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"Survivor"

 "Survivor"

Credit: CBS

Reality TV Roundup: 'The Amazing Race' gets fuzzy, 'Survivor' reveals marriage woes and 'The X Factor' reveals a brat

It's been a busy week, so get all your reality news here, now

Welcome to Reality TV Roundup -- a quick look at some of the reality TV-centric stories that have recently popped up across the fine, old Interwebs. Click away, my couch potato friends. But before you do...

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! One more time: SPOILER ALERT. If you watch "The X Factor," "Survivor," "Dancing with the Stars," "Top Chef," "Project Accessory," "Work of Art," "The Biggest Loser" or "America's Next Top Model," the latest elimination for each show is revealed in the text below. The hope is that, if you missed this week's program and would rather clear out your DVR than watch the episode, you can get a quick hit here. But don't come crying to me if you find out something you didn't want to know. You've been warned. Also note: lots of non-competition reality info lurks below, too. 

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"Once Upon A Time" (ABC)

 Raphael Sbarge, Jared Gilmore and Jennifer Morrison on "Once Upon A Time"

Credit: ABC

HitFix Interview: Raphael Sbarge talks about playing Jiminy Cricket on 'Once Upon A Time'

Being a bug isn't as easy or simple as it seems

As an actor, Raphael Sbarge has had plenty of intriguing roles (starting with one on "Sesame Street" when he was four and followed by appearances in everything from "Pearl Harbor" to "Nip/Tuck"). But few could compare to his most recent -- he's the human version of Jiminy Cricket (yes, the little bug in "Pinocchio") on "Once Upon A Time." I talked to Sbarge about what it's like to play a cricket (well, sort of), his big episode this Sunday, and why he's glad this role isn't "clean and sparkly."

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James Cameron (left) talks "Hugo" with Martin Scorsese
James Cameron (left) talks "Hugo" with Martin Scorsese
Credit: Paramount Pictures

'Avatar' director James Cameron talks 'Hugo' and 3D with Martin Scorsese

He calls Scorsese's latest 'a 16-cylinder Bugatti firing on all cylinders'

What do James Cameron, Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson have in common? Well, a number of things, probably, but as of late, they are directors who have moderated Q&As with Martin Scorsese following screenings of his latest film, "Hugo."

Paramount has a history of slotting filmmakers for Q&As. It's something they try to do as often as possible, anyway, and in the case of DGA screenings (one of which Wes Anderson moderated in New York a few weeks back), the requirement is that members serve as moderators. All that aside, it's an interesting accent on a film like "Hugo," which is ultimately about the magic of cinema, from the larger-than-life experience of a movie to the joy of the nuts and bolts of making one.

With that in mind, the studio has made available a featurette with Cameron (who moderated a guild Q&A here in Los Angeles for "Hugo" and called it a "masterpiece") and Scorsese talking about the film, its themes, the 3D technology employed and more.

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<p>The Jaafar family from TLC's &quot;All-American Muslim.&quot;</p>

The Jaafar family from TLC's "All-American Muslim."

Credit: TLC

Review: TLC's 'All-American Muslim'

A well-meaning look at one slice of a misunderstood group

Watching last week's premiere episode of the new TLC reality series "All-American Muslim," I couldn't help noticing that virtually every member of the show's large ensemble introduced themselves by explaining why he or she might not be considered a "typical Muslim." There was Nina, who styled herself as if she was auditioning to be on "The Real Housewives of Dearborn, Michigan." There was tattooed, heavily-pierced Shadia, who explained that while she studied the Koran, "Do I choose to follow all of that? Not so much." Even a relatively traditional couple like expectant parents Nader and Nawal made a big show of explaining that their marriage is much more of an equal partnership than most of the Muslim-American couples they know.

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<p>Marion Cotillard in a scene from Steven Soderbergh's &quot;Contagion.&quot;</p>

Marion Cotillard in a scene from Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion."

Credit: Warner Bros.

'Contagion' crew looking to inject screenwriter Scott Z. Burns into Oscar talk as '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' looms

Steven Soderbergh fetes his behind the scenes collaborator

Steven Soderbergh is no doubt very proud of his work on "Contagion," his biggest non-"Ocean's Eleven" movie hit since 2000's "Traffic," but the Academy Award winning director likely isn't trying to play the Oscar game this season.  Well, at least not for himself. 

On Friday evening, Soderbergh and buddies Jerry Weintraub, Gary Ross and Benecio del Toro hosted a reception and special screening to remind the press about "Contagion" in the context of awards season.  It's unlikely anyone at Warner Bros. seriously believes "Contagion" could land a best picture nomination, but one of the primary focuses of the evening was to focus attention on the screenwriter Scott Z. Burns.  A previous collaborator with Soderbergh on the underrated "The Informant," Burns' script for "Contagion" is easily a contender in the always wide open original screenplay category. 

Introduced to Burns for the first time, he seemed thrilled with the night's event and more than satisfied with "Contagion's" critical reception.  We discussed the fact "Contagion" had a strange release date (effectively the Friday after Labor Day, usually a dump date), but the strategy had worked in the film's favor and it played throughout the fall to a $74 million U.S. gross (strangely the star-studded ensemble didn't play as well overseas).  And we had some interesting words on just whether or not the film was a thriller (as the advertising sold it) or a drama (as most who saw it in theaters would classify it).  Honestly side-stepping the issue, Burns told me with complete sincerity he didn't go to film school so he didn't put labels on his films.  And, hey, it's a great way to leave yourself open creatively from the limitations of a particular genre (my words, not his). 

Whether Burns lands in the Oscar hunt remains to be seen (we're a little skeptical considering a good chunk of Marion Cotillard's storyline got cut out of the final picture), but he did tell me he's hoping Soderbergh isn't retiring so they can work together again.  He's also excited about his finished screenplay for Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" which will be directed by David Fincher.  Burns isn't sure when the film will start exactly because of a non-movie project Fincher is committed to early next year, but surprised by revealing he'd had little interference from Disney execs over his adaptation of the classic Jules Verne tale.   Burns also revealed his version, while period, isn't based on Disney's 1954 film.  Pressing him on Disney's involvement so far, he did admit there was a cute kid in the current script, but it was completely his own idea and the character's fate and/or arc is not what you'd expect.  And, he promises the film will be much darker than what you'd expect for a Disney film (with Fincher we'd actually expect no less).

In the meantime, Burns will see where this awards season run ends up for "Contagion."  He may not find himself in the nominee circle this time around, but based on his work so far he'll get their very soon.

"Contagion" debuts on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 12.


For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.
 

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<p>Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segel join Kermit the Frog to try to convince Rowlf the Dog to rejoin the group in the joyous new movie 'The Muppets'</p>

Amy Adams, Walter and Jason Segel join Kermit the Frog to try to convince Rowlf the Dog to rejoin the group in the joyous new movie 'The Muppets'

Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

Review: 'The Muppets' is a big-hearted star-packed slice of awesome

Jim Henson would be proud to see how deeply his creations marked these filmmakers

Nostalgia is a funny thing, and I've certainly written here at length about the way I think it can often blind people to quality, or the lack thereof.  And when you're talking about nostalgia, The Muppets loom large for at least one generation, and it would be easy to assume that any praise you hear for the new film is based on a long-instilled affection for the characters.

The thing is, if that were true, then everything the Muppets have ever appeared in would be praised highly, and that is absolutely not the case.  I don't care for many of the feature films that the characters have starred in over the years, and their last theatrical outing, "Muppets From Space," was fairly wretched, as was their "Wizard Of Oz" riff for television.  I spent many years convinced that the spirit of the Muppets had died along with Jim Henson.

I was wrong.

You know where it turns out the spirit was hiding?  Inside the kids who grew up with "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show," who were still soaking up culture when the Muppets were at the height of their cultural currency.  One of those kids was Jason Segel.  Another was James Bobin.  Yet another was Nicholas Stoller.  And Bret McKenzie, he was one.  And I'd wager that Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Emily Blunt, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, Sarah Silverman, and more were Muppet kids, too.  And while it might be enough to make a few jokes, have some celebrities interact with the Muppets, and make a few nods to the past, that's not what Segel and his collaborators have done here.

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<p>Keith and Jim of &quot;Survivor: South Pacific&quot;</p>
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Keith and Jim of "Survivor: South Pacific"

Credit: CBS

HitFix Interview: Jim Rice and Keith Tollefson talk 'Survivor: South Pacific'

Did they bully Cochran? Would Coach have made the Merge on their Tribe? And more...
We're now two weeks past John Cochran's big "Survivor" flip, a strategic maneuver that some fans have celebrated as a brilliant game play and some fans are hailing as an act of betrayal. 
 
Not surprisingly, the players impacted negatively by Cochran's move are also still irked by what went down in the South Pacific and although they're maybe not as harshly critical as they were on the night the alliance shift went down, they're also not happy.
 
In a double-elimination Duel that aired this past week, Jim Rice and Keith Tollefson were defeated on Redemption Island and it's no surprise that much of their paired exit interview involved questions relating to Cochran.
 
Was Cochran bullied?
 
Does his flip make any more sense six months and a season of episodes later? 
 
Would they really have rather gone to drawing rocks at that first post-Merge Tribal council?
 
And what's up with Coach?
 
Click through for all of their answers, some fairly reasonable and some still fueled by a sense of ongoing frustration... 
 
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<p>Anna Torv and Lance Reddick of &quot;Fringe&quot;</p>
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Anna Torv and Lance Reddick of "Fringe"

Credit: FOX

Recap: 'Fringe' - 'Wallflower'

'Fringe' ends 2011 on the same note it's been playing all season
I’m going to keep this one relatively short, “Fringe” fans. By now, you know how I feel about this season of the show. Very little about those feelings have changed, because very little of the season itself has changed. The producers have gone in a direction they think benefits the show. Many of you agree. Many of you, like me, disagree. This level of disagreement used to provoke passionate anger from yours truly. But here, at the end of all episodes in 2011, I’m just sadly resigned. I stared at most of tonight’s episode, “Wallflower,” without taking my usually furious notes. Why? Because I’m watching a program that’s not just engaging me at the moment.
 
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<p>Chuck (Zachary Levi)&nbsp;takes a dip. </p>

Chuck (Zachary Levi) takes a dip.

Credit: NBC

'Chuck' - 'Chuck vs. the Business Trip': The human target

Chuck and Sarah enjoy a "normal" mission, and Decker makes his move

A review of tonight's "Chuck" coming up just as soon as Missile Command is a part of my process...

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<p>That's Brad Pitt and Matt Damon playing a couple of Krill on an existential journey up the food chain in one of the many subplots in 'Happy Feet Two'</p>

That's Brad Pitt and Matt Damon playing a couple of Krill on an existential journey up the food chain in one of the many subplots in 'Happy Feet Two'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Uneven but ambitious 'Happy Feet Two' full of big ideas and big stars

Less music but more ideas make for a challenging family film

As I expected, I'm already getting yelled at by "Twilight" fans because I dared to dig into the text created by Stephenie Meyer, whose name always appears in red as I write a piece about her or her "Twilight" series because she spells it wrong, and I dared to dislike the film based on what her books say about who she is.

The thing is, I can't just switch off the analytical part of my brain when I watch something, and I don't believe anyone should.  Yes, films are entertainment.  Yes, many of them are about as deep as a puddle.  But should a lack of ambition be the thing we reward in films?  And should ambition be considered a bad thing when a movie is trying to do something different?

George Miller obviously doesn't think so, and thank god for that.  When he makes a sequel, it seems like he goes out of his way to avoid simply rehashing the film we've already seen, and that has thrown people consistently throughout his career.  I may love "The Road Warrior" on a nearly-chemical level, but if you were a fan of "Mad Max," it must have felt jarring to go from this personal revenge story to what is essentially a spaghetti western set after the end of the world.  I know that when I first saw "Max Max Beyond Thunderdome," it threw me because I wanted more of "The Road Warrior," not a story about the Lost Boys of the Outback.  When audiences saw "Babe: Pig In The City" the first time, it must have been a real shock, and it seems like some people (Ron Meyer, I'm looking at you) still haven't gotten over it.  I love that Miller's film was almost completely different from the original, which seemed appropriate since the setting was so different.

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<p>Drake</p>

Drake

Will Drake top Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne's opening weeks on the Billboard 200?

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas as holiday title dominate

Drake may have his own issues with fame as chronicled on “Take Care,” but his fans are showing their full support as the Canadian rapper’s sophomore effort is set to sell more than 700,000 copies.

That impressive start will give Drake one of the highest opening-week tallies this year, behind Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne, on next week’s Billboard 200. Plus, in an era when even the biggest names see opening weeks for their new albums pale in comparison to albums past, Drake makes a substantial leap over the 447,000 first-week sales of last year’s  “Thank Me Later.”

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<p>A scene from &quot;Project Nim&quot;</p>

A scene from "Project Nim"

Credit: Red Box Films

Academy advances 15 doc features, 'Senna,' 'Interrupters' stunningly snubbed

'Pina' makes the cut while Werner Herzog and Errol Morris are ignored yet again

The documentary branch of the Academy is beginning to get as crazy with it's random snubs as the music branch, I have to say. Today's announcement of 15 eligible contenders for the Best Documentary Feature category revealed outright snubs of two of the most acclaimed hopefuls of the year -- "Senna" and "The Interrupters" -- while perhaps less surprisingly, Werner Herzog got the shaft once again for his best film in years, "Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life."

Errol Morris was also shafted for "Tabloid" (which is embroiled in a lawsuit threat from subject Joyce McKinney), while other high-profile hopefuls like "Being Elmo: A Pupeteer's Journey" and "Page One: Inside the New York Times" were also ignored.

Interestingly, Wim Wenders's 3D Pina Bausch ode (and German selection for Best Foreign Language Film) "Pina" made the cut. So did "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," which slated a one-week theatrical qualifying run ahead of its HBO premiere expressly for the purposes of being in this discussion.

Check out the full list of advancing titles below.

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