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<p>Jessica Chastain at the LA&nbsp;premiere for &quot;The Help&quot;&nbsp;earlier this year.</p>

Jessica Chastain at the LA premiere for "The Help" earlier this year.

Credit: AP Photo

Jessica Chastain is home just in time to celebrate 'The Help'

DreamWorks Oscar contender hits SoHo House

2011 has been the year of Ryan Gosling and Jessica Chastain, but the latter hasn't really been around much to enjoy it.  I spoke to "The Help," "Tree of Life," "Coriolanus," "The Debt," "Take Shelter," "Texas Killing Fields" actress Wednesday evening at a relaxed and holiday cocktail party DreamWorks held at SoHo House Los Angeles to celebrate "The Help."

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<p>Thomas Horn and Tom Hanks make a powerful father-son combo in the emotionally wrenching 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'</p>

Thomas Horn and Tom Hanks make a powerful father-son combo in the emotionally wrenching 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close' mines 9/11 and autism for emotional weight

Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks make great parents, but is it a great movie?

I wish I were more resistant to Stephen Daldry's movies.

He's given to the sort of grand gestures that can drive me nuts in some filmmakers who don't earn those moments, who work at the depth of a car commercial, but put to service of some fairly well-groomed material.  And I'm a guy who really liked "Everything Is Illuminated," the first film that was adapted from the work of Jonathan Safran Foer.  I think this guy writes lovely little books that filmmakers can get crazy about, gorgeous little challenges.  Here, he's crafted a narrative that depends completely on finding the right kid.  You've got to believe this kid and his relationship with his parents, and the parents have to work quickly, and you have to be ready to be sucker punched by this one, because it's going to work you, and in more ways than many people will expect.

I think any advertising for this makes it fairly clear that the main hook is "Boy loses his father, WHO HAPPENS TO BE TOM HANKS, in 9/11, and then struggles."  That's clear.  And to be fair, that sort of is the whole movie.  A boy struggles to deal with the loss of his totally awesome father in a very famous tragedy.  "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close."  Here's a U2 song.  I see this movie coming, and it makes me nervous.  It looks to me like it will be shameless.  And if you listen to some other critics, the movie is shameless.  It is that worst case scenario.

But I don't think so.

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<p>Coach of &quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot;</p>
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Coach of "Survivor: South Pacific"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Benjamin 'Coach' Wade talks 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Why will The Dragonslayer never play 'Survivor' again?
The last time I talked to Benjamin Wade after a "Survivor" season, the man they call "Coach" was still wrestling with the identity crisis of being designated a "Villain" for the "Heroes vs. Villains" installment. 
Back then, Coach was talking up the party line of playing a game of honor and integrity, but for the season time, he was espousing those virtues after a shorter-than-desired "Survivor" run.
When I caught up with Coach this week, it was after he made it a full season on "Survivor: South Pacific," going all the way to Day 39 and seemingly creating a powerful tribal alliance unified around those honor-and-integrity principles. 
Coach finished second in the "Survivor: South Pacific" Jury vote and there was a feeling that may people on the Jury would have given him the million if he'd only admitted that at certain points this season, his honor and integrity gave way to a more traditionally cutthroat game.
In our exit interview, Coach talks about why he may not be cold-blooded enough to win "Survivor," what worked for him in this season and why he'll never play "Survivor" again.
Click through for the full interview...
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<p>Brendan&nbsp;Gleeson in &quot;The&nbsp;Guard,&quot;&nbsp;a home-grown favorite of the Dublin&nbsp;Film&nbsp;Critics Circle</p>

Brendan Gleeson in "The Guard," a home-grown favorite of the Dublin Film Critics Circle

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Dublin critics like 'Drive'

'The Guard' is naturally a domestic favorite

The Dublin Film Critics Circle is the latest critics group to name year-end superlatives, and "Drive" was clearly a favorite, taking Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Jessica Chastain won Best Actress for her performance in "The Tree of Life." Check out the full list of winners below.

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"Top Chef"

 "Top Chef"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Tribute Dinner'

The chefs must pay homage to their inspiration - but one chef makes a fatal error

It's down to the top ten this week, and just as the chefs can no longer win immunity, I hope this means they won't be subjected to any more team challenges, either.  Well, at least not as long as Beverly and Heather are still around, as I fear what Heather might do to Beverly when she thinks the camera operators aren't paying attention. Beverly probably has this fear as well, as she notes that the universe is full of karma and Heather's about due for a big walloping dose of the stuff. 

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"The Adventures of Tintin," one of my top 10 films of the year, hits theaters today.
"The Adventures of Tintin," one of my top 10 films of the year, hits theaters today.
Credit: Paramount Pictures

Tell us what you thought of 'The Adventures of Tintin'

The film hits theaters today

The other big release mid-week is Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin." By now, I think I've made it clear that I'm an enthusiastic fan of the experience this movie is. I went so far as to include it on my top 10 list, after all. But there are certainly detractors, and I imagine our readership is full of plenty opinions from both sides. So now that the film has made its way to domestic theaters, it's time to solicit those opinions. If/when you get around to the film, come on back here and give us your take on The Beard's latest.

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"Drugs, Inc."

 "Drugs, Inc." 

Credit: Photo by Steve Lidgerwood / Wall to Wall

Watch: A look at the worlds of crack and hash on season 2 of Nat Geo's 'Drugs, Inc.'

The series returns on Jan. 1

Psst, want crack? Hash? At least you can learn all about both on 'Drugs, Inc.' when its second season returns on Jan. 1 at 8 p.m. on Nat Geo (a second episode airs at 9 p.m.). The show will offer firsthand testimonies from drug producers, traffickers, dealers, users, doctors and cops and look into the worlds of well-known substances (crack, hashish, hallucinogens and Ecstacy) as well as 21st century additions to the illicit drug trade like Oxycontin and Ketamine (an animal tranquilizer). 

Here's a look at harvester “Diego” operating a clandestine cocaine kitchen where he produces high-grade cocaine for trafficking to Europe and America -- and uses toxic chemicals which will later be dumped into the Amazon River. 

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<p>The &quot;X Factor&quot; Top 3</p>
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The "X Factor" Top 3

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'The X Factor' Finale Live-Blog: Top 3 Performances

Chris Rene, Melanie Amaro and Burrito Josh sing for their millions

Wow. It's the start of the "X Factor" finale. It seems like only 20 or 30 years ago that we started hearing all of the hype about "X Factor" traveling across the Atlantic and like only three or four years ago that FOX premiered the first audition episodes and now it's down to three. 

Tomorrow night, FOX and Simon Cowell are going to give a $5 million recording contract to one of three artists who haven't a chance on God's Green Earth of justifying a deal that big based on any empirical standards. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that Chris Rene, Burrito Josh or Melanie Amaro could possibly sell as many albums as Scotty McCreery, but will any of them sell as many albums as "The Voice" winner Javier Colon? Because go check out his sales figures. Or check out the sales figures for Dia Frampton. 

Anyway, though...

FINALE PERFORMANCES! After the break...

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<p>Putting the &quot;Santa&quot;&nbsp;in Santana: from &quot;Glee&quot;</p>

Putting the "Santa" in Santana: from "Glee"

Today in Christmas: My Morning Jacket, JoJo, Glee and Sondre Lerche

Swedish crooner takes on Beyonce

That's right. My Morning Jacket played Madison Square Garden. Not just in your dreams.

And on Dec. 14, Jim James brought a little Bing Crosby with him. The lead singer performed a slow, cokey version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Check it below, and see the band's cover of Gil Scott-Heron (RIP) while you're at it.

Sondre Lerche didn't cover a Christmas carol, per se, but his gift to the world this 2011 holiday season is a cover of Beyonce. The pop-loving crooner does a take of "Countdown," which is by no coincidence made a lot of critics' top singles lists this year, and made the top of the musicians'.

"This year, it’s officially a tradition: for the third time my annual Christmas gift to you is my humble solo acoustic version of someone else’s song; my favorite of the year, no less," Lerche told Stereogum. "That being said, the trick is to get passed the novelty-factor and just sing a beautiful song at the best of your abilities. Obviously, a significant part of this song’s appeal and ecstatic energy comes from the dizzying vocal performance and the mind-blowingly cool production work — elements and talents useless to even attempt replicating (especially not in my father in-law’s basement). But as long as there’s a song underneath, there’s a way.

Lerche's previous Christmas covers were Animal Collective’s “Bluish” and Owen Pallett’s “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt.” But now... who wants black diamonds under the tree?

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The Fien Print's TV Top 10 of 2011

Where do 'Game of Thrones,' 'Justified' and other favorites fit in?
If you're a regular podcast listener, I already revealed my Top 10 of 2011 in this week's Firewall & Iceberg. If you're not... This'll be new for you. And even if you already know the listing, you haven't seen my Top 10 with studio-recorded voiceover and superior editing from our video guru Alex Dorn.
As I discussed on the podcast, my Top 9 was pretty easy to put together. Other than specific placement between No.6 and No.9, there was almost no deliberation at all. 
The issue arose at No.10, where I had five or six shows that I wanted to place in that position. If you're going to cheat -- SEPINWALL!!! -- it's easy to find an extra place for an extra show and I could have come up with thematic reasons to pair, for example, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" and "Archer." If I'd had the chance to see the "Boardwalk Empire" finale before the list was locked, it might have also made a stronger case than it did when the season was unresolved still.
But no matter. I'm happy with the show that rounds out my Top 10 list and many of the shows I regretted excluding will appear in my Second 10 blog post later this week and darned if I'm not going to cheat to find a way to get 13 or 14 shows into that Second 10. 
This list has what I think is a good mixture of the various types of shows that made 2011 such a solid year on the small screen. I've got a couple comedies, a couple costume dramas, a couple thrillers, a fantasy, a sports drama and TV's *best* show about vampires and werewolves [Suck it, "True Blood"].
Anyway, sound off on my Top 10 below. I'll post my Second 10 on Friday, I think.
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Watch: Game and Tyler The Creator in Lil Wayne-featured 'Martian vs. Goblin'

An insane asylum, just in time for Christmas

If you missed Game's "The R.E.D." album release in August, that's OK: the set's release date was bumped almost a dozen times. However, if you missed the rapper's collaboration with Tyler the Creator, here's another chance.

The two play a couple of nutter-butter's locked up in the ugliest insane asylum this side of "Session 9," with the pair punting gibes back-and-forth through the glass. The Odd Future member dangles a cat and gives us his best crazy eye as he returns to his seemingly endless well of making fun of Bruno Mars and gay-baiting, this time linking homosexuals to Log Cabin (Republicans) and the original definition of "faggot." Still, while Game continues to hold his guns up for Chris Brown and throws Rihanna in front of a train with his rhymes, at least Tyler brings thunder about that highlighter hair.

There's also the LeBron James diss, with a hilarious "he lost" at the end of his verse. Game takes up that baller and runs with him in the last, as he's about to get punctures with a needle containing that gravy you're about to eat at Christmas. But fanboys beware: watch your blood pressure rise as Game makes this statement, "Mad that DC comics overlooked me / Cause Captain America's straight pussy." Marvel-ous.

How do you like this crazy creepy clip for Christmas? Bummed Lil Wayne couldn't come to the party?

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Interview: Sir Ben Kingsley on male vulnerability and the limitless vision of Georges Méliès

How the actor used the former joy of the man to inform a sense of loss in 'Hugo'

Actor Ben Kingsley first got his taste of collaboration with filmmaker Martin Scorsese in 2010 on the thriller "Shutter Island." It was a long time coming, but for Kingsley, who says he always appreciated Scorsese's work as a filmmaker, it was a unique characteristic of the director's process that really spoke to the actor.

"I haven’t quite realized until working with him that he films male vulnerability in a very special and gifted way," Kingsley says over tea at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills. "He actually directs like a lover more than a tyrant, with tenderness rather than insistence. He’s a perfectionist, but he gets it through extraordinary virile tenderness as a man. And he can guide an actor through vulnerability superbly well."

In "Shutter Island," Kingsley starred as a psychiatrist desperately, it turns out, trying to guide a patient (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) out of the twisted, fragmented shards of his own mind. His vulnerability in that film was his unconditional love for his patient, but in "Hugo," his latest collaboration with Scorsese, it comes from a different place of personal anguish.

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