IAR's Best of 2011

Wednesday, 04 January 2012 15:18 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR's Best of 2011

Everyone is stocking up on champagne and ticker tape for 2012.  Earth has completed yet another orbit of the sun, and as we continue to cruise through an oblivious and indifferent solar system at about 67,000 miles per hour, it's time to look back on the year that was.  Like every other year, the conclusion of 2011 means a veritable avalanche of year-end lists, from chronicles of favorites to bests to worsts to pretty much everything in between.  Here at IAR, we've looked back with Jami Philbrick's picks for the Top Ten Movies of the Year, and we've looked forward with Brett Gursky's Oscar Predictions for the 84th Annual Academy Awards.

Now, like any devastatingly handsome individual, IAR is going to look in the mirror and say, "Damn, I looked good this year."  Okay, not quite.  But what we are going to do is showcase some of the content produced this year that showed what the organization is all about and what it does best.  This end-of-the-year compilation is broken down into ten categories: News, Press Conference Coverage, Screenings, Documentary Coverage, On Camera Interviews, Convention Coverage, Oscar Contender Interviews, Comic Book Movie Coverage, Legends, and finally, Scoops and Exclusives.  You'll find all those categories right here, complete with links to all manner of articles.

NEWS

Debonair superspy James Bond has long been a magnet for product placement, shilling watches, cars, and electric razors with equal aplomb, but the twenty-third installment in the 007 franchise will take the tendency to new extremes.  Daniel Craig's third outing as Bond, titled Skyfall, is set to break the all time product-placement record, with roughly a third of the production budget coming from onscreen advertising.

In which IAR chimes in on the trend of non-American actors such as Christian Bale, Andrew Garfield, Henry Cavill, and Chris Hemsworth playing comic book characters like Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, and Thor.  Or rather, in which IAR chimes in on other people chiming in on a nonsense controversy surrounding the exporting of the American superhero.

All those unfortunate souls who suffered from depression as a result of the fact that the fantastical alien world seen in James Cameron's Avatar doesn't actually exist can pull themselves out of their funk and get in line now. Disney is determined to build a series gigantic Pandora-themed attractions at Disney World Resort's Animal Kingdom park in Florida

One notable trend in studio decision-making this year has been a  aversion to putting massive amounts of money on the line for potentially huge tentpole films and franchises, no matter how seemingly bulletproof the property may be.  The most high profile instance of this came when Disney suddenly put a halt to preproduction on The Lone Ranger, a reunion between Pirates of the Caribbean team Gore Verbinski, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Johhny Depp.  Months of surprisingly public haggling over the project's rumored $250 million price tag ensued, with Disney finally giving the film a go-ahead at a reduced budget.

That's not all, though.  Universal Pictures opted out of two huge properties this year.  The first was At the Mountains of Madness, a phantasmagoric adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft novella from no less a filmmaker than Guillermo del Toro.  Even with James Cameron producing and Tom Cruise attached to star, the studio wasn't willing to bet on an R-rated creature feature, leaving del Toro to make Pacific Rim in greener pastures

Then there's The Dark Tower, a ridiculously ambitious take on the seven-novel series by Stephen King that director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman intended to turn into three movies and two limited-run television series to bridge the gaps between  films.  Eventually, Universal got cold feet and abandoned the huge undertaking, but producer Brian Grazer remains adamant that The Dark Tower will happen somewhere, albeit at a smaller cost.  

PRESS CONFERENCE COVERAGE

How did Disney make the press conference for The Muppets more special than the average gathering of creative figures and entertainment journalists in a swanky hotel?  By adding Kermit, Miss Piggy, and newly-minted Muppet Walter, naturally.

Shame, a rare film to be released with the dreaded NC-17 rating, is a searing drama about addiction, privacy, and compulsion.  The press conference covered appropriately heavy territory, with star Michael Fassbender and director Steve McQueen discussing their unique, critically-acclaimed drama.

Prior to its release, many an expert was predicting commercial death for Bridesmaids, the Judd Apatow-produced, Paul Feig-directed comedy starring a whole mess of insanely funny women like Melissa McCarthy and Maya RudolphThe press conference, which included co-writer and star Kristen Wiig, should have been an indication to those experts that Bridesmaids was bound for more

There was nary a Muppet to be found, but Disney still put on a pretty good show for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, as Rob Marshall, Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, and the rest of the cast were in attendance to talk up the fourth big screen adventure of Jack Sparrow.

Watching the Footloose remake, both stars Kenny Wormald and Julianne Hough give the impression that they'll be sticking around in starring roles for some time to come.  In October, they discussed the film, director Craig Brewer, and dancing their asses off onscreen at a lively press conference with co-star Andie MacDowell.

SCREENINGS

IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was quite taken with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which pits Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective against his nemesis, Professor Moriarty.  Jami's enthusiastic recommendation of the sequel showed up as multiple quotations in two commercial television spots for for the film.  

In advance of the blockbuster prequel's opening, we were amongst the first to see X-Men: First Class, and though we no longer publish official reviews, our write-up of Matthew Vaughn's mutant missile crisis was one of the very first of many, many subsequent positive reactions to appear anywhere online. 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes ended up being one of the year's biggest surprises both commercially and critically but an early look at several sequences from the franchise reboot demonstrated that the film could be something special, particularly the central performance of Andy Serkis as Caesar, a motion-capture triumph by the actor and Weta Digital.

Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan's quiet, character-based drama Margaret became infamous as it was delayed for years during the editorial process due to issues with financing.  When it was finally on the way to theaters, though, IAR's Dana Feldman was lucky enough to screen the entirety of the film before its limited release.

Many an eyebrow was raised by the notion of remaking 1984's teenage-dancers-as-small-town-revolutionaries tale Footloose, but a very early exhibition of the film began a wave of critical adulation that continued through the remake's theatrical debut.  IAR's write-up of the new Footloose was one of the positive reactions to emerge from that very first screening. 

DOCUMENTARY COVERAGE

Documentarian Werner Herzog is a fascinating figure, one who has seemingly never been at a loss for words in his professional life, so of course he did plenty of talking in a video interview regarding his new death row documentary, Into the Abyss.

Tabloid, the latest from Errol Morris, one of the foremost documentarians on the planet, is not a film concerned with the truth behind a fantastically lurid story, but with how the story is shaped by its public telling.  The director of The Thin Blue Line and Standard Operating Procedure was more up-front in his conversation with IAR regarding Tabloid

Director Rodman Flender was happy to discuss Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, his fly-on-the-wall chronicle of O'Brien's "Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television" concert tour, which resulted in a doc that takes a public figure and strips away the artifice to get at the actual guy underneath, a guy alternately hilarious and overwhelmed but always strikingly human.

A damn fine music documentary is a rare thing, but that's what actor and director Michael Rapaport delivered with Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.  Avowed A Tribe Called Quest fan Rapaport and musician Phife Dawg talked about making the controversial doc and the group's musical legacy in an interview that can kick it without question.  

Our interview with director Andrew Rossi and media columnist David Carr promoting the doc Page One: Inside the New York Times gives a good idea of why pretty much everyone who saw the film walked away thinking, "Man, David Carr is a badass," while also pondering the future of The New York Times and print in general.  

ON-CAMERA INTERVIEWS

The ever- loquacious Guillermo del Toro discussed his next major project, Pacific Rim, as well as his myriad movies in development at San Diego Comic-Con. Del Toro's the sort of natural showman who can respond to the simplest question with a raucous, entertaining answer, so, as a rule, don't miss any interview with him.

Andy Serkis's remarkable motion-capture performance as Caesar is currently at the center of a concentrated effort to secure the first acting Oscar of its kind. But at Comic-Con, the actor shared some insight on his current endeavor: reprising his role as Gollum and serving as second unit director on both The Hobbit films, An Unexpected Journey and There and Back Again.

Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson are all really funny comedic actors.  Watch them being just as funny as you'd expect on camera with IAR's Jenny Karakaya in a series of interviews promoting the ensemble comedy 30 Minutes or Less.


If you have yet to see Attack the Block, the brilliant, ridiculously fun comedic/horrific bottle rocket of a movie that pits five inner-city London teenagers against a hoard of pissed off extraterrestrials, go watch it now.  When you're done with that, check out this exclusive interview with writer-director Joe Cornish, a charming Brit if ever there was one.  

At this point, writer-director J.J. Abrams has become infamous for his secretive ways, but in an interview with IAR, he and young Super 8 star Joel Courtney share plenty of information about the loving homage to the Spielberg films of yore. 

CONVENTION COVERAGE

The Los Angeles Film Festival kicked off with the premiere of Bernie, the latest from director Richard Linklater.  Stars Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine were all on hand at LAFF's opening night to talk with us about the unique independent film from the director of Dazed and Confused.

VidCon is the very first and single largest convention revolving around original online video.  If you're unfamiliar, don't worry.  For the second annual VidCon, Jami Philbrick witnessed the introductory industry day, while New Media guru Jenni Powell handled the post-convention wrap-up

For the best look at our extensive coverage from the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con, head over to the full Comic-Con section of the site, which includes every report from the floor, Hall H, and even the full battery of video interviews. 

For a sampling of the Hall H happenings in San Diego, check out these reports on two panels for upcoming science-fiction event movies: Len Wiseman's Total Recall remake and Prometheus, Ridley Scott's return to the universe of his 1979 masterpiece Alien


While you're at it, get a feel for one of the strangest and most enjoyable panels of the Con when Francis Ford Coppola brought Twixt to Hall H.  Coppola shared his plan for live, oddly improvisational screenings of Twixt as part of a nationwide screening tour that has since failed to materialize in any meaningful way.

OSCAR CONTENDER INTERVIEWS

The Artist is picking up a lot of awards season momentum.  The movie may be a black and white homage to silent film, but the cast was very talkative in a series of video interviews with Jami PhilbrickClick here to see Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, and Missi Pyle chatting up The Artist.

The supporting actor category contains many a worthy performance, but one especially notable turn that makes the most of limited screen time is Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  The actor created an image of Hemingway that, while not an impression, captures the essence of the author as presented by his own writing.  In conversation, Stoll kindly discussed channeling Hemingway, working with Allen, and walking the streets of Paris.  

Jeremy Irvine just made his feature debut in War Horse, the WWI drama from director Steven Spielberg.  The film is almost guaranteed to wrack up nominations, and the young British actor shared, amongst many other subjects, just what it's like to engage in equine acting alongside the titular horse.

At San Diego Comic-Con, Carey Mulligan, Ron Perlman, and director Nicholas Winding Refn discussed the unique crime drama Drive, a stylish, hypnotic, and violent tale that has emerged as an awards season dark horse, with especially outstanding performances by Mulligan and Albert Brooks.


Kenneth Branagh scored a big commercial hit as the director  of Thor, but he's earning crazy-accolades and a possible Oscar nomination for his work as an actor in My Week With Marilyn, in which he appears as no less a luminary than Sir Laurence Olivier, playing against Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.

In Warrior, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play underdog brothers who end up going head to head as competitors in an MMA tournament.  Both actors discussed the acclaimed sports-drama in an on-camera interview, and not a single instance of fisticuffs resulted in the course of the back and forth.

It might surprise you to learn that Gary Oldman has never even been nominated for an Oscar, despite being one of the finest actors in film.  He's getting no small amount of attention for his performance as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, about which Oldman and fellow badass thespian Mark Strong talk in an exclusive video interview.  

COMIC BOOK MOVIE COVERAGE

Bringing Marvel's Merry Mutants to life is never an easy task, but John Dyskstra, the visual effects supervisor whose previous credits include Star Wars and Spider-Man, discussed the particular challenges and accomplishments of X-Men: First Class in an exclusive interview.  

Green Lantern failed to win the devotion of a wide audience and may or may not spawn a franchise, but prior to its release, director Martin Campbell, stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, and Mark Strong detailed plenty about the production and the DC character at the film's press conference in June, when hopes were still high.

In an IAR exclusive interview, Tom Hiddleston shared plenty about Loki, his character in Thor and the upcoming The Avengers.  While Chris Hemsworth was obviously the big breakout star of Thor, Hiddleston practically stole the show as the thunder god's adopted brother, and he was open in his excitement for going ever-more villainous in The Avengers.  

Yet another exclusive interview with an actor in the Marvel universe: Neal McDonough, who played Dum Dum Dugan in Captain America: The First Avenger, talked about his role as one of Cap's sidekicks in the WWII adventure and potential Marvel spin-offs or sequels. He also discussed his role on Justified and the possibility of a bigscreen Green Arrow movie

The vast majority of movie and comic book geeks out there in the world were unable to make it Southern California for San Diego Comic-Con, but that doesn't mean they can't get the gist of the biggest Hall H presentations.  Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man panel included many a memorable moment, such as by far the most extensive look at footage from the film (Spider-powers, teenage angst, and a first look at The Lizard).  Read our detailed breakdown of the panel by clicking right here.  


Similarly, Hall H played host to a look at the 3D comic book movie Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  The sequel/semi-reboot once again starring Nicolas Cage was teased with a trailer, but the real highlight was a video examining co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's shared love of a dangerous, aggro approach to stuntwork.  As Nicolas Cage commented, Neveldine is "Literally risking his life to get shots, to entertain you."

LEGENDS

John Carpenter, the director behind classics such as Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing, They Live, Big Trouble in Little China, and Starman, sat down on camera to discuss his career and his latest film, the psychological horror trip, The Ward.  

As resonant a movie icon as America has ever produced, John Wayne needs no introduction.  His son, Ethan Wayne, provided new insights into his father's acting style and his famous Westerns in an illuminating interview with IAR that also touched upon specific movies and the elder Wayne's friendship with fellow icon Robert Mitchum.

You've never seen Jeremy Bulloch's face, but you definitely know his most famous character.  Bulloch was the man under the helmet of bounty hunter and ontergalactic badass Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Almost thirty years after last playing the character, Bulloch discussed being the man with the rocket pack in an interview promoting Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray.  


Maintain that they're fictional characters all you want, but as this The Muppets interview demonstrates, Kermit and Miss Piggy will not be denied.  Seriously, it's amazing how much life the Muppeteers can infuse into what we all know intellectually is simply a puppet.

Between them, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, and John Rosengrant are responsible for many of the defining visual effects of the last forty years, and the trio addressed the lasting impact of Jurassic Park, as well as the changing methods and issues of modern visual effects, in an interview promoting the new Blu-ray edition of the Jurassic Park.  

Two of the biggest, most popular directors of all time, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, together in one place.  Promoting The Adventures of Tintin at San Diego Comic-Con, the gregarious duo talked about collaborating as director and producer on the 3D motion-capture adventure that's now in theaters.  

His status as the last half-century's foremost purveyor of unapologetic low-budget schlock doesn't do justice to the true pop-cultural contribution of Roger Corman, but his life and legacy are explored at length in the new documentary Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood RebelCorman and the doc's director Alex Stapleton discussed the man, the myth, and the legend in an exclusive video interview.  

SCOOPS  AND EXCLUSIVES

In May, amidst an endlessly discussed casting process for the adaptation of Suzanne Collins's novel, IAR was the first to confirm that Wes Bentley had joined the ensemble cast of The Hunger Games as Seneca Crane, a pivotal character in the novels.  Check out the official confirmation from Bentley himself in this interview

An exclusive visit to the film's edit bay gave us a chance to see a work-in- progress cut of Street, an independent drama from director York Shackleton that dramatizes the plight of teenage homelessness and drug addiction with a visceral, potentially controversial approach.

Stellan Skarsgard, currently appearing in the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, joined the cinematic Marvel universe earlier this year with a supporting role in Thor.  While talking to Skarsgard, IAR secured more information on how his character, Dr. Erik Selvig, will became even more important in The Avengers, next summer's unprecedented superhero team-up.

After becoming a one-man entertainment empire as the writer, director, and frequent star in his own dramas, Tyler Perry is set to become an action star in 2012, as he's taking on the role of James Patterson's most famous creation, Detective Alex Cross in I, Alex Cross.  Perry himself revealed some new insights on the rebooted Cross, while also talking about the possibility of reprising his brief Starfleet role in the sequel to Star Trek.

Henry Cavill is currently filming the dual role of Clark Kent and Superman in the Superman reboot Man of Steel, and the British actor was naturally the subject of much attention at Comic-Con, but Jami managed to get the tight-lipped new Kal-El of Krypton talking about the Superman comics that have particularly informed his take on the iconic character.  Find out what they could be in the video interview available right here

Top Gun 2, a sequel to the famously jingoistic and subtextually homoerotic 1986 action hit is one of those projects that seem impossible, yet it's looking increasingly likely.  Val Kilmer, who played Iceman in Tony Scott's original film, shared his enthusiasm for another round of airborne combat in a video interview at Comic-Con, where he also exclusively revealed his idea for the sequel's title.  


And that's all she wrote, folks.  We'll see you next year!

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