Rave: Award season films

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when superheroes have left the silver screen and studios’ award season bait films flood the theatres. It seems every week there’s a new trailer we’re watching on repeat, and we’re having trouble deciding which movie we’ll be seeing come Christmas Day. Thankfully the weather is getting chilly, so we’re not opposed to spending day after day at the movies. 

Argo (now playing)

The latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck confirms his status as a respected director. The film tells the true story of a joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to extract six American diplomats out of Iran during the revolution in 1980. But, as this is a Hollywood film, don’t expect it to be based entirely in fact: the story is slightly exaggerated and the role of Canada is downplayed considerably. Still, odds are high that this film may earn Affleck his second Oscar. 

Lincoln (now playing)

It’s an unspoken rule that whenever the notoriously reclusive Daniel Day-Lewis stars in a film, Academy Awards follow. In Lincoln, Steven Spielberg directs Day-Lewis as the legendary president during his final few months in office. The dramatic film is set during the Civil War, when the president fights to abolish slavery and end the war. Sally Fields, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tommy Lee Jones also star.  

Silver Linings Playbook (November 21)

Silver Linings Playbook won the Audience Choice Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, and for good reason! Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in this charming comedy romance (please, do not mistake this for a “rom-com”) about two outsiders struggling to rebuild their lives. The two actors’ performances alone make this film worth seeing, but we’d be remiss to neglect mentioning Robert DeNiro’s scene-stealing role as Cooper’s father.  

Anna Karenina (November 30)

Keira Knightley re-teams with director Joe Wright to take on Leo Tolstoy’s tragic novel. What sets this adaptation apart from the rest is it’s unique staging – Wright shoots the film entirely on a single soundstage. The sumptuous costumes and beautiful designs make this visually stunning film a must. We’re intrigued to see the love triangle play out on-screen between Knightley’s Anna, Jude Law’s Karenin and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Vronsky. 

Zero Dark Thirty (January 11)

This film hasn’t been receiving the same level of popular hype as some of the others on this list, but the insider buzz is steadily rising. Not surprising, as Zero Dark Thirty reunites The Hurt Locker‘s director-writer team of Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal and features critical darling, Jessica Chastain. This film tells the story of the decade-long manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man, Osama Bin Laden. However, the biggest draw for us may be Coach Taylor (aka. Kyle Chandler) listed in the credits. 

Django Unchained (December 25)

Early word on this new flick from Quentin Tarantino is “holy crap, get ready for some violence!”. If you thought Inglourious Basterds was bad, well, brace yourself. Django Unchained stars Jamie Foxx as former slave, Django who is helping a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) search out his bounty. Django’s ultimate goal is to locate his long-missing wife (Kerry Washington). Leonardo DiCaprio plays the brutal Calvin Candie, proprietor of the infamous “Candyland” plantation.

Les Miserables (December 25)

If this trailer doesn’t give you goosebumps, then you have no soul. Award-winning director, Tom Hooper brings the sweeping, epic musical to the big screen for the best Christmas present we could ever ask for. The all-star cast includes Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, Anne Hathaway as Fantine and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Watch this behind-the-scenes vignette, which discusses how the actors all sang while filming (as opposed to mouthing the words and laying vocal tracks in a studio). Oh, and make sure you have some Kleenex handy. 


Rave: enRoute Film Festival

TIFF may be over (for now), but that doesn’t mean that the film
festivals have stopped. 

Tonight, FREE public screenings of the top six Air Canada enRoute FilmFestival films will be happening across Canada. You can catch them tonight at 7 p.m. (EST and PST) in Toronto at the Varsity Theatre (55 Bloor St.
W.), in Vancouver at the Scotiabank Theatre (900 Burrard St.) and in Montreal
at the Quartier Latin (350 rue Emery).

For the past six years, Air Canada has been taking emerging Canadian filmmakers to new heights, literally, by showing their
short films on both domestic and international flights. 

The winner will be chosen by a jury of industry
experts, including Jay Baruchel,
actor (How to Train Your Dragon), Niv Fichman, producer (Passchendaele), Mary Harron, director (American
), Alison Pill, actor (The Newsroom), Gordon Pinsent, actor (Away
From Her
), Callum Keith Rennie,
actor (The Killing), Saul Rubinek, actor (Barney’s Version), Jacob Tierney, director (The
), and Karine Vanasse, actor (Polytechnique).

After hundreds of entries, they’re down to the final four competing for the top prize. The 2012 Air Canada enRoute Film Festival finalists are:

Alexander Carson for We
Refuse to Be Cold
Fernand-Philippe Morin-Vargas for Noeud
Danielle Sahota and Davina Rimmer for We
Blinded the Sun
Justin Friesen for Let’s
Make Lemonade
The winner of the Best Short Film Award will receive a cash
prize of $5,000, courtesy of Cineplex Entertainment. Other awards include Achievement
in Documentary, Achievement in Direction and Achievement in 
Cinematography. All award winners will also receive an all-inclusive Air
Canada trip for two to the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France. 

This year, viewers will vote for their favourite film to
determine the winner of the inaugural People’s Choice Award. Voting ends Wednesday, November 7 at enRoutefilm.com. The winner will be
announced live at the awards celebration in Toronto on November 7 and will receive an Air Canada flight for two to a North American destination of
their choice.

Rave: For A Good Time, Call…

With an office full of girls, it kind of goes without saying that we’ll see any girlfriend-focused comedy (see: Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, Bridesmaids, etc.). Suffice to say, when Alliance Films offered us tickets to For A Good Time, Call…, there was no hesitation. We were in! 

Directed by Toronto’s very own Jamie Travis, For A Good Time, Call… is in theatres today. Inspired by Ari Graynor and Lauren Miller’s on-screen (and real life, we hope!) friendship, we decided to put a lady twist on our typical he said/we said film reviews with a she said/she said version. Enjoy!

On Lauren Miller:

She said: “Lauren, who also contributed to the script, plays Lauren Powell. While initially I found her uptightness annoying, she really grew on me as the story progressed (which I guess is the point). And her hair? My version of perfection.” 

She said (too): “I loved her from the start. She was my favourite character – possibly because she reminded me of Allison Williams from Girls…And it’s true, she had awesome hair.”

On Ari Graynor:

She said: “Holy scene stealer, Batman! Ari plays the foul-mouthed Katie Steele and from the moment she came on-screen I found myself wishing we were real-life besties. Girl’s got some damn fine comedic timing.” 

She said (too): “From her retro-inspired ensembles to her on-screen banter with Lauren – she was a great fit for the role, but I have to say, Lauren was still my fave.”

On Justin Long:

She said: “As Katie and Lauren’s gay BFF, this role was a bit of a departure from Long’s normal repetoire, and I approve. He provided the perfect middle ground for each girl’s extreme, and you could see how each could be friends with him. True story: during the film’s Q&A the cast revealed that Long based his character’s mannerisms on the film’s director, Jamie Travis.” 

She said (too): “Two words. ‘Lion King.’ That alone made me love him (and relate to his character). You’ll have to check it out to see what I mean.” 

Dirty Talk: 

She said: “Oh my! Do not go in there expecting a PG version of phone sex. There’s a lot of licking, sucking, touching, truck backing up’ing… you get the picture. Often crude, but always hilarious, the ladies vastly expanded my vocabulary by the film’s end.”

She said (too): “It’s a film that revolves around a phone sex line, if you’re going to see it, you have to expect some profanity. I don’t think it was overdone at all – and it definitely had hilarious moments where the whole theatre was laughing.” 

(L-R) Traves, Miller, Miller’s husband Seth Rogan & screenwriter Katie Anne Naylon.

Favourite cameo:

She said: “Tough call. I’m going to have to pick Zelda, who is Lauren Miller’s real life dog! Watch for a scene with Zelda and Justin Long, ripped straight from Lion King. Hilarious.” 

She said (too): “Seth Rogan! I don’t want to give away what exactly he’s doing in his cameo…but it’s definitely a part to watch out for.”

Real-life friendship relatability:

She said: “Sex phone line aside, I could really get behind the film’s portrayal of female friendship. As someone whose had her fair share of female roommates, I completely related to alternating between loving someone to hating someone to borrowing their leopard print dress. I appreciated that neither character was forced to subordinate their love for each other for the love of man. While the plot included sexual relationships with men, the friendship between Lauren and Katie was heart of the film.” 

She said (too): “This was a perfect film to watch with a close gal pal (which I did). Good friendships can be a roller coaster of emotion with a few extra passengers along the way (read: guys) but you just can’t beat having a bestie along for the ride.”

Watch the trailer here

Toronto residents, stop into Fuzz Wax Bar (701 Queen St. W.) and fill out a ballot to win a Good Time prize pack, including free tickets to see the film! Contest is open until Tuesday, September 4. 

Fave 5: Media in the movies

Movies offer a great escape from the every day and we love how they allow us to peek into other people’s lives – or at least their lives as envisioned by Hollywood. Our Media, Darling series gives us an idea of what goes on at a media outlet, but we’d like to imagine that these movies complete the rest of the puzzle.


This film by Sidney Lumet is a satirical look at a fictional television network and won four Academy Awards. Network follows Howard Beale (Peter Finch), a longtime evening news anchor as his show struggles with declining ratings. Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Duvall also star. This classic film was included among AFI’s “100 Greatest American Films” list, and we can’t think of a higher recommendation than that.

The Devil Wears Prada

“A million girls would kill for this job.” Well, we don’t know about that but we’d certainly commit some petty crimes to get our hands on Anne Hathaway’s wardrobe in this fashion flick. Hathaway’s Andrea Sachs lands a highly-coveted gig as the personal assistant to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), the editor-in-chief of Runway. Legend has it that Priestley was not-so-subtly based on Anna Wintour, so consider this a behind-the-scenes look at life at Vogue.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

This hilarious film is about a top San Diego newsman, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) coping with the arrival of a new, female co-host (Christina Applegate). We crack up every time we watch this film (which trust us, is often). Ferrell and Applegate are supported by an all-star comedy cast, including Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Fred Armisen and Seth Rogen. The street brawl scene against a rival news station is one of many highlights.

Wag the Dog

Politicians and spin doctors go hand-in-hand, but this 1997 movie takes it to the next level. When a scandal emerges days before re-election, the American President’s advisor (Robert DeNiro) partners with a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to manufacture a war in Albania through mass media. Both amusing and provocative, Wag the Dog forces you to take a second and think about what is presented as “fact” in the media.

The Bang Bang Club

A sobering look at war correspondents, The Bang Bang Club is the true story about four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa. The friends and colleagues put themselves directly into the line of fire in order to get “the shot”. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Canadian heartthrob Taylor Kitsch (a.k.a. Tim Riggins forever!) stars as one of the more troubled photographers, which in that group is certainly saying something.

Fave 5: Holiday Movies

With holiday vacation just around the corner (and already here for some of us), and countless hours to spend ‘celebrating’ in your parent’s suburban home, this fave five gives you the perfect excuse to grab some popcorn, put your feet up and rent hours of movies on your parents’ Rogers On Demand account. We present: our fave 5 holiday movies ever made. Let the debate begin…
Die Hard – Although the film isn’t considered a ‘traditional’ Christmas movie by many, it’s included in this category because it takes place on Christmas Eve, includes Christmas carols, and follows many standard themes from other Christmas films. The film is also notable for turning Bruce Willis from a television star to an A-list Hollywood actor. Nothing quite says Merry Christmas than John McClane (Willis) putting a halt to terrorist Hans Gruber’s plan to steal millions of dollars.

Home Alone – Considered THE classic holiday film for any 80’s baby, this film tells the story of Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin), an eight year-old boy who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas. McCallister has to then fend for himself (“Is this toothbrush approved by the American Dental Association?”) while simultaneously defending his home against idiotic burglars with genius schemes. Talk Boy recorder anyone? 

Love Actually – This film is the ultimate romantic comedy/Christmas movie. Set in London, the plot follows eight couples, whose lives are loosely intertwined, during the holiday season. The cast includes serious Hollywood notables like Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Keira Knightly, and is sure to bring a tear to your eye while simultaneously warming your cold, black heart. 

Miracle on 34th Street – Obviously. This movie won three Oscars and is just as iconic for the holiday season as Santa himself. It tells the tale of a nice old man who is institutionalized for claiming he is Santa. A young lawyer than decides to defend him in court by arguing he is the real thing. Warm and fuzzies ensue.  

Bad Santa – after Miracle on 34th Street you’ll be in need of a good laugh. Willie (Billy Bob Thorton) is a convict who poses as Santa to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. His heart is somewhat warmed by a troubled kid who lives in the house he breaks into, and accepts Willie the way he is. Co-starring Lorelai Gilmore (aka Lauren Graham) as a sexy bartender with a soft spot for cons, and Bernie Mac as mall security. Filled with hilarious (crude) jokes, this black comedy may not be the best film to watch with Grandma.

There you have it: your very own vacation movie marathon. Did we miss your favourite holiday flick? Leave us a comment or tweet us @rockitpromo. #holidaymovies

Fashion-able: Stylish winter dates

During the summer, we chatted about some favourite stylish dates that were easy on the wallet. Since the holidays have come and gone, and our social calendars are looking a little more empty, we thought we’d share more thoughts about fun dates that will still let you pay off your credit card.

Get Outside!
Suck it up and embrace this long, cold winter. It will go by faster, and you’ll have fond memories of the times you spent outdoors. Fo’ realz.

Tobogganing – any big hill in the city!
There are strong debates about which hills are best for the crazy carpets, but whether east end or west end, this is one of the most fun daytime (or nighttime) winter activities. You’ll get some exercise, fresh air and have a great excuse to indulge in some boozy hot chocolate after.

High Park tobogganing, circa 1906-1910, from the torontoist.

Buy a crazy carpet for about $6, grab your posse and head out to the hills. It’s possibly more fun as an adult. More body weight means you zoom down that hill even faster. 

This is one of the coolest things in the city (well, in Etobicoke). An outdoor skating trail, not a rink, lets you enjoy the weather, snow and breeze from the lake. Gliding over the temperature-controlled curving trail is a more interesting than skating around in a circle at Nathan Phillips Square (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). Grab your sweetheart and holds hands while you fly down the ice. 

Keep Warm
Ok, so sometimes you just don’t feel like “having fun” outside in the -21 degree blizzard. Fair enough. Here are some great ways to enjoy warmth and coziness inside.
In the east end of Toronto, there is a little gem of a bowling alley in the basement of a dingy building. Forget paying $37.50 for 30 minutes; Danforth Bowl is fun, casual and affordable. It’s basically like being transported back to 1997. There are funky lights, ‘N Sync on the CD player and bowls of free party mix on every table. And, get ready to whip out those rusty math skills – there’s good ol’ fashioned hand scoring. None of that fancy computer scoring stuff. 
It’s kind of like being in mom and dad’s basement. But with bowling. 
Plus, who wouldn’t want to spend an evening somewhere with the slogan “Large or small you’ll have a ball – guaranteed!”? Sign us up.

The new TIFF headquarters is brilliant – lots of screens, a convenient downtown location and even a fairly inexpensive and delicious cafeteria. We’re impressed with their diverse roster of offerings so far. They’ve been playing everything from a retrospective on Mary Pickford and a screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc with a live orchestra, to the amazing Tim Burton show and a series of top 10 Canadian films. 
There is something for everyone, and what better way to pass a snowy day than by snuggling inside a movie theater with hot, buttery popcorn?  

For those with kids, this amazing indoor playground lets them run around and play while you catch a few minutes of quiet time. Amazon has the always-popular ball pit, climbing structures, swings and slides, as well as spots for kids to play dress up. There are also spots to eat snacks, couches for you to read magazines, and even summer day camps. 
It’s so much fun, you might even be inspired to jump into the ball pit with your mini-me. 

Where are your favourite winter date spots? Tweet us @rockitpromo!

We`re Not Just Pretty: Susan Smythe Bishop

Susan Smythe Bishop’s career in the motion picture industry spans more than 19 years. She joined Alliance Communications in 1992, and worked on (to name a few) The English Patient, Austin Powers and The Lord of The Rings trilogy. She also collaborated with many high-profile Canadian filmmakers, such as David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Denise Robert. Later, Bishop was promoted to senior vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, and raised the level of promotional activity from a local market focus to fully integrated national partnerships.

Bishop joined Maple Pictures in 2008 as co-vice-president of Publicity and Promotions, where she oversees the publicity and promotions for half of Maple’s product for the Theatrical and Home Entertainment divisions.

Fun fact! Bishop creates event cakes as a side business and donates all profits to the Canadian Picture Pioneers, as a way of giving back to the industry that she’s grown to love. She’s even earned the prize of “Best Wedding Cake” for two consecutive years at Bonnie Gordon’s annual Cake Competition.

Twitter: @MaplePictures

How long have you been in your current position?
I’ve been working with Maple Pictures for just under two years.
How does your company leverage PR ?
Our primary objectives are to increase awareness of our product and to grow our brand. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including taking part in press junkets, tailoring national opinion-maker screening programs, developing fully integrated national partnerships in all media (with a heavy emphasis on social) that encompasses publicity, sweepstakes/contests and event marketing. We place heavy importance on partnership marketing and working with like-minded companies. With this approach, we can tap into each other’s resources, extend our promotional reach and benefit from each others brand equity. 
What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member?
I’ve almost always hired at entry level positions. Ideally, I think that’s how it should always work as when someone leaves our department – the person immediately below them should be able to take over the reins.
An interest in PR and/or a PR background helps, and anyone that has done an internship with a like-minded company would be considered for an interview. In my opinion, the amount of experience required for an entry level position isn’t nearly as important as the personality of the person we are looking for. They have to be a good fit with our team, they have to have a very positive outlook, be a team player, have a good sense of humour and have a natural sense of gratitude. We don’t want to bring someone in who will expect to be promoted within six months, and really shy away from candidates that appear to be star-struck.
Who is your mentor or professional in the industry you admire?  
This is a hard question because there simply isn’t just one. I have learned just as much (if not more) from younger staff as I have from my previous bosses. My early experiences gave me the foundation I needed. Paying close attention to my employees has shown me that it’s so very important to have balance in your life and not allow your job to define you. I’ve learned to look for inspiration in everyone I meet, so anyone I’ve come in contact with may have unwittingly become a mentor to me in one way or another. I’ve even drawn inspiration from people whose behaviour is so atrocious that I secretly thank them for showing me how NEVER to behave or treat people.
What are your feelings about how PR has been positioned in the media in more recent years, on popular TV shows?   
Well, it actually makes me laugh a little because as far as I’m concerned, I think we have a rather un-sexy career! Don’t get me wrong, I really love what I do (in fact, it took me stepping away from it for a year to really appreciate how much I loved it and this industry). But, it’s not as though we are constantly hanging out with celebrities at parties.  
Our job is to make talent look great to the press, even if/when they treat us badly (and some do). We’re the ones that get soaked in the rain while holding the umbrella for the actors as they are stepping onto the red carpet; we are the ones to make sure talent are comfortably seated at the dinner table and that their order has been taken, before we sneak to the bar to munch on bar mix. And, it’s not just about working with actors. In fact, that is a small part of what we do. 
It’s sometimes our job to work 18 hour days to pull off an event or a huge promotion without a hitch or to get that proposal polished and ready to present. It can be a really fun, creative and fulfilling career for sure, but you will never find me in stilettos on the job – I’ll be the one wearing sensible shoes, and laughing with my co-workers, as they are the ones I want to hang out with!
What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?   
For junior PR pros, I would say be upfront, honest and earnest with everything you do. For senior PR pros, I think there is so much to be learned from the younger people in our industry. I don’t believe that “I’ve been doing this for years, so I have all of the answers” really holds up anymore (if it ever did), because things have changed on the media landscape so rapidly. The younger PR staff are so savvy and can adapt so easily to change. It’s important that we learn from each other.
What do you love most about your job?  
I absolutely love the people I get to work with each day – I’m so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of smart and fun people. I also really love the challenge of putting together a promotional campaign with next to no budget; it really pushes and challenges me to be more creative. More than anything though, I have to say that watching the younger staff learn and grow has become a huge part of what drives me in this crazy business of ours. That is so rewarding and gratifying.
A little more from the fourth floor:
Designer:  Douglas Coupland.
Store: Anthropologie.
Book: Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill.
Snack: Riceworks Crisps.
Season: Spring.
Sexy: A great sense of humour.
Inspiration: O, the Oprah Magazine.
Drink: Lychee Martini.
Motto in two words: Be Thankful.
Idea of perfect happiness: Just hanging out with my husband and our dog.
Indulgence: Chocolate cupcakes with buttercream icing.
Celebrity crush: Colin Firth.
Favourite tweeter to follow: @JonGordon11