Comfort food and the holiday crush

So that happened.

There is a nasty stomach flu working its way around Los Angeles, and someone made sure I got my turn with it. It was the sort of thing where I just couldn't focus or think or work comfortably, and I ended up sleeping more in one week than I have in the last three months. I'm finally on the mend and feeling human just in time for the holiday, but it's made me curious about what sort of media you turn to when you're at home and feeling lousy.

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Review: The new 'Night At The Museum' is exactly the same as the first two films
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: The new 'Night At The Museum' is exactly the same as the first two films

HitFix
C+
Readers
n/a
This series is on auto-pilot, which is exactly what the studio wants

In many ways, the "Night At The Museum" movies represent a near-perfect distillation of what Hollywood wants from its franchises. That is not a compliment.

The three films in the series are interchangeable because none of the films seem to advance the characters or the premise beyond "Magical tablets bring things alive in a museum at night," and for the audience that keeps turning out to see these films, that seems like all they want or need from them. This one opens in Egypt, decades ago, as the magical tablet is discovered for the first time and a dire warning of a curse is ignored completely. We then flash forward to find that Larry (Ben Stiller) is still a security guard, but he is also somehow in charge of all the "special effects" for a major fundraiser that is being held. I'm not sure many major metropolitan museums put their security guards in charge of giant events, creatively speaking, but that's the least of the movie's problems.

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Review: Depressing new spin on 'Annie' seems completely embarrassed to be a musical
Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: Depressing new spin on 'Annie' seems completely embarrassed to be a musical

HitFix
D+
Readers
n/a
It's almost too much to bear

As Will Gluck's new film version of "Annie" opens, an adorable red-haired moppet stands in front of her class reading a plucky book report. As she finishes, her teacher rolls his eyes and calls on the next student, Annie B. With that very post-modern move, things are handed over to Quvenzhane Wallis, who approaches her first scene the way she approaches literally every single second of the film: big smile in place, bouncing rather than dancing, and sing-talking her way through songs that demand a much better singer.

Harsh, perhaps, but from start to finish, "Annie" feels like a movie made by people who are deeply embarrassed to be working on a musical, and that's a problem. Wallis, who is an appealing young performer, simply doesn't have the chops for what has traditionally been one of the more demanding leads in a musical for a young performer, and Gluck, along with co-writer Aline Brosh McKenna, has built a film around Wallis that is constantly undercutting the songs, the choreography, and the entire idea of musicals. Jamie Foxx seems like he's the most comfortable out of all the cast members with the music, while Rose Byrne seems to have finally found something she's not awesome at, and Bobby Cannavale is either dubbed by another singer or has the single most "that is not what I would have expected" voice I've ever heard. Cameron Diaz growls her way though a couple of things, and between her singing and the way she plays Mrs. Hannigan, this might actually be cumulatively more uncomfortable than "Sex Tape," no easy feat.

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'The Interview' and North Korea: What do we lose if we let fear win over art?
Credit: Sony Pictures

'The Interview' and North Korea: What do we lose if we let fear win over art?

Sony finds themselves cornered in a no-win situation

We are watching precedent unfold in front of us right now, and I'm afraid we're doing it wrong. Fear is driving a major studio to pull a film from release before it has even opened, and fear had every major theater chain ready to drop the film if the studio hadn't backed down.

This cannot be the way we make decisions.

My first major job was working for AMC Theaters, starting as an usher, then working my way up through pretty much every position I could hold at a local theater. I worked concessions, I sold tickets, I trained as a projectionist, I built up prints, and by the time I graduated high school, I had become an assistant manager.

When I took my first trip up to Florida State University's campus to prepare for my attendance in the fall of '88, it was the early days of the controversy surrounding "The Last Temptation Of Christ." There were only vague rumblings of the eventual furor at that point, so I was startled when I was walking with friends near the student union and ran into a guy handing out fliers trying to get people to sign a petition warning local theaters not to play the film when and if it was finally released.

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Katherine Waterston on navigating the controlled chaos of 'Inherent Vice'
Credit: HitFix

Katherine Waterston on navigating the controlled chaos of 'Inherent Vice'

Plus she talks about the advantages of being a second-generation actor

My first impression of Katherine Waterston in person was surprise at just how tall she is.

I stand 6'2", and when we were introduced, we were eye-to-eye. It was the night of the New York Film Festival premiere of "Inherent Vice," and we were at the after-party at Tavern On The Green. My review had gone up already, and by the time I made it to the party, several of the people involved in the film had seen the review. That included Waterston, who seemed excited to finally be able to discuss the movie with people, and thrilled that people seemed to like it.

While we spoke, I was also introduced to her father, the iconic character actor Sam Waterston, and he couldn't have seemed more proud of her work in the film. Since that night, I've spoken with her two more times about the film. The first was a long chat on a recent afternoon, and the second was on-camera at the recent Los Angeles press day for the movie. I wasn't expecting to talk to her that last time, so it's probably the more informal of the two.

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Joss Whedon on creating his beautiful monster for 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron'
Credit: Marvel Studios

Joss Whedon on creating his beautiful monster for 'Avengers: Age Of Ultron'

Plus he talks about the right way to use the Hulk

SHEPPERTON STUDIOS, MIDDLESEX - Joss Whedon looked tired.

And not just a little tired, either. He looked weary, deep down in his bones tired. He looked like he was ready to just fall down where he was and sleep for a week. I've seen a number of other directors in this state and it's always when they're near the end of production on one of these mega-movies. The pressure that's on these guys in enormous, and for Whedon, following up one of the biggest films of all time can't be easy.

We sat in a small group facing Whedon in the Tony Stark lab, part of the Avengers Tower set, and asked him what his primary goal was walking into the sequel.

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Drew McWeeny's Worst Movies Of 2014: From Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr.
Credit: Warner Bros

Drew McWeeny's Worst Movies Of 2014: From Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr.

Not every trip to the theater ends well

When I walk into any movie, I hope it will be good.

After all, this is how I spend the majority of my time. This is what I write about and speak about and think about more than anything else, and when I see critics who seem to dislike the majority of what they cover, I am baffled. Why would you do this work if you genuinely dislike more than you like?

What disappoints me most when I'm in a theater is missed potential. There are films that didn't make it anywhere near this list that are completely horrible, movies that had no potential at all and that deliver nothing to the viewer. Those are your basic garden-variety terrible movies. For a film to end up on this list, it has to be a betrayal, a waste of real potential, because that is the single greatest sin anyone can commit against movies in my opinion.

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Cecily Strong raises questions about writing for women in film in 'Weekend Update' sketch
Credit: NBC

Cecily Strong raises questions about writing for women in film in 'Weekend Update' sketch

Now if only she took off those glasses...

Earlier today, there was a conversation on Twitter about the new Chris Rock film "Top Five" and, in particular, the character played by Rosario Dawson.

There are some big things wrong with the way her character is written, most specifically that Rock seems to have no idea how things actually work for someone writing for The New York Times, but I feel like Dawson's so appealing that she's able to turn the character into something more rounded and interesting than what existed on the page.

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Martin Freeman fronts a pitch-perfect mash-up of 'The Office' and Tolkien on 'Saturday Night Live'
Credit: NBC

Martin Freeman fronts a pitch-perfect mash-up of 'The Office' and Tolkien on 'Saturday Night Live'

Gareth as Gollum is my new everything

When you've got Martin Freeman hosting "Saturday Night Live," it's a safe bet they're going to figure out a way to do a "Hobbit" themed sketch.

Bonus points, then, to the show for doing a parody of both the Engish version of "The Office" and Freeman's Peter Jackson trilogy. "The Office: Middle-Earth" is about as easy a joke as they could make, but the execution actually pays off thanks to an attention to detail.

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From Rocket Raccoon to Amazing Amy, our runners-up for 2014's best movies

From Rocket Raccoon to Amazing Amy, our runners-up for 2014's best movies

This would make a perfectly great top ten list on its own

It was not my intention to confuse anyone.

When I published my Top Ten of 2014 yesterday, that was timed around a larger slate of other Top Ten stuff being published here, and it was timed around the delivery from the video team, and when it ran, I realized that it was going to be very odd to skip from #21, published in this piece, to the top ten, but it was also unavoidable.

The truth is that, as with most years, I would have been just as happy with these ten movies as my picks for best of the year, and I am just as fond of everything on this list as I am of the films that made the top ten. Because, seriously, you don't really just have ten movies that sum up a year. For me, there are so many films that will be a huge part of 2014 for me that deserve to be discussed. That's why I counted down my top 50. And even doing that, there are films I didn't mention that I certainly enjoyed and would happily see again.

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