<p>Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o and Steve McQueen arrive at the GQ&nbsp;Awards earlier this week in Los Angeles.</p>

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong'o and Steve McQueen arrive at the GQ Awards earlier this week in Los Angeles.

Credit: AP Photo/John Schearer

Fox Searchlight celebrates the holidays with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and '12 Years a Slave' stars

And the 'Veep' star goes bug-eyed over Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's latest

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — After a rough start to 2013 ("Stoker," say what?), Fox Searchlight has had a lot to celebrate. The studio's Sundance pickup "The Way, Way Back" was one of the art house hits of the summer earning $21 million, September comedy "Baggage Claim" did an OK $20 million with an $8.5 million budget and Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said" became a surprise indie smash with $16 million and is still going strong (with $20 million well within reach). Oh, and of course, there is that little drama "12 Years a Slave" that critics and audiences have been a tad euphoric for.

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<p>Terrence Howard and Robert Downey, Jr. during a photo call for &quot;Iron Man&quot; in Rome in April, 2008.</p>

Terrence Howard and Robert Downey, Jr. during a photo call for "Iron Man" in Rome in April, 2008.

Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

Terrence Howard now blames 'Iron Man 2' cut on Robert Downey, Jr.

It always comes down to money

Terrence Howard's departure from the "Iron Man" franchise has been the one blemish on Marvel Studios since the company began making its own films in 2007.  Howard played Co. James 'Rhodney' Rhondes, a long time friend of Tony Stark's (Robert Downey, Jr.) in Jon Favreau's franchise making hit. After "Iron Man" grossed over $585 million worldwide, it was assumed that the remaining cast would return for the inevitable sequel where Rhodes was expected to become Iron Man's buddy War Machine.  But it didn't happen.  The studio claimed contractual differences with Howard and cast Don Cheadle to replace him. "Iron Man 2" went on to make even more money than its predecessor and Cheadle easily made the role his own.

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<p>Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig and Ben Stiller at the AFI Film Fest premiere of &quot;The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.&quot;</p>

Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig and Ben Stiller at the AFI Film Fest premiere of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."

Credit: AP Photo/John Schearer

Contender Countdown: Oscar likes to party all the time

Busy Wednesday night in La-La land

If you were an Academy or guild member Wednesday night, you may have had a tough time determining your social schedule. There were at least four major events you could have attended tied to this year's awards season. Yes, the circuit is in full effect and it's just the second week of November.

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<p>Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) sings the song &quot;In Summer&quot; from &quot;Frozen.&quot;</p>

Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) sings the song "In Summer" from "Frozen."

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

'Book of Mormon' meets Disney in new 'Frozen' song

Get a sneak peek at what might be this year's best movie musical

Walt Disney Animation Studios might have the best movie musical of the year on its hands, but up until now they have been somewhat reticent to show it. If you've caught any trailers or TV spots for "Frozen" you may have realized it's just enough story paired with well-tested comedic bits to convince young boys to go see what is essentially a "princess" fairy tale. Well, if you're a fan of great music and specifically songs of the Broadway variety, you're in for a major treat.

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Best and Worst of 'Thor: The Dark World': Loki, Laughs, Reshoots
Credit: Marvel Studios

Best and Worst of 'Thor: The Dark World': Loki, Laughs, Reshoots

Who needs a villain?

Now that "Thor: The Dark World" has conquered the globe with $85.7 million domestic and $326.6 million worldwide so far, it's time for us all to breakdown what worked and, sadly, what didn't.

[Note: there are many spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the movie and still plan to, proceed at your own risk.]

It should be said this writer was a fan of the first "Thor." It brought a world Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created on the page to life in vivid color and proved the charismatic Hemsworth was a star in the making.  Sure, not all of the New Mexico stuff worked and a lot of great actors were wasted (Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba), but for the most part it was more than any God of Thunder fan could ask for.

Thor returned in "The Avengers" and Joss Whedon clearly gave him a voice and purpose among Earth's Mightiest Heroes.  A year and a half later he's back in "The Dark World" and, Loki aside, we're not sure its a better sequel than Marvel's much maligned "Iron Man 2" (ouch).

Check out our thoughts on the best and worst of "Thor: The Dark World" in the story gallery below. Then join the conversation in the comments below.
 

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<p>George Clooney gets photobombed by his producing and writing partner Grant Heslov at the 2013 AFI&nbsp;Film Fest gala for &quot;August:&nbsp;Osage County&quot;&nbsp;Friday night in Hollywood.</p>

George Clooney gets photobombed by his producing and writing partner Grant Heslov at the 2013 AFI Film Fest gala for "August: Osage County" Friday night in Hollywood.

Credit: AP Photo

George Clooney fills in for Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep at AFI gala

Revisiting 'August: Osage County'

HOLLYWOOD — AFI organizers expected some star power on their red carpet when they booked "August: Osage County" for the film festival's prime Friday night gala, but they probably didn't expect it to be from the movie's producer. With Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep officially "unavailable" (the two-time Oscar winner was in London shooting "Into the Woods"), George Clooney was the biggest name at "August's" LA premiere and - like the pro's pro he is - he graciously charmed the press on hand with the soundbites and smiles they so desperately wanted.

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'The Book Thief' tries to escape its Oscar bait trappings
Credit: 20th Century Fox

'The Book Thief' tries to escape its Oscar bait trappings

Geoffrey Rush and more discuss the popular novel's influence

20th Century Fox's "The Book Thief" opens in limited release today and it's landed with something of a thud. Reviews are very mixed (and that might be kind) and there's little pre-release buzz about the film. That being said, this was always a tough sell for Fox. The film's biggest names are Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, the movie did not make a splash at any of the major fall festivals (it debuted at Mill Valley) and feels more like an Oscar bait movie than it probably should, being based on a popular novel by Markus Zusak set in Germany during WWII. That period is almost the definition of an Oscar bait movie these days.

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<p>From L to R:&nbsp;Colin Farrell, B.J. Novak, Richard Sherman, Emma Thompson, a blurry Tom Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and director John Lee Hancock pose for photos at a reception before the AFI Film Fest Opening Gala of &quot;Saving Mr. Banks.&quot;</p>

From L to R: Colin Farrell, B.J. Novak, Richard Sherman, Emma Thompson, a blurry Tom Hanks, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and director John Lee Hancock pose for photos at a reception before the AFI Film Fest Opening Gala of "Saving Mr. Banks."

Credit: HitFix

Tom Hanks on pitching Emma Thompson a grand slam in 'Saving Mr. Banks'

Awards player opens AFI Film Fest 2013

HOLLYWOOD — The American Film Institute kicked off the 2013 AFI Film Fest on Thursday night with the North American premiere of John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks" at the TCL Chinese Theater. Hancock noted during the screening's introduction that the entire event felt a tad like deja vu. Not only had "Mary Poppins," a classic film that is a key element of the movie's plot, held its world premiere at the Chinese, but "Banks" re-staged that premiere for its own ending about a year ago. Needless to say, the Walt Disney Company may own the El Capitan Theater across the street, but "Banks'" Hollywood debut proved the Chinese has special place in the studio's history.

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<p>Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the New York special screening of &quot;Enough Said&quot; in September.</p>

Julia Louis-Dreyfus at the New York special screening of "Enough Said" in September.

Credit: AP Photo/Charles Sykes

Julia Louis-Dreyfus 'exceptionally proud' of reaction to 'Enough Said'

It's a bigger hit than you think

A little surprise happened at the art house over the past few months. Fox Searchlight's late addition to the September release schedule, "Enough Said," has become one of the biggest indie releases of the year.

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<p>No, that's not Scarlett Johansson with &quot;Gravity&quot; director Alfonso Cuarón. It's Sandra Bullock. </p>

No, that's not Scarlett Johansson with "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuarón. It's Sandra Bullock.

Credit: AP Photo

'Gravity's' Alfonso Cuarón almost cast Scarlett Johansson in 'A Little Princess'

Another awards season orbit in LA

Alfonso Cuarón returned to Los Angeles this week as "Gravity" completes another awards season orbit. The critically acclaimed phenomenon is battling "12 Years a Slave" for this year's frontrunner status (not that either of them want it) and Warner Bros. took some time Tuesday night to celebrate the $428 million-plus global box office hit.

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