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<p>Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and Arthur (James McAvoy) prepare to head out on a big adventure as Christmas Eve slips away in the new Aardman comedy 'Arthur Christmas'</p>

Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and Arthur (James McAvoy) prepare to head out on a big adventure as Christmas Eve slips away in the new Aardman comedy 'Arthur Christmas'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: 'Arthur Christmas' offers up slight but silly family fun

Aardman's latest effort is big on comedy and star voices

One thing that makes the long tradition of movies about Santa Claus so interesting is that there is no one accepted story that defines Claus around the world.  Different countries can't even agree on what the tradition is, so there's certainly no consensus on who Santa is or what he means.  This means that anyone who wants to can play mix-and-match with various Santa stories from different cultures, or they can just ignore them all and create their own, which makes Santa a particularly fertile icon in terms of storytelling.

”Arthur Christmas” is the newest film from the Aardman studios, and as such it comes with lofty expectations attached.  After all, these are the people who created Wallace and Gromit, two of the most durable characters in modern UK cinema, animated or live-action.  To me, this is a group of artists that I respect as much as Pixar, and when I see something new from them, I hope it's going to be something that adds to their reputation.  They've had a rougher time in features than they did in shorts, but overall, they've still got a great track record.

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<p>Nickelback's &quot;Here and Now&quot;</p>

Nickelback's "Here and Now"

Credit: Roadrunner Records

Album Review: Nickelback's 'Here and Now'

Canadian rockers bring the middlebrow rock, you bring the PBR

Nickelback seems to hold a special place in critics’ hearts. Seldom has a band drawn such slings and arrows. It’s as if every time one of their fans buys a Nickelback album— and they’ve bought more than 50 million of them— a critic’s puppy gets kicked and evil edges one step closer to winning.

Please. That’s such wasted energy.There’s always been a space for acts that folks in the flyover states love and that snobs on the coasts hate (I can say that since I’m originally from North Carolina). Or to put it in political language, even though they are from Canada, Nickelback is about as red state a band as ever existed.

On “Here and Now,” out today, Chad Kroeger and the boys do nothing to endear themselves to any of their haters, including those 50,000+ people who signed a petition protesting the band’s halftime performance during Thanksgiving’s Detroit Lions/Green Bay Packers game.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>From &quot;A Trip to the Moon&quot;</p>

From "A Trip to the Moon"

French duo Air and Scorsese's 'Hugo' honoring 'Moon' man Georges Méliès

'Le Voyage Dans La Lune' (A Trip To The Moon) gets a full album

French electronica duo Air are going hand-in-hand with "The Moon."

Director Georges Méliès' "Le Voyage Dans La Lune" ("A Trip to the Moon") was a trailblazing silent film  originally completed in 1902, and one of the first known science fiction flicks, inspiring flimmakers and writers thereafter. A hand-painted reel of the film -- the only one of its kind -- was discovered in 1993 and it was subsequently reworked for a debut on the world stage at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year; Air was commissioned to complete a brand new soundtrack for the 14-minute film it debuted at the fest as well.

Air are expanding on that prompt and are completing an entire album inspired by "La Lune." Astralwerks will release "A Trip to the Moon" on Feb. 7.

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<p>Zooey Deschanel</p>
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Zooey Deschanel

Credit: FOX

Listen: Firewall & Iceberg Podcast No. 103

Dan and Alan play catch-up on a slew of TV comedies

The

Happy Monday, Boys & Girls!
 
How did a week in which we had nothing new to discuss end up being our longest podcast ever?
 
I have no idea.
 
But last week, we caught up with many of our favorite TV dramas and this week we caught up with many of our favorite TV comedies and that somehow resulted in an epic 100-minute-plus podcast.
 
I can't really explain it, but Justin Verlander is probably to blame.
 
This week's exhausting breakdown:
 
"How I Met Your Mother" (01:35 - 10:50)
"2 Broke Girls" (10:50 - 19:05)
"New Girl" (19:05 - 25:00)
"Suburgatory" (25:00 - 30:05)
"Modern Family" (30:05 - 34:50)
Justin Verlander winning AL MVP (34:50 - 37:50)
"Happy Endings" (38:05 - 42:50)
The shelving of "Cougar Town" and "Community" (42:50 - 52:00)
"Community" (52:00 - 01:01:25)
"Parks and Rec" (01:01:30 - 01:08:50)
"The Office" (01:08:50 - 01:19:14)
"Always Sunny" (01:19:20 - 01:23:55)
Listener Mail: Miscasting vs. Bad acting (01:23:55 - 01:28:45)
"Homeland" (01:28:50 - 01:38:00)
 
 

As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. [Or you can always follow our RSS Feed.] 

And here's the podcast...
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<p>Lou Reed</p>

Lou Reed

Credit: AP Photo

Lou Reed, Tom Morello, more launch Occupy Musicians, in support of OWS

Talib Kweli, Saul Williams, Ian McKaye... will their participation help the cause?

More than two months after the Occupy Wall Street protests popped up, creative professionals now have a formal website to show their support. Lou Reed, Tom Morello, Talib Kweli, Saul Williams, Dan Deacon, former members of Fugazi, Laurie Anderson and more have expressed their support of the movement on OccupyMusicians.com, which has sister sites like Occupy Writers and Occupy Filmmakers.

The site organizers can help pair up musicians who support the cause to protest leaders, to help schedule performances. It's also a simple way of musicians showing support for the grassroots cause.

There are names on here that don't really surprise me -- Morello is normally the first guy to sign onto anything that fights-the-power, and nobody's ever going to raise an eyebrow after the words "Ian McKaye" and "personal politics." The 99 percent is a large enough swath to lend relevancy to any artist. I'm a bit cynical about any artist's ability to bring more to the cause than the cause lending to these artists (except maybe somebody gigantic like Radiohead).

It reminds me a little bit of protests against Arizona's controversial SB 1070 law, but in that case, artists actively boycotted the state -- didn't tour through -- which is a quick way to hurt local music businesses. The unconstitutional portions of that legislation weren't affected by Morello or Conor Oberst's protests. But, then again, it was a moment of solidarity, and another way to bring the issue into national consciousness. I had mixed feelings.

Hell, the coldest months approaching, I hope OWS protesters stay warm and healthy as they exercise their right to assemble. Cynicism aside, if the best wishes of Marc Ribot and other artists are going help keep these guys warm, I welcome them.

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Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 103: Comedy catch-up

Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, episode 103: Comedy catch-up

Dan and Alan check in on a whole lot of primetime comedy, including 'How I Met Your Mother,' 'Community' and 'The Office'

The

As a bookend to last week's Firewall & Iceberg Podcast drama catch-up, Dan and I decided to check in on how we're feeling about a whole bunch of comedies right now, which means another mega-podcast touching on lots and lots of shows, plus a brief revisit of "Homeland" in light of what happened in last night's episode.

The line-up: 

"How I Met Your Mother" (01:35 - 10:50)
"2 Broke Girls" (10:50 - 19:05)
"New Girl" (19:05 - 25:00)
"Suburgatory" (25:00 - 30:05)
"Modern Family" (30:05 - 34:50)
Justin Verlander winning AL MVP (34:50 - 37:50)
"Happy Endings" (38:05 - 42:50)
The shelving of "Cougar Town" and "Community" (42:50 - 52:00)
"Community" (52:00 - 01:01:25)
"Parks and Rec" (01:01:30 - 01:08:50)
"The Office" (01:08:50 - 01:19:14)
"Always Sunny" (01:19:20 - 01:23:55)
Listener Mail: Miscasting vs. Bad acting (01:23:55 - 01:28:45)
"Homeland" (01:28:50 - 01:38:00)
 
As always, you can subscribe to The Firewall & Iceberg Podcast over at the iTunes Store, where you can also rate us and comment on us. Or you can always follow our RSS Feed, download the MP3 file or stream it on Dan's blog.
 
And as always, feel free to e-mail us at sepinwall@hitfix.com and/or dan@hitfix.com if you have questions you want answered on the show. Please put the word "podcast" in your subject line to make it easy to track them down amid the hundreds of random press releases we get every day.
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<p>Meg White of the White Stripes</p>

Meg White of the White Stripes

Credit: Third Man

Listen: John C. Reilly w/ Jack White, plus rare White Stripes make for a Third Man haul

New vinyl releases from White's imprint, including Edgar Oliver and merch galore

I gotta hand it to Jack White and his label Third Man's handlers. They make every vinyl release seem like an event. In a festively worded press release, Third Man announced its newest round of goodies, in time for Christmas, including rarities and singles from now-defunct White Stripes, from actor and musician John C. Reilly and from Edgar Oliver.

Check out clips of some of these below.

First, with Jack and Meg White's old band there are four records to be had, starting Dec. 6:

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<p>Tilda Swinton in a scene from &quot;We Need to Talk About Kevin&quot;</p>

Tilda Swinton in a scene from "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

Off the Carpet: Deep breath before the critics have their say

It's screener season as precursor groups check off their 'to see' lists

Such a weird year for movies, this. I feel like it's been a rather weak one, to be honest. Not in terms of the quality of what's there, but in terms of the quantity of quality. And even then, I note that so many of my favorite movies this year carry that designation with more caveats than normal.

Yet I really am enjoying 2011 in cinema, or at least, I'm enjoying my favorite movies from the year quite a bit. And it's interesting to note so many of them are all about a state of mind. "Rampart," "Shame," "Drive," "Take Shelter," "We Need to Talk About Kevin," "Martha Marcy May Marlene," all films that play in the abstract and put the viewer into a character's frame of perception, at times painting a bit of a dreamscape to do so. Fascinating.

Where the art is meeting commerce, there are still joys to be had. "The Descendants" opened this weekend and landed on my doorstep this morning. Even though I was cooler on it than most at Telluride over two months ago, I find myself eager to give it another look. "Young Adult" and "Hugo" are films that expect to be repeat viewings on my Blu-ray player when I get them, as will "Moneyball" and, most definitely, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

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Production still from 'Bellflower'
"Bellflower"'s Medusa
Credit: AP Photo/Oscilloscope

Bella versus 'Bellflower'

The 'Twilight' installment dominated the box office this weekend while the indie favorite made its way into homes

The color of love was a fetching blood red in both theaters and on VOD this weekend.

It's possible that two more divergent explorations of the agony and the ecstasy of love could be found. Possible. But the synchronistic release of the micro-budgeted, darkly masculine fantasy of love "Bellflower" vs. the blockbusting female fantasy "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1" warrants a mention and a brief examination. The former represents an independent passion project 8 years in the making for writer/director/star Evan Glodell, while the latter represents the penultimate instillation in a YA phenomena.

Most readers will already be familiar with the general story structure of "Breaking Dawn," but for referential purposes: Bella and Edward get married. Jacob gets sad. Bella gets pregnant. Jacob gets mad. The werewolves turn against the Cullen vampires.The fetus threatens to drain Bella of her life from the inside out. Edward begs for death alongside his beloved. Bella learns to love the taste of blood, blooood, blooooooood! Jacob is forced to gag. All of this culminates in a frighteningly intimate c-section with teeth and Jacob "imprinting on" (aka falling in enslaving love with) an infant.

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<p>Johnny&nbsp;Depp at the Golden&nbsp;Globes in 2005</p>

Johnny Depp at the Golden Globes in 2005

Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Oscarweb Round-up: HFPA don't need no stinkin' stars

Also: 'Descendants' screens for AMPAS and WB cranks 'Contagion' campaign

So the HFPA tapped Ricky Gervais last week as Golden Globes host despite cries from within that he went too far last year. Hell, even the organization's brass hit the stage THAT NIGHT to bemoan the comedian's taunts. Anyone with eyes can see it's a ratings grab, just like a number of the dubious nominations equate to star-f***ing over the years. They beg to differ on that, but come on: "While the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. takes the firm position that its members are not starstruck and an actor's place in Hollywood hierarchy doesn't mean anything when it comes to who'll appear at the org's kudocast, the list of recent noms may prove otherwise." [Variety]

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<p>Tom Hardy and Christian Bale each get their own EMPIRE&nbsp;cover this month as the 'Dark Knight Rises' hype train gets rolling</p>

Tom Hardy and Christian Bale each get their own EMPIRE cover this month as the 'Dark Knight Rises' hype train gets rolling

Credit: Empire/Warner Bros

Empire reveals official 'Dark Knight Rises' covers for Batman and Bane

Christian Bale and Tom Hardy get their close-ups for the magazine's new issue

I'm working reeeeeeeeeeeeal hard to pace myself.

If you're a "Dark Knight" addict, you've probably been mainlining paparazzi photos for months, to the point where you feel somewhat bloated and over it at this point.  I've been so careful not to do that to myself.  I am not the most ardent fan in the world of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," but I do like them both quite a bit, and I'm absolutely ready to see how Nolan wraps up his time as the architect of Batman's fate.

As a comic fan, I am aware of the various battle lines that exist in fandom, and one of them is how you felt about Bane when he appeared in Batman comics.  If you don't know his storyline, I won't lay it out here, but I'll say that it was a fairly iconic move by DC, one that had some long-range impact on the entire DC world.  Like Venom is for Spider-Man, Bane represents a challenge that genuinely tested the hero in question, one that became a major player in the rogue's gallery rotation.  Bane appeared in Joel Schumacher's detestable "Batman In Rubber," and he was portrayed as a large grunting latex suit in a Mexican wrestler's mask who stood around in the background of scenes where Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger overacted.

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<p>David Hasselhoff, right, and Keenan Cahill dance onstage while LMFAO performs at the 39th Annual American Music Awards.</p>

David Hasselhoff, right, and Keenan Cahill dance onstage while LMFAO performs at the 39th Annual American Music Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

The Best and Worst of the 2011 American Music Awards

Justin Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and more

The American Music Awards, held Sunday night, are to the Grammys what the Golden Globes are to the Oscars. To be sure, no one ever refuses one (unless you’re Garth Brooks), but it doesn’t carry the same weight. 

Most critics like to rag on the AMAs for good reason since so many performances feel prefabricated. To put it another way, if you created a drinking game where you had to take a shot every time you noticed a singer lip-syncing during the evening, you’d be three sheets to the wind 30 minutes in.

The AMAs used to be in January, but they were competing with the Grammys for artists and were getting lost in the glut of first quarter award shows, including the Golden Globes and Oscars. So in 2004, they moved to November and now are smartly positioned to give pop artists a good boost right before the official kick off of the holiday shopping season.

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