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<p>Ben Affleck accepts the Modern Master Award at the 28th annual&nbsp;Santa Barbara&nbsp;International Film&nbsp;Festival</p>

Ben Affleck accepts the Modern Master Award at the 28th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Ben Affleck speaks to a career transitioned at Santa Barbara Film Festival tribute

'This last seven years is something new and also incredibly rewarding.'

SANTA BARBARA - As "Argo" star and director Ben Affleck took the stage of the Arlington Theatre last night to begin a two-hour Modern Master Award fete at the 28th annual Santa Barbara Film Festival, he settled into that on-going self-effacing tone immediately. "Ben Affleck, career retrospective," he said. "That could go one of two ways."

Indeed, the usual reminder reel of accomplishments that kicked off the evening was set to the Foo Fighters' "Walk," with lyrics ringing a note of redemption: "I think I lost my way," "getting good at starting over," "learning to walk again," "I believe I've waited long enough, where do I begin."

And maybe that angle is slightly played out to some at this point. How much can you really feel for a millionaire who cashed in early on and wants to be taken seriously as a craftsman now? That's a point of view for the cynical, though.

Affleck, who talked with moderator Leonard Maltin about getting the acting bug early and relishing the responsibility and commitment of the job, said he was pulled aside once and given a speech of encouragement by an acting mentor that has stuck with him and gave him a leg up into the early stages of his career. Lately, as he's looked to transition from tabloid beefcake to respected filmmaker, another vote of confidence wouldn't be misplaced. And that's what he's been getting every step of the way this season -- well, from everyone save the Academy's directors branch.

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<p>Kevin Spacey in &quot;House of Cards.&quot;</p>

Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards."

Credit: Netflix

'House of Cards' star Kevin Spacey on his return to television (sort of)

25 years after 'Wiseguy,' two-time Oscar winner stars in Netflix original drama
It’s been 25 years since Kevin Spacey was last in a weekly role on a television series, when he made CBS viewers sit up, take notice, and ask, “Who the heck is that guy?” with his performance as “Wiseguy” villain Mel Profitt, a charismatic crime boss with an unhealthy relationship with his sister and a drug addiction he hid by shooting up between his toes. (“The toes knows,” he would say while giggling, in a line I can still hear in my head a quarter century later.)
Technically, the two-time Oscar winner still hasn’t returned to television, as his newest role — as Francis Underwood, the ruthless, silver-tongued House Majority Whip in the new political drama “House of Cards” — is appearing exclusively as part of Netflix’s streaming video service. (All 13 episodes of the first season will be posted on Friday, Feb. 1.) But the series was made in the style of a premium cable drama, even though Spacey, writer Beau Willimon (adapting the early ‘90s British miniseries of the same name, which starred Ian Richardson as Francis), director David Fincher and much of the cast (notably Robin Wright as Francis’ calculating wife Claire) have little to no experience working in television.
I spoke with Spacey about his return to the format that launched his career, the advantage of playing the same character over a long period of time, and more.
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<p>The Lumineers</p>

The Lumineers

Credit: AP

Gary Allan and the Lumineers dominate next week's Billboard 200

Light release week makes for few debuts

The Lumineers will see a nice bump in their sales following the  “Ho Hey” group’s Jan. 19 appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” but it won’t be enough for them to knock Gary Allan out of the top spot.

The longtime country singer scores his first No. 1 Billboard 200 album next week with “Set You Free.” The title is set to sell up to 100,000, handily giving it the lead over The Lumineers’ self-titled set, which will sell up to 60,000.

The soundtrack to “Pitch Perfect” continues to soar following the comedy’s release on DVD. It will be at No. 3 with up to 45,000 copies sold, according to Hits Daily Double.

In addition to Allan, the only new entry in the Top 10 will likely be the ?“2013 Grammy Nominees” album at No. 5 with sales of up to 40,000. However, that title, this week’s No. 1, A$AP Rocky’s “Long.Live.A$AP”; the “Grammy Nominees,” Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” and Kidz Bop 23” are all in a tight race for the No. 4 spot with each targeted to sell between 35,000-40,000, so it’s too close to call the No. 4-7 spots.

Taylor Swift’s “Red” and the “Les Miserables” soundtrack are also locked in a tie for No. 8 with both aiming for between 30,000-35,000 copies. Coming in at No. 10 will likely be Mumford & Sons’ “Babel.”

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<p>Who would be your perfect fit when Marvel finally brings Dr. Strange to the screen as part of their Phase Three?</p>

Who would be your perfect fit when Marvel finally brings Dr. Strange to the screen as part of their Phase Three?

Credit: Marvel Comics

Kevin Feige promises 'Ant-Man' in 2015 and Dr. Strange as part of Marvel's Phase Three

Could we expect a 'Black Panther' film in the mix as well?

Last year, one of the most interesting parts of the Marvel panel at the San Diego Comic-Con was the presentation of the test footage for Edgar Wright's long-developing "Ant-Man" movie.

It was surprisingly rough, but I think it speaks to Marvel's enthusiasm for the project that they would decide to show it anyway.  As a proof-of-concept, it's incredibly effective.  Basically, it's just Ant-Man running down a hallway and then knocking out a couple of goons with guns.  What makes it feel so fresh is the way Ant-Man alters his own size during the run and the fight.  Devin Faraci described it as "size fu" after we all saw that Comic-Con panel, and that's a perfect way to sum up what it is that Wright seems to be doing.  He and Joe Cornish have been working on a script for the film for a while now, in-between other projects, and it looks like they've decided where "Ant-Man" fits into the larger picture.

Kevin Feige spoke to MTV Splash Page about Phase Three, which is going to be the batch of films made after "The Avengers 2" arrives in theaters in 2015.  They set a November 6, 2015 release date for the film in October last year, and Feige set the record straight on how "Ant-Man" fits into things.  It sounds like they're going to really start to stretch and try new things once they've got "The Avengers 2" in theaters, which Feige says is coming together well right now. 

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<p>Denis Lavant and Edith Scob in &quot;Holy Motors.&quot;</p>

Denis Lavant and Edith Scob in "Holy Motors."

Credit: Indomina Releasing

César Award noms celebrate 'Amour,' 'Holy Motors'... and 'Argo'

Noemie Lvovksy's 'Camille Rewinds' leads with 13 nods

The nominations for the César Awards -- the French film industry's answer to the Oscars -- were announced this morning, and most of the top contenders were easily seen coming: Oscar hopeful "Amour" received nine nominations, as did historical drama "Farewell My Queen," while "Rust and Bone" and "Holy Motors" scored eight apiece. The field leader, however, may come as a surprise to non-French observers: actress-director Noemie Lvovsky's time-travel comedy "Camille Rewinds," still little seen outside its home country, racked up a massive 13 nods.

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 103 -- Sundance reflections, PGA and SAG Awards preview

Oscar Talk: Ep. 103 -- Sundance reflections, PGA and SAG Awards preview

Is 'Argo' coming on stronger than ever or did it peak too early?

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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Watch: Jenny Lewis talks 'Very Good Girls' score and hints at tour with Postal Service
Credit: HitFix

Watch: Jenny Lewis talks 'Very Good Girls' score and hints at tour with Postal Service

Solo effort on its way for 2013

PARK CITY, UTAH -- Jenny Lewis' old band Rilo Kiley provided the springboard sound for Naomi Foner's film "Very Good Girls," but it's all-new material that drives the rest of the flick.

Premiering at Sundance, "Very Good Girls" stars Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olson, and with the girls' coming-of-age tale along with the female director's debut, Lewis set out to have a "strong female voice" to her songs -- even if she didn't spend much time singing on the largely instrumental tracks. Lewis wrangled in some backup singers and took cues from legendary soundtracks like "Harold & Maude" and some newer composers to dive in.

"I think of 'There Will Be Blood' and Trent Reznor's works when I think of these song-based scores," she told me in Park City. "Using old ideas, they speak to a certain generation."

As for new solo material -- since Rilo Kiley has broken up -- Lewis says she's halfway through recording a new album, and is "forming the concept as we speak right now. I love collaborating, so there's a whole cast of characters that I've toured with, played with in the past. It's a village effort."

Lewis' last solo album, "Acid Tongue," dropped via Warner Bros. in 2008, boasting of contributors like Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward (of She & Him), Chris Robinson, boyfriend and songwriter Johnathan Rice and Elvis Costello. She also released a duo album Jenny And Johnny with Rice in 2010, "I'm Having Fun Now."

Lewis also strongly hinted that she's joining "old friends" the Postal Service for tour in 2013. She said that it had been "10 years since we've played a show," and that she'll be needing to dust off her synthesizer for the stint. As previously reported, synth-pop crew the Postal Service (DNTEL and Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard) have reconvened for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April, and are planning on skedding further tour dates for those who can't make the double-weekend event. Jenny Lewis sang on their sole album "Give Up."

"I'm very excited," she said of the mysterious reunion.


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<p>'Wait a minute... this isn't the actual script we're using, is it?' 'I don't know. I'm just picking up paychecks till it's time for the Avengers sequel.'</p>

'Wait a minute... this isn't the actual script we're using, is it?' 'I don't know. I'm just picking up paychecks till it's time for the Avengers sequel.'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Review: 'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' sets the bar high for 2013's worst films

Who was this made for, and why?

I reviewed Tommy Wirkola's "Dead Snow" at Sundance back in 2009, and I was not a fan.  As I said in that piece, "'Dead Snow' takes a really great monster to build a film around - Nazi zombies - and somehow adds up to total mediocrity in execution."  Well, looks like Wirkola is two for two now.  When you're making a film called "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters," you can approach it as a horror film first, or you can approach it as a dark comedy, or you could perhaps approach it as a really boring action movie that flubs both the horror and the comedy.

Guess which approach Wirkola opted for.

The script by Wirkola and Dante Harper opens with a very dark rendition of the classic Hansel and Gretel story, and right away, it feels like they're rushing to get through that moment instead of taking the time to tell it.  I think it's actually sort of clever to start with that fairy tale, let us really see what that witch is like, and then once the kids deal with her and save themselves, jump forward to see that they've taken this on as their life's work.  I can see how that premise could work.  It just doesn't work here, in this film.

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"Plastic Wives"

 "Plastic Wives"

Credit: TLC

Watch: Does 'Plastic Wives' find the absolute bottom of reality TV?

View this clip of the new TLC show at your own risk

Every time a new reality TV show or special hits the air, someone claims that the genre has scraped bottom. Rarely do I agree -- until now. Really, "Plastic Wives," a one-hour special airing this Sunday (Jan. 27 at 10:00 p.m. ET, TLC) has a little something for everyone... to hate.

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<p>Julie Delpy and Ethan&nbsp;Hawke in &quot;Before Midnight&quot;</p>

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"

Credit: Sony Classics

Sony Classics picks up Richard Linklater's Sundance hit 'Before Midnight'

The director comes full circle with the team that brought 'Slacker' to the world

As I mentioned at the fest, I think the film with the most awards potential to come out of Sundance this year is Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight." Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and maybe even Best Actor and Best Picture could be in the cards. It just needs the right nuanced campaign.

Lionsgate was hovering. Fox Searchlight seemed like a good fit and was probably in the mix, but they sure did drop a lot on "The Way Way Back." So it was Sony Pictures Classics, which was busy at the fest with acquisitions of "Austenland" and "Kill Your Darlings," that grabbed the title for what is said to be well into the seven figure range.

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Credit: Miramax Films

Oscar telecast to feature tribute to movie musicals of the last decade

But it's a missed opportunity to showcase the form's evolution

Academy Awards telecast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have already announced plans, in the 50th year of James Bond, to offer 007 a tribute at this year's show. It dovetails nicely with the release of "Skyfall," and I imagine the two were giddy that Adele was nominated for her theme song. Indeed, they were quick to announce that she'll be on the show to perform the tune.

Today it's been announced that the Oscarcast will feature a tribute to three movie musicals of the last decade. That would be Broadway hits-turned Oscar nominees "Chicago," "Dreamgirls" and "Les Misérables." It's a shame they felt a need to limit it to a decade, though. Why not an expansion of considerations for the musical in the modern era? Then you could include films like "Moulin Rouge!," "Dancer in the Dark," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," etc.

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<p>&quot;Girls&quot;&nbsp;stars Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet, Jemima Kirke and Allison Williams will be back for a third season.</p>

"Girls" stars Lena Dunham, Zosia Mamet, Jemima Kirke and Allison Williams will be back for a third season.

Credit: HBO

HBO renews 'Girls' for season 3

Lena Dunham comedy will get 12 episodes next time around

It's official: HBO has ordered a third season of "Girls."

The comedy's producers have been talking for a while like the third season was already a done deal — earlier this week, star/creator/producer Lena Dunham told Alec Baldwin on a podcast that the third season would film in some of the studio space "30 Rock" was vacating — but the actual announcement didn't come until this afternoon.

By conventional ratings measures, "Girls" doesn't look so spectacular, as the season 2 premiere only drew 866,000 for its first telecast, and only 1.6 million viewers over multiple airings that night. But in total, across many platforms (including HBOGo), more than 3.8 million have watched that episode so far. Besides, HBO doesn't really rely on conventional ratings measures — or on ratings at all — but on things that will drive subscriptions, enhance the company's brand, etc. And "Girls" has been a huge critical success, has won several awards (including a pair of Golden Globes earlier this month) and is a show that people are talking about — whether they like it or hate it.

The third season will consist of 12 episodes, as opposed to the 10 for the first two seasons. The third episode of season 2 airs Sunday night at 9 on HBO.

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