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<p>Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Pine star in the new action/comedy 'This Means War'</p>

Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, and Chris Pine star in the new action/comedy 'This Means War'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: Chris Pine and Tom Hardy make the most of the slight 'This Means War'

Does McG automatically equal evil as many critics claim?

I wonder what would happen if they showed this movie to critics without McG's name on it.

Certain directors become punching bags over the course of their careers, and it's not always just because of their filmmaking.  In the case of McG, his name does not help him at all, no matter how many times he explains it was a childhood nickname.  It also doesn't help that he's incredibly earnest when he talks about his work, and that there's a hard-earned defensiveness as well.  He came to make a presentation at BNAT the year before his "Terminator: Salvation" came out, and by the end of his appearance, he'd turned a fair percentage of the audience against him.  As he left, someone in my row commented, "McG was going to stay longer to talk to us, but he had to get back to The Learning Annex to teach his 'How To Be A Douchebag' class."  He talked an entire room full of people out of being excited about his movie through sheer force of personality.

The thing is, nothing he's made really deserves that level of animosity.  He's not technically incompetent.  He has a music video pop sensibility that isn't especially deep, but he knows how to stage action and he's got a big broad sense of humor.  When I hear people refer to someone like McG as the worst of modern filmmaking, it makes me think that they don't see many films, or that they've got him prejudged to such a degree that they don't really see his films when they watch them.

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Listen: Usher wants you back on 'Climax'

Sweet, soul tune is first track from forthcoming album

Usher’s new slow-burning single, “Climax,” may be one of the sweetest songs he’s ever sung. He’s on his knees, but not in the way the song title would indicate. Instead he and his lady have come undone... “Didn’t want to give in, so we both gave up,” he sings, and now it’s too late.

[More after the jump...]

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Taking questions for 2/17 Oscar Talk

Offer up your burning queries

Alright, you know the drill. Rifle off your need-to-knows and we'll address a few in the podcast. We'll already be covering BAFTA, ASC probably, too.

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<p>Seth McFarlane will be at SXSW&nbsp;to talk about 'Family Guy,' his animation empire, his upcoming film 'Ted,' and maybe he'll explain that big-band album he put out.&nbsp; Seriously.</p>

Seth McFarlane will be at SXSW to talk about 'Family Guy,' his animation empire, his upcoming film 'Ted,' and maybe he'll explain that big-band album he put out.  Seriously.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

SXSW adds Seth McFarlane, 'Nature Calls,' and... Drew McWeeny?

Which panel will I be moderating, and can SXSW contain that much lunacy?

This is the last round of announcements for this year's SXSW festival, and they've managed to pack at least one great surprise into every single press release they've sent out this year.

The main part of today's announcement deals with the panels that they're running as part of the Film Conference this year.  There's a "Conversation with Seth McFarlane" which sounds like it's going to include some talk about his upcoming film "Ted," a dark comedy about Mark Wahlberg having a relationship with a CGI teddy bear with a foul mouth.  There's also a major "Funny or Die" panel, and a piece about Universal's 100 Years celebration restorations, which both could be very informative.

And on Sunday the 11th, you might take special note of this one:

Screaming with Laughter: FEARnet TV's Holliston
FEARnet debuts its first original series "Holliston," a new type of horror sitcom. The panel will explore the path taken to make a show about two friends chasing the dream of becoming successful horror movie filmmakers.

Why?  Because Joe Lynch and Adam Green are wildly entertaining, because "Holliston" is going to be bizarre and worth your time, and because the moderator for the panel is some dude named Drew McWeeny.

Todd Rohal, whose last film was the aggressively strange "The Catechism Cataclysm," snuck in under the wire with "Nature Calls," a new film starring Johnny Knoxville and Patton Oswalt, which sounds like a must-see.  I'll also be able to catch up with a few titles I missed at Sundance like Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me" and "Searching For Sugarman."

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<p>Dave Matthews band 2012 tour promo</p>

Dave Matthews band 2012 tour promo

Dave Matthews Band sets first summer tour in two years

New Steve Lillywhite-produced album also coming in 2012

After taking most of last summer off,  Dave Matthews Band will return for its first full North American summer tour in two years. Plus, the group will have a new Steve Lillywhite-produced album out in 2012 as well.

The 2012 tour starts May 18 at Cynthia Wood Mitchell Pavilion in Woodlands, Texas and end Sept. 9 at Mountain View, Calif.’s Shoreline Amphitheater. Among the opening acts  on various dates are Brandi Carlile, The Avett Brothers, The Head and the Heart, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Fitz and the Tantrums.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>A scene from &quot;Real Steel&quot;</p>

A scene from "Real Steel"

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Oscar Guide 2011: Best Visual Effects

'Harry Potter,' 'Hugo,' 'Real Steel,' 'Apes' and 'Transformers' square off

(The Oscar Guide will be your chaperone through the Academy's 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 26, with the Best Picture finale on Saturday, February 25.)

After gradually reducing finalists from 15 to 10 to five, the visual effects branch made room for four blockbusters this year – three of them from franchises – as well as the nominations leader. This is hardly the sort of lineup that could be considered shocking. Still, another Best Picture contender was left off, while the fourth entries in three other franchises came up short, as did one additional summer blockbuster.

The race for the win is probably between the Best Picture nominee and two of the franchise blockbusters that are going down in the history books for very different reasons. But while this one seems like an easy category to pick, it could be more of a race than you'd expect.

The nominees are…

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"Private Practice"

 "Private Practice"

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: A.J. Langer talks about 'Private Practice' and her 'So-Called Life'

Her character will be the focus of a crossover with 'Grey's Anatomy'

It may be hard to visualize scruffy teen Rayanne Graff of "My So-Called Life" all grown up, but A.J. Langer has been playing Erica Warner, a mom suffering from a brain tumor, on "Private Practice" this season. The role will get a double-series punch as part of a special, two-hour "Practice" crossover with "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday (starting at 9 p.m. on ABC). I spoke with Langer about her unexpected role, why she put acting on hold for four years and why she doesn't mind if she's always associated with a fictional rebellious teen.

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<p>Dax Shepard and Craig T. Nelson in &quot;Parenthood.&quot;</p>

Dax Shepard and Craig T. Nelson in "Parenthood."

Credit: NBC

'Parenthood' - 'Tough Love': Mind your own business?

It's a particularly nosy week for the Bravermans

A review of last night's "Parenthood" coming up just as soon as I start all my best talks with "Hey, man!"...

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<p>Max Greenfield, Zooey Deschanel and Ryan Kwanten in &quot;New Girl.&quot;</p>

Max Greenfield, Zooey Deschanel and Ryan Kwanten in "New Girl."

Credit: FOX

'New Girl' - 'Valentine's Day': I feel twirly, oh so twirly

Jess seeks a one-night stand, Nick visits Julia's office and Winston goes to a girls night in

A review of last night's "New Girl" coming up just as soon as I play guitar in an alt-country ska band...

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<p>A scene from&nbsp;&quot;Moneyball&quot;</p>

A scene from "Moneyball"

Credit: Columbia Pictures

The top 10 shots of 2011: part two

Wrapping up the year in individual film images

In case you missed part one of this year's shots column, be sure to catch up before diving into the final five here today.

I glanced back at some prior lists yesterday for formatting reasons and was surprised to note that my closing commentary on the 2010 collective was remarkably similar to the sentiments I conveyed yesterday, namely the notion that a year thin on striking singular images makes my appreciation of the work that much stronger because of what goes into digging them up. Interesting.

Regardless, last year I was remiss in leaving out a few honorable mentions, which had been a bit of a tradition, so before getting to today's run-down and the top five shots of 2011, let's take a quick look at a few of the images that just missed making the cut.

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<p>Uggie at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards in January.</p>

Uggie at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards in January.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Round-up: Uggie finally gets a bone

Also: Mourning 'Contagion,' and the decade-later Oscar vote

Whether you've been delighted or irritated by the publicity machine surrounding him, you'd have to agree that few stars this season have been run quite as ragged in their promotional duties as Uggie: in his position as official mascot for "The Artist," the adorable 10 year-old Jack Russell has been carted around from one red carpet do to another, performed tricks on demand, conducted interviews, with nothing but an unnamed shaking disease for his pains. Well, after months of helping his cohorts win awards, he received one of his own on the weekend: inevitably, Uggie took the Best Dog in a Theatrical Film prize at the Golden Collar Awards, beating, among others, his own performance in "Water for Elephants." Well deserved, boy. Now, go play. [The Odds]

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<p>Matthias Schoenaerts in best foreign language film nominee &quot;Bullhead.&quot;</p>

Matthias Schoenaerts in best foreign language film nominee "Bullhead."

Credit: Almo Drafthouse Films

'Bullhead' director says don't spoil the secret of his Oscar nominated thriller

Could this foreign language film nominee upset 'A Separation'?

When I first spoke to Michael Roskam six weeks ago, an Oscar nomination for his feature film debut was still nothing more than a fleeting dream.  The filmmaker's thriller "Bullhead" had played some notable festivals since debuting at the Berlin Film Festival in February of 2011, but a best foreign language film nomination? Even after being selected to represent his native Belgium in this year's competition, it seemed during our conversation like Roskam was just enjoying the ride and hardly expected anything more. That all changed on January 24 when "Bullhead" became the first Belgian film nominated since "Everybody Famous!" in 2001 and the seventh overall since 1971.

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