<p>By now, the appearance by Neil Patrick Harris is a highlight of any 'Harold &amp;&nbsp;Kumar' movie, but this time, it's even more of a show-stopper than normal.</p>

By now, the appearance by Neil Patrick Harris is a highlight of any 'Harold & Kumar' movie, but this time, it's even more of a show-stopper than normal.

Credit: Warner Bros./New Line

Review: Deliriously silly 'Harold & Kumar' Christmas sequel offers fast and frantic laughs

HitFix
B+
Readers
B+
Neil Patrick Harris once again steals the show in a deranged appearance

I can't claim to be a particularly impassioned fan of the "Harold & Kumar" series so far.  I think it is a very unlikely franchise, and just seeing them make it to a third film is sort of admirable.  I was actually surprised by just how hard this film seems to be trying, and ultimately, that's what won me over.  You will definitely see better movies this year, but I doubt you'll see any that are as actively determined to entertain you as "A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas," and for that alone, I'd say check it out.

One thing I admire about the film is the way it doesn't even try for reality.  This is a silly, surreal movie universe where anything can happen, and as a result, it's hard to get offended by any of it, and it's equally hard to invest in any sense of stakes for the characters.  You know things are going to get insanely bad for Harold & Kumar over the course of a long frantic evening full of pot smoke and terrible luck, but you also know it'll all work out and their friendship will endure.  That's what the series is, and that's the formula screenwriters Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg follow once again.

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<p>Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy are up to no good in the new caper comedy 'Tower Heist'</p>

Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy are up to no good in the new caper comedy 'Tower Heist'

Credit: Universal Pictures

Review: 'Tower Heist' pits Stiller and Murphy against the 1% in mild-mannered comedy

HitFix
B-
Readers
C+
A solid cast makes the most of a middling script

The heist movie is a very particular type of cinematic pleasure.

If you want to see an example of the very best that the genre can produce, check out the 1966 film "Gambit," which just got added to Netflix Instant.  I can't emphasize enough just how beautifully built that movie is, and it's kind of a model for how you need to approach a heist if you really want to pay things off for an audience.  In a great heist movie, you need to make a choice early on and then do one of two things.  You either (A) set up an elaborate plan and then delight the audience by paying off on that plan or (B) set up an elaborate plan and then delight the audience by showing them every little step of things going wrong.  In either case, the pleasure is largely based on either fulfilling or confounding expectations over the course of the movie.

It helps, of course, if you give your heroes a great target to rip off, and "Tower Heist" is in an interesting position in that regard.  Right now, as we watch the Occupy movement spread across the country, it is apparent that people feel a disconnect in our society, and setting a heist movie against the backdrop of the recent economic collapse with a Bernie Madoff-style con artist as the bad guy is a really smart move. 

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<p>When I was younger, every vacation made me feel like Rusty, but I've finally reached that place where each new vacation makes me feel like Clark</p>

When I was younger, every vacation made me feel like Rusty, but I've finally reached that place where each new vacation makes me feel like Clark

Credit: Warner Bros.

The Vacation Read: Andy Serkis signs sweet deal for simian sequel

Plus Ron Meyer throws Jon Favreau and Benecio Del Toro under the bus

Welcome to The Vacation Read.

I deserved a few days off.

Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself.  I'm not really wired for vacation.  I don't have an off switch.  It's a point of contention with the lovely Mrs. McWeeny, and so when I take a vacation, I do my best to genuinely turn off the computer and just relax and recharge.  I don't always quite pull it off, but I figure the trying is the important part.

For me, a week of no writing for HitFix is hard to imagine.  I can't remember the last time I did this.  It's been a big year of travel, with Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Comic-Con, Toronto, and Fantastic Fest as some of the bigger destinations I've visited, and any number of set visits including the one I just returned from last week.  And that's in addition to the daily demands of being the dad of two crazy little boys who have much more energy than I ever did.  I'm weary all the time, but in a good way.  I feel like each and every day, each and every festival, each and every event, we keep getting better at what we do, and I see it in the feedback you've been giving us in e-mail, in our comments, on Twitter, and elsewhere.

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<p>Johnny Depp and Bruce Robinson, one of our special guests this week, share a laugh on the set of the new film 'The Rum Diary'</p>

Johnny Depp and Bruce Robinson, one of our special guests this week, share a laugh on the set of the new film 'The Rum Diary'

Credit: Film District

Listen: Robert Davi and Bruce Robinson join us for a very special Motion Captured Podcast

You'll hear Davi sing and play Movie God! and Robinson in an in-depth interview

That last podcast may have posted very very late, but look! Here's another one about five minutes later.  That makes up for it… right?

This one's packed with a preposterous amount of great stuff, and I'm really proud of it.  This is what I want from the podcast, this kind of eclectic mix of material, and I think this week can serve as an example of what this show is at its best.

First, you'll hear two full songs this week, one at the beginning of the podcast, and one at the end.  This is unusual, but I've got permission since the singer is our very special guest for Movie God and Remake This!, the great Robert Davi.  You know his face even if you don't know the name, and you've probably seen him in more films than you can count.  Scott's been doing some work with Davi for the last few years, and the end result of all of that work just hit record stores this week.  Davi isn't just an actor, after all, but is also a rather accomplished vocalist, and his tribute album to Frank Sinatra is a knock-out.  I wanted to have him on to talk about the album and to play some games that would give you guys a better idea of who he is and what sort of films are important to him.

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<p>I guarantee that whatever the cast of Lucky McKee's 'The Woman' is looking at, this will not end well</p>

I guarantee that whatever the cast of Lucky McKee's 'The Woman' is looking at, this will not end well

Credit: Bloody Disgusting/The Collective

Listen: Drew and Scott discuss Lucky McKee's 'The Woman' on this week's MCP

Plus a call-in round of 'Remake This' from the Occupy Nashville scene

I apologize.

I know, I know… that's like my mantra these days, but there's only one of me, and I'm trying to turn out a workload that would probably keep four people busy for ten hours a day.  That's just the way it is, too.  There's so much to cover, and there are only so many hours in a day.

I'm also sort of a dummy when it comes to all things technical.  For all of the wisdom I've accumulated over the years about other things, when it comes to technology, I have a built-in EMP of sorts that means that most machines hate me and vice-versa.  It can make things awkward considering I work on a computer all day every day.

Long story short, this podcast was lost to the ages, but through some heavy lifting, I managed to recover it, and now I'm running this and the next podcast in the same day.  That'll give you plenty to listen to between now and when I come back from vacation.

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<p>I think no matter what one believes about psychiatrists, Tom&nbsp;Cruise must be crazy to do his own stunts in this astonishing sequence from 'Mission:&nbsp;Impossible - Ghost Protocol'</p>

I think no matter what one believes about psychiatrists, Tom Cruise must be crazy to do his own stunts in this astonishing sequence from 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

A sneak peek at Tom Cruise's 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' in IMAX

Plus, the brand-new trailer for this December's biggest action movie

Last week, I took a drive through hideous rush hour traffic from my house in Northridge all the way to the IMAX theater that used to be called The Bridge, near the airport.  And the crazy thing is that I didn't do it to see a whole film.  Nope.  I did it just so I could see 20 minutes of the new "Mission: Impossible" film on an IMAX screen.

And I regret nothing.

There's a new trailer for the film that is just now launching, and I'll have that embedded for you below.  First, though, let's set some of what you're going to see in context.

We saw two full sequences from he film, and producer Bryan Burk was on-hand to set up the two scenes for us.  He's Bad Robot's producer on the film, and I think it was smart for Cruise to reach out to Bad Robot even though JJ Abrams wasn't directing this one.  Burk and Abrams are very smart commercial producers, and Cruise had a very good experience with them on the last film.  Christopher McQuarrie, who also scripted "One Shot," the currently-shooting Reacher adaptation that Cruise is starring in, was the lead writer on the film, and then Bad Robot brought in Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec, writers they loved from "Alias" and a ton of other TV credits.  They worked to once again make a "Mission: Impossible" film that feels different than any of the others in the series, something I like about the franchise.

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<p>If Zach Galifianakis seems pleased about his work in 'Puss In Boots,' he should be</p>

If Zach Galifianakis seems pleased about his work in 'Puss In Boots,' he should be

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Zach Galifianakis puts it all together as Humpty Dumpty in 'Puss In Boots'

We have a serious conversation about a very silly character

I'll just go ahead and say this up front:  I should have done this better.

I don't think it's a bad interview, per se, but I like Zach Galifianakis, both as an actor and as a comic, and I think he's one of those guys with a razor-sharp mind. I also think it's really easy to lose him in a conversation if you're not keeping him interested.  When you're at a junket, you're one of a parade of people who trot into the room in what must feel like a blur to the people sitting in that chair, and you don't really have a conversation.  You have the illusion of a conversation.  You have to hit the ground running and then hope you can get one or two good sound bites before they hustle you out the door for the next person.

With Zach, I feel like I never really found my way into the conversation, and the result is a perfectly pleasant five minutes or so, but that's not what I was hoping for.  I was hoping I'd engage him and draw something special out of him.  Nope.

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<p>Giovanni Ribisi, Johnny Depp, and Michael Rispoli are more than likely up to no good if they're all together in a scene in 'The Rum Diary'</p>

Giovanni Ribisi, Johnny Depp, and Michael Rispoli are more than likely up to no good if they're all together in a scene in 'The Rum Diary'

Credit: Film District

Review: Johnny Depp gives good Hunter in 'The Rum Diary'

HitFix
B-
Readers
n/a
His latest version of the acclaimed writer's work is a strong near-miss

"The Rum Diary" is not a very good book.

It's an early piece of work by Hunter S. Thompson, but anyone who picked it up looking for the voice that distinguished his classic work was likely disappointed.  He wrote it in his early 20s, and it went unpublished until 1998.  More than anything, it serves as a fascinating glimpse at a raw, unpolished talent, and it offers up some autobiographical details hidden amidst the twists and turns in the story of Paul Kemp, a reporter who moves from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico in order to kick off his career as a writer.

As a film, "The Rum Diary" is far more interesting, due in no small part to the collision of talent that it represents.  First, there's Johnny Depp, whose performance as Thompson in Terry Gilliam's "Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas" is positively inspired, a spooky case of near-possession where an actor absolutely channels a real-life figure.  The idea of seeing him play Thompson, or a Thompson stand-in, at an earlier point on his slow slide into self-medicated madness is undeniably appealing.  Then there's writer/director Bruce Robinson, whose "Withnail & I" is one of the greatest films of the '80s, and one of my very favorite British films of all time.  He hasn't made a movie since "Jennifer 8," a Hollywood misfire that killed his career dead, and from the moment he was announced as the man behind the camera, this became one of those films I almost refused to believe really existed.  The idea of Depp reaching out to Robinson, who was always Hunter's first choice to make a "Fear & Loathing" film, and somehow coaxing him out of retirement would be interesting enough even if it were just a straight adaptation of the book.

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<p>Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the same room is almost unfair for those of us with normal human DNA</p>

Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the same room is almost unfair for those of us with normal human DNA

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek practically purr as they talk about 'Puss In Boots'

The 'Desperado' stars are reunited and newly animated in the 'Shrek' spinoff

One of the pleasures of the new film "Puss In Boots" is the almost preposterous amount of sexual tension that builds between the lead character Puss (Antonio Banderas) and his partner in crime Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).

And don't worry if you're a parent.  This isn't something overt that your kids are going to have to ask you uncomfortable questions about, but it's impossible to miss.  Banderas and Hayek seem to have an indecent amount of fun together, and it's one of the most infectiously silly things about the film.

Sitting down with the two of them together, that same chemistry is totally evident.  Ever since they worked together in "Desperado," they've had a very special onscreen relationship, and the filmmakers behind "Puss In Boots" took full advantage of that.  When I joined them during the press day for the film, we talked about how director Chris Miller made a very unusual choice as far as the recording process was concerned, and what benefits there were to that decision.

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<p>Jeff Goldblum may be the most valuable player in the human cast, but there's no doubt that the T-rex is the star of 'Jurassic Park,' even all these years later.</p>

Jeff Goldblum may be the most valuable player in the human cast, but there's no doubt that the T-rex is the star of 'Jurassic Park,' even all these years later.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Film Nerd 2.0: We scare the crap out of the kids with 'Jurassic Park' on Blu-ray

How does one of Spielberg's biggest hits stack up for 21st century kids?

As films show up at the house, the boys like to open all the packages, something I've had to decide against thanks to some of the more extreme movies that have been sent to me over the years.  I'll glance inside before deciding if they can open something.

There are times when the boys are excited not because they know anything about a movie, but simply because they recognize that they heard someone talking about  the title.  It's sweet, and I'm sure they take their cues from me.  No matter how hard I try to make sure that what they watch is about laying out choices and letting them make those choices, they get excited if I'm excited at all.  They're just trying to learn about the world that way.  "Hey, mom likes this so I'm going to like this!"  "Dad said this movie's title ten times, and so we want to see it!"  

Marketing is pervasive, and as Toshi's been learning to read, one of the big joys for him is reading the titles of movie posters as we drive around.  Living in LA, there is a constant barrage of roadside imagery selling movies.  And they ask about EVERYTHING we go by.  There are times when they become excited about something for bizarre reasons, and one of my recent favorites was when they became fixated on the release date of "Crazy Stupid Love."

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