<p>Elizabeth Banks gets her Gaga on in an important early scene from 'Hunger Games,' starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen</p>

Elizabeth Banks gets her Gaga on in an important early scene from 'Hunger Games,' starring Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen

Credit: Lionsgate

UPDATED: See the new poster revealed by the #HungerGames100 Poster Puzzle Hunt

Only one hundred days till Katniss Everdeen hits theaters

One of the ways you know Lionsgate is feeling good about the prospects of "Hunger Games" is by the way they have already promoted Liam Hemsworth to "last-name-only" status in the new trailer for "The Expendables 2."

And I'll say this for Lionsgate… I've been watching companies mount online campaigns for movies for the last fifteen years, and you can tell when a studio is all-in on something.  And right now, there's no one working harder for something that's coming out next year than Lionsgate is for "Hunger Games," and today is a milestone for them, one they've chosen to commemorate with an online Poster Puzzle Hunt that uses Facebook, 100 different websites, and Twitter in one fell swoop.  We've come a long way from when Gordon Paddison and New Line decided to bet big on an Internet presence for "Lord Of The Rings," and when Lionsgate asked if we wanted to play along this morning, we jumped at the chance, if only to see how the whole thing's going to work.

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<p>Robert Downey Jr. let down his guard and sat for an interview with us about his new film 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows'</p>

Robert Downey Jr. let down his guard and sat for an interview with us about his new film 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows'

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Robert Downey Jr. talks the new Moriarty with the former Moriarty

We sat down with the star of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'

The first time I sat down with Robert Downey Jr. to talk about all things "Sherlock Holmes," we were on the set of the first film in London, and I was still working for Ain't It Cool.  As a result, much was made of the idea that Moriarty was going to be visiting that day, and it turned out to be one of the strangest days on a set I've ever had.

Strange, but good.  What struck me right away was that Downey has that ability to focus his full attention on someone in a conversation in a way that cuts out the rest of the world, making you feel like there's nothing more urgent than whatever the two of you are discussing.

I took him a gift that day, a copy of a fascinating piece of literary criticism by Pierre Bayard called "Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening The Case of The Hound Of the Baskervilles."  I figured it was completely appropriate, and he responded to the gesture by giving me more and more time over the course of the afternoon.  It ended up being published as two different articles over at Ain't It Cool, and that was the end of my use of the name I published under for a full decade-plus.

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<p>Sacha Baron Cohen's definitely got some serious beard going on in the first trailer for his new comedy 'The Dictator'</p>

Sacha Baron Cohen's definitely got some serious beard going on in the first trailer for his new comedy 'The Dictator'

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Watch: Sacha Baron Cohen returns to big character comedy in 'The Dictator' trailer

Can he and Larry Charles pull it off again?

I have a feeling "The Dictator" is going to be an important movie for Sacha Baron Cohen.

"Borat" was lightning in a bottle.  He'd been building up to that moment for a while, and 20th Century Fox did everything right in releasing the film.  They turned it into a moment where you had to see what it was, even if you didn't want to, just so you could be part of the conversation.

With "Bruno," there was an entirely different set of expectations placed on the film and its performance, and it was harder for Cohen to shoot because people were aware of him and aware of his techniques.  And while I think it's a very funny film, I also think there's only so far you can go in ambush comedy.  What makes me respect Cohen's work isn't the "gotcha" element of springing something on an unsuspecting person, but rather the depth of character work he does in creating these comic personas.

Lately, he's been taking roles in other people's movies, and he's doing very good work.  I liked him a lot in "Hugo," and I'm excited to see what he does with the character of Scotty in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained."  The things I've heard about the work he's been doing on the Freddie Mercury film he's been trying to get made gives me real hope that it's going to be something special.

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<p>Rooney Mara certainly went all out with the physical transformation into 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'</p>

Rooney Mara certainly went all out with the physical transformation into 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Review: Fincher's take on 'Dragon Tattoo' is visually striking and dramatically dormant

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Rooney Mara does nice work, but to what avail?

There are few filmmakers whose work speaks more directly to me on an aesthetic level than David Fincher.

Even so, my first exposure to his work as a feature film director left me convinced that he was not worth paying attention to at all.  Considering how little he has to say about "Alien 3" at this point, it seems he agrees that it was not the best foot forward, and all accounts of the experience make it sound like it was a nightmare for all involved.

As a result, when I walked into his next film, I had no expectations at all, and I think I even had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the movie.  A few hours later, I sat there, totally flattened by "Se7en," amazed at what the film accomplished and just how rough it played.  It seemed like a film made by someone who had decided to never compromise again, and there was something genuinely dangerous about it.  Immediately, my opinion of Fincher shifted, and in the years since, he's proven himself to be an immaculate visual artist, capable of creating some of the most arresting, electrifying images of the last fifteen years.

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<p>Guy Ritchie works with Jared Harris and Robert Downey Jr. on the climax of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'</p>

Guy Ritchie works with Jared Harris and Robert Downey Jr. on the climax of 'Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Listen: Guy Ritchie talks about building a better Moriarty

Plus call-in games and a conversation about the death of 35MM film

I know this is confusing, but this podcast was recorded between the Bret McKenzie and the Edgar Wright one.  I just wanted to get the Edgar one up before tonight's programming began at the New Beverly.

The first time I met Guy Ritchie, Harry and I were trying to get him to bring "Snatch" to Butt-Numb-A-Thon.  We had lunch with him and with Matthew Vaughn, who was still Guy's producer at the time, and by the end of the lunch, we had the film, and I'd really come to like the two of them just as film fans and guys.

The next time I saw him was on the set of "Sherlock Holmes," and he'd covered quite a bit of ground as a person and as a filmmaker in the years between those encounters.  What struck me about that encounter was that he seemed to have made a choice about what he wanted, and that choice involved giant-budget tentpole movies.  I certainly don't think that big-budget films are "better" than independent movies, or vice-versa, but I do think that the best way to get some creative freedom is by making a studio some serious money.  Ritchie was coming off a series of misfires like "Swept Away" and "Revolver," and it seemed fitting that he had Robert Downey Jr. starring in his film, as Downey had also made that jump into franchise filmmaking with a real passion.

Now, as Ritchie prepares to release his first sequel, we sat down to talk about how he approached his interpretation of Professor Moriarty, the most famous villain ever faced by Sherlock Holmes, and how he felt about stepping back into the world.  It's a pretty loose conversation, one of two I had with Ritchie last week.  You'll see the other one as a video interview sometime this week.

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<p>Going to a film festival programmed by Edgar Wright at the New Beverly is a lot like this, only the rock stars are old movies, and everyone's invited.</p>

Going to a film festival programmed by Edgar Wright at the New Beverly is a lot like this, only the rock stars are old movies, and everyone's invited.

Credit: Universal Pictures

Listen: Edgar Wright on New Beverly programming and the death of 35MM

Plus the Movie God that finally broke Drew

That's right… the second podcast of the day, and this one is hot off the presses.  Or the microphone.  Or whatever a podcast is hot off of.

This morning, I talked to Edgar Wright about his New Beverly programming series, The Wright Stuff III, and we also talked about the idea that 35MM film is on its way out.  This is something that is upsetting even if you understand the forces at play that are making it happen.  I know how important the theatrical experience is to Edgar, and I wanted to ask him about how the festival's going so far.

For those of you who aren't aware of it, he's running a series of well-known films that he hasn't seen before, all picked by friends and fans and fellow film freaks, and he's finally seeing them on the bigscreen where they belong.  They had a silent movie night with "The Gold Rush" and "Steamboat Bill Jr." the other night, and they had a great crazy night of surrealism last night with the Japanese ghost story "Kwaidan" and the Dr. Seuss film "The 5000 Fingers Of Dr. T," and he's had guests to introduce the films like John Landis and Joe Dante and Alan Arkush and Patton Oswalt.  Basically, this is film nerd central in Los Angeles all week long.

What else is playing?  Well, here's the rundown of the rest of the programming, along with some special guests who will be there to introduce the films:

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<p>This is a candid photo taken during the recording of the soundtrack for 'The Muppets,' and was not staged in any way. &nbsp;Seriously.</p>

This is a candid photo taken during the recording of the soundtrack for 'The Muppets,' and was not staged in any way.  Seriously.

Credit: Walt Disney Company

Listen: Bret McKenzie discusses songwriting for 'The Muppets'

Plus Scott loves Jonah Hill and we play some more Movie God

Wow.  I really screwed this up.

Until someone asked me about it on Twitter last night, I was under the impression that I had published both the pre-Thanksgiving and post-Thanksgiving podcasts, and I even distinctly remember putting together the article for the first one.  But when I went back to look, I realized that I seem to be going soft in my old age.

It's a shame, too, so I'm going to publish not one… not two… but three podcasts in the next 9 hours.  It's going to veritably rain podcasts down on you people.  And all three of them are overloaded with goodness, so hopefully that will make up for my apparent brain damage.

This first podcast features an interview with Flight of the Conchords member Bret McKenzie, and it's a real treat to talk to him about his work on "The Muppets."  He's at an interesting point in his career right now, and they don't really make a ton of movie musicals.  Still, I'd say he more than proved he's up for the task, and I hope more filmmakers reach out to him and build some projects around the work he does.

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<p>'Look, I'll be frank with you. I could use a big fat blockbuster right now because I feel like the brand is slipping away from me, so just look into this light, forget you hated the second film, and meet me in a theater on May 25'</p>

'Look, I'll be frank with you. I could use a big fat blockbuster right now because I feel like the brand is slipping away from me, so just look into this light, forget you hated the second film, and meet me in a theater on May 25'

Credit: Sony Pictures

Watch: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return for first peek at 'Men In Black 3' trailer

Can Sony recapture the chemistry, and does the public still care?

Okay… I'll admit it.  This entire trailer is worth it for the punchline.

Before we discuss the first theatrical trailer for "Men In Black 3," let me ask you a completely snark-free question.  How many of you are actually excited for a third film in the "Men In Black" franchise?

See, I think this is an example of a genuine franchise, a premise so flexible that you can drop different actors and actresses in as time wears in and salaries rise.  I don't necessarily think that "Men In Black" has to star Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.  Then again, I'm not really even sure how people feel about the first one and the second one, a full decade after the second film and a mind-boggling fifteen years after the first one.  Was it really 1997?  The same summer as "The Fifth Element"?  Because that seems like forever and a half ago, and I can't imagine the cast of "The Fifth Element" continuing that now.

Wait… Milla as Leeloo Dallas Moooteepass again and 2012-era Bruce Willis in another giant-budget Luc Besson SF film?  I take it back.  I can TOOOOOTALLY imagine that now, and in fact, I'm irate we're not getting it.

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<p>I am almost positive that 'Jack And Jill' will not squeak on my list of the Ten Best Films Of 2011, but there are still three whole days for me to get that crippling head injury, so keep hope alive.</p>

I am almost positive that 'Jack And Jill' will not squeak on my list of the Ten Best Films Of 2011, but there are still three whole days for me to get that crippling head injury, so keep hope alive.

Credit: Sony Pictures

The end of the year is almost here, and the HitFix lists are coming soon

A look back at everything we saw as we start to sort things out

The year is over.  For me, anyway.

On Tuesday, I'm recording the voice-over for my Top Ten Films Of The Year video, which Alex Dorn is already working to coordinate, part of the massive year-end onslaught of stuff you're about to get from the rest of Team HitFix.  It's an exciting time of year for us because we're sort of mainlining films in one last crazy buffet of a self-programmed film festival for about ten or twelve straight days.

And so as I sit down to write the list this weekend, I'm looking at the list of qualifying films, also known as "All the new films I saw in 2011."  Which is, according to my final count, 211 films.  Not the most I've ever seen in a year, and not the least either.  It's a good solid average number.

I'm always amused by how seriously people take "the rules" when people are making lists at the end of the year.  All I can tell you is that my film year is not the same as Greg Ellwood's film year which is not the same as Kris Tapley's film year or Guy Lodge's or Dan Fienberg's or Alan Sepinwall's, just as my TV year is probably radically different than theirs, or my gaming year, or my year in books.  Media becomes more and more of a personalized diet for people each year, because there's so much of it, and because the ways we ingest it are so different.  Even if you attend the same film festival as someone else, there's no guarantee you'll end up seeing the same things. 

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<p>Could this be the end of Batman?&nbsp; Warner Bros certainly wants you to think so with their new teaser poster for 'The Dark Knight Rises'</p>

Could this be the end of Batman?  Warner Bros certainly wants you to think so with their new teaser poster for 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Credit: Warner Bros

New 'Dark Knight Rises' teaser poster hints at powerful series ending

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Could Nolan be serious about letting Bane break the Batman?

I was very careful when I wrote about the "Dark Knight Rises" footage we saw the other day not to give away certain images or beats from the seven-minute prologue that will be available on a limited number of IMAX screens when "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" opens on December 16.

But I feel like with the release of the new teaser poster for "The Dark Knight Rises," I don't have to be quite as careful, because the goosebumps-inducing ending of the preview reel is the same basic idea as the remarkable new teaser poster for the film that Warner Bros. just released.

Of all things, they used Twitter to debut this power, sending out a link mid-afternoon on Saturday, and right away, I expect that this poster is going to spark a spirited round of fan debates and speculation about what we're going to see when this final film in Nolan's trilogy arrives in theaters this summer.

Bane, played in the new film by Tom Hardy, is notable in his original comics incarnation as the man who quite literally broke Batman.  I'm starting to get the idea that Nolan and his collaborators like the idea of giving Batman a physical challenge in this film that he's not ready to handle, and I'm starting to wonder if Nolan is indeed perverse enough to kill Batman in this film.  After all, he's done.  It's time to wrap things up, and there are very few ways that are more final to end a series than killing your main character.

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