.)

The many musicians he played with regularly included the saxophonist Joe Lovano and the guitarist Bill Frisell, with whom he had a working trio; the pianist Masabumi Kikuchi; the saxophonists Greg Osby, Chris Potter and Mark Turner, with whom he played in trios and quartets; the members of the Electric Bebop Band, with multiple electric guitars, which in 2006 became the Paul Motian Band; and dozens of others, from developing players to old masters.

For nearly all of his bands, his repertory was a combination of terse and mysterious originals he composed at the piano, American-songbook standards and music from the bebop tradition of his youth by the likes of Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus.

Stephen Paul Motian (he pronounced his surname, which was Armenian, like the word “motion”) was born in Philadelphia on March 25, 1931, and reared in Providence, R.I. In 1950 he entered the Navy. After briefly attending its music school in Washington, he sailed around the Mediterranean until 1953, when he was stationed in Brooklyn. He was discharged a year later.

He met Evans in 1955, and by the end of the decade he was working in a trio with him and the bassist Scott LaFaro. That group, in which the bass and drums interacted with the piano as equals, continues to serve as an important source of modern piano-trio jazz.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s Mr. Motian played with many other bandleaders, including Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Mose Allison, Tony Scott, Stan Getz, Johnny Griffin and, for a week, Monk. After leaving his partnership with Evans, he worked steadily with the pianist Paul Bley, whom he often credited with opening him up to greater possibilities.

“All of a sudden there was no restrictions, not even any form,” he told the writer and drummer Chuck Braman in 1996. “It was completely free, almost chaotic.”

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Bley recalled: “We shared the same philosophy, musically. He knew that what he was doing in the past was not his answer. What he lived for was growth and change.”

Then, and even more with Mr. Jarrett’s quartet in the 1970s, Mr. Motian moved away from swing-based rhythm; he improvised freely, or played off melodic form. Eager to grow beyond percussion, he studied and composed on a piano he had bought from Mr. Jarrett, and in 1973 he made a record of his own compositions for ECM, “Conception Vessel,” with Mr. Jarrett and others. One of the last records he made with Mr. Jarrett’s quartet, “Byablue” (1977), consisted mostly of Motian originals.

But the old sense of swing never left, and it later became abundantly clear again, whether he was playing an original sketch built on uneven phrasing with gaps of silence or a root text of jazz like “Body and Soul.” Sometimes he would strip a beat to absolute basics, the sound of brushes on a dark-toned ride cymbal and the abrupt thump of his low-tuned kick drum. Generally, a listener could locate the form, even when Mr. Motian didn’t state it explicitly.

“With Paul, there was always that ground rhythm, that ancient jazz beat lurking in the background,” said the pianist Ethan Iverson, one of the younger bandleaders who played with and learned from him toward the end.

Mr. Motian’s final week at the Vanguard was with Mr. Osby and Mr. Kikuchi, in September. “He was an economist: every note and phrase and utterance counted,” Mr. Osby said on Tuesday. “There was nothing disposable.”

He is survived by his sister, Sarah McGuirl.

Destiny’s Child Manager Back With New Girl Group

Source: www.thestar.com - By Mesfin Fekadu

(Nov 17, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. —
Mathew Knowles says there’s a lack of girl groups in the music industry today, so it’s the right time to launch his latest project: a reality show on MTV that follows the development of the group From Above.

Breaking From Above premieres internationally this month and in December, and Knowles says it may be shown in the United States next spring.

“Most reality shows are about putting together groups, this is the opposite,” he said in a recent interview. On the MTV show, he added two more women, for a total of seven competing for a spot in the British pop quintet.

He says the group could be trimmed to a quartet or a trio.

The days of girl groups dominating the music scene are long gone. Knowles says it’s a result of bandmates not understanding the roles they play.

“If I’m the lead singer, I’ve got to know that, accept that, and all the members have got to accept it,” he said. “Everybody’s role has to be established at day one.”

Knowles was the manager of Destiny’s Child, which included his daughter Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Originally a quartet, the trio stopped performing in 2005.

Destiny’s Child won two Grammys, had multiple No. 1 hits and multiple multi-platinum albums. Knowles also managed the group members’ solo efforts and oversaw most of Beyonce’s solo career until they split professionally in March.

Knowles says before Destiny’s Child signed a record deal in 1997, they had performed about 1,000 shows.

“When you look at reality shows, (the success) comes overnight, and it goes away overnight because there was never artist development,” he said. “(With my new group) there’s something here, but true success in this industry is about a six-year process.”

His company, Music World Entertainment, offers boot camp training for artists who are looking to improve their skills. He had the members of Destiny’s Child jogging and singing at the same time — to build their stamina — when they were 10 years old.

From Above will release their debut single, Not the Same Girl, on Nov. 29. Their album, Breaking From Above, will be released digitally Dec. 12.

“The initial launch is based on TV, and we’ve all learned the power in TV in selling music today,” he said.

Knowles said he’s been affiliated with seven girl groups, including the platinum-selling Trin-i-tee 5:7. Like Destiny’s Child, the gospel duo has been downsized over the years.

“I guess I kind of have been known as the guy that shakes up girl groups,” Knowles said with a laugh.

Simpson, Usher Prep Nick Ashford Tribute for Grammy Special

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 22, 2011) *Usher is set to sing from the
Ashford & SimpsonDescription: Nickolas%20Ashford%20Valerie%20Simpson%202008_small_small catalog for what promises to be a poignant moment in the usually upbeat Grammy nominations prime-time special, set to air live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on CBS on Nov. 30.

It will be part of a joint tribute to Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber, and will also feature Mike Stoller, who was Leiber’s longtime writing partner.

The one-hour special in past years usually focused on select nominations and performances from those likely to get those bids. Rihanna, Katy Perry, the Band Perry, Sugarland and Lady Gaga are among those scheduled to participate.

But Ehrlich didn’t want to wait until the Feb. 12 Grammy broadcast to honor the lost legends.

“It felt to me like it might be appropriate to do it at the end of the year, closer to the time of their passing,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

Three months after losing her musical and life partner Ashford, Valerie Simpson acknowledges that she still has a hard time performing any of the classic songs they created together.

“I get a big lump in my throat when I try to sing one of our songs right now,” she tells the AP.

The segment will feature both Simpson and Stoller on separate pianos, as Usher sings. Simpson says she might join in when Usher sings one of their songs, which she expects to be “You’re All I Need to Get By,” but she’s happy not to be doing most of the singing.

“It certainly would make it a lot easier,” she said of Usher performing. “I will be very happy to lean on him.”

She called the death of her husband, with whom she had two daughters, “the most difficult thing I’ve had to do in my life.”

Simpson said his illness came quickly. “Nobody ever really thought of him being sick, and he really wasn’t until the very end,” she said.

The pair were married for 36 years. She said she still goes to their New York City restaurant and club, the Sugar Bar, where they nurtured upcoming talent over the years, and doesn’t rule out writing music on her own.

“I figure the residue of what he leaves here will give me something to carry on with,” she said. “I expect he’ll be whispering in my ear and pointing me in a direction that is right, in time.”

Prince Proves Prince 2 B A Class Act

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(Nov 19, 2011) Prince Rogers Nelson isn’t known for being terribly generous with his time to the press, so when the opportunity came up to do an email interview with the man in advance of his Air Canada Centre dates this coming Friday and Saturday we were a little skeptical that we’d ever hear anything back.

As it turns out, though, Prince is as punctual as he is prolific. And not without a sense of humour, either. I was worried he’d turn up his nose at my lame questions and hit delete, so I prefaced them with a note apologizing for the fact that I’m a terrible interviewer and hoping that he would at least find them “reasonably intelligent.” The answers came back addressed to the “Reasonably Intelligent Interviewer.” Sharing a giggle with Prince? Who knew it was possible.

The exchange that follows is unedited (well, except for all the questions he ignored), with the Purple One’s responses preserved in their original, Prince-ly glory.

The “Welcome 2 Canada” leg of your current, rather marathon tour is pretty extensive, touching down in spots such as London and Saskatoon and Halifax that an artist of your stature might not normally be expected to hit. How long has it been since you dug in and hit this many ports of call in the Great White North? Did anything in particular motivate this spirit of diligent inclusivity?

AS U KNOW THE HEAD OF LIVE NATION, MIKE RAPINO, IS ORIGINALLY FROM THUNDER BAY, CANADA. WE ALWAYS PROMISED 2 COME 2 HIS HOMETOWN 2 DO SOMETHING HISTORIC. THIS BAND IS A WELL-OILED MACHINE NOW. IT’S A PERFECT MIX OF MUSICIANS 2 WRECK HOUSE IN ALL OF CANADA.

I’ve read in a couple of places that you and the band rehearsed something like 300 songs for this tour. Is that media hyperbole or are you cats really that pathological when it comes to preparedness?

30 YEARS IN THE BUSINESS GIVES U A LOT 2 WORK WITH. WE R VERY DISCIPLINED. THIS IS THE MOUNTAIN TOP. THERE IS NOTHING “PATHOLOGICAL” ABOUT IT. DOING A RESIDENCY IN ANY PARTICULAR CITY REQUIRES A LARGE REPERTOIRE TO ENSURE REPEAT BUSINESS. MOST OF THE AUDIENCE HAVE BEEN 2 MULTIPLE SHOWS IN THEIR LIFETIME. IT IS TRULY A BLESSING.

Speaking of, what can we expect from the set list on these dates? And how do you decide what goes in or out of the mix on a nightly basis when you’re working with a catalogue that deep?

EACH AUDIENCE IS DIFFERENT. WHAT THEY RESPOND 2 MOST FAVORABLY USUALLY DICTATES THE FLOW OF THE CONCERT AND THE CHOICE OF THE MATERIAL. ALSO THE SOUND QUALITY AND THE ENERGY OF THE BAND. U CAN ALWAYS TELL WHEN THE GROOVE IS WORKING OR NOT.

You stated recently that you won’t be recording — or, at least, releasing — any new material until the online distribution of music is properly regulated. Do you plan on holding yourself to that statement?

NO. I HAVE A WRITING ADDICTION. THAT SAID, IT WOULD B GREAT 2 C THE GOVERNMENT GET INVOLVED 2 INVESTIGATE THE COLLUSION AND RACKETEERING ASPECT OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY. THE WHOLE NATION WOULD BENEFIT GREATLY FROM A MORE SECURE DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM.

Considering that you were among the first recording artists of your profile to experiment and champion alternative means of distribution — including selling your music directly to fans online — this change in attitude stands as a pretty serious about-face. What, exactly, prompted you to reconsider the way you put your records out there?

THIS BREAK FROM RECORDING IS AN ATTEMPT 2 CURB THE CREATIVE CRAVING. WE’VE ALREADY HAD A RELAPSE OR 2. THIS BAND IS WAY 2 TALENTED NOT 2 B RECORDED. THEY R A BAD INFLUENCE. :-)

Furthermore, if you’re prepared to reject the Internet as a vehicle for releasing records, what alternatives are there? There are, after all, rumours now circulating that the major labels are about to abandon CDs as a format altogether.

WE R VERY INTERESTED IN THE WAY NEW WORKS WERE DISTRIBUTED B4 THE ADVENT OF RECORDED MUSIC. WHEN U R IN THE MUSICAL DRIVERS SEAT, IT AFFORDS U A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. THE OPTIONS R ENDLESS.

I love this quotation because I’m not a fan of MP3s and “compression” and their overall effect on fidelity: “I personally can’t stand digital music. You’re getting sound in bits. It affects a different place in your brain. When you play it back, you can’t feel anything. We’re analogue people, not digital.” Would you care to elaborate a bit? I’m worried that if CDs are abandoned, the lion’s share of music is now going to be available in a form that doesn’t value decent sound quality.

WE LISTEN 2 24-BIT FILES OF R CURRENT WORK. ON THE OTHER HAND WE LOVE VINYL. ONE JUST NEEDS 2 STUDY THE FACT THAT MUSIC SEEMS 2 SOUND BEST WHEN THERE IS SOME “REVOLUTION” INVOLVED.

As someone whose career is shackled to the troubled newspaper industry, I must ask: what was behind your decision to distribute a couple of your recent records as giveaways affixed to European dailies?

SO MUCH 4 REASONABLE INTELLIGENCE. LOL!! (KIDDING)

Rihanna Gets Bad, And Then Badder

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green

Talk That Talk
Rihanna
Def Jam/Universal

(Nov 18, 2011) When she is bad, she's very, very bad, and that often
Description: RIHANNA%202011_small turns out to be pretty good. And when she is good, she sometimes swamps you with radio-ready goodness, and it's all so overblown that you just want to rush that throbbing neon heart and flip the switch to off.

This album is like a tunnel, with light at both ends and a dirty dark place in the middle. It opens and closes with the disc's happiest glosses (in every sense) on true love. You Da One makes the joyous destination feel like a fresh start, with a heavy slow swagger, a sunlit Caribbean feeling, and lots of glottal attack in the vocals (as in, "all the ti-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ime."). Fool in Love rings down the curtain with a towering anthem that somehow squeezes fresh feeling from a tired lyrical concept, with the diva's biggest ornamented singing and a sense of fatality in the slow descending bass.

In between, RiRi slips into a freaky night world and gets nasty with a capital N. On Cockiness (Love It), a chorus of Rihannas chant "Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion," before Rihanna singular opens her call-and-response solo with the line, "I want you to be my sex slave." Producer Bangladesh (Shondrae Crawford) manipulates a few samples and some minimal beats into a track of surprising textural variation, with regular shifts in gear marked by a high sampled male cry that's somewhere between a factory whistle and a muezzin's call.

Birthday Cake, another song about licking things (icing, ostensibly), continues the grand dominatrix mood of Cockiness, and the talk-randy tradition Rihanna inherited from dancehall types like Lady Saw. Red Lipstick brings drugs and celebrity into the picture, and a sense of sullen confusion about where the private ends and the public begins. The exotic, done-over production style extends the feeling of displacement.

In Roc Me Out, the star demands discipline: "I've been a bad girl, daddy, I want you come and get me." The synths growl heavily as she promises to show her dirty secret, which is that she just wants to be loved.

In the title track, Rihanna begs to be told what it takes to hold on to you - meaning you, the one special guy. But Jay-Z, in his brief rap cameo, has his Brag-O-Matic set on stun, as he blusters about how all the women want to do him - meaning all the women, not just you, girl. Did he get the wrong brief? Maybe not: "Love it when you talk that talk to me," she insists.

Away from these tributes to sexual power and emotional rough trade, Rihanna gets back to the happy-love business, in a clutch of undistinguished big-tent songs. Chief among these is We Found Love, a weak dance number given prosthetic legs by Calvin Harris's triumph-of-the-will production. The chorus is as boring as a tune can be, yet somehow this thing became a No. 1 single.

If you're rifling this album on iTunes, you can skip We All Want Love and Farewell: You've heard them before, more or less. Drunk on Love feels a bit surreal, just because of its position in the album: After a few episodes in Rihanna's turn as She-who-must-be-obeyed, it's weird to hear her declare, full-voice, that she's a hopeless romantic.

But an album isn't a narrative. It's not even necessarily personal. These personae, invented with a posse of co-writers and producers, are all spirits, melted into air. But the baddest ones are the slowest to fade, and that's good.

Trombone Shorty Stands Tall

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Goddard

(Nov 17, 2011) A breakthrough arrives by the hour these days. If not on
Description: Trombone%20Shorty_small the medical front then it appears in the latest glaze on a Tim Hortons’ Timbit. Now it’s happening on the trombone front.

The what? There’s a trombone front? It appears there is. The meteoric ascendancy of
Trombone Shorty Troy Andrews to his parents — has helped revive interest in this fine if ungainly instrument that resembles a brass stork. (Another New Orleans trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon, is out there too.) The ’bone has roots in the Middle Ages and a distinguished 20th century jazz history — when played by the likes of Lawrence Brown and J.J. Johnson — followed shortly by fallow years in the age of rock ‘n’ roll.

But the demand for Andrews’ “tour that never stops” as he calls it — he and Orleans Avenue (TSOA) play The Opera House on Nov. 17 — speaks to a broader revival of interest in New Orleans’s particular musical gumbo where R&B and funk stew in jazz’s juice. With the seven-piece TSOA, marching band street traditions are revved up by hip-hop dramatics. Imagine a Model T fuelled by Dom Pérignon.

Spurred by in part by Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans revival also frames music in terms of community, not cashing-in. And with community comes history.

“We are a direct influence of all New Orleans music,” Andrews tells me by phone as he arrives in Pittsburgh after seven days non-stop on the road. “And most of the music in New Orleans happens naturally. I grew up listening to the Neville Brothers and the Rebirth Brass Band. (Trombonist) Corey Henry, one of the Rebirth founding members lived around the corner from me.”

Even the guest musicians who record with TSOA — such as Jeff Beck ripping off a nasty guitar solo in Do To Me, from the band’s latest CD, For True — met Shorty and company socially in a local, New Orleans context.

“I met Beck at (last year’s) New Orleans Jazz Festival when he came to one of our 2 a.m. shows,” says Andrews. “He then asked me to his own Les Paul tribute in New York.” (TSOA has also toured Europe with Beck, playing at a Sept. 24 benefit organized by Prince Albert II in Monte Carlo.

Andrews’ relationship with Kid Rock — who in For True sings on “Mrs. Orleans” — began when the trombonist sat in with Rock’s session at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Add to the list Lenny Kravitz who took Andrews out on tour after seeing him live.

“In New Orleans we like to interact with the crowd,” says Andrews. “We don’t like people sitting down.”

Andrews came by his “Shorty” moniker at four years old when he was spotted by older brother James strutting down the street clutching a trombone twice as tall as he was. Shortly after, Andrews added the trumpet to his arsenal. He admits that even now — he’s 25 years old — he has some difficulties with his embouchure in switching the larger mouthpiece of the trombone to the trumpet’s smaller one. “I’ve got to let my chops rest,” he says.

The trumpet carries all sorts of symbolic freight in Andrews’ neighbourhood, Tremé or Faubourg Tremé-Lafitte. Known locally as New Orleans “back-of-town” — inspiration for Andrews’ 2010 debut Grammy-nominated album Backatown — Tremé is home to Louis Armstrong Park although trumpeter Satchmo rarely played in the area.

Learning from Armstrong is a rite of passage in New Orleans — as it should be anywhere — and it indirectly led Andrews to taking up the trombone with a passion.

“I never really listened to any particular trombone players,” he says. “But I did hear Jack Teagarden through listening to Louis.” (Texas-born trombonist Teagarden joined the Louis Armstrong All Stars in 1946. Teagarden-Armstrong’s greatest moment together may ironically have been their vocal duet on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Rocking Chair” at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.)

Yet Andrews is an archetypal trombonist in another sense too. Trombonists are to jazz what catchers are to baseball. Rarely considered to be among the showier players, they often evolve and mature into the brains behind the whole operation. A good many of jazz’s dominating leaders, arrangers and intellects – Tommy Dorsey, Bennie Green, Nelson Riddle, Toronto’s Rob McConnell or Teagarden himself – were trombonists. Maybe it’s because you need to be a near-genius simply to hold on to the thing. As a trombonist myself for many years, I was always all thumbs. Coupled with a decided lack of talent, this finally forced me out of the trombone game.

Andrews seems to be created out of archetypal trombone-leader mould, always planning, networking and creating. He conceived Red Hot +New Orleans, a New Orleans-aid related concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music a year ago. He’s led an initiative with Louisiana officials to help raise awareness of a solid, musical education in the education system.

“Whenever we can we try to talk to students,” he says. “If I can I’ll invited kids from a school to a sound check and take questions from them. I want to show them it’s cool to play the trombone.

“Kids are influenced by what’s accessible to them. It’s hard for kids to be introduced to music other than what they see on TV and video. So to them we’re new.”

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue is at The Opera House, 735 Queen St. E. Thurs. Nov. 17 at 9 p.m.

Bandleader Takes To Road With James Brown Tribute

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

(Nov 23, 2011) In the fall of 1968, race relations in the United States were still touchy after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. that April. James Brown, who had appealed for calm during the riots that followed King’s murder, found himself both praised and condemned for his response, and wanted to make a statement that would define his beliefs.

So he went to his bandleader, saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, and told him that he had an idea for a song. “He needed some music, and gave me a tempo and a feeling,” recalls Ellis. “I wrote the music, and he came up with these words, and got some children from the neighbourhood, which was in Southern California.”

The result, Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud, was a sensation, spending six weeks at the top of Billboard’s R&B singles chart, and climbing to No. 10 on the pop side. It was, in a sense, the musical equivalent of poem “I am - somebody,” which Jesse Jackson famously recited, and in concert, Brown would unite his fans by urging “everybody” to chant the “I’m proud!” part of the refrain.

And the song’s impact wasn’t limited to American audiences.

“In some villages - in West Africa, for instance - everything would stop at five o’clock, when they would play Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud on the radio, and blast it in the streets,” Ellis says. “It was very influential.”

That influence hasn’t lessened with time, either, which is why Ellis is on the road with a show called Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown. “When Mr. Brown died, I felt that as a tribute to him we’d say, ‘We’re still black, and we’re still proud,’” Ellis says. “So that’s the name of the project.”

The African element stemmed in part because Ellis had been working with a number of African musicians, including the Senegalese singer and guitarist Cheikh Lo, and in part because Brown’s music had such a strong African connection. “He influenced many African musicians; James Brown was influenced by African music,” Ellis says. “So we thought, ‘Let’s bring the two together and see what happens.’”

Ellis, who replaced Nat Jones as Brown’s bandleader in 1967, was on hand for some of Brown’s biggest hits, including Cold Sweat, I Got the Feelin’ and Mother Popcorn, recordings that laid the foundation for funk music. But even though Brown’s band boasted such stellar players as saxophonist Maceo Parker (who joins Ellis on the current tour), guitarist Jimmy “Chank” Nolen and drummer Clyde Stubblefield, Ellis says the groove that resulted was not the product of collective improvisation, but of James Brown’s genius.

“The improvisation was designed by James Brown,” Ellis says. “He chose who he wanted to improvise, and mostly, it was Maceo. The guitar player had a little room, and I had a solo once in a while. But most of this stuff was designed by James Brown. He decided how a song would be formed, and what would take place within the song. If he felt comfortable with it, he would stretch it out, so he could grunt and do his dances and so forth.”

The band would watch Brown like hawks, because his concept of “conducting” depended on signalling changes through bits of body English. “The band was disciplined and we could interpret his movements,” Ellis says. “If you were on a section of a song, it wouldn’t change until he did a particular movement that signalled the change. So we would just stay there and roll on.”

A similar dynamic can be seen onstage in the musical Fela!, about Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Although Ellis hasn’t seen the show, he says the resemblance isn’t coincidental. “I know Fela’s music, and he got a lot of riffs from James Brown,” he says. “And James Brown was influenced by Fela. They influenced each other.”

Still Black, Still Proud: An African Tribute to James Brown will play at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Saturday, Nov. 29.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Maroon 5, Taylor Swift Win Early At American Music Awards

Source: www.thestar.com - By Derrik J. Lang

(Nov 20, 2011) LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — Maroon 5 and Taylor SwiftDescription: TAYLOR%20SWIFT%20AMA_small have the right moves at the American Music Awards. The band led by singer Adam Levine and the country princess picked up the first trophies at Sunday’s ceremony, for favourite pop-rock band/duo/group and country female artist, respectively. Nicki Minaj launched the 39th annual fan-favourite ceremony with a performance featuring tethered backup dancers, stilt-walking robots and superproducer David Guetta emerging from behind a pillar of speakers. The pink-haired singer kicked off the show with Turn Me On before launching into Super Bass. Adele leads the nominees with four nods at this year’s AMAs, which honour music artists based on online votes. See photos from the awards show Other top nominees include Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Lil Wayne, Rihanna and The Band Perry, who have three bids apiece.

Springsteen, E Street Set First Tour, Album Without Clemons

Source: www.thestar.com

(Nov 21, 2011) NEW YORK—Bruce Springsteen has announced the first dates for his European tour with the E Street Band. They’ll play four shows in England next summer. The dates are June 21 in Sunderland; June 22 in Manchester; June 24 at the Isle of Wight festival; and July 14 at Hard Rock Calling in London. The European shows will run from mid-May through the end of July. “Info on the U.S. dates and the World tour dates will be coming up shortly,” Springsteen’s official site announced. “In addition, we want you to know that the music is almost done (but still untitled), we have almost settled on the release date (but not quite yet), and that we are all incredibly excited about everything that we're planning for 2012.” This will be the first tour for the E Street Band since saxophonist Clarence Clemons died in June from complications of a stroke. Springsteen’s last tour was the “Working on a Dream” tour, which ended in 2009.

Beyonce Teases New ‘Dance For You’ Video

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 21, 2011) *Beyonce is giving folks a preview of her video forDescription: beyone-dance-for-me_small “Dance For You,” a bonus track off her current album “4.” The release follows Sunday’s Q&A and screening of her “Live At Roseland” DVD, which is due in stores tomorrow. Watch a teaser from the black & white “Dance For You” video below:

Chernobly – Beyoncé: http://www.twitvid.com/QXUU7

Leonard Cohen To Release New Album

Source: www.thestar.com

(Nov 22, 2011) Hallelujah! Poet/singer/songwriter extraordinaireDescription: Leonard%20Cohen%20upcomong%20new%20album_small Leonard Cohen is releasing a new record on Jan. 31. The album, entitled Old Ideas, is the 77-year-old native Montrealer’s 12th studio album and will include 10 songs, including remixes of “Amen” and “Lullaby.” Among the collaborators on his latest album are producer Patrick Leonard, who has worked with Madonna, and singer Jennifer Warnes, one of Cohen’s backup singers in the 1970s. Her 1987 album, Famous Blue Raincoat, is a tribute to him. LISTEN: To “Show me the Place” a collaboration with Warnes for new album.

 Show Me The Place by leonardcohen

Six Princely Tributes

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

(November 22, 2011) Everybody wants to be
Prince at least for a fewDescription: Prince%201_small minutes.  Having as many hits as he does, and carrying the reputation for sterling musicianship that he still carries, you're never surprised when an artist covers Prince; that's how tribute is paid. But doing it right isn't easy. To whet our appetites further for Friday and Saturday's concerts in town - and to prepare our minds for the reinterpretation that the Artist himself might subject familiar tunes to - here are five that caught our fancy. Using Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" would clearly be cheating; you'd expect something more obscure. Here, mostly from John Sakamoto, are six that have stuck with us. 

Napster Shutting Down Canadian Service

Source: www.thestar.com

(November 22, 2011)
Napster is pulling out of Canada and warning itsDescription: Napster_small customers to use their credits and make backups of their purchased songs in the next few weeks. Napster had been charging Canadians $9.95 a month for streaming access to millions of songs, or users could purchase tracks to keep. Songs could also be stored on MP3 players — but not Apple devices — for $14.95 a month. Napster says it stopped accepting new Canadian members last week and current members will lose their access on Dec. 16. Napster Canada had been active for seven years. Last month, it was announced that Napster was being acquired by U.S. streaming rival Rhapsody.

Nicki Minaj Set To Be Named Billboard’s Rising Star Of The Year

Source: www.thestar.com - Danny Moloshok/Reuters

(Nov 23, 2011) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Nicki Minaj will have anotherDescription: Nicki%20Minaj%20poses%20backstage_small moment to savour from her super year: Billboard is honouring her as its rising star of 2011. She is slated to get the honour at Billboard’s “Women in Music” event on Dec. 2 in New York City. Minaj said Wednesday she was “deeply honoured to be recognized by Billboard.” She said she and her fans have come a “mighty long way” but are not close to where “God will take us.” The rapper and singer has emerged as one of music’s most popular entertainers since releasing her debut album Pink Friday late last year. Her hits include Super Bass and Moment 4 Life. She’ll have one of her biggest fans on hand as well: Taylor Swift is also being honoured as the woman of the year.

Video: Robin Thicke and Paula Patton Get (Almost) Naked for the Camera

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 23, 2011) *Known for his already steamy lyrics, Robin Thicke hasDescription: paula_pattonrobin_thicke2011-screenshot2-wide_small kicked it up a notch with the premiere of his latest video for “Love After War.” The short story, if you will, puts words to picture of how love can get rough with passionate fights to equally charged make-up sessions. And for this one, Thicke and his real life wife, actress  Paula Patton, take it all off for the cameras. The couple play like stars in a sexy foreign film, going from hatred to sex and love making in a scene. “Don’t you love it when we fight?” Thicke croons at one point. Yep, we do ’cause we get to watch.

::FILM NEWS::    

Toronto Filmmaker Wins Third International Emmy

Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman

(Nov 22, 2011) Toronto filmmaker John Kastner has won theDescription: John%20Kastner%20Silva%20Basmajian%20Dan%20Rather_small international Emmy for best documentary for his riveting film Life With Murder. Kastner wrote, directed the film, and co-produced it with the National Film Board.

The award was presented by CBS news veteran Dan Rather late Monday night at a packed ballroom of the New York Hilton hotel.

It’s the fourth time Kastner has won an Emmy, and his third international Emmy — a record among Canadians.

“For me this is the most meaningful award I have ever won,” Kastner said in an interview with the Star. “It really got under my skin because of the incredible access the Jenkins family gave me into the darkest corner of their lives.”

The film, which had its premiere at Hot Docs, was aired on CTV in Canada, and was also widely seen outside Canada. It’s about a couple who stand by their son even after he is charged with murdering their daughter, his sister. As a result they were shunned by friends, neighbours and family members.

Twelve awards were presented at Monday’s ceremony, which featured Jason Priestley as host and Lady Gaga as a surprise guest presenter.

The nominations were dominated by Latin American countries in many categories, but it was the British who took home more than any other country. However, they did not have a nomination in the documentary category.

Kastner’s film was the only winner from North America.

Telefilm Creates New Measure For Success Of Canadian Films

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Guy Dixon

(Nov 23, 2011) Telefilm Canada is introducing a new system toDescription: WEB-telefilm-in_1344974cl-8_small measure the success of Canadian films.

For years, the crown corporation measured the success of the films it funds merely by domestic box-office numbers. A new index will now take in worldwide sales, as well as give points to awards and film-festival appearances, and the ratio of private backing a film generates.

Telefilm's old system failed to account for international box office and DVD sales, to say nothing of factoring in the acclaim films receive. Such accolades have led to well-established careers and numerous jobs for actors and technicians, even though this wasn't being officially measured, says Carolle Brabant, executive director of Telefilm.

For instance, according to older ratings systems, the 2009 Quebec comedy De père en flic - with a home box office of close to $11-million - was a clear hit. But the 2010 film Incendies might not be considered much of a winner with a box office of only about $5-million - despite the fact that it was nominated for an Oscar and won eight Genie awards, including best picture.

In fact, most Canadian films seemed to fall below expectations under the old system.

A decade ago, former Heritage Minister Sheila Copps set a goal for films to aim for 5 per cent of domestic box office - an attempt to rally Canada's then-faltering film industry. But given the number of Hollywood films clogging multiplexes across Canada, English-Canadian films typically gross only 1 per cent of the market or worse. Quebec films do only marginally better at around 3 per cent.

And while Canadian films such as 2008's Blindness often do very well overseas or in DVD and video-on-demand sales, these indexes haven't been factored into whether they've been a "success."

So, on Wednesday, Telefilm announced a new Success Index. Now 60 per cent of a film's score will be based on sales figures, 30 per cent on awards and film-festival appearances and 10 per cent on how much of a film's funding was private as opposed to public.

"The fact that we're combining the cultural and commercial aspect into an index is quite unique," says Brabant.

"A good example is [director] Guy Maddin," she says. "He's a true international star. His work has been recognized around the world. But his films are not necessarily reaching huge box office in Canada."

And for films with strong overseas and DVD sales, Brabant argues that the new index better reflects the current reality of the film business, and helps to define what a 5 per cent box-office target might really look like. The industry is now multinational. Most large films have some foreign backing and therefore have some expectations of box-office and DVD sales overseas.

"We see it as an important tool to actually achieve that 5 per cent," Brabant says. "Just having box office as the most important measurement was not sufficient."

The new Success Index not only changes how individual films are measured, but how Telefilm itself is measured. Are they doing a good job of allocating public funds for films?

"It has always struck me, and maybe it's from my background as a chartered accountant, that it was pretty unique in this industry to measure our success mainly from what we're doing in Canada," Brabant says. "When you look at companies in other industries - Bombardier or Cirque du Soleil, for example - these companies are not only successful in Canada, but they're successful all over the world. I thought this was something that was missing [in Telefilm's measurement]."

Café De Flore: Hang On To Your Headphones

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

Café de flore
Starring Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent and Vanessa Paradis. Written and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée. 120 minutes. Opens Nov. 18 at the Cumberland. 14A

(Nov 17, 2011)
Café de Flore is a captivating puzzle about the mysteryDescription: CafE%20de%20flore_small of love, a shape-shifting film that hits the heart the same way music enters the soul — without thought, only rapture.

Equating love with music is very much the analogy intended by Jean-Marc Vallée, the Quebec writer/director who used vintage Pink Floyd and David Bowie tunes to expansive effect in C.R.A.Z.Y., his artful coming-of-ager from 2005.

Pink Floyd is heard in Café de Flore, too, notably the atmospheric “Breathe” from The Dark Side of the Moon. So are numbers from the band’s spiritual heir, Iceland’s Sigur Ros. Vallée foregrounds these sounds, making them part of his time-shifting narrative.

The key song, however, comes from Matthew Herbert, the London electronic musician who also performs under the name Doctor Rockit.

Two versions of the Herbert/Rockit instrumental creation “Café de Flore,” with its hooky accordion riff inspired by the famed Paris bistro of the same name, gives the film its title and also provides a sonic link for psychic travels.

Hang on to your headphones; it’s quite a trip.

It begins in the Montreal of current times, where a popular club DJ named Antoine (Kevin Parent) is living the high life with his gorgeous blond girlfriend Rose (Evelyne Brochu) and his two pre-teen daughters.

A narrator calls Antoine, on the cusp of 40, “a man who had every reason to be happy and the lucidity to realize it,” but the description is unnecessary. You can see it in his eyes, the way he looks at Rose as the two of them frolic in the backyard swimming pool owned by Antoine’s affluent (and disapproving) parents.

But those daughters imply a previous relationship, one that isn’t completely resolved. Antoine’s ex-wife Carole (Hélène Florent) still mourns the loss of her soul mate, the man she’s adored since the two of them first bonded as teens some 20 years ago over a shared passion for music.

A close friend tells Carole to move on, to get over Antoine, but she can’t. Antoine was her first and only love: “I’ve never kissed another man.”

Suddenly we are in the Paris of 1969, and a whole other story. Single mom Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis, Johnny Depp’s partner) is struggling to raise her beloved Laurent (Marin Gerrier), a child with Down Syndrome. Jacqueline’s husband abandoned them, refusing to be a “missionary” to a son with special needs.

Jacqueline doesn’t resent her situation or stint in her love for Laurent. But she feels abandoned by him when he falls in love-at-first-sight with classmate Véro (Alice Dubois), who also has Down Syndrome. Laurent and Véro become as inseparable as a pair of swans, and Jacqueline realizes with shock and anger that she’s jealous of them.

How do these stories, set 42 years apart, possibly connect? The only apparent link, at first, is Antoine’s and Laurent’s mutual love of “Café de Flore.” When they hear the tune, they’re both transported to a blissful state.

Carole and Jacqueline are not so fortunate. They are haunted by thoughts of betrayal, which for Carole express themselves both in reality and in her fevered dreams.

The past bursts into the present as Jacqueline and Laurent begin to occupy Carole’s subconscious mind; a psychic guide tells her it is no coincidence, and she must act upon her disturbing visions.

The viewer may feel in need of a guide, too, as Vallée abruptly shifts between eras and characters. He provides assistance, but not in an obvious manner: those musical cues are there for a reason, and also visual ones, through such transporting and transforming motifs as airplanes in flight and bodies submerged in water or carried away by sonic bliss.

Vallée presents love in all its many-splendored mystery, but also its terrible flipside of rejection. The architecture of emotion is his natural terrain. (His cerebral English-language period drama The Young Victoria from 2009, as good as it was, now seems like an anomaly.)

Café de flore leaves you wrestling with your emotions, not sure of how to react, but Floyd’s “Breathe” provides a clue:

For long you live and high you fly

And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry

And all you touch and all you see

Is all your life will ever be. . .

Effects So Special, They’re Unnoticeable

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Nov 17, 2011) Step aside, Houdini. Allan Magled and Berj Bannayan can make an airplane appear out of thin air.

Their Toronto company’s work on the Canadian-made horror
Final Destination 5 was so convincing, movie studio brass didn’t believe what Soho vfx had accomplished when they first saw it.

Magled and Bannayan showed footage of a passenger jet on a rain-slicked tarmac at Vancouver International Airport. The pilots are visible in the cockpit window, walking around and taking their seats. Ground crews are seen inspecting the underside of the plane as airport vehicles move around the jet. The bright runway lights show the rain pelting down hard. It looks like a terrible night to fly — if it were real.

“You’re not allowed to shoot film in the Vancouver airport, only stills,” Soho vfx CEO Magled explained as he ran the scenes of the plane in the company’s Liberty Village screening room. The studio couldn’t believe it was a sequence created on computers and not the real thing. “So we sent them the (computer) wire mesh version (of the plane) and said, ‘we did all that,’” Magled added with a chuckle. “You get better at everything over time.”

That’s certainly true of Soho, which has created special effects for more than 60 big-budget films since opening in 2002. This year alone it did work for nine major films, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the latest in the Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn Part One, opening Friday.

Soho started out with four or five people 10 years ago. Today, 100 technicians sit before glowing computer screens in darkened workrooms, creating digital magic on the latest project, scenes for Spider-Man director Bryan Singer’s new fantasy Jack the Giant Killer, due out next summer, starring Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor.

“You can’t throw a rock in here without hitting a nerd,” Bannayan says with a chuckle, clearly including himself in that number. “Everybody is passionate about their work. That’s the defining characteristic of a geek, somebody who really gets excited about this stuff. All our crew, God bless ’em, they put everything they have into this work.”

Bannayan comes from a computer science background and “started writing the software development we use in this industry.” Magled worked in various places, from construction sites to a butcher shop, before landing in film production. Both worked at globally respected Toronto effects house C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures, now defunct, before going out on their own.

Like most visual effects houses, Soho vfx works on a shot-by-shot basis. Studios hire a visual effects producer who oversees all of the effects needed for the movie, based on the director’s vision. Vendors are asked to bid on shots, Magled explains. Simple things like removing cables on a stunt performer’s harness or cleaning up a sky is considered a simple job. Soho does more complex work, like the smash-and-run tunnel chase scene in Knight and Day, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. The tunnel was empty, Magled said with delight. All of the cars were added digitally.

That’s when they’re going for realism, but sometimes fantasy is the goal, like when Soho helped create the monster in The Incredible Hulk, mutants in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or a fantasy army in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The airplane shot for Final Destination 5 took about five months from start to finish, with Bannayan doing one of his favourite tasks, scouting locations with a LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) optical sensor. The camera-like device lets Bannayan get a 3-D image that can be recreated digitally. (He’s just back from England where he scoped castles for Jack the Giant Killer.) For the Final Destination 5 jet, he went to the Mojave Airport in Southern California, a kind of graveyard for grounded aircraft.

“I could have spent months there,” he said.

Back at Soho, artists made a wire mesh model of the plane, a 3-D sculpture on the computer created with the aid of the LIDAR images.

“The texture department starts painting texture on these images and the software takes that and wraps it around the plane like a skin,” Magled explains. Then it goes to lighting, the details added based on night photography taken at the airport. Next the background action is added, along with the rain and the pilots in the plane. The trickiest part is the water on the ground and the reflections it creates, Magled points out.

The final image looks like a plane on a tarmac — completely unremarkable and hardly worth noticing. Far from frustrating Magled and Bannayan, that reaction to all their team’s hard work delights them.

“The goal is to be seamless,” says Bannayan.

“That’s the highest compliment,” adds Magled. “If you saw it and didn’t pay attention, that’s the goal here.

“The airplane is there; it’s right in front of your face. It’s a stereo (3-D) shot that sells 100 per cent as photo-real and we’re very proud of it,” Magled says. “What we’ve done here is bring that kind of work and say it was done by a local artist, rather than going to L.A. or New Zealand or London. We were the first ones to bring that kind of heavy work here and the studios take us seriously.”

Amy Winehouse’s Life Looks Set To Be Made Into Film

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

(Nov 18, 2011)
Amy Winehouse’s life looks set to be made into a film.

A number of Hollywood producers are thinking about buying the screen rights to the book Saving Amy about the late Rehab hitmaker — who was found dead in her north London home in July aged 27 — after it was made into a Channel 4 documentary.

The tome — which was written by celebrity journalist Daphne Barak — explains how the reporter, who become good friends with the singer, her ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil and her dad Mitch Winehouse, accompanied Winehouse to Caribbean island St Lucia and kept an eye on her while she was “resting” at hospitals in England.

Tessa Ross, one of the executive producers of Margaret Thatcher film The Iron Lady, has been linked to a possible movie about the Back to Black hitmaker and she is thought to be in discussions with International Creative Management’s Jeff Berg about how to develop the film, but there is no screenplay or director currently in place.

Winehouse is not the only late singer whose life is set to be turned into a motion picture.

It was revealed earlier this week that Michael Jackson’s estate executor John Branca has had discussions with Ghostbusters direction Ivan Reitman and Up in the Air producer Tom Pollock about the possibility of creating a movie about the Beat It hitmaker’s life.

The Descendants: The Other Side Of Tropical Bliss

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

The Descendants
Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Robert Forster, Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard. Directed by Alexander Payne. 115 minutes. Opens Nov. 18 at the Varsity. 14A

(Nov 19, 2011) You can see paradise in
The Descendants, shining timidly in the background of the film’s lush Hawaiian setting. But George Clooney would prefer that you avert your gaze.

“Paradise can go f--k itself,” says Clooney, or rather his character Matt King, a Honolulu real estate lawyer who has lost all sense of the idyllic.

There’s no reason for viewers of Alexander Payne’s new film, his first in seven long years, to join Matt in his wallow of gloom, which is incongruously set to the upbeat lilt of ukuleles.

On the contrary, The Descendants could leave you feeling woozy with unexpected contentment, but you have to wait a bit. This is stealth comedy, richly delivered, and the rising Oscar buzz around it is deserved.

You could hardly blame Matt for having a bad attitude. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) lies in a coma in hospital. She’s been this way for 23 days, following an accident that occurred during waterskiing frolics briefly glimpsed in the prologue.

The medical prognosis is bleak, requiring a wrenching decision, and Matt is obliged to be bluntly honest about it to his two daughters: sullen and rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley, a revelation) and mischievous 10-year-old Scottie (Amara Miller).

Tough parental tasks don’t come easy to Matt, because Elizabeth always did the heavy emotional lifting: “I’m the backup parent, the understudy,” he ruefully informs us.

There you have the first crisis of Matt King’s life, and that alone is enough to make The Descendants seem very heavy indeed.

A lot more weighs on Matt’s mind, which director Payne lays out with even greater deliberation than he did for the wounded protagonists of such previous triumphs as Sideways, Election and About Schmidt.

We learn, thanks to an outburst from Alex and the guilty faces of family friends, that Elizabeth had a secret life, one filled with the smug grins of a real-estate agent named Brian (Matthew Lillard).

We also learn, thanks to Matt’s dolorous yet grimly amusing voiceover narration, that there’s yet another crisis in the King household, one both material and spiritual. Matt, and a gaggle of cousins (one played by Beau Bridges), are direct descendants not only of the original missionary settlers of Hawaii, but also, thanks to intermarrying, of a native princess.

As such, they bear title to 25,000 acres of undeveloped land on Kauai’s South Shore, where the Hawaiian sun shines the brightest. Developers are willing to pay a king’s ransom for the property, and most of the King clan wants to sell, but Matt is keenly aware that its pristine coastal beauty would be chopped up and ruined. As chief trustee, he has final say in the matter, and the cousins are pressuring him.

These are a lot of balls for Payne and his co-writers to juggle at once, but somehow the film, drawn from Kaui Hart Hemmings’ 2007 novel, never seems overly populated or implausibly stretched.

We follow Matt with varying combinations of bemusement, alarm and pity as he balances impending widowhood with vengeful knowledge of having been cuckolded, all while fending off the rapacious demands and feigned sympathy of his extended clan.

Oh, and don’t forget he also has to figure out how to be a dad in the midst of all this, Matt’s toughest job of all.

We’ve seen Clooney do vulnerable before, most recently in Up in the Air, where he played a corporate axeman who similarly found wisdom the hard way. The Descendants goes further, making Clooney look every one of his 50 years: the hair seems grayer, the facial lines deeper, the reading glasses more than a prop.

It’s not the default condition for this icon of American virility, but here Clooney masters it. He makes us smile at his foibles — seems Matt is also something of a cheapskate — while at the same time cheering for him to sort his life out and maybe save a piece of Hawaiian heaven while he’s at it.

Payne always picks a stellar cast. He greatly assists Clooney with the punch of Robert Forster (as the grouchy granddad), the friction of Shailene Woodley (as rebellious Alex, who also has some growing to do), the humanity of Judy Greer (as the other cuckolded spouse) and the herbal nuttiness of Nick Krause (as Alex’s doofus boyfriend).

If you’ve seen the misleading trailer for The Descendants, which plays up the film’s slapstick elements, you’ve been led astray.

The pratfalls, sandal flops and back talk are there. But so is a much deeper and satisfying reflection on the imperfect joys of family and the divine grace of compassion.

Laugh At My Pain: Laughably Short

Source: www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain
Starring Kevin Hart. Directed by Leslie Small and Tim Story. 87 minutes. Opens Nov. 18 at AMC Yonge-Dundas, Interchange and Kennedy Commons. 18A

(Nov 17, 2011) The backers of the feature movie
Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain have correctly assumed enough fans of the enormously popular American comedian would be willing to pay box-office bucks for what is essentially the kind of made-for-TV concert special that’s the staple of Canada’s The Comedy Network and Comedy Central in the U.S.

Based on a live performance filmed at Los Angeles’s Nokia Theatre earlier this year, it cost just $750,000 to make, but has already grossed more than $7 million in the U.S. since its cinema debut in September.

Laugh at My Pain racks up just 87 minutes, and a good 25 of those are devoted to a mock-doc account of the diminutive comic’s return to his old Philadelphia neighbourhood, where he’s treated as homecoming royalty by his working-class family and former school swimming and basketball coaches, but ignored by everyone else, and a wonky Reservoir Dogs spoof that seems more like a half-hearted audition reel than inspired parody.

Citing Eddie Murphy as his standup hero, Hart, who’s something o
Description: Kevin%20Hart%202011_smallf a Youtube phenomenon, comes across as a perversely sympathetic figure, playing, as he does, on the less than fortunate circumstances of a troubled childhood — an abusive, drug-addicted father, an unassertive mother, recently deceased, and rough treatment because of his size — to build a frantic, expletive-loaded routine that smacks of rage, revenge and redemption.

His self-deprecating sex jokes are gross, graphic and genuinely funny, his candour admirable, his timing razor-sharp, but there’s nothing really new here, and certainly nothing that could be construed as particularly moving, perceptive or elevating.

Hart is the comic equivalent of a journeyman musician with a lot of clever licks and one good trick. Once you’ve seen it, you have little appetite for more.

But if you do want seconds, you won’t have long to wait. The DVD release is scheduled for January.

10 Biggest Film Franchises Of All Time

Source: www.thestar.com - By Barry Koltnow

(Nov 21, 2011) Imagine that your family owns a hen that lays goldenDescription: Ralph%20Fiennes%20portrays%20Lord%20Voldemort_small eggs. The hen lays her golden eggs only once every year or two, but each egg is worth a billion dollars. Life on the farm is good. Then imagine that your hen announces her retirement and never lays another egg.

You now have some idea of what it’s like to be an executive at
Summit Entertainment. Summit is the company responsible for all those Twilight movies.

On the one hand, you’re thrilled that the first half of the two-part finale is opening. With crazed fans pitching tents in front of theatres, you are pretty much guaranteed an obscene pay day. And then, when the second part of the finale opens a year from now, there will be another fortune to be made.

And then it will end. The franchise will be over. Author Stephenie Meyer’s ode to young vampire love will have run its course, just as dozens of other film franchises have come to an end since the early days of Hollywood.

With the opening of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1, we thought we’d take a look back at the biggest film franchises of all time. So here are the most profitable film franchises in history, in order of their domestic box office grosses.

1. Harry Potter — These eight films were to the movie business what these seven books were to the publishing industry, with 116 million copies sold in 50 countries.

2. Star Wars — It is hard to believe that there was a time when the Force wasn’t part of our world, but if you want to put a date on it, it would be May 24, 1977. That’s the day before the first movie opened in theatres and changed geekdom forever.

3. James Bond — In 1962, Dr. No said yes to a franchise that would stretch over five decades and nearly two dozen films. Everybody has their favourite 007, and all the people who don’t think it is Sean Connery are wrong.

4. Batman — This franchise is so strong that it survived Batman & Robin.

5. Shrek — Let’s put it this way; Puss in Boots, a spinoff movie based on a relatively minor character from the main franchise, has grossed more than $100 million in just three weeks.

6. Pirates of the Caribbean — After five movies, and countless close-up shots of Johnny Depp’s cheekbones, it is easy to forget that this was based on a ride at Disneyland that wasn’t Space Mountain.

7. Spider-Man — Sometimes, a studio suffers from serious separation anxiety and refuses to let go. That may explain why they’re making another Spider-Man movie.

8. Transformers — This trilogy was so financially successful that even the second film, which the filmmakers and stars conceded was a mess, made a billion dollars.

9. The Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, which is being filmed in New Zealand as we speak, continues the franchise that has not only included a best picture Oscar-winner, but has made enough money to create a real world called Middle-earth.

10. Star Trek — This franchise has gone where no other franchise has gone before — making the successful transition from one set of characters to another.

John Lithgow Takes You Backstage To Celebrate With Him

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(November 18, 2011)
John Lithgow does something audacious in hisDescription: John%20Lithgow_small new memoir, Drama: An Actor’s Education, something few actors are willing to do. He celebrates his success. He comes right out and says it: I was good; I got accolades; it felt terrific. His great strength as a writer, though, is that he turns his personal thrills into a gift to readers. Far from sounding arrogant or egomaniacal, he comes off as humbled and delighted by the awards and applause. He invites readers in and treats us like lifelong friends, so that instead of sitting at his feet envying him, we’re backstage celebrating with him. The book feels like a warm hang with someone you always thought you’d like, which also makes you want to dash out and advocate for arts education.

“The book is called An Actor’s Education for a reason,” Lithgow said recently, in his publisher’s office in Toronto. “The thing that you learn as an actor, with experience, is why it is you do this strange thing. If I were to sum up my reasons in a single word, it’s joy. The joy I feel and the joy I give to other people. That’s what I’m after. So I loved writing about those joyful moments.”

At 66, Lithgow has changed little from the tall, fit, courtly fellow whom I first noticed in 1981’s Blow Out, followed quickly by a run of work – The World According to Garp, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Terms of Endearment – that proved he could play any kind of character (murderer, cross-dresser, victim, lover) and infuse each with a relatable vulnerability. He kept that going in his TV career, too, even while playing an alien (Third Rock from the Sun) and a psycho killer (Dexter). And he still has that distinctive voice, anglicized vowels in a reedy timbre that always sounds like he’s on the verge of laughing or crying.

In fact, his eyes filled with tears fairly early in our interview. We were discussing his late father, Arthur, an actor, teacher and impresario. The founder or director of numerous theatre festivals, Arthur helped launch several generations of acting and backstage professionals. But he’s also a poignant figure who could never fully rise to his own expectations. He was forever losing or leaving jobs – the family moved so often that Lithgow attended eight different secondary schools – convinced that his big break was just around the corner.

Arthur’s presence can be felt on every page: He gave Lithgow his love of stories and Shakespeare, his first acting jobs (from age 7) and even the impetus to write his book. But in a storyline straight out of a Greek classic, Arthur’s career was in a free fall just as Lithgow’s was shooting skyward – he landed his first major role on Broadway, in 1972’s The Changing Room, and won a Tony for it. At one point, Arthur practically begged his son to come home and work for him (and, not incidentally, rescue his failing theatre company), but Lithgow, determined to make his own way, turned him down.

“I felt lurking melancholy and guilt about that, but things were always very genial between us,” Lithgow said. “We are like each other, in that we’re both conflict-averse. It’s one thing that made him a not very effective theatre manager. But he was so proud of me, and so happy for me. He never seemed discouraged. I discovered later in life that he was more unhappy than I knew, but that was my dad. Putting on a very good face. He gave me the gift of being able to completely savour my success, and he celebrated with me. It’s something I’m very grateful for.”

Near the end of his father’s life, Lithgow found a way to tell Arthur how much good he had done for so many people. Recalling how “it honestly startled him, that anybody had that opinion of him,” is what made Lithgow tear up.

Arthur’s kid certainly learned how to tell stories – before tackling this autobiography, he wrote and performed one-man shows and shows for children, and wrote children’s books. His book is full of absorbing details about his years as an archetypal “good boy,” a dutiful son who became a husband and father very young, followed by a dramatic period when he dashed it all to pieces by falling madly in love with the actress Liv Ullmann, with whom he co-starred in a Broadway production of Anna Christie. His life settled back down when he met his current wife, economics professor Mary Yeager, and the book sails happily on from there, describing heady encounters with people who influenced him, including Meryl Streep, Bob Fosse, Lincoln Kirstein and Mike Nichols.

But writing his life wasn’t as easy as it looks, Lithgow said. He worked on it in fits and starts for three years, often on location in hotel rooms. (He wrote a big chunk in Vancouver while shooting the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes.) “Writing a memoir is a very arrogant thing to do,” he said. “You’re writing on the presumption that thousands and thousands of people are interested in you. I almost had to stoke up my own arrogance, certainly my confidence, to do it. Then I hit these crucial moments in my life that were very, very difficult to write about. For a long time I wrestled with, ‘How much am I going to reveal, how deep am I going to go?’ I found something takes over you. You feel, ‘I have to address this. I have to deal with this.’

“But it’s very hard to write when my wife is anywhere near,” he added happily. “We so distract each other. We’d rather do anything else than work; we’re very bad for each other that way. We’re coming up on our 30th anniversary.”

The book stops around 1982, just as Lithgow is segueing from theatre to film and TV. So is a sequel inevitable? He grinned, a little sheepishly. “I suppose,” he admitted, then hinted at a couple of stories that demonstrate he has plenty of material left. The first, about five days on Terms of Endearment: “It was [director] Jim Brooks’s first film, and he had three major, major superstar personalities, Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson,” he said. “Everybody was lining up, taking sides, bickering, not showing up for work. It just seemed like chaos to me.”

And the second, about his early Hollywood auditions in the 1970s: “It was so nutty, and everybody was so stoned,” he said. “There’s a whole different minuet you dance, trying to get film work. It has much more to do with how you look and how you behave in a meeting than your actual acting. Auditioning means nothing. It was all brand new, and I was just incredibly paranoid. I felt I’d learned nothing, like a total beginner.”

His old man would have related. And, I’m sure, been proud.

Kenneth Branagh Relied On Sir Laurence Olivier’s Advice To Play Great Actor

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

(Nov 23, 2011) Actor-director Kenneth Branagh once turned toDescription: Kenneth%20Branagh%20as%20Laurence%20Olivier_small theatre legend Sir Laurence Olivier for advice when he was a teenager at drama school and struggling with a role. He was surprised when Olivier replied to his letter and simply advised him, “to have a bash and hope for the best.”

Today, Branagh feels the advice not only made sense, it helped him better play Olivier as both co-star and director of the 1956 romantic comedy The Prince and the Showgirl, starring Marilyn Monroe, in
My Week With Marilyn, opening Friday.

The film is based on the memoirs of Colin Clark (The Pillars of the Earth’s Eddie Redmayne), who worked as an assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. Olivier starred alongside Monroe, played by Michelle Williams, and also directed the picture. Olivier was often frustrated with Monroe’s lateness, insecurity and devotion to the acting “method.” Plus he was struggling with an attraction to the then-newlywed Hollywood star.

Clark and Monroe had a bittersweet romance of sorts as he helped her explore the simple pleasures of rural British life off the set.

Branagh, who spoke to the Star from Sweden, where he’s shooting the British TV detective series, Wallander, said he was “just approaching 50,” the same age Olivier was when he made The Prince and the Showgirl, when he shot My Week With Marilyn.

He said he remembered Olivier’s advice to him as a student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as he began shooting.

“I suppose what his simple remark belied was just the feeling one senses in his dealings with Marilyn, that sometimes you just have to do it,” said Branagh. “Don’t talk about it or prepare it. That was one of the problems between them. He believed you show up and give it your best and your best ought to be good enough, and she (Marilyn) believed you didn’t show up until you were going to be superb.”

Still, Branagh did extensive preparations for the role, listening to recordings of Olivier reading each day while he was in the makeup chair, having a prosthetic chin attached to his jaw to give him the actor’s signature deep cleft chin. He watched films and documentaries.

“I visited a lot of places that he knew and frequented at the time of this movie,” he added, including the home Olivier shared with then-wife Vivien Leigh, Notley Abbey, “where they entertained the great and the good.”

Branagh worked to get Olivier’s voice and mannerisms down, including the broadly comic, Balkan-like accent the actor affected to play Grand Duke Charles in The Prince and the Showgirl. He said he was impressed by the devotion Williams had to researching Monroe.

“It’s a very difficult role and one she arrived at having a master-class amount of detail. She was an encyclopedia,” said Branagh. “Michelle is who I went to with all questions on Marilyn. She was the on-set research resource.”

Williams’s attention to detail showed in her performance, Branagh added. “She immersed herself in everything to do with the technical: look, walk sound of the voice. She seems, in any given scene where she was being Marilyn, to make this imaginative leap into her own actor’s estimation of what she thought the real Marilyn was. I admired her very much for how should could do everything people expected of her. She was immersed and very focused.”

And what of the real Marilyn Monroe? Does Branagh think she was a great actress whose talent was overlooked by those who only wanted her to “just be sexy” as Olivier blurts to her in his frustration?

“I think that she had a combination of gifts, which in the roles we saw her were a very light and deft comic touch, a very effortless, carefree and generally charming light comedian skill, which is a rare thing,” said Branagh. “She makes it look easy in The Prince and the Showgirl, and combined that with this other sprinkling, or seasoning, of sex and naughtiness.

“She was a great screen presence and she seemed to have the potential to have been a great actress.”

Why We Still Love The Muppets (And Always Will)

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Kate Taylor

(November 18, 2011) There's a story told by the Canadian film crew
Description: muppets-kermit1_1342995cl-8_small who worked on Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium a few years back - about the day Kermit the frog appeared to do a cameo. So what if Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman were on the Toronto set? It was Kermit that had them star-struck.

This was part celebrity magic - here was the most famous frog in the world - and part puppet magic, as the grown-ups willingly suspended disbelief to give life to the inanimate.

"You just sort of stare into those plastic eyes and go with it," says CBC Television host George Stroumboulopoulos, who recently interviewed Kermit on his show The Hour - while Kermit's human operator lay at his feet.

Kermit was back in Toronto to publicize
The Muppets, the holiday movie that opens next week and marks the colourful puppets' first big screen appearance in more than a decade. Despite that absence, they have never left the culture; witness the Sesame Street generation's affectionate YouTube mash-ups of the Muppets covering Radiohead, AC/DC and Nirvana. They are the most popular and widely copied puppets of their time and their look - wide mouths, googly eyes, colourful bodies - has come to define puppetry in North America.

Professional puppeteers say their owe their legitimacy to Muppets creator Jim Henson, attributing the characters' success to their humorous relationships and rainbow skin tones as well as technical innovations that made them work on TV.

"Growing up, when I said I wanted to be a puppeteer, nobody knew what I meant," said Ronnie Burkett, the Canadian performer acclaimed for very grown-up shows about love and death enacted by marionettes. "As soon as Jim Henson became famous, everybody knew what a puppeteer was. He was the Walt Disney of puppets."

Once upon a time, Punch and Judy was a folk entertainment for all ages, but by the 1950s, as the rise of TV took its toll on live performance, puppet shows were regarded as children's fare. They did migrate to television, but awkwardly, leaving the jerky marionette Howdy Doody bouncing around the screen.

"Before Henson, any puppetry on TV was stage puppetry on television," Burkett notes.

Henson's genius was to recognize that the television screen could function as the frame of the old-time puppet booth: The operators did not need to be hidden between a screen or scenery; they just needed to be off-camera.

"You can come in from the bottom, the side, the top [of the screen], whereas with a marionette you are stuck coming in from above; you are stuck with Howdy Doody," says Toronto puppeteer David Powell.

And the Muppets were not made of wood, but of foam rubber that allowed the camera to focus on moving, expressive faces. Children's television had seen plenty of hand puppets, creations like Shari Lewis's Lambchop, whose soft form and pastel colours influenced the Muppets' creator, but Henson's foam heads were larger and manipulated with the whole hand. He also insisted that the puppeteer's voice be in sync with the movements of their mouths, further adding to the naturalism of the effect.

And why did audiences of the 1970s so embrace these expressive characters as they made their appearance, first on Sesame Street and then The Muppet Show? They were funny and, most of all, their relationships were funny, well observed and fairly complex, puppeteers say, pointing to the sunny Ernie and the grumpy Bert, or the aggressive Miss Piggy and her unrequited love for Kermit.

"So many people talk about the two old men in the balcony [on The Muppet Show]; they see themselves in them," said Vincent Anthony, executive director of the Centre for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, an institution that plans to build a museum to house Henson's original puppets and props. "He stuck a chord with the human factor."

The original puppeteers were key to creating those Muppet relationships, Frank Oz playing Bert to Henson's Ernie. Where traditional puppetry, such as Japan's Bunraku or Britain's Punch and Judy shows, uses iconic characters reinvented by each generation, contemporary puppetry is often an individual, multi-disciplinary art form in which the puppeteer both builds the puppet and creates its character, operating and voicing it himself.

Indeed, some puppeteers wonder whether you can really hand over the Muppets to a new generation of operators without them becoming blander, each one a cartoon brand like Mickey Mouse rather than a living theatrical character.

"Jim was not known for being precious about his puppets; he viewed them as tools," says Toronto puppeteer Frank Meschkuleit who worked on Fraggle Rock. "And yet he brought a magic to it that I don't think has been repeated since he passed. ... It just doesn't seem to have the warmth it used to."

The Muppets' magic went further still when they hit prime time: The arrival of The Muppet Show in 1976 introduced to North America the idea that puppets were a popular entertainment for adults too.

That breakthrough should not be underestimated.

"No TV station in the States would back it; he had to go to England to get it produced," Anthony says. "It was looked at as being very avant-garde, very risky by the American TV establishment."

And yet the characters could hardly have been safer. "The Muppet Show was always positive," Stroumboulopoulos recalls, citing Kermit as his first role model as a TV host. "There were problems backstage, but they were always overcome."

Indeed, the Muppets' niceness was so pronounced it actually encouraged other puppeteers to push in the opposite direction. Most obviously, the 2003 Broadway musical Avenue Q and its Muppet-like puppets and the 1989 cult film Meet the Feebles, with its misanthropic animal creatures, both derived their humour from introducing the icons of childhood into a nasty adult world of ambivalence and disappointment.

More subtly, the complex themes favoured by art puppeteers such as Burkett or Calgary's Old Trout Puppet Workshop, which invents a new style of puppet for each show, contradict the Muppet-inspired notion that puppets are family entertainment. It can be uphill work: Old Trout Judd Palmer recalls that his company once tried to revive Punch and Judy, but parents would bring their kids to the show and then complain about the violence.

"I guess that is taking a stand against the niceness of the Muppets but I wouldn't do it now," he said. "You are banging your head against a wall."

Not that the Muppets, who are rumoured to behave lewdly the minute the camera is turned off, would necessarily be opposed to pushing the envelope. The original characters were purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2004, but since Henson's death in 1990 his children have supervised his legacy; in particular his youngest, Heather Henson, has greatly encouraged the adult puppetry movement by organizing puppetry festivals and supporting Puppet Slam, an online network of underground puppet artists.

Meanwhile, the Disney-owned Muppets can count on the fond memories of a generation raised on Sesame Street, as well as a dose of geek chic, to bring audiences flocking. Jason Segel, director and star of the new film, established his credentials with his turn as a nerdy, jilted puppeteer in the 2008 comedy Losing Sarah Marshall, operating a Muppet-like Dracula character who sings a song of lost love. With The Muppets he turns to pure nostalgia, sending human characters off to dig Kermit out of his lonely mansion and rescue Fozzie from a seedy Vegas bar where he performs with Muppet knock-offs so they can restore the franchise to its former glory. Shouldn't be too hard to do: The Muppets' star has never stopped shining.

PUPPETRY ON STAGE
Canada has an enviable reputation for live puppetry. Here's what's coming up:

Ronnie Burkett
Burkett and his marionettes are currently in the midst of a national tour, performing Penny Plain [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/theatre/its-doomsday-and-these-are-definitely-not-the-muppets/article2241672], an apocalyptic drawing-room comedy about a blind woman waiting for the world to end. The show is now at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre until Dec. 17, and opens at Toronto's Factory Theatre on Jan. 20.

Puppetmongers
Toronto's Puppetmongers, a.k.a. Ann and David Powell, make their annual holiday appearance for children at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre beginning Dec. 14. This year they perform Bed and Breakfast, an update of the Princess and the Pea fairy tale set in a miniature Edwardian mansion full of wily servants and real electrical light.

Old Trout Puppet Workshop
Calgary's Old Trout Puppet Workshop is currently working on Ignorance, a show with puppets made from stones, sticks and leather that explores the idea that puppetry dates back to the days of the caveman. It will receive a world premiere at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre on Feb. 28, but in the meantime the company is still accepting suggestions about how to write the script and build the puppets at www.theoldtrouts.org/ignorance.

Getting Woody Allen To Open Up

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(November 18, 2011) Funny people fascinate Robert Weide. Since his 1982 breakout documentary on the Marx Brothers, the veteran filmmaker has essayed thoughtful TV profiles of W.C. Fields, Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. He's also worked closely with Larry David as producer and director on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm and directed the feature film How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

Weide focuses on
Woody Allen in his latest film treatise for PBS's American Masters. The two-part film boasts unprecedented access to the notoriously shy film legend and takes viewers behind the scenes of his creative process. Weide recently spoke to us from Los Angeles.

Why did the famously reclusive Woody agree to participate in your profile?

I really made the case for it. Plus I had the slightest acquaintance with him. He was in my Marx Brothers documentary, which was nearly 30 years ago. Probably foremost though is that he's familiar with my work and we have the same heroes. I sent him a letter by fax in 2008 and when his assistant got back to me and asked, "If Woody were to do this...,' I knew I was in.

How did you get him to open up about his life and career?

He was very, very easy to deal with. It was a delight getting to log some face time with Woody, just because he's been a presence in my life for so long and I admire his work. So many people walk on eggshells around him, and there's such an air of reverence, that if you mess with him and kind of tease him and insult him a little bit, he responds to it. That was easy for me because that's my dynamic with most of my friends.

Is it no accident that your film begins with Woody Allen waxing romantically on the life of a writer?

It really does come down to the written word for him. After the disastrous experience he had on What's New, Pussycat?, he decided he would never write another script for anyone else, he would only write scripts for himself to direct, so he became a director. At the heart of it, he's a writer.

Some of the archive footage - Woody boxing a kangaroo, singing to a dog, wearing top hat and tails - seems surreal, given his low profile today. Why was he so outgoing early in his career?

That was his manager Jack Rollins's idea - to just get him out there and get his face known and become a household name. They had one of those old-school relationships where your manager told you what to do and you did it. There was so much stuff I couldn't include, like when Woody hosted The Tonight Show and one of the guests was Bob Hope, his idol. Woody is like a little schoolboy giggling at Bob Hope's jokes.

In the film, Larry David talks about the huge impact Annie Hall had on movies back in 1977. Was that your experience?

When I was 16 or 17, I just happened to be at the premiere of Annie Hall in Los Angeles. I'll never forget the electricity in the room that night. It was a comic's dream. Everything played, every joke got howls, right from the opening scene. The audience reaction was explosive. It really was a game-changer. Woody is surprisingly forthcoming about his breakup with Mia Farrow and the subsequent legal battle for custody of their children.... A few people were surprised the subject was even broached at all, let alone that Woody would speak to it. But it had to be dealt with. We talked about the media-circus element of it, but this was always a film about Woody's work. When it comes down to how the breakup and legal battle affected his work, the answer is not at all. He never missed a beat.

Did you gain any insight into his prolific nature? At 75, he still turns out a film each year.

By today's standards, that's very unusual. By the time one film comes out, he's already shooting the next one. Woody is very streamlined. He finishes a script, he hands it to his line producer who does a budget, and soon after he's shooting. To this day, he keeps it very simple.

Has Woody seen the finished product?

The only thing he asked for was a chance to see the film once I had my final cut. He just wanted to make sure there wasn't anything too egregiously misrepresented. Any comments he did have were of a self-deprecating nature. There were literally three or four small things he objected to, most of it because he didn't like the material, including one clip of him in his standup act.

Did making this film change your opinion or perception of Woody Allen?

No. There's that old cliché about not meeting your heroes because you'll be disappointed, but that wasn't the case. I've met a number of my heroes but the two I've become closest with are Kurt Vonnegut and Woody, to a degree. Kurt Vonnegut and I became very close and he was a delight. He was everything I hoped Kurt Vonnegut would be. Woody and I became friendly, but we're not hanging out or anything.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Woody Allen: American Masters airs Sunday and Monday at 9 p.m. on most PBS stations.

Arthur Christmas: Add This To Your Holiday Playlist

Source: www.thestar.com

Arthur Christmas
Starring the voices of James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent. Directed by Sarah Smith. 98 minutes. Opens Nov. 23 at major theatres. G

’Twas the night before Christmas
And all over the planet
All the toys were delivered
Except for one. Dang it!

(Nov 22, 2011) That, in a nearly rhyming nutshell, is the premise behind
the soon-to-be holiday classic, Arthur Christmas.

In a letter to Santa, canny little Gwen Hines of Trelew, Cornwall, U.K. — struggling to hold on to her beliefs in the fat man in the red suit — wonders how, in an age of “exponential growth,” he manages to deliver toys around the world in one night and, for that matter, how he gains ingress into homes with very narrow chimneys.

The answer, we soon see in a dazzling opening sequence, is that Santa Claus has gone super hi-tech in the modern era, employing a giant airship (not unlike something out of Star Trek) and an army of rappelling super-stealth elves whose attention to every detail extends to feeding potentially noisy dogs and putting the toilet seat down on the way out.

Young Gwen’s missive lands on the desk of one Arthur Christmas, voiced by James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class), the bumbling younger son of the 20th Claus incarnation and — wouldn’t you know it — the one who inadvertently causes her present to go undelivered.

No wonder the big picture has been left in the hands of older son Steve (voiced to the peak of comic pomposity by Hugh Laurie) whose super-efficiency masks a heart that does not hold to a “no child left behind” policy.

Likewise, papa Santa (the inestimable Jim Broadbent) seems content to remain a “non-executive figurehead” who takes all the credit, lets others do the heavy lifting and would rather sleep in till Boxing Day than concern himself with minor matters (pun intended).

It’s left to cranky old Grandsanta — whose Christmas spirit is also suspect — to propose a solution for the desperate Arthur: to get the mothballed sleigh out of cold storage, hitch up a team of eight magic-dust-infused reindeer and to deliver the gift the old-fashioned way. If only it were that simple.

The U.K.’s Aardman Animation (which has delivered such claymation classics as Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run) teams with Sony Pictures Animation to deliver a computer-animated tale that is hilarious, fast-paced and superbly entertaining.

The attention to detail — from the mild acne on Arthur’s young chin to the age spots on Grandsanta — is quite simply astonishing. There are visual sequences throughout, including floating elephants and lions in Africa, that use 3-D to breathtaking effect.

The characters — including a plucky gift-wrapping she-elf named Bryony (“there’s always time for a bow”) — are memorably lovable, and the story, which gallops across the globe — including a Toronto layover! — is a surprisingly suspenseful flurry of fun.

Seasonal fare like this may not stand up well in the summer heat. But Arthur Christmas is suffused with so many moments of good humour, pure joy and eye-popping visual magic that it would make a worthy addition to the annual Yuletide tradition for kids and adults alike.

Arthur Christmas: Add This To Your Holiday Playlist

Source: www.thestar.com

Arthur Christmas
Starring the voices of James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent. Directed by Sarah Smith. 98 minutes. Opens Nov. 23 at major theatres. G

’Twas the night before Christmas
And all over the planet
All the toys were delivered
Except for one. Dang it!

(Nov 22, 2011) That, in a nearly rhyming nutshell, is the premise behind
Description: Arthur%20Christmas_small the soon-to-be holiday classic, Arthur Christmas.

In a letter to Santa, canny little Gwen Hines of Trelew, Cornwall, U.K. — struggling to hold on to her beliefs in the fat man in the red suit — wonders how, in an age of “exponential growth,” he manages to deliver toys around the world in one night and, for that matter, how he gains ingress into homes with very narrow chimneys.

The answer, we soon see in a dazzling opening sequence, is that Santa Claus has gone super hi-tech in the modern era, employing a giant airship (not unlike something out of Star Trek) and an army of rappelling super-stealth elves whose attention to every detail extends to feeding potentially noisy dogs and putting the toilet seat down on the way out.

Young Gwen’s missive lands on the desk of one Arthur Christmas, voiced by James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class), the bumbling younger son of the 20th Claus incarnation and — wouldn’t you know it — the one who inadvertently causes her present to go undelivered.

No wonder the big picture has been left in the hands of older son Steve (voiced to the peak of comic pomposity by Hugh Laurie) whose super-efficiency masks a heart that does not hold to a “no child left behind” policy.

Likewise, papa Santa (the inestimable Jim Broadbent) seems content to remain a “non-executive figurehead” who takes all the credit, lets others do the heavy lifting and would rather sleep in till Boxing Day than concern himself with minor matters (pun intended).

It’s left to cranky old Grandsanta — whose Christmas spirit is also suspect — to propose a solution for the desperate Arthur: to get the mothballed sleigh out of cold storage, hitch up a team of eight magic-dust-infused reindeer and to deliver the gift the old-fashioned way. If only it were that simple.

The U.K.’s Aardman Animation (which has delivered such claymation classics as Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run) teams with Sony Pictures Animation to deliver a computer-animated tale that is hilarious, fast-paced and superbly entertaining.

The attention to detail — from the mild acne on Arthur’s young chin to the age spots on Grandsanta — is quite simply astonishing. There are visual sequences throughout, including floating elephants and lions in Africa, that use 3-D to breathtaking effect.

The characters — including a plucky gift-wrapping she-elf named Bryony (“there’s always time for a bow”) — are memorably lovable, and the story, which gallops across the globe — including a Toronto layover! — is a surprisingly suspenseful flurry of fun.

Seasonal fare like this may not stand up well in the summer heat. But Arthur Christmas is suffused with so many moments of good humour, pure joy and eye-popping visual magic that it would make a worthy addition to the annual Yuletide tradition for kids and adults alike.

Hugo: Magic Waiting To Happen

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell

Hugo
Starring Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sacha Baron Cohen. Directed by Martin Scorsese. 126 minutes. Opens Nov. 23 at major theatres. PG

(Nov 22, 2011) Movie magic hangs in the air of Martin Scorsese’s
Hugo, much like the steam and dust that fills almost every frame.

The veteran filmmaker doesn’t just want us to enjoy his first family-friendly film, which is set in a Paris train station of wonder and mystery. He wants us to be swept up by his creation, like a child glimpsing toys packed under the tree on Christmas morning.

Scorsese’s enthusiasm is infectious, especially in the latter half of the film when nothing less than the dawn of cinema becomes his main focus. It’s here, too, that his foray into 3-D, another first for him, really pays off.

Aided by such Scorsese regulars as cinematographer Robert Richardson and production designer Dante Ferretti, he conjures a vintage Gare Montparnasse that could serve as a transit point to Oz, Wonderland or Hogwarts.

In truth, however, Scorsese’s cinematic swoon goes a bit too far. He’s actually made two movies, just one of which fully resonates. That’s the second-half homage to movie pioneers like Georges Méliès, whose 1902 film A Trip to the Moon had Earthlings thinking of lunar conquest long before Apollo 11. This section alone will guarantee Hugo’s long life as a film-school favourite.

But to get there you have to negotiate the first hour, which is a bit of slog. Neither Scorsese nor his The Aviator scribe John Logan (working from Brian Selznick’s graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret) seem to know what to do with the title character, problematically played by young Asa Butterfield (Son of Rambow). The kid just isn’t ready for this much screen time.

Hugo is an orphan living within the steamy confines of Gare Montparnasse, where he dodges an officious station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen, almost unrecognizable with his lack of humour).

The furtive lad with the magnetic blue eyes has a knack for stealing and for fixing, both of which he exhibits on a daily basis. He survives on food cadged from the station’s cafes, and busies himself by keeping the clocks ticking high above the bustling hordes.

Hugo is also attempting to repair a broken robot, or automaton, that has been left to him by his late father (Jude Law), a tinkerer seen in flashback. It was found abandoned in a museum attic, inventor and intent unknown. Dad and son had been attempting to restore it to working order and to reveal its secret before tragedy struck, leaving Hugo alone save for his drunken Uncle Claude (Ray Winstone), who is no father figure.

Special parts are needed for the automaton, which brings Hugo into the incongruously forbidding toy store of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley, superbly grave), a man with his own tragic past. Film buffs hearing the name will wonder if it’s the same Méliès who made A Trip to the Moon, and indeed it is, although the significance of this is not important at first, and neither is it a spoiler to reveal it.

Scorsese certainly takes his time getting around to Méliès’ tale, which I suspect is his reason for making Hugo in the first place. Scorsese is a major proponent of film preservation; you can almost hear his voice when a character says, “Time hasn’t been kind to old movies.” He would naturally sympathize with the hardships inflicted in real life on Méliès and his movies, only a handful of which survive.

The movie meanders through side trips and supporting characters. The latter include Hugo’s sympathetic pal Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz, good enough to make you wish the movie was called Hughette), flower girl Lisette (Emily Mortimer, almost wasted), bookseller Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee, a fun cameo) and watchful wife Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory, perfectly puzzling).

You might start to wish that resourceful Hugo could make your timepiece move faster, but then the second hour kicks in, and so does the magic Scorsese has been struggling to keep aloft.

With the ace scissors of editor Thelma Schoonmaker, another Scorsese regular, the film presents a breathtaking history of early cinema that includes inventive use of the Lumiere Brothers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, their pioneering short from 1895.

The Lumieres were trying to achieve a 3-D effect with their film, which reportedly had terrified early cinema patrons leaping from their seats. Scorsese actually does some 3-D handiwork with it, and incorporates it into the story, along with Méliès’ even more iconic image of a rocket sticking into the face of the Man in the Moon.

Moments like these in Hugo make you understand what Georges Méliès means when he proudly tells a visitor to his movie set, “If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, just look around.”

FILM TIDBITS

Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Breaking Records

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(Nov 19, 2011) Critics may have been lukewarm about the first of theDescription: Twilight_small Twilight Saga finale, Breaking Dawn, but Twihards voted with their wallets, making Breaking Dawn Part 1 a possible record-breaker with a Friday $72 million (U.S.) take. That includes the midnight Thursday screenings. Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood blog gives the movie an estimated weekend haul of an astounding $140 million. That makes it the No.3 best-ever single day and Friday opening ever, behind only Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2‘s $91 million and the Twilight Saga New Moon‘s $72.7 million. This paves the way for a potential record-breaking weekend for the franchise if it skips ahead of New Moon's $148 million opening weekend.

 

Idris Elba Makes People’s Sexiest Men Alive List

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 17, 2011) *We already knew this, but the mainstream is finally
Description: idris-elba-2011-primetime-creative-arts-emmy-awards-02_small recognizing that Idris Elba is one of the sexiest men alive. The British-born actor made the list alongside other Brits like David Beckham and Simon Cowell. Elba is featured in the latest Sexiest Man Alive issue of People Magazine, but he didn’t get the top spot (like we were hoping). “The Hangover’s” Bradley Cooper topped the list, but Idris Elba isn’t salty about it. He knows he’s sexy. The actor told the magazine that his greatest asset is his pearly whites. “Women love when I smile,” Elba said. ‘They’re always saying: ‘You should smile more’. So, if I’m trying to get the attention of a certain young lady, I’ll turn on the smile.”

Albert Hughes Choses His Lead for ‘Motor City’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 21, 2011) *Actress Amber Heard has been cast as the female lead oppositeDescription: albert-hughes_small Dominic Cooper in “Motor City,” the revenge tale that Albert Hughes will direct for Joel Silver’s Dark Castle. Heard tested among several young actresses and got the job, reports Deadline.com. Cooper plays a man released from prison who goes on a revenge mission, hunting down the people who framed him. Heard comes to the project fresh from “The Rum Diary” opposite Johnny Depp.

::TV NEWS::    

Dancing With The Stars Recap: And The Mirrorball Goes To ...

Source: www.latimes.com - Allyssa Lee

(Nov 23, 2011) Extra! Extra! Read all about it! We have a "
DancingDescription: jr%20martinez_small With the Stars" winner! After 10 weeks of dances, drama and more leader changes than you can shake a spangled stick at, the sparkliest show on television has finally crowned its Season 13 winner. The coveted Mirrorball trophy ended up in the hands of inspirational fan favourite J.R. Martinez and his pro partner, Karina Smirnoff.

The honour couldn't have gone to a better guy. The veteran and actor had all the makings of a winner. His inspirational back story, dedication, drive and eternal optimism gave him the uncanny ability to get everyone to root for him. In retrospect, of course it would go to J.R. A vote against J.R. would be like a vote against America. It was a sure bet for a sure vet. And his first words on hearing he won were of gratitude. "Thank you, America, for believing in us," he said. That was followed shortly after with thanks to his partner, who very much deserved her first championship award herself. "You are amazing," he said. "I'm so grateful I was able to be a part of your first Mirrorball trophy."

Congratulations to all!

Though going into these final moments, it really didn't
Description: jr-martinez-dwts_620x350_small seem as though J.R. was going to get his hands on that shiny prize, did it? He fumbled a bit in his first two finale performances and ended up tied for second after Monday. I liked how he and Karina decided to do a redux of his favourite dance, Week 2's jive, but the outcome was less than glossy without the lift and the Lindy. Plus, it couldn't compete with Ricki Lake's and Derek Hough's awesome "Psycho" tango from Week 4 (which was just as thrilling this time around). Ricki and Derek received the full 30 points for that dance, J.R. and Karina received 28. Second-place finishers Rob Kardashian and Cheryl Burke performed their Week 3 “Fly Me to the Moon” fox trot and ended up with 26 points and third place. 

But on a night like this, anything could happen. Like when it was disclosed that point leaders Ricki and Derek ended up in third place, leaving the room spinning (and Derek took Ricki out for a last star spin on the dance floor to perhaps emphasize the effect).

So it was down to Rob and J.R. to do the instant samba, set to Ricky Martin's festive "Shake Your Bon Bon." Rob definitely had the advantage in the bon bon department, but J.R. had his Latin roots. J.R. also had the difficult samba rolls in his routine, but both J.R. and Rob were awarded with perfect 30 scores from the judges, leaving them with a grand total 112 and 113 points, respectively. Though in the end, the viewer votes toppled Kardashian nation and put J.R. over the top.

But let's not forget the rest of the filler in this massive two-hour production -- like the procession of all the season’s contestants squeezed back into shiny outfits and trotted back onto the dance floor. And I dare say that all their dances looked that much better because it was all fun and games and no one feared getting paddled. Metta World Peace and Elisabetta Canalis, we hardly knew ye. Kristin Cavallari and Mark Ballas did a hopping '50s jive. Chynna Phillips got to redeem her brain freeze and perform Mission: Impossible Tango -- the Sequel, though part of me feels that Tony Dovolani got cheated because they didn't lower him down on wires this time.

Carson Kressley’s back! Again. The fashion guru and all-around delight got to check off a dream on his bucket list and dance with a Chmerkovskiy (Val), as well as Anna Trebunskaya and other members of the Troupe to the tune of Madonna's "Vogue." Nancy Grace and Tristan "Sir Dance-A-Lot" MacManus winningly hopped and skipped to their take on "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" from "Spamalot."

Loved seeing Lacey Schwimmer's dad Buddy come back to tend bar and hoof it alongside his daughter and Chaz Bono. I also would have loved to seen adorable Coco Arquette and her endearingly ecstatic expressions in the ballroom one last time, but alas, I saw no camera pans to her during dad David Arquette's high-octane "Grease" routine with Kym Johnson and the Troupe. But the routine was so fun that it made me want to go out and have a party in a high school multi-purpose room anyway. Coming in a close second in the fun department was a stealthy David trying to sneak out with the Mirrorball trophy in hand. And then Hope Solo and Maks Chmerkovskiy continued the good vibes with their version of "Valerie."

Lady Antebellum came on to perform "Dancing Away With My Heart" and put a bittersweet wistfulness into the proceedings, while Dmitry and Kym and Val and Peta bared their chests and their hearts like couples holding on to each other long after the dance had ended and everyone had gone home. Later, Lady Antebellum came back to perform their smash hit, "Need You Now," with the Troupe.

And don't forget the highly entertaining "Judges: Uncut!" segment, which had the judges acting as fun and as silly and as self-referential as the show itself. Like when Carrie Ann regretted a score and told an audience member, "I should have given him an 8!" Or when Len called Tom a "camera hogger" and told him to "get out of my shot." Or when Bruno saw a picture of himself in his younger days and gasped, "I was hot!"

What did you think? Did the right star win? Shocked to see Ricki come in third? Will you watch Nancy Grace's new "Dancing in the Jailhouse," debuting in January? Does Carson’s dance qualify as water-cooler talk? 

 
Levy Remembers Godspell And Gilda

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Nov 18, 2011) Every year, for the last nine years, some of the biggestDescription: cast%20of%20Godspell%20in%201972_small names in music and comedy have generously donated their time and talent to the annual It’s Always Something variety show, raising millions of dollars in support of the Toronto Gilda’s Club, one of a network of facilities for people living with cancer, established in the name of the late Gilda Radner, who succumbed to ovarian cancer in 1989.

And Saturday night’s 10th anniversary show promises to be something very special indeed, hosted for the fifth year in a row by comedian Russell Peters, and featuring returning guests Measha Brueggergosman, Lighthouse and Andy Kim, along with first-timers Fred Willard and Randy Bachman.

This year also marks a significant anniversary for several of
Description: Eugene%20Levy%202011_small Something’s more prominent performers: it was almost exactly 40 years ago that Eugene Levy, Martin Short and Andrea Martin walked into the auditions for the historic 1972 Toronto production of Godspell, there to be accompanied by future bandleader Paul Shaffer, all of them reuniting for Saturday’s show.

Also in the room that day, Gilda Radner.

“Gilda did ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah’ as her audition piece,” Levy remembers of that fateful first meeting. “I kind of felt sorry for her. I mean, she was putting everything into it, really selling it . . . but we’re all sitting there thinking, ‘Poor girl. What a dopey song.’”

That pity was short-lived. “It was quite incredible,” Levy marvels. “Somewhere along the way, she got to us. By the end of the song, we were all madly in love with her.”

The show ran a little over a year, first at the Royal Alex and then at the Bayview Playhouse, where Levy ultimately took over the lead role from Victor Garber and Dave Thomas took over for him.

“The show closed three months after that,” Levy shrugs. “I choose to believe that that wasn’t my fault.”

Levy and Thomas immediately joined Radner, and Short and Martin, and fellow Godspeller Jayne Eastwood, and Dan Aykroyd and John Candy and Joe Flaherty, and ultimately Catherine O’Hara (who would replace Radner when she left for Saturday Night Live) at the new Toronto franchise of the Chicago-based comedy institution The Second City.

And then, in 1976, came SCTV.

“We all became very close very fast,” remembers Levy. “And those relationships endure. The friendships that we forged back then continue to this day.”

For Levy and O’Hara, the creative collaboration has continued through several Christopher Guest-directed improv films, which Levy co-wrote, significantly 2003’s folkie farce A Mighty Wind, in which they sang the Oscar-nominated “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow.”

Which they will not be performing Saturday night. Instead, says Levy, “we’re bringing back two of our favourite SCTV characters, Bobby Bittman and Lola Heatherington.”

The Godspell connection still remains strong, bolstered by last week’s Broadway opening of an all-new production, which was attended by Levy, Short, Martin, Shaffer and Garber.

“I loved it,” Levy enthuses. “It’s a great show. I didn’t mind the few things they had to tweak to update it. It’s an amazing cast, wonderful singers. I can’t wait for the cast album.”

This Saturday night marks the move of It’s Always Something to a new and larger venue, the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, which coincides with the move of Gilda’s Club itself, from the historically significant former site of Second City, where Radner developed her improv skills, to a new, more hospital-convenient location at 24 Cecil St.

Hence the need for funding more than ever before, with the total number of visits to Gilda’s topping 10,000, more than double the previous year.

Some last-minute tickets will be available at the Sony Centre box office, by email at www.sonycentre.ca or by phone at 1-855-872-7669.

For more information about the show and Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, visit www.itsalwayssomething.ca or www.gildasclubtoronto.org.

Lisa Kudrow Is Psyching Out

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Nov 21, 2011) Lisa Kudrow is crazy . . . like a fox.

As we have seen countless times — The Sopranos, Huff, In Therapy and, most recently, our own Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays — TV therapists are often as much in need of therapy as their patients.

And by that I mean the fictional ones (though I’m not so sure about Dr. Phil). And none has ever been more needy than Dr. Fiona Wallice, self-styled psychiatric pioneer, the drag-and-drop, click-and-talk, online therapist of the new cable comedy Web Therapy.

But the real Internet innovator here is former Friend Lisa Kudrow, who stars in and co-created the show as a short-form web series, and now a segmented cable half-hour to debut here on The Movie Network next year.

Appropriate kudos too to TMN, which will make Web Therapy’s first two episodes available for preview online this week at www.themovienetwork.ca and, both on the Internet and on cable, through the network’s OnDemand and OnLine services.

“We’re not making fun of therapy,” Kudrow insists. “We’re big fans of therapy. This is more about the Internet and kind of self-serving people.”

Primarily Dr. Wallice and her new psychiatric “modality”: three-minute sessions conducted exclusively via webcam.

“What’s funny is the idea that you could have effective therapy for a three-minute session through a web chat,” Kudrow says. “To me that’s funny, because that’s the dumbest idea in the world.”

“I don’t agree,” counters comedy veteran Lily Tomlin, who has a recurring role as Wallice’s hypercritical mom. “I think this is the therapy of the future.

“It would be great if you could just Skype your therapist and talk. I’d love (that) if I were in therapy. Which I’m not at the moment. But as a result of this show, I may be.”

In fact, the web Therapy guest shot has proven to be a singularly enjoyable experience for the likes of Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Jane Lynch, Victor Garber and Courteney Cox.

“Every actor (wants to be) playful,” says Tomlin. “They think, ‘Oh, God, this is great fun. I just want to be totally crazy and nonsensical and misbehave and be off the wall.’”

“It’s all improvised,” explains Kudrow. “There’s an outline that we write so that people coming on know what the trajectory is, and different tent-poles to the story. And that varies. Some of them are kind of complicated twists and turns. I mean, to me they’re complicated.”

“It’s very collaborative,” adds co-creator Dan Bucatinsky. “(And) when we get to work with someone like Lily Tomlin . . . who just came to the table with so many amazing ideas, we just sparked off of them. It was very exciting.”

THE OTHER SHOWS DROP: As the U.S. networks unveil their mid-season schedules, it is at least as significant what isn’t there as what is.

Rabid fans are already threatening to “occupy” NBC over the merest suggestion that they’d even consider cancelling Community. Meanwhile, the almost-definitely-dead Prime Suspect . . . well, frankly, the growing cult of Maria Bello worshippers already knew we were living on borrowed time.

Neither show, remember, has been actually cancelled. They’re just, as of January, no longer there.

There are far more subtle — though likely inadvertent — ways to kill off a series. Whitney, for example, has already engendered increasingly ill will for the strident, bony, increasingly unsympathetic Whitney Cummings.

So the network plans to move it away from its currently comfy Thursday-night berth to Wednesday nights, paired with a new sitcom with an even more unlikely and unlikeable lead, Laura Prepon as Chelsea Handler, in Are You There, Chelsea?

This week is ABC’s turn. The bad news there on the small-but-vocal fan front is Cougar Town — another snarky sitcom I personally just don’t get — being cut down to a 15-episode season with no actual return date in sight.

Come March, the new G.C.B., formerly Good Christian Bitches, then Good Christian Belles, will take over the current Pan Am time slot, with that show still in a holding pattern awaiting a full-season commitment.

Two other, very promising new ABC series are still awaiting a time slot: the also renamed, formerly “bitchy” Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment #23, an edgier, funnier 2 Broke Girls; and Shonda Rhimes’ snappy new spin-doctor (actually, spin-lawyer) drama, Scandal.

Stay tuned . . .

A Look At Hugh Hefner's Grownup Side

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

(November 18, 2011) There are two great crime-related, full-length
Description: Hugh%20Hefner%202003_small news stories airing this weekend. Here, a one-hour W5 story is about a case that has puzzled and gripped Toronto for two years - the disappearance of Mariam Makhniashvili, the 17-year-old Toronto teen who vanished into thin air, on the way to school, on Sept. 14, 2009. Sue Sgambati does the reporting and does the first extensive interview with Mariam's mother. The case involved the largest missing-person search in Toronto history. Helicopters and infrared cameras were used. Police canvassed 6,000 homes. We also get considerable background on the Makhniashvili family and what is called "the complex web of confusion and controversy that has surrounded them." Mariam's backpack was found some weeks after her disappearance but, as a police officer says, that was the first and last piece of evidence discovered and, he suggests, there was no evidence to suggest any crime. It's an astonishing mystery.

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel
Saturday, HBO Canada, 8 p.m.

Very interesting to watch this after the failure of NBC's The Playboy Club series. It's a documentary study of Heffner's public life by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman. Essentially it's about the good that Hefner has done - from his work in film preservation to his role as an advocate for civil rights. It illuminates the fact that Hefner, in the early days of Playboy, took stands that were far from popular. The doc will irritate many people - those who focus on Playboy magazine and Hefner's private life, in which he has always been interested only in relationships with much younger women. Still, it suggests that for a man who never progressed beyond adolescence in some areas, he was remarkably grown-up in public areas of his life and career.

The fifth estate
Sunday, CBC NN, 7 p.m.; CBC, 11 p.m.

This is the other true-crime story airing this weekend. It's called Murder, He Wrote and CBC says it is "the shocking story of a cold, calculating killer; a victim who left a trail of online bread crumbs; and the terrified victim who got away and ultimately helped police crack the case." True. It's a story that unfolded in Edmonton, and it's Hollywood thriller material. Mark Twitchell, who wanted to be a filmmaker and who claimed to have Dexter Morgan of the series Dexter as his model, set out to enact his own crimes. The resulting case brought big media interest and the programs Dateline NBC and CBS's 48 Hours Mystery did extensive coverage. In this fifth estate we get the cold, hard facts, including extensive footage from police interviews with Twitchell, who was convicted of murdering Johnny Altinger in 2008. In one instance a detective says to Twitchell, "You're not going to be able to live with this for the rest of your life." And Twitchell replies chillingly, "You'd be surprised what I can live with."

The 2011 American Music Awards
Sunday, ABC, CTV, 8 p.m.

Always more fun than the stuffy Grammy Awards, the AMAs try to bring to TV the atmosphere of a wild music-industry party. If that's your bag. And there is an astonishingly long list of performers. The awards handed out matter little and hardly anyone remembers them later. It's the performances, the sheer weirdness of the clothes and peculiar acceptance speeches that stick. This year, musical acts set to party include Katy Perry, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Marc Anthony, Chris Brown, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj and David Guetta. It being on ABC, expect appearances from the stars of ABC series. They will be the ones who don't have the wacky hair.

Check local listings.

Being Chaz, In And Out Of The Ballroom

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Nov 22, 2011) Being
Chaz is definitely a more high-profile endeavour Description: Chaz%20Bono_smallthese days.

Although Chaz Bono, the transgendered son of Cher, has been an activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community for 16 years and starred in the documentary Becoming Chaz, his celebrity really exploded after he appeared on Dancing With the Stars this fall. (He’ll appear on Tuesday night’s finale, 9 p.m. on ABC and CTV.)

That experience is one of the subjects in the follow-up documentary Being Chaz, described as a look at Bono’s new life as a man, airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on OWN. (Becoming Chaz, about his transition from being the female Chastity Bono, precedes it at 6 p.m.).

The news that Bono, 42, had joined the cast of the popular reality show ignited controversy, with hatred and even death threats directed at Bono.

“I didn’t look at any of those things,” Chaz said about the backlash. “I’ve been doing LGBT activism for a long time now, since 1995, and I’ve gone up against people like Jerry Falwell and stuff like that. So dealing with that kind of controversy isn’t really new to me and it was pretty easy to let that roll off my back,” he told the media in a conference call last week.

Still, Bono acknowledged that his fiancée, Jennifer Elia, felt the pressure of his increased public profile as a result of DWTS.

“It’s mentally and physically the toughest job I’ve ever done,” he said of the dancing competition. “You can’t really understand it until you do it. . . . . Nothing can prepare you for the sheer terror of dancing live on television in front of 20 million viewers.”

Or for dancing in front of 20 million viewers and then getting judged for it, which Bono said was the worst part.

Most notably, Bono became annoyed by comments from excitable judge Bruno Tonioli, who described Bono as “a cute little penguin” and a Star Wars ewok after a couple of his routines.

Asked if he’d had a chance to patch things up with Tonioli, Bono said that shows like DWTS are ultimately about entertainment. “And that is . . . the first thing on (the judges’) minds when they’re doing their job on the show. . . . I think sometimes that can be at odds with thinking about the contestants’ feelings and, you know, I’d like to see it reach a way to do both.”

DWTS is not an experience Bono would trade despite the downsides.

“I love the camaraderie with all of the other cast members and the pro dancers. . . . I definitely have made lifelong friends from doing the show.

“I loved — not always at the time it was happening — the opportunity to overcome things that you don’t think you can overcome, both physically and emotionally. . . . I definitely left having more confidence in myself than when I started.

“It’s something . . . I would recommend wholeheartedly to anybody because I think it’s a life-changing experience, and I think, if you really give in to the process and you really have the time to dedicate to it, you’re going to come out of there with something special.”

Not least of that was the chance to reach out to transgendered children and teens.

Bono said seeing a transgendered person on TV would have made a difference to him when he was growing up.

He works with trans teens in a group called Transforming Family in Los Angeles and said his six-week run on DWTS “really seemed to move them and touch them, and they just were thrilled and excited to have me out there doing that.”

But Bono emphasized that no one person can be a spokesperson for the transgendered community because everybody has their own issues.

His one message to others struggling with their gender would be to “let the fear go . . . stop worrying about what other people think and just make yourself happy.

“When I found the courage to be myself, I actually started to transition. My whole life opened up. For the first time in my whole life, I’m really comfortable and happy.”

TV TIDBITS

Kim Coles Previews Her Episode of ‘Life After’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders
Description: kim%20coles_small_small
(Nov 22, 2011) *While
Kim Coles was rising to stardom as one of the four leading ladies of Fox’s “Living Single,” her weight was secretly becoming a problem for executives at the network. At one point, they told her that the writers would have to incorporate her extra pounds into the story line  if it kept scooching up. This is just one of the issues Coles discusses candidly in her episode of “Life After,” premiering Wednesday (Nov. 23) at 10 p.m. on TV One. The 49-year-old, Brooklyn-born actress also opens up about the debacle that was her stint as an original cast member on “In Living Color,” believing she got little face time and was eventually fired after one season because the focus was on fellow cast member Kim Wayans, the sister of the show’s creator Keenen Ivory Wayans. Before you tune in to “Life After,” Kim Coles gives more details of her episode (including her initial reluctance to even do it) in the below phone conversation with EURweb’s Lee Bailey.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Paul Gross, Kim Cattrall Draw Public Kudos For Private Lives In New York

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Nov 17, 2011) NEW YORK—Glamour past and glamour present met Thursday night outside the Music Box Theatre, where the crowd gathered for the opening night of Noel Coward’s
Private Lives, the same production starring Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross that Toronto saw earlier this fall, courtesy of Mirvish Productions at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

Tammy Grimes, the former Mrs. Christopher Plummer, showed up looking frail but elegant at the age of 77, stirring up memories of having played the same role as Cattrall opposite Brian Bedford in a splendid production 42 years ago.

And each of the leading players had an attractive former co-star in the audience to offer support. Cynthia Nixon, from Cattrall’s Sex and the City days was there, as was Rebecca Romijn, who appeared with Gross in the short-lived series Eastwick.

Impresario David Mirvish flew down from Toronto, while producer Paul Elliott and director Richard Eyre were on hand from London.

The eclectic crowd also included Michael Stipe of R.E.M., outrageous Broadway funnyman Mario Cantone and publishing heavyweight Sonny Mehta.

And while the audience adored the proceedings, the nicest approbation came from Ben Brantley in the New York Times, who praised both the stars and observed, “With Ms. Cattrall and Mr. Gross in the roles, you don’t doubt that Amanda and Elyot have a more than satisfactory time in bed, thank you. But what unites (and divides) them most firmly is stronger than sex. That’s the perspective they share on the world, one that few others appreciate. It’s a philosophy of deep and sincere flippancy, the belief that life (and death) is too damn serious to be taken seriously.”

As of this deadline, the other critics were unanimous in praising Gross, but some had their reservations about Cattrall. Terry Teachout noted in the Wall Street Journal that “Ms. Cattrall lacks the silken lightness of touch necessary to play Amanda convincingly. Paul Gross, her Elyot, has it in abundance, which is why he gets most of the laughs.”

Linda Winer in Newsday disagreed, saying that “this (production) keeps the stakes up at what Coward calls ‘the big tables,’ ” and Entertainment Weekly answers the subliminal question on everyone’s mind when it states “this zesty production of Private Lives is a reminder that some people were writing about sex in the city decades before Candace Bushnell was even born.”

It looks like Gross will be remaining Due South on Broadway for quite a while longer.

Rickman Rants Can’t Save Theresa Rebeck’s Latest Play

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Nov 20, 2011) NEW YORK—It’s wonderful to have Alan Rickman back
Description: Seminar_small on stage again. It would be even nicer if we were appearing in a really good play.

Seminar, which opened Sunday night at the Golden Theatre, is the latest work from American author, Theresa Rebeck, best known for her Omnium Gatherum, presented by Canadian Stage in 2004.

Her new venture is the story of a once-famous author, who now spends his time terrorizing young writers in his private writing classes.

The play itself is full of witty banter and zappy dialogue, but its central problem lies in its very DNA: If it’s all about someone reading and criticizing someone else’s writing, then how are we to share the experience?

Too many times, we sit there for about 30 seconds, while Rickman scans a few pages, then launches into a rant about how the young author who penned it is , for example, “an over-educated completely inexperienced sexually inadequate girl who has rich parents who give her everything and who has nothing to say.”

But no matter how the invective may soar, it’s still just words about words and in this case, that isn’t enough.

Compare it to John Logan’s Red, for example, where you have two men actually throwing themselves into the agony of stretching giant canvases and then covering them with buckets of paint, providing a tangible reality for their dialogue about art.

Here you just have the conversation and it winds up feeling like being at a cocktail party where everybody onstage has a martini and you’re sipping diet coke.

Still, I would have been willing to accept Seminar as an amusingly skillful way to pass an evening, staged with style by Sam Gold, were it not for the fact that Rebeck has some serious stuff on her mind.

We’ve learned the history of Rickman’s character through drips and drabs over the course of the show’s first hour (it runs 90 minutes without an intermission) and when one student confronts him with a damaging piece of the past, Rickman launches into an aria about what lies ahead for these young wannabe authors. Only you slowly realize he’s talking about himself.

Rickman is a virtuoso of venom, the panther in winter, letting sections like the following one soar like heat-seeking missiles into everyone’s heart.

“And when you’re writing that second novel, you’ll feel like you’re in the ninth circle of hell, where the betrayers of Christ are frozen in eternal cannibalistic silence, only it’s not flesh you’ll be consuming, it’s your mind.”

You have to admire the man as he flays himself and his students with the same deadly precision, but coming off of a first hour when all he’s been given to play is The Lion King’s Scar teaching Creative Writing 101, it seems excessive.

I don’t want to give away the play’s final scenic coup de theatre (bravo to designer Douglass Zinn), but while it’s breathtaking, it also makes you realize that what seemed to be a tasty bittersweet chocolate bonbon has a centre of pure bile.

Rickman is always fascinating to watch in action and I kept wishing that I was watching him perform as Richard III, Iago, Mephistopheles or Arturo Ui, instead of this facile exercise.

The rest of the cast are also achingly good, headed by Lily Rabe, who synthesizes every bookish girl you’ve ever known who hides a siren underneath. Rabe has the gift of vanishing inside a character so thoroughly that you swear the real woman will never emerge again.

Equally good is Hamish Linklater (The New Adventures of Old Christine), who plays the most inscrutable of the four young authors, hiding some really dark stuff underneath a fuzzy exterior before finally offering hints that he may turn out to be a Rickman in training.

Jerry O’Connell and Hettienne Park round out the group with appealing performances, but their characters largely exist as comic and sexual foils for the others.

Yes, Rickman is worth the price of admission on his own, but Seminar remains a course you’d be better off auditing than actually trying to take for credit.

Rockettes Are A Triple Sister Act

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Nov 21, 2011) NEW YORK — What has three heads, six legs and does precision high-kicks in perfect unison?

That’s easy. It’s the Jantzie Sisters (Kristin, Lisa and Alison) originally of Lacombe, Alberta who came by way of Toronto to New York City, where they’re currently all dancing with the world-famous
Rockettes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.

According to all available records, it’s the first time in the nearly 70 years of the group’s history that three sisters have all been dancing in the company at the same time and they’re all thrilled about it.

“We’re happy enough to be performing together during the holiday season,” shares Alison, the youngest of the group, “but the fact that we’re also members of the Rockettes makes it almost unreal!”

It’s early in the morning, but these dazzling young women are all in full makeup and costume, prepared for the first show of the day before 6,000 eager fans for whom the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is as much a part of the holiday season as Santa Claus or the Yule Log.

Although they’ve all wound up together, it was a very different series of paths that led them to where they are now.

Kristin was the first to join the company and this is her seventh season. Her path was pretty direct, because — as she puts it — “soon after I graduated high school, I met other girls who started telling me about the Rockettes and I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

Lisa (who is Kristin’s twin) followed her own path initially towards a career in ballet, studying at the National Ballet School and spending several seasons both at home and on the road with the Alberta Ballet, dancing works like The Fiddle and the Drum, their Joni Mitchell tribute. “I did a lot of ballet, but I always wanted to keep all the doors open.”

“This is my second year as a Rockette,” she says with equal pride, “but my first in New York. I began on tour and worked my way here.”

Alison is the Broadway Baby of the bunch, getting the bulk of her training at Toronto’s Randolph Academy, where she graduated with honours. Since then, she’s performed in musicals at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Manitoba Theatre Centre and many other prestigious theatres.

“I was the one who was always interested in musical theatre,” giggles Alison, “but when I saw my sisters doing this, I knew it’s where I had to be. Is there anything more theatrical than the Radio City Christmas Spectacular? Wow!”

Because it’s a coveted gig, it’s not a piece of cake to land a position with the venerable company and all three young women admit “it was the toughest audition of our entire lives.”

“Usually you go into an audition and do a couple of 8-counts, some quick choreography and that’s it,” shares Lisa, a veteran of countless such trials. “But here it’s all about precision.”

“It’s not just about showing the best you can do,” adds Kristin. “It’s about the specific requirements they have for dancers.”

“You come in and there are 500 girls lined up around Radio City,” recalls Alison, breathlessly. “You learn three or four pieces of choreography and then they bring you back the next day and videotape you.”

Kristin trumps the other two. “And then, at the end of the second day, that’s when they make you do the famous kicks.”

They repeat the mantra together: “Flexibility, strength, stamina.”

But they do want to banish the idea that they’re nothing but robot girls moving in mindless unison.

“You have to have your own story going on in your head when you’re performing the choreography,” says Lisa. “They don’t want us all just to have the same glued-on smile.”

“We’re part of a tradition, that’s what makes me happy,” concludes Kristin. “Happy to be a part of so many people’s Christmases.”

“And it’s great to dance with my sisters,” adds Alison. “This year the family can just come to one place and see us all together.”

Only A Perfect Martyr Mars The Beautiful Tale Of Hallaj

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

(Nov 23, 2011) Hallaj, Modern Times Stage Company's theatricalDescription: WEB-hallaj24rv1_1344851cl-8_small hagiography of the martyred mystic Mansur e-Hallaj, is at its most mesmerizing when it falls into ecstatic fits.

Director Soheil Parsa inserts trance-like dances in between the production's more traditionally scripted scenes about the life of this ninth-century Persian poet and pacifist.

On a half-lit stage, the cast members leave their characters behind and jerk and shake rhythmically around the stage over composer Thomas Ryder Payne's otherworldly score, until they are suddenly brought back to earth by harsh boxes of light that interrupt the movement and lock them back into their characters' cells, metaphorical or otherwise.

Hallaj begins with its title character - played by Parsa's co-writer and frequent collaborator Peter Farbridge - in a Baghdad prison awaiting execution for having spoken a four-word phrase deemed heretical by the Caliph.

Chief of police Nasr (a gleefully evil John Ng, who would surely twirl his mustache if he was taking part in Movember) comes to torment him and a crowd outside calls for his stoning, but Hallaj is unmoved - he does not fear death, and even seeks it. When his wife Jamil (Beatriz Pizano) and son are threatened later in the play, however, his earthly concerns come into conflict with his spiritual beliefs.

Hallaj - whose life is told in a series of death-row flashbacks here - seems like a cross between Jesus and Gandhi to a neophyte like me.

The independent thinker, who lived from about 858 to 922 AD, gets in trouble with religious authorities for teaching that rather than spending all their money on pilgrimages to Mecca, Muslims should pray at home and give their extra money to the poor. And when his impatient follower Sharif (Carlos González-Vio) suggests arming slaves and followers to overthrow the unjust Caliph, Hallaj refuses to consider violence - it will only turn them into the next oppressive regime.

"We must defeat the idea of the regime, not the regime," he says, in a phrase that resonates amid the cautious optimism of the Arab Spring.

Whereas Hallaj was in his 60s when he was cut into pieces in front of a crowd and entered history, Farbridge is relatively young, which increases the sense of a man cut off in his prime. While Farbridge does seem to be genuinely possessed in Parsa's interstitial choreography, in the slightly choppy scenes that surround it, he is not always convincing as a spiritual leader of men. With his dishevelled hair, slumped shoulders and pedantic tone, he seems like your average religious-studies grad student whose charisma wouldn't extend beyond the campus.

Tales of martyrdom have a long history in theatre, but they face a basic dramatic problem of featuring heroes who are too perfect and, therefore, somewhat bland. As a character, Hallaj is not only right all the time, but has a direct connection with God, while those around come across as sketches. Various friends and followers express fear or skepticism in the play, but none stick around for very long to provide a compelling foil.

Beatriz Pizano does find a certain poignancy in Jamil, who loves Hallaj but doesn't fully understand him, while Stewart Arnott provides a wonderfully profane presence as a fellow inmate who only appears as a head in a hole in the prison wall.

While Angela Thomas's non-specific costuming of robes and cloaks lends the production a certain Star Wars sensibility, Trevor Schwellnus's set is divinely inspired - a simple black backdrop through which veiny slivers of coloured light seep. It hints at a glowing world beyond this one that Hallaj has access to and we can only glimpse.

It also literalizes a certain Canadian secular saint and poet's greatest line: "There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in." The production's physical beauty, rather than the script, makes Hallaj a worthwhile introduction to an interesting figure largely unknown outside of the Islamic world.

Hallaj runs until Dec. 4.

Hallaj
Written by Peter Farbridge and Soheil Parsa
Directed by Soheil Parsa
Starring Peter Farbridge
At Buddies in Bad Times in Toronto

THEATRE TIDBITS

Liam Neeson To Appear As Hologram In Touring Stage Musical ‘War Of The Worlds’

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Nov 18, 2011) LONDON — Liam Neeson is to have an out-of-bodyDescription: Liam%20Neeson%20attends%20a%20press%20conference_small experience in an out-of-this world tale. The actor is slated to narrate a touring musical version of War of the Worlds, appearing onstage as a hologram. The musical is adapted from composer Jeff Wayne’s 1978 album, which featured the late Richard Burton narrating the tale of a Martian invasion based on H.G. Wells’ novel. Wayne plans to release a new version with updated music next year, followed by a British arena tour starting in December 2012. Neeson said Friday he was flattered to be offered the role, because “I loved Richard Burton and I loved his voice.” — but said he wouldn’t be imitating the Welsh star’s tones. He said “I had to put that aside and focus on the text.”

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Drake Says Social Media Networking is Corrupting the Youth

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 19, 2011) *Social networking is something like a popular big
Description: drake2011-med-wide_small brother system that watches and sets the trends.

Drake told The Source that he’s actually not too much into social media websites because they are getting out of hand and take away what it means to be a real person. But of course he’s got to do his celebrity thing online, despite his own opposition.

“I’m really scared for my generation, you know. The thing that scares me most is Tumblr,” he admitted. “I hate what Tumblr has become. Because it like, it reminds me of those clique-y girls in high school that used to make fun of everyone else and define what was cool, but in five years, when you all graduate, that sh*t doesn’t matter.”

He continued, “Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments,” said Drake. “It just kills me. Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary, man, [this] simulation life that we’re living. It scares me.”

In other Drake news, he and his good industry bud, Lil Wayne, have let go of the joint album idea for now, especially with Jay-Z and Kanye’s release of ‘Watch the Throne.’

So for now, they’re doing their solo thing.

Gamercamp Lvl3 Set To Celebrate Game Culture In Toronto

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Chad Sapieha

(November 16, 2011) If you happen to be in Toronto and have some
Description: gc2010_1342126cl-8_small time to spare near the end of November, you may want to consider spending a few hours - or maybe even a few days - at Gamercamp Lvl3, an annual festival that celebrates all things video game with a special focus on the city's bustling indie scene.

The three day event, which will take place November 25th through the 27th at multiple venues around Toronto's core, has something for everyone. Amateur and professional game designers can take in discussions focused on their craft, such as a session investigating what can be learned from games made for Tandy's 30-year-old TRS-80 microcomputer (fondy known as the Trash-80). Other talks are designed to appeal to a broader audience of game enthusiasts, including the opening keynote, which will see Seth Cooper discussing his popular protein-folding game FoldIt and how it helped scientists solve a real-world problem, and a theatre demonstration of Eye Pilot, a new optically controlled video game.

There's plenty of hands-on fun, too. Attendees will have a chance to socialize in a mobile game lounge, check out and get play time with dozens of upcoming indie titles, compete in tournaments featuring popular games like Super Street Fighter IV and Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and take a shot at setting a new Guinness World Record in the hit mobile game Mega Jump. There's even a live-action, Mario Party-like real world event on the second night, which will see participants running between challenges around the city with spectators gathered in a local lounge to take in real-time updates.

"Toronto has a fantastic games culture worth celebrating," said Jaime Woo, who co-founded Gamercamp with his friend Mark Rabo, in an email chat. "Gamercamp is an opportunity to bring people from all aspects of the culture - game enthusiasts, makers, and students - into one room. I love the idea that over three days we'll see people trying to make games in just three hours, Matt Hammill talking about the gorgeous art from Gesundheit!, and a Super Street Fighter IV tournament."

Holding a festival for gamers in the midst of a season that sees so many fans of the medium sequestered at home playing the year's best blockbuster titles may seem ill advised, but Gamercamp has seen strong growth since its 2009 inception. Last year's two-day event attracted 1,200 designers and fans.

Fittingly, given gamers' ardour for arcane statistics, this year's projected growth is being measured in, of all things, milk. Last year's 8-Bit cereal breakfast on the festival's final day saw attendees go through 104 litres of the stuff. This year they're hoping to double that number.

Gamers interested in joining in on the fun can head to www.gamercamp.ca to learn more and buy tickets.

Wind Mobile Backer Threatens Boycott Of Wireless Auction

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Iain Marlow, Rita Trichur

(November 17, 2011) The Egyptian billionaire who backs
Wind Mobile has threatened to pull out of a coming government auction of wireless licences unless Ottawa sets some aside for new competitors and clarifies foreign ownership rules.

Naguib Sawiris, the brash telecom mogul who started an Egyptian political party after the revolution there, says he was misled by the Canadian government, regrets "totally" his decision to invest here and tells other international financiers not to invest in Canada.

"I tell you we will not bid - unless they set aside the frequencies, unless they really show seriousness that they want to create competition," Mr. Sawiris told The Globe and Mail's editorial board Thursday. "But to say, 'We want to create competition, we want your money.' They take our money and they leave us to the dogs."

In 2008, Mr. Sawiris bankrolled Wind's chairman Anthony Lacavera to buy $442-million in government wireless licences, and then pumped hundreds of millions more into building a wireless network in major Canadian cities.

Canada's wireless prices have dropped precipitously over all since Wind and other new entrants such as Mobilicity and Public Mobile launched and began offering cheaper plans than the incumbent providers. But the government now faces the possibility that Wind - the largest and most visible new entrant - might abandon wireless altogether, eroding Ottawa's attempt to introduce competition into the Canadian telecommunications sector.

Wind's lawyers have been tied up in courts ever since the company's launch, defending Wind from accusations that Mr. Sawiris's firm Orascom Telecom Holding - which has since merged with the Russian carrier VimpelCom Ltd., in which he's now a major shareholder - exerted too much control.

The case has wound its way all the way to the Supreme Court, which has not yet decided whether to hear it.

"Anybody who asks me, I tell him, 'Look, we are the stupid investors that poured a billion dollars into Canada here and created 1,000 new jobs, please don't do this mistake. Don't come here,'" Mr. Sawiris said. When asked whether he regretted his decision, he added, "Totally. I would actually, if they would give me my money back, minus 10 per cent, I would take it any day."

Industry Canada responded that "foreign investment rules are being considered together with policies for upcoming wireless spectrum auctions," as part of an "integrated approach." It has yet to announce a policy on the auction of wireless licences expected to take place in 2012.

Michael Hennessy, senior vice-president for government and regulatory affairs at Telus Corp., T-T characterized Mr. Sawiris's comments as "blackmail by media," and "fundamentally wrong ... on the premise that it has to be either/or; that you either have a set-aside or three carriers will end up with everything."

He said Telus has favoured an open auction for licences, but also supports a process whereby the number of licences any one company can buy would be capped.

Mobilicity chairman John Bitove said new wireless competitors will die off without government help because they cannot bid against the giants without licences set aside.

"The government helped birth these new entrants and if they don't find a way to sustain our growth through the auction, it's like throwing babies in the bathtub and turning the water on."

Mr. Sawiris, who expanded Orascom Telecom in the Middle East and Africa, insinuated his Canadian rivals were coddled by foreign ownership restrictions.

"You have the most inefficient operators in the world. And why are they like that? If they were that good, why are they just in Canada here?" he asked. "Why don't we have Rogers in the U.K. or Germany? Why is Vodafone everywhere? Why is France Telecom everywhere?"

Rogers Communications Inc.'s senior vice-president for regulatory affairs, Ken Engelhart, dismissed Mr. Sawiris' criticism that Rogers is inefficient and said the company once operated a U.S. cable business but sold it in 1989 to invest further in Canada's wireless sector. "The fact that we are very efficient is one reason why I think [Wind] and the other new entrants are finding it so difficult to compete in Canada."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Book Seven Nights In Bermuda For The Price Of Three

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Patrick Dineen
Description: bermuda2_small
(November 20, 2011) WestJet Vacations has a special offer at the Grotto Bay Beach Resort in
Bermuda – seven nights for the price of four. With the deal, a package (which includes flights) for departures Nov. 29, Dec. 1, 4 and 6 sells for $619 from Toronto, $679 from Ottawa, $769 from Winnipeg, $839 from Montreal and $919 from Calgary and Edmonton.  Taxes range from $146 to $151 extra, except for Montreal where they are included in the price.  The 201-room property consists of 11 cottages scattered over 21 acres on Bailey’s Bay with three private beaches.  For more information, visit westjetvacations.com.  Special to The Globe and Mail

Discover Secret Swimming Holes In The Canary Islands

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Jillian Dickens

(November 16, 2011) GRAN CANARRIA — “My husband is a cave man,”
Description: canary-web19tr2_1342985cl-8_small says my guide, Maria Lezcano, who is leading me through the deeply cut 1,500-metre Guayadeque Ravine. She points to a cave house dotting the hillside and explains that her husband was born in one just like it. The ravine's natural cavities are connected by pathways lined with potted plants and views overlooking the lush green chasm leading to the sea. These are bona-fide cave neighbourhoods – there's even a cave church where locals go to pray. Maria points out beehives stashed in the canyon's nooks. The salvia, succulents and wild lavender make for great honey, she tells me.

I've just arrived on
Gran Canaria, home of the notorious tourist trap Las Palmas, known for packaged tours, beaches crammed with faded blue lounge chairs, tourists flocking for suntans and cheesy hotel bars. But I've come to see something different. My mission is to explore the Canary Islands, the Spanish-ruled specks off the coast of north Africa, hopping from island to island, searching for something special, far from the crowds.

It turns out I don't need to channel my inner Christopher Columbus after all. All I have to do is rent a car and catch a few ferries.

Gran Canaria

“We're a mini-continent,” Maria says about her island, and I later learn the same goes for the other islands I visit. You can be in Gran Canaria's arid south in the morning amid the dunes of Maspalomas, and later that day on the island's interior, walking through Los Pinos de Galdar – a Canarian pine forest growing on the west slope of a volcano 1,000 metres up in the mountains, where the trees have adapted to survive 400-degree fires. Maria and I walk among the pines. “This reminds me of my childhood home on Vancouver Island,” I remark. Not something I'd expect to find off the coast of Morocco.

Tenerife

On the one-hour ferry crossing to Tenerife, the largest of the island group, I look onto its biggest city, Santa Cruz, framed with craggy, sand-coloured mountains. Tenerife receives about five million tourists a year, but I'm still set on experiencing something exceptional.

“Today, we visit Machu Picchu,” my friend Carlos Miles says as we load into the rental. Carlos is a local who's explored every square inch of the island; I like where this is going.

We drive high into the mountains, cranking the wheel, hugging the vivid green switchbacks. The landscape is so raw and ancient it's easy to imagine how volcanic eruptions formed this island 12 million years ago, magma stacking against itself to create these wild peaks and ridges. Atop one of the folds is Masca, a village settled more than 500 years ago, but only connected by road to the rest of Tenerife in the mid-seventies. It really does resemble a living Machu Picchu. Before the road, the village was easily forgotten, virtually unknown since it was so difficult to reach.

It's late afternoon and all the coaches are gone, so I can stroll along the zigzag paths in peace. The very edge of one pathway ends in a drop plunging down the mountainside, backed by the blue ocean. People with more time than I make the four-hour hike from here to the sea, where they are picked up by boat. I make a promise for next time.

Another cloudless day and that magic 24-degree heat the Canaries enjoy year-round persuade me to park the car and spend the morning on the beach, just like the hordes of other tourists who flock here every year. Instead of braving the crowds that frequent the tourist beaches, such as Playa de las Americas and Playa de los Cristianos, I'm directed to Punta de la Gaviota. This is where the locals relax. It's not as scenic as Garachico, another local hangout that is starting to attract tourists, drawn to the smooth lava-formed indentations that create natural swimming pools filled with aqua blue ocean water. At Punta de la Gaviota, locals know they're free to jump from rock faces and swim from the tiny beach in relative privacy. I set down my towel, say “hola” to my fellow swimmers, and dive into the warm sea. Bobbing out here and turning back to the coast, I spot Teide, the island's pride, an impressive 3,718-metre snow-capped volcano towering in the centre of the island.

When I've had my fill of sun and surf, I head up to Teide National Park, where the greenery swirling around the volcano makes the whole scene look like a van Gogh painting. Lava flow has created a virtual moonscape of the surrounding area – actual moon robots are tested here.

Cave men, Machu Picchu and moon robots. Okay, La Gomera, my next island stop, whaddya got?

La Gomera

La Gomera is a 40-minute hop from Tenerife by ferry, but it might as well be another world. I meet up with Diane, a local guide originally from Germany but who has lived in the tiny island of 22,000 residents for 20 years. Diane rarely leaves. “People are very friendly, there's no crime, nobody locks their doors.” Plus none of the 6,000 types of insects are poisonous and there are more date palms here than on all other Canary Islands put together. “That is reason alone to stay,” she jokes.

The reason I'm here, though, is to hear Silbo Gomera, the whistle language used by early farmers to communicate across the deep ravines that radiate through the island. During lunch at La Cochita, the café owner treats me to a demo. It's more of a nose whistle, making a nasally, low-pitched sound that carries across valleys, and by far the strangest language I've come across.

The air here, especially in the cloud forest of the Garajonay National Park, smells especially clean, with just a hint of ocean air. Widespread laurel forest is covered in lichen, a good indication of crisp, pure air. I breathe in deeply and feel revitalized. It's chilly up here in the clouds, and I am once again surprised at how diverse these islands are. La Gomera is the only one of the seven Canary Islands that has been spared an eruption in recent times, so the landscape and scope of plant life is completely different than that of its neighbours.

With four more islands in the archipelago, that's four more worlds left for me to explore on my next trip. When I do come back, I'll leave my preconceived notions of mass tourism and spoil at home. And I'll save time for that mountain-to-ocean trek.

Special to The Globe and Mail

::SPORTS NEWS::

Two Argos — Parker And Owens — Named CFL All-Stars

Source: www.thestar.com

(Nov 16, 2011) Travis Lulay was voted the CFL’s all-star quarterbackDescription: Chad%20Owens_small1 Wednesday, leading a list of a league-high nine B.C. Lions named to the all-star team.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers led the East Division with five players on the squad. The Montreal Alouettes were next with four selections, one more than the Calgary Stampeders.

The Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos were next with two players apiece while the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders had one each.

Edmonton’s Jerome Messam took one of the two all-star spots at running back, a day after the team announced he was done for the season with a knee injury suffered in the West semifinal. Montreal’s Brandon Whitaker was the other running back.

The all-stars were selected by a combination of fan balloting, CFL head coaches, and the Football Reporters of Canada.

Lulay, the West finalist for the CFL’s outstanding player award, nabbed the one all-star quarterback spot ahead of Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo, the East nominee for outstanding player. The CFL’s outstanding player awards are determined by different voters — fans don’t vote.

Lulay completed 342 of 583 passes for 4,815 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during the season. Calvillo completed 404 of 654 passes for 5,251 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The 2011 Gibson’s Finest CFL Player Awards will be handed out in Vancouver on Nov. 24.

CFL all-stars
Quarterback — Travis Lulay, B.C.
Running backs — Jerome Messam, Edmonton; Brandon Whitaker, Montreal.
Centre — Angus Reid, B.C.
Guards — Brendon LaBatte, Winnipeg; Dimitri Tsoumpas, Calgary.
Tackles — Josh Bourke, Montreal; Jovan Olafioye, B.C.
Receivers — Nik Lewis, Calgary; Jamel Richardson, Montreal; Geroy Simon, B.C.; Fred Stamps, Edmonton.
Defensive ends — Justin Hickman, Hamilton; Odell Willis, Winnipeg.
Defensive tackles — Aaron Hunt, B.C., Khalif Mitchell, B.C.
Linebackers — Chip Cox, Montreal; Solomon Elimimian, B.C.; Jerrell Freeman, Saskatchewan.
Defensive backs — Korey Banks, B.C.; Jonathan Hefney, Winnipeg.
Cornerbacks — Jovon Johnson, Winnipeg; Byron Parker, Toronto.
Safety — Ian Logan, Winnipeg.
Punter — Burke Dales, Calgary.
Kicker — Paul McCallum, B.C.
Special Teams Player — Chad Owens, Toronto.

Verlander Captures AL MVP With Bautista Third

Source: www.thestar.com

(Nov 21, 2011) In a wide-open race for MVP in the American League, Tigers righthander Justin Verlander was named the 2011 winner, in a narrow decision over Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox and Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays.

Verlander, with 13 of 28 first-place votes, became the first starting pitcher since Roger Clemens in '86 to win the MVP and the first pitcher since reliever Dennis Eckersley of Oakland in '92. 

Verlander compiled 280 points on the 28 ballots, in a 15-9-8-7, etc. format, being named on 27 of 28 ballots. Bautista, who led the majors in home runs and was arguably the top offensive player in baseball, received 231 points, trailing Ellsbury by 11 points. Bautista received five first-place votes to four for the Red Sox centre fielder, but Ellsbury was runner-up on 13 ballots, to provide the difference.

Verlander is just the second player in major-league history to win the Rookie-of-the-Year, the Cy Young and MVP over the course of a career, joining Don Newcombe of the Dodgers. 

When Verlander turned his season around with a no-hitter at the Rogers Centre in early May, the Tigers went on to win 20 of his last 22 starts, going from five games under .500 to runaway winners in the AL Central over the White Sox and Indians. Verlander, 28, won the pitching Triple Crown in the AL, leading the league in wins with 24, ERA at 2.40 and strikeouts with 250.

Bautista followed up his breakout 2010 season, in which he slammed 54 home runs, with a campaign in which he hit .302 with 43 homers and 103 RBIs, drawing 132 bases-on-balls. The Jays finished at 81-81. Bautista finished fourth in 2010 MVP voting.

"Thanks everyone for their good wishes for the MVP, maybe next year!!" tweeted Bautista after the award was announced.

"Even though I didn't win the MVP I have something better nobody can't take from me, that's the love and support from my fans! You guys rock!"

Mariners’ Greg Halman Stabbed To Death; Brother Held

Source: www.thestar.com

(Nov 21, 2011) ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS—Seattle MarinersDescription: Greg%20Halman_small outfielder Greg Halman was stabbed to death early Monday, police said, cutting short the life and career of one of the few Dutchmen to make it into Major League Baseball.

His club and baseball officials hailed the 24-year-old Halman as a young man with a passion for the game and for instilling it in youngsters.

Mariners chairman Howard Lincoln, president Chuck Armstrong and general manager Jack Zduriencik paid tribute to Halman on behalf of the club.

“Greg was a part of our organization since he was 16 and we saw him grow into a passionate young man and talented baseball player,” they said in a statement. “He had an infectious smile that would greet you in the clubhouse, and he was a tremendous teammate. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Greg’s family.”

Rotterdam Police spokeswoman Patricia Wessels said police were called to a home in the port city in the early hours of the morning and found Halman bleeding from a stab wound.

The officers and ambulance paramedics were unable to resuscitate Halman.

Wessels said the officers arrested Halman’s 22-year-old brother. She declined to give his name, in line with Dutch privacy rules.

“He is under arrest and right now he is being questioned,” Wessels told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “It will take some time to figure out what exactly happened.”

No charges have been filed in the case.

Halman hit .230 in 35 games and made starts at all three outfield positions for the Mariners in 2011 before being optioned to triple-A Tacoma.

“The loss of a talented 24-year-old young man like Greg, amid such tragic circumstances, is painful for all of us throughout the game,” commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to the entire Mariners organization and to all those whose lives were touched by Greg.”

Because he played professionally in the United States, Halman was not part of the Netherlands team that won the Baseball World Cup in Panama last month. The Dutch beat Cuba 2-1 in the final to become the first European team to win the title.

Born in the city of Haarlem, Halman and began his playing career in the Dutch Pro League. He was part of the gold medal winning Dutch squad at the 2007 European Championship and played for the Netherlands at the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Former major leaguer Robert Eenhorn, the technical director of the Dutch baseball association, said he was devastated by the news.

“The only thing I can say right now is we are deeply shocked,” Eenhorn, who played for the New York Yankees and Anaheim Angels in the 1990s, told the AP. “All our thoughts are with his family and how they are going to have to deal with this tremendous loss.”

Halman was in Europe earlier this month as part of the European Big League Tour, an initiative organized by Baltimore Orioles pitcher Rick Van den Hurk in which major league stars gave clinics to children. Van den Hurk is also Dutch.

Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, also paid tribute to the slain player.

“Greg was passionate about the game of baseball and generously gave of himself to share his passion with others in an attempt to help grow the sport’s popularity across Europe,” Weiner said. “He will be sorely missed.”

International Baseball Federation President Riccardo Fraccari said Halman’s death was terrible news for the sport.

“It’s really sad and it’s really terrible the way it happened,” Fraccari said. “We mourn for him and respect his family’s sorrow.”

Massimo Fochi, the vice-president of the Italian baseball federation, said he met Halman less than two weeks ago at a European Big League Tour event in Parma.

“He was a great guy and the most appreciated by the kids,” Fochi said. “His passing away is really painful.”

Venus to Make Her Come Back Against Serena Next Week

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Nov 21, 2011) *Venus Williams is ready to get back in the game.

She’s been spending time dealing with a recently diagnosed health issue, Sjogren’s syndrome, a disease of the immune system that can cause fatigue and joint pain.

The athlete has revamped her diet to include more veggies to help her along and make her big come back.

She’s making her return at an exhibition match against her sister Serena in Columbia on Wednesday and then the pair will face off against Italians Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta on Dec. 3 in Milan.

But getting back in the flow of things isn’t going to be easy.

“I did a lot of medical therapy and a serious evaluation of my diet to understand which foods help control the symptoms better,” Venus Williams told Italian news outlet the Gazzetta, which is sponsoring the Milan exhibition.  “And that’s why I’ve completely changed my diet and filled it with a lot of vegetables. In the meantime, I’ve continued to keep myself fit with tennis and in the gym. I’m very confident in my progress.”

She hopes to get back to the top within a year.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Bonhomme Beats Boys In Battle Of Blades

Source: www.thestar.com - By Debra Yeo

(Nov 14, 2011) She said she was going to kick the guys' butts and sheDescription: Tessa%20Bonhomme_small wasn't kidding. Canadian Olympian Tessa Bonhomme won Season 3 of Battle of the Blades with Olympic pairs skating champ David Pelletier. Bonhomme, who was part of the national women's hockey team that won gold at the Vancouver Olympics, was the first female hockey player to take part in the CBC reality show, which pairs hockey players with figure skaters. Bonhomme and Pelletier won $100,000 for charity. The runners-up were former NHL player Bryan Berard and Marie-France Dubreuil, and Boyd Devereaux and Tanith Belbin. See www.thestar.blogs.com/realitycheck for more details.