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<p>&quot;The Hunger Games'&quot; Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence</p>

"The Hunger Games'" Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence

The Decemberists and Arcade Fire join Taylor Swift on 'Hunger Games' album

Who else does producer T Bone Burnett have up his sleeve?

Last week Taylor Swift surprised fans with her collaboration with the Civil Wars on “ Safe and Sound,” from the soundtrack to “The Hunger Games.”  It turns out she’ll be joined by Arcade Fire, the Decemberists on what’s being called a “companion album” to the movie, which opens March 23.

As you’ll recall from past usages of the term, a companion album usually means that many of the songs were “inspired by” the film, but don’t necessarily appear in it. In this case, Grammy winning producer T Bone Burnett is overseeing the companion album: he co-wrote “Safe and Sound” with Swift and the Civil Wars, which already hit No. 1 on iTunes. The Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Regine Chassagne wrote “Horn of Plenty” with Burnett, while the Decemberists penned a track called “One Engine.”

No word on the actual release date of the album other than that it will come out on Universal Republic Records in March before the Lionsgate film, which stars Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, hits theaters.

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Songs you missed on Christmas: Lady Gaga, Frank Ocean, Cat Power

Lady Gaga wrote and sang a song on a bus for you

Welcome to the last working week of 2011, where we realize at least a few stars were working for the holiday. Frank Ocean, Lady Gaga and Cat Power were all on the move.

First, as the Odd Future singer explained: "I don't cry at all... but when the sun sets just right, I might shed a tear." Ocean, who is readying his Def Jam album for 2012, posted a little track to his tumblr called "4 Tears." In it, he eplains how he spends his quota, doing a little algebra (a la Beyonce).

"[I] just listened to this a few times for myself. [F]igured maybe some else needed to hear it," he posted. 

It's not lyrical calculus, but quick and pretty.

Meanwhile, Chan Marshall is a little more confrontational on "King Rides By," her charity single. The song -- originally much shorter on her 1996 album "What Would the Community Think" -- is fully fleshed out courtesy Manny Pacquiao, past the 7-minute mark.

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<p>Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston in &quot;Midnight in Paris.&quot;</p>

Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston in "Midnight in Paris."

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Round-up: Time-traveling to the origins of 'Midnight in Paris'

Also: Streep's Thatcher turnaround and Ebert's top docs

The ever-investigative Steve Pond has unearthed an interesting nugget here: a four-page short story written by Woody Allen in 1971 that bears more than a passing resemblance to "Midnight in Paris." In "A Twenties Memory," contained in the collection "Getting Even," the narrator hangs out with F. Scott and Zela Fitzgerald, Gertude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and other Jazz Age luminaries that resurface in the film Allen made 40 years later, making similarly droll, casual observations about their work. Narratively, the film obviously represents a significant elaboration on the premise, so it'd be a stretch to call the screenplay an adaptation -- though the Academy has made similarly sketchy rulings in the past. [Reuters]

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<p>Patrick Kennedy, Tom Hiddleston and Toby Kebbell discuss their work on Steven Spielberg's &quot;War Horse.&quot;</p>

Patrick Kennedy, Tom Hiddleston and Toby Kebbell discuss their work on Steven Spielberg's "War Horse."

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Tom Hiddleston, Emily Watson and Jeremy Irvine reveal 'War Horse' secrets

Who are the 'ghost whisperers' of European film sets?

If you happened to head to the local multiplex on Sunday there's a good chance the movie you ended up seeing was "War Horse."  Before the holiday, Steven Spielberg's 2 hour and 26 minute epic was projected to have a good, but not great debut.  Instead, "War Horse" burst onto the scene with $7.5 million in just 2,600 theaters, almost double what pre-release polling indicated.  And, its per-screen average was barely behind that of "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" which played in over 1,000 more theaters and had the added benefit of higher IMAX ticket prices.  DreamWorks and Disney kept Monday's estimate much more conservative than its competitors, but a $15 million plus cume over two days is a stellar launch for the Oscar player.

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<p>Ryan Gosling in &quot;Drive,&quot; one of my top 20 films of 2011.</p>

Ryan Gosling in "Drive," one of my top 20 films of 2011.

Credit: Film District

Finders keepers: Guy's top 20 films of 2011

Counting down the year's best, from 'Drive' to 'Melancholia'

To insert a slightly clunky line into a Frank Sinatra classic: when I was 28, it was a very good year. At least, I think so. So often, when I tell a friend or colleague that this has felt like the richest 12 months for cinema-gathering of my admittedly brief career as a film journalist, I'm met with hard Paddington stares or outright opposition. It's been a weak year, I'm told, and I'm handed the slate of current Oscar frontrunners (peppered with unremarkable titles as "The Help" and "War Horse," with only one cracking the list below) as evidence.

Which, well, yes. If a year in a film is measured by its head-prefect awards contenders and multiplex behemoths alone, then 2011 hasn't been the strongest of vintages (even if it doesn't strike me as markedly worse, by those standards, than 2009 or 2010). But like most artforms splintered by the array of options and platforms in the 21st century, cinema now requires a little bit of legwork to find the goods, and dedicated cineastes didn't even have to wade too far into the fringes to find the good stuff: a banner year for British film, a strong showing for American indies and a healthy crop of challenging, festival-grown foreign hits. Seek and ye shall find (and keep). 

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<p>Will &quot;War Horse&quot;&nbsp;catch a box office stride similar to &quot;True Grit&quot;&nbsp;last year?</p>

Will "War Horse" catch a box office stride similar to "True Grit" last year?

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Off the Carpet: Waiting on the guilds as 'War Horse' hits the box office running

As we wrap up 2011, the conversation prepares to shift

The sleigh bells have been silenced, the decorations are ready to be stored another year and the online Christmas spirit is giving way once again to the power of snark.

As we enter the lull between holidays, I glance at the box office and see good news for Disney. Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," after weeks of heartland screenings, an aggressive TV campaign (I keep talking to friends all over the country who feel like they're inundated with commercials) and plenty of awards buzz, the film is estimated to bring in $15 million in two days. Had it not opened on a Sunday (Christmas Day), it would obviously have had a stellar weekend.

"True Grit" opened on December 22 last year (a Wednesday) and still made $24 million on the weekend (dropping a scant 1% the next week, which ignited it as a box office story). It's left to be seen what kind of legs Spielberg's film will have, but with little demographic competition standing in its way, I'm thinking next weekend will be solid and the legs could be significant.

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<p>Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in &quot;The Killing.&quot;</p>

Joel Kinnaman and Mireille Enos in "The Killing."

Credit: AMC

Lumps of coal: The worst TV I watched in 2011

Flimsy mysteries, bad comedies and terrible endings
I've written a lot of words praising the best TV had to offer in 2011. Now comes the dark side: the worst things I watched.
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Jessica Chastain was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and will also receive a special award for her breakout year.
Jessica Chastain was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and will also receive a special award for her breakout year.
Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

'Tree of Life' leads with 7 nods from Online Film Critics Society

'Drive' and 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' also favorites

One holiday down, one to go. And in the lull, we can probably expect more precursor awards announcements, no doubt.

Today, the Online Film Critics Society has declared nominations (or maybe I missed them pre-Christmas, I don't know). And I guess it's only fitting that, given the group, it's the slate most in-line with my own views of the film year so far.

"The Tree of Life" led the way with seven nominations, but "Drive" wasn't far behind with six. "We Need to Talk About Kevin," meanwhile, had a decent showing, grabbing mentions for Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. And both of Werner Herzog's documentaries made it into that field (where "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" has for some reason been the dominant one of the two -- probably because that's the one most people have seen).

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<p>Anna Paquin in &quot;Margaret&quot;</p>

Anna Paquin in "Margaret"

Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Round-up: Score one for #teammargaret

Also: Changing the 'Dragon Tattoo' ending and Max von Sydow on 'Extremely Loud'

It's been a nice end-of-year push from #teammargaret on behalf of a number of critics, no doubt feeling empowered by their position (and perhaps allowing their opinion of Kenneth Lonergan's film to inflate a bit in the wake of perceived lack of support from the studio -- which is itself a stretch of the truth). And it looks like victory, as according to Esquire critic Mike D'Angelo, screeners have been sent to the Academy for the group's consideration. Perhaps all the fuss that has been kicked up over this one will force members to satisfy their curiosity and put the film in the player. And who knows? Maybe we'll get a surprise or two from the writers or actors branches. At least the possibility is alive, now. [Twitter]

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<p>Holly Earl and Matt Smith in the latest &quot;Doctor Who&quot;&nbsp;Christmas special.</p>

Holly Earl and Matt Smith in the latest "Doctor Who" Christmas special.

Credit: BBC

'Doctor Who' - 'The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe': Screaming trees

The Doctor helps a World War II family in the annual Christmas special

The annual "Doctor Who" Christmas special premiered last night, and I have a very quick review of it coming up just as soon as I can't tell weapons from wool...

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<p>Yes, we've got opinions of more entertainment options than what's playing at your local multiplex.</p>

Yes, we've got opinions of more entertainment options than what's playing at your local multiplex.

Award Campaign's Best of 2011: TV, Music and Movies

Fassbender, 'Game of Thrones,' '30 Rock,' Adele and...Britney

I already ranked my top 10 films of the year last week, but taking a page from In Contention's own Kris Tapley I've decided to post my own picks in some of the major award season categories. Just for fun, I've also included some of my "best of the year" picks for TV and music as well. Granted, music is the most subjective these days, so if it makes you feel better consider my Top Singles of 2011 a "favorites" list.

And again, thanks to Mr. Tapley for letting me poach his idea.

Comments are included where it was deemed necessary.

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<p>A&nbsp;scene from Steven&nbsp;Spielberg's &quot;War Horse&quot;</p>

A scene from Steven Spielberg's "War Horse"

Credit: Touchstone Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'War Horse'

The film hits theaters today

The road for "War Horse" to the screen has been an interesting one this season. Highly anticipated, the film screened for public before most press via pop-up showings in the heartland. When critics finally did get a look, reactions seemed to fly in all directions. I had my say, the film being of a piece with a year that has me kind of in the middle on so much. We talked to the film's famed cinematographer and have interviews with other elements of the cast and crew to come, but for now, you can finally give us your thoughts on the film as it hits theaters nationwide. If/when you make it out to a screening this holiday weekend, come back and give us your take.


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