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<p>Rob Lowe and Amy Poehler in a scene from this week's &quot;Parks and Recreation&quot;&nbsp;Christmas episode.</p>

Rob Lowe and Amy Poehler in a scene from this week's "Parks and Recreation" Christmas episode.

Credit: NBC

HitFix First Look: A 'Parks and Recreation' gift-giving dilemma

What can Leslie's friends get her to equal what she gives them?

It's Christmas in Pawnee on this week's "Parks and Recreation," in what may be my favorite episode of the season so far. They've done a bunch of episodes that have been insanely funny ("Ron & Tammys," "The Treaty") and many that have been incredibly sweet ("End of the World," last week's "The Trial of Leslie Knope"), but Thursday's "Citizen Knope" comes at you hard with both barrels.

Without giving too much away, the episode deals with what both Leslie and Ben are up to professionally in the wake of what happened at the end of last week's episode, while the rest of her friends and co-workers are struggling with a tricky holiday question: what do you get for the woman who, year after year, gets you the most creative, thoughtful, awesome Christmas presents?

It's an outstanding half-hour, and representative of everything that's made me love "Parks and Rec" so much this year. You'll all get to enjoy it Thursday night at 8:30, but to whet your appetites, here's an early scene - exclusive to HitFix for the evening - from the Christmas gift subplot, as we see just how high a bar Leslie sets in terms of gift-giving. All her selections are fantastic, but April's present is probably my favorite. Enjoy.

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<p>Justin Bieber</p>

Justin Bieber

Credit: Vevo

Watch: Christmas roundup with Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, MMJ and more

Plus your daily dose of Bah! Humbug! from Diamond Rugs and Sunny Sweeney

Admit it. You wanted a Santa Claus who knows how to pop and lock for Christmas, didn’t you? Well, look no further, because everyone’s favorite holiday elf, Justin Bieber, has just delivered one to your internet stocking. In his new video for “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” the toys, Santa’s helpers, and Kris Kringle himself are all breaking into head spins.

The only one who looks like he isn’t having a good time is Mr. Under the Mistletoe himself. In his 8,000th holiday video this week, Bieber seems very concerned and intense about Santa Claus’s arrival or maybe the steampunk glove he’s wearing is just a little too tight.

The live action video, embedded below, is the second from Bieber for “Santa Claus is Coming To Town”; the first was an animated clip to accompany “Arthur Christmas.” Arthur makes a few very unobtrusive drop in for this video, but otherwise, knows to stay the hell out of the kitchen. Given that this arrangement follows the Jacksons’ version, there is a very sweet little homage to the group. See if you can figure it out.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Ed Helms is the voice of the Once-ler in the new animated feature film version of 'The Lorax'</p>

Ed Helms is the voice of the Once-ler in the new animated feature film version of 'The Lorax'

Credit: Universal/Illumination

New trailer for animated 'Lorax' is looking a lot like Seuss

Can an expanded version of the story pack the same punch as the original story?

When my wife told me we were expecting our first son, my first response seemed entirely rational to me.  I went to a bookstore, and I bought a giant collection of Dr. Seuss stories.

Why not?  When I think about the things I want helping shape the world view of my kids, the work of Theodor Geisel is high on that list.  Like Jim Henson, there is a decency and an expansive kindness that is central to his work, and if filmmakers hope to capture what works in the stories he created, they have to aim high.

When I went to the offices of Illumination Entertainment recently to check in on what they were doing with "The Lorax," I was very curious.  One of the most overt of Seuss's books, "The Lorax" comes with a built-in environmental message that was upsetting 50 years ago but which is positively terrifying now considering how little we seem to have learned in that time.

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<p>Michael Barker (left)&nbsp;with &quot;Midnight in&nbsp;Paris&quot;&nbsp;producer Letty Aronson and star Owen&nbsp;Wilson at the Hollywood Film&nbsp;Awards in&nbsp;October</p>

Michael Barker (left) with "Midnight in Paris" producer Letty Aronson and star Owen Wilson at the Hollywood Film Awards in October

Credit: AP Photo/Kristian Dowling

Interview: Michael Barker talks 'Midnight in Paris,' 'Take Shelter' and 20 years of Sony Classics

The co-president has a long list of memories and looks to make more this season

"It's an exciting day," Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker says by phone the day his company's films racked up eight Independent Spirit Award nominations last week. "I'm really happy for 'Take Shelter.' If ever there was a movie that justified the Independent Spirit Awards, it's a movie like 'Take Shelter.'"

Indeed, Jeff Nichols' stripped-down focus on a father and a husband's descent into paranoia was a modest affair, and the intimacy of the production, actor Michael Shannon said in advance of the film's release, is what drove the characters and the relationships on the screen. And it's most heartening, Barker says, that Shannon is getting recognition.

"I’m really thrilled that the guy’s finally getting his dues," he says. "My partner [Sony Classics co-president Tom Bernard] and I, I mean, we think this is like the greatest actor going right now. We saw him in this play off Broadway and he knocked our socks off, which helped cause us to make an offer on the movie before we’d even seen it. And then 'Boardwalk Empire' this year, this season he’s just amazing."

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Anna Paquin in Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret"
Anna Paquin in Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret"
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Team 'Margaret' makes headway

In wake of film's surprise UK success, perhaps critics are good for something after all

I won't lie to you, there are many nice things about being a film critic: the free advance screenings, the year-end screeners, the trips to festivals, the freedom to spend some mornings drinking tea in your pajamas while you duck out of seeing "New Year's Eve." But along with the money, an overriding sense of usefulness isn't one of them. Some hands heal the sick, some hands build bridges and some hands warn people off spending money on seeing "W.E." They're all services, true, but the world wouldn't exactly spin off its axis if the last group of hands remained idle. 

The discussion about what purpose critics serve in an age when social media and the blogosphere increasingly blur the lines of "qualified" opinion -- some of the most engaging film writers I currently read don't practice professionally -- while the notion of films being "critic-proof" dates back much, much further. Even before I became one myself, I found critics less useful for helping me decide what films to see than for feeding my post-viewing thoughts. I'm always delighted when someone tells me one of my reviews encouraged them to see a film, but somewhat surprised as well. There are enough critically adored films that approximately no one goes to see to support the idea that most critics have little audience to speak of.

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<p>David Yates directed four 'Harry Potter' films and has his pick of projects at this point. &nbsp;OF&nbsp;COURSE&nbsp;he's smiling like that.</p>

David Yates directed four 'Harry Potter' films and has his pick of projects at this point.  OF COURSE he's smiling like that.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Director David Yates talks about steering the 'Potter' franchise home

We chat with the man who directed more Potter films than anyone else

My favorite thing about that photo of Yates, taken as the sun was going down in Orlando at the end of a long day spent at The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, is the way the silhouette behind him isn't a backdrop.  Those are the actual spires of Hogwarts, part of the incredibly effective illusion created when you're actually there in person.

When you visit Islands of Adventure, the park is divided into different "worlds," and it's designed so that when you stand in each one, it's all you can see, and you're meant to be immersed in those worlds.  The theme park aspects of the Los Angeles Universal park have always felt like an afterthought to me, wedged into the corners of a working studio property, but the Orlando park is a proper theme park, and you can tell it has been carefully designed and executed to give guests a very particular experience.

With The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, they've built it so that when you walk into Hogsmeade, it immediately feels like you've stepped into the world of the movies, and the effect is very impressive.  There are familiar shops and restaurants all around you, and you can eat at The Leaky Cauldron or go shopping at Mr. Olivander's Wand Shop as you work your way past the stands selling Butterbeer or the twin dragon roller coasters, Hogwarts stands above all of it, a fantastic example of real-life forced perspective in environmental design.

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<p>Andrew Bird</p>

Andrew Bird

Watch: Andrew Bird announces new album, 'Break It Yourself'

A tour date ticket earns you lots of free stuff

For as soothing as Andrew Bird's music can be, the title to his next effort is delightfully aggressive. The Chicago bard's next effort "Break It Yourself" will be out on March 6 next year through Mom + Pop.

And it will presumably have some singing on it. Bird's last effort was the score and soundtrack for Jonathan Segal-directed "Norman," which was mostly instrumental. There was also "Useless Creatures," the 2010 all-instrumental companion set to his last traditional studio set "Noble Creatures," out in 2009.

And if you've seen "The Muppets" this past month, then you heard his whistling workmanship in the "Whistling Caruso" bit.

Below is a short teaser for the set, his second for Mom + Pop. That label has done a helluva job adding established artists to its roster -- those who've paved their own way label-less (Ingrid Michaelson) or have earned their keep through previous label deals (Metric).

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"Modern Family"

 "Modern Family"

Credit: ABC

A round-up of holiday programming to take you through the New Year

Holiday programming didn't end with 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
Maybe you're feeling the holiday spirit, or maybe you just want to avoid looking at carolers and Santa Claus when you remote-surf, but television programmers have embraced all things holiday-themed (especially and specifically Christmas themed, more on that below) this year. Here's a list that, hopefully, tells you where to find all things holiday on your television this year. 
 
What you will likely notice is the dearth of Hanukkah-themed programming this year. This isn't for lack of effort, mind you -- I simply have come up empty-handed. If you've managed to find "Eight Crazy Nights" (note: it is available on DVD), "The Hebrew Hammer" (not for children, mind you), "The Rugrats Hanukkah Special," or anything else that fits the bill (or covers Kwanzaa, which is Dec. 26 - Jan. 1), please feel free to comment below. 
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<p>Rupert Grint could retire right now if he wanted to and life comfortably for the rest of his life.&nbsp; OF&nbsp;COURSE&nbsp;he is smiling like that.</p>

Rupert Grint could retire right now if he wanted to and life comfortably for the rest of his life.  OF COURSE he is smiling like that.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Rupert Grint discusses the end of all things 'Potter'

We sit down with the former Ron Weasley at Universal's Orlando park

A few weeks ago, I flew to Orlando to visit Harry Potter.

To be fair, I went to visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, part of the Universal Studios Islands of Adventure park, and to participate in the press day for the release of the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2" Blu-ray release.  When I was invited, I had no idea who would be there, but I wanted to go and participate in what may well be the last major press event for the Potter series.

Oddly, I've never interviewed anyone associated with the Potter series during the entire run of the thing.  Since 2001, I've been an observer, and that's been fine.  At Ain't It Cool, Quint was the Potter superfreak, and I didn't feel like there was any reason to fight him on it.  And here at HitFix, it's been a matter of timing that's led to other people going to London for various Potter set visits and press days.

It's been okay, though, because it's one of those things that was fun to watch as a finished product all the way through.  I saw the Potter series the same way the public did, and because I never walked through the sets, never sat down with the cast, never really peeked behind the curtain.  Hogwarts is just as substantial to me as it was to any other viewer.

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Gary Oldman as potty-mouthed Rastafarian gangster Drexl Spivey in Tony Scott's "True Romance"
Gary Oldman as potty-mouthed Rastafarian gangster Drexl Spivey in Tony Scott's "True Romance"
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 Gary Oldman performances

With 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' heading to theaters, we pick actor's best work

Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" might seem like it's been on the way for some time at this point in the season, considering an early-September world premiere, followed shortly by a UK theatrical release. But nearly three months later, the film is making its way to domestic theaters this weekend and everyone here will finally get a load of another Gary Oldman performance in a long line of versatile, chameleonic portrayals.

The occasion seemed an obvious one for dedicating an installment of The Lists to the actor's work. Indeed, this was the first list I jotted down as a must when preparing the season's coverage a few months ago; Oldman is easily one of my favorite actors, an impeccable performer who has managed to do something fresh with every new endeavor.

Roger Ebert once wrote of Oldman that "like a few gifted actors, he is able to re-invent himself for every role." If you can believe it, that was in his May 1987 review of Stephen Frears' "Prick Up Your Ears." And Oldman has proved the point over and over again in the years since.

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<p>When you see this image, how can you not think of Harry Nilsson's &quot;Jump Into the Film?&quot;&nbsp;Or the Rolling Stones' &quot;Monkey Man?&quot;</p>

When you see this image, how can you not think of Harry Nilsson's "Jump Into the Film?" Or the Rolling Stones' "Monkey Man?"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Oscarweb Round-up: Scorsese to be honored with BFCA's music in film award

Also: Reznor releases 35 minutes of 'Tattoo' score and Rudin/Denby gets a parody

Last year the Broadcast Film Critics Organization initiated a new award, the Music + Film Award, which went to Quentin Tarantino. The honor is meant to recognize filmmakers who have heightened the impact of films through the use of source or original music. Tarantino was a decent enough inaugural winner, but when you think of this kind of thing, how can you think of anyone other than Scorsese? The list of iconic scenes he has set to popular music is endless, and the synthesis of the two has been a hallmark of his work since day one. So good on the BFCA for going there this year. It's an obvious pick, but a brilliant one, nevertheless. Humble suggestion for next year's recipient: Cameron Crowe. [The Odds]

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<p>David Morrissey and John Simm in &quot;State of Play.&quot;</p>

David Morrissey and John Simm in "State of Play."

Credit: BBC

Review: BBC America's 'State of Play' the best repeat you'll see all month

John Simm, Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald shine in 2003 journalism/political thriller
In the late '90s, NBC launched an ad campaign to try to boost the image, and viewership numbers, for repeats, by boasting, "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you!" At the time, I soundly mocked the slogan, as was my moral obligation as a television critic.
 
Today, though, the idea seems much less bogus. We live in an age where there's more original programming - and good programming, at that - than even a professional TV watcher can ever hope to get to. And we live in an age where there are so many ways to see shows, past and present, that no one's limited solely to watching what's on right now. (Whenever you hear a bell ring, it means that someone is watching season 1 of "The Wire" for the first time on DVD.)
 
Tomorrow night at 10, BBC America presents a good case in point by rerunning "State of Play," a miniseries from 2003 (it first aired in America in early 2004) about a group of newspaper reporters who get caught up in a wide-reaching political conspiracy.
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