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10 Best 'Saturday Night Live' sketches of Fall 2014
Credit: NBC

10 Best 'Saturday Night Live' sketches of Fall 2014

Did your favorites make the list?

It’s time to honor the ten best sketches of the 40th season of “Saturday Night Live” thus far. Let’s make two things clear: We’re only ranking sketches that actually aired on NBC, which eliminates several stellar online-only segments, and you could make an EXCELLENT list composed entirely of those merely getting “Honorable Mention”.

It’s been a strong Fall run for the show, and exclusion off the main list speaks to the high quality of the program overall rather than any shortcomings of those on the outside looking in.

What do you think of the list? Which sketches would you add and which would you take out?

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Tell us what you thought of 'Into the Woods'

Tell us what you thought of 'Into the Woods'

Rob Marshall is back at the movie musical game

The other big wide prestige release on Christmas Day this year was Rob Marshall's adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim classic "Into the Woods." Streep and costumes and sets and songs, oh my. This…isn't my thing. Nails on a chalkboard, really. But I did get a kick out of Emily Blunt and Chris Pine, and Streep was pretty great. Top notch design for the most part (though I would assume Colleen Atwood will happily defer to Johnny Depp on that wolf costume…).

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Tell us what you thought of 'Unbroken'

Tell us what you thought of 'Unbroken'

Angelina Jolie brings Louis Zamperini's story to screens this holiday

I had a feeling Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" would be more or less critic-proof. Based on a beloved best-seller, very little in the way of wide release adult drama competition, etc. Sure enough, it's skipping right along at the box office without missing a beat. That will do a lot for the awards push as we head into 2015, certainly. But now that this heavy has finally arrived, it's time to find out what the readership thinks.

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<p>&quot;Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon&quot;</p>

"Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon"

Credit: NBC

TV Ratings: 'Caught on Camera,' '20/20' among Friday leaders

CBS' 'Now That's Funny!' special barely makes a ripple

Fast National ratings for Friday, December 26, 2014.

"Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon" and two hours of "Dateline" led NBC to a slim overall victory on the sleepiest of sleepy Fridays, while "Shark Tank" and "20/20" pushed ABC to a tie among young viewers.

The Nick Cannon special was, in fact, up from last week's "Caught on Camera" special.

The night's only other original was CBS' 90-minute "Now That's Funny! On Set With TV's Hottest Comedies," a Paley Center that attracted very little interest.

On to the unimpressive numbers...

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Review: Fairy-tale mash-up 'Into The Woods' feels stagebound and small as a movie
Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Review: Fairy-tale mash-up 'Into The Woods' feels stagebound and small as a movie

Rob Marshall's really not good at this, folks

It is not the fault of anyone involved with "Into The Woods" that in the time since the musical originally opened on stage, it has been rendered redundant. When it opened on Broadway in 1987, one of the things that made it stand out was just how much of a post-modern spin it put on the entire notion of happily ever after. In the decades since then, pop culture has turned into one giant "don't take any of this too seriously" wink, and fairy tales have been deconstructed so completely that it feels like this has been completely digested already.

Besides, part of me is almost convinced that Sondheim just doesn't work on film.

We're talking about a show that won the Tony for Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress, beating the 900-pound gorilla of the year, "The Phantom Of The Opera." Impressive, and it cleaned up at the Drama Desk Awards as well, where it actually took Outstanding Musical. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine are long-time collaborators who seem to innately understand one another, and they both understand theater on an almost molecular level. When you see one of their productions, they are in total control.

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Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' reportedly banned by Egypt and Morocco

Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods and Kings' reportedly banned by Egypt and Morocco

Historical inaccuracy is the least of the movie's problems

Part of my Christmas Eve was spent watching the HD copy of "The Interview" that I bought on my XBox One, happily supporting Sony's decision to make it available at home as well as in any of the indie theaters who were willing to book the movie for its Christmas Day release.

Over the last week or so, I've done a number of interviews in which people wanted to talk about what happened with "The Interview," and one of the words that I've heard bandied about repeatedly was "banned." I was asked a few times about what got "The Interview" banned, and I had to explain that nobody had banned the movie. That's a near-total misunderstanding of the situation, or an egregiously wrong choice of words.

The truth is that there are very few movies that can claim to have been banned by or in the United States. There is a broader conversation to be had about the way there are economic restrictions imposed on films based on their content all the time, and how the MPAA's ratings board absolutely should answer for the way they use their most difficult ratings as a way of forcing certain types of films completely out of the mainstream. Technically speaking, though, films don't get banned here.

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<p>The Wire</p>

The Wire

Credit: HBO

'The Wire': Links for reviews to every episode

A good study guide to keep on hand as you watch the remastered episode marathon

Earlier today, HBO Signature began a marathon of the remastered, high-definition version of "The Wire." As previously discussed, this isn't the optimal way to watch the show, which was filmed with a 4:3 aspect ratio image in mind throughout its run, but David Simon and company did what they could to not compromise the look too much (and, on occasion, found that certain scenes looked better in widescreen).

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Roger Deakins got the biggest compliment of his career for 'The Shawshank Redemption'

Roger Deakins got the biggest compliment of his career for 'The Shawshank Redemption'

Frank Darabont's film celebrates its 20th anniversary this year

It seemed this year that if any artist was due for the retrospective treatment, it was "Unbroken" cinematographer Roger Deakins. While I of course did not address all of the 50-plus films he has shot throughout his illustrious career during a recent extended interview, I settled on a few in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of his work. Each of them — "Nineteen Eighty-Four," "Sid and Nancy," "Barton Fink," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Kundun," "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "The Village" — will get their own space in the next few days.

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<p>&quot;Dr. Seuss&#39; How The Grinch Stole Christmas&quot;</p>

"Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas"

Credit: Universal

TV Ratings: Double 'Grinch' Christmas saves ABC Thursday

'Big Bang Theory' repeat tops the night overall

Fast National ratings for Thursday, December 25, 2014.

The animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the Jim Carrey live-action "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" ruled Christmas Thursday primetime, even if a "Big Bang Theory" repeat was still the night's most-watched show.

There weren't many other Christmas ratings notables, though ABC is saying that its NBA double-header was up double-digits from last year.

On to the primetime notables...

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Doctor Who - Last Christmas
Credit: BBC

Recap: 'Doctor Who' - 'Last Christmas' has a lot of layers, like an onion or parfait

What is reality? Are we awake right now?

Welcome back, Whovians! I hope everyone had a nice break, but it’s time to get back to it, at least for one episode. The last time we saw Twelve and Clara, they were recreating the darkest timeline version of “The Gift of the Magi.” The Doctor lied to Clara about finding Gallifrey so she’d want to stay with Danny and be happy, while Clara lied about Danny being alive so the Doctor would return home to his people on Gallifrey.

Everyone’s a liar and everything hurts. Break out the tissues because you’re going to need them during “Last Christmas.”

********

Like countless holiday specials before it, and countless ones yet to come, the episode opens with a decorated Christmas tree framed by windows. Outside it is snowing and dark. Obviously Christmas Eve. 

Clara is nestled all snug in her bed, when from outside she hears the sound of Santa and his elves bickering on the roof. Clad only in her nightgown and robe, she goes to investigate. Santa has crashed his sleigh and the reindeer are free at last and refuse to come down. Spotted by a human, Santa tries to defuse the situation by saying no, obviously he is not Father Christmas! For a magical elf whose livelihood is based in subterfuge, Santa sure is a terrible liar.

Sidenote: Are the tangerine gifts a British thing? We don’t have that tradition in the US. 

There’s a great bit of subversion for the kids on the cusp on disbelief while they watch this. The elves scoff at the fairy tale story that one night a year, all the parents in the world got together and decided to give their kids presents because they love them so much. Time to grow up and live in the real world. Obviously St. Nick is delivering the presents. Also, so adorable that Santa grew out the beard as a disguise and it backfired, making him more recognizable than ever.

In disappointed dad fashion, Santa pulls out a checklist and notes Clara stopped believing when she was nine. He seems so hurt. Clara states she just “outgrew fairy tales” and on cue, the TARDIS sound kicks on. Well played, Moffat.

Out bursts Twelve in a hoodie, which is odd and quite frankly dashing, and demands Clara stop talking to Santa Claus and get in the TARDIS. Just another Tuesday night at the Oswald home. Clara obeys, a sure sign that she is in shock. Twelve sizes up Santa, tells him “Happy Easter,” and climbs back into his police box.

Something major is up but Clara Oswald doesn’t care. After an indeterminate amount of time alone, without Twelve or Danny, she is back on the TARDIS. She’s been mourning the loss of the love of her life and her best friend, but now there’s an adventure to distract her again. The entirety of humanity may hinge on whether or not Clara Oswald believes in Santa Claus. You know, normal stuff.

For reasons unknown, we skip to a barren icy plane. I will assume this is the North Pole until told otherwise. In the midst of a blizzard sits a research facility. And something decidedly un-Christmas like is going down. A blonde lady — Shona — stands outside the infirmary with trepidation. Elsewhere in the facility, her associates provide moral support from the control room. Shona is about to go confront the four sleepers to try and get to…something? Someone? Either way, Shona will be fine as long as she doesn't look at the sleepers or think about them.

Oh great, it’s a purple giraffe situation. 

Also, for the billionth time this season the gender tables are turned. Professor Albert is the lone dude scientist. Ashley and Bellows are even displeased with his casual sexism. Either Moffat has actually turned a new leaf, or someone in a position of power at the BBC forced the issue of fixing Doctor Who’s misogyny problem.

To distract herself from not thinking about purple giraffes, or creepy sleepers, Shona is rocking out to Christmas music with her eyes closed. My biggest fear that she’ll accidentally flail into one of the creatures isn’t realized. Phew. Instead the Doctor and Clara appear at the door. Since they don’t know the rules, they immediately start looking at and thinking about the sleepers. Which means we also get a look at them. Basically some hapless humans have telepathic facehuggers attached to their skulls. 

Thinking about the facehuggers stirs them into action. Their human hosts are pressed into service, shambling towards the heroes. Shona distracts herself with Christmas music. Twelve tries to get Clara to think about math, but it’s not very effective. So he skips straight to insulting Danny Pink (whom he still thinks is alive). In shock, Clara slaps the hell out of Twelve and blurts out that Danny is dead. Now no one is thinking about the facehuggers at least?

WRONG. The rescue team bursts in, thinking about facehuggers like it’s their damn job. Just when it looks like everyone is gonna die, EXPLOSIONS. Santa Claus studied at the school of Michael Bay. Apparently no aliens invade the North Pole on Father Christmas’s watch.

Of course, this is a scientific research base full of adult humans, so they’re not exactly thrilled to see a figment of childhood imagination. Most of them settle for disbelief, but Shona is gonna cut a bitch over some My Little Pony trauma…I like her.

With introductions out of the way, Ashley takes the lead in explaining what is going on, using a dead facehugger as a visual aid. Shona gives Father Christmas the third degree while the Doctor learns everything the humans know about the Dream Crabs. They’re telepathic aliens that eat human brains. Ashley is having a hard time believing this. The Doctor says the problem is that it’s hard to tell fantasy and reality apart because they’re both ridiculous. I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion we’re already in a dream and the Crabs have taken over the Earth. 

Meanwhile, Nick Frost is doing a fantastic job answering the questions all kids eventually have about Santa. Of course the North Pole is striped. How else would you see it in the snow? No, reindeer can’t fly. That’s why you have to feed them magic carrots, duh. No you can’t get around the world in one sleigh. You need two. Santa even gets in a dig at Twelve when the Time Lord asks how all the presents fit in the bag. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

Moffat firing on all cylinders tonight, folks.

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How Weta Digital pushed the FX envelope over the 13-year Middle Earth saga

How Weta Digital pushed the FX envelope over the 13-year Middle Earth saga

'Hobbit' VFX supervisors Joe Letteri and Eric Saindon reflect on an evolution

For the past three years, the wizards of Weta Digital have returned audiences to Middle Earth after first enthralling viewers with its wonders a decade ago. "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is the last of Peter Jackson's six films in the saga, and, accordingly, the last chance to honor the series in the category of Best Visual Effects – the only category where all five films to date have picked up an Oscar nod.

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Roger Deakins looks back on 1997's 'Kundun,' his only Scorsese collaboration to date

Roger Deakins looks back on 1997's 'Kundun,' his only Scorsese collaboration to date

A bit of a Deakins staple shot pops up in this one

It seemed this year that if any artist was due for the retrospective treatment, it was "Unbroken" cinematographer Roger Deakins. While I of course did not address all of the 50-plus films he has shot throughout his illustrious career during a recent extended interview, I settled on a few in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of his work. Each of them — "Nineteen Eighty-Four," "Sid and Nancy," "Barton Fink," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Kundun," "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "The Village" — will get their own space in the next few days.

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