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<p>Brad Bird is, contrary to the evidence of this photo, more than just a floating head housing a very big brain. He's also the director of 'Mission:&nbsp;Impossible -&nbsp;Ghost Protocol,' which we sat down to discuss.</p>

Brad Bird is, contrary to the evidence of this photo, more than just a floating head housing a very big brain. He's also the director of 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol,' which we sat down to discuss.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Brad Bird talks about directing Tom Cruise in IMAX for 'M:I - Ghost Protocol'

'Incredibles' filmmaker makes an incredible live-action debut

As long as I've been in LA, I've been enjoying great conversations with Brad Bird.

When I worked at Dave's Video in the early '90s, Bird was one of our regular customers.  At that point, he was working on "The Simpsons," and he was already known by some film geeks for his incredible "Family Dog" episode of "Amazing Stories."  At that point, I remember long conversations about pulp classics, spy movies, his dream of making either "The Spirit" or a SF animated film called "Ray Gunn," and much more.  He was one of those customers of ours who really lived and breathed movies, who seemed to be interested in every genre and in every type of filmmaking.

It was little surprise, then, when I saw and loved a very early rough cut of "The Iron Giant," a movie that was a difficult political football at Warner Bros. 

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<p>Cate Blanchett in &quot;Hanna,&quot;&nbsp;which&nbsp;won&nbsp;the Chemical Brothers an LA Critics' award for their score.&nbsp;</p>

Cate Blanchett in "Hanna," which won the Chemical Brothers an LA Critics' award for their score. 

Credit: Focus Features

Round-up: 2011's composers score the body electric

Also: Jolie talks politics on 'Blood and Honey' and the year in dogs

I spent some time over the weekend catching up with the avalanche of film lists that inevitably hits the internet at this time of year, and while many of them cover similar territory (and, of course, similar films), I rather enjoyed Oli Lyttelton's writeup of the year's best scores and soundtracks, which underlines what an exciting year it's been for contemporary alternatives to classic orchestral scoring. I rather like that we're currently in a place where the electro-influenced scores for the likes of "Drive," "Hanna" and "Attack the Block" are competing for attention with, say, John Williams at his most florid. And in the midst of a pleasingly diverse collective, I'm glad Lyttelton found room for Dario Marianelli's work on "Jane Eyre," as freshly classical a score as we've heard all year. [The Playlist]

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<p>Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem go head-to-head in 'Skyfall,' the new James Bond movie.</p>

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem go head-to-head in 'Skyfall,' the new James Bond movie.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Will Daniel Craig really make eight James Bond films total?

That's what the producer of the franchise wants, anyway

Five more movies with Daniel Craig.

That's the dream of the producers of the James Bond franchise, anyway, as revealed in a recent Michael Wilson interview with The People, a London-based newspaper.  He's apparently very happy with the way "Skyfall" is coming together, and he's ready to start pinning down the star of the series for a truly epic eight total films as James Bond.

That means he'll do as many movies as the character as there were in the entire "Harry Potter" series.  As someone who was thrilled by "Casino Royale" and who loves certain things about "Casino Royale Part 1 and a Half," it's exciting to think about what sort of narrative opportunity there is if they're now aware that they've got five movies to play with.

Let me ask something of EON now, though.  If they're really going to do this, and Craig agrees, and they gear up for a mad dash through five films, which could take as long as eight to ten years to pull off, then please tell me that there will be some real continuity with real consequences for Bond.

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<p>Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson star in Woody Allen's &quot;Midnight in Paris.&quot;</p>

Marion Cotillard and Owen Wilson star in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris."

Credit: Sony Classics

Contender Countdown: Is 'Midnight in Paris' now 'The Artist's' biggest competition?

A rundown on where we are in the best picture race

Well, that was a surprise.  After a breakneck week of SAG Awards nominations (important), critics groups honors (important) and Golden Globe nominations (least important), the race to Oscar ended up becoming even more convoluted than before.   

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<p>Brody (Damian Lewis) feels nervous in the &quot;Homeland&quot; season finale.</p>

Brody (Damian Lewis) feels nervous in the "Homeland" season finale.

Credit: Showtime

'Homeland' - 'Marine One': Wait til your father gets home

The season builds to a harrowing, satisfying climax

"Homeland" just wrapped up its outstanding debut season, and I have a review of the season finale coming up just as soon as we're all out of paper towels...

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<p>&quot;Survivor&quot; host Jeff Probst</p>
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"Survivor" host Jeff Probst

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: South Pacific' Finale - 'Loyalties Will Be Broken'

Would Coach or Ozzy get Redemption? Or would somebody else win?
Blind melon. We begin on Redemption Island, where Brandon arrives to greet the predictably snoozy Ozzy. "I got blindsided," Brandon explains, admitting that it hurt to get stabbed in the back by his closest friend. Then Brandon gives Ozzy a partial explanation for that alleged blindsiding. "He wasn't blindsided. He gave up the freakin' Immunity necklace," Ozzy says aptly, calling Brandon's strategy "a blind faith game." This is the smartest and most analytical Ozzy has ever seemed.
 
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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

Recap: 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' - 'New Tricks'

Kim pumps, Phaedra quits and Cynthia freaks out

Tonight we have a super-sized "Real Housewives of Atlanta," which you'd think means that something Very Exciting and Possibly Scandalous is going to happen, but not really. In short, Kim moves, Sheree dumps all over Phaedra, and Peter dumps all over Cynthia. So, business as usual in Atlanta!

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<p>Evanna Lynch and Mark Williams were a few of the 'Harry Potter' cast members who recently sat down to discuss the end of the series with us in Orlando.</p>

Evanna Lynch and Mark Williams were a few of the 'Harry Potter' cast members who recently sat down to discuss the end of the series with us in Orlando.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Mr. Weasley, Luna Lovegood, and Lucius Malfoy on the end of 'Potter'

A long day of fan-driven lunacy couldn't keep us from these conversations

Here at last are the final "Harry Potter" interviews I conducted during my recent trip to Orlando for the press day they held to celebrate the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" on Blu-ray.

If you didn't read my first few pieces, let me paint the picture of how these interviews were staged.  We were actually in the park, in the section of Universal's Islands Of Adventure that is known as "The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter," and it's a remarkable recreation of the world that Jo Rowling and her film collaborators have created over the past decade.  It is also wildly successful, so even on a regular day, the park is totally packed.  The weekend we were there was part of a major Harry Potter event, though, so it was busier than normal.

That means that every single spot where we were supposed to do interviews was also occupied by about 10,000 screaming Harry Potter fans.  I've never really done press in a fishbowl like that, and it's a disconcerting way to try to conduct what is already an exercise in forced and immediate intimacy.  Conversations aren't meant to be a spectator sport, but on this particular day, that's exactly what it felt like.

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<p>Noomi Rapace launches her attempted takeover of Hollywood with her role in 'Sherlock Holmes -&nbsp;A Game of Shadows,' which we sat down to discuss with her at a recent press day.</p>

Noomi Rapace launches her attempted takeover of Hollywood with her role in 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows,' which we sat down to discuss with her at a recent press day.

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Noomi Rapace on 'Sherlock 2,' 'Prometheus,' and the new 'Dragon Tattoo'

Hollywood's latest foreign crush talks about adjusting

Noomi Rapace is at a turning point.

I don't consider it the end-all be-all goal of actors to work in giant Hollywood movies, but that's often how it is treated.  Think of the same basic cycle we see play out over and over again.  Someone plays an interesting role in an international release and then suddenly they're in every movie released by Hollywood for about a year, and then if they don't have a hit, they're gone again, back to the world of foreign-language movies.  It's treated like a major league/minor league situation, whether that's true or not, and it's brutal to watch some of these very accomplished actors get chewed up by the Hollywood machine.

"Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows" is the Hollywood debut of Rapace, who gained international attention playing Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish adaptations of the "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series.  Her work in those films has earned her some staunch supporters, and even if I'm not among them, I was curious to see how she was used in the film.  She's also in "Prometheus," the Ridley Scott "Alien" sidequel that's coming out next summer, so one could say she's getting a fair shot and then some.

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<p>Kenan Thompson and Jimmy Fallon in a 'War Horse' sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' on Dec. 18, 2011.</p>

Kenan Thompson and Jimmy Fallon in a 'War Horse' sketch on 'Saturday Night Live' on Dec. 18, 2011.

Credit: NBC

'SNL' takes on 'War Horse' and misses out

Perhaps they should have waited to see the movie?

After you watch this bizarre parody of "War Horse" from last night's "Saturday Night Live," a few observations.

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<p>&nbsp;Michael Buble and Jimmy Fallon</p>
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 Michael Buble and Jimmy Fallon

Credit: NBC

Recap: 'Saturday Night Live' - Jimmy Fallon and Michael Buble

Surprise guests join an 'SNL' veteran to close 2011 on a high note
So putting my cards on the table up front: I didn’t particularly care for Jimmy Fallon during his run on “Saturday Night Live.” I thought his impressions were great, and his energy was always on point. But there was a sloppiness to his work that always irked me. Either he was busy butchering the English language on “Weekend Update” or overtly trying to make Horatio Sanz break on live television. Still, his late night show has turned around my impression of him entirely, and he’s truly grown into his own as a confident comic performer during his tenure in Conan O’Brien’s old slot. Will he excel tonight in his old stomping grounds, or will he revert to his previous ways? Will musical guest Michael Bublé stick to simply signing, or will Christmas come early and give us all “Hamm and Bublé II: Electric Pork-a-loo?”
 
Only one way to find out: onto tonight’s recap!
 
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<p>Adele&nbsp;</p>
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Adele 

Credit: Peter Kramer

Music Power Rankings: We look back at 2011 with Adele, Lady Gaga and Steve Jobs

A change is gonna come and this past year proved it

In this special edition of Music Power Rankings, we look back at 2011 and highlight our top 10 stories and events. What strikes us as we ponder our choices in the Top 10 is that any way you look at it, this was a watershed year for the music industry in that the old, traditional way of business continues to morph into something new and those who can’t shift with the times or continue to cling to the old way of doing things will fall by the wayside. There’s understandable ongoing concern about how to monetize many of the new ways that music is consumed, but it felt like a little of the joy came back this year after a long, bleak period.

This is the last issue of MPR for a few weeks. We’ll be back in January. Happy Holidays!

1) Adele:
She is the biggest success story of the year...of the last several years, actually. Her sophomore album, “21,” has never fallen out of the Billboard 200’s Top 10 and has sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. She is on virtually every critics’ best-of-2012 list, and more importantly, she is not some producer’s puppet. She is proof that immense talent can appeal to the masses and the tastemakers alike. When she says she hurts from love’s scars, you believe her 100% and ache along with her.

2) Album sales rebound:
Or at least they don’t drop. For the first time since 2004, album sales have increased over the previous year. There’s no way they’re ever going back to the pre-2000 high and the industry still feels like it’s in free-fall, but for the first time, it feels like maybe we’ve hit the bottom and, through various new business models and strategies, can go forward. (Final figures aren’t in, but through Sept. 31, sales were up 3.3% over 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan.)

[More after the jump...]

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