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LE NEWSLETTER

January 12, 2012

We're just beginning 2012 and there is so much to look forward to.  Look for some exciting events coming up in the next couple of weeks, including some must-see
KUUMBA listings at Harbourfront Centre.  Stay tuned!

This week's news features the shocking news that the
Real Jerk is closing its doors after 28 years; Canadian skier Sarah Burke lays in a coma; Tonya Lee Williams wins a special award; movie theatres struggle; and a new Canadian series, L.A. Complex is picked up in the U.S; and so much more!  Check it all out under TOP STORIES.

I've added a new section this week for those in the GTA that includes
new movie listings, compliments of toronto.com!

Don't forget to check out my exclusive interview with
Director X HERE.

Remember that you can simply click on any photo or headline and get to your entertainment news instantly.

::TOP STORIES::

The Real Jerk Restaurant Set To Close After 28 Years — Temporarily, Fans Hope

Source: www.thestar.com - Kate Allen


(Jan 10, 2012) Over the past 28 years, their kitchen has filled the bellies
of loyal hordes, Island-born and not.

Wesley Snipes was a regular. Jack Layton came on bike for the jerk pork. Michael Jackson, Serena Williams, and LL Cool J all ordered takeout.

But at the end of the month,
The Real Jerk, a Caribbean-food institution since 1984, will close its doors — hopefully temporarily, staff say.

Ed and Lily Pottinger, the husband-and-wife team who own the Real Jerk, were given a month’s notice to vacate after their longtime landlords sold the building to a company called Buckingham Properties in late December.

“The way this came down really put a sour taste in our mouth,” Ed Pottinger said in a phone interview from Jamaica, where he was visiting family when he learned the news.

“It came as a shock,” says Natalie Williams, who has worked at the restaurant for 18 years.

Pottinger said they intend to reopen in a new location and will continue to run a catering service until they find the right spot.

The three storefronts east of The Real Jerk were also purchased by companies run by Bill Mandelbaum, president of Buckingham Properties, according to property records. Mandelbaum was not available for comment on Monday.

On Tuesday, Mandelbaum said in an email that “I recognize that The Real Jerk has been in the area for quite some time and I regret the short notice that was given to them.” But he noted that the restaurant’s owners knew about negotiations for the sale, which had been ongoing for over a year, and added that it was their previous landlord’s responsibility to keep the tenants informed that a deal was imminent.

Mandelbaum said plans for the site had not been finalized.

When Pottinger and his wife opened The Real Jerk 28 years ago, there were far fewer Caribbean restaurants in Toronto, and almost none of them were sit-down dining rooms.

More distressingly, Pottinger said, most Torontonians associated his homeland with drugs, crime, and the occasional sprinter.

“Jamaica is so much more than that,” he said.

“I wanted to represent Jamaica in as positive light as possible, and to spread my culture and food to a public that wasn’t fully aware of jerk yet.”

They first opened near Queen St. E. and Greenwood Ave. but moved to the present location, on the southeast corner of Queen St. E. and Broadview, in 1989. The iconic sunburst mural painted on the restaurant’s west wall was added in 1991 by an Australian woman, a fan of theirs who painted it for the cost of materials alone.

Williams said that the restaurant has received more than 200 emails from customers since news of the imminent closure began to leak out.

“We have customers who come in two, three times a week and order exactly the same thing,” she said on Monday beside a wall hung with dozens of “Best Of” awards.

Tyrone Eversley said he has been coming every week since the place opened.

“I try other places, but I always end up back here,” he said, sitting at the bar.

Karl Thomson, leaving the restaurant with a group of colleagues, said he was “gutted” to learn the news. “It’s so sad. We’re so sad,” he said.

Canadian Freestyle Skier Sarah Burke Remains In Coma

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Adrian Morrow

(Jan 11, 2012) Canadian freestyle-skiing champion Sarah Burke remains in critical condition in a Utah hospital, following a training accident on Tuesday.

Ms. Burke, who is in a coma, is sedated and intubated in the University of Utah Health Centre's Neuro Critical Care Unit in Salt Lake City, the hospital said in a statement on Wednesday.

Her husband, skier Rory Bushfield, and other family members are at her side.

"Sarah is a very strong young woman and she will most certainly fight to recover," said Mr. Bushfield.

Ms. Burke fell Tuesday afternoon in the superpipe at Park City, Utah Tuesday afternoon. She was treated by ski patrol at the scene, then airlifted to hospital.

Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, said the 28-year-old had just landed at the bottom of the pipe after a trick and bounced onto her head.

"This is an extremely unfortunate situation and we are awaiting further word on Sarah's condition," Mr. Judge said. "She is an incredibly resilient and strong young woman and we are hoping she will draw on that strength at this time. Our thoughts are with her and her family at this time."

Ms. Burke is the world's top female athlete in the superpipe - which is similar to a snowboard halfpipe - and has spent years lobbying to have the event included in the Olympic Winter Games. Her efforts were successful: the first Olympic superpipe competition will take place in 2014 in Russia.

She has won four gold medals in the sport at the Winter X Games.

A native of Midland, Ont., she now lives in Squamish, B.C..

Ms. Burke was injured in the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce was critically hurt in December, 2009. He suffered traumatic brain injuries but has since recovered and began snowboarding again last month.

Tonya Lee Williams To Receive Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award

Source: Sasha Stoltz, Sasha Stoltz Publicity & Management

(Jan 11, 2012) Black Theatre Workshop (BTW) will honour Actress
Tonya Lee Williams at their 26th annual Vision Celebration Gala, to be held Saturday, January 28th, 2012 in Montreal, Canada.   The prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award is given to a person who has a measure of distinction in Canada and has made significant contributions to the development of Black performing arts.   

For over thirty-five years Tonya Lee Williams has been such an individual.  Nominated for two Emmy Awards and winner of two NAACP Image Awards, an ACTRA Award of Excellence, a Harry Jermone Award, an African Canadian Achievement Award, a Planet Africa Award for Media and Entertainment, Ms. Williams has been instrumental in reflecting positive images from the Black communities and reaching millions of viewers through her roles as,  Olivia Winters for the past twenty-three years on The Young and The Restless; as Maxine on Vision TV's She's The Mayor; as Karen in Lifetimes Double Wedding, as Ruth in Clement Virgo's film Poor Boys Game, and other film and tv shows.  

We remember Tonya in her early years in Canada on the Wear A Moustache milk commercial campaigns, Polka Dot Door, dancing on Boogie, hosting the Miss Teen Canada Pageant, hosting Welcome to My World and starring as Belinda on Check It Out.  Also her early years in Hollywood on Hill St. Bues, Falcon Crest, What's Happening Now, Gimme A Break to mention a few.

In 2001 Ms. Williams brought much needed attention to artists of colour when she Founded ReelWorld Film Festival.  Based in Toronto, ReelWorld screens films from the Aboriginal, Asian, Black, Latino, Middle Eastern, South Asian and other multi-racial communities.  The festival now in its 12th year has given a voice to many artists in Canada and around the world.
 
The Vision Celebration kicks off with cocktails at 5:30pm, with dinner, dancing and entertainment from 6:30pm onward.  To purchase tickets call the Box Office at 514-932-1104 ext. 226 – for more information on Black Theatre Workshop www.blacktheatreworkshop.ca.

Movie Theatres Go Digital Or Go Bust

Source: www.thestar.com - By Tony Wong


(Jan 05, 2012) Daniel Demois knows all too well the
independent movie theatre he manages in Toronto is an endangered species.

Over the years, smaller movie houses across the country have closed as the economics of the business — from video on demand to 3-D — have eroded audiences. It can be far more profitable to repurpose a theatre into a grocery store or condo than coax consumers into seeing a retrospective on Ingmar Bergman.

But his biggest challenge yet — since taking up the reins as the co-general manager of the Revue last year — is yet to come.

More and more movie houses are going digital. In the first quarter of this year, for the first time ever, more movies will be shown digitally in Canadian cinemas than in the standard 35-mm film format.

Digital movies are typically delivered on a hard drive that can be held in the hand. Or in some cases, the signal can be beamed in by satellite. That means no heavy 35-mm film canisters or movie projectionists to thread spools.

It also means that neighbourhood movie theatres such as the Revue on Roncesvalles Ave. must find another $50,000 or so to buy new equipment to replace aging projectors. Or go extinct.

For that you can lay some of the blame on another Canadian. Director James Cameron’s Avatar was a catalyst for the shift to digital, according to a recent report by IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service.

The report by David Hancock, head of film and cinema research at the consultancy, says Avatar’s release in December of 2009 and subsequent blockbuster success in 3-D, spurred the industry to adopt pricey digital equipment at a faster rate.

Avatar was not the cause of digital cinema, but it certainly created the momentum going forward,” said Hancock in a phone interview from London.

After the release of Avatar, digital film technology grew by 17 per cent annually in 2010 and 2011. By the first quarter of 2012, the majority of screens in Canada are expected to be digital for the first time, crossing the 50 per cent threshold, said Hancock. That will erode more than a century of dominance for 35-mm film stock, which has been the standard bearer ever since Thomas Edison used it in 1892 (with a little help from George Eastman). The 35-mm width with four perforations per frame has long become the accepted international standard for commercial movie theatres.

“Canada had been a little slower to adopt, but it’s catching up fast,” said Hancock.

By 2015, IHS estimates that North American and major European cities will hit the 80 per cent mark for digital projectors, at which point it will be uneconomical for studios to continue to produce celluloid.

“Studios are already releasing fewer film prints every year, so it’s only a matter of time before celluloid is phased out,” says Hancock.

But investing and upgrading equipment is an expensive proposition. Last year two of the largest Canadian exhibitors, Cineplex Entertainment and Empire Theatres, formed a joint venture to finance the upgrade of their combined 1,600 screens to digital by the end of 2012.

“Consumers will get a crisper image on the screen, and it also allows theatres the capacity to open up more programming,” said Pat Marshall, vice-president of Cineplex.

The economics are even more compelling for studios to encourage exhibitors to switch over. One 35-mm print could cost $1,000 versus $200 for a digital hard drive. Multiply that by 10,000 screens for a wide release film and the difference in distribution costs are staggering, says Hancock.

More theatres in the future will also be able to show 3-D programming while alternative shows such as the Olympics, the Metropolitan Opera, or hockey games can also be shown on the big screen, which Cineplex already does in some of its theatres.

But for some smaller theatres, where finding money for new carpet is already a challenge, going digital can be a tough proposition.

“It’s a sizeable investment. And we’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to raise that money,” said Demois. “And you’ve also got a lot of retrofitting on an older building with new wiring, so there are additional costs.”

Demois’ Revue theatre has been on Roncesvalles Ave. since 1912. It was one of the city’s oldest continuously running theatres until it closed in 2006. Then a noteworthy thing happened. Residents banded together and saved the theatre by raising $130,000 the next year and turning it into a non-profit. Supplies were donated by local businesses.

Demois is hoping that they will able to put in a digital projector sometime this year. If the theatre is to remain open, there is no choice, he says.

“If you want to continue playing relatively contemporary movies, then you need digital. That’s the way the market is going,” says Demois. The theatre usually shows movies four to five weeks after the first run. Currently it’s showing My Week With Marilyn and Margin Call.

“We’re coming to the tipping point where prints won’t be available,” says Rui Pereira, general manager of the Kingsway Theatre in the city’s west end.

Pereira says the Kingsway is still using film projection, but it will eventually have to shift to digital. Buying used equipment is probably the logical option, but it could cost anywhere from $30,000 and up for used, to well over $100,000 for new.

“For independent theatres it makes sense to hold off, because prices keep coming down on equipment as technology improves,” says Pereira.

Despite the financial obstacles, some indie theatres have already adapted to the realities of digital.

Dan Peel, an owner of Theatre D. Digital, operates the 1939 Art Moderne Royal Cinema in Little Italy as both a theatre and a digital post production mixing facility for movies and television.

There are editing suites upstairs in the historic theatre. But downstairs the cinema is open at night to moviegoers.

“This is one of the few places where a director can cut a film and see the result immediately on a 40-foot screen,” says Peel.

While digital projection is touted as being easier for theatre owners to manage — “It’s like turning on a TV,” says Peel — it can also come with its own set of problems.

While celluloid used trained projectionists, who are now something of an endangered species, digital equipment was supposed to be easier. But not always.

The hard drives are always encrypted, and many times — Peel estimates at least 10 per cent of the time — the encryption doesn’t work, or the drive may be damaged.

“You end up with delays, you have to call the distributor, try and get a new code. They’re still working out the bugs.”

Peel says he has both 35-mm and digital capability. But he doesn’t have a preference for either.

“The world has spoken. The world is going digital,” says Peel. “We are dealing with a huge transition.”

With the push to digital, Peel says there has been equal pushback from some fans who are used to 35-mm film.

“Film has its own look and it’s been around for more than 100 years,” says Peel. “But there’s no reason we can’t celebrate both.”

Theatre manager Demois agrees. “Film certainly looks different. It has nicks and scratches, and it erodes over time. But there is a romance to it,” says Demois. “Digital actually looks too clear for some people. It’s the same reason some people like the sound of old vacuum tube stereos as opposed to digital equipment. But they both have their advantages and disadvantages.”

Cineplex’s Marshall says the exhibitor has run field tests comparing digital and 35-mm with audiences over the last several years.

“There will be some consumers who will always think film is the right way to go,” says Marshall. “But what we found is that for the vast majority of consumers, most couldn’t tell the difference.”

Digital by the numbers

2,700

Total number of screens in Canada

748

Total number of digital theatres at the end of 2010

1,300

Total number of digital theatres at the end of 2011

1,400 (forecast)

Total number of digital screens in Canada during the first quarter of 2012, passing the halfway mark for the first time

Source: David Hancock IHS Insight

CW Buys New Canadian TV Series The L.A. Complex

Source: www.thestar.com - By Niamh Scallan


(Jan 10, 2012) American broadcast network The CW has picked up Canadian TV series
The L.A. Complex, Bell Media confirmed Tuesday, the same day the new drama premiered on MuchMusic and CTV.

The U.S. network has picked up six existing episodes of the one-hour series, created by Canadian writer-producer Martin Gero and produced by Toronto’s Epitome Pictures, the company behind the Degrassi series.

“We’re very happy The CW has recognized the potential in what we hope is another long-running franchise from our partners at Epitome Pictures,” said Phil King, president of CTV programming and sports in a news release.

The CW has planned the show’s U.S. premiere for later this spring, according to Bell Media.

The series follows a group of 20-something Canadians trying to make it in Hollywood.

The international cast includes Toronto’s Cassie Steele, known for her role as Manny Santos on 10 seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation. Steele plays Abby, a Toronto girl fighting for Hollywood fame.

The cast also includes Vancouver native Chelan Simmons, known for her roles in Final Destination 3 and Carrie, and Stratford, Ont.’s Joe Dinicol (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Virgin Suicides).

“It’s really exciting, bringing together a lot of young, amazing talent from North America,” said Stephanie Cohen, Epitome’s communications vice-president.

::MUSIC NEWS::

The Weeknd Seeks Bandmates Via Facebook

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


(Jan 04, 2012) If you're an R&B-inclined player in Toronto, this is the chance of a
lifetime. The Weeknd -that glum, sexy, Abel Tesfaye-led, Drake-boosted, Polaris-Prize nominated Toronto sensation - is looking for players, presumably for a tour.  

The first stage is being handled online, so you'll have to get fairly far along to even get an answer to what's probably your first question - who else is even in this band? Here's the text of the job posting:  "The Weeknd is looking for a professional guitarist and bass player in or around the Toronto area to travel and perform live in concert.  Those interested please send all information to:  theweekndband@gmail.com "Include: name, age, instrument, and a photograph if possible. Any additional youtube video footage, credentials, etc. of performer is welcome.  Serious inquiries only please.  Deadline is Sunday January 8, 2012." Best of luck, all local interested parties. Better hope Geddy and Alex from Rush don't decide to throw their names in.

Adam Cohen Mans Up With New Album

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen


(Jan 06, 2012)
Adam Cohen is a humbled man.

At 39, with three underperforming albums behind him, the Montreal-
born son of poet and songwriting icon Leonard Cohen has finally come to terms with his vocation.

Last December, while sitting comfortably in a chair in a ritzy Bathurst-area hotel suite as he cradled a bottle of water, the impeccably dressed, bearded Cohen called his latest offering, the October-released Like A Man, “the record I ought to have made first.”

“It is like a beginning,” says Cohen, coming off a successful six-week European jaunt with a day of interviews to promote the album and his upcoming tour, which arrives at the Mod Club on February 11.

“If I could rewrite it to my liking, I would have been able to summon the maturity, the courage and the wisdom to have embraced a tradition from which I clearly come earlier, and not been as seduced by the trappings of both show business — sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll — and by the dreams and naïve hopes of like a young kid — adulation, fame, success, p---y — all the stuff we all really want when we’re young — and still want.”

He leans forward, holding a steady gaze with his interviewer.

“I was so arrogant and opportunistic. I thought, well, if record companies want to give me record contract after record contract, and publishing deal after publishing deal, and powerful management is interested, I felt, well naturally, I would have to satisfy their criteria.

“But I had it wrong.”

To these eyes, Cohen doesn’t bear a striking resemblance to his famous father. But the mannerisms are there, especially in conversation: an articulate, intellectual fluency that pauses only when Cohen is thoughtfully contemplating his response.

To these ears, Like A Man sounds like . . . a gallant attempt to make a Leonard Cohen album. Produced by Patrick Leonard (Madonna, Pink Floyd, Amos), the 10 songs present are less ornamented than Adam Cohen’s 1998 self-titled debut or his 2004’s Ex-Girlfriends, recorded while he fronted the band Low Millions.

They offer a familiar romanticism in their cosy nature, and — with a background harmony featuring one of his dad’s most frequent and recognized collaborators, Jennifer Warnes, on “What Other Guy” — eerily reminiscent of Pere Cohen’s older recordings, although Adam’s tenor is sweeter and higher than his father’s granular baritone.

Listening to the guileless strains of “Out Of Bed” or the expressed intimacy of “Sweet Dominique,” one wonders if Cohen’s incentive for making the album was tribute or emulation?

After all, one could only imagine the difficulty and frustration of trying to carve one’s own artistic identity from under the shadow of such a famous father.

“I don’t feel that there’s been any shadow,” Cohen counters. “My reality is that I’m extraordinarily privileged. I don’t sense any shadow, and that’s what makes it so reprehensible: I feel the opposite.

“I feel like doors have been opened, eyebrows have been raised, curiosity mounted. I feel like a share a genetic code with someone who is admirable and historic, even. I always had food on my plate. I travelled. I was brought up under artistic circumstances, given permission — and sometimes I would even say a mandate — to be an artist.

“This is hardly what I would consider a shadow. This is a red carpet — a wax-sealed invitation — to the high life.”

Cohen looks away, sits in silence for a moment, and sighs.

“It’d be so much simpler for me to explain my trajectory up to now as a mere rebellion against the oppressive, tyrannical shadow cast upon me by my accomplished and beloved father.

“But it’s so much more pathetic and myopic and simple than that: I thought that I was the real deal. I thought that a path was before me to walk down and perform in anon, in a shining way that would provoke applause, potentially admiration and riches.”

“It was arrogant. It was naïve.”

Answering an earlier question, Cohen says Like A Man is a tribute, inspired by one of his father’s earlier opuses.

“The aesthetic target of this record was really clear,” Cohen explains. “The goal was to capture the ethos of a certain period of my father’s work. When we started recording, we listened to one record in particular, which is New Skin for the Old Ceremony, which is my favourite record of my father’s.

“And I told my producer, look man, if we can capture this, the intimacy, the romance, the purity, the simplicity, the minimalism, and as a result of that minimalism and purity, the richness, then I will be eternally grateful to you — can you do it?

“Before I’d finished my sentence, I was in a chair, recording. That’s how confident he was he could do it — Pat Leonard.”

Like A Man is only Cohen’s fourth work since 1998, begging the question, what prompted this epiphany?

“Well, there were three things – three main triggers,” he replies. “The first, is, that all of these record companies and all of this fortune that had accompanied me, just ran out.

“Suddenly I found myself a three-time loser, dropped successively by one record company after another. I found myself trying to write songs for other people, mostly unsuccessfully — trying to write for television, film, commercials and even porno movies, all with — at best — moderate success.

“And a kind of real and haunting disillusionment was near permanent in my life.”

The second catalyst for change, Cohen says, involved his father.

Although Leonard Cohen is releasing his new album Old Ideas this month, for all purposes the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame and Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame member seemed to have retired in the mid-2000s.

While studying at a California monastery, Leonard Cohen learned that his retirement fund had dwindled to $150,000; that his business manager had run off with his money, and promptly sued. Even though the elder Cohen won a $9.5 million U.S. court judgment against his ex-business manager, he was forced to head back on the road in 2008 to rebuild his finances, and undertook a lengthy, successful world tour.

Adam Cohen, who lives in Los Angeles with his wife and four-year-old son, says he was inspired by “the triumphant, inspiring return to the eye of public stage by my father, which led me to have a renewed and vigorous appreciation, respect and admiration for my old man at the summit of his career at 76.”

“The third important trigger — and the hook, line and sinker — was becoming a father, which not only terrified me, because of the new responsibilities that fell upon me — but linked me so powerfully to a sense of family, knowing that my son is going to consult my work the same way I consulted my father’s,” he continues.

“Sitting at the dinner table with my father on one side, and my son on the other, feeling connection to a tradition, and to my last name – and more than anything, feeling like I hadn’t acquitted myself of that responsibility.

“So I really made this record for myself. I really made it as a document and as proof of belonging, and I wasn’t interested — for the first time — I wasn’t interested in the record getting me laid, and the record getting me rich, and the record getting me famous.”

“I was purely interested in proving that I was an honourable fixture in the family business – and I wanted to build some kind of immunity from a verdict that seemed to be coming down the pike. And the verdict was pretty dire, which is ‘you’ve failed, and you’ve wasted opportunity upon opportunity to prove yourself.’ ”

If there’s irony to be found within the sonic walls of Like A Man, it’s that the collection doesn’t boast a solitary new song.

“I would love to give you a great, entertaining answer, but the truth of the matter is, I didn’t write a single song for this record,” Cohen says. “These are all songs that have existed — some as far back as 20 years old.

“All I did was summon the courage to rescue them from oblivion, because I’d categorically hidden them — one after the other — when they bore too much resemblance to my father, or didn’t appear to be songs that could help my mobility.”

For Adam Cohen, Like A Man is his wake-up call.

“The biggest epiphany for me on this record was the fact that I have been a talent that has been squandered by poor taste, by avarice, that I’ve always been good and that those around me who begged me to make this record for years upon years were right.

“And I was too haughty and obstinate to recognize the wisdom of their advice, so it’s kind of an embarrassment, but at the same time, a liberation. In a biblical sense, to honour thy father is such a staple of our society. And the epiphany was that I have honoured my father in such a satisfying way with this record. And as I say, this gives me a kind of immunity from consequence.”

New Ludacris Album ‘Ludaversal’ Due in May

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan. 10 2012) *Ludacris tells Billboard.com that his eighth studio album, “Ludaversal,” is on track for a May release, and that Usher is on board for a collabo.

“Usher is one person that I’ve already worked with,” says Ludacris, “and in terms of other artists, you can say that there’s going to be a lot of surprises on here.”

Ludacris and Usher previously collaborated on the latter’s smash single “Yeah!,” which featured Lil Jon and topped the Hot 100 for 12 weeks in 2004, as well as Lil Jon’s “Lovers and Friends,” which peaked at No. 3 on the chart.

The follow-up to 2010′s “Battle of the Sexes” is still “in the beginning stages” for the Atlanta rapper, who tided fans over by releasing the mixtape “1.21 Gigawatts: Back To The First Time” in November.

Ludacris spent 2011 continuing to hone his acting skills, with supporting roles in “No Strings Attached,” “Fast Five” and “New Year’s Eve.” Meanwhile, he announced the opening of a new restaurant, Chicken & Beer, in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Georgia last week, although the rapper has yet to specify when the eatery (which shares its name with Luda’s third album) will open.

Ludacris says that the first single from “Ludaversal” will be released “probably within March,” and that fans can expect the album to encapsulate everything within the Luda’s ever-expanding world, as the title suggests.

“It’s been a minute since I’ve been away from music, and there is just so much to talk about,” he says. “So [the album] is mostly about my personal life, my travels, my experiences, rumors, gossip — you know, everything coming together in one.”

Rodney Jerkins on New Path to Stardom: First Jingles, then Hit Singles

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 07, 2012) *(Via LA Times) – Producer Rodney Jerkins is a heavyweight in the pop music world who’s worked with an array of A-list artists, including Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Brandy and Britney Spears. But now, the urban music hit maker has set his sights on a new kind of star — one who can sing the praises of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese…. Well, you know the rest.

Jerkins and his Chicago-based company Artists & Brands are mining new musical talent from the rap and R&B world, coaching young artists on the art of a catchy hook, then offering the tunes to companies such as McDonald’s (their main sponsor) for use in their commercials.

The idea is that, at some point, Artists & Brands will strike gold with an artist by breaking the songwriter or vocalist via a burger commercial, then using the recognition from the ad to bolster his or her career beyond the world of catchy jingles. Jerkins and company are currently developing six new acts.

“I think there is so much room for other artists who need that help,” says Jerkins, 34, who launched the company in 2009 with producer-songwriter Ira Antelis and entertainment attorney Daryl Jones. “Take Lady Gaga: She is so massively successful it doesn’t clear up any room for the label to market other artists. Artists are getting dropped every day. We are trying to create a new system where the label doesn’t have to tap into their budgets.”

Antelis believes it’s a win-win situation: Upstarts gain visibility by debuting original tunes — a coffee ad featuring hand dancers and newbie R&B singer Dejion went viral last year — and McDonald’s no longer has to pay the big bucks for superstar talent.

Read/learn MORE at LA Times.com.

Video For Burlington Band Walk Off The Earth Goes Viral

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar


(Jan 09, 2012) A Burlington-based band has captured social media lightning in a bottle
with their unique video featuring five musicians performing a song on one guitar.

Walk off the Earth does write and perform original material, but it is a cover of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” originally sung by Gotye featuring Kimbra, that is racking up the hits on YouTube. The video has been viewed more than 4.5 million times since it was posted on Jan. 5.

The video features the band and singer Sarah Blackwood crowded around a single acoustic guitar, with each member strumming, or picking tones and even the percussionist knocking on the guitar to create the beat.

The video has attracted a celebrity admirer in actor Russell Crowe, who watched it and then tweeted it out to his followers: “Check out Walk off the Earth’s cover of Somebody That I Used To Know. Brilliant.” Crowe, who is appearing on the season premiere Wednesday of the CBC’s Republic of Doyle, went on to call the band “a revelation. What a collection of voices” upon hearing some of their original work.

The group’s video for “Somebody That I Used to Know,” shows off its acoustic side, although the band plays a variety of genres. Their YouTube channel features several other covers.

The band expressed delight and surprise on its Twitter feed today to all of the attention it received since the video was posted.

They also posted this note on their Facebook page: “To all the independent musicians out there. I hope this shows that you can make a name for your band with no help from record labels and management and next to no money. Stay true to your dreams and your passions, whether they be music related or not. Don’t wait for people to help you because they never will. The only time the music industry will want to help you is when you have done all the work yourself!”

MUSIC TIDBITS

Beyonce Gives Birth To A Baby Girl, Names Her Ivy Blue Carter

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 08, 2012) Beyonce Knowles has given birth to a baby girl. The ‘Halo’ singer and rapper husband Jay-Z welcomed their first child together at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York Saturday night and have decided to name her Ivy Blue Carter, according to E! news. Jay-Z — whose real name Shawn Carter — is said to have been by his wife’s side as she gave birth and they are thought to have paid $1.3 million to rent out the entire fourth floor of the hospital. Pop singer and friend to the couple Rihanna tweeted: “Welcome to the world princess Carter! Love Aunty Rih (sic).” Music mogul Russell Simmons closely followed, writing: “Congrats to my good friends Beyonce and Jay-Z (sic).” Beyonce, 30, reportedly checked into the hospital under the name Ingrid Jackson and friends of the couple were seen bringing bottles of red wine and food to celebrate after the birth. Beyonce and Jay-Z, 42, were married in 2008 after dating for six years and she revealed she was pregnant at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards in August. Speaking about her pregnancy last December, Beyonce said: “It’s exciting! I know it’s gonna be difficult at times. I know that, like my mother, I’m gonna get on my child’s nerves but I’m just ready! I’m ready for the next chapter.”

Elton John Signs Book Deal For Account Of AIDS Crisis

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 09, 2012) LONDON — Elton John is writing his first book, a personal account of the AIDS crisis. The musician says Love is the Cure: Ending the Global Aids Epidemic will include memories of friends who died of AIDS-related illnesses, including Queen front man Freddie Mercury. British publisher Hodder & Stoughton says the book will be published in July along with an audio book read by the British pop star. The U.S. publisher is Little, Brown. Proceeds will go to the Elton John’s AIDS Foundation. John said Monday the book would ask why more is not being done to cure the disease. He said AIDS “is a disease that must be cured not by a miraculous vaccine, but by changing hearts and minds, and through a collective effort to break down social barriers.”

Ruben Studdard Releases ‘I’m Single’ after Divorce

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan. 10 2012) *Singer and “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard is not crying into his handkerchief over his 2 ½ year marriage that ended late last year. It seems as though the big man has poured all of his feelings about the divorce in a song on his new single, “June 28th (I’m Single).” As far as his ex goes, Studdard said he will speak to her if they cross paths in the street, but he is definitely on the lookout for another woman to share his life with. “June 28th (I’m Single)” is off of Studdard’s forthcoming album, “Letters from Birmingham,” which will be released March 11. HEAR Ruben Studdard’s “I’m Single” at Singersroom.

::FILM NEWS::    

TIFF Working On Cronenberg Computer Game

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle Macdonald

(Jan 09, 2012) Think you can one-up David Cronenberg's transformation of Jeff Goldblum into a hairy, stinky fly?

That's the ask from the
Toronto International Film Festival - reportedly on the prowl for a savvy gamer to help them launch an interactive retrospective of director David Cronenberg's dark, avant-garde body of work, expected to be unveiled when TIFF kicks off next September.

TIFF declined yesterday to offer details of The Worlds of David Cronenberg: An Augmented Reality Game, which is still in the early stages. But dabbling in a format that enhances play with computer-generated sensory experiences is sure to make for an interesting immersion in this case: The Toronto director is known for his surreal, often deranged narratives (Scanners, The Fly, eXistenZ) - and for taking viewers into uncomfortable explorations of technology, violence, sex and death.

In a grant proposal to the Ontario government, TIFF describes the game as "stylized social media meets psychological thriller game play." According to the blog Cinemablend.com, it will be available online and on multiple social-media platforms in September, 2012, with the final rollout completed by the end of 2013.

Called Body/Mind/Change, the game is certainly a fitting tribute to Cronenberg, who a few years ago told The Globe, "to me, our bodily reality is often avoided - a lot of art, religion, politics and culture seek to make us avoid our existential reality. And I insist on it.... I'm not looking to transcend the body, but to delve into it. Profoundly."

Cronenberg, who is currently doing post-production for his latest film, Cosmopolis starring Robert Pattinson, could not be reached for comment.

Clooney, Pitt And Jolie Kick Off 2012 Award Season

Source: www.thestar.com - By Mike Cidoni Lennox


(Jan 09, 2012) PALM SPRINGS, CALIF. — George Clooney, Brad Pitt,
Angelina Jolie and other red-carpet veterans joined some Hollywood newcomers in the Southern California desert this weekend to kick off the two-month-long movie award season at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

“When you’re of age: drink,” Clooney noted to the newbies at Saturday night’s gala awards ceremony. “That’s good advice to pretty much anybody.”

Among those relative newcomers were Clooney’s co-stars from the drama The Descendants. “It is the first time we have dressed up all season,” said actor Matthew Lillard. “We have a couple months to put on nice dresses and suits.”

“Don’t forget the shoes,” injected actress Judy Greer. “Oh man, am I going to need a massage when the next two months are over.”

Clooney, star of both Descendants and the drama The Ides of March, was given the festival’s Chairman’s Award for acting, directing, producing and writing. “They gave me a gavel on the way in,” he joked. “And I’m feeling like I might actually get protested now.”

Among other honourees: actresses Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn), Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer (The Help) and Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs).

Pitt was handed the Desert Palm Achievement Award for his performances in Moneyball and The Tree of Life. Gary Oldman (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) was dubbed International Star of the Year — the significance of which seemed to baffle its recipient.

“I am on an international stage, rather than a local one,” Oldman noted. “I guess that is what that means?”

Or perhaps he simply no longer needs a passport.

“Who designed the award?” Oldman asked. “Maybe I have just that and it gets me through customs.”

As excited as Jolie was to support partner Pitt — the latter walking with a cane, following a skiing injury — home was where their hearts were. “We are rushing back to the kids tonight,” Jolie explained. “We have a birthday party in the morning with our daughter.”

Next stops on the entertainment honours gauntlet include Wednesday’s People’s Choice, Thursday’s Critics’ Choice, Friday’s Los Angeles Film Critics and Sunday’s Golden Globes awards.

“I found that the last time I was (at the Golden Globes), it was a very fun day,” said actor and director Kenneth Branagh, a Globe nominee for his performance in My Week With Marilyn.

“The fact that it is a smallish room by comparison with some of the bigger awards rooms means that it has an intimacy and a kind of slightly raucous quality that is very, very carefully adhered to,” Branagh explained. “I was very intoxicated.”

New Oscar Rules For Documentaries A Necessary Improvement

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Liam Lacey

(Jan 09, 2012) An apparently bizarre decision to have newspapers determine what documentary films qualify for Oscars is, in fact, only one small aspect of sweeping changes in the Oscars documentary film nomination process designed to better reflect voters' consensus.

On Sunday, The New York Times broke the story [http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/movies/documentarians-concerned-about-proposed-oscar-rule.html?_r=1&hpw] that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will implement a new policy for the 2013 ceremony under which it will only consider documentaries for Oscar contention after they have been reviewed by The New York Times or the Los Angeles Times.

But the review policy is only one minor element in changes, pushed by filmmaker and Academy board of governors member Michael Moore, designed to make the documentary race more credible and representative of popular appeal.

The problem of mainstream and celebrated documentaries being left off the list has been chronic and reflects a flaw in the existing system. This year, for example, successful documentaries including Senna, Into the Abyss, The Interrupters and The Arbor were all left off the documentary feature long list. In the past, such prominent films as Capitalism: A Love Story, Hoop Dreams and The Thin Blue Line were ignored by the Academy.

This was not strictly a matter of the taste of voters in the documentary branch, but a process that was open to error. In the current system, volunteers form multiple committees to watch dozens of qualifying documentaries (124 this year) and then offer their top choices for the 15-film short list, which is then whittled down to five nominees. Not everyone sees the same films, and a few negative votes can keep a critically lauded and popular film out of contention.

That's why prominent filmmakers such as Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and Moore support the new system, in which the entire 157 members of the documentary branch will be able to see all the films, delivered either by DVD or online in quarterly instalments, before choosing the nominated films.

After that, the more than 6,000 members of the Academy will vote on the best documentary, after seeing the top five choices on DVDs.

As Moore explained to the film site Indiewire [http://www.indiewire.com], the new system will cut the number of qualifying films in half (to about 60) but will benefit documentary filmmakers by focusing on theatrical documentaries and allowing the entire Academy to be involved in the final decision. And as Moore told another website, Awards Daily [http://www.awardsdaily.com]: "The Academy says it's decided what the best documentary of the year is. But if only 5 per cent of the Academy are deciding that, we're not telling the truth. Wouldn't it be more honest," he said, "if we let the whole Academy vote?"

The motive for the reviewing rule is to avoid producers of made-for-television documentaries holding under-the-radar screenings of documentaries in order to technically qualify for the Academy Awards. The Academy has not yet specified whether reviews need be in print, or whether capsule or online reviews would apply, but reviews by television critics are specifically ruled out.

The review policy also has some flexibility. If The New York Times changes its policy of reviewing every documentary with a one-week run in Manhattan, then the Academy will also change its policy. If, for some reason, a film is not reviewed, the filmmaker can appeal to the Academy.

One potential casualty of the new process is DocuWeeks, an annual event in New York and Los Angeles, in which filmmakers pay money to submit their documentaries specifically for a one-week Oscar-qualifying run. One film that went through the DocuWeeks process was Lucy Walker's Waste Land, an Oscar nominee last year.

In the Academy Awards, the documentary branch and the foreign-language films are perennially among the most controversial categories. The documentaries branch has made a series of voting changes, especially in the last decade when the market for theatrical documentary film has boomed. The best foreign-language film category - in which a committee in each country gets to nominate one film for the long list, which is then narrowed down by an Academy nominating committee - has not made any significant improvements in the same period.

Keke Palmer Comes of Age in ‘Joyful Noise’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan. 10 2012) *Hopefully, African-American cinema will mature right along with her.

Keke Palmer is far too composed for only having been on this Earth for 18 years.  She’s avoided scandal despite matriculating from child to fully-grown film star, a rarity to be sure. Not only that, she is genuinely affable and comfortable in her skin despite her fame.  Few of us could say as much when we were teenagers.

As I expressed in the beginning, the real question is, has the African-American movie industry also matured with her?  The marketing push behind Joyful Noise (which opens nationwide January 13) has not been limited to niche or ethnically marginalized outlets.  Commercials for the highly-anticipated film can be found everywhere from the middle of college and pro football games on ESPN, to prime time slots on the traditional networks.

For a movie featuring a majority African-American cast with an interracial love story and gospel theme at its center; it’s a bold marketing statement by Warner Bros. Pictures.  We should collectively take note.

Don’t get me wrong, I get the fact that this is a movie designed to reach the diverse fan bases of its ensemble cast which also includes Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton.  The three featured actresses offer different fan bases, traversing different generations and genres.  Expect country, gospel, R&B and hip-hop fans to support this film…or at least that is the hope.

I get it, really I do.

On the surface, Joyful Noise is willing to offer a colorblind look at America today through its casting and marketing; and that’s a beautiful thing.  But at its heart, it’s music and story against the gospel backdrop is straight out of the annals of African-American cinema.

The gospel-themed movie has been a staple for African-Americans for decades and likely the film will <em>need </em>to resonate with the demographic to be fully successful.  Let’s be honest, it has been some time since a majority African-American, gospel-themed movie has hit the theaters without the protagonist donning a dress.  No disrespect to Tyler Perry, but there is no baggage or controversy attached to Joyful Noise.  That’s a beautiful thing too.  There is nothing standing in the way of its success from that standpoint.

Colorblind marketing aside, African-American audiences have been clamoring for movies that don’t feature the stereotypical violence, materialism, misogyny and dare I say buffoonery all-too-often found in “Black” movies…whatever that means.  Despite what is highlighted on the silver screen, it really is okay to feature African-Americans in movies not named “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” or rely on drugs or prison as key components of telling a “Black” story.

Back to Keke Palmer…

Palmer is no stranger to positive and substantive work as an actress.  From starring alongside Laurence Fishburne role in the critically-acclaimed Akeelah & the Bee to her Nickelodeon sitcom, True Jackson, VP; Palmer has consistently elevated the conversation as to how African-Americans actors and movies need not flaunt stereotypes or other demeaning imagery in order to make a commercially successful product.

I recently sat down with Palmer to get her thoughts on Joyful Noise, her approach to her career and how she hopes her fan base will mature right along with her as she moves further into adulthood.

 Keke Palmer - The Mo'Kelly Report/Joyful Noise Interview by Mokelly

Video On Demand A Threat To Movie Theatres

Source: www.thestar.com - By Tony Wong


(Jan 05, 2012) In the early days of video, it could take a year or more
before the movie would leave the theatre and find itself on someone’s Betamax.

In the
DVD era it is a matter of months. And that window is fast eroding.

With declining DVD sales worldwide, some studios are trying to replace that revenue by having the movie available to consumers while they are still showing in theatres. Increasingly this means releasing the movie “on demand,” via cable providers such as Rogers and Bell, or online services such as iTunes, which charge a rental or purchase fee for instant streaming.

For distributors, the writing is already on the wall. The Mayan calendar runs out in 2012 — and this may well be a watershed year for the industry.

Rogers, which has a robust on-demand service of its own, recently announced the closing of about 40 per cent of its video stores. By the end of this month the company will have shuttered 63 outlets across Canada. The closings follow on the heels of a move by Blockbuster last fall to shut down 400 shops as downloading has made it much easier for consumers to access movies.

Now some movies are being released to consumers before they’re even hitting the theatre. Goon, the Canadian-made hockey comedy starring Seann William Scott, is being released on Apple’s iTunes in the U.S. on Feb. 24, the same day it opens wide in Canada, but more than a month before the movie’s planned release in American theatres.

The strategy started in the United States as studios experimented with releasing their A-list, Hollywood blockbuster hits on demand soon after opening theatrically.

That’s a step up from the low-quality, straight-to-video releases that executives expected to have little hang time in theatres.

So far this latest trend hasn’t come to Canada, but analysts think it is only a matter of time. “There’s no reason to think this wouldn’t have happened here,” said Ben Mogil, a media and entertainment analyst with Stifel Nicolaus equity research in Toronto. “The studios view the North American market as one big market effectively.”

Mogil says the cable companies will also be encouraging the move since they stand to benefit. At the expense of theatres.

Naturally, this hasn’t been met with open arms by exhibitors.

Last year, four studios — 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers and Sony Pictures Entertainment — entered into an arrangement with DirecTV in the U.S. to release movies only two months after theatrical release. The first was Just Go With It starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston, for $30.

More than a dozen filmmakers, including James Cameron (Avatar), signed an open letter criticizing the move.

In October, Trespass, a thriller starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman, opened in theatres and on-demand (in the U.S.) simultaneously. It came to DVD and Blu-ray just two weeks later.

The process has had its speed bumps. Universal Pictures was forced to abandon plans to offer the Eddie Murphy vehicle Tower Heist in November only three weeks after the action movie hit theatres. The trial was supposed to be limited to only Atlanta and Portland, Ore., for the stiff price of $59.99. Some theatre owners threatened not to play the movie — which caused an embarrassing about-face by Universal executives.

However, analysts such as Mogil say exhibitors shouldn’t be worried about the incursion.

“The price points for something like this are so high that the market is very limited,” said Mogil.

The current window of about 120 days between theatrical release and secondary distribution still makes sense, argues Cineplex Entertainment vice-president Pat Marshal.

“We believe that’s the right window of time,” says Marshal. “We know from experience if the movie does well in the theatre, it will do so throughout the different channels afterward.”

However, as the largest theatre owner in Canada, Cineplex is hedging its bets, and expanding its reach beyond bricks and mortar. Two years ago the company started selling DVDs and Blu-rays. Last year it started a service for downloading movies for rental and ownership.

But Marshall says theatregoing remains the “core of the business. It’s a social experience. I haven’t heard a director say, ‘I’ve worked 20 years just to see my movie on a 42-inch screen,’” says Marshall. “You can have food in the fridge, but people will still go out to eat. And people will still see movies.”

FILM TIDBITS

British Actress Naomi Harris is Newest Bond Girl

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 09, 2012) *Watch out, James Bond. It was speculated months ago. Now it’s a done deal. British actress Naomi Harris has been signed to play James Bond’s foil, Miss Moneypenny, in the upcoming James Bond film, “Skyfall.” Initially, Harris will play an M16 field agent named Eve. Harris told People, “I’ve been doing yoga three times a week, stunt driving and firing machine guns—which I discovered I had a real taste for.  I’m raring to go!” “Skyfall” will be the James Bond franchises’ 23rd installment. Harris gained a fan following when she appeared in the thriller “28 Days Later” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

James Cameron To Produce 3D Cirque Du Soleil Film

Source: www.thestar.com - Milan Podsedly

(Jan 10, 2012) HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.—Paramount Pictures has partnered with Cirque du Soleil on a 3D film executive produced by James Cameron and featuring performances from the Montreal-based acrobatic troupe. In a news release, Paramount says it has acquired the worldwide distribution rights to Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away, written and directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Adamson is also a producer, along with Aron Warner, Cirque’s Martin Bolduc and Ed Jones and Cary Granat. The film has an original story and performances from some of the most elaborate Cirque productions. Paramount says it plans to release it worldwide in 2012. Production companies involved include Cirque, Warner and Adamson’s Strange Weather Productions, Reel FX and Cameron Pace Group.

::TV NEWS::     

Peterson, Plummer Up For ACTRA Acting Prizes

Source: www.thestar.com - Milan Podsedly

(Jan 10, 2012) Stage and screen stars Christopher Plummer and Eric Peterson are among the nominees for acting prizes from Canada’s performers’ union.

The Toronto branch of the
Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists picks the best male, female and voice performers at a gala bash on Feb. 25.

Plummer is up for his acclaimed turn as U.S. actor John Barrymore in the stage production of Barrymore, which was captured on film last year.

Peterson is nominated for his acclaimed revival of Billy Bishop Goes to War, which was adapted for TV and aired last year on CBC on Remembrance Day.

They’re up against Cle Bennett of CTV’s crime drama Flashpoint, Shawn Doyle of the CBC-TV movie John A: Birth of a Country and Peter Outerbridge for his role in the TV movie.

Best actress nominees include Jayne Eastwood of the feature Down the Road Again, Jennifer Irwin and Tommie-Amber Pirie of the CBC-TV comedy Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays, Amy Price-Francis of the Showcase drama King and Ellen Wong of Silent Cargo.

The best voice performers are: Stacey Depass of the animated Treehouse TV series The Adventures of Chuck and Friends, Robbie Fitzroy of Disney Junior’s Stella and Sam, Billy MacLellan of CBC Radio’s Afghanada, Rachel Marcus and Miles Johnson of Stella and Sam, and Miklos Perlus of YTV’s Sidekick.

Rick Mercer will be presented with ACTRA Toronto’s award of excellence, which recognizes an exceptional body of work and a commitment to advocacy on behalf of all performers.

ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing more than 15,000 of its 21,000 English-language members.

Russell Crowe To The Rescue On Republic Of Doyle

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bill Brioux


(Jan 09, 2012) When last we left the gang at the
Republic of Doyle, things were a mess.

It looked like the father-and-son detective team of Jake and Malachy Doyle (Allan Hawco and Sean McGinley) were about to go their separate ways. Jake had an offer he couldn’t refuse to rejoin the St. John’s police force. Dad Malachy was set to hang up his holster and spend more time with lady love Rose (Lynda Boyd). Young Tinny (Marthe Bernard) was heading for an overseas education. And, in the biggest heartbreak of them all, Constable Leslie Bennett (Krystin Pellerin) had been kicked off the force and it was all Jake’s fault.

Hawco, the star, writer, executive producer and driving force behind the popular CBC series, has written himself into some tight corners before, but this was a beaut. How did he propose to put everything back together again in time for Wednesday night’s third season premiere (9 p.m. on CBC)?

Enter Russell Crowe. Academy Award winner Russell Crowe??

Yes, Robin Hood to the rescue. Hawco had met Crowe years earlier, the two hit it off and the Newfoundland native kept a plan in his back pocket to someday lure Crowe onto his rough and tumble detective series.

Hawco knew pulling that casting coup off would take some doing. When Crowe’s not working on a film (he’s got two upcoming, including playing Superman’s dad Jor-El in Man of Steel), he stays busy touring with his band The Ordinary Fear of God, checking in on his South Sydney rugby club or helping his wife, Danielle, raise their two sons back home in Australia.

So getting Crowe from Oz to St. John’s to shoot a Canadian TV episode was going to be tricky. Hawco had an ace or three up his sleeve, however. Crowe had been to St. John’s, had performed at O’Reilly’s Pub and had fallen in love with the place. One of Crowe’s best pals, Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea, is a Newfoundland native. Crowe and Doyle have worked on several musical collaborations and Doyle, along with Scott Grimes and Kevin Durand, was part of the trio of Merry Men in Crowe’s 2010 blockbuster Robin Hood.

Hawco, no dummy, cast Doyle, Grimes and Durant in Wednesday’s Season 3 premiere, hoping that would be the clincher in luring Crowe back to St. John’s. “I knew I had to sweeten the deal before I could expect to fly the guy halfway around the world,” he says. Crowe took the pitch, looked at the script, looked at his schedule and, to Hawco’s amazement, said hell, yes.

The episode finds Crowe and company playing troublemakers who run up against Doyle and Son on the streets of St. John’s. Hawco says it was pretty electric acting opposite the Oscar winner. “From ‘Action!’ to ‘Cut!’ you just had to go,” he says. Crowe made few changes to the script and was deferential in any suggestions he did make.

The locals showed Crowe plenty of respect. Hawco says he was worried about one very public scene being shot on Regatta Day in front of the St. John’s Sheridan. “Hundreds of people walked by, but not one person bothered him,” he says. “If they saw him they’d look over at me and give me a thumbs up. Russell said, ‘Man, you’re not producing the show, the city of St. John’s is producing the show.’”

Other cast members say Crowe made everybody feel like an old friend. They were all invited to hear him sing Springsteen songs at an impromptu local concert held after the episode wrapped. Following the song set, Mark O’Brien, who plays Doyle’s detective prodigy Des, was first to congratulate Crowe backstage in his dressing room. “He was changing, standing in his underwear with his shirt open, when he sees me and goes, ‘Hey! Grab a beer!’ I thought to myself, naked Russell Crowe just hugged me and gave me a drink!’”

Crowe isn’t the only big name guest star to work the Doyle beat this season. Shannon Tweed also made the scene with rocker-hubby Gene Simmons watching from the wings. The former Playboy Playmate is a native of The Rock, proud of hailing from — you can’t make this up — Dildo, Nfld.

Boyd had several scenes opposite Tweed and found her fun and friendly. “At one point in a scene she held a knife to my throat,” says Boyd, “and kept cracking me up between takes.”

Canadian veterans Gordon Pinsent and Nicholas Campbell are also back in future episodes.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell On Zooey Deschanel

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

(Jan 11, 2012) We, the gathered TV critics, are here to talk about TV shows and the TV racket, not celebrities. But sometimes the celebrity thing gets in the way. Let me explain.

Back in the summer when this TV-critics-on-tour thing took place in the environs of Beverly Hills, Calif., I was kinda smitten. This sort of thing happens all the time in the 90212, as the whole world knows.

I was smitten with New Girl and the show's star,
Zooey Deschanel. Yeah, me and millions of other people. The pilot episode was a small masterpiece of silliness. Deschanel played Jess, a gal with a broken heart who moved into an apartment with three guys and everybody tried to be nice to each other. If you didn't see it, no point in explaining.

Since then, stuff happened. New Girl debuted to great ratings. An instant hit. Lots of people fell for it and a small handful of ridiculously grumpy critics hated it. The show quickly evolved. It became less about Jess and more about the guys she lived with - Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the guy who thinks he's hot and keeps taking off his shirt; Nick (Jake Johnson), who is all broken-hearted and sweet; and Winston (Lamorne Morris) the athlete who is easily bored. All hilarious.

Other stuff that happened included Deschanel separating from her husband of two years, filing for divorce and having her finances splashed all over the entertainment news. Oh, and several Golden Globe nominations for New Girl.

On this TV-critics-on-tour thing we are ensconced in the more sedate environs of Pasadena. No matter where we are, the central rule holds - we talk to the stars about the show, not about their personal lives. And they talk to us about the shows, not their lives, messy or otherwise. It's don't ask, don't tell.

Thus it was peculiar to watch things unfold over a 24-hour period on Sunday and Monday. Zooey Deschanel turned up three times in that period.

First, Fox organized a panel of people from three sitcoms: New Girl, Raising Hope and Breaking In. Actors and creators sat and joshed for an hour. Deschanel and New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, who appear to be joined at the hip, talked about the Golden Globe nomination. Deschanel said she had slept in and missed the news. But she's looking forward to Sunday's awards event and has no fear of zingers from host Ricky Gervais. "I can't wait. I worship Ricky Gervais, and I can't wait to hear any insults that he might have. Him insulting me is the best problem I could possibly get."

On Sunday evening Deschanel was at the Fox party along with several of her co-stars. She had her photo taken on the red carpet. "Zooey Deschanel Doing Well Post Divorce" was the caption on one celebrity-obsessed website. "Zooey Looks Adorable" said another.

At the party, Deschanel talked to the critics for a few minutes and essentially said she was totally enjoying New Girl. That's it.

On Monday afternoon most of the critics got on a bus and went to the sprawling Fox lot where we visited the set of New Girl. Deschanel wielded a microphone and showed us around. She took us into Jess's room and showed us the unfinished knitting project that Jess was working on. She told us she does some knitting too and sympathized with Jess for not getting it finished. Everybody thought that was way cute. Which it was.

Asked about how much she and other actors contribute to the show's script and humour, Deschanel said, "We're allowed to be actors and contribute. And I think it's not always that way. I think a lot of actors feel, you know, stifled. And this is such an open atmosphere. We have so much freedom. We're allowed to play and have fun. And it's a wonderful atmosphere to work in."

While all of these press events unfolded for the critics, Deschanel's personal life was the subject of fevered discussion in other media. Apparently when her lawyer filed for her divorce from husband Ben Gibbard (from the band Death Cab for Cutie), he included papers that revealed her finances and expenses for the world to see.

So anyone who is curious - and many are, judging by the copious coverage - knows that the actor makes about $95,000 (U.S.) a month, has expenses averaging $22,550 a month. And she has three credit cards, AmEx, Visa and Mastercard, all of which have a zero balance. In her bank account she has $1,578,000. She has stocks and bonds worth $1,645,000 and personal property valued at $693,300. She drops $1,000 on groceries and household supplies a month, spends $500 eating out and $800 on utilities. Her monthly phone bill is $300. She also donates $1,500 a month to charity.

The detail is highly unusual and her lawyer probably made the document public entirely by accident. But the info is out there. Deschanel is being called "thrifty" all over the place.

And yet over those 24 hours and all the encounters with us, nobody asked her about the divorce or her personal finances. Nobody.

After the visit to the set, the bus was stuck in traffic. It took hours to get back to Pasadena. Some of us chatted. A fellow critic told me that after that comedy panel on Sunday he'd been waiting for a word with Deschanel. Another reporter got there first. After asking something about the Jess character, the reporter also asked, bizarrely, if Deschanel had "dating tips" she wished to impart. Deschanel stared at her, said nothing, turned around and walked away.

That's fine. That's the way it should be. Don't ask, don't tell on Zooey Deschanel. There might be an elephant in the room as far as some media are concerned, but we are, after all, critics.

INSIDE THE TV RACKET

Truth:

Bill Lawrence, co-creator and producer of the ABC show Cougar Town, is miffed that ABC has put the show on hiatus, reduced the number of episodes airing this season and been vague about a return date. So he crashed the TV Critics Tour. Lawrence threw a cocktail party for critics in the hotel bar the night before ABC's presentation, bringing cast members Courteney Cox, Busy Philipps and Christa Miller. Asked if he might be annoying ABC, Lawrence said he didn't care - "I think you could run over someone's dog, but if you have something that's worth money they'll put it on [the air] the next day."

Hype:

ABC Family Channel president Michael Riley describes the shows The Secret Life of the American Teenager and Switched at Birth - "groundbreaking storytelling," "iconic characters" and "warm, positive, optimistic environment."

Greed Is No Joke In Dark Comedy House Of Lies

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

(Jan 09, 2012) Would you watch a show that has been called "blisteringly vulgar and knife-edged"?

Well, you should. The show is
House of Lies (TMN, Movie Central, 10 p.m.) and brace yourself - yes, the language is rough and raw, and the attitude is formidably cynical. If the coziness of Downtown Abbey is your cup of tea, House of Lies is not for you. If the episodic hokum of network sitcoms is your preference, you'll be taken aback by the scathing scatological humour of this one.

By the time you read this, I will be in Los Angeles, for the mid-season presentation by U.S. broadcasters and, in the TV racket, it is the best of times. The mid-winter period of despair - about failing shows and mediocre ratings - has given way to optimism. Surely there will be a great show that galvanizes viewers and says something about the times we live in.

House of Lies is one of those shows. It is astonishingly ambitious, funny, serious, and entertaining. Best of all, it speaks to the mood of skepticism about the way business is done in the United States, who makes the money and how they acquire it. This is a show that reflects much of what the Occupy movement is about.

We meet Marty Kaan (Don Cheadle) the hottest hustler at management-consulting firm Galweather & Stearn. When we first encounter him, there's a woman, naked except for her stilettos, asleep beside him. It turns out she's his ex-wife, passed out in a blur of drugs, and Marty's first task of the day is to get her out of his apartment before their son sees her. Later, in a lovely twist, we learn that the ex-wife, Monica (Dawn Olivieri), is also a management consultant and competes against Marty for business.

Stuff happens but, pretty soon, they stop. Then Marty addresses the camera, explaining what management consultants do. He does it in furious and colourful language, contempt drenching everything. Among the few printable remarks is this - "You have to violate every space, every molecule [of the client] so that all that's left is 'yes.'"

Marty is a weasel and he knows it. He takes companies for a ride and he loathes every client. He's conning them into spending money on ridiculous advice and the suckers pay him and his team an awful lot of money. It is no coincidence that the first client encountered on the show is a mortgage company suffering the slings and arrows of public contempt for helping bring the U.S. economy to where it is now.

Marty's team, Jeannie (Kristen Bell), Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson) get daily rants from Marty about the stupidity of clients and the necessity of conning everyone to the max. They're still learning, but Marty knows it all and talks in what is probably the most foul language ever heard on TV.

The series (based on the book House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time by Martin Kihn) is one very dark comedy. It bristles with rage - rage at the self-righteous greed of businesses and consultants, rage at the ease with which vast amounts of money are made and squandered. There's a lot of sex, none of it loving. Racism is confronted head-on. As a black man, Marty is attuned to the signals but he's not angry. He's merely a tad more contemptuous of the sucker who would rather be conned by a white woman than a black man.

So, yes, it sure is "blisteringly vulgar and knife-edged" and you won't feel swell after watching it, like you might feel after chuckling at The Big Bang Theory. But you will know you've watched a rare excursion into comedy that accosts contemporary values with gusto. Sometimes a comedy is no laughing matter, and the better for it. Just watch.

* * * * *

It's a busy week in Canadian TV and it will be impossible to mention everything while covering the midseason shenanigans from La-La Land. Tomorrow it's worth your while to see The L.A. Complex (Tuesday, CTV and MuchMusic, 9 p.m.), a show promoted as being about "Hook-ups, Hang-ups and Call-backs," which is true. Set among a group of aspiring Canadian actors looking for their big break in Hollywood, it's a soap with some smarts and well-drawn characters. It comes from the Degrassi producers.

Also tomorrow there's the debut of Arctic Air (Tuesday, CBC, 9 p.m.) which is terrifically old-fashioned adventure-entertainment set in Yellowknife. And don't forget the return of the drollery on Republic of Doyle (Wednesday, CBC, 9 p.m.), with big-time, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe joining the series as a guest star for the opening episode.

Check local listings.

Babyface, Ne-Yo, Thicke, Lionel Richie to Mentor on ‘The Voice’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 06, 2012) *In addition to celebrity mentors Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Cee-Lo Green, NBC’s reality singing competition “The Voice” has added the likes of Babyface, Ne-Yo, Robin Thicke and Lionel Richie to help mentor contestants for the new season, which kicks off Feb. 5.

Each mentor has selected two advisers to lend their skills and knowledge to their contestants.

Aguilera decided to call in Jewel and Richie, while “American Idol” champion Kelly Clarkson and Shelton’s country superstar wife, Miranda Lambert, are set to join his team. Green has brought in Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds and Ne-Yo to help mentor his team and Team Levine will be receiving help from Morissette and Robin Thicke.

“These renowned musicians will bring their unique and recognizable musical styles to the teams,” Paul Telegdy, President of Late Night and Alternative Programming at NBC (NBC and E! are both part of the NBC Universal family), says in a press release. “They are well-respected singers whose invaluable experience will be a tremendous asset to Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton’s artists.”

The guest advisers will come into play during the “battle rounds” phase of the competition, helping out each mentor’s six contestants.

“The Voice” returns after the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 10 p.m. before settling into its regular timeslot of Mondays at 8 p.m. on Feb. 6.

Jaleel White On ‘Breaking Bad’ and Shedding ‘Urkel’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 09, 2012) Jaleel White, once Steve Urkel, is all grown up and quite successful behind and in front of the camera.

Family Matters went off the air nearly 15 years ago and the characters from the show are still quite clear in our minds.  The problem with that is the actors that portrayed those characters never seem to be free of that character especially when they were in our homes for nearly a decade.  The Cosby show kids have had to fight tooth and nail to separate themselves from Theo, Vanessa, Rudy, Sandra, and Denise.  But, the list is nearly endless for family show actors that have been type cast because of their success.

Jaleel White is on that long list of characters that are still trying to shake the characters that they built and we cannot ever forget.  Will we ever stop hearing catch phrases like Steve Urkel’s  ”Did I do thaaaaaat?” in our ears?  Whether we can or cannot, White and other actors have moved on and they want us to do the same. 

White gave an interview to The Wrap at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.  He was promoting an upcoming SyFy series he’s hosting called, “Total Blackout” where the contestants endure a series of scary challenges in total darkness.  But aside from this show, he’d secretly like a spot on his favorite new hit series, “Breaking Bad”.   The father on the show is Malcolm’s dad, Bryan Cranston, from Malcolm in the Middle.  White figures if Cranston can shake his character to land the lead on Breaking Bad, he should be able to do the same. 

For those of you who are fans, if he could land a spot, he said he would want to be Giancarlo Esposito’s role as the Chicken Man. Check out the interview here.

Michael Clarke Duncan Lands TV Role in ‘The Finder’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan. 10 2012) *You may recall Michael Clarke Duncan as the prisoner with supernatural powers in “The Green Mile” and in “The Green Lantern,” but you’ll be seeing a lot more of the rugged actor starting this week.

Duncan will appear as a regular on Fox TV’s “The Finder.”  The series is a crossover pilot of Fox’s “Bones” TV series.

The show stars Geoff Stults, an Iraq war veteran with an eccentric personality and a unique gift to help others recover what they lost.

Duncan plays Leo Knox, the finder’s bodyguard.  He also acts as his
legal advisor and  recites a lot of poetry.

Naturally, Duncan is ecstatic about his role playing Knox.

“The Finder” debuts Thursday, Jan. 12 at 9 p.m. on FOX.

Kevin O'Leary Offers Ex-Cons A Chance At Redemption

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(Jan 04, 2012) It only took half a day behind bars to humble Kevin O'Leary.

Anyone familiar with O'Leary's cold treatment of contestants on
Dragons' Den or his bullish behaviour on The Lang-O'Leary Exchange will scarcely recognize him in the opening episode of Redemption Inc. (CBC, starting Jan. 9).

To facilitate the new reality show's theme of giving ex-convicts a second chance, O'Leary submitted to a faux arrest in Chatham, Ont., which was followed by booking, fingerprinting and a 12½-hour stretch in solitary confinement wearing an orange jumpsuit.

"It was bad," O'Leary admits, "but that's how your spend your first night in jail when you get arrested. The lights stay on but there's no sound. You can't sleep. It's a form of sensory deprivation and you have no idea if it's day or night. For me it was Dante's hell on earth."

O'Leary looks rumpled and shaken when released in the morning. "I kept the jumpsuit as a souvenir," he says.

Booked for an eight-episode run, Redemption Inc. was developed for CBC by British reality-TV producer Jasper James, who previously worked with O'Leary on the Discovery Channel series Project Earth.

On Redemption Inc., O'Leary provides a chance-of-a-lifetime experience for former guests of Canadian correctional facilities - which in itself could rattle some parts of the viewing demographic.

"This show is going to be very, very controversial," he predicts. "When we showed clips to an audience, half the people went crazy that we were glorifying criminals, and half said it's the best thing they've ever seen."

The unscripted format of Redemption Inc. follows 10 individuals who have served time for various offences, except violent crimes and crimes against children.

In the spirit of The Apprentice, the show puts the participants through a series of weekly challenges to test their mettle. One ex-con is ejected each week; the last one standing receives $100,000 from O'Leary to back his or her business idea.

"It was a strange project in that the stakes were so high," says executive producer Cathie James. "We're used to watching people who want to be singers or actors on a reality show. These people are fighting for a second chance, so watching them succeed or fail is really powerful."

O'Leary's blunt advice to the ex-cons in the opener: "Don't screw this up."

The first episode introduces viewers to Alia, a former crack dealer who wants to go into the snow-removal business. Or Joseph, who was convicted of securities fraud and has plans to open an antique shop. And Aaron, who served time for trafficking cocaine and now sees his future operating a truffle farm.

"Some of these people have tremendous talents," says O'Leary. "Look at a successful crack cocaine dealer. He has to manage distribution, marketing, production and inventory controls. It's a bad business, but it has all the same challenges that face the guy running a big corporation."

During the challenge segments, the ex-cons are mentored by former drug smuggler turned venture capitalist Brian O'Dea, who serves as O'Leary's eyes and ears on the series.

The rehabilitation journey begins with the ex-cons taking labourer jobs at a shop specializing in detailing luxury cars. After a few minor mishaps, and a scraped Mercedes fender, the group has earned the full respect of the shop owner.

"The performance metrics of these people, versus the average employee, is simply stunning," O'Leary enthuses. "When you're given a second chance, you're not like a regular employee. You work like hell to stay on your boss's radar."

And in the reality-TV process, the ex-cons are gradually assimilated back into society and validated in most cases. O'Leary is already keen for shooting a second season of Redemption Inc. - and franchise versions of the show all over the globe - if only to alert employers of a heretofore-untapped resource.

"We have to change public perception of ex-convicts" he says. "Most Canadians don't realize that when you come out of prison you're a complete pariah. You can't get a car loan or money from a bank to start a business. So most end up back in prison within 24 months. It's just so wrong. We need to fix this problem."

Ashton Kutcher Wants To Keep Doing ‘Two And A Half Men’

Source: www.thestar.com - Matt Sayles/AP

(Jan 11, 2012) PASADENA, CALIF. — A clean-cut Ashton Kutcher said Wednesday that he's interested in continuing with Two and a Half Men beyond this season — and CBS wants him, too.

Kutcher's addition to television's most popular comedy following star Charlie Sheen's implosion was a grand experiment that has worked out better than CBS or the producers could have dreamed.

The show is up 20 per cent in viewers over Sheen's final season, the Nielsen ratings company said, and Kutcher has also brought in a younger crowd.

“I've had a blast,” said Kutcher, who plays the heartbroken Walden Schmidt. “Since I stopped doing That '70s Show I've always wanted to go back and do television.”

Kutcher appeared at a news conference without the long hair and beard he has worn this season. It was cut as part of the plot in an episode of Two and a Half Men that airs Monday, he said.

Kutcher will be working on movies after filming for this season of Two and a Half Men concludes, but “right now I'm looking at it as a hiatus,” he said.

CBS would have to strike a new deal with actors and producers to continue the show beyond this season. All parties seem interested in working it out, CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said.

“In spirit and intent, everybody is very motivated,” she said.

Series creator Chuck Lorre said he gave thought to ending the series after Sheen left last season and couldn't imagine it continuing. But CBS and his co-creator, Lee Aronsohn, nudged him to continue.

“Lee said, 'Why not try? If we fail, no one would be physically harmed,'” Lorre said. “It seemed like such a heartbreaking way to end, and we didn't want it to, so we said let's keep the light on.”

Writers were able to change the tone by making Kutcher's character a heartbroken man who has everything he wants except the woman he loves. Jon Cryer, who played Sheen's annoying little brother, is now Schmidt's older friend. It was all a welcome tone change, Aronsohn said.

“It's been a lot of fun and a challenge to create a different show with a lot of the same elements,” he said.

Lorre, who was the target of sharp barbs from Sheen last spring after he was fired, said he wished his former star well.

“I really do,” he said. “I'm glad he's sober and I think it's terrific.”

Tom Hanks’ Futuristic Web Series ‘Electric City’ To Stream On Yahoo

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jake Coyle


(Jan 09, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. —
Tom Hanks’ long gestating Web series is coming to Yahoo.

Electric City, an animated futuristic series Hanks has been developing for years, will premiere on Yahoo this spring. The series includes 20 episodes, each three- or four-minutes long.

Yahoo, along with Hanks and production partners Playtone and Reliance Entertainment, are set to formally announce plans for the series Tuesday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

For Hanks, the release of Electric City caps the actor’s efforts to find the right avenue for the project. He first tried to make the series using puppets. He earlier announced it would be released in early 2011.

The series is set in a seemingly peaceful city situated in a postapocalyptic world. Many of its themes are socially conscious topics relevant to today, including energy consumption.

“It was always our intent to have this project live and breathe online, and we felt Yahoo would be the perfect home,” said Gary Goetzman, co-founder of Playtone, Hanks’ production company. “Electric City is the first of its kind, a clutter-breaking, global 360 digital project.”

For Yahoo, Electric City is its first entry into scripted original programming. Yahoo has been beefing up its online video with reality series and wrap-up news shows, many of which rank among the most-viewed series online.

Electric City will be distributed online and through tablet devices with the usual interactivity and social media connections, but also a few new features. Most notably, it will be available in several languages, including Spanish and French.

“On the surface, the Electric City is utopia and under the surface, Electric City is secrets and heavy-handed state control,” says Erin McPherson, vice-president and head of original programming at Yahoo. “What we found really compelling is that this is perfect for a highly digital audience, a lean-forward audience who likes to utilize the medium of the Internet.”

In October, Yahoo launched a slate of programming targeted at women. It’s planning another batch of programming for February 2012 that will focus on comedy, including partnerships with Bill Maher and the Funny or Die website.

Electric City is likely to presage further scripted ventures for Yahoo.

“There are a number of other opportunities we’re looking at, and I think we’re uniquely poised to build these sort of tent-pole event programs,” says McPherson. “I would expect that you’ll see us doing more of it.”

CBS coasts with 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem


(Jan 11, 2012)
CBS wasn’t going to do an executive session at the TV critics’ tour. They figured they didn’t have to. “Everything is clicking,” network president Nina Tassler affirmed. Anything else was “not best expressed in this ‘warm and fuzzy’ room.”

Mind you, Tassler is known for not expressing much in this room — the mere prospect of facing us every tour, she admits, makes her incredibly nervous.

But she’s right about one thing: it’s been a great year for CBS. They had a new sitcom hit, 2 Broke Girls, and growth in their existing ones, like Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly, and relatively smooth transitions to major cast turnovers on CSI and, significantly, the network’s tent-pole comedy, Two and a Half Men.

The continued success of Two and a Half Men was anything but a sure thing in the wake of the Charlie Sheen meltdown.

“We never thought we’d be in a position to even consider (continuing) it,” confessed producer Chuck Lorre. “It just seemed like an impossible and completely ridiculous thing to do.”

But the network was clearly interested and they decided to go for it. “Even if we failed, no one would be physically harmed,” he shrugged.

(Returning co-star Jon Cryer begged to differ: “There is a good chance that as this show continues I will be physically harmed.”)

Sheen was the elephant in the room, particularly after his drive-by appearance at the Fox party a few nights earlier to reassure critics he was no longer crazy.

“I wish him well,” said Lorre, the target of much of Sheen’s extracurricular bile. “I’m glad he’s sober.”

“People seem to think there was some kind of feud (between Sheen and Lorre),” protested Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn. “But I saw nothing but respect on that set for Chuck from Charlie, and nothing but respect for Charlie from Chuck.

“The differences only started after Charlie left the show.”

And then Ashton Kutcher was parachuted in to save the day, which he has in fact done, with a few bumps along the way.

“It’s been an extraordinary experience rebirthing this show,” Lorre allowed. “We have an audience that stayed with us . . . it’s been a great experience, challenging, terrifying and a lot of fun.”

Kutcher, normally never at a loss for words, had very little to add. Mostly he just sat there, twiddling with his wedding ring (hmmm).

“I’m grateful that initially and even now, you can see my fans are supportive of the show,” he finally offered. “And if you look at the numbers, it is starting to skew a little younger. And apparently really growing internationally.”

At least for now, if we can indeed credit Kutcher, he’s only working on a provisional one-season contract. A few months from now, we could be going through this all over again. Alimony is a bitch.

The cast and crew of sophomore hit Mike & Molly — again, including the prolific Lorre — simply radiated sweetness and light, to the point where show creator Mark Roberts felt compelled to stir the pot.

“Questions for Miss McCarthy need to go through her people,” he announced off the top, in false deference to breakout star Melissa McCarthy (also with very little to say, though in her case it was laryngitis).

The runaway success of Mike & Molly, due in no small part to McCarthy’s charm and timing, has enabled them, in this second season, to add more characters to their endearingly eccentric sitcom family.

But its simple premise has remained unchanged. “It’s the story of two people falling in love who never thought they’d get to fall in love,” explains comedian Billy Gardell, McCarthy’s 300-pound teddy-bear co-star.

“If you can’t respond to that,” he suggests, “then something about you is dead inside.”

As far as I’m concerned, another key to Mike & Molly’s success is what they have been able to get away with in thinly veiled scatological content. Last season’s classic “carpet” conversation, some of the more explicit buddy banter . . .

“They’re friends,” counters Gardell. “That’s what friends do. It wouldn’t be funny if it didn’t come from love.”

It wouldn’t happen at all if they were more vigilantly censured by network standards and practices.

“That’s the great thing about network television now,” says Lorre. “No one knows what’s appropriate anymore. It’s a moving target.”

Lorre, if anyone, would know. In addition to Mike & Molly and Men, he produces Big Bang Theory, the hugely popular geek comedy — particularly in Canada, where it rules in the No. 1 spot.

With three concurrent sitcom hits under his banner, Lorre is invariably asked what, if anything, he’ll do next.

“I’m working on a tumour at the moment,” the sardonic showrunner typically deadpanned.

Walrus Magazine Branches Out Into Television

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Adams

(Jan 10, 2012) As the song has it, "nothing's for certain/it could always go wrong." But if I were a betting man, I'd wager that The Walrus, pretty much the country's only mainstream magazine dedicated to long-form current-affairs journalism, is actually going to mark its 10th birthday next year hale and hearty.

Ken Murphy has already bet in the affirmative. Last April, the president of Toronto-based High Fidelity HDTV inked a deal with The Walrus to produce original high-definition documentaries "inspired" by articles in the magazine - articles that have helped earn The Walrus, tempestuous history aside, more than 60 gold and silver national magazine awards since its inception in the fall of 2003.

Fourteen documentaries, ranging from eight to 15 minutes, have been shot as part of the deal - which Walrus publisher Shelley Ambrose describes as "a natural pairing" - and today they begin to be broadcast on eqhd, High Fidelity's 24-hour, digital-only "ideas and culture" channel, available to 600,000 Canadian homes. More films are in the works.

Not surprisingly, there's a promotional mantra for the entire shebang: "Smart on the page, smart on the screen: The magazine you can't wait to read has just become the magazine you can't wait to watch."

For Ambrose, though, this cross-platform deal is not just about smarts; it's about survival in the digital age - broadening audience, diversifying revenue. As she dryly notes, since 2008, none of the interns The Walrus has hired (they're in their mid- to late 20s) has subscribed to a daily newspaper, has a land line or owns a TV set.

"So with respect to Walrus content, we need to be where people are or where they're going. We can't sit here and pull people to be towards us."

For Murphy, who co-founded High Fidelity 10 years ago after a lengthy stint at The Discovery Channel (including four years as president), partnering with The Walrus is a "happy convergence." On a practical level, the short documentaries allow eqhd - a commercial-free channel - to round out its programming (instead of following, say, a 45-minute program with promotions for upcoming shows).

More significantly, the deal gives the channel access to stories and a like-minded audience.

"There are not a lot of magazines out there that see their audience the way The Walrus does, in my humble view," Murphy observes. "They're proudly Canadian, they're proudly intellectual and articulate and I think they lead the media pack in that regard."

Another likely synergy is in the realm of sponsorships. As a non-profit - and with a paid circulation of only 60,000 - The Walrus has increasingly relied on sponsorship dollars to bankroll its magazine and online content. For its July/August 2011 issue, for example, the Bennett Jones law firm paid for an essay by painter Joanne Tod about her portraits of the more than 125 Canadians killed in Afghanistan since 2002. Beermaker Stella Artois is the sponsor for the online humour feature The Walrus Laughs.

For now, the plan is for eq to spin off at least one documentary from an article in each issue of the magazine, which is published 10 times a year. High Fidelity commissioning producers have been holding monthly meetings with Walrus editors since last spring, firming up projects and, in some instances, assigning camera crews to accompany Walrus writers on their interview and research rounds.

The documentaries can also be seen online at walrustv.ca, also launching today. But eventually the new documentaries will be available first on eqhd for an exclusive "window" of five to six weeks each, after which they'll move onto walrustv.ca.

In addition, since last April High Fidelity has been shooting Walrus-published poets such as Linda Besner, Damian Rogers and Jeff Latosik reading their work and broadcasting the results on its "music and art" digital channel, HIFI (formerly Treasure).

High Fidelity also intends to shoot some of the special events The Walrus hosts - the magazine has 28 debates and forums scheduled for 2012 - and edit them into features for eqhd. An example is the debate last October at the Art Gallery of Ontario on the question of whether Toronto can ever be beautiful: eqhd has prepared a 25-minute version of the joust, while walrustv.ca will run its entire 90 minutes as a video podcast.

But that's just for starters. Just before Christmas the independent Toronto-based media company Blue Ant, headed by former Alliance Atlantis executive chairman Michael MacMillan, announced it was purchasing High Definition, including the eqhd service. "Think big," is reportedly what MacMillan told Murphy, who duly relayed the command to Shelley Ambrose.

Asked what that means, Murphy said it likely will result in more Walrus content on TV and longer-form features inspired by The Walrus.

TV TIDBITS

Golden Voice’ Ted Williams Receives New Job Offer

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jan 07, 2012) *Ted Williams, the former homeless man and radio announcer dubbed “the man with the golden voice,” has reason to celebrate the New Year. Williams, who for years struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was discovered as he begged for change in traffic in Columbus, Ohio. He has now accepted a job offer as the voice of New England Cable News (NECN), according to ET online. Williams received a shower of job offers after a YouTube video featuring his resonant voice went viral last year. But the father of nine said it was “too much, too soon.” After undergoing drug and alcohol counseling, it seems Williams is back on track with the help of his girlfriend and sober living coach. And that’s not all—Williams has started a charitable foundation, finished a book proposal and is shopping a reality show called “Second Chance at Life.”

::THEATRE NEWS::

Last Summer's Hot Shows Through January Eyes

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

(Jan 06, 2012) This year's edition of the Next Stage Theatre Festival, a winter spinoff of the Toronto Fringe, offers audiences an opportunity to catch up with two musicals that were runaway Fringe hits last summer: Living With Henry and The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go.

Do these shows still seem like hot properties from the cold distance of January?

Christopher Wilson's Living With Henry is a sensitive exploration of the complex realities of living and loving while HIV positive today - in Canada, anyway, where it is no longer a death sentence, but a chronic illness.

Ryan Kelly, a stringy, sad-eyed actor who most recently impressed in Studio 180's revival of the angry 1980s AIDS drama The Normal Heart, takes on the lead role of Michael, a sweet guy who pays "the price of being nice."

In Wilson's loosely structured show, Michael first falls for Mathew (John Edwards), an HIV-positive partier whose only symptoms are anger and denial. Later, the ethical quandaries reverse as Michael ends up infected and courting HIV-negative Peter (Jay Davis).

In the scenes between the songs, Wilson effectively probes the emotions and tough questions that Michael grapples with: Is it wrong to break up with a guy because he's HIV positive? When should you disclose? How on earth do you talk about all this to your mother? (Mary Kelly is particularly strong as Michael's mom, supportive and scared out of her mind.)

In addition to Michael, his lovers and family, Living with Henry features an unusual extra character: an anthropomorphic virus, played by a muscled, shaved-head and tattooed David Silvestri. Yes, a big, mean, singing and dancing HIV named Henry. This is a fairly audacious conceit, but Wilson never really settles on a clear function for Henry - and so his role shifts confusingly from antagonist to friend to narrator.

There are a couple of clever musical numbers - a tango in a bathhouse, for instance, that's like a raunchy riff on Hernando's Hideaway - but Wilson's songs are generally less effective at exploring the material than the dialogue. "There was a time, I saw the world as children do," Michael sings, setting the tone at the start. The music continues to be sentimental and the lyrics vague or clichéd - there are lessons to be learned, while characters must figure out how to let go and continue to dream.

Living with Henry certainly ends provocatively with Michael turning to his virus to sing: "It's you who helped me to grow." There's a powerful story here, but I'm not sure Wilson's hit on the right well to tell it.

And yet, Living With Henry has artistic ambitions and something to say; The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go does not.

Which is not to say that it pretends to in any way: Tiki is a parody of beach-party movies of the 1960s, as well as - why not? - South Pacific, Gilligan's Island and Scooby-Doo.

Written, directed and choreographed by Allison Beula, an instructor at Toronto's Randolph Academy, the unapologetically silly show's cast is mainly comprised of shirtless and bikini-clad young graduates of that Toronto musical-theatre school.

Sarah Kuzio and Thomas Duplessie star as Freddie and Jeanette, who plan one last big party before the end of summer. The only problem: The bully Big Tuna (Evan Dowling) controls the stretch of beach with the best waves.

The script's main recurring joke is that "woody," once slang for a surfboard, has now become slang for an erection - which gives you a fair idea of the tone of the show, which exists entirely in air quotes.

Jeffery Straker has composed a few new tongue-in-cheek songs, but for me the musical's appeal comes in its resurrection of songs from actual beachsploitation movies with titles like Pajama Party and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. (To stuff a wild bikini, you must find a woman with measurements of 36-22-36, which, the Internet tells me, were those of Annette Funicello.)

Many of these tunes are from the mostly forgotten songwriting team of Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner, but there are also two penned by the Sherman Brothers, who are currently represented in Toronto on an entirely different scale by the Mary Poppins musical. Particularly catchy from their songbook is Hawaiiannette (Hawaiian Love Talk), in which a girl is wooed by a boy who can only say: "Ah-ah-wah-ee-eh, Ah-ah-wah-ee-eh." Ridiculous and mildly culturally insensitive, it's as impossible to get out of your head as Chim Chim Cher-ee or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - ticket buyers beware.

The dance numbers in The Tiki Bikini Beach Paradise Party A-Go-Go are energetic; the singing and acting varies in quality and audibility, but my favourite performance came from Amelia Sirianni's muumuu-clad Widget. It's not difficult to see why Fringe audiences enjoyed this show; personally, however, I've had my fill of ironic, jukebox meta-musicals.

Next Stage Theatre Festival

At Factory Theatre in Toronto

The Next Stage Theatre Festival continues in Toronto until Jan. 15 (fringetoronto.com).

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

When Talk Isn’t Cheap: How To Bring Down Cellphone Costs

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Bryan Borzykowski

(Jan 11, 2012) When Alexandra Nikolajev started her business last January, she didn’t expect that, a year later, cellphone costs would account for nearly 15 per cent of her monthly expenses.

Ms. Nikolajev is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Beautifully Bare Hi-Tech Spa, a Toronto-based “medical aesthetics” company that offers laser hair removal, non-surgical skin tightening and teeth whitening.

The company offers these services in 10 spas in Ontario, and opened its first storefront location last month.

Since Ms. Nikolajev operates her business out of other people’s spas, she and her partner, Karen Doering, are constantly on the phone with spa owners and two employees – technicians who do most of the procedures.

Ms. Nikolajev and her partner are finding they each spend close to $400 a month on mobile costs. "We’re constantly on our phones, and we always go over our minutes,” she says.

Ms. Nikolajev wants to cut her bill by at least half, and is desperate to do it now.

She’s aiming to expand the business – it brought in revenues of $200,000 in 2011 – to more Ontario spas and set up more storefronts. She also plans to partner with salons in Alberta within four to six months, and is worried that if she doesn’t get a grip on her costs now, they’ll skyrocket when she makes the move out West.

Ms. Nikolajev uses roaming data packages and a mobile long-distance plan, and occasionally Google Talk for video conferencing, but she still can’t get her bills lower. She’s spoken to her service provider, but has been told she’s already on the best plan.

“My car is my office,” she says. “But we can’t keep spending as much as we are to talk to each other.”

The Challenge: How can the company cut its mobile costs?

THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN

Tisha Rattos, Toronto-based director of small business marketing at Rogers Communication Inc.

She should consider leveraging Wi-Fi to manage her costs. Getting Wi-Fi calling allows a mobile phone to make and receive calls over an Internet connection, which means she’ll use less talking minutes. If she’s at a spa that has Wi-Fi, she should use their connection and reduce the minutes she uses, which, in turn, will keep her bill down.

She should also consider investing in portable wireless Internet, which allows her to create a Wi-Fi zone wherever she is. All she needs is a power source and her team can connect multiple devices to the one Wi-Fi connection, including tablets, laptops or smartphones, over a secure network.

Ted Gorsline, president of Toronto-based MobileVantage, which helps companies lower cellphone costs

Consider using a voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) app, such as Skype Talkatone or Zerofone for outbound calls. Google Talk can only be used via computer, though it will be available for smartphones in Canada at some point.

Depending on how many calls they make, they could reduce their bill by 50 per cent by just doing that. The technology isn’t where it needs to be yet to rely on VOIP for inbound calls, unfortunately.

Also make use of a messaging app. BlackBerry Messenger and, now, iMessage allow people to send messages to BlackBerry and iPhones, respectively, without incurring texting costs. A cross-platform messaging service, like Whatsapp and Kik allows people to send messages to any phone for free. By doing this, she won’t have to pay for a text message again.

Ken Walford, president of Winnipeg-based WR Display & Packaging, who cut his mobile bill by 20 per cent.

We put all of our BlackBerrys under one plan and now they have free calling between each other, day and night. We can talk to each other for free anywhere in Canada and it doesn’t take away from our base minutes.

When she sets up her office, she should think about getting a 1-800 number. We have a couple of them for our offices and, sometimes, when I call the office, I call that number. If she has an 800 number, she won’t pay long distance to call the office when she’s out of town.

She should also make frequent calls to her provider to see if there are new promotions. I do that all the time. That’s how I reduced my bill. My bill is also $800 a month – but I’m paying for eight phones.

THREE THINGS BEAUTIFULLY BARE SHOULD DO NOW

Use Wi-Fi calling

With this service, you can make calls over a wireless network, as long as Internet access is available, and you have a Wi-Fi-enabled phone. Calls made over Wi-Fi don't count against your minutes.

Use VOIP apps

Download an app, like Skype, Talkatone or Zerofone, to make outbound calls.

Use a messaging app

Blackberry Messenger, iMessage or a cross-platform messaging app allows people to send each other messages without incurring texting costs.

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Becoming A Mac Gamer

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Chad Sapieha

(Jan 05, 2012) I'm a gamer, and I'm strongly considering switching to a Mac. It all begins with a Christmas story.

My family sets up for the holidays early and clings to them for as long as reasonably possible. Our tree goes up in the middle of November and comes down on January 7th, Ukrainian Christmas. We purchased an enormous fake fir this year that forced us to move our couch about a metre back, cutting off access to my desk and desktop computer, which are located directly behind the sofa.

A work-at-home dad, I knew this would cause problems. However, I planned to do most of my holiday work (and gaming) on my Alienware m11x notebook.

This didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped.

While I adore using Alienware's sleek and powerful mini-laptop on the road, working on its slightly-smaller-than-standard keyboard and viewing its 11-inch screen day in and day out proved a triple strain on my eyes, wrists, and brain.

But I had another option. I happened to have a new MacBook Pro with an AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics card, four gigs of memory, and a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 on loan for a review [http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/2011-tech-gift-guide/home-entertainment/thunderbolt-monitor-delivers-a-higher-than-high-def-experience/article2260192] I'd written about Apple's new Thunderbolt display in November.

I'd been using it in the evenings for web surfing, media editing and viewing, and casual gaming. I'd previously considered using it for work, but a combination of Mac OS X quirks (convoluted right-clicking and forward backspacing turn me off), a dissatisfaction with Microsoft Word for Mac, and an inability to run certain Windows-only publishing tools required for my job made it impractical.

So I set myself to the task of making it usable for my daily routine. That meant I had to use Apple's Boot Camp utility to install a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate on a separate partition, which would give me the ability to run the software I use for work, and, just as importantly, install and play some Windows-exclusive games I hoped to enjoy during my holiday break (chief among them Star Wars: The Old Republic, a game I was slated to review in the new year).

Things went better than I thought they would.

Installing Windows via Boot Camp was a snap, thanks largely to Apple automatically providing all of the necessary hardware drivers. The whole process took under an hour, most of which I spent watching TV while Windows installed.

Switching between operating systems as often as I do has proven a bit of a hassle (in addition to consuming time and forcing me to quit all open applications, it also requires me to unplug the keyboard and mouse I use while running Windows, neither of which play nicely with Mac OS X), but I got used to it.

And I can't deny that I get a bit of a thrill running Windows on Apple hardware, which I'm sure many Apple fans still view as blasphemous.

The important thing, though, is that I found the MacBook Pro with both Mac OS X and Windows 7 installed felt like a more complete computing solution than anything I'd ever had before.

And it made for great gaming.

I've spent more than 40 hours playing Star Wars: The Old Republic at its highest settings and have encountered nary a local technical hitch. I can't comfortably push the resolution high enough to take advantage of the Thunderbolt display's full 2560-by-1440 capability, but it exploits the notebook's native 1440-by-900 quite well.

I also installed and ran a copy of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim just for fun. I couldn't maximize all graphics settings, but it definitely looked better than the console edition to which I'm accustomed, showing more detail, superior draw distances, and less pop-up.

I've had a lot of fun playing games while running Mac OS X, as well. I've taken advantage of the alarmingly wallet-sapping App Store to download a few older favourites, including Sid Meier's Civilization V: Campaign Edition (the vast maps of which looked absolutely grand viewed on the Thunderbolt) and Batman: Arkham Asylum, as well as less resource-intensive (but equally entertaining) indie games like Trine 2, Limbo, and DeathSpank: The Baconing.

Long story short, I ended up spending more time playing computer games this holiday than I have in any previous holiday in recent memory. On a Mac. Who'd have thought?

Of course, I realize Mac gaming won't be for everyone. Many PC gamers derive as much fun from regularly upgrading and tricking out their rigs - not really an option for Mac owners - as they do playing games. This is a fine and even educational hobby that can be as satisfying as building model rockets or remote control helicopters.

I was once one of these people, but that's no longer the case. I'm at a point where simply swapping computers once every few years feels comfortable, even if it means I'm occasionally forced to settle on medium or high graphics settings rather than extreme. Truth be told, I haven't had a PC capable of running the most graphically advanced games at maximum settings for years, anyway.

Others won't be able to justify the price, and I can see their point, too. The more powerful Macs needed for PC gaming tend to be, part-for-part, a fair bit pricier than both custom-built and off-the-shelf Windows PCs with similar specs. My MacBook Pro loaner is worth about $2,250.

Personally, I'm willing to chalk up much of the extra cost to the beautiful and robust industrial design, which, I won't lie, holds significant value for me. The ability to switch between Windows and Mac OS X (both of which I legitimately like and find different uses for) is worth something, too. That said, I can understand why the high price might rankle feathers among those with tight budgets or who have no interest at all in running Mac OS X.

In the end, gaming on a Mac doesn't make sense for everyone, but it does for a guy like me. The next time I'm in the market for a computer, my search will, for the first time, include a visit to an Apple store.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition A Frag Down Memory Lane

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Chad Sapieha

(Nov 29, 2011) It’s been a year of remastered and remade video game classics. From the stereoscopic reinvention of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for Nintendo 3DS to the subtler overhaul and HD-ification of Sony’s classic Ico and The Shadow of the Colossus games, players who like to cast a wistful backwards glance at games of yesteryear have been in for one retro treat after another.

Xbox enthusiasts finally get their turn to revisit the past with 343 Industries’ remake of
Halo: Combat Evolved, the game that catapulted Microsoft’s first home console into the spotlight. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is a scene-for-scene high-def redo that remains so faithful to the original that the developers were able to include a novel feature that allows gamers to switch between the shiny new candy coating of the remake and the original’s 10-year-old graphics at the tap of a button.

But as true to its source as it may be, you can still expect plenty of minor tweaks and upgrades.

Secret video clips – memories recorded by 343 Guilty Spark, halo’s ball-shaped artificial intelligence – are waiting to be discovered by players who explore every nook and cranny of the ring world. These are the only pieces of new narrative content, and run the risk of going unfound by those who simply zoom through the campaign.

Less likely to go unnoticed are the new graphics, which are light years beyond what was possible when the original game was released. The outdoor areas of the halo are now alive with fluffy cloud formations, sparkling water, and denser foliage while its innards glow with exotic and detailed alien devices. It’s not quite on par with the graphical showmanship of games like Batman: Arkham City, but it looks every bit like a modern game.

Even more impressive is that it also plays like a modern game – this despite the fact that the interface and mechanics have been left pretty much unchanged, save for the addition of a handful of optional Kinect voice commands (you can now say “grenade” to throw a grenade or “change weapon” to switch between your two guns).

The controls are tight and responsive, and our allies and enemies are shockingly intelligent. Elites are viciously aggressive and unpredictable killers, while the weaker grunts that follow them are smart enough to know to flee if their captains are dispatched. Even the game’s weapons – including the famous magnum, which is just as gloriously overpowered as you remember – feel in synch with modern shooter expectations.

That the core experience still feels so contemporary is a clear testament to both the brilliance of the original game and the influence it’s had on the first-person shooter genre over the last decade.

That’s not to say every element of the game has aged with similar grace. The often repetitive, cookie-cutter alien environments – which begin in Assault on the Control Room and only get worse as we progress through to Library – prove at least as annoying as they did back in 2001. And the Flood...well, they’re still the Flood; bereft of personality and frustratingly kamikaze-like in conduct.

Of course, as has always been the case in Halo games, the campaign is only one half of the experience. The other is multiplayer. And while the original Halo didn’t facilitate online play (save for those adventurous few who employed mods to connect with similarly tech savvy players), it did offer several enormously entertaining local multiplayer modes. Indeed, whether it was just me and a couple of friends playing in split-screen mode or the frequent LAN parties I attended that saw multiple TVs and Xboxes moved into the same room, multiplayer sessions were a highlight of the Halo experience.

Sadly, 343 Industries has completely omitted these local competitive modes. In place of local multiplayer we’re given a robust online multiplayer experience powered by the same engine used by Halo: Reach, which means you can expect to see the series’ more modern sandbox-y elements – think bubble shields and jetpacks – as well as features like the Forge, which facilitates basic map editing.

The servers were empty every time I tried to log on during my pre-release evaluation, so all I could do was wander about empty levels, many of which are recreations of popular multiplayer maps from Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, such as Hang ‘em High, which is set inside an alien facility on the ring world, and the canyon wall-enclosed Beaver Creek.

These proven maps are sure to deliver plenty of online fun, especially for diehard fans of the franchise’s newer instalments.

Having played many of this year’s remakes, I’ve slowly come to realize that to compare any of them to the games upon which they are based is probably folly. To do so implies the desire to recapture the original experience, which is impossible. Aside from the simple fact that we already know how they end and what to anticipate along the journey, we must also take into consideration that when we first played these games we were younger and had different expectations and desires regarding our interactive entertainment.

Best simply to appreciate these new releases for what they are: High-tech trips down memory lane.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Platform: Xbox 360

Developer: 343 Industries

Publisher: Microsoft

ESRB: Mature

Score: 7/10

Connecting The Dots (And Apps And Pads And TVs)

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Omar El Akkad

(Nov 29, 2011) Alongside the dozens of razor-thin TV sets and ultra-fast smartphones populating Samsung's booth at the world's largest technology trade show are a couple of washers and dryers. The company hopes you'll buy them in part because they come with a nifty perk: You can control them from your Samsung phone.

"I don't think consumers ask for these things," says Paul Brannen, Samsung's vice-president of business solutions and mobile communications. "But when you put them out there, they start to see the benefits."

Even with some 20,000 new products due to be unveiled at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, this year's instalment of the tech industry's biggest trade show isn't about selling you a single device - it's about selling you an entire ecosystem.

Take Sony's sprawling, football field-sized booth at the CES convention space in Las Vegas. Despite row upon row of new tablets, TVs and smartphones, the pitch here is about what Peter Farmer, the company's head of North American marketing, calls a "four screens" strategy. Sony is pushing its massive store of audio and video content through pay-per-month streaming services that let you play that content on just about any device. Pay for the service and you can easily consume it on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or TV - as long as all those devices are also purchased from Sony. In effect, it's a massive all-in bet, and many of CES's biggest exhibitors are making similar wagers.

This year, the stakes are highest for Microsoft, which is looking to set the stage for the launch of Windows 8. Still dominant in the waning personal-computer market, Microsoft has been criticized for showing up late to the smartphone and tablet party. Windows 8, the newest version of the ubiquitous operating system, is the company's attempt to catch up to the likes of Apple and Google. Like those players, Microsoft hopes its operating system will function as a sort of central nervous system for customers' communication and entertainment, residing on everything from the smartphone to the PC to the gaming system.

Microsoft's gambit will determine more than just its own future. Nokia, one of the largest mobile companies in the world, has bet the farm on the success of Windows-powered phones.

But given the wave of "connectedness" products that seek to provide a seamless experience across multiple devices, the biggest winner at CES may well be a company that doesn't even show up to the event.

Myriad big-name players, ranging from Sony to Samsung, are using Google's Android operating system to power everything from laptops to phones to TVs. Indeed, so-called "smart" TVs, which give users access to a variety of Web-based services, can be seen all over the showroom floor, and residing inside many of them is Google's software. And perhaps for the first time at CES, companies are showing off Android-powered tablets that don't pale in comparison to Apple's iPad.

"I don't expect to see any barn-burners, but there's reason to be optimistic," says Sarah Rotman Epps, a senior analyst with Forrester. She points out that the percentage of U.S. tablet shoppers who say they prefer Android as the operating system on a tablet has doubled from 9 to 18 per cent between January and September, 2011, giving the once-dormant operating system a chance in a category currently dominated by the iPad.

But for all the talk of product launches and unveilings, there are very few blockbuster announcements at this year's CES - if the next iPad is on display here somewhere, it has been lost in the noise of some 3,000 competing exhibitors.

Indeed, the future of the tech industry's biggest show is itself the subject of uncertainty. This is the last year that Microsoft's CEO will present the opening keynote. Major players such as Google, Apple and Facebook largely avoid the conference entirely.

Microsoft, like many other major firms, has a hard time tailoring product-release schedules to the CES early January date - many companies would like to release their biggest products closer to a major shopping season.

"In an always-on, Internet-driven tech news cycle, the big Las Vegas reveal no longer holds as much sway as it once did," says Carmi Levy, an independent tech analyst. "Microsoft's departure won't kill CES, but it will force the show to more rapidly evolve if it hopes to remain as relevant next year and beyond."

TRENDING AT CES

Wearable Technology

This somewhat amorphous category covers everything from wristband exercise monitors to super-powered wristwatches. Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps points out that three of the finalists at the annual CES "Last Gadget Standing" competition fell into this category: an Android-powered watch, a wristband health monitor and an ear-mounted camcorder.

Ultrabooks

Very thin, very light laptops such as the MacBook Air are the subject of much hype at this year's show. The devices, which hover around $1,000, are popular because of their portability and stylishness, but are still a little too expensive for many buyers, who instead opt for cheaper, albeit chunkier, laptops. Research firm Forrester expects to see about 50 different ultrabook models on display at CES this year.

Automotive Apps

Many of the biggest exhibitors at CES are related to the car industry. QNX, the operating-system company owned by Research In Motion, does a lot of its business with car companies, building their dashboard and entertainment systems. As technology analyst Carmi Levy points out, this year a number of car companies are abandoning their own proprietary in-car software for third-party platforms that can accommodate popular devices such as Apple's iPod and iPhone. "Why design something yourself when you can simply use whatever's out there? Sure, there's the risk of commoditization, but as systems become ever more complex, automotive vendors may have no choice."

BY THE NUMBERS

20,000

Number of new products expected to be launched by the time the show closes on Friday

140,000

Number of people expected to visit the show

3,000

Estimated number of exhibitors

1.8 million

Square feet the conference covers, which is equivalent to 31 football fields.

SMART TELEVISIONS

As the price of traditional TVs plummets, and with it, profits for TV manufacturers, everyone from Lenovo to LG, Sony to Samsung, is hopping on the Web-ready TV bandwagon. These TVs, which range from $1,000 to $8,000, give users access to nearly unlimited content from the Internet. But more importantly for the manufacturers, the always-connected sets allow them to bundle content-streaming services, such as Sony's "Video Unlimited," which gives customers access to thousands of movies.

Companies are also pushing voice-recognition technology as a means of controlling the TV set, something popularized in the past year by the introduction of Microsoft's Kinect, which allowed users to give voice command. Tech firms have tried pushing smart TVs before, but consumers have been weary of paying thousands of dollars for a new TV, especially since many of them just bought their first high-definition sets a few years ago.

::OTHER NEWS::

Toronto Lags In Municipal Funding For The Arts: Study

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Adams

(Jan 11, 2012) A study of municipal investment in culture in five major Canadian cities indicates that Toronto, our largest metropolis, is faltering in efforts to increase per capita funding while the others - Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Calgary - demonstrate a more robust commitment to the arts.

Prepared by Hamilton-based Hill Strategies Research in association with the five municipalities, the report, released this week, compares data gathered between 2006 and 2009. Toronto's civic government spent $19 per person on culture in 2009, a 12 per cent increase from 2006, whereas Montreal's tally was $55, up 34 per cent from 2006, and Calgary's $42, a 55 per cent increase.

Indeed, per capita-wise, Toronto ranked last in 2008 and 2009 among the five cities surveyed and third, behind Montreal and Vancouver, in 2006 and 2007.

In 2003, Toronto city council agreed to try to reach a per capita investment in culture of $25 by 2008. At that time, the city's per capita investment, in both operating and capital expenditures, was $14.64. By 2008 the statistic was only $18. The $25 target was affirmed again by council in votes in August 2010 and May 2011 - but based on the Hill Strategies report, it could be the early 2020s before that goal is reached, if ever. Council, in fact, is facing a 10 per cent cut to Toronto's arts budget proposed by the city's budget committee.

According to Hill Strategies, the five-city average in per capita municipal investment for 2009 was $35, an increase of 46 per cent from 2006. Pacing that statistic was Calgary, which saw its per capita cultural investment grow by an impressive 175 per cent (to $42 from $15), the largest, on average, of the five cities surveyed.

The report also found that in 2009, 34 per cent of all "cultural workers" in Canada lived in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, with the B.C.'s largest city having the highest concentration (7.2 per cent), followed by Montreal (6.4 per cent) and Toronto (5.9 per cent). The overall average for "cultural workers" in the Canadian labour force is 3.3 per cent.

The study also touched on library spending: $53 per capita was invested in library operations in the five surveyed cities in 2009. Only two cities - Toronto and Vancouver - topped that national average, with $69 and $61 per capita, respectively. However, municipal support for libraries seems largely sluggish or flat: Vancouver's per capita investment in libraries for 2006 was only $60, Montreal's budged only 16 per cent, to $43 from $37 three years previous.

Net per capita municipal investment in culture in five Canadian cities:

Montreal: $55 (2009); $41 (2006)

Vancouver: $47 (2009); $33 (2006)

Calgary: $42 (2009); $15 (2006)

Ottawa: $28 (2009); $15 (2006)

Toronto: $19 (2009); $17 (2006)

Source: Hill Strategies Research Inc.

Harry Belafonte Book Details Poverty, Racism And Fame

Source: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian


(Jan 11, 2012) If a man is known by the company he keeps, then
Harry Belafonte is well worth knowing.

His recent autobiography, My Song (Random House) is a gripping piece of work, not just for the man’s own telling of the rags to riches tale that’s been his life, but for the assortment of historical figures that he has been close to.

Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, the list is as long as it is impressive and it runs alongside the life story of a man who felt that “the major purpose my celebrity served was to allow me a certain level of influence on the social and political stages of the world.”

The voice that comes over the phone from Manhattan is unmistakable: a warm, reassuring sound with just a bit of edge; honey from the comb but with the bee still buzzing nearby.

Despite the fact that music from the Caribbean made him famous, Belafonte was born in Harlem, in 1927, into poverty that grew so dire during the Depression that his parents sent him to live with his grandmother in Jamaica for eight years because “as bad as things were there, they were better than in America.”

Belafonte has never allowed himself to forget what it felt like to grow up with “poverty so sharp you could taste it” and has always stressed the importance of “righteous anger that doesn’t spill over into violence.”

“Anger is not the villain here. Anger is the necessity. It’s what you do with the anger that’s important in the final analysis. For those who are oppressed without anger, there is no end to their oppression.”

When asked what was more influential in shaping him, racism or poverty, he chooses his words carefully.

“There was a parallel relationship between the two. I was aware of the cruelties of race while I was being smothered by the conditions of poverty. You had to be blind not to see that in America back then the culture of racism was always there.

“Racism isn’t always a body hanging from a tree. It’s a daily encounter with where you can’t go, what you can’t do, who you can’t talk to.”

He served in the navy during World War II and used his veteran’s assistance to begin studying theatre, “but once that money ran out, I was lost. I had no skills. I wasn’t a mechanic or a carpenter. I was a janitor’s assistant. I could scrub a hall or pull garbage. That was it.”

He could sing, but it took him a while to figure out what his niche would be.

“I was hunting for my identity. I loved Ella Fitzgerald, but I didn’t have her class so I drifted towards folk music.

“The only trouble was that I didn’t look like Lead Belly, I didn’t sing like Woody Guthrie. Who was I? They came up with the whole notion of selling me as an islands singer, but I resisted it. “

Belafonte finally gave in, with a wife and two daughters to feed, so he recorded songs like “Matilda” and “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and by 1954, he was famous and on his way to being very rich.

“Once I realized I had acquired celebrity, I felt I could express myself more freely. The support of my fan base gave me a great sense of power.”

Belafonte freely associated himself with left-wing causes and artists who were labouring under Senator McCarthy’s black list, like the great singer and actor Robeson.

“He was a very paternal, all-embracing man. He alerted me, he awakened my sensibilities to what possibly lay down the road. He wanted to make sure that what happened to him would never happen to me.”

He learned Robeson’s lessons well and, though the FBI and the CIA kept trying to brand Belafonte as a communist during those “red scare” years, no accusations ever stuck.

Belafonte became very involved with the Civil Rights movement, plunging into the heart of the turmoil in 1964 after the murder of volunteer activists Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. Belafonte raised money, brought it personally into the Deep South and had to outrun the Ku Klux Klan for his life.

“I had a great fear for the world at that time,” he recalls. “I just knew that bombs would be flying. Africa was in motion, wars of liberation were everywhere, the time was ripe for destruction.”

Thanks to his great friend, Martin Luther King, Jr., the centre held, but when King was assassinated in 1968, Belafonte immediately flew to Memphis “to help see that the world did not fall into complete havoc.”

The rest of his life has been devoted to that crusade, with the music and films that made him a star taking up less and less of his time.

“In America, the culture is imbued with so many false gods and altars of worship that we must try to find new leaders who can reach the people.”

Is Barack Obama one of them? “I have questions about the president, but I am praying that he will show us soon the evidence of the strength I know he possesses.

“All that the opposition has to offer is a tangible, visible nightmare. I believe that I am still living so that I can help turn around this world we live in. And I also believe that we will eventually fall into a social rhythm that is far more embracing, far more compassionate.

“It is what I have to believe. It is what we all have to believe, if we are to survive.”

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Sister Islands: Off the Caribbean’s Beaten Path

Source: www.thestar.com - Josephine Matyas


(Jan 6, 2012) HILLSBOROUGH, CARRIACOU—There is no one on my
beach. Not a living soul. No swimmers, no loungers, no beach vendors. No one. This is the Caribbean experience many winter-weary Canadians crave.

Finding the deserted beach experience off the beaten path (
OTBP) is not difficult, but it does require a little extra travel—usually a short ferry ride or a short inter-island flight. OTBP destinations are often small sister islands to the mainstream brochure destinations. In all cases, it’s worth the extra effort, especially if you embrace the mantra that the journey is part of the overall travel experience.

The good news is the OTBP Caribbean destinations still come in all snack brackets. If you want all the bells and whistles, five-star service and Frette linens, there’s a property waiting for you. If you’re spending your waking hours in (or under) the water and just want a basic bed to fall into at night, there’s the perfect destination for you as well.

Here are a few samplers of OTBP properties in the high, medium and low price range.

PRICEY

Anguilla

Stats: 35 square miles; population 15,000.

Connect through: St. Maarten, www.ivisitanguilla.com

Getting there: Take the 25-minute ferry service from St. Maarten. Or, if you’ve got deep pockets, you can land a private jet at Anguilla’s small airport.

Best deserted beach: Sandy Island ( www.mysandyisland.com), a tiny offshore cay with one building, the open air Sandy Island Restaurant. Before it was an idyllic distraction for a couple-dozen tourists a day, local fishermen would pull ashore on the uninhabited sandbar for a break from their day on the water. There’s a generator to provide necessary power for the kitchen, cases of rum, beer and soft drinks, and a menu of lobster, chicken, baby back ribs and local red snapper. Happiness, a small water taxi, shuttles guests back and forth from the Anguilla mainland.

Don’t miss: The Heritage Collection Museum, the personal collection of local historian, Mr. Colville Petty. Armed with a Masters degree in History, Petty has archived the days of colonization by the English, the era of plantations, and the installation of electricity in the 1970s.

Where to stay: Viceroy Anguilla ( www.viceroyanguilla.com) is a stylish, design-driven slice of pure luxury. The A-list of guests include Paul Simon, Alec Baldwin, Paul McCartney and Michael Jordan (who likes to shoot hoops on the resort’s court). There are guestrooms and self-sustaining villas (including some with a pilot suite) staffed by butlers and chefs. Daily rates from $995 in the high season.

MODERATE

Barbuda

Stats: 62 square miles; population 1,500

Connect through: Antigua, www.antigua-barbuda.org

Getting there: The Barbuda Express ferry does one return trip a day Tuesday through Saturday ( www.antiguaferries.com) – $41 each way for the 90-minute trip. In 15-minutes you can be there by air: ABM Air has two flights a day ( www.abm-air.com, $95 round trip).

Best deserted beach: Low Bay was voted The #1 Beach in the Caribbean by Caribbean World Magazine. Bring sunscreen.

Don’t miss: Barbuda’s Frigate Bird Sanctuary is accessible only by boat. The sanctuary is home to over 5,000 frigate birds, known for their enormous wingspan and colourful courtship manners.

Where to stay: The four secluded beachfront bungalows at North Beach are on 20-kilometres of deserted pink sand beach, accessible only by boat. No concierge, gift shop, spa, jet skis, swim-up pool bar or Internet. Daily all inclusive rates from $500 in the high season. www.barbudanorthbeach.com

BUDGET

Carriacou

Stats: 13 square miles; population 7,000

Connect through: Grenada, www.grenadagrenadines.com

Getting there: The Osprey ferry service ( www.ospreylines.com) connects Grenada and Carriacou twice a day (less on weekends). Return fare for the two-hour trip is $62. The ferry is a great way to meet the friendly locals and get some tips about the island. There’s also small plane service ( www.svgair.com) two or three times a day.

Best deserted beach: Paradise Beach, just a few kilometres south of the town of Hillsborough. Paradise is a long curve of mostly deserted white sand with clean, clear turquoise waters. You’ll share the space with a few fisherman and some locals.

Don’t miss: Rent a 4WD jeep to explore the island. Head to the village of Windward, where you’ll find McLeods and McKenzies – Scots settled here and started a wood boat building tradition now considered among the best in the Caribbean. Water taxi operators offer tours to the Marine Protected Area, encompassing oyster beds and some fantastic snorkelling off Sandy Island.

Where to stay: There are no resort properties on Carriacou, just small local inns and guesthouses. Ade’s Dream Guesthouse ( www.adesdream.com) on the main street in Hillsborough is über-budget ($31 and up) for a clean but basic room with kitchen access. The island’s home-stay program is an authentic local experience – for about $50 (double room) visitors stay with a local family ( www.carriacoumaroon.com).

Josephine Matyas is a Kingston Ont. based freelance writer whose trip was subsidized by Anguilla Tourism and Antigua & Barbuda Tourism. She can be found online at www.writerwithoutborders.com.

Ski In The Morning, Surf In The Afternoon

Source: www.thestar.com - Kathleen Kenna


(Jan 6, 2012) MOUNT WASHINGTON, B.C.—There is nothing like this
mountain in all of Canada.

Ski at this
Vancouver Island resort, and see the sun sparkling on the Pacific Ocean.

Or, to be accurate, gawk at Georgia Strait, from the slopes.

This is such a wonder, that, standing ski-less on the mountain, my legs ache to be skiing powder (the entire backside of the resort).

The 360-degree view is so awesome, it makes my heart pound. Truly, it makes me proud to be a Canadian.

The strait is brilliant blue in the morning sun, especially set against the lush emerald of the Comox Valley below.

Pacific Ocean to one side, and Strathcona Provincial Park to the other: This is more impressive in the seeing, than the telling. The mountain hemlocks and yellow cedar here are originals.

Not many places in the world where you can ski and see real, old-growth forest.

Unlike the replanted forests of much of Europe and North America, these are genuine, century-plus trees.

Even better, the neighbors include bald eagles and ravens larger than puppies.

“It doesn’t get better than this,” says Brent Curtain of Mount Washington Alpine Resort.

(If it does, let me know—I want to go there next.)

There are so many mountains in this part of Canada, that residents of central Vancouver Island call this “the spine” of their home.

There are slopes as far as the eye can see, and they’re dusted with snow year-round.

On a clear day, you can see Mount Baker to the south, in Washington state, also draped all year in snow.

Mount Washington gets so much of the white stuff, that skiers were still able to go top to bottom on July 1, Canada Day. The resort was open for skiing, sliding, and boarding until July 3.

Couldn’t do that at most resorts in North America.

There was so much snow, workers were digging it off cycling trails in mid-July for the opening of the resort’s bike park.

Mount Washington Alpine Resort, open since 1979, is usually open for snow sports from Dec. to April.

La Nina blasted so much snow on the mountain these last two years, summer skiing extends longer and longer.

Mount Washington’s official opening day for skiing was Dec. 9. When more than 200 cms. of snow were dumped here in just three weeks last month, locals raced to the slopes, and official opening day was moved up to Dec. 2.

This is the third consecutive winter that ski season has started earlier than scheduled.

In addition to opening 68 of its 81 runs—from beginner to expert—the resort opened more than 20 kms of cross-country runs at its Nordic Centre, and two tubing lanes for snow-sliding at its Ozone Tubing Park.

“Mount Washington has the deepest snow in the world,” Curtain boasts.

The snowpack last year was described as “legendary”. At more than 19 metres, it was the deepest snowpack in resort history.

In comparison, the resort usually averages 11 metres of snow a year.

Mount Washington is so cool, more than two dozen international ski teams lived and trained here before the 2010 Olympics.

There are more than 55 kms of cross-country trails—groomed daily—on Mount Washington. This apparently excited the German and Swedish nordic teams, training for the Olympics.

“We’re one of the top-tier nordic facilities in North America,” Curtain says.

The national cross-country team trains here; Canada’s Olympic biathletes trained here too.

So do Paralympians. Mount Washington is known for its accessibility to skiers with disabilities, and is increasingly becoming a destination for Canadians and Americans, wounded at war.

“To say we’re Canada’s best-kept secret is a bit over-used,” Curtain says. “We’re off the beaten track ... that makes Mount Washington an authentic Canadian experience.”

This is such a Canadian destination, only 2% of visitors are international.

“It’s the islanders’ own mountain,” says Curtain, who has lived and worked at ski resorts at Whistler, Japan and Australia.

Mount Washington Alpine Resort is so huge, at more than 688 hectares, parts are still under-developed.

The resort spent $3 million this year, shaving some of the mountain to erect four “magic carpets” for beginners. They’re at “Easy Acres”, a new learning centre that opens Dec. 15.

Curtain says Mount Washington boasts the largest network of “magic carpets” in North America.

They’re like moving sidewalks in airports, built on a gentle grade to help newcomers get their balance, and get used to wearing skis.

The “magic carpets” are covered, with see-through canopies for staying dry while admiring the view.

Locals say they can ski here some weekdays, and have runs to themselves. They delight in bragging about the island’s temperate climate in winter.

Kathleen Kenna is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon and blogs at http://tripsfor2.wordpress.com. Her trip was subsidized by Tourism Vancouver Island.

JUST THE FACTS

ARRIVING Mount Washington Alpine Resort is about 30 minutes from the Comox Valley Airport (YQQ) and roughly 2.5 hours from Victoria.

SLEEPING Bear & Deer Lodge has 4,000 rooms in chalets, condos, townhouses and log homes at the resort. Stay & Ski packages start at $228 for two nights and two lift tickets.

SKIING Lift tickets, for day skiing, are $68 for adults, $55 for youth and seniors, $35.25 for children. Night passes from 7-10 p.m.: $21.50, $17.50 and $11.25.

DINING Resort food ranges from noodle bowls at Sushi Mon to beavertails and Quebec favourites. Alpine Cafe serves big salads and hot meals with a stunning view of the mountains. Highly recommended off-mountain is Locals, a new restaurant owned by Chef Ronald St. Pierre. It focuses on everything local, including photo displays of Comox Valley and Vancouver Island farmers, vintners and other producers. The seasonal menu runs from Qualicum Cheeseworks cheese and Big D Bees honey to organic greens, herbs and vegetables. Seafood, bison, pork, beef, lamb, and poultry are all local, too. 364 8th St., Courtenay. 250-338-6493. www.localscomoxvalley.com.

RESEARCHING 888-231-1499 or 250-338-1386. www.mountwashington.ca. For other accommodations, call Tourism Mount Washington, 877-754-4661. www.discovermountwashington.com.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Christine Nesbitt Strikes Speed Skating Gold

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Jan 11, 2012) Calgary — Christine Nesbitt posted her best 500-metre time of the season Sunday to win a fourth gold medal at the Canadian sprint speedskating championships.

The London, Ont., native skated under 38 seconds in both runs. Her times of 37.997 and 37.884 brought her in at 75.88. Calgary's Anastasia Bucsis took the silver in 76.70 and Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., captured the bronze in 77.57.

The men's 500-metre race was won by Edmonton's Jamie Gregg with a combined time of 69.50 seconds (34.69, 34.81). Montreal's Muncef Ouardi was second in 69.82 and Lacroix-Boisvert of Sherbrooke, Que., third in 70.09.

Nesbitt also won the women's 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000-metre races in Calgary this week.

She will go for her fourth straight 1,000 victory this season on the World Cup circuit Jan. 21-22 in Salt Lake City. Following that comes the world sprint championships, back in Calgary the following weekend.

Gregg secured his spot at the worlds by winning both the men's 500- and 1,000-metre Canadian titles this week.

Speedskating Canada will announce who will join Nesbitt and Gregg on the host's team for the world sprint championships later this week.

Winnipeg's Tyler Derraugh won Sunday's 20-lap mass start men's race in 10 minutes 32.33 seconds. Philippe Riopel of Repentigny, Que., won the silver (10:33.15), while Leo Landry of Chelsea, Que., took the bronze (10:33.45). The women's 15-lap mass start gold went to Tori Spence of Kamloops, B.C., in 8:57.07. Lauren McGuire of Ottawa took second (8:57.51) and Ashley Nelson of Nelson B.C., third (8:57.07).

Stricker Takes First Win Of 2012 PGA Season

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(Jan 06, 2012) KAPALUA, Hawaii - Steve Stricker, ice-cool when it mattered most, recovered from a surprisingly slow start to clinch his 12th PGA Tour victory by three shots at the season-opening Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Monday.

Five strokes in front going into the final round, Stricker had his lead trimmed to just one early on the front nine before he regained control with five birdies in the last 11 holes.

The American, who moved to number five in the world rankings with the win in the elite winners-only field of 27 at the Kapalua Resort, closed with a four-under-par 69 to post a 23-under total of 269.

“It was tough,” Stricker, 44, said greenside after being embraced by his wife, Nicky, and his daughters, Bobbi and Isabella. “I never let up today.

“It’s always tough trying to win and it’s even more tough when you have a lead like I had. I played good though.

“Overall I am very proud of what I did today and this week. And it’s always cool to get a hug from your family walking off after you win.”

Scotsman Martin Laird birdied five of the last seven holes for a 67 to finish alone in second place in the limited-field tournament which brings together PGA Tour winners from the previous season.

Stricker’s playing partner Jonathan Byrd, the defending champion, signed off with a 68 to tie for third with fellow American Webb Simpson (68).

However, no one could catch Stricker over the hilly back nine on the Plantation Course where the American proved to be the master for all four days, covering those holes in an aggregate of 17 under.

He finished off the tournament in style, coolly rolling in a seven-foot birdie putt at the par-five last before pumping his right fist in delight and then doffing his cap to the crowd.

“I played really steady today,” Stricker said after booking his place at Kapalua for next year. “I was proud the way I hit the ball, not so proud of the way I putted it but proud the way I hit it.”

It was Stricker's 12th career PGA victory, this third in the last six months and ninth since he turned 40.

For the second consecutive day, he had to recover from a slow start, having watched his five-shot cushion after round two also trimmed to one.

He came under early pressure in the final round as Laird and Byrd each recorded two birdies in the first four holes to trim his overnight lead to three shots.

Simpson, who had birdied the third, then rolled in a 40-foot eagle putt at the par-five fifth to lurk just two off the pace.

Stricker, who had parred the first four holes, wasted a golden opportunity to birdie the par-five fifth when he three-putted from long range after reaching the green in two.

He then surprisingly bogeyed the short par-four sixth, duffing a pitch from just 48 yards in the right rough and missing a five-footer to save par, for his lead to be cut to one.

Stricker finally picked up his first shot of the day, rolling in a 24-footer at the tricky par-three eighth to move two strokes clear of the chasing pack at 19 under.

He then gave himself extra breathing room with a tap-in birdie at the par-five ninth, where he chipped from just off the green to within a foot of the cup, to reach the turn three ahead.

Though Byrd stayed hot on Stricker’s heels with birdies at the 10th and 14th, the pacesetting American remained in front with birdies of his own at the 12th, 16th and the last.

“I felt it kind of slipping away,” Stricker said of his front nine. “But I was still patient, frustrated but patient.

“I told myself if I could get a couple back before the turn I would be all right. That birdie on eight calmed me done quite a bit.”

Bryant Drops 48 Points On Suns In Lakers' Victory

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Beth Harris, The Associated Press

(Jan 11, 2012) LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant scored 48 points — his fifth straight game with 25 or more — and the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 99-83 Tuesday night to win their seventh straight at home and third in a row overall.

Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer, topped the 40-point mark for the first time this season, the first in the league to do so. He was 18 of 31 from the floor and made 12 of 13 free throws. Pau Gasol added 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Channing Frye scored 17 points, Marcin Gortat had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Victoria's Steve Nash added 13 points and eight assists for the Suns, who had their two-game winning streak snapped.

Shannon Brown scored Phoenix's first six points of the fourth quarter, twice drawing the Suns within one. He and Frye then hit consecutive 3-pointers that got the Suns to 83-82, but they were never able to take the lead in Brown's first game against his former team. He finished with 11 points.

The Lakers closed the game on a 16-2 run, including 10 in a row against a Suns team that is just behind them in the Pacific Division. Bryant had their final 10 points.

Phoenix led by one in the third and tied the game twice after that before getting outscored 11-6 to end the quarter trailing 73-68.

The Lakers led 46-40 at the break after allowing the Suns to erase most of their 12-point lead in the second quarter. The Suns got balanced scoring in a 15-2 run that drew them within one before Bryant and Gasol keyed a 9-2 spurt to end the first half, when Bryant scored 23.

Bryant scored 13 of the Lakers' final 15 points to put them up 25-19 in the first quarter after they trailed by nine.

NOTES: It was Bryant's 108th career 40-point game. He had three last season. ... The Lakers had 15 turnovers after turning the ball over 27 times in a 90-82 win against Memphis two nights earlier. ... The Lakers G Jason Kapono missed the game to be with his wife after she gave birth to twins and F-C Troy Murphy sat out with an upset stomach. ... Brown said he had mixed emotions about facing the team he won two NBA titles with before leaving the Lakers as a free agent. Bryant scored over Brown to end the first quarter. ... The game was the first of 18 back-to-back sets the Lakers will play in this lockout-shortened season. They'll be at Utah on Wednesday night.

Oakville Driver Replaces Danica Patrick In Indycar

Source: www.thestar.com - Joseph Hall and Norris McDonald


(Jan 10, 2012)
James Hinchcliffe says he’s got some big heels to fill.

In a surprise announcement, the Oakville driver has been named to replace
Danica Patrick in the high-profile Go Daddy-sponsored car in the IZOD IndyCar Series. (There was no IndyCar release or media conference held by either the Internet-giant sponsor or the team Hinchcliffe will drive for, Andretti Autosport.)

“I’m excited about it because, obviously, what Go Daddy did with Danica was tremendous,” the personable Hinchcliffe said about replacing Patrick, who has left the IndyCar series for NASCAR.

“And in all honesty, I think one of the big benefits that we have working together, is because I’m not a female, I’m not the new Go Daddy Girl, I’m the first Go Daddy Guy and that opens up a whole new list of possibilities . . . to have some fun with it and do some creative stuff on the marketing side.”

Hinchcliffe, however, hopes those marketing steps don’t include a bikini spread — a reference to Patrick’s highly publicized appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and other men’s magazines.

Hinchcliffe’s willingness to promote himself in a self-deprecating manner (he once put himself into a dog washer for a YouTube video to promote his sister’s business) helped him land the job.

That, plus his amazing talent as a racing driver, which saw him win the Sunoco rookie of the year title last season after missing the first race of the IndyCar season.

“We’re all super-excited about the opportunity because it’s a tremendous race team with a great history of winning,” Hinchcliffe told the Star. “And I’m partnered with probably the most prolific sponsor in the sport right now.”

Hinchcliffe finished fourth three times in 2011 for Newman/Haas Racing, which shut down last month.

“I was looking for a ride and the seat was open and I think it was a natural fit,” he said of the move.

“It was a seat I was looking to get into and after one short conversation it was pretty apparent they were looking my way as well. I sort of fit the vibe that Go Daddy was looking for and I think it turned into a little bit of a match made in heaven.”

Go Daddy chief marketing officer Barb Rechterman said Hinchcliffe’s on-track results enticed the company, but so did “Hinchtown,” the clever and colourful Internet home of the GTA driver.

Hinchcliffe, 25, created the website five years ago and calls himself “the Mayor of Hinchtown,” because he thought “all driver sites were boring.”

“A lot of drivers, because of sponsors, get forced to hold back their personalities, and some really good characters get stifled because they’re supposed to stick to a certain image,” he said. “I’m not that, and now I’ve got a sponsor that’s edgy and encourages that kind of personality. It just makes so much sense. We can do a lot of fun stuff together.”

Hinchcliffe, who has the word “go” written on the sole of his right foot and “stop” on the left, is representative of the new generation of drivers who realize auto racing is as much a business as it is sport and entertainment.

“We’ve all realized you have to be 80 per cent businessman and 20 per cent race car driver, but you also have to stand out, because there’s a lot of guys who can drive a car fast,” he said.

“With the sport being so sponsor-driven these days, if you want to stand out as the spokesman for a company, you have to be so much more than that. That was the concept behind Hinchtown. At first people thought I was nuts. As the years went on, the site started to get its own personality.”

The ride was originally supposed to have gone to Dan Wheldon, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who was killed in a crash at Las Vegas Speedway last October.

“There’s no doubt that weighed on me from the first phone call,” Hinchcliffe told USA Today.

“It’s pretty common knowledge Dan was a shoo-in with Go Daddy and Andretti. I look at Dan Wheldon as a tremendous race car driver and a champion but also a tremendous person and human being. And if that’s the guy that Go Daddy wanted, to know that I was the next guy in line and thought of along the same lines is an incredibly humbling thing, and it makes me really proud.

“I’m going to think about him every time I get in that car. There’s no doubt that a part of me will be driving for Dan this year.”

Go Daddy’s Rechterman said the company never considered leaving IndyCar despite Patrick’s defection because it likes the series’ international presence (it will race in Toronto early in July and then go to China later in the season). The firm will also use Hinchcliffe in its somewhat controversial commercials, which previously starred Patrick, Rechterman said.

“If I have to be part of racy advertisements, that’s fine,” Hinchcliffe said. “That’s where my personality and the edgy attitude of Go Daddy are going to fit well together. Hopefully we can make a similar splash like with Danica, but maybe appealing to a different demographic.”

And that’s when he ended the interview with the crack about putting him in a bikini.

We’ll see, James. We’ll see.

Leafs’ Lupul Takes Success In Stride

Source: www.thestar.com - Mark Zwolinski


(Jan 09, 2012) One of the more intriguing aspects of
Joffrey Lupul’s all-star quality season is his consistently humble attitude.

Lupul’s daily regimen includes answering questions about the turnaround in his career, from relative quiet in Anaheim to talk of a potential Hart Trophy and scoring crown in Toronto.

The Leaf winger sat third in the league scoring race heading into Monday night, two points behind leader Henrik Sedin. Phil Kessel was second, forming the most productive pair of linemates in the NHL.

Lupul is also the NHL’s most consistent scorer, with at least a point in all but six of the Leafs’ 41 games. When he was traded with Jake Gardiner from Anaheim for Francois Beauchemin last February, it marked the third time Lupul had been involved in a trade with the Ducks organization.

The deal may be the defining move of Brian Burke’s tenure as Leafs GM, and Lupul has never been on such solid ground in his career.

The 28-year-old from Fort Saskatchewan is enjoying his success but refuses to place himself in the same class as the league leaders, all of whom have been top-shelf players for much longer.

“Phil (Kessel) has been great all year and Tim (Connolly) is with our line now, and Tyler (Bozak) has done a good job with us, too,” Lupul says. “But it doesn’t matter who we have as a centre. They’ve both done a great job for us.”

It’s Lupul, though, who was named the NHL’s second star of the week on Monday. It’s Lupul who has scored the most significant goals for the Leafs this season. And it’s Lupul who has generated Hart Trophy buzz among fans, bloggers and other observers.

“The only pressure I put on myself is to be a solid player every night,” Lupul said.

That attitude is part of a larger self-understanding of his career path, which has included a rash of health scares that forced him to miss training camp the past two seasons.

Big moments in big games are nothing new to Lupul. He was the first Anaheim player to score a hat trick in the playoffs, and the first NHLer to score all four of his team’s goals in a playoff game, including the overtime winner.

What Lupul has become is an A student, more mature after starting his career in Manhattan Beach, earning millions of dollars after being drafted seventh overall by the Ducks in 2002.

His perspective today comes from having been fortunate enough to remain in the NHL through all the injuries, including back surgery that cost him a year. He knows what he’s capable of, but has never done it as consistently as star players such as the Sedin twins.

A certain self-awareness comes with that, and a respect for the opportunity he’s been given with the Leafs.

“Since I got here they’ve showed a lot of confidence in me,” Lupul said. “I’ve made errors and they stuck by me; I knew I’d be back out on the ice the next game. I’ve tried to be stronger in front of the net. . . . The key thing for me on our line is to get to the net more and be stronger there — screen the goalie and open ice for Phil.”

Steelers Still Reeling Following Shocking Loss To Broncos

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Will Graves, The Associated Press

(Jan 09, 2012) PITTSBURGHMike Tomlin wouldn't change a thing.

Probably.

The
Pittsburgh Steelers coach said Monday he'd defend Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow the same way if given another chance, even after Tebow burned the defending AFC champions for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to lift Denver to a stunning 29-23 victory.

“Obviously they made some nice plays on us and in hindsight you would analyze it, but your options are limited in terms of how you attack them,” Tomlin said.

The Steelers crowded the line of scrimmage and dared Tebow to beat the NFL's top-ranked defence with his sometimes erratic left arm. Tebow obliged by throwing for 316 yards and a pair of long touchdowns, including the dart Demaryius Thomas turned into the quickest overtime score in NFL playoff history.

“They made a nice football play,” Tomlin said.

One that sent the Steelers into what could be an eventful off-season sooner than they hoped.

A year after falling just short in the Super Bowl, the Steelers went 12-5 despite a rash of injuries affecting every position. Even if Pittsburgh had somehow prevailed in Denver, there's no telling how many healthy bodies would have been left to play on Saturday night in New England.

Left tackle Max Starks and nose tackle Casey Hampton both sustained knee injuries that could require surgery. Defensive end Brett Keisel's groin acted up and linebacker LaMarr Woodley's strained right hamstring remains balky more than two months after tweaking it.

Those injuries don't include quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's sprained left ankle, safety Troy Polamalu's tender right calf or centre Doug Legursky's aching left shoulder.

The Steelers were hardly at 100 per cent Sunday. Then again, they haven't really been all season. From a season-opening 35-7 beatdown at rival Baltimore, Pittsburgh spent the entire year catching up.

“I just feel like we left a lot (to be desired) this year as a whole,” said safety Ryan Clark, who didn't play in Denver due to a sickle-cell trait that makes it dangerous for him to play at high elevation. “To turn around on the sideline and see Keisel standing there in a jacket, to see Hampton standing there in a jacket, it's a lot to overcome.”

Still, the Steelers nearly did it behind Roethlisberger. Playing on basically one leg, Roethlisberger led a 14-point rally that included a spectacular 31-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh had one last chance to win in regulation, moving within the extreme fringe of field goal range before going backward.

Tomlin said he thought kicker Shaun Suisham could make it from about 55 yards, meaning the Steelers needed to reach the Denver 38. They got as close as the Denver 45 before Roethlisberger had the ball knocked out of his hands by Denver's Elvis Dumervil.

The first playoff game in which the league's revised overtime rules came into effect was designed to provide the Steelers with at least one shot in the extra session — but only if the Broncos kicked a field goal after winning the coin toss and getting the ball. It never happened after Thomas slipped past cornerback Ike Taylor then outraced Taylor and backup safety Ryan Mundy to the end zone.

Just like that, Pittsburgh's hopes for a ninth Super Bowl trip were gone.

Tomlin had no problems with the defensive play call, an inverted zone that called for Mundy and Polamalu to crowd the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

The odds certainly seemed to be in Pittsburgh's favour. The Broncos ran the ball on 23 of their previous 24 first downs. Not this time, providing wild-card weekend with a wild finish for the ages.

Taylor was nearly inconsolable afterward, the backbone of the league's best pass defence fighting back tears while taking sole responsibility for the loss.

Tomlin and Taylor's teammates, however, would have none of it.

“Such is life,” Tomlin said. “We've got a great deal of respect for Ike and what he's willing to do for us.”

Taylor will get a chance at redemption next season after signing a four-year contract in the pre-season. So will Polamalu and Woodley, who both agreed to extensions before the regular season kicked off.

They're among the few certainties on a still formidable but aging defence that started seven players in their 30s on Sunday.

Tomlin allowed that “change is a part of this thing” but the Steelers will do what they can to keep the core group together.

There are fewer questions on offence, though the unit underperformed at times, finishing 22nd in the league in points per game. Roethlisberger played through thumb and foot injuries behind an offensive line that didn't find any cohesion until the second half of the season.

“We feel like we really have great potential to be a really good offence,” Roethlisberger said. “I told a lot of guys that. We can be great, we just have to put in the work in the off-season. A lot of that's going to fall on me. We're young.”

Almost.

Veteran wide receiver Hines Ward will turn 36 in the off-season and though he's under contract for two more years, he's coming off a season in which made just 46 receptions, the fewest since his rookie year in 1998. He shot down speculation he may retire and won't address anything until the shock wears off.

“To end it like that in overtime, to go 12-4 and have it come down to an overtime loss the way it did is sad,” he said. “This will stick with (us) a lot as one of the worst games we ever lost.”

SPORTS TIDBITS

Bargnani Lifts Raptors Past T-Wolves

Source: www.thestar.com

(Jan 09, 2012) Andrea Bargnani had 31 points and nine rebounds on Monday to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 97-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Amir Johnson had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto (4-5). Point guard Jose Calderon scored 14 and added six assists. Kevin Love led the Timberwolves (3-6) with 13 points and 14 assists. J.J. Barea scored 16 points off the bench with three assists. The win was the first game in the Raptors only back-to-back-to-back series of the season. Toronto travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Tuesday, then returns to host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. The game was tied 80-80 with 6:35 left in the fourth quarter but the Raptors, led by Bargnani, pulled away.