Thursday, May 28, 2015

Famous Laffa Kosher to open in Thornhill

The kosher Middle Eastern eating establishment Famous Laffa, on Magnetic Drive in Toronto, is amassing quite the following and reputation for flavourful, filling cuisine with an ambience that makes Canadian patrons feel as though they are being served by their Israeli brothers and sisters.

Now franchising around the city, this rapidly expanding operation may soon have a neighbourhood location near you.

After undergoing a renovation that began around Passover, the Magnetic Drive flagship location (formerly called Dr. Laffa) was scheduled to re-open this month. A take-out location opened in mid-April on Bathurst Street south of Lawrence Avenue in the commercial heart of the Toronto Jewish community (and right next to the only remaining Dr. Laffa on the Go, operated by a former partner of Famous Laffa's founder, Sasi Haba).

Other Famous locations – some kosher, some not – are also popping up along major city streets, including Yonge Street, where one is set to open soon just south of Steeles Avenue and Centerpoint Mall.

Today, Famous announced via Twitter that its latest kosher franchised location will open this August inside Thornhill's Promenade Mall. Great news for students, young families and kosher foodies of all ages who have seen many kosher establishments close in the last few years due to market constraints.

The battle for your falafel and shwarma dollar is about to heat up, and just in time for summer.

Could the Iron Dome be coming to your town?

It's been just over four years since Israel's Iron Dome, a mobile missile air defence system, was deployed near Be'er Sheva.

It was sesigned to intercept and destroy short-range rockets launched by Israel's neighbours in Gaza and the north, and by late October 2014, the total number of attacks deterred by the program – which can be operated remotely, day and night and in all weather conditions – was heading north of 1,200.

A three-day conference was recently held in Israel to explore the potential for similar systems to be employed by nations in the west and elsewhere who one day may need to protect their citizens from hostile actions of the kind Israel faces on a regular basis.

It's a scary thought, but a system such as this could show up one day at a military installation near you.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sandler's Pixels looks like a retro gamer's treat

It's been just over two years since Disney's release of Wreck-It Ralph, an animated film that took gamers on a wild adventure ride with a behind-the-scenes look at what might happen to those classic and new-age characters when the game-play ends.

The titular "bad guy" sets off on a game-hopping trip to prove that he, too, has what it takes to do good, after decades of watching the hero be celebrated and honoured for saving the day.

Moviegoers were treated to cameos from game characters of titles we all grew up with, from the 1980s to the modern consoles of today.

This summer, it's the real world that will be threatened by classic video game characters of yesteryear. From the mind of Saturday Night Live comedian Adam Sandler comes the feature film Pixels.

When aliens intercept a video message to the stars from Earth, showing scenes of classic arcade games, they misinterpret them as a declaration of war, launching an attack on the planet using the games as instruments of our destruction.

The film co-stars Sandler's good pal Kevin James, along with Sam Brenner, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad and Michelle Monaghan, who will come together to save the world.

Sound off on what your favorite games have been over the course of the last three decades.

Bittersweet end for Letterman and Shaffer

David Letterman bid fans a truly heartfelt goodbye on The Late Show with David Letterman this week as he ended his 33-year late-night run after 6,028 episodes.

Canadian musician and Late Show band leader Paul Shaffer, 65, has been along for the long ride as Letterman's sidekick from even before his days on CBS. When the boy from small-town Indiana got his first late-night hosting gig with rival network NBC, Shaffer was there.

At many points throughout his final monologue, Letterman reminisced with Shaffer on the many experiences they shared on the show together, calling Shaffer a dear friend. He also called him a "musical genius" and "partner in comedy."

Letterman likened his relationship with Shaffer to the magic act and animal exploits of Las Veagas stalwarts Siegfried and Roy, and he joked that he and Shaffer could next be seen at Caesar's Palace with their own white tigers.

Many of us grew up with Letterman's late-night shenanigans, and he and Shaffer were our constant companions these last 33 years.

They will be missed.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chriqui and the Entourage boys are back

Excitement is building for the release of the much-anticipated film version of the TV comedy-drama series Entourage, which hits the big screen this summer.

Most enthused perhaps for the series to finally reach theatres is its perennial guest star, Canadian Emmanuelle Chriqui, known for playing the character Sloan in the HBO hit.

In a recent interview, Chriqui said, "I think it's amazing. I think people are going to love it. It's the best version of the show."

Loosely based on the life of producer and actor Mark Wahlberg, Entourage lasted eight seasons before going off the air in 2011.

For those unfamiliar with the show, it told the story of Vincent Chase, played by Adrian Grenier, his brother and two closest friends from Queens, N.Y., who all move out to LA as Vincent becomes an A-list Hollywood star.

The film picks up shortly after the events of the finale, as Chase re-unites with his former agent, Ari Gold, played by Selfridges' Jeremy Piven, who's now a studio head and wants to re-team with his former client.

If you haven't yet seen the trailer, here's your chance.

Ontario-Israel collaboration gets 5-year renewal

Reza Moridi, left and Avi Hasson
History has been made with Ontario and Israel celebrating a 10-year collaboration in developing innovations in the field of life sciences, medical devices, clean tech and telecom.

The cumulative investment in the program, which was renewed May 10, is $18 million, to which both countries, Canada and Israel, contributed half.

Advances by companies that have participated and worked together on various commercial power, water monitoring projects and ADD treatments have generated about $1 billion in total revenue.

"There's huge human potential in Ontario in every area," Ontario's Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi said in a recent interview, and Avi Hasson, Israel's chief scientist in the Economy Ministry, agreed.

A report on the top R&D states and provinces in the United States and Canada ranked Ontario No. 7, while Toronto is North America's third-largest financial centre, behind Chicago and New York.

Kol Hakavod! The future is bright.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Portman takes her directorial debut to Cannes

Academy Award-winning actress turned writer-producer-director Natalie Portman, 33, is preparing to re-emerge in a major way after a brief hiatus from the Hollywood spotlight.

After finishing post-production on her feature directorial debut, Portman will land in Cannes for the annual film festival, to screen her adaption of Israeli author Amos Oz's memoir A Tale of Love and Darkness on May 18 in the hopes of securing North American distribution.

The story centres on Oz's relationship with his troubled mother, portrayed by Portman, who killed herself when Oz was but 12 years old, and he grows up to become an acclaimed writer in Israel's early years.

Portman optioned the rights to A Tale of Love and Darkness eight years ago, and in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, she said that she spent a considerable amount of time working on the $4-million dollar film, which was shot entirely in Hebrew.

She insisted on shooting in Hebrew, whatever the cost, producer Ram Bergman told THR. "She said, 'It's got be a love letter in Hebrew.' I said, 'It will make things harder.' She said, 'I don't care.'"

Hoping for the best, the actress-director has no expectations as she showcases it in Cannes, knowing it may have limited commercial appeal.

Speaking about Oz's memoir itself, "The language was really what [drew me], his obsession with words and the way words are connected in Hebrew, which has this incredible poetry and magic," she says. "It's obviously almost impossible to translate, but there's just incredible beauty to that. [Jews are] a people built of words, people built of books, and it's quite beautiful to see that, which is a strange thing to start for a movie."

Now that the film is finished, Portman says she's eager to return strictly to acting, "I don't think I'll stop unless I'm made to by lack of opportunity."

On deck is Portman's first self-produced feature film, Jane Got a Gun, by her company Handsomecharlie Films. It's scheduled for a September release, and her documentary Eating Animals is due before the end of 2015. Production has also been completed on Weightless, due for release in 2016, which will co-star actor Michael Fassbender.