The real star of 'American Sniper' is a creepy robot baby

We recently brought a new editor-in-chief in here at Hitfix, and when we were talking in our first meeting, I mentioned the idea of doing more short-form blogging. He responded immediately, and I gave him examples of things that were worth discussing , but that aren't really enough for a longer article.

One of those examples was something I meant to write up the next day, and I forgot completely until "American Sniper" showed up in the stack of screeners I've got here at the house. I immediately put the movie on and then fast-forwarded through the film to find the scene that totally took me out of the movie when I saw it at AFI Fest.

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Review: 'Battle Of Five Armies' brings troubled 'Hobbit' trilogy to dignified end
Credit: Warner Bros/New Line

Review: 'Battle Of Five Armies' brings troubled 'Hobbit' trilogy to dignified end

HitFix
B+
Readers
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My first review for a Peter Jackson film about Middle-Earth was published on December 13, 2001. I was a wee bit enthusiastic.

There was a moment during the opening act of Jackson's latest film, "The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies," where I just sat dumbfounded by how effortless Jackson makes it look as he summons up whole worlds with millions of moving parts. My kids are being spoiled by the sheer density of the fantasy world that Jackson and his collaborators summoned up, and with this final chapter in this latest trilogy, he not only marries this to the earlier "Rings" films, but he also brings together in a way that makes all three of the Hobbit films feel more cohesive.

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A gentle kick in the crotch

Earlier tonight, I mentioned that I was going to put on "The Overnighters," one of the films I still hadn't seen from the stack of screeners that's been sent to me, and while I'm not sure I'm ready to write a full review of it right this minute, I wanted to tell you to try to see it the way I did.

It's a documentary by Jesse Moss, and it's a sledgehammer. The thing is, I had no idea what I was putting into the player. All I knew was "It's a documentary," and so as I was sitting here, watching the movie unfold, the surprise impact of it came from the fact that the film doesn't really tell you upfront what it is. The story is not immediately apparent. And by the time you realize what film you're watching, you're almost at the end.

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Sunday night screeners and the week ahead

It's around 10:00 on Sunday night. I had the boys for the weekend, and we had a pretty great double-feature of Christmas-related films on Saturday night, then played a whole bunch of different games. Allen's "Minecraft" crazy at the moment, and there's something fun about losing a few hours with him, building things, letting him be the boss.

I had to drop them off early today, though, so I could make it to the 3:00 screening of Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken." This is the last theatrical screening I'll be able to make before I have to vote next Sunday at the annual LAFCA meeting where we pick our awards for the year. This is only my second year in the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and I take it seriously. I've got a small mountain of screeners I'm taking with me when I leave tomorrow afternoon for London.

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Review: There's nothing divine about Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods & Kings'
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Review: There's nothing divine about Ridley Scott's 'Exodus: Gods & Kings'

HitFix
D+
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Why are they telling this story again exactly?

Ridley Scott has never been one to limit himself to dreaming small, and considering how powerful his best work has been, I wouldn't want him to suddenly change the way he does things. That ambition has led to some truly great movies, and I'm sure he's got at least one more great movie in the tank. He does not seem to be showing any signs of flagging energy, and considering he didn't really establish himself as a commercial filmmaker until he was 40, there's always something about him that feels like he's making up for lost time, like he's hungry, even now, even at this point in his considerable career.

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On blogging and the way things are done

So here's the thing.

When I first joined HitFix, back before there was such a thing, when it was a small group of us meeting to discuss what it might be, I had one request based on my experience at Ain't It Cool News.

I wanted an easy to use blog software. I wanted to be able to post short thoughts and long articles alike. I wanted it to be very easy to embed images and links and very easy to post something fast. Ten mirnutes, idea to publish. Twitter is a very specific short form sort of platform. You have to be able to publish an idea in 140 characters. No cheating.

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We can reveal the true identity of the mysterious narrator of the 'Star Wars' trailer
Credit: Walt Disney/Lucasfilm

We can reveal the true identity of the mysterious narrator of the 'Star Wars' trailer

Now the question is what character the actor is playing

Why do so many people think Benedict Cumberbatch is in "Star Wars"?

I know he's omnipresent in pop culture right now, and I know he worked with JJ Abrams, but at no point has anyone reported that Cumberbatch is part of the new movies, so I find it really confusing when people angrily insist that he has to be the person narrating the first trailer for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

For the record, that is Andy Serkis you hear in the trailer. I was able to verify this, although I was not able to uncover any further information about the role he plays. Here's what I do know, though. He's playing a pivotal role in the film, although he will not have a lot of screen time.

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First trailer for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' puts fresh faces front and center
Credit: Walt Disney/Lucasfilm

First trailer for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' puts fresh faces front and center

Disney's marketing machine kicks off a year-long 'Star Wars' campaign

That's right, folks.

A year from now, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" will be omnipresent, but for now, it's still a closely-guarded secret, and Disney decided today to lift the veil for the first time with a trailer that introduces us to plenty of new faces, and we'll have a discussion about it as soon as I've had a chance to watch it 300 times in a row.

Watch the trailer above so you can play along!

Okay... so I caught a little more sleep, then I watched the trailer a few more times, and my first thought is that there's something quietly revolutionary about having the first new face we see from this first new "Star Wars" film be that of John Boyega. And the second new face is Daisy Ridley? Yeah, I think I like this new world order for "Star Wars" right away.

If I was a betting man, I'd say that's Max Von Sydow we're hearing in voice-over. I'm also pretty sure that's Oscar Isaac piloting one of those X-wings.

By far, the most amazing thing about the trailer is that final shot of the Falcon swooping around. What makes it work is that the rest of the trailer focuses on the new. I'll be honest... I thought we were going to get something much more traditionally focused on the returning cast, using clips from other films, with maybe just a few little bits of new footage. Instead, the entire emphasis here is on the new except for that last shot, and that's exciting. There's a confidence to that which gives me some real hope that this is going to be way more than just an exercise in commercial nostalgia.

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Report Card: How did we do with our 'Most Anticipated Films Of 2014' list?
Credit: 20th Century Fox/Warner Bros/Paramount

Report Card: How did we do with our 'Most Anticipated Films Of 2014' list?

Hey, it's not my fault 'Jupiter Ascending' didn't come out this year

One of the things we do every year here at HitFix is compile a list of the things we're most looking forward to in the next year. As the end of 2014 approaches, we're gearing up to write that same list for what promises to be one of the craziest year of giant movie releases ever, and as we started work on that, we looked back at last year's list.

Let's just say it was enlightening.

We decided to have some fun with it and issue ourselves a report card to see how well we called it before 2014 began. In some cases, I think we were spot on, but we also overestimated just as many things as we underestimated. Then you've got stuff like "Jupiter Ascending," which won't even make it to theaters until February.

What is clear, though, is that we had strong reasons to make the predictions we did, and no matter how good or bad something looks on paper, there is always room for surprises. That's what makes this job so consistently fun. I may have had a strong suspicion that "Guardians Of The Galaxy" would be fun, but I couldn't have predicted just how strongly it would resonate with audiences. And one of the films I love most this year, Rick Linklater's "Boyhood," was totally under the radar until just before it made its Sundance premiere in January, so we didn't even think to rank it last year.

And since we're the ones doing the grading here, feel free to chime in and tell us if we're letting ourselves off the hook. We take it seriously when we put together a preview of the year ahead in entertainment, and we want you to know that we dig deep before we publish. Looking back like this keeps us constantly pushing to make sure that we make the right call for you.

We'll have our look ahead at 2015 soon, as well as all of our end-of-the-year lists for film, television, music and more, so get ready for a big December here at HitFix.

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Ridley Scott drops plot hints for 'Blade Runner 2' but will not direct the sequel
Credit: Warner Bros

Ridley Scott drops plot hints for 'Blade Runner 2' but will not direct the sequel

Even more signs that fan fiction is driving our industry

Ridley Scott seems like one of those guys who is going to be directing movies right up until the moment he finally keels over mid-take at the ripe old age of 107. He just seems unstoppable. He hasn't even released his latest film, "Exodus: Gods and Kings," and he's already shooting his next one, "The Martian," based on the popular book by Andy Weir.

It does not appear, however, that he will actually be directing the "Blade Runner" sequel that they've been discussing for the last few years. In an interview with "Variety" this week, Scott announced that he will not be helming the film, but that they are very close to getting another filmmaker onboard. Scott's been supervising the development of the script for a while now, working with Hampton Fancher, one of the writers of the original "Blade Runner."

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